Political pundits and BC citizens have been scratching their heads about what happened this Tuesday. Albertans are celebrating, some are in despair, but most have been taken off guard by the result. Here's the top five reasons for which the NDP lost.
5) The NDP didn't show off their Leader.
Christy Clark maintains that: When governing, your performance is compared to perfection; but when campaigning, you are judged against your opponent. When comparing two people, voters look at a range of implicit or explicit differences such as their leadership qualities, political views, wittiness and even personal life and history. Despite a lower disapproval rating, Clark had something Dix didn’t: the confidence of the BC people. Clark looks like a leader. It’s not that Dix isn’t a leader, or doesn’t have leadership qualities, but Clark truly looks and sounds more natural as a leader and premier. This was especially evident during the debates, when Clark looked comfortable in front of the cameras, while Dix was shy and awkward at points. At campaign stops, Clark was the gifted communicator who really understood the trick of getting a conversation to go her way. Clark was able to inspire and bind together a strong liberal team for their campaign with the focus on being elected.
"Clark truly looks and sounds more natural as a leader and premier."
The vast majority of the voters know nothing about Adrian Dix: his family, his former political life, his education etc. To some, he is an instinctive MLA who happened to be vaulted in the role of NDP party leader. And the NDP did not even try to show off their leader; the NDP did not introduce or show off the personal history or biography of their leader. They left that job up to the “Concerned Citizens for BC” group, a group that branded Dix as a secretive politician who played dirty politics in the 90’s.
This is what most people don’t know about Dix: he has no children of his own, is born to European immigrants, studied at UBC, and is diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. Most people also don’t know Dix’s personal history or his interests and hobbies. Not knowing personal snippets like these brands Dix as more of a cold out-of-touch politician rather than a family man.
Citizens know much more about Clark compared to Dix, such as about her lovable son, her education at SFU, and work as a reporter for CKNW. The extent to which Clark values her son and family was shown throughout the campaign, culminating with a pathos inducing hug at the end of the Victory Speech. Clark’s familial devotion proved to be an asset, and she was seen as more approachable, kind, trustworthy and likeable. Dix on the other hand kept his wife out of the spotlight, and rarely talked about family and his personal life.
Though this may be small differences, it's these things that add up and are subconsciously embedded in the voter’s mind and can affect their perception on a leader.
4) NDP Advertising failed.
The NDP explicitly and continuously emphasized that they were to run “positive campaign”. They should be commended for their efforts, but the execution of their positive campaign was terrible. The “positive” ads distributed throughout Youtube and Television are more neutral than positive. In the ads, there exists not hopeful positive music, or happy statements; the ads just show a bunch of citizens speaking about issues and Dix advocating for “change”. Compare real true “positive” advertisements 1) here, 2) here and 3) here. These three positive ads truly inspire voters with hope and optimism, and a real purpose of voting for a great future rather than voting for change.
In the end, the NDP realized their “positive” ads were not working, and resorted to more-negative-than-neutral advertizing. This ad was seen as desperate, too little, too late. The ad also fails through common sense: Why would a person go to a park dressed in a suit? The same technique of advertising by speaking directly to a camera in a park led to disaster for both Paul Martin and Rick Perry.
"The NDP ads were more neutral than positive."
In comparison, the Liberals campaigned solely on the Economy, with ads depicting the NDP “spend-o-meter”, an extremely effective campaign that stuck to voters minds. If election talk was about the economy, it would definitely help the liberals. Thus, the Liberals advertized to give themselves the upper hand on economic issues.
3) The NDP took the election for granted.
The NDP came into this race with an enormous lead. They thought that they could glide through the election with ease. Even though they explicitly said that this election would be a tight race, they acted otherwise. But like a hockey playoff series, the overwhelming favourite still must show up to play! Most of the time, the problem isn’t that the favourites don’t work hard, it’s that they lose motivation to keep skating, and the mental toughness to keep fighting disappears, all while the underdogs play as if there is nothing to lose. The NDP came into this election season as the clear favourite to win, and sat back to defend its lead, and were busted by the Liberals who were on their toes.
How do we know the NDP took the election for granted? First, they committed to run a “positive” campaign showing their confidence in their lead. Second, the NDP acted safely without taking any risks. The campaign introduced no controversial policies, kept tight on exactly specifically what they would “change” after the election, and conformed to the important issues that voting intention polls were showing that voters cared about. ie. the campaign said exactly what voters wanted to hear, and tried to please voters by appealing to the majority.
Because everyone was expecting the NDP to win, they acted that way; their actions implying that they had already won the election days before the election.
2) NDP Policy was unclear and did not connect to voters.
The main issues at stake in this election that voters identified were Transportation, Economy, and Jobs plus other less important topics such as health care, environment and education. The Liberals successfully campaigned around the single topic of the economy (and jobs), while the NDP took up not one of those talking points. The NDP identified the most important issue to be not health care or transportation, but “change”. When they did advocate for real issues, their campaign only touched on each of the issues, with nothing clear about what exactly they would do. In ads, they advocated to “invest in skills training”, “doing something about child poverty” and “better health care”. The NDP never elaborated on these three issues with further advertising leaving voters in the dark about the specific thing they would do.
The NDP did have a few campaign specific ideas, but relied on third party media to actually get their campaign ideas out. The NDP mostly only stated the obvious, such as: investment was “needed”, and that the issue was “important”, without truly stating their plan to change. To see what the true stance of the NDP is on issues, voters would need to go to their website and search their platform, without being guaranteed that they would find anything concrete or specific.
In general, the NDP failed to inspire voters because their policy did not connect to what voters really cared about, and their campaign never comprehensively pitched any of its real campaign ideas to voters. Thus, voters thought of the NDP as advocating for change without having any explicit policy to state what exactly they would change.
1) The NDP Motto was terrible.
Lets say we take two words that are embedded each party’s campaign in every speech, in every advertisement: the theme of each campaign. For the Liberals, the words would be 1)“Economy” and 2)“Debt”. The entire Liberal campaign is centred around how their party is strong on the Economy and will work hard to reduce debt. For the NDP, the 2 words would be 1)“change” and 2)“positive”, two words that mean nothing.
A clear and strong motto that makes sense is one of the most important aspects of a campaign. The Liberal’s Motto is “Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow”, a motto that is forward looking and to the point. In just four words, the Liberal motto not only states its party’s vision, but also states their method to achieve that vision. Eg. The Liberals will: Ensure the Future (tomorrow) is hopeful and bright (secure) by investing in the economy (Strong Economy).
The NDP’s motto: “Change for the better, one practical step at a time”, is meaningless, unclear and divisive. What exactly does change mean? A change in the seating in Victoria, a change in direction, a change of leader? There are too many different interpretations of “practical change” or “real change”. In “change for the better”, what truly is better? Unlike the Liberal party motto, the NDP motto does not reveal their policy focus, or how they will achieve their priorities.
"The NDP motto was meaningless, unclear and divisive."
But the main flaw in the change is in the word itself. According to a pre-election poll, 59% of voters want change. This may at first indication seem like it plays into the hands of the NDP. It doesn’t. By arithmetic, 41% of voters do not want change. The NDP motto of change divides the BC electorate into two parts: those that want change, and those that don’t want change.
The desire for change is fueled through hope that change is good and will improve the province. Vice versa, the opposition to change is guided by fear; fear that the province will backtrack to the 90’s and again become a “have not” province. The emotion of fear is much stronger than hope, and the fear of change is what motivates many voters to actually go to the polls. Thus the significantly higher voter turnouts in Liberal-won-ridings occurred because the opposition to change forced the voters to show up at the polls. When the current government was elected by just 21% of all eligible voters, and about 41% of the electorate was motivated to vote for the Liberals partly because of their opposition to change, this is how the Liberals won the election. The NDP’s motto of change scared thousands of voters into believing that an NDP government would lead to real change, something that they didn’t want. The NDP’s motto led to self destruction.
In a nutshell:
The NDP lost because their campaign and leader was not able to connect to voters or address the issues that voters cared about. They focused on their campaign on two words: “positive change” which proved to be disastrous.