By Adv. Ehud Peleg*
A well-known issue in electioneering is the question of whether one markets a political candidate in the same way that one markets a bottle of Coca-Cola.
One thing is clear – the voter’s decision-making process should include the same stages in a political choice as in a consumer choice. The question is – does he apply them, or does he make his choice through a partial process that omits certain stages?
The voting considerations of Israeli consumers are the subject of a survey to be published soon by the Israel Consumer Council, in the lead up to the launch of its Consumer Council Patrol project – among whose aims is to make available to the public, in an organized, systematic way, comparative data on the prices of food products, as well as to publicize the names of businesses that infringe the rights of consumers, so that the public will be able to be avoid them.
It is generally thought that Israelis vote on the basis of emotion – they vote based on their gut feeling – and this is considered a poor sort of choice.
However, one should not confuse mixing ideology and emotion in the election process – something which, in itself, is natural and desirable – with ignoring the rational steps of checking and comparing, without with the decision making process may lack important, relevant information.
For example, voting for a candidate who exudes charisma and is a masterful, convincing speaker may turn out to be a mistake, if one doesn’t examine the candidate’s platform and campaign promises and compare them with the facts on the ground and the ability of those promises to resolve the problems that they claim to be able to solve, including the candidate's capability to realize them.
This may be compared with the blandishments of commercial advertisements, that promise the world in relation to a particular product. The advertiser’s interest is clearly to convince the consumer to purchase the product. How much the consumer is tempted, on the other hand, depends largely on himself and on the extent to which he exercises his critical faculties, in keeping with the Consumer Council’s consistent recommendation: Examine, Ask, Read, Search – which can be remembered by the acronym, E.A.R.S.
These four basic actions can make the difference between falling for the honey trap created by advertising, and making a smart choice that meets the consumer’s needs and provides good value for money.
These actions may also turn out to be very useful when making political choices, and allow a better choice from the point of view of the voter. Apart from the voter’s duty to himself – to make his choices in a way that reflects his needs and desires – each individual has a patriotic duty when it comes to political choice: to ensure that his vote contributes to making the country a better place, by ensuring that an appropriate combination of parties, personalities and ideas enter the circle of national leadership.
This obligation, and the associated ability to influence the makeup of the new government, are the great advantage of a democratic society, and reflect the right to free and equal elections – the most important right in a democracy.
We would be derelict in our civic duty, and we would be overlooking the great promise afforded by the right to free elections, if we were not to use the appropriate process for making our electoral decisions:
On the consumer front – we would be making an poor purchase if we were to choose a product or service that does not meet our needs.
On the national front – we would be missing out on an opportunity to create a better country.
Thus, the appropriate election slogan for 2013 in both these areas is: Open your E.A.R.S. and vote wisely!
* Adv. Ehud Peleg is CEO of the Israel Consumer Council