Sunday, March 29, 2009

Popularity versus Support

Why is it that in NL politics, popularity is considered to be the same thing as support?

The officially approved syllogism operates like this: high CRA poll numbers mean high popularity; high popularity means high support; therefore high poll numbers mean high support. The official margin for doubt is lower than CRA's margin of error.

But does this syllogism hold outside Danland? Take Barack Obama. DW likes to compare himself to Obama, and Dangovt's stratospheric poll numbers have been compared to Obama's popularity. This Dannymania prompted stories in both national newspapers:

So is Dannymania just like Obamania? Interestingly, less than 100 days into office, Obama is already facing serious resistance to his policies. You'd think that such a historic presidency would enjoy a prolonged honeymoon, but by March the critics were out in full force. And these critics are not just Limbaugh-listening wingnuts; they span the political spectrum and cross national boundaries. Even before his State of the Union address, papers such as the Guardian were reporting that Obama's personal popularity did not necessarily translate into automatic support for his policies:

What's interesting in the press coverage is that a distinction is being made between popularity for the president and support for his policies. Here is the New York Times, not exactly a bastion of right-wing orthodoxy, on international support for Obama's policies: "Despite his immense popularity around the world, Mr. Obama will confront resentment over American-style capitalism and resistance to his economic prescriptions when he lands in London on Tuesday for the Group of 20 summit meeting of industrial and emerging market nations plus the European Union." Here's the link:

Interesting, isn't it? A clear distinction between popularity and support. No doubt part of the resistance to Obama's policies is due to leftover anger at George Bush, but that doesn't explain the strength and scope of the public criticism. What's happening is that governments and peoples in many countries like Obama but question his policies. They may be fans of Obama; they may be pulling for him; but they are not going to write him a blank political cheque.

Maybe this is another instance of the much-touted Newfoundland exceptionalism. Maybe popularity and support are fused together so tightly in NL politics that they cannot be separated. Maybe Dangovt has a secret teflon coating that makes it immune to critical press coverage, so that nothing ever sticks.

The fact that Obama is facing stronger public criticism less than five months in office than DW is facing after more than five years in power is certainly worth pondering. If nothing else, it's further evidence of the power of Corporate Research Associates Polling.

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