We are now one week into the B.C. election campaign and the burning question remains: is the public even paying attention to it?
I would venture the answer is a resounding no, at least for most folks.
A big reason for that suspected apathy is that the campaign has really been going on for two years now. That’s how long both Christy Clark and Adrian Dix have been leaders of their respective political parties, and they’ve been loc ked in campaign mode since day one.
It’s also important to remember that about half of the eligible voters bothered even to cast ballots in the 2009 election. There’s no reason to assume that voting turnout will increase this time around, given the seemingly entrenched unpopularity of the sitting government (which will likely make it more difficult for the B.C. Liberal Party to convince its own supporters to get out and vote).
And the campaign’s lack of drama (the NDP has had a big edge in polling for well more than a year now) has made it a tough sell.
Finally, the election campaign is also competing against other current events for the public’s attention. This past week, for example, the “news cycle” was dominated by the tragic bombing in Boston and the subsequent manhunt for its perpetrators.
Not only did the election campaign take a back seat to the Boston drama, but the tragedy there made B.C. politics seem almost trite by comparison. That has made things unusually tough for politicians to penetrate public opinion right now.
I don’t think the public will really start paying attention to the campaign until after the televised leaders’ debate (on Global on Monday, April 29th). But even then more competition begins: the Stanley Cup playoffs begin the next day, and we all know how mesmerized British Columbians become during a Vancouver Canuck playoff run!
This apparent lack of public engagement hurts the ruling B.C. Liberals particularly hard. Polls have showed they have lost about one-third of their voters from the 2009 election.
If the public isn’t listening, wooing those voters back into the fold becomes that much more difficult, if not impossible.