Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Hilary Weston Prize for NonFiction Series: 7 Things You Need to Know About Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes

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Susan Delacourt

This year's book prize season means list after list of fabulous books to read! To help you get a handle on all that's out there, we've partnered with The Writers' Trust of Canada to post a new series called The Hilary Weston Prize Dinner-party Digestible: 7 Things You Need to Know, featuring seven fascinating facts about and related to each title nominated for this year's Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Consider this an appetizer to the book's full feast, whetting your appetite for great reading.

Today we start our series with Susan Delacourt's Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them (Douglas & McIntyre).

The jury called Shopping for Votes "a revelation of how political marketing works. With ace investigative research and insight, Susan Delacourt lays bare the history and machinations of the branding, niche market, intuition, and gut feeling approach to viewing voters as consumers."

So read on for the first instalment of the Hilary Weston Prize Dinner-party Digestible!

7 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them

  1. Voter turnout has been steadily declining since WWII, from nearly 80% of the population casting ballots in the 1950s and 1960s, to only about 60% in more recent federal elections.

  2. People now are more likely to switch political affiliations between elections. Just as we shop around for a better car or detergent, so we also shop around for politics.

  3. We are sold politicians the same way we are sold orange juice and Timbits — the political Mad Men control the message.

  4. Polling and advertising in politics took off in the 1970s.

  5. Ad firm Saatchi & Saatchi was hired to do a total makeover of the UK’s Conservative Party in 1978. They set to work viewing their client as a “product,” focusing on emotional appeal above policy.

  6. In the 1990s, the use of the word “brand” to describe a political party — a set of ideas rather than simply a name or a trademark — really took off.

  7. In 2011, the Gandalf Group polled Canadians and found that 72% perceived commercial advertising to be truthful, but only 30% believed they were getting any kind of honesty from political ads. “For all of the political efforts to treat citizens as consumers,” writes Delacourt, “many Canadians simply aren’t buying.” It has only resulted in voter apathy.

The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction has rapidly become the preeminent Canadian non-fiction award, with shortlists featuring Canada's finest non-fiction writers, including authors such as Richard Gwyn, Thomas King, Graeme Smith and many more. The winner of the prize receives $60,000, while finalists receive $5,000. The 2014 winner will be announced at an event in Toronto next week on October 14.

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