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Royals versus politicians

Posted by ealboim under All

Elly Alboim

With five days to go to the election and one to the Royal Wedding, there is a bit of a competition for attention. Conventional wisdom seems to be saying that election information will have trouble displacing wedding information and by the time Canadians will be done watching the live event and the endless replays, the election will be, for all intents and purposes, over.

Well, maybe. But there are some contrary things to consider.

While earned media about the campaign may diminish for a day or two, paid media will continue unabated and perhaps at greater frequency. It is an interesting decision for the parties whether to buy during the wedding (they can’t be refused political advertising time during a writ period) to reach a potentially huge audience. Even more of a dilemma is whether to run negative ads during that time.

In 2004 and 2006, it was paid media that turned some of the tide back for the Liberals in the last 72 hours. As has been pointed out many times before, it is an unfortunate reality that many Canadians get most of their political information from advertising. One has to presume that the thus far painfully slow response to the NDP rise by both the Liberals and Conservatives (as David Herle so pointedly notes today) cannot continue and an onslaught of anti-NDP ads is coming.

Beyond that, the campaign has suddenly become interesting and the subject of every day conversation; it won’t be any less so after the Royal Wedding. If the thesis that it is largely an anti-Harper protest vote is correct – a thesis I subscribe to because it is hard to believe there has been some sort of substantive epiphany – one can hardly imagine more motivated people or overestimate their desire to convert others to their cause.

It is also likely that all the polling organizations will bump up their samples in an effort to get it right and turn Saturday into a Polling Super Bowl day. The results could set off a large dynamic of their own – anything from an accelerating of the protest band wagon to a reflective sober second thought process. By this time normally, most people have made up their minds. But the unusual dynamic probably means a lot of that is soft. The dynamic may also drive up turn out, something the advance polls might have lend credence to. A returning or new young voter is probably not a dogmatic voter and open to suasion or reconsideration.

And finally, most people are home with friends and family over the weekend. That’s when a lot of political conversation, probably influenced by the Saturday headlines and the ads they’ve seen on television, will happen.

By weekend’s end, the Royal Wedding will be a memory and the election campaign an onrushing reality.

Elly Alboim is an associate professor of journalism and a former CBC TV parliamentary bureau chief