August 06, 2007 | Graham

Giving Australia the Fingerhut

Today’s revelations of internal Liberal Party polling drew this response from Kevin Rudd – “This is a poll-driven government and you see it across the board: the attacks on unions, the attacks on state premiers, the attacks one states; it’s all there in their political poll-driven analysis.
What’s worse than a poll-driven political party? Perhaps one that pretends it isn’t. The ALP is fond of saying that the Liberals are Americanising Australia, so it’s ironic that their most successful campaign to-date – that on Work Choices – has been strategised by a US consultant. Vic Fingerhut “[a] pioneer among Democratic polling and media consultants [who] has been behind almost every major ‘rally’ for Democrats of the past three decades” boasts on his website that “in the past year” he produced “a dramatic shift in public opinion and attitudes in Australia”. In fact, he claims the whole 10 points of swing!
His global portfolio also extends to work for the Mayor of Panama City.
You won’t find too many references to him from ALP sites now, but two years ago it was different. On the 15th July, Workers Online was happy to announce :

American pollster Vic Fingerhut has been in Australia this week with a reassuring message to the labour movement – it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in – and it might even win you elections…
And what he has discovered is a sort of immutable truth – there are some issues that belong to the Right and others that belong to the Left and it’s not about policy either. It’s about language and the way you frame an issue.
As a general rule where the issue is about managing the economy or handling terrorism or keeping taxes low, Republicans and conservatives have a marked advantage, with more than two thirds of voters perceiving they are superior on the issue.
But bring people into the equation, particularly working people, and the numbers swing around. By merely adding the words ‘for working people’ to the question ‘who is better at managing the economy?’, Democrats pick up 30 percentage points.
Likewise change the proposition ‘keeping taxes down’ to ‘fighting for fairer taxes for working people’ and the issue goes from being a negative for the left to a positive.
It’s early days, but the trends seem to translate into Australian politics as well. And if they do they add a new dimension to the ‘accepted wisdom’ that Labor needs to be stronger on the economy.

Watch Kevin Rudd and the rest of the Federal Opposition’s frontbench for this sort of phrasing.
So, while the Liberals have been exporting advice via their pollsters Crosby Textor, who worked for the Tories last year, the ALP has been buying it in from overseas.
Crosby Textor suggests that Rudd’s “mini-me” strategy of dressing as a younger version of John Howard is working for him. Our research suggests that there are also potential weaknesses in it. Part of John Howard’s appeal is that he will be economical with the truth to get a desired result. This is the one significant area where Rudd has differentiated himself from Howard. He’s the moral, church-going “mini-me”. He’ll get results, but he won’t cut corners to get them.
At the moment voters still don’t know Rudd all that well. In the next 4 or so months they’ll be looking for information to fill the gaps. Seeing and raising Howard for dishonesty and cleverness too often could be the wrong strategy if it directs voters to the tricks of the Labor campaign.
It’s a bigger sin to be hypocritical than dishonest.

Posted by Graham at 2:35 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Graham,
    Your thesis only works if the punters are yet to make up their minds.
    What the commentariat refuse to see is that the punters have moved on.
    Howard is now seen for what he is: a totally political animal. His raison d’etre is politics not the good of the country (unless it’s so narrowly defined as to be what’s good for JH). There is at best 4 months until the election. What rabbit is left for Howard to pull out? He has no Tampa and no Latham to fall back upon this time.Are you suggesting that the previous 9 months (of shocking polling) are going to be transformed in those remaining 4 months? What we see at the moment is not even policy on the run. It’s making up policy between engagements. And because he is seen as “tricky” it doesn’t matter which way he goes, it’s all seen as being transparently “political”.

    Comment by barney — August 7, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  2. Dear Graham,much as it pains me I don,t agree,the sooner this bunch of clots are consigned to history,s dustbin the better

    Comment by John Ryan — August 7, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

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