Thursday, 29 September 2011

I was going to hold a little discussion about voter apathy, but no one was interested!

Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don't know and I don't care! Do these famous words by Jimmy Buffett sum up the the other half of the voters in Oak Ridges-Markham? It is said that roughly 50% won't bother voting so, being the curious type, I was going to hold a little discussion about voter apathy, but no one was interested! So, being determined, I asked a few questions, promising anonymity and what I heard was very disturbing! It appears that voter apathy can be traced back to three reasons.....

Distrust Politicians - distrust of politicians has reached 'epidemic proportions', driven by specific factors like scandals and malfeasance. For too many area residents, the question for the October 6th election is not whether to vote for Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak or Mike Schreiner or Andrea Horwath. Instead, the question is, “Who cares?” Citing reasons from lack of interest in politics to lack of trust in the candidates, many voters just don’t plan to become involved. “It really doesn’t matter who wins,” is the popular refrain. “It’s going to be the same old thing.” says another. “I try to stay away from that as much as possible,” said another. “Politics is just too difficult... I feel like a lot of times they’re just saying things people want to hear" said another. "They’re not saying things they actually believe in or know to be the truth.” said another. On a positive note, one said they would be more interested in voting if voting was not an automatic right, but a status contingent on passing an exam designed to demonstrate understanding of the political system. "Look at it this way,  you wouldn't trust an untrained person to drive a car, so why are we allowing the ill-informed to drive the Province?" Others say politics "should be a required high school module based on current events and economics to appeal to those less knowledgeable about government; with almost complete apathy toward politicians." What say you, candidates?

Distrust Pollsters - the political pollsters are being accused of turning the 'prediction of political results industry' from a science into an art. At a time when all kinds of science appear vulnerable to skepticism and challenge; climate science, medical science, economic analysis, even the scientific data in Canada’s census, political pollsters are feeling the heat too. “Skepticism is growing, increasingly, everywhere,” said a pollster whose own firm shook up the business earlier this month with a sharply written assault on what it sees as more questionable 'innovations' from competitors. “Some marginal pollsters count on your ignorance and hunger to make the news to peddle an inferior product. Others are using your coverage to ‘prove’ that their untried methodology is the way forward for market research in Canada. Instead of being their own biggest skeptics (which is what pollster training instructs), they’ve become hucksters selling methodological snake oil,” says another pollster. “All of this MUST stop. We are distorting our democracy, confusing voters, and destroying what should be a source of truth in election campaigns; the unbiased, truly scientific public opinion poll.”

Distrust Media - far too many voters say they have little or no trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. "Instead of reporting the news, too many in media are suspected of showing their bias, thus alienating the very people they shouldn't...their viewers and subscribers," said one! "Few trust the internet for valid information and have to rely on experienced journalists who have an intrinsic duty to report the news...not make it up on the fly! When the voter suspects bias, the natural reaction invariably is to automatically do the opposite," said another! Which is as it should be, as the virus of instant awareness is upon us, a virus that may well wipe out the propaganda anachronisms first, then go airborne and eliminate even the non-traditional media outlets. At this most critical time, there will no doubt be some in the media who may be frozen on the sideline as this once in a lifetime historic opportunity runs by on the open field. Others will embrace the new reality to everyone's benefit! While the lure of turning news into more eye balls may well be a powerful motivator, it behooves media professionals on all sides of the discussion to establish and enforce standards to live by...come hell or high water!

Across York Region's six ridings, less than 1,200 voters have attended the twelve debates so far! Dismal indeed when you consider that we have 1.4 million residents! Has the time come for those who influence the decision-making process to take responsibility before we lose the other those who value their citizenship?

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