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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Handicapping the PlatCom Survey

Platform Committee Chair Alicia Mattson has sent an email out through official LP channels asking party members to take a survey about the purpose and scope of the Platform. Presumably to avoid having to get a majority of PlatCom to agree to its content, she apparently (and perhaps wisely) did not seek input from any other PlatCom members. Here are the substantive questions, along with my answers and predictions about results.

1. Platforms serve both internal and external purposes. &Which of the following more closely represents your opinion about what should be the principal purpose of our party platform?
a) Our platform should be more of an externally-focused document to market our party to voters.
b) Our platform should be more of an internally-focused document to guide our candidates.

I voted (b), even though it's apparently designed to be the radical choice. Our platform should be a statement of our common principles. It should guide our candidates and marketers, not replace them or dictate to them. I bet about 60% of NatCon delegates would vote (a).

2. Our platform will be read by those who are familiar with our ideas and those who are not. Who do you believe should be our principal target?
a) We should target individuals unfamiliar with (or even opposed to) our ideas so we can educate them on the merits of libertarianism.
b) We should target individuals already sympathetic with our ideas to convince them to vote for our candidates.

I think I voted (a). I don't like either choice. Our principle target should be anyone who wonders what the LP stands for. (a) might get more votes, but it will be close as I doubt many will love either choice.

3. Shorter documents are more likely to be read, while longer documents are more likely to be comprehensive. If you had to select only one, which one of the following more closely represents your opinion about the optimal length of our platform?
a) A short platform covering fewer issues.
b) A long platform covering more issues.

I voted for the radical (b) choice, even though what I prefer is a short platform covering more issues. This clearly shows that Alicia was not trying to rig the quiz to favor the short Pure Principles draft that PlatCom is moving toward. (a) will probably get more votes.

4. Our platform uses a combination of negative and positive phrasing, i.e. what we oppose and what we champion. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion as to the language phrasing that should be used mostly in our platform?
a) We should emphasize what we oppose in government and the harm it causes.
b) We should emphasize what we favor in a free society and the benefits this brings.

Another blatantly non-rigged question. I reluctantly voted for the less-radical (b), even though I oppose filling the Platform with marketing fluff that vouches for the benefits of our principles. (b) will win handily, but the result won't support our Pure Principles draft as much as another question might have.

5. We know that libertarianism is both morally right and improves the lives of the greatest number of people. &Which of the following more closely represents your opinion as to the language phrasing that should be used mostly in our platform?
a) We should emphasize the moral justification for our views.
b) We should emphasize the utilitarian benefits of our positions to the reader.

Yet another non-rigged question! I reluctantly voted for the radical (a) choice, but the Pure Principles draft eschews both philosophical justifications and utilitarian vouching. (b) should edge (a).

6. Some people believe our existing platform language can be repaired through a series of amendments. Others believe that we need to delete the old language and start anew. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion about how to better fix our platform?
a) We should amend the existing language.
b) We should delete the old planks and start from a clean slate.

I voted for (b), which should get a majority, but some will interpret this as support for writing a marketing brochure instead of adopting the Pure Principles draft. Sigh.

7. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion about how we should address controversial issues where there is not the bylaws-required 2/3 support among our delegates to state one position or another in our platform?
a) The platform should be silent on such issues, only emphasizing areas of internal party agreement.
b) To generate 2/3 support and avoid being silent on such issues, compromise language for the platform should be crafted that acknowledges there is more than one acceptable position.

Radicals will not like either choice, but I don't have a clear favorite. I voted for (b), but my preference is to state the core of agreement whenever possible -- which includes pretty much every issue except abortion, the death penalty, and some miscellaneous ones like intellectual property. (a) will probably win.

8. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion about how much implementation detail should be included in our platform planks?
a) We should include very little to no implementation detail. State only the general principles and leave it to our candidates to address how to implement them.
b) We should provide comprehensive details on how to implement each plank.

Finally, a question that can help the Pure Principles draft. :-) I voted for (a), which will win convincingly.

9. Some topics are included in a platform because they satisfy an internal party constituency. Some topics are included in a platform because they will appeal to voters. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion about the types of topics that should be emphasized in the platform?
a) We should emphasize topics that are appealing to voters.
b) We should emphasize topics that appeal to internal party constituencies.

I reluctantly voted for the radical (b), because I oppose the brochure intent underlying (a) -- which will win due to the phrasing.

10. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion as to how far-reaching plank language should be?
a) We should be destination oriented, describing how we want society to ultimately appear.
b) We should be directionally oriented, emphasizing what Libertarian officeholders can reasonably achieve over the next few years.

I reluctantly voted for (b), even though I oppose the "next few years" part. The idea of the Pure Principles draft is "timeless directional principles", emphasizing neither destination nor near-term transition. (b) will eke out a majority, and this will be yet another part of the quiz that rekindles the hopes of exuberant moderates who think that in Denver we can pass a Platform written as a brochure or a Contract With America. We can't, and we shouldn't try.

11. Which of the following more closely represents your opinion as to how we should handle subjects for which mainstream Libertarian thought is at odds with what most voters want?
a) We should be silent on those issues.
b) We should state our positions on those issues.

I reluctantly voted for the more radical (b), only because of the qualifier "mainstream". This vote will be close.

3 comments:

Kn@ppster said...

Interesting. Here are my responses:

1) a
2) b
3) a
4) neither
5) neither
6) b
7) a
8) a
9) a
10) b
11) b

I find it interesting that "reformer" Holtz reluctantly chose what he considers the "radical" options on 1 and 3, while "radical" me went the other way (without reluctance).

Looks like we agreed on four questions (6, 8, 10 and 11).

Regards,
Tom Knapp

testtest555 said...

Test test

Scott Semans said...

Internet surveys which requiure EVERY question to be answered before the screen will advance are disrespectful to the survey taker, and less useful for the originator. A NOTA response suggests that the question was poorly crafted or did not get to the heart of the issue, so response rates as well as percentages convey information. Though the topics here are well chosen and the questions clevely crafted, the underlying assumption is that the Platform is to be a manipulative tool rather than a statement of - however unevenly - shared views. By refusing to answer the quesions which characterize this, I could have, imperfectly, made this point. I'm able to take only a few of the surveys that come my way, but I try to congratulate the posters of the ones which allow nonresponses.