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Are tax cuts a winner ?

April 21st, 2004

There have been quite a few interesting posts at Catallaxy recently, and I haven’t got around to linking them. I meant to post a response to Jason’s discussion of flat taxes, but haven’t had time to polish it yet.

Instead, I’ll link to Andrew Norton’s response to Alan Wood’s claim that the way to voters’ hearts is via big tax cuts (which includes a further link to Stephen Kirchner. Andrew and I have both discussed this previously, and we agree that Wood is wrong, though of course I’m happy about this and Andrew is not.

One point I’ll make is that Sol Lebovic is quoted, endorsing the Oz party line, and claiming that “while health and education routinely top the list of issues of concern to voters, they don’t swing elections unless there is a clear difference between the parties.” I think this is silly (obviously, there is a clear difference, since Labor is invariably more favorably disposed to public expenditure in these areas). More to the point, I think it’s very unwise for a pollster to run down his own poll results when they yield a conclusion that’s inconvenient to his employer, as Lebovic now seems to do regularly.

If the poll answers were genuinely misleading, the correct response would be to change the questions, the sample, or both. It’s clear that the kinds of changes needed to give the answers the Oz wants to hear would involve blatant rigging that would destroy Newspoll’s credibility for all time. So Lebovic is unwilling to tamper with the polls, but he is willing to tell us to ignore some of the results.

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  1. TJW
    April 22nd, 2004 at 01:51 | #1

    “Labor is invariably more favorably disposed to public expenditure in these areas”

    Is that true? I don’t actually know but all I hear is that funding is always increasing. Does the rate of increase go up under the ALP in your opinion?

    What are the different ways that this can be measured? (I assume that there must be different ways to measure it)

  2. Andrew
    April 22nd, 2004 at 13:50 | #2

    Didja notice how after Bush’s presser, almost the entire front-page of the Oz was devoted to it?

    A foreign nation’s president having a press conference is more important than any story they’ve run since Sept 11?

    Chris Mitchell is obviously angling for editor of the Washington post once Rupert buys it :)

  3. Richard
    April 22nd, 2004 at 15:01 | #3

    I very much regret that the wisdom of what Sol Lebovic is saying really hinges on asking who are the 9% of voters who preferred a tax cut to more spending on health and education (as opposed to 72% in favour of more spending), and where do they live?

    The major political parties are equipped with opinion polling that gives valid data on marginal seats and on swinging voters.

    I’m willing to bet that the 9% are disproportionately in marginal seats, and even more disproportionately swinging voters.

    Research has found that a substantial proportion of swinging voters are not very well informed, not engaged much with politics and current affairs, and only get their ‘news’ from occasional viewing of commercial TV. Their voting decision is often knee-jerk or decided by a single powerful issue that appeals to them.

    In the lead-up to an election, you can bet that a roomful of these people is being interviewed in a focus group in one of our capital cities most nights of the week.

    This helps not just to explain promises of tax cuts but also what happened with Tampa.

    Of course, politicians’ ‘narrowcasting’ of policy in this way is only useful to them when an election is otherwise close. Let’s hope that someone will be sensible enough to build a strategy based on the 72% rather than the 9%!

  4. PK
    April 22nd, 2004 at 18:37 | #4

    Looking forward to your discussion of flat taxes. The Spectator had an interesting article on it recently, particularly with regards to Eastern Europe/Russia. A more technical analysis would be v interesting.

  5. April 23rd, 2004 at 02:36 | #5

    Wasn’t the flat tax Steve(?) Forbes’ line when he made a run for the Rep nomination for US Prez in 1996? Can’t think why he didn’t get up, though at least he wasn’t quite as batshit as Pat Buchanana.

  6. Mark Bahnisch
    April 23rd, 2004 at 11:36 | #6

    Yes – and also a long time obsession of Jack Kemp – Dole’s veep candidate against Clinton/Gore in 96. Steve Forbes didn’t get up because he was a hopeless candidate! He was also more ‘liberal’ on social issues than your conservative low-taxing Republican.
    And as Joh and Pauline Hanson also found out, wacky tax policies are a difficult electoral sell.

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