CBC’s X Challenge: Can Votes be Swayed?

CBC has recently put on an interesting experiment in BC, which is worth a gander for voters worldwide. The goal of the experiment was to test whether or not voters could or could not be swayed based on an engaging debate between members. This comes in light of the leadership debate that took place last week, which seems to have been played a somewhat decisive role in the recent polls, as my Dad pointed out here.

Of course, there are always certain things that must be taken into account. One is that most people getting involved in these experiments are inevitably politically active voters, rather than stay-at-home-and-ignore-the-country citizens. The other is that this particular debate is not between federal candidates, but participants in different levels of government, which could have an impact on how well each member comes across.

Also, the theory behind these is that in “instant democracy”, opinions may or may not be malleable. Because the results are based upon instant feedback, it’s quite possible that emotions are playing a larger factor here than in a normal election span. Peer pressure may all but nullify the effects of a good debate, if someone is constantly surrounded by opinions that are against the ides of the debate’s winner.

Either way, the conclusion is intriguing, and the debates worth watching. I’m going to post all of the videos, in chronological order, and oen can watch and comment at their own pace, since it totals almost an hour of watching.

As I was finding these videos, I also noticed that there was an Ontario session on the economy. They, too, have interesting results, particularly in the deviation in party success from these “environment” ones. This seems to back up my statement that “instant democracy” is largely contigent upon emotions based on the debater’s performance, and may not hold sway over a long period of time.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Zayna
    Oct 12, 2008 @ 15:11:03


    I would hazard the guess though, that most Canadians (given our anti-make-a-big-deal-out-of-anything nature) are swayed to vote against, instead of for.

    I’m talking the “stay-at-home-and-ignore-the-country citizens” voters who actually decide to vote.

    If they are moved to vote at all, you can bet that they haven’t watched the debates, haven’t educated themselves on the issues and are simply voting against the current government.

    Not ideal for sure, but I think that’s just the way the Canadian cookie of politics crumbles. 🙂

    I mean, hello…does anyone remember Bob Rae?


  2. Stephen
    Oct 13, 2008 @ 07:33:20

    I watched the first couple of questions. I liked the format for the most part.

    I thought it was interesting to get some background from the questioners — why they’re interested in the topic, what their perspective is. The guy who asked about uranium exploration is obviously knowledgeable in the field of nuclear power, albeit with a pro-industry bias. So it was informative to let him speak and rebut what the candidates were saying.

    Like you, I doubt that the exercise tells us anything about whether debates can sway people’s votes. Unlike you, I don’t think the problem is peer pressure.

    A lot of Canadians admire the Green Party’s position on environmental issues; but clearly the Green Party is not going to form Canada’s next government. So Canadians might vote for the Green Party in this forum, in a segment that focuses on the environment. But when they cast a vote in the general election, to elect a government, they’re likely to consider the other parties first.

    Finally: I liked the educative function of this show. In fact, I suspect that’s primarily what it’s about. It engages the audience by setting up a contest (Which candidate will win?) and some pseudo-scientific research (Do debates actually sway voters? — let’s study it). But the show has a hidden agenda, albeit a benevolent one: Let’s educate voters on the big issues of the day, and on the parties’ positions on those issues.

    In other words, it’s the CBC — Canada’s public broadcaster — doing what it’s mandated to do.


  3. nebcanuck
    Oct 13, 2008 @ 09:37:02

    It’s true about the Green Party thing in this case. That’s actually one of the reasons the economic version of the X-Challenge was different.

    The Liberals won that one. The Greens ended up losing more than 10%. The Conservatives were second and the NDP were a distant third. But the Liberals won with more than 50%, even though the Conservatives had started out with a good lead.

    That’s more interesting because it’s quite possible that a voter would switch from Conservative to Liberal knowing Dion still has some chance to win the election.

    Still, I suspect the majority of those convinced won’t actually change their vote come election day.

    The educational agenda’s a good point! It certainly could help get some inactive voters engaged. I’m not sure if it’ll be anything more than preaching to the choir, but it’s as good a shot as any!


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