Monday, June 11, 2007

Harper Vs Media Poll

Only 1 in 4 Canadians are aware of the feud between the government and the press gallery. However, according to a Innovative Research Poll, the government still comes out on the losing end in public opinion:
Mr. Lyle pointed out that among swing voters, or the "non-aligned" electorate, 53 per cent of those who heard of the dispute said they view the government as "more secretive than previous governments" and only five per cent said the government is "more open." Those who had not heard of the dispute responded more favourably, with 24 per cent saying they view the government as more secretive and 15 per cent saying the government is more open than previous governments.

Overall, 46 per cent of the 1,067 people polled said that the Conservative government is "more secretive" than previous governments, 34 per cent said the government is about the same, and 15 per cent said the Tories are "more open."

Of all respondents who had heard of the dispute–a sample of 272 people nationally–67 per cent said they place the blame on the PMO, 18 per cent blame the press gallery, and 15 per cent said they don't know.

66 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the media are the public's eyes on the government, and therefore the Prime Minister should be more responsive to the needs of the media," with which 16 per cent disagreed. Similarly, 57 per cent of all respondents agreed with the statement that the PM's "fight with the national media leaves me questioning whether he is really committed to openness in government," with which 18 per cent disagreed.

I would argue, that these numbers are more damaging to the government than first blush would suggest. You could conclude, the vast majority of Canadians aren't even aware of the controversy, so this is merely a "inside the beltway" issue. However, the 24% who are aware represent people that are engaged, people who VOTE. People with knowledge of the issue, are people who pay attention, are people who I would classify as likely voters. If you accept that premise, then the numbers suggest a real problem.

Looking at the numbers themselves, it is clear Harper has done himself no favors in his unilateral war with the media. The vast majority blame the government, and it is relevant that the government that ran on openness and accountability is seen as more secretive. Harper loses with Canadians impressions, and he loses again, through alienation of the medium which shapes the message.


Karen said...

Interesting Steve.

You know when this all started to come out, (when the infamous list was established), I can remember reporters at the time saying, "this won't play to the public, because they hate the media too".

That irked me, because as you say, we depend on them. Since that time, whenever he does hold a news conference, I find reporters still a bit tentative with him. It's as if they'll be shut down further, so they kind of lob questions at him. (Not all of them, but many)

I wonder if we'll see them get a bit tougher now?

Steve V said...

"I wonder if we'll see them get a bit tougher now?"

That's a great point knb. This should embolden the media to some degree, give them the high ground. The PMO might not find this poll alarming, but it surely puts their strategy on the defensive.