And they still get a vote…

Global warming — no, I won’t cave into the Neo-Con’s re-branding of “climate change” — may be an important election issue. But, as with so many big issues, most voters wouldn’t have a clue.

Yesterday the Daily Telegraph asked people a multiple-choice question to see whether they knew what the Kyoto Protocol was. Nearly half got it right.

Respondents were asked to select a description of Kyoto from a set of multiple options: (a) A Korean car, (b) The treaty that ended WWII, (c) An agreement on carbon emissions and (d) A Japanese banquet dish.

Almost half of the people surveyed answered correctly… But close to half of those who answered correctly admitted guessing the response.

38% thought it was the treaty ending WWII.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Back when I was working for ABC Radio I did a vox pop the morning after a state cabinet re-shuffle, asking people to name any cabinet member, old or new. 80% didn’t know what a “cabinet” was, let alone any names.

7 Replies to “And they still get a vote…”

  1. I prefer Bruce Sterling’s ‘Heavy Weather’, or ‘Climate CHAOS’ as more expressive than either ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’. And by the way, where did all the seasons go?

  2. While its easy to make fun of the bogan majority, it astounds me that all the political parties don’t make more of an effort to reach these people, after all as you say: they vote. And many uneducated people are not stupid – they care about the issues, but don’t know the details or the jargon. There must be hell of a lot of people out there who want Australia to do something about global warming even amongst those who’ve never of the Kyoto Protocol.

    If the Labor party ran ads during Australian Idol that said “The Coalition spends $4 billion dollars a year subsidising the coal and oil industries that are wrecking our planet. We will spend every cent of that money on clean energy instead, so Australia can get rich selling clean power know-how to the rest of the world. Sounds good? Well you better vote Labor or it won’t happen”, then I reckon they’d reach more people than they do now.

    Of course, first they’d need to adopt that sort of policy 😉

    For what it’s worth, I reckon if you took the people who *did* know that Kyoto had something to do with global warming, very few of them would be able to describe the Protocol in much detail, and even fewer would be able to describe what happens if a Kyoto signatory fails to meet its targets.

    @zvnk: You need to get out more. Up here in Northern NSW this winter we had huge frosts, and now we’re sweltering in the humidity and dodging the hail. Mate if you want some extreme weather so you know which season it is, you can have some of ours, I’m sick of it.

  3. @John Kramer: I’m actually not that surprised the parties don’t try to educate the voters more. If voters aren’t politically educated then presumably they won’t be looking at the campaign messages with a critical eye — so they’ll be easier to sway with less-nuanced messages.

    Sort of related to this is an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald which says that one of the overarching trends in Australian society over recent decades has been the depoliticisation of a sizeable chunk of the electorate. The number of people who are partisan to a particular political party has dropped from 95% in 1967 to 77% in 2004.

    Ther article posits two conflicting causes for this:

    • We’re less interested in politics and civic life generally, so fewer people care enough to choose.
    • We’re more sophisticated about the world these days, and so are less likely to be “welded on” partisans of a specific party, more likely to be choosy.

    My personal opinion? A bit of both, in a more complex and nuanced world. After all, in 1967 the world was a simple black-and-white affair — I know, I saw it on TV.

  4. A friend of mine reckons the problem with modern politics is it has become a spectator sport – something that you watch, not something that you do.

    People treat politics as infotainment, and are focused on the scandals, the drama, the gotchas – anything but the substance. The parties play up to this: focusing on the soundbite, abandoning principle, and letting focus groups lead them to what they think will be popular.

    Again, it’s a bit simplistic, and leaves open the chicken-and-egg problem of whether the pollies are dumbing us down, or us them.

  5. @John Kramer: You know, Umberto Eco once wrote — and I wish I could find the quote! — that there’s a huge difference in political attitudes between Europe and the US, and by extension Australia.

    In the US (and here), politics is an occupation or profession, performed by politicians. In Europe, politics is everyone’s right and duty. Maybe the difference is about being occupied by Nazis. I suspect that focuses your sense of politics.

    As for the chicken-or-egg problem, there’s a concept in Taoism which covers that: hsiang sheng.

    In the Taoist view, everything or event is what it is only in relation to all others. The earth, and every tiniest thing upon it, inevitably ‘goes with’ the sun, moon and stars. It needs them as much as it needs its own elements. Conversely, the sun would not be light without eyes, nor would the universe ‘exist’ without consciousness—-and vice versa. This is the principle of “mutual arising” (hsiang sheng).

    We get the politicians we deserve. Or, since this is a democracy, the politicians we choose.

Comments are closed.