In 1986, Richard Petty and John Cacioppo developed a model which outlined two routes by which a person (or an audience) is persuaded by a speaker to believe a certain message. The two formed the dual-process model of persuasion which described a central route and a peripheral route to persuasion. The central route focuses on the validity and the strength of an argument, while the peripheral focuses not on the argument but on other cues both visual and auditory.
The model has long been applied to political campaigns and this (pre-)campaign is no different.
Two political parties are vying to form the next Canadian federal government. The Liberal Party of Canada and Paul Martin have given us a view of the campaign that they are about to wage upon the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader Stephen Harper. Before the Liberals had a chance to release them, attack ads are describing Stephen Harper as an “extremist” and as one Liberal has visually shown in what was called a stunt by the media, ‘If Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, for health care you’ll need this (as the Liberal shows a credit card)’. ‘However, under Paul Martin you’ll only need this’, the Liberal explains as he holds up an Ontario Health Card. The Liberal Party of Canada is resorting to using visual cues and emotionally charged words (auditory cues) to describe Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada. An “extremist” can be nothing but bad as Canadians believe in Peace, Order and Good Government, so how on Earth could they vote for such a man who wants to ‘destroy’ health care. The Liberals are using the peripheral route to persuasion. This method is insulting to Canadians as the Liberals, by using loaded buzzwords such as “extremist”, “evangelical Christian”, “two-tier health care”, “destroy” amounts to waving a set of jingling set of keys, flashing in the sun, in the collective face of Canadians while not defending their record over the past 11 years. Indeed, the new “Martin brand” which retired the old “Liberal brand” is a testament to the Liberal election strategy.
Conversely, the Conservative Party of Canada has taken the strategy of the central route to persuasion and it may be the most effective for them. The party has a message to deliver to Canadians as it is a new party and as it obviously has new ideas to implement. Stephen Harper is by no means flamboyant and would not be described as a media darling so he is a perfect messenger for a solid argument: Canada is broken, we can fix it, and here’s how. While the Liberals are trying to conjure up the image of an extremist boogieman in Stephen Harper by saying that he’ll ‘destroy’ healthcare, if you listen closely Mr. Harper says,
“No one should be denied necessary medical service because of inability to pay… The position of our party is clear. We must focus our attention not on the management structure of health care, but on its accessibility. It does not matter who delivers health care; it matters who can receive it” — Stephen Harper, May 10th 2004
The position of the Conservative Party of Canada has been clarified by Stephen Harper. The message is completely clear. Contrast this with Pierre Pettigrew’s back-and-forth on delivery and Paul Martin’s correction on where his party may stand on the issue. Never mind that Mr. Martin’s own family doctor Sheldon Elman operates a clinic which is part of a company which operates private clinics in Toronto. Such revelations indicate a muddled Liberal message thus explaining their need to take a peripheral route and label Harper as “extremist”.
A vote has to be earned and should not be stolen through fear-mongering. This theft is be especially compounded when there is no basis for fear. The Liberal Party of Canada must not think much of the attention span of Canadians if it thinks that it can distract Canadians with gimmicks and buzzwords while it sits on a mountain of a scandal that is Adscam.