Small, fringe minorities - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Huron East Council recently defeated a motion that would consider engaging the services of FlashVote, a survey company that aims to hear from a consistent swath of residents on a number of topics when searching for the opinion of the people.
Whether council made the right decision or whether FlashVote could deliver on its promise of reaching the unreachable people are neither here nor there. To me, the interesting aspect of the presentation was something that impacts every aspect of running a business, providing a service or actively seeking public approval.
Speaking to council, FlashVote’s Cassidy Svetek said that, far too often, municipalities, businesses, etc. receive outsized feedback that doesn’t accurately represent the feelings of the majority of constituents, customers, etc. Those who call councillors, attend meetings, take part in surveys are often electrified by a certain topic, more apt to participate based on their age, etc. As a result, she said, companies in search of feedback often hear from a few on the extreme negative side of an issue (those with an axe to grind regarding the issue at hand) and a few on the extreme positive side (those who mobilize to defend the issue).
Think of the 1 Million March 4 Children. In communities across the country, right-wing “parents’ rights” protestors spoke out against the evergreen boogieman of sexual orientation and gender identity education in schools. Handsful of people marched with signs saying things like “hands off our children” or “teach biology not ideology” and they were met by large counter-protests from the LGBTQIA2S+ community and its allies, working to “drown out the hate” coming from the protestors.
In most cases, you had a few dozen people on each side (which side had more people was always a talking point in the media). As for the rest of the hundreds of thousands of people who live in cities like Toronto, London, Guelph, Hamilton and others who weren’t at these rallies, where were they? Likely at home, not really caring about the whole thing.
That’s what Svetek was talking about at the Huron East meeting the other night. An issue may mobilize a few loud voices on either side of it (usually those with an above average interest in it), giving those voices an outsized presence. Meanwhile, the massive middle, comprised of most residents, customers, etc., is happy, content and unmotivated to bother.
We have that here at The Citizen. There are a few miserable people who complain loudly when we do just about anything and then there are, frankly, a lot more people who go out of their way to write us attaboy notes when they renew their subscriptions. Meanwhile, in the middle are about 2,000 people who happily receive the paper each week, are pleased with its contents who then go on with their day, not telling us we suck, nor that we’re awesome.
As someone with over 17 years as part of The Citizen, I can tell you that it’s easy to get drunk off of the compliments and poisoned by the criticisms, but, regardless of the extreme swing of the day, it’s always important to remind ourselves that there is a whole silent middle that is quietly satisfied with our work.
That’s why online review collections are not to be trusted. If you go to a restaurant, enjoy your food and are treated well, odds are you’re not going to bother to cruise on over to Yelp or TripAdvisor to say so. If you have the night of your life there or if the food is horrible and the chef calls you ugly, there’s a review incoming.
Remember the quiet middle - they’re your biggest demographic, they’re just not out and about talking about it all of the time.