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Newsnight Uses Republican Weasel-Words Specialist. Fails To Disclose, Again.

You may remember David Davis was doing quite well, until shortly after Newsnight hired American focus-group master Frank Luntz to conduct research on voter reactions to the Conservative leadership candidates.

Mike Smithson, an authority on UK political betting wrote...

...the most important Tory leadership factor this week was not anything that happened in the conference hall, but a feature on Newsnight showing the leading US pollster, Frank Luntz, conducting a focus group.

If you have not seen this yet then this is must and you can still download a video from the the programme’s website. It’s the most compelling and influential piece of political television in a long time and had a huge impact on the leadership betting markets.

Those being surveyed watched videos of the five contenders with meters in their hand where they could react instantly to what they were seeing on the screen.

What was being presented suggests that Cameron appears to resonate with people of all ages and political persuasions in a way that no other UK politician has done since the emergence of Tony Blair.

As Wat Tyler pointed out at the time, Luntz isn't just an American polling expert. He's a Republican pollster, known for advising the party on its choice of language. You no longer increase the amount of Arsenic you allow in drinking water. Instead you "update" the environmental act, based on "sound science". Words such as 'government' and 'privatization' are to be avoided. Avoid the policy, go for fluffy apple-pie sentiments.

Well, it appears that BBC Newsnight, not content with attempting to sway the Conservative Party's leadership election away from David Davis towards someone more to their tastes, are now trying to push Blair to go.

They hired Luntz again, to conduct a focus group on the party leaders and Gordon Brown. The result? People like Cameron and they want Blair to go.

I'm sure they do. But Luntz's connection to the centre-right and his like of fluffy language that Cameron excels at using, is clearly relevant. It should have been disclosed. It was not.

You can read more about Luntz's views on how political parties should present their case by reading his guide for Republicans seeking re-election in 2006, uncovered by Daily Kos.

Update: In segment five of a PBS documentary, The Persuaders, Luntz shows a journalist around his home, showing him momentos  from his campaign work for Silvio Berlusconi, John Mccain and Rudolf Giuliani..
[Hat-tip: A resurgent Liberal]

April 25, 2006 in Conservative Party, The Media | Permalink


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Yes, it does look like Luntz is not the 'neutral' pollster that NewsNight made him out to be. We've covered this story on Liberal Review recently and I think it's only a matter of time before Luntz loses any credibility he had as a pollster with something to say about British politics.

[NukeLabour: Comment originally posted 25 Apr 2006 12:37:14. Reposted by me, following deletion and reposting of the original post]

Posted by: Rob Knight | 25 Apr 2006 17:36:46

The key issue isn't Luntz. It's the BBC's failure to disclose his links to the right.

Luntz is good at what he does. His guides are honest, clear, and usable. He sincerely believes that those who avoid direct political argument and go for vague voter-friendly platitudes do better at elections.

He's provided good value for Newsnight. But Newsnight should have disclosed Luntz's connections, and challenged his implicit assumption that presentation, rather than policy, is the key to electoral success.

Luntz was also asked to focus on politicians, not political parties. It's Cameron v Brown rather than Conservative v Labour. It's the latter that ultimately matters. People rarely vote for the leader. There are many more factors at play.

Luntz ignored the effect of the leader on voters other than swing voters. Could Cameron be driving some conservatives to stay at home, or vote UK IP? Could Brown motivate both Labour and Conservative voters to turn out? We don't know, as his piece only concentrated on swing voters from South East England.

Newsnight is the BBC's flagship news broadcast. It ought to take more care over its editorial standards.

Posted by: Nuke Labour | 25 Apr 2006 17:38:02

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