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Race-baiting campaigns likely to backfire says academic

Race-baiting campaigns likely to backfire says academic

A recent spate of racist slurs by political candidates from ACT, New Zealand First, and Labour are more likely to turn off voters rather than attract them, says Auckland University of Technology history professor Paul Moon

Professor Moon has said that the New Zealand electorate has become much more sophisticated over the past four decades, and that it has developed a distaste for racism in the political sphere.

“In the 1970s, racism was sometimes a deliberate, prominent and very nasty feature in campaigning,” he points out. “Since that time, though, the electorate has been gradually drifting away from politicians who rely on racial components to their campaigns.”

“We have reached the point now”, says Professor Moon, “where race-baiting is more likely to backfire on campaigns. However, the fact that racist comments continue to appear suggests that some candidates are desperate enough to take the gamble in order to attract publicity.”

He notes that while racism is now more likely to repel than attract voters, the role of social media has the potential to magnify statements that in previous decades would never have achieved nearly as much circulation: “the result is that even off-the-cuff comments can now easily achieve national prominence.”

Professor Moon also points out that demographic changes to New Zealand society are making the use of racism in political campaigns increasingly irrelevant. He says that while the Race Relations Office and popular blogs such as Whaleoil have condemned racist comments made by certain candidates, widespread public discomfort with racism in the campaign is a more significant sign that New Zealand is becoming increasingly politically mature.


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