‘A lobby group for the rest of us’

Using the techniques of the political elite for the good of everyone

One of the great secrets of John Key’s popularity was that the National Party spends a lot of money on opinion research, message testing and polling.

Politicians use these polls to manage the public’s reaction to their policy agenda.

We can use this same method to influence politicians. We can be a lobby group for the rest of us

Yesterday our political landscape shifted dramatically.

John Key’s resignation came as a surprise to almost everyone. For the first time in a decade, it’s not clear who is in charge or who is likely to win the next election.

Whatever our thoughts on Key’s politics, polls have consistently shown him to be one of the most, if not the most, popular Prime Ministers our country has ever seen.1

After eight years in power, his party was still polling at 47 per cent — an unheard of level of popularity in the history of MMP. In 2011 he was nicknamed “Teflon John” as nothing seemed to “stick” to him.

So, how did he do it?

Part of it was personal: John Key’s confidence and laid-back attitude resonated with a large number of New Zealanders.

Part of it was clever calculations: The National Party employ the services of strategic political advisors Crosby/Textor to take care of their public image, and they spend vast sums on opinion research and polling to test their messages on voters and then adjust those messages accordingly. Political scientists call this a ‘median voter strategy’ designed to keep public favour while pushing through big changes in little steps, which they know from polling, people are most likely to accept or ignore.

It’s a winning strategy, and we think we need to flip it on it’s head.

Politicians use polls and focus groups to manage the public’s reaction to their policies. We can use polling to influence politicians.

Our community has already funded people-powered polling on issues like tax dodging and ethical investments in KiwiSaver. That polling helped define media coverage on those issues. By adding accurate message testing, opinion research and polling to our campaign tools we can have more influence as a movement, and set the terms of the debate.

ActionStation exists to create change, not just add to the noise.

Our strategy team’s job is to direct your precious time and energy for maximum impact on the issues we all care about: good public healthcare, clean rivers, functional public broadcasting and families having enough to thrive, not just survive.

As individuals, there’s a limit to what we can achieve. Especially if we don’t happen to be billionaire CEOs, lobbyists, politicians or bureaucrats. But together we can do what we cannot alone.

‘People power’ isn’t just a nice slogan at ActionStation: it is ActionStation. It’s why we’re here and how we get things done.

We can be a lobby group for the rest of us — everyday New Zealanders and the planet we love.

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