Monday, September 27, 2004

B.C. voters checking off 'none of the above'

VICTORIA - The lesson from the latest poll is that British Columbians wish there was a "none-of-the-above" box on the election ballot.
Voters think the Liberals are doing a bad job of governing, and believe Gordon Campbell is doing a very bad job as premier.
But they're also not ready to hand government back to the NDP after their record of incompetence.
The result is that eight months before the election a significant number of voters are holding their noses and preparing to vote for a party that they don't really think will represent them, or will govern in their interests.
The latest results come from Ipsos-Reid and reveal that almost two out of three voters think the Liberals do not deserve to be re-elected based on their performance so far.
That's a huge rebuke. The Liberals attracted 58 per cent of the popular vote in the last election. Almost half the people who voted Liberal in 2001 feel like they were let down, and that the government has not done a good enough job to be re-elected.
But despite that terrible review, the Liberals and NDP are effectively tied in the Ipsos poll, each with the support of about 40 per cent of decided voters. (The Greens are at 16 per cent; Unity and others at four per cent.)
And that means that some 100,000 voters are saying that they don't think the Liberals deserve to be re-elected, but would vote for them anyway because the NDP is even worse.
It's not just the parties that are in trouble.
About two-thirds of voters disapprove of the job Campbell is doing as premier; almost half strongly disapprove. Only eight per cent say they strongly approve of his job performance.
NDP leader Carole James fares better. Almost half of those surveyed approved of the job she is doing as leader, and only one-third disapproved.
But her approval rating has dropped eight points since the last survey. James is a relative unknown; the results suggest that voters are not being favorably impressed as they watch her perform on the political stage.
The results also show once again that voters feel pressed into voting for the lesser evil.
The poll asked voters - regardless of which party they supported - to pick the leader they thought would make the best premier.
And while only 34 per cent approved of the job Campbell has done, he still had the support of 41 per cent of decided voters as the best potential premier. James was at 37 per cent, Green leader Adriane Carr was at 14 per cent, and former Unity leader Chris Delaney was ranked as the best potential premier by seven per cent of voters.
Again, some 100,000 people who believe Campbell is doing a poor job still feel he's the best of a bad lot.
This isn't a fluke. An earlier poll found that more than half the supporters of both the Liberals and NDP said they were just picking the lesser of two evils. They didn't think their party would do a good job; they just thought the other guys would be even worse.
Parties can't perfectly mirror every voter's interests and values, and people will almost always disagree with some policies of the party they support.
But it's dangerous when voters think they have no real chance to vote for a party or leader able to deliver the kind of government that they want.
And voting becomes a discouraging experience when people leave the booth sadly convinced that even if the party they supported wins, the province will be badly governed. There is no excitement or inspiration in voting for the lesser of two evils, no confidence in the future and little reason to vote.
All governments ultimately rely on the consent of the governed. That consent is at risk when voters feel they're views and values are no longer represented by any of the parties.
Footnote: The poll showed - again - the huge divide between the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province. Outside Vancouver and its sprawl 70 per cent of voters thought Campbell was doing a bad job, and a similar number said the Liberals didn't deserve to be re-elected based on their performance so far.

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