There’s a bit of a meme going around with Howard supporters at the moment, which this quote – attributed Peter Ruehl of the Fin Review – sums up nicely,
“Whenever you [hear] somebody saying the other side won because of scare tactics, what they are saying is the voters are stupid” (quoted by “harry clarke” on John Quiggin’s weblog).
Let me spell this out: both sides ran advertisements designed to elicit strong concerns about the other’s leader and their possible behaviour in office. Like almost all modern advertising, they were designed to elicit an emotional as well as intellectual response.
These ads were, in the venacular, scary.
To follow Peter Ruehl’s logic through, when a party runs one of these scary advertisements, it’s because they think the voters are stupid. The Liberal party ran the largest number of scary advertisements so obviously, the Liberal party thinks the voters are stupidest. That’s what Peter Ruehl is saying.
For the record, I think the Liberal party’s scare campaign may not have been responsible for their win, but it was responsible for the size of their win. Their ads were well targeted, well timed and played on the fears of the large number of Australian voters that don’t care about federal politics. These voters are not stupid – they are ill informed on the runnings of our country, scared of interest rate rises and more ready to believe bad things about politicans than good things, but not stupid. In their position would be strange if they weren’t scared by the Liberal party’s ads. Congratulations to John Howard and his team for understanding the voters better.
So to Peter Ruehl and friends, no, I don’t think the voters are stupid, any more than the Liberal party does.