At the time of this post, the total number of "votes" in the VOCM Question of the Day "poll", "Are you satisfied with Tom Rideout's action on his controversial expense claims?", is 25,061. They are still trickling in.
In the archives of Question of the Day, there are vote totals and percentages (comments are purged after a few days) for 724 such "polls" since 2005.
The average number of responses for those archived polls is 2545. The median is 1416. Yet, as this corner and others have pointed out in the recent past, there have been occasional "spikes" in the response rates, most notably on questions which relate closely to perceptions of the current provincial government, and its human incarnation on this earth, Danny Williams.
Monday was a case in point. Yesterday's "poll", with its huge response rate, ranks as the ninth-highest all-time participation.
Let's assume for fun, that any poll with more than double the average number of responses — let's make it 5,000 — has been "juiced" by one or more parties.
That means that there have been 62 "juicings" in recorded VOCM Question of the Day history.
The thirty lesser "juicings" — more than 5,000 "votes", but less than 10,000 — are as follows:
Date Votes QuestionCurious, innit? VOCM Question of the Day ranges from federal politics, through provincial and St. John's municipal politics, to international affairs, to business and consumer matters, to items personal and health interest. Yet, all but five of the "juiced" polls in the list above have to do with provincial politics; mainly with the performance of the government of the day; and, and, and, especially with the performance of, or decisions by, Premier Williams. Seven of the thirty-one questions above ask specifically about Premier Williams by name or title.
5/3/2007 9782 Do you support the salary increases given to staff in the premier's office?
3/7/2006 9779 Who do you think won the debate between the McCartney's and Premier Danny Williams?
12/21/2006 9243 Should government allow the Auditor General access to cabinet documents concerning the fibre optic deal?
11/8/2006 9190 Do you think government should pump 15 million dollars into the private sector for another fibre optic communications line for the province?
11/29/2007 8527 Do you agree with Premier Danny Williams that it is not the place of former premiers to comment on how the current government operates?
11/8/2005 8455 Two years ago Sunday, Danny Williams was sworn in as this province's 9th premier. Has he met your expectations?
2/16/2007 8218 Do you think the issue of threatening suits against talk show callers has gone too far?
7/14/2007 7698 The provincial election is less than three months away. If it was held today, what party would you vote for?
8/9/2007 7526 Should this province get a new representative in the federal cabinet?
12/3/2007 7511 Do you think government should offer more incentives to secure the future of the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor?
4/4/2007 7404 Do you like the province's new license plates?
5/22/2006 7253 Do you think it's time the province returned to negotiations on the Hebron project?
3/10/2006 7027 Should the premier apologize to the IFAW?
5/14/2007 6585 Do you agree with the Opposition that government should start from scratch when it comes to the fibre optic deal? Why or why not?
5/10/2005 6270 Who should back down in the crab dispute? The union, or the government?
2/23/2006 6086 Do you support putting close to two billion dollars, most of it Atlantic Accord money, into the teachers' pension plan?
9/25/2006 6029 Do you think all dogs should be muzzled when they're out in public?
2/10/2006 5960 Do you think it likely that the provincial Liberals under new leader Jim Bennett can win the next election?
1/19/2007 5932 Do you agree with government's decision not to allow the development of South Hibernia to proceed at this time?
2/13/2006 5909 Do you support the idea of building a new oil refinery in the Placentia Bay area?
2/16/2006 5802 Should the provincial government introduce whistle blower legislation to protect public employees who speak out on job related issues?
12/4/2007 5769 Are you satisfied with the outcome of that meeting between the prime minister and Premier Danny Williams?
4/16/2007 5643 Do you think government's fisheries renewal program will save the industry?
4/18/2007 5429 Do you think Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor should be dismissed in the wake of the deaths of 8 soldiers last week in Afghanistan?
11/22/2007 5354 Should the NDP be given official party status in the House of Assembly?
8/1/2007 5254 Who do you side with in the dispute over giving Sir Wilfred Grenfell College full university status? John Crosbie or the Provincial Government?
1/26/2007 5136 Should the provincial government reduce the visibility of cigarette retail displays?
11/30/2006 5112 Do you think Parliament should revisit the same-sex marriage issue?
5/30/2006 5089 Do you think Loyola Hearn is doing a good job so far as Federal Fisheries Minister?
11/1/2007 5081 Do you like Danny Williams' new cabinet?
That compares to twenty out of the 662 questions that elicited 5000 fewer responses since the VOCM archives began in 2005.
Those are the lesser juicings. But there are also thirty-two Questions of the Day which have received more than 10,000 "votes" in the course of a day or two. They are the Super-Juiced:
Date Votes QuestionOnce again, provincial politics dominates as a theme. Only four questions were not connected, in whole or in part, directly with partisan provincial politics or issues of provincial government performance. Again, seven questions refer to the Premier by name or by title (or both.)
6/8/2006 46,363 If a provincial election was held today what party would you vote for?
11/27/2006 41,994 Do you think the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the province to host Canada's premiers last summer, was money well spent?
5/24/2006 34,270 Do you think the fisheries summit should be open to the public and broadcast around the province?
11/23/2006 32,046 Do you think there should be an independant inquiry into the Fibre Optic Deal approved by government?
11/29/2006 31,742 Should the official opposition drop the fibre optic issue?
1/9/2007 28,081 Do you think the premier should call an early election because of the ongoing spending scandal in the House of Assembly?
4/23/2007 26,100 Do you support plans for a massive rally on Confederation Hill to support the premier in the equalization fight?
1/11/2008 25,655 Do you think the premier should shelve the feud with Ottawa and focus on social issues during this week's First Ministers meeting?
1/15/2008 25,061 Are you satisfied with Tom Rideout's action on his controversial expense claims?
7/7/2006 23,874 Do you support Danny Williams' cabinet changes?
7/11/2006 23,185 Do you think the provincial government should improve its offer to the Nurses' Union?
4/13/2007 21,530 Do you support the Labrador Metis Nation's ad campaign aimed at Premier Danny Williams?
10/18/2007 19,508 Do you like the Harper government's Speech From the Throne?
2/9/2007 19,479 Do you support Loyola Hearn's statement that the annual rate hike for Marine Atlantic will result in improved quality service?
6/13/2006 17,860 Do you think the provincial Liberal Party will be able to successfully rebuild itself before the next election?
9/17/2007 16,324 The provincial election is less than one month away. If it was held today, what party would you vote for?
12/11/2006 15,992 Should Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale resign over the Bull Arm contract controversy?
4/26/2007 15,980 Do you like what you heard in the Speech from the Throne?
6/3/2005 15,663 Do you think the Liberals will be able to hold onto Exploits district in the June 23rd byelection?
10/12/2006 14,715 The provincial election is set for next October, but if it was held today what party would you vote for?
5/1/2006 13,601 Do you think Jim Bennett should step aside as leader of the Provincial Liberal Party?
9/27/2007 12,787 Who do you think won last night's leaders debate?
1/17/2007 12,595 Should the Premier call an early general election instead of having more by-elections?
10/25/2006 12,352 Should government eliminate the interest on student loans?
3/30/2007 12,269 Do you support the province's ad campaign aimed at Stephen Harper?
5/31/2006 12,136 Do you support Gerry Reid's decision to take over the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party?
12/13/2005 12,132 What party do you plan to vote for in the federal election?
5/10/2007 11,709 Do you support the Trust and Confidence Rally being held in St.John's on Friday?
1/10/2007 11,453 Do you think the premier should have reinstated Transportation Minister John Hickey now?
7/10/2006 10,505 Do you think the Inco merger will be a bad thing for this province?
8/5/2005 10,376 Do you think government is being upfront with the public on its' negotiations with Abitibi Consolidated?
5/9/2005 10,348 If a provincial election was held today would you be less likely to vote Tory because of the Fabian Manning situation?
Of the 724 questions in the VOCM vault, just 5% ask about Premier Williams by title or name.
However, of the "juiced" questions, 23% ask directly about the decisions, judgment, or actions of the Premier. Four of the Top Ten of All Time have been about him.
Sorted along the other axis, 14 of the 34 questions about Our Dear Premier have been "juiced"; seven of them have been "super-juiced".
All a coincidence, surely.
But let's assume, solely for the sake of argument, that it isn't. And let's further assume that whoever is "juicing" VOCM's Question of the Day in favour of the Government of the Day, is the same person (or people) time after time.
Is it not a little strange, perhaps even disturbing, that among the questions to be skewed in this manner are:
Do you think there should be an independant inquiry into the Fibre Optic Deal approved by government? (32,046 votes, "yes" eked out a narrow 48-45 win)
Should the official opposition drop the fibre optic issue? (31,742, 63% "yes".)
Do you think the premier should call an early election because of the ongoing spending scandal in the House of Assembly? (28,081 votes, 83% "yes".)
Do you support plans for a massive rally on Confederation Hill to support the premier in the equalization fight? (26,100 votes, 80% in favour of showing Our Dear Love.)
Do you think the premier should shelve the feud with Ottawa and focus on social issues during this week's First Ministers meeting? (25,655, 64% "no".)
Today's infamous, Are you satisfied with Tom Rideout's action on his controversial expense claims? (25,061, 72% "yes".)
Do you support Danny Williams' cabinet changes? (23,874, 69% "yes".)
Do you think the provincial government should improve its offer to the Nurses' Union? (23,185, 51% "no".)
Do you support the Labrador Metis Nation's ad campaign aimed at Premier Danny Williams? (21,530, 53% "no".)
Should Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale resign over the Bull Arm contract controversy? (15,992, 77% "no".)
Do you like what you heard in the Speech from the Throne? (This was the "masters in our own house" speech; 15,980, 72% "yes".)
Should the Premier call an early general election instead of having more by-elections? (Yes, again; 12,595, 88% "yes".)
Do you support the province's ad campaign aimed at Stephen Harper? (12,269, 89% "yes"; cf. the Labrador Metis question above.)
Do you think the premier should have reinstated Transportation Minister John Hickey now? (11,453, 81% "yes".)
And those are just the Super-Juiced. Just missing the cut were:
Do you support the salary increases given to staff in the premier's office? (9,782, 57% "yes".)
Should government allow the Auditor General access to cabinet documents concerning the fibre optic deal? (9,243, 57% "no".)
Do you agree with Premier Danny Williams that it is not the place of former premiers to comment on how the current government operates? (8,527, 76% "yes".)
In fact, on provincial political questions that have attracted large numbers of votes, the government rarely "loses", let alone by the same lopsided margins that it tends to "win" by.
So, assuming again for the sake of argument, that whoever has "juiced" these various questions in favour of Danny Williams Government Newfoundland Labrador, is the same person or people over and over again, the questions should be: who? and why?
Is it for the Enver-Hoxha propaganda value of having the VOCM announcer proclaim that 88% of The People want Our Dear Premier to call an early election? That 89% agree that the province should take out attack ads against the federal government, but that 53% disapprove of the LMN using the same tactic on the provincial government?
Is it because someone is fearful of the true reflection of public opinion on certain subjects; if so who, and which subjects?
Is it done to please someone? If so, who?
Is it used to justify some actions?
Why, in a free and democratic society, would it be in whose interest to "juice" such a poll against civil actors such as the Nurse's Union or the LMN?
Whose purpose is served by "juicing" pointed questions about the performance of certain provincial cabinet Ministers?
Or by torquing a poll so that 64% of 25,655 "respondents" — that's almost equal to the entire population of Labrador — wind up saying, in effect, that no, the Premier shouldn't stop a political "feud" (the poll's word.)
Or one that says former Premiers should shut up?
Whose purposes are being served, and at whose behest, and how, by this continuing curious use of someone's very valuable time?