A very interesting post in The Herald yesterday by Grant McLachlan, a former Parliamentary researcher and a Nat campaign director. It is mostly about the bungled flag process, but includes these gems:
What National has done since 2002 is develop the most advanced voter relationship database to collect information and then target potential supporters.
Every phone call to an electorate office, every letter to the editor, letter to a minister, comment on social media, photo opportunity, or attendance at an event or meeting, – there is someone inputting that data into National’s central database. David Farrar, National’s pollster, monitors the data, then themes and phrases are tested in focus groups before John Key utters them.
If data is gold to a politician then the flag debate is the jackpot. Here is a simple issue where most people have an opinion and have expressed it. On Facebook, where most people use their real names, all comments and shares can be monitored, analysed, and categorised. In the blogosphere, commenters’ physical location (aka IP address) is traceable.
Getting people on the political bandwagon is about maintaining waves of momentum. For something to go ‘viral,’ there needs to be a combination of ‘pushers’ and ‘pullers.’ Pushers are political cronies and opinion leaders willing to pick up a ball, run with it and fend off attacks. Pullers are fair-weather celebrities who put their name behind an issue only if someone has their back and if there is sufficient forward momentum.
National has several levels within its organisation that try to sway public opinion. Groups target talkback radio, social media, surveys, and media polls. Crony commentators manipulate, obfuscate, smear, and stigmatise.
This is why National are so popular. Not because they are good at governing (they are self-evidently rubbish at that). But because they have vast cash resources, and they use them to run a systematic spin machine. The country is falling apart, but at least we feel good about it.