Part two: The Silence of the lambs, er, of the media
Thierry Giasson (Université Laval) has published about televised political debates in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, political journalism in the Canadian Journal of Communication, politicians’ image management in Questions de communication.
Shopping for votes is a first. It’s officially this first time an important Canadian news outlet opens its electoral coverage to political marketing analyses, and dares calling it what it is: political marketing. I’ve recently completed a vast content analysis of electoral press coverage of the last four Federal elections to see how Canadian news media speaks of marketing during campaign. The big conclusion: they don’t speak of it. Well actually, they refer to parts of the process, but they never call it political marketing.
It could be understood why political parties would rather not mention their market research, microtargeting, voter profiling and product positioning procedures to the electors. Political actors (politicians and their advisors alike) believe such revelations could cast a negative image in the public. How can parties abandon their values, ideologies and social ideals to such consumerist appeals and undemocratic processes? Parties still want public opinion to believe that they care for everyone’s needs, when actually they mostly care for their electoral targets needs.
But why is the media not telling Canadian voters about this? Instead, electoral coverage still predominantly focuses on tactical decisions, ads, negativity, partisan web presences, leaders’ tours and televised debates. There is a constant decline in issue coverage. The media speak of electoral communication and strategies, not of the election. Is this information really useful to citizens?
Furthermore, political marketing implies that a relationship based on confidence must be brokered between parties and voters for support to be generated. The insistence in electoral coverage on party internal dissent, organizational failures, gaffes and campaign problems represents a significant hurdle parties’ must overcome in order to communicate their message to and engage with voters. How do you generate trust when you’re constantly depicted as untrustworthy, weak or obsessed with tactics?
What do you think? Should the media, such as the Star’s initiative with this blog, tell Canadians more about political marketing processes and less about their application via electoral communication exercises, such as ads, social media uses and leaders’ debate performances? Why does the vast majority of Canadian news outlet remain silent about political marketing practices? Political reporters know it exists. Why are they not covering it?