CADRES recently conducted a poll in order to identify voters’ political party preferences. Most voters polled reportedly preferred either the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) or the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
After analyzing the poll, I understood how voters could be easily manipulated.
When asking questions, there is normally a context around which each question is framed, that can result in different answers. For example, there is a difference in asking “Should we ban Gramoxone?”, “Gramoxone is an effective herbicide that keeps gardens tidy. Should we ban Gramoxone?” and “Gramoxone is the poison of choice for suicidal persons. Should we ban ?” The results will tend to vary, depending on how the question is framed.
In the first question, responders are not given a frame of reference. In the second, the frame is positive – “keeps gardens tidy”. In the third, the frame is negative – “poison of choice for suicidal persons”. The frame in which the question is placed can allow us to accurately predict the majority response to the last two questions. However, the majority response to the first unframed question can also be determined based on the national frame at the time.
For example, if in one week there were five publically reported suicides by drinking Gramoxone, just before persons were polled, then the question would have already been framed by the tragic events. The emotional response would likely be that many would support some type of restriction. However, a different response can be expected if there were no suicides by drinking in the past 15 years, and if the media were not participating in a campaign against Gramoxone. Therefore, what is trending in the media can result in misleading poll results.
CADRES’ poll questions were already framed by the news media reports of current events, and by public commentators who have access to the media. News media have a higher responsibility to be fair during times of national decisions. One side of a national discussion should not be deprived of ‘oxygen’, while allowing the other side unfettered access to the media. The public should be exposed to both sides of a debate.
The national frame around any question of the economy is that the ruling DLP administration is responsible for the current economic hardship, and they are incapable of managing our national economy. The recent poll results appear to confirm this public sentiment. However, what if the public were given the whole truth? If the public is not told about the reckless and unsustainable borrowing during the BLP administration, then they will reasonably tend to blame the DLP – who must repay these debts – for their current circumstances. However, if the public was told the truth, that both the BLP and the DLP administrations have brought us to the point of economic ruin, and that both parties’ policies are designed to generally keep most Barbadians house-poor and living pay cheque to pay cheque, then perhaps they would be willing to look at the policies of a third party.If the public is told to dismiss all third parties because they are just parties of one or five persons, then they would likely dismiss them. However, if they were told the truth that Solutions Barbados is the only third party with 25 candidates and intends to run 30 competent candidates, then perhaps they would dismiss the clever but inaccurately defined frame, and actually consider Solutions Barbados.
If the public is told that Solutions Barbados has no plan to address Barbados’ failing economy, then they would likely dismiss them. However, if they were ever told the truth that Solutions Barbados is the only party to have published a non-austerity economic plan over two years ago for rigorous public scrutiny, then they would have an accurate frame, and not the fake frame that others are actively promoting. The plan is on SolutionsBarbados.com.What if the austerity, harsh medicine, long hardship, bitter pills, and no-easy-fixes that the BLP and DLP are promising were actually explained to voters? What if the BLP and DLP actually told the voters, “If you vote for us, then your salary will be reduced, you will lose your job, you will lose your house if you are not earning foreign currency, and you will also lose everything that you are purchasing on credit. You will suck salt, and your children will suck whatever is left after the salt that you have voted to suck is gone”?
In Guyana, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made the government double income tax rates and devalue the currency by 70 per cent. Guyana was left with a ruined economy, dilapidated infrastructure, shortage of critical supplies, reduced social services, mass emigration of professionals, and 75 per cent of the population in poverty.
Who would be so lunatic to vote for that bitter pill? The CADRES poll demonstrated that Barbadian voters would enthusiastically vote for the economic ruin of their households, communities and country if the question was not accurately framed.