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Only 15 per cent of Canadians follow politics, but Liberals see hope in the other 85 Add to ...

Amid all of the breathless election speculation and reporting, the cross-country leaders' tours, the political attack ads and hyped-up rhetoric, Michael Marzolini delivered this sobering message - no one cares; no one is listening.

Mr. Marzolini, the Liberal Party pollster, told Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, MPs and Senators at their caucus meeting this week that only 15 per cent of the Canadian electorate is paying attention to federal politics.

Talk about a downer. And what about all that pre-writ money spent on those ads? What a waste.

So, what will it take to wake up voters and get them out of their stupor? We asked other pollsters to weigh in.

Dimitri Pantazopoulos of Praxicus Public Strategies asserts that it will take either a "crisis or an election" for Canadians to become engaged.

Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker agrees. "Voters are stuck where they are and won't change until they're given a compelling reason to do so," he says. "Yes, voters maybe parked, but they will stay in the lot until they are convinced to drive away."

Mr. Pantazopoulos continues the automotive analogy, noting that most Canadians are not die-hard car enthusiasts and begin to really research their choices only when they're in the "evaluation phase of their purchase decision."

"Between car purchases, their comments are limited to 'nice car' or a comment of their general perception of GM or Toyota vehicles," he says.

Now replace politics with cars, he says.

"I believe that threats of an election are like year-end car sales," says Mr. Pantazopoulos. "People listen to the ads, but they have no discernible impact."

It's only when the threat becomes reality that "people will rethink their preferences," he believes, noting that in past elections, more than a third of voters make up their minds in the last 72 hours.

Mr. Bricker, meanwhile, believes Canadian voters have already made up their minds. What some call apathy, he sees as "studied indifference."

As for theories that parliamentary antics are turning off voters, Mr. Bricker respectfully disagrees, believing there is a "general satisfaction with the status quo."

"The truth is that very few people are following what's happening in Parliament," he says.

This current mood, Mr. Bricker suggests, does not favour the Liberals but helps the Tories and Bloc.

"Their voters are more loyal, and more motivated. They will show up, but the Grits won't. We definitely saw this in the last election."

As for Mr. Marzolini? Well, he sees it differently, telling the Liberal caucus that, when the election comes, there are big opportunities to engage that 85 per cent of voters who are tuned out right now.

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