Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Queensland elections, communications and the importance of the heuristic

Talk about the sudden, although perhaps not totally unexpected. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has called a sudden snap election for January 31, cutting the notice period required to the absolute minimum. Antony Green has his election site up, if with difficulty after recent shoulder surgery.

Intuitively, while the polls presently show the Government and Opposition on 50:50, the sheer size of the Government's majority gives them a considerable buffer. Whether the Premier can hold his seat is another question. Here the polls have him behind.

On an apparently different matter, I found this quote:
"My afternoon with Andrew (tour guide)  had shown the error of telling too much. With each tour, I omitted a little more information  and covered a little less ground. Nobody remembers a statistic, but an anecdote could stick like a burr, and an image imprint itself in the imagination."
I copied it down for my own reasons, but it actually has some relevance to the Queensland position.

Again on an apparently different matter and again one that I was looking at for other reasons, Wikipedia defines heuristic in this way:
Heuristic ... refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery that find a solution which is not guaranteed to be optimal, but good enough for a given set of goals. Where the exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution via mental shortcuts to ease the cognitive load of making a decision
In current Australian election campaigning with its emphasis on myriad promises that nobody can remember loosely linked together by policy statements that nobody reads, electors apply heuristic methods. to determine their votes. It's the only rational way to go.

 The problem is that when the subsequent results diverge sufficiently from elector's expectations there is a sense of betrayal that is not always clearly understood by either those affected or the politicians themselves.

Queensland Premier Newman might argue that he was actually fairly clear on what he intended to do. Here he has another problem, those who made the heuristic judgment that the previous government had to go, it was time, did not focus on what might replace it. Their focus on what Mr Newman said was limited to the extent that it might persuade them not to vote for Mr Newman. They had no interest beyond that. Okay, they were wrong if the polls now are any guide, but it was still a sensible approach.

What final conclusion do I draw from this? Still, not sure. My feeling is that politicians actually need to understand what heuristic thinking tells us.  What do you think?


Anonymous said...


Wikipedia: near enough is good enough.
Aussiepedia: she'll be right mate.

What's not to like about that?


I was reading the other day about England's Grand National Steeplechase, and the Kentucky Derby. Both are run on Saturdays, while their elections are held mid-week.

In Australia, elections are always on Saturday, and the Melbourne Cup is a Tuesday.

This place is completely arse-up, and not just geographically :)


Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, kvd. Not sure that your definitions actually capture heuristics. At some point, I feel a serious post coming on!

Actually, holding elections mid week has always puzzled me. Work kinda interferes with elections.