How to make elections honest
Why do people vote as they do?
How to make elections honest
Why do people vote as they do?
Causes and influences.
Cause is defined as something that produces an effect.
Influence is defined as the power to have such an effect.
People vote for ideals, they vote for personalities, they vote for perceived self interest, they vote for perceived descendant interest. People vote for a party because they have always voted for that party. People vote for a political party because they think their peers support that party. People vote for one person because they dislike the opponent. People vote for one party because they dislike the opposing parties. They vote for a party because their parents always, as far as they know, voted for that party. People vote for a person they think “looks nice.” People vote for all sorts of reasons, come logical but some are not. People choose who they are to vote for because of media influence, this includes social media and all the fake news, dubious innuendo and down right lies which flourish in the media, even “respected” main stream newspapers use misleading headlines to sway voter intentions.
There are both positive reasons and negative reasons which result in any particular voting choice. The things that influence the causes, are constantly variable. The voters age is one variable. It is a generally accepted that, more often than not, as a person gets more life responsibilities, (which come with age), they become less radical, more cautious about ideology and far more concerned with practical policies that affect mundane day to day events. Among the very many other variables are; the education level of the voter, the skill of the publicity consultants who promote any particular candidate, the policies the candidate is thought to stand for, even the appearance of the candidate is a factor in modern politics. Judging a book by its cover used to be discouraged but now the TV and photo appeal of a candidate is very important.
Some of the influencing factors have nothing to do with the political policies of the parties contesting the election. Success and failure of the nation has huge influence on voters support for the existing government. If the economy is buoyant, the majority feel they are materially doing well, they tend to vote for the existing government. Even the success of a national sporting team will raise a feeling of contentment with the status quo. The Government of the day gets the benefit of this. Anything that promotes pride in the nation, tends to influence people to vote for existing, notably existing conservative or nationalistic parties. Socialism has a problem with this, because it takes an international view of everything, every increase in national pride, moves voters away from socialist idealism. There is also a slightly more subtle and personality issue here, since many ardent socialist candidates take their international views to a level where they denigrate any home success, any national pride. This is seen, rather obviously, as mocking the pride many voters feel because of some national achievement. An achievement these voters feel part of, somehow they have a partial collective ownership of the triumph. The left dismissal of such national jingoism, causes a reciprocal dismissal of the socialists as being anti the people. They become seen as favoring “foreigners” rather than their “own people.” Any event that reduces national pride favors the opposing parties. If the nation has a struggling economy and nothing at all that generates national pride, then voters vote for change.
This is where the professional spin doctors earn their pay. They are professionals at “directing” opinions as to what is a good and positive event or issue. The actual political policies get reduced in importance, the media is manipulated to focus on the appeal of one person as opposed to another. Appeal is an influencing factor not an actual cause but the manipulation becomes more powerful than the politics. What ever the actual result, one side will claim it a success the other a failure. This processing of influences does not help democracy to chose the best government. The manipulation of image, the blurring of reality to mask failings, the sensationalizing of perceived defects to prevent the voters actually realizing a worthwhile factor; these all turn elections into huge media processes. Elections should be about the majority view of the best policies for the future, yet party politics and all their professional activists, reduce it to a contest to find who can best hide their own failings while emphasizing their opponent's failings.
The more election campaigns a thoughtful voter experiences, they more they become aware of how often firm manifesto promises become, once the election is over; aims and proposals rather then firm commitments. People may vote for a particular candidate in their constituency then find this person, whatever their personal abilities, get drowned and lost in the party machine. If the voter remembers this at the next election they may change vote in the hope of getting a more effective local representative, regardless of policies.
Much media attention is given over to suggestions of tactical voting. This being the totally negative manipulation of votes, to stop a party or candidate. It is not voting for someone, it is voting to prevent some one else winning. Much of this is manipulation. Most voters, who think at all about policy etc. will vote for who they wish to win. It is the manipulators who suggest they abandon wanting someone to be elected, in order to preventing some one else. Allowing the media to spread the manipulation, is anti democratic.
All politicians proclaim their intentions, but as we have seen in the recent pandemic, their intentions can be totally negated by world events that no one, in the national political arena, has any control over. This is where choosing a candidate because of their perceived ability to cope with unexpected events rather than any policy announcements; makes some sense. How do we judge a persons ability in any emergency? The only real way is by examining their experience as a leader facing unexpected crises. Problem is, if none of the candidates has such experience, then all becomes guess work. We are back to deciding a government based on some public relationship managers manipulation of image. Not the best way.
Opinion polls are open to misdirection, how many people interviewed at random in a city street, reflect the views of the many more people who live in rural surroundings? The way a question is worded and the location of the people giving responses, can direct the result in ways that are not representative of the majority of the nation.
Misleading and fake news damages democracy. A small example, during the pandemic left wing activists published claims the government of Britain were about to freeze nurses pay. This is a win win for the activists, it had no basis in fact but if the nurses get a pay rise the activists claim it is because they pressurized the government, if the nurses do not get a pay rise they activists claim they told you so. These deliberate acts to distort fact and present misleading impressions of those with different political ideology, is so very damaging to the process of democracy itself. Many parts of the media make huge issues out of trivial events, they bury the important issues of policy and achievement under pages of speculation and accusation over the domestic activities of an adviser to the government. This should not sway voters, but it does seem to just that.
What can we do about it? How can we ensure the voters all vote out of conviction about the merits of the next 5 years of governance? There are no easy answers to this. Subjecting all the media to strict truth and accuracy tests with punishments if any platform allows fake or misleading items to be published, is just wishful thinking. International input to global media platforms make it almost impossible to prevent foreign agencies deliberately trying to affect the politics of other nations, let alone deal with millions of individual posts. Education of the electorate on how to be impartial judges of all propaganda and political promotions, will place a great deal of power in the hands of those doing the educating and we, in Britain, already know that the liberal left have control of both education and large parts of mass media outputs. They already show a willingness to use this power to try and influence younger voters towards socialism and can not be regarded as impartial educators. Get all political parties to sign up to a “truth and honesty” declaration? The actual candidates my agree but the grass roots activists have been free to push deceit and lies for so long they will not give up their methods of influencing people. This applies to all sides of the political debate. The more extreme, in any direction, the less truthful, open and honest they become.
One possibility is to make the political leaders personally responsible if deceit and lies are used to win an election. If they win they must, by law, adhere to manifesto promises. If after the result is declared the looser can prove lies were told they may sue the winners. These at least will make the leadership, of the parties, be more cautious.