Category Archives: Politics

Scoping the electorate

March 1st marked the autumn of the opposition leader Kevin Rudd’s honeymoon. On March 2nd I canvassed opinions on the issue of his meetings with Brian Burke from my checkout.

Upon telling him about this, my father asked suspiciously how I managed to grill people on their political leanings. I should have probably said that I set up a ballot box at one end of the checkout, but instead I told him what I actually did.

I brought up the subject of politics casually whenever I handled the newspaper a customer happened to be purchasing. I would say, as if for the first time that day, ‘I think the headline story today is Kevin Rudd’s fall from grace.’

And from there, utterances about politics followed.

In the past, when I’ve talked with customers about politics, they often gave very vague responses about the political situation. They make short generalized statements about politicians and re-hash soundbites from the nightly news. I re-hash what I’ve heard as well, but given my AM radio listening compulsion, I tend to have a bit more material to draw upon. So it was a surprise when I interviewed one woman yesterday who seemed to be very clued in to the world of politics.

Not only did she hold firm opinions about who she preferred (Rudd, and wasn’t fazed by the recent information that had come to light about his involvement with Brian Burke), but further on in the conversation she also added that she had friends who are state government insiders who say that WA’s premier, Alan Carpenter, is ‘A very honest chap.’

Then, in a slightly less desirable turn of events, she turned to the customer behind her and began discussing politics with her, ignoring me completely.

It really sucks when that happens.

The customer behind her was slightly less knowledgeable about politics but, like me, was impressed that she knew people who were government insiders. Now, this may be anything from Alan Carpenter’s secretary to the person who vaccuums the state parliament house, but it was nevertheless exciting. This customer also was nonplussed about the Burke news that had come to light and said that we needed ‘A new face’ in the leadership role. However, she also confided that she supported Natasha Stott Despoja, which prompted a few comments from me about her.

The person behind Ms. ‘We need a new face’ looked positively bored by our conversation, so I put her down as being in the “Undecided” camp.

A third person I spoke to was fervently a Howard fan. To them, I said, ‘The leadership doesn’t usually change hands unless the PM or President really screws things up.’ And they agreed.

A fourth person seemed disinterested. Not so much disinterested in the topic, just uninterested in talking about it with me. But he did mutter that he supported Howard.

Overall, I think the results from my poll fairly accurately reflect the results from polls conducted by the media on a much larger scale. An almost 50/50 split between Rudd and Howard, with one undecided.

Perhaps closer to the federal election I will place a ballot box beside my checkout.
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P.S. On other occasions I’ve discussed with customers their attitudes towards extended trading hours and daylight savings. The mood over daylight savings was largely negative, with most angry that the three-year trial in WA of daylight savings had been forced upon us, against our want – as indicated by the previous referrendum held over the issue. And on the topic of extended trading hours, those working in retail didn’t want hours to be changed while mere shoppers/nine-to-five, Monday to Friday workers wanted hours extended. No huge surprises there.

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