Deny the obvious

From UKIP Home:

It’s well known that you should not create a political frame that creates a positive view of your opposition.
For example, no political leader would ever publicly say they believe their rivals will win even if the rival has 60% poll share rating.
The reason is obvious; by stating the possibility of your rival winning, you add strength to that frame because you do not want it to happen.

Yes, yes, a well known Machiavellian strategy. But one that is also highly irritating and patronising to the average punter. We voters know very well how the opinion polls rate the parties; and we are no less able than a politician to understand, say, concepts of percentage swing. When one party is massively ahead of the other in the polls, denial is just stupid. No-one wants an ostritch as their representative.
Why do politicians believe that denying the obvious somehow wins them votes? How about trying to win votes by the power of argument, rather losing votes with these school-boy mind-tricks?

6 Replies to “Deny the obvious”

  1. Well, because, no matter how good your argument, no-one sensible wants to throw their vote away by voting for someone who we already know is going to lose. Or that’s the belief anyway. Many people seem to vote tactically, which mucks the whole thing up, and leads to apparently irrational behaviour on the part of the parties, eg ostrichitis. Personally, I vote for who I want to win, even if I know I’ll be the only one putting my vote there. Other people may think me stupid for it, but I do think it’s right to preserve the integrity of the electoral process, such as it is.
    Also, I thought we also knew that opinion polls were not a good indicator of electoral outcomes, or did I get that wrong? So what oppositions are denying is not necessarily “the obvious”, but rather an already demonstrably unreliable inference.
    But I will just add, actually, something I learned recently about decision making. If there is a decision to be made between two or more alternative agents, eg commercial service providers, or political parties in an election, if the agents in question believe that the decision-maker(s) subject them to full scrutiny, then they are not going to be motivated to perform as well as if they believe the decision-makers will make a decision based on only partial scrutiny. Under perceived full scrutiny, the weaker agent will know that s/he’s already lost, so will not perceive any benefit in striving harder. Might as well give up the ghost. Similarly, the stronger agent will know that s/he’s already won, so there’s no additional benefit to be gained from striving harder. On the other hand, where the decision-makers are believed by the agents to be acting on only partial scrutiny, both parties are going to be motivated to continue to strive for better performance, since partial scrutiny introduces an element of chance into the decision outcome. The stronger agent can’t be sure of victory, and the weaker agent can’t be sure of defeat. So there is a motive on both sides to raise performance.

  2. Also there’s some blame to be laid at the door of the media, you can imagine even the better news-agencies crowing: “Tony Blair today conceded that it was possible that Labour would lose the next election”, etc. even when this is nothing other than a statement of the obvious.

  3. The media aren’t as influential as they like to think, and you always have the confounding “politenesss principle” as seen in the 1992 general election where a significant mismatch between exit polls and the result led to the conslusion that many people had voted tory and then lied about it.
    I always vote for the “let’s have another party” party as I can’t bring myself to endorse any of the insipid left of centre dross served up as politics nowadays.

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