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Wednesday, July 17 2024 @ 07:49 MDT

Government by Focus Group

Canadian PoliticsStephen Harper has said he wouldn't govern by polls. He isn't above governing by focus group it seems. Since it would appear that the oil companies and the Bush Administration have convinced the Tories that they should back Canada out of Kyoto, the Tories are looking for something to replace it. It would appear that they are looking for something that allows greenhouse gas emissions, but not other pollutants. To find what will be palatable to the Canadian public, they commissioned a focus group of 75 Canadians to look at the issue.

One problem with this is that 75 people is not a statistically valid sample. I would also suspect that the 75 people weren't selected randomly either. This also makes anything they come up with statistically invalid. What it looks like from the outside, is that the Tories have a path they want to take, so they got people together that would give them that answer. Now they can present their "plan" and crow how it's what Canadians want since they consulted some. They'll then count on the bandwagon effect to carry them through the next election.

If indeed the 75 people weren't selected at random, this makes this like most of the "public" consultation that the Alberta Tories have done in the past. Hold a public hearing, but invite only people that you know will agree to your point of view. The federal Tories have seen how well this works in Alberta and appear to have taken the show on the road to the rest of Canada. It remains to be seen if this will fly outside of Tory blue Alberta. It also goes to show that the federal Tories are as out of touch with Canadians as the provincial Tories are with Albertans.

Of course now we have a government that says it's not going to be swayed by polls being swayed by focus groups. Admittedly there is a subtle difference between polls and focus groups. First focus groups tend to not be statistically valid, which most polls are. Secondly, and here's the big difference, polls tell you what people think at that moment. Focus groups tell you if what you're going to present is going to fly. Focus groups are a marketing tool. This means that the Tories are using government to "market" their ideas to Canadians. They don't want to send up trial baloons since that would force their hand too early and the resultant public outcry would hinder the Tories' ability to push through any such ideas (and likely take a hit at the polls as well). Focus groups on the other hand allow them to check their ideas with hand picked people who will likely 1) tell them what they want to hear and 2) tell them in secret what may fly and what may not. After all, if a small group of hand-picked people don't like what you're selling, odds are the population as a whole won't either.

In this sense this is just as bad as government by opinion poll. Except now the Tories using a corporate marketing strategy. The purpose of marketing in the commercial world is it get people to buy things they don't need. The purpose of marketing in the political world is to get people to accept policy they don't want. Just like a corporation, the Tories want to sell us their plan in the hopes we'll buy it. This means that what they want to do is something that they think that most Canadians won't like and they're trying to find a way to sell it to us. I shudder to think what it is.

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Government by Focus Group
Authored by: Anonymous onSunday, September 03 2006 @ 10:48 MDT
It seems to me that this is further evidence of two basic realities:

1. The Conservatives have no idea how to form government policy.

2. The Conservatives are uninterested in learning - they believe that they are correct, and the rest of us just have to swallow that.

- Grog