As a guy who does a pile of research and data crunching, one of the things I am most fascinated and puzzled by are public opinion polls (and all polls for that matter).
The latest CRA poll finds the economy and health care followed by NB Power are the top areas of concern. The CBC had a poll earlier in the week that found people are cynical and suspicious of politics and politicians.
The biggest flaw with these polls is they don’t set a context for the respondent. The classic example of this is on taxes. If you ask people should the government cut taxes – 90% will almost always say yes. But if you ask should the government cut taxes – if it means adding three weeks to the average wait time or the closure of the local hospital, then you will get a far different response.
And then there is the role of the media. I have vowed not to criticize the CBC on these pages but I will say that in general the media will churn out stories fostering cynicism and suspicion of politics and then they are “shocked, shocked” to find out the public is cynical and suspicious of politicians. Newsflash to the media (including myself as a columnist) – the people get this attitude somewhere – it doesn’t just fall from the sky.
Same with health care. There are ongoing challenges with health care. No question. But health care spending today in New Brunswick is up over a $1 billion per year in just the past 10 years with no increase in the population. The politicians hear the public has “health care” as a top issue and they are inclined to throw more money at it. Someone, somewhere should have figured out by now it is not a direct route from more spending to better outcomes.
But, again, health care is a darling media topic because it is low hanging fruit. There is always someone ready to complain or some Premier ready to go outside the country for treatment. Over the course of a year, I suspect that if you did a review of subject matter in Canadian newspapers topics most frequently covered would be in order: Politics, economy and health care. And with the possible exception of the middle topic, the media coverage isn’t about good news. Sorry, Anne Murray.