Protests can make you more popular

Audrey Young writes:

It has been one of the longest honeymoons in political history but now Prime Minister is preparing to be hissed and booed at every public outing by anti- protesters.

He was shouted down on Sunday when he tried to make a speech at the annual Big Gay Out festival in Coyle Park. And on Waitangi Day, after giving the lower marae at Te Tii a miss, he was booed by a section of the audience at the NRL Nines tournament at Eden Park.

In the December Herald-DigiPoll survey, Mr Key was preferred Prime Minister by 65.2 per cent of voters after seven years in office.

Helen Clark had been similarly popular, too, after six years as Prime Minister, rating nearly 60 per cent, but had slid to 41.6 per cent by the time she lost office in 2008.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he expected to encounter protesters against the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the rest of the year.

But he would not be changing his public appearances to minimise the encounters.

“… I’m not going to back away from it or engaging with other New Zealanders because you get a small group of very noisy protesters.”

Mr Key said a group of militant people he thought were Green and Mana members “hijacked” the Big Gay Out for their own purposes and that deeply frustrated people.

I understand huge numbers of the 10,000 or so people there were deeply upset by those political activists trying to hijack the event, and if anything such behaviour just makes Key more popular with non-committed voters. Ugly protests tend to reflect more on those protesting than their targets.

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