According to Wikipedia, the “bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so. As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence.”
The term originated with a circus clown, Dan Rice, who was a household name in the mid nineteenth century. He is credited with creating the modern day circus, though is now considered to be “the most famous man you’ve never heard of”.
The notion of hopping on the bandwagon has become commonplace in politics and political polling; though not always as an affect, but often, a root cause.
While pollsters reveal the results of their polling, the media gets to interpret those results, to create attention grabbing headlines. “Surges” and “horse races”, sell papers or on-line memberships, but they can also have an affect on voting intentions,
In 1994 Claude Emery, prepared a report for the Political and Social Affairs Division on Public Opinion Polling in Canada.
Because polls are generally perceived to be accurate and scientific, the debate on polling centres largely on whether it undermines the democratic process by influencing electoral behaviour and election results. Some political strategists and observers argue that the publication of polls gives an unfair advantage to parties or candidates whose fortunes are seen to be improving. The so-called “bandwagon” effect assumes that knowledge of a popular “tide” will likely change voting intentions in favour of the frontrunner, that many electors feel more comfortable supporting a popular choice.
This is especially true when headlines of “surges” are published near the end of a campaign, before people have had a chance to analyse what has caused the “surge”, or if it is even valid.
All summer we have heard of an NDP surge in Canada, especially in Quebec. But what they don’t tell you is that at the beginning of the campaign, 70% of those called were undecided. Even now it is about 50%. So how accurate are those polls? Not very. And yet the headlines suggest otherwise.
Our local TV station reported last night, that the Conservatives had dropped to third place and the NDP had taken the lead. But even that is misleading. The NDP is polling higher in Quebec, skewing national results. However, in Ontario, they are a distant third.
Can They Hold Quebec?
There was a discussion on Twitter between the head of Leger Marketing, which has always come out strong for the NDP, and several Bloc supporters.
Jean-Marc Leger was being criticized for what was deemed to be invalid results, and accused of thwarting democracy. Leger accused his critics of not liking the results because their guy was not in the lead, but finally contended that the support for the NDP was based on emotion, and that anything could happen come October 19.
The feeling of those debating Leger, was that there was a stronger vibe in Quebec for the Bloc. I have actually seen similar remarks on social media with many questioning what was creating the headlines.
In January of this year Chantel Hebert stated in a piece Mulcair needs Layton-style miracle to win election, she reminds us that while “no one is completely dismissing the party’s chances to stage a second consecutive spectacular surge in as many elections” that “lightning — even of the political kind — rarely strikes twice.” and “Nowhere are NDP roots more shallow than in Mulcair’s home province.”
I’m currently reading Social Democracy after the Cold War, Edited by Bryan Evans and Ingo Schmidt (2012 ISBN – 978-1-926836-88-1) The authors also discuss the fragility of the NDP support in Quebec.
The massive success of the ndp in the 2011 federal election should not obscure the fact that it rests on an extremely weak organizational basis in Québec. While the fifty-nine federal seats gathered in the province represent close to 60 percent of the ndp caucus in Ottawa, its membership in the province was still a mere 2 percent of the total party membership four months after the election . Furthermore, prior to the May 2011 election, only a handful of ridings had local party chapters. In many areas of the province, the ndp was simply absent or, at best, operated through regional committees. In contrast to other areas in Canada, the ndp had no support from organized labour, and none of Québec’s influential social movements endorsed the party. Most of the victorious candidates, with the notable exception of Mulcair and four or five others, were stand-ins, who had little if any roots in the community. In many cases, they did not even campaign locally. In short, in Québec the ndp is a topheavy party with no solid organizational roots.
Admittedly, things have changed somewhat since 2011, and several unions are now backing Mulcair, but only because they want Harper gone. However, if the Quebec support wanes, or the NDP no longer look like the winning party, that will change. No doubt, that is why the media moguls who funded Mulcair’s leadership bid, need to keep the headlines going, Mulcair is not necessarily Quebec’s favourite son, but he is theirs.
They need to feed the emotions, so that the heads ignore the facts.
I believe that the Bloc will do much better this time, than in 2011, and that the Liberals will have a better showing. We just need to find a way to take the wheels off the bandwagon, although the NDP might topple it beforehand.
The statements by a member of their communication team, against the Pope and RC priests, will not sit well in a province that is almost 85% Catholic. The party is also experiencing conflicts from within.
And as Evans and Schmidt point out:
Not surprisingly, consolidating its breakthrough is presently the ndp’s main objective in Québec. Two strategies are possible. The one championed by Mulcair and supported by a number of Québec caucus members is to keep to the political mainstream and avoid too close a relationship with organized labour or the social movements… The other possible strategy — put forward by trade unionist Alexandre Boulerice, a cupe staff rep newly elected in the Montreal riding of Rosemont — is to build the party from below by strengthening the party’s links with labour and the social movements while keeping a strong focus on defending Québec’s national rights, including the right to self-determination.
Mulcair is trying to do both, but is not doing either very well. Saying one thing in French and the opposite in English; or one thing in Quebec and the opposite in the rest of Canada; while classic Mulcair; is being caught by social media, and even some members of the MSM.
As for Boulerice, an increasingly influential voice in the caucus, his identification with labour and militant resistance to the Harper Conservatives is definitely an asset. His refusal to cave in to public pressure from English-Canadian media and renounce his membership in Québec Solidaire (as interim ndp caucus leader Nycole Turmel was forced to do in August 2011) has won him considerable respect among activists. However, he was forced by the party leadership to backtrack on the Palestinian issue and withdraw his very public support for the “Canadian boat to Gaza” initiative. He has also remained silent on some errors committed by party leaders with regard to matters sensitive to Québecers, one example being the unexplained acceptance of a unilingual Supreme Court judge named to the bench by the Tory government.
At this stage, the balance of forces within the party is far from favourable to a “grassroots left” strategy. At best, this strategy might coexist with a more dominant “social democracy from above” approach. … The late Jack Layton was very adept at navigating the treacherous waters of Québec. His background as a social activist and his public support for the right to self-determination gave him considerable leeway in the province. But that might not be the case with his successor Mulcair. (Evans/Schmidt 2012)
Anything top heavy, risks a collapse. I think there is a very strong possibility that the NDP will lose Quebec. Pollsters can only hold them up for so long before the public cries foul. They are already doing that. Just ask Jean-Marc Leger.
. . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Bandwagons and the NDP. Could They Lose Quebec?