Blaming the OBA won’t balance the budget

The PLP are hiring for a raft of new positions, announcing spending initiatives and solving pressing issues by increasing spending. They say they are spending money that was already budgeted for and are blaming the OBA for un-budgeted spending. This is all fine and nice if you ignore the bottom line. Will we see a reduction in the deficit this year and a balanced budget next year as promised?

In opposition, the PLP liked to highlight the growth in the debt under the OBA.

PLP: ‘OBA Doubled Debt, Lost 2,000 Jobs’

This was politically convenient as it ignored the rather sizable deficit the PLP left behind from their last time in government.  It ignored how impossible it is to prevent the debt from increasing when you have a considerable deficit.  It ignored that in order to quickly reverse the trend, massive cuts would have had to have been made.  The PLP held the OBA to account for all increases in debt regardless of the cause and this could come back to haunt them.  Not only do we have more interest payments to make but if we can’t manage to balance the budget, the problem will only get worse.

The PLP blamed the OBA for our increases in debt.  The PLP are blaming the OBA for un-budgeted expenses.  However using this to excuse budget overruns and an inability to reduce the deficit may seem convenient, but it won’t change the bottom line.  The OBA didn’t win 2/3rds of parliament and they aren’t the ones now holding the purse strings.  The OBA aren’t the ones in the position of having to make the hard decisions of where not to spend money in order to reduce the fiscal burden  The OBA also didn’t convince the population that any increases in debt are unacceptable.  Blaming the OBA is all fine and good, but it won’t balance the budget.

The Royal Gazette has commissioned a new poll and the results are telling

The Royal Gazette has commissioned a new poll and the results are telling.  Without looking at the full picture historically it is difficult to see why these results really stand out.

The big difference in this latest poll is that both parties have largely mobilized their support bases with the number of undecideds at 18% which is the lowest level all the way back to Sep 2011. This suggests many undecided voters have solidified their views vs wait until the actual election.

A big point of note about the 2012 election was that overall 1200 fewer voters bothered to turnout vs. the 2007 election.  The message was that people weren’t interested and reflects the rise in individuals who supported neither in the polls immediately prior to the election.  People were disillusioned with politics generally and worn out by the recession with limited hope.

Leading into the 2012 election the PLP’s support had plummeted in the polls.  The result proved to be a 52% to 46% victory for the OBA.  2600 fewer voters voted for the PLP overall vs. the 2007 election while nearly 800 more voted OBA.  This was also while there was a rise over nearly 1700 in the overall number of registered voters.  The big story wasn’t that people turned out in droves to vote OBA, it was that people didn’t turn out to vote PLP.

Contrast this with the latest poll results.  The OBA’s support level of 44% is the highest OBA level of all of their poll results and represents a strong level of support.  Compared against the Dec 2012 election, the OBA’s support level has strengthened 3 percentage points above it which could translate into a higher number of votes than the 2012 election.

The PLP also has a strong showing of 38% which matches their highest numbers if you discount the odd anomaly of July 2015.  Taking the anomaly at face value, it was the next lowest level of undecideds with many having sided with the PLP.  It placed PLP support at 46%, 6 points higher than they are now.  The big question is whether these people have shifted to support the OBA or if they’re waiting until election day to finalize their opinions.

July 2015 was the only poll in the chart done by Profiles of Bermuda and there is no particular explanation that I can think of for the wild change over previous trends.  Polling is not an exact science and relies on truly random samples to provide accurate results so it could be in error or it could tell us something.

How will this affect numbers?  In 2012, 15,949 votes were cast for the OBA.  Those extra 3 percentage points above the 2012 poll numbers suggest the OBA’s support level could be higher this time around.  By contrast, in 2007 16,800 people voted PLP.  Is the OBA’s 3 points is enough to break above the PLP’s strong 2007 number or will the PLP rally enough support?

Ultimately party support breaks down as

  • Staunch supporters – will vote for their party no matter what
  • Strong Supporters – will either vote for their party or abstain, would never consider voting for the other party
  • Weak swing voters – mostly lean towards one party but would consider voting for another
  • Strong swing voters – will vote for whomever speaks to their issues

Each party looks like they’re be able to rely on their staunch supporters.  They also seem to have rallied strong supporters and we can likely expect a strong turnout in the upcoming election.  The question is who will rally the swing vote to their cause?

Chart Methodology notes:

 

There are 4 different companies quoted for poll results, Global Research, Total Research Associates, Mindmaps.bm and Profiles of Bermuda.  Of particular note, the Jul 2015 spike for the PLP represents the only instance in the chart of polls supplied by Profiles of Bermuda.

 

Without getting too deep into the intricacies of survey sampling and polling methodology. Accurate surveys rely on a truly random sample of people.  Ideally, you put every registered voter’s name in a hat, pick out a percentage at random and ask their opinion.  Given a large enough percentage this would give you an accurate view of the overall population’s opinion, plus or minus a margin of error.

 

In the age of telephones, cellphones with caller id and the internet, it is much more difficult to get a truly random sample.  Some people don’t have telephones, others won’t answer unknown numbers.  How do you get a random sample if it is unnaturally selected based upon who answers the phone?  (This is one of the big reasons why internet and phone polls can differ quite a bit from actual results).

This is of course before getting into the whole explanation of how leading questions and push polling can influence results.  How you ask a poll question can lead people to one answer or another and give a different view when compared against a slightly different question.

These days survey companies tend to rely on polling a more limited pool of people and bias in constructing the questions can swing things.  Thus it is harder to get a random sample and the results can end up being skewed.  So, surveys are a guide much like looking at a partially completed jigsaw puzzle.  It gives you an idea of the bigger picture but if you only see pockets, you can think you see the whole picture when really you could be missing a crucial part.

 

Are people really that easily misled and is that why fake news is king?

Today’s lesson has been watching my post on how misleading the PLP’s tourism chart was drive a ton of traffic and discussion based upon an over sensationalized headline that was intended to be sarcastic.  My aim was to demonstrate how the PLP’s chart and “back to average” headline was an equally misleading chart based upon the same data and an equally terrible sensationalized headline.  What I didn’t really plan for was the number of people who took a title like “This ridiculous chart shows how the PLP clearly destroyed tourism” seriously, somehow missed the “ridiculous” part and not actually bothering to read the piece.

No wonder fake news is king and traditional blogging and media is dead.  In the old days it was possible to just write half decent content regularly to get a reasonable following. That was back when there was no commenting on news articles and people barely knew about facebook.  Now there’s an overload of content, cat photos, jokes, and stupid videos. We’re inundated with it.

Many people just don’t really care to actively go out, read and verify things for themselves anymore.  It seems like its easier to pull-refresh-react on facebook or twitter. Really, my traffic has been dead despite a return to regular blogging vs. the old days where it was rather easy to build up a regular readership.  Now, large social media driven spikes are the norm with a flatline for the rest.  Get a few shares and traffic spikes but otherwise people don’t come back.

 

Why am I even still blogging?  I want to understand how things have changed.  Given that I work in tourism I need to understand how social media marketing works, how to advertise on facebook and drive interest in products and services.  Sure I can read articles, but it isn’t practical experience.  I know google analytics inside and out enough to explain a compelling story of traffic already going to a site but I don’t really know how to create viral content and drive traffic.  So, hack together some half witted articles, throw some headlines on it and see what sticks.

For  example, here’s what facebook shows you about shares on  a page in terms of reach vs. engagement.  It’s actually quite interesting stuff.

Apparently highly sensationalized misleading headlines, even when they’re intended to be clearly sarcastic, drive traffic.  They also drive up a firestorm of interest from people keen to express their opinion based upon a headline.  All this without having actually read any of the content while readily ignoring key words like “ridiculous” that are supposed to offer a clue that I’m not actually being serious here.  I’m still reeling from it as I’ve watched people whom I wholly expected to take a deeper view into things react before evaluating.  It really helps illustrate why fake news seems to be so successful these days.

In the age of an abundance of content that is being pushed at us through mediums like facebook, people seem to ignore a sense of getting to the truth and just accept the narrative presented.  This is a large reason why I’m so frustrated with the PLP’s misleading chart.  Politicians are all too ready and willing to take advantage of people rather than focusing on moving the island forwards.  Is that all we’ve descended to? Shallow headlines and terrible charts that mislead people to evoke a response?  That’s what works these days?

 

This ridiculous chart shows how the PLP clearly destroyed tourism

Note: the chart and headline was intended as sarcasm to make a point about how charts and headlines can be misleading of the real story, not imply the PLP actually destroyed tourism.  In no way was it meant to be taken as fact as the chart only represents a small snapshot of a much larger decline (shown in the chart at the bottom) and the y-axis is set at 200,000 to make the decline seem more extreme.  It was only created in an attempt to illustrate my frustration with the PLP’s chart that also took only a snapshot and adjusted the y-axis to 200,000

The above chart clearly shows how the PLP destroyed tourism.  Note the heavy decline from 1998 and the flatline from 2009.  Obviously this chart makes it clear just how massive a decline there was from the UBP days to the PLP’s with 2006-2008 barely registering a blip over what the levels used to be.

Ridiculous misleading charts make me laugh.  For example, here’s the PLP’s version:

Of course the axis is set at 200,000 to emphasize the difference between 2007’s level and 2015’s.

Jahmal Simmons proclaims ‘Numbers Are A Return To Being Average’.  Sure they are.

Let’s be frank here.  When compared to historical figures, the OBA’s tourism numbers suck and the PLP’s numbers sucked.  They’re a shadow of what they once were.

The real question is:  What was the tourism budget and the corresponding visitor expenditure figure for each year?  Now that’d tell a real story.

Oh, and the BTA provided a much more comprehensive 0-based axis chart in their 2016 report that gives a much better picture of the long term failure of tourism.

OBA reenergizes some of its base

The recent poll results suggest an uptick in OBA support, though it comes in the fashion of undecideds becoming more certain rather than any sort of conversion from the PLP support base.

This poll was conducted between February 7th and 9th, before former Premier Brown’s businesses were raided and the government launched a lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic.  It was also before excerpts of emails were published in the paper that allege there was a conspiracy to drive up health care costs.  That won’t bode well politically for the PLP because a former PLP Premier is implicated.  Worst of all, rising health care costs have impacted every Bermudian and this weighs on that important voter question “how does this impact me?”.

Before this poll, we surmised the PLP had lost the momentum they’d built up thanks to the Genevieve-Tweed crusade.  Now it looks like they may not just lose their momentum, but re-energize OBA supporters while disillusioning their own.  If a poll were held today, would we see a decline in PLP support and a rise in undecideds or is it possible that we’d also see a decline in PLP support, a decline in undecideds and a corresponding rise in OBA support?

This is quite a hole to dig out of, though the same would have been said of the OBA back in November when police pulled out the pepper spray.  It certainly could still be recovered from, however the timing is pretty bad.

The sad truth is that the PLP has spent far too much time trying to be “not the OBA” and not enough time being a credible alternative.  They were elected to govern for many years to provide opportunity to those who were disadvantaged and yet increasingly it doesn’t look like that really happened.  Only a select few seem to have prospered. When people look deep down and ask themselves “how does this impact me?” associating rising health insurance costs with the PLP is a pretty horrible combination.  What have they really done to demonstrate they’ve learned from being voted out?

Thus the PLP’s prospects aren’t looking very good.  Things are already starting to ramp up for the America’s Cup.  Jobs, the big headline item, are being created.  Money is starting to flow.  It will mostly all be temporary and will dry up come July but the hype, euphoria and joy of having money in one’s pocket won’t be so quick to fade.

It looks like this time around the OBA won’t need to make pie in the sky promises of being a new party that promotes good governance that they have no intention of fulfilling.  It seems quite likely that we’ll see an election called for mid to late July if things stay the course.  That would be the most likely time for the OBA to capitalize on their momentum, broken promises or not.