Confirmation Bias in Politics



On the second night of my drinking I was looking for my car and as luck would have it, I found it outside my favourite bar. (Drive By Truckers)

In political terms, this is the phenomenon of confirmation bias.

When we go online, we do so to have our views affirmed and soon we think everyone is thinking just like us.

The reality is somewhat different.

We choose our friends and we choose our information highway and we create political parties to compete for space

Political parties should connect with people. They seldom do more than create a passing interest.

Connecting with people requires listening more than talking. Telling people what they should think never works. Democratic politicians have an obligation to find out what people are thinking and give voice to the fears, hopes and aspirations of our times. How do we work collectively to overcome problems and shift the power relationships so people believe they have some control over their destiny?

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It is not just the politics of hope; it is the politics of hard work and sacrifice. It is also the politics of compromise and incremental gain.

Even under MMP, a political party must appeal to more than all my friends on Facebook. Winning a seat or two in parliament is only the beginning. Negotiation and compromise are then necessary to make gains for the broad constituency of working people, beneficiaries, the dispossessed and marginalised. And the electorate must at least be convinced that such negotiation and compromise will occur when the votes are counted.  Many would prefer agreements on core policies were reached before Election Day.

The National party has the luxury of resolving policy differences internally and presenting a united platform. Right now, this makes them the favourite to govern again even though their prescription for NZ is an environmental, social and economic disaster.

Our challenge is to create the alternative which does not look fragmented, competitive and unstable.

Labour and the Greens both have many exciting and relevant policies and Mana have a large potential constituency for socially progressive policies and community based action. The campaign finance which comes with the Internet Party might add votes but the Party is a puzzle. Opposition to mass surveillance and other policies are shared by other parties of the Left and I am not sure where internet freedom sits with the rights of workers in the arts and entertainment industries. There are dangers if the accommodations’ of the Left appear to the electorate as political expediency.

Finding alternatives to the policies of the last 30 years which have increased inequality and alienated people is the political challenge of our time. Electoral success requires such alternative policies to become mainstream.

Policies must also reach people who are distracted by consumerism or marginalized in their communities.

The task at hand is more than just to get out the vote. It is also to convince and give certainty to people that they will have more security and opportunity if they vote for a change of Government.

Can the political mix on the center left be brought together into a winning formula?

There is much at stake. Poverty and injustice are not theoretical. An alternative government must look like it can govern with a realisable political platform and do so with stability.

Right now, from a distance, it looks like the horses might be OK but the punters are terrified.


  1. Opposing inequality means opposing capitalism.
    That cannot be done incrementally or with stability.
    Capitalism is a chronically chaotic and therefore unstable system because workers never agree to face their exploitation and oppression when it threatens their survival with pacifism.
    As soon as we demand what we need to survive we get the bosses state attacking us.
    To get what we need to survive economically and as a species we have to overthrow the system.
    That is a violent act, not because we want it to be but because the bosses will never give up their unearned wealth and power peacefully.
    We will get stability when the 1% and their hangers on are expropriated and the vast majority of humanity takes control of its destiny.

    • OK, so how does that relate to what’s happening this election? does that mean we don’t bother voting because there no one has the end of capatalism as a policy? Do we go out and torch the stock exchange immediately? or do we encourage more neo liberalism in the hope that the numbers of poor and disenfranchised will eventually grow to the point where we have an army ready to overthrow the state?

      just answer with an A,B or C if you’re busy

      • Being anti-capitalist relates to this election…
        How about ‘D’ – we vote strategically so that we move to the left of capitalism as much as possible. And we continue to do this.

        I agree with your points Dave Brown. I’m shocked that you get so many down votes and only got a smart remark in reply.

        I thought this site is supposed to be the other perspective?

        • I’m not shocked Fatty.
          Most people are frightened of losing what stake they have in capitalism.
          They don’t have faith that ordinary workers are capable of building a better future.
          They don’t see yet that we have no choice but to overthrow capitalism if we want to survive.
          Yet from Marakana to Marikana we see the anti-capitalists rising up.
          And as you also say tactical voting is part of the rising up, is the waking up part.

            • I find it extraordinary that anyone still uses the word ‘commie’ as some derisive label. As a Socialist, who currently votes Green, I have little respect for people who label others in this manner. I doubt whether most people using the label communist have any real idea what it means.

            • “Commie”?!?!


              How very 20th Century, Mark.

              You are aware that the Berlin Wall fell, about a quarter of a century ago?

              By the way, we won the Crimea War, World Wars One and Two, FYI. (The Vietnam War was a bit of a flop, though.)

  2. Very true – there is a small band of excited believers but how does that grow?
    National will push “if it an’t broke don’t fix it” and it’s a tough sell if the punters don’t think it’s broken.
    Some concise, clear messages are needed, now.

    • Well, ‘it’ isn’t broken. That’s precisely the problem the left has.

      Over recent months Labour have manufacture a crisis in a vast array of sectors, from manufacturing to forestry to the provinces and numerous points in between. The problem is that every time they declare something a ‘crisis’ we find that it is anything but.

      • What a load of crap! We are in the deep end thanks to your Mates in NaCtional ! We have gone from $8 billion in debt to over $70 billion in 5 years of NaCtional!!! Sold off good profit making assets and renewable energy assets for bugger all and even let the scum that bought the share pay it back later!!!! NZ is a joke and all that bury their heads in the sand and think that all is well in the land of the long white cloud need to be woken up and dragged to the polling both this election because If we don’t we are headed for a future far worse than NZ has ever see.

        And “Intrinsicvalue” I know that you are infact a National party troll and I know that most of the people on here have more than a two digit I.Q, so to save yourself the time effort and energy why dont you sod off to Whaleoil!

        • Obviously the Public don’t buy all the supposedly good policies from the Left. People dont want to be told or instructed on how to live their lives. Great to see the Greens below 11% expect Kim dot Con to grab more of their share and the greens could have 2 or 3 less mps in Parliament.Cunnlife has no cut through with the Public the unions love him. The Public don’t trust him at the end of the day the Public will win that battle all day long.

          • Bob – People dont want to be told or instructed on how to live their lives


            Do go on.

            Don’t leave us hanging in suspense, Bob.

            What, precisely, do you mean by “people dont want to be told or instructed on how to live their lives”. Instructed in what way?!

            Do you have any specific examples, or are you just winging it?

            • I think he’s still scared about lightbulbs and showerheads. Can you imagine a world where you save money by using efficient hardware? Eek! Nanny State! Bring me that nice National government who let me pay more for energy that I no longer own. Much better.

      • Not broken? Well, there is a shiny, rosy veneer that a lot of people don’t look beyond – but once you get behind that, it’s not pretty.
        Ballooning overseas debt – which somehow gets spun as prudent fiscal management. An economy that is heavily reliant on commodity primary produce. A pending giving up of NZ’s sovereignty to the TPPA. Total inaction, apart from spouting some “aspirational” goals, on our biggest threat – global warming.
        But the weeping sore is the schism in our society being driven by inequality –

      • Yes, it isn’t broken so much as it has rotted away – the Gnats have left only the facade of government – they’ve done precious little governing.

        Housing is more than a simple crisis – there will need to be more than a single turning point. Balance of payments will reassert itself as an issue, as will borrowings when the interest bill on the $70 billion begins to bite.

        The need for Labour is not to manufacture crisies – they can leave that to consummate stupidity of the Gnats. They have to fix the problems – which any major dude will tell you is way harder.

      • You mean you don’t find increasing inequality a “crisis”, Anonymous ACT Support Intrinsicvalue?

        Or increasing child poverty?

        What about high unemployment, still at 6%? (With under-employment even higher?)

        Or low wages – which Key has promised every year since 2007 to raise, to match Australia’s?

        Or the $70 billion that Key has had to borrow, after two unsustainable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010?

        Whilst at the same time throwing subsidies at Charter schools, aluminium smelters, Hollywood corporations, casinos, etc.

        Or don’t any of these register on your radar?!

      • Phooey. Cast your mind back to Nick Smith’s ACC uproar in 2009 – That was as brazen a manufactured crisis as could be, and was roundly debunked by independent observers. I’m not going to say that Labour haven’t done the same – It’s common practice. But to say that it’s “the problem the left has” as if the right aren’t also guilty of it is pretty darn disingenuous.

      • Tell that to all the dead forestry workers and their families Intrinsic! Manufactured Crisis, what a crock!

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