Why outrage is justified (and ‘harsher policy’ poll questionable)

Two reasons we have right to feel outraged (even while culpable as citizens and ashamed). First, we cannot vote with the certainty our vote won’t fall to parties responsible for policies we consider unconscionable. Second (and related) there is no feasible government of humane policy. Citizens cannot choose otherwise, or it’s so difficult that the fact of that difficulty itself influences how people vote.

A further point is that the UMR poll that reportedly found 60% want ‘harsher’ policy cannot be considered valid – as far as I know no methodology was made public (including questions asked, and even whether the sample was random, is generalisable). What harsher policies were mentioned as examples? We don’t know. If none, what did people have in mind? Both the internal and external validity of this poll are suspect, but without methodological details it can’t even be properly critiqued. That the poll may accord with existing perception of public opinion makes it no less suspect. The election was also no indication of sentiment on this issue, as no real choice, no humane policy alternative, was on offer.

This poll, though, like others, seems to have had great influence on perceptions of public opinion. And of course, what people think other people think is another determining factor in how people vote (especially in terms of playing it safe, choosing ‘lesser evil’, and so on). A cynic might speculate on why UMR Research, Labor’s internal pollster, which does not ordinarily make results public, decided to do so in this case, and in such a limited way.

This post is a response to Waleed Aly’s op piecehere

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