After much hype and expectation, the Rugby World Cup final is upon us. The question of its political impact is once again being asked.
Two Victoria University of Wellington academics have a lot to say about this – see: Peter A Thompson and Marc Wilson’s Winning the World Cup – does it make a difference? and the TVNZ items Expert believes RWC result could impact election and The Cup and the media (3:51). Audrey Young has also written a useful backgrounder here: Rugby World Cup unlikely to affect election.
There should be no doubt the result of Sunday night’s game will have some impact on the election campaign.
Obviously people don’t consciously make deliberate voting decisions on the basis of sporting wins or losses, but those sporting results do have an influence on the emotional mood of the electoral, which definitely then impacts on voting behaviour to some degree.
And a win will definitely produce an element of elation in the national mood/psyche over the next few months. This has to be good for the incumbents. Of course, those that have already firmly decided to vote for parties other than National are not likely to change their vote as a result of the win. But those undecided voters will be slightly more easily won over by the National government’s attempts to convince the electorate things are getting better, and that therefore no change is needed.
Also, the tournament has been a big success – apart from the opening night – and so this has also left the country slightly buoyant. We’ve had a national party so-to-speak, and people have enjoyed the festivities and games and this probably makes people conducive to retaining the status quo in government.
However, the impact of a win could be diluted by other factors. The Rena oil spill still has a long way to go before its looking like it can be safely resolved. And similarly, the Treasury’s PREFU statement comes out this coming week, which is basically the Treasury opening the government’s books prior to the election to show just how good or bad things are.
So if the PREFU and the Rena spill are also pointing towards negative futures, then the World Cup win will be slightly overshadowed – or at least the gloss is less shiny, and that opens up Labour’s chances of making an impact with their argument that the government hasn’t improved people’s lives in New Zealand.
And a loss on Sunday would definitely produce an element of depression in the national mood, and this has to be bad for the incumbents.
Again, those that have already firmly decided to vote for National are not likely to change their vote as a result of the loss.
But those undecided voters – or even the many ‘soft National supporters’ will be slightly less easily won over by the National government’s attempts to convince the electorate things are getting better, and that therefore no change is needed.
And when people are in negative moods are they are more receptive to negative election advertising, and that will advantage the Labour Party, which is campaigning on the basis of the need to change the government. And, of course, the impact of the loss could be compounded by those other factors such as Rena and the PREFU.
If the All Blacks lose, Labour might also be tempted to make something of the fact that the underdog has won, and they’ll want to draw the parallel with the fact that so many commentators and voters have written off Labour as being destined to lose the election. But they’ll have to be very careful in drawing such parallels, which in the current sensitive emotional mood could go down very well, and could be seen as anti-patriotic.
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Act Party and Epsom
Rugby World Cup
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