We. Liberals. Love. Punctuation. Marks.


The Liberals Hired an Agency Famous For Their Ability To Split Waffle With Gratuitous Interpunctuation Marks

Responsibility. Performance. Freedom. Pointless. Full. Stops.

It is still silly campaign season in Germany, and the new exhibits just keep coming. Here is another one brought to you by the Party Formerly Known As The Guys Who Almost Stood Up Against The Bloody Spelling Reform Back In The 1990s.

Incidentally, the party also upset a lot of German teachers back in 1968 when they began styling their logo as F.D.P. (a violation of clause 102, subsection 2 of the German spelling code). They shed the dots back in 2001, when a youngish Guido Westerwelle took over and transformed the party. So possibly, just possibly, Regained. Full. Stops. Between. Buzzwords. Are. The. Message.


Electoral Relay Race: Is Incumbency Advantage Transferable?

Trying to Rub off the Incumbency Advantage from the Old Guy

Trying to Rub off the Incumbency Advantage from the Old Guy

The local MP is stepping down after a mere 19 years, and the local mayor wants his job. The outgoing MP won his seat five times in a row on a plurality of the Erststimmen. Structural factors aside, this looks like an incumbency advantage (though the 2009 result was rather close).

Can he pass this on to the successor? In the 2010 UK General Election, party incumbency (as opposed to personal incumbency) did not make a difference for new candidates.  I’m not sure if it will play in the 2013 election over here, but I doubt that this poster will help.

“Why did Greece leave the Euro?” Campaign Communication in the South

As we know from Political Communication 101, emotions rule, and help rule. Faith, hope, and charity remain essential tools for any orator worth his/her salt. Cute animals are ok, but cute children are way better. If you can use them not only to create a fuzzy feel-good factor but to deliver a substantive message, you have hit campaign gold. And by the way, this is the 21st century, so being a little subtle does not hurt either.

This short video produced for the centre-right, pro-Euro ND is therefore a little gem.
During the first few seconds, an eager pupil rattles off the name of various European countries, and a very pleased-looking teacher states the obvious: they are all in the Eurozone. Then, the adorable little girl drops a bombshell: “Why not Greece?”. Our teacher remains silent. Everyone is silent. And the girl insists: “Why, Sir?”. More silence, then cut to message: We must not gamble with the future of our children (and therefore vote ND).

Everything about this spot is done so well that one could use it in class. The kids are squarely in the right age bracket: neither scary teenagers nor dumb toddlers. Their expression is exactly in the middle between incomprehension and accusation. I love the attention that was given to details: Included in the list of future Eurozone members are Spain and Portugal. If they could make it, why couldn’t we? And the teacher’s face is priceless: pain, shame, and perhaps guilt, because he failed to do the right thing back in 2012. The most intriguing thing is that so much is communicated in a pitch-perfect way without naming names.

Rather conveniently, the spot also fails to mention that the Grand Coalition could have lasted until autumn 2013, and that Greece is now in such a pickle because ND insisted on having early elections. It makes you wonder why a country that is so good at selling politics cannot do politics.

Vote Rigging in Devon?

As any fan of Midsomer Murders can testify, the English countryside is a beautiful but terrifying place. But this post on the EPOP mailing list is not about mad members of the gentry, vicious vicars or fornicating farmers, but about a potential Parish Putin:

The case concerns a Parish Poll conducted in the Devon Town of Buckfastleigh
last week, but raises issues that could become important in future elections
at every single level.

The Parish Poll was called by residents of Buckfastleigh who are very
concerned about plans to cite an industrial waste processing facility in the

In the run up to the poll, the local paper, the Mid-Devon Advertiser, ran an
online poll (which is obviously open to anyone regardless of
location) in which 728 (60.2%) votes were recorded in favour of the plans,
with 474 (39.2%) voting against. The online poll appeared to allow multiple
voting – I voted more than once from the same computer and we had an IT
expert look into the matter who said that it was relatively easy to do
multiple voting even where each vote supposedly should come from a unique IP
address. A simple re-boot of a router would allow this.

The actual result of the official Parish Poll was 95% against the plans on a
turnout of 49.76% (which is apparently very high for a Parish Poll).

I was part of the campaign against the plans and it is my view, as well as
that of quite a few others, that the online poll was rigged by the planning
applicant as it seems quite extraordinary that the two results could be so

That raises a number of interesting questions. First, if this online poll was a random sample with n ~1200, what are the odds of being almost 60 percentage points off? Zilch. So, either the supporters were much more likely to vote in the online poll than to turn out in the actual Parish Poll, or the applicant has indeed rigged the online poll. But why would they do that? Three mechanisms spring to mind:

  • Bandwagon effects. But seriously, would you vote in favour of waste processing plant because the yeas have a 10 point lead, and you want to be with the winners? Would you believe that anyone does?
  • Tactical voting. A more credible motive in principle, but that would require more than two options on the ballot.
  • Paradox of voting. We all know that no one should vote anyway, but if you believe that the other side is going to win, your probability of abstention might go up even further. If the poll was rigged, that would seem to be the most plausible rationale behind such a plot.

Apparently, it did not work in Devon. But the more general question is: Can we trust those non-scientific polls, and what is their effect on voters? I think the answers are “No”, and “We don’t know”. But what is your take on the Devon incident?

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