Shopping for Votes

Shopping for Votes

How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them

Book - 2013
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This 2nd edition offers an insightful and provocative look at the inside world of political marketing in Canada--and what this means about the state of our democracy in the twenty-first century--from a leading political commentator.

"Never mind what you may have heard about Canadians being hewers of wood and drawers of water. Forget all those endearing and enduring rural symbols that are supposed to bind the country together--the beavers, the moose, the Great White North. Canada is now a nation of shoppers ... We may want to ask whether it's time to draw some clearer lines between our civic life and our shopping pursuits." --Susan Delacourt

Inside the political backrooms of Ottawa, the Mad Men of Canadian politics are planning their next consumer-friendly pitch. Where once politics was seen as a public service, increasingly it's seen as a business, and citizens are the customers. But its unadvertised products are voter apathy and gutless public policy. Susan Delacourt takes readers into the world of Canada's top political marketers, from the 1950s to the present, explaining how parties slice and dice their platforms for different audiences and how they manage the media. The current system divides the country into "niche" markets and abandons the hard political work of knitting together broad consensus or national vision. Little wonder then, that most Canadians have checked out of the political process: less than two per cent of the population belongs to a political party and fewer than half of voters under the age of thirty showed up at the ballot box in the last few federal elections. Provocative, incisive, entertaining and refreshingly non-partisan, Shopping for Votes offers a new narrative for understanding political culture in Canada.

Publisher: Madeira Park, BC :, Douglas & McIntyre,, [2013]
ISBN: 9781926812939
Branch Call Number: 324.73 DEL NVD
Characteristics: 351 pages ; 23 cm


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Sep 06, 2019

I read this 2013 book in 2019 and although the author's findings are still important, it felt somewhat dated. It would have benefitted from some tightening and focussing. Her findings could have been laid out in a long article and I felt the book was just too long and drawn out.

Aug 12, 2015

Negative advertising and market research has been around since the 1960s (think the "Daisy" ad and Kennedy's PR strategy as examples). But it was in the 1990s that databases that track virtually every potential voter, based partly on census data (despite official claims such records are sealed) as well as telephone polling that asks innocuous questions, that plot out who to target for votes, came into widespread use. This book uses the analogy of sports and a certain coffee shop chain to explain how people think in Canada - or supposedly do; then craft ads designed to play to the worst fears rather than the best hopes of us. One bizarre example is using someone's last name to send out holiday cards - Hebrew for Jewish voters, Chinese for people whose names are Lee (even if they aren't Chinese). To treat voters as consumers is really disappointing, but Delacourt puts the finger where it belongs.

Aug 08, 2015

Reads like a three hundred plus pages long newspaper article. The first few pages are quick and easy, but grade school level writing quickly becomes tedious and the reading is like walking across a field covered in three feet of snow.

Apr 19, 2014

Delacourt is a TV journalist and it shows - there are sound-bite insights on every page of this book. She shows how Canadian politics evolved from unifying principles (telling voters what's best for them) to selling leaders (persuading voters who is best for them) to unabashed marketing (making parties attractive to voters). She describes a today where most Canadians seem to thing of nothing but shopping for self-gratification, including while they vote. Polling has evolved from global guide to niche marketing, made possible by use of multiple data sources to break societal groups into individual voters. The overall effect is to disintegrate national vision and societal cohesion. But, since we give parties that use marketing methods more votes than those who don't, all parties are forced to join in and become much more similar to each other than in the past.

Mar 20, 2014

As a follower of Canadian politics I enjoyed reading this book. Sure much of it was stuff I had already seen and/or labelled on my own. I wish more people read these kinds of books so they would be better prepared, in my opinion, to cast votes for all levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal). It will be interesting to see where some of these trends (marketing, data analysis) go in the years to come.......

Jan 28, 2014

Canadian based overview of how governments have changed how they court voters by changing them from 'citizens' to 'taxpayers'. Well written, easy to read, deeply disturbing.


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Aug 12, 2015

"The truth seems to be no medium is better suited for the propagation of untruths better than television; there is no medium so effective as television not only for dissembling and distortion but for inventing reality. Only television can use obfuscating charm and sleaze to such powerful effect. A well-packaged lie can penetrate the thickest skull, given enough frequency, a modicum of cleverness and the avarice money can command." - Dalton Camp

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