And now for a bucket of cold water
While Liberals may be getting giddy about all these repeated spikes in the public-opinion polls, and their rivals may be getting nervous, it may be time for everyone to step back a bit and get some perspective on the numbers in the news.
It's worth remembering that the people who may well decide the next election -- two years from now -- are not paying attention at the moment. Don't take my word for it: have a look at what Stephen Harper's former strategic guru, Patrick Muttart, says in this excerpt from the Canadian textbook on political marketing.
"Close campaigns are decided by the least informed, least engaged voters,” says Muttart (2011). “These voters do not go looking for political news and information. This necessitates brutally simple communication with clear choices that hit the voter whether they like it or not. Journalists and editorialists often complain about the simplicity of political communication, but marketers must respond to the reality that undecided voters are often not as informed or interested as the political and media class are."
This is the main reason that I'm paying very little heed to current poll numbers. It's also why I am only marginally interested in party-membership numbers. Roughly speaking, the three main political parties have chosen their leaders from a pool of about 100,000 eligible/engaged voters each, give or take some tens of thousands (100,400 voted in the Conservative contest in 2004; about 127,000 are eligible to vote for the Liberal leader and about 131,000 were eligible to vote in the 2012 NDP leadership race.)
Add it all up, and you get only about 350,000 people who have cared enough to make a choice about the leadership of the three main parties over the past eight years. That's about 1 per cent of the Canadian population. (Remind you of another percentage? Maybe an Occupy slogan?) The people who make up the other 99 per cent have other things on their mind and may change their vote preference over and over again before they walk into the polling booth on 2015 (that's assuming that they don't get a call telling them that their vote location has changed..)
While I was writing the eRead on Justin Trudeau, I learned that he and his wife have recently taken up "extreme surfing." Whatever that is, I imagine it teaches skills that come in handy for handling the current waves in public opinion. But right now, two years away from an election, these are waves in a very small pond.