Thursday, September 11, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Modern Techniques

Few days ago Croatian President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) has made his first official visit to Serbia-Montenegro. This was opportunity for Serbo-Montenegrin President Svetozar Marović (Svetozar Marovic) to publicly apologise for all the stuff citizens of his country committed in Croatia during the war. In return, Stipe Mesić used opportunity to apologise for various crimes committed by Croats against Serbs.

Mesić's apology, universally praised by all of world's statesmen and diplomats, infuriated Croatian nationalists. For them the apology "equates victim and the aggressor" and represents "insult to 15,000 Croats who lost their lives defending themselves from Serb hordes". And it is also good opportunity to bash President and thus mobilise the anger of certain voting constituencies at the eve of the elections.

One of the parties to exploit such anger could be HB. At least this is the impression I got after phone call this afternoon. I picked up the phone and was greeted by one young lady who said that she conducted a poll for HB. She wanted to know whether I supported Mesić's apology or not. I said that I couldn't have an opinion since I hadn't read the text of the apology. She also wanted to know my age. Again, I said that my age was something I would prefer to keep for myself, but I nevertheless gave her broadest possible answer.

If I was a paranoid, I would connect this call with my blog. Yet, this isn't the first time I had to answer phone polls. I had conducted few of them myself and I'm always willing to give students and part-time field researchers a hand. So, in last few years my phone number was very popular among pollsters (although I never bothered to tell them that I'm not exactly the in the most representative sample of my own social group). And, after all, Croatia is relatively small country, and with large number of pollsters and polling agencies it is quite possible for individuals to be polled many times in short period of time.

But I suspect that HB didn't conduct any real poll. The phrasing of the question ("Do you support or do you not support") and the absence of all other data apart from age (gender, marital status, education, income etc.) indicates that the real aim of the poll is not to collect any meaningful data about people's opinions, but to suggest that a) Mesić did something bad and b) HB was the only party to actually care about such insult to national honour. This technique – negative ads dressed as polling – is a long-established technique of American political campaigns. It is refreshing to see that some of Croatian political parties are catching up to the rest of the world.


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