Monday, August 04, 2014

On soft support

Ezra Klein discusses Ray LaRaja and Brian Schnaffer's graph of U.S. donor policy preferences against political donations:

Klein's take involves a comparison between the graph and the U.S.' discussion about political polarization. But it's worth wondering to what extent the same theory might apply in Canada - and how they might in fact conflict with current party strategies.

After all, the most obvious uncertainty on Canada's political scene involves the fight for centre-left voters - with the NDP, Libs, Greens and Bloc using much of their effort to seek to win over and retain that cohort alongside traditional supporters.

But LaRaja and Schnaffer's findings suggest that centre-left voters are disproportionately unlikely to donate money - with the tendency to donate dropping precipitously as a voter approaches the ideological centre. So if their research matches Canadian donor behaviour, that group may actually be the least likely to provide the support most sought by parties between elections: the funds needed to run a campaign to persuade and turn out voters once the writ drops.

And the importance of seeking mass fund-raising support is only heightened in Canada, since (unlike in the U.S.) a candidate or party can't rely on big-money contributors to make up for a small number of donors. 

Now, it could be that the U.S.' fund-raising patterns themselves arise out of a different enough set of political circumstances to be inapplicable in Canada. But it's worth considering that a strategy designed to pursue centre-left voters between elections may ultimately prove a hindrance not just in maintaining the support of members with stronger views, but also in fund-raising generally.

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