Little love for regular arts goers

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “My Cup of Tea: audiences stagnate in two-speed arts sector” (Friday). The trouble with arts attendance figures is they are reported as if the ticket sales over a year represent individual customers. The statistics invariably gloss over the fact they represent people who attend several times in the year. The old “pareto” principle still applies — 80% of tickets are bought by 20% of the audience, which means the actual number of people attending the arts is far far less than the total sales figures suggest. A minor decline in commitment by the core audience has a drastic impact on total sales. In the past, arts organisations concentrated on this core audience.

However, arts organisations now have a built-in problem in that they depend on independent ticketing agencies to sell their tickets, which puts a barrier between the organisation and its audience. If I buy a coffee or book regularly with a hotel chain, my loyalty is recognised and I get a bonus or a discount or I am upgraded. Supermarkets and airlines offer points. The only way to gain any recognition from an arts organisation is by committing to an advance subscription (which is fast losing popularity) or by becoming some kind of benefactor.

I go to the theatre or a concert at least 50 times a year, but I am never recognised or appreciated by the arts organisations I support as a regular customer.

US opinion poll problems

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “The misleading average of the opinion polls” (Richard Farmer’s chunky bits, Friday). Trying to get a handle on accurate polling from the US is only marginally better than trying to get some sense from the NT when they had basically no published polling.

The RCP average accuracy if you look back has not being that great. Rasmussen was apparently quite close to the final 2008 result, and Gallup, which uses a registered voter basis versus likely voters for Rasmussen, is a serious pollster. They are out there all the time, the others are patchy.

I am often amazed at the Australian filter placed on US stories, reporting the most extreme outlier poll for Obama, etc. The recent frenzy over the 50:50 Newspoll an apparent outlier is a local example.

It appears that Obama is slightly ahead, and Obama has lost a lot of ground in the north and north-east, with even Connecticut much closer than Obama would have planned. If it is worth anything where the candidates are campaigning is usually a good indicator of where the fight is. A poll or RCP average had Obama leading by like 11% and also campaigning in the same state of Pennsylvania. The fact he was there suggested it was closer than the poll suggested. With voluntary voting turnout matters and part of the reason for closer results has been lower enthusiasm for Obama than previously.

If Obama wins, if you do want to place faith in RCP, it predicts a virtually unchanged Congress and Republican gains in the Senate (with possible Republican majorities in both). Basically an Obama administration will be quite weak.

Difficulty in foreign relations

John Richardson writes: Re. “Tanner, Assange, Slipper and Labor: think globally, hacks locally” (Friday). Bernard Keane wrote: “… it’s appropriate that we shed the little Aussie battler self-image and start believing we have something of value to offer internationally”.

Surely that’s precisely what Prime Minister Julia Gillard was trying to do when she proudly asserted, on the one hand, that Australia “punches well above its weight” in supporting the ideals of the UN while, on the other, heroically calling on member states to “muscle-up to Syria and Iran”?

Of course, where the entire notion that we have something valuable to offer comes undone is in the fact that the intelligence agencies of the US, Israel and Great Britain have all emphatically concluded that Iran has not made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons, which only succeeds in demonstrating to UN member states that Australia is slavishly committed to supporting the thoughts and views of the US, regardless of how felonious they might be.

That you, Gillard and Bob Carr believe that Australia can aspire to a leadership role at the UN, when we can’t demonstrate a fundamental ability to maintain foreign relations, that takes account of and balance the genuine interests and concerns of all member states, let alone a capacity to think and act independently, simply makes galahs of you all.

Political infighting

Beryce Nelson writes: Re. Rob Macdonald (comments, Friday). The original story is credited to Margaret Thatcher who, when she was prime minister, came and sat beside a newly elected MP to welcome him to the House of Commons. He made the now famous comment about his political enemies all being seated opposite and she apparently replied: “Oh no my dear, those opposite are your opponents. Your real enemies are all seated behind you.”

And never a truer word was said as Kevin Rudd and many others can attest!

Peter Fray

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