Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On no-names

Given the choice, I'd prefer not to direct attention to an article which considers "reality vs. Tim Powers" to be a balanced presentation. But the Hill Times' polling this week didn't just show that Canadians are entirely sick of the "Canada's New Government" brand, but also that the Cons have failed miserably in trying to promote themselves through their cabinet ministers:
(Jeffrey) Simpson in his column also criticized the Harper government for its tight control on the Cabinet ministers. He argued that due to this control, with the exception of one or two Cabinet ministers, no Cabinet minister has a high profile. "Beyond Mr. Flaherty, ask yourself this: How many ministers can I name? If you get above three, you receive a medal," Mr. Simpson wrote.

The online Innovative Research poll, which was conducted between July 18-20 with 802 members of a national polling panel, tested Mr. Simpson's theory. It asked, "Thinking of all of the Ministers in the Federal Cabinet, excluding the Prime Ministers (sic), Stephen Harper, which Minister do you think has done the best job?" Forty-nine per cent of the respondents said "don't know," and six per cent said that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.) was the best Cabinet minister, by writing in their answer with no prompts or lists. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) followed with five per cent support and the third place was tied between Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre North, Alta.), Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, B.C.) and Environment Minister John Baird (Ottawa West-Nepean, Ont.) with three per cent support each.

The survey also asked who was the worst minister. Similarl (sic) to the best, 40 per cent responded "don't know," and 10 per cent of respondents opined that Mr. Baird is the worst followed by nine per cent of those who thought Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor (Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Ont.) was the worst and four per cent said that Minister Flaherty deserves this title.

Mr. Graham said that 37 per cent of the respondents came up with the name of at least one Cabinet minister and 14 per cent were able to name more than one Cabinet minister.
Somehow both Powers and poll consultant Justin Graham manage to spin that result as not reflecting too poorly on the Cons. But on a reasonable evaluation, it's hard to interpret the result as showing anything but that the Cons' relentless branding efforts have accomplished little to nothing so far.

For all the Cons' secrecy about their actual decision-making, the Cons' cabinet ministers have seldom been shy about seeking out the nearest camera or reporter willing to allow them to blurt out the party's talking points. But the poll's results suggest that half of Canadians still can't name a single one of them - and barely one in seven Canadians can name more than one, indicating that even a decent number of Con supporters have little or no idea who's currently holding down key posts in the Con government.

Meanwhile, of those who are relatively well-known, it's equally clear that there's far more negative perception than positive. Baird and O'Connor have apparently managed to earn nearly double-digit recognition as incompetent ministers, while even the most-appreciated Con cabinet member only managed to win the notice of 6% of respondents (which is itself counterbalanced by 4% naming him as the worst of the lot).

In sum, Canadians still don't know much about even the highest-ranking members of the Cons' government - and what they do know, they don't particularly like. And while the Cons can spin the truth as much as they want, it surely reflects an utter failure for a government so obsessed with its own image.

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