Students' Union elections: are there unfair advantages?

James Troughton discusses the facts influencing the SU officer elections.

James Troughton
3rd April 2020
Whether it's famed attraction professed by anonymous users on Newfess, or undying support from Joe Molander, it can be argued that there are underlying advantages for some of the candidates vying for their respective positions in the SU elections.

It has been a hotly debated topic by many users of the anonymous Facebook page, Newfess, that attraction may play an unwelcome role in how people vote in the student elections. However, considering the anonymity on the page, these posts can likely be chalked up to a bit of fun being played by people revelling in said anonymity, rather than carrying any actual meaningful political conversation. Either way, is there cause for concern behind this?

Some do argue there's a rampant risk of it becoming a popularity contest

The answer is an undoubted yes. Just as with any vote, people tend to be influenced by a subconscious or deeply conscious bias. Whether this involves conforming to one's own clique, voting for friends, picking who you most relate to rather than who's policies you most agree with, or whatever else, the case can be made that there's a rampant risk of these elections becoming a popularity contest, rather than an election that discovers the person who is most deserving or qualified for the role.

However, the Students' Union and all of its candidates do everything that they can to mitigate this problem. Similar to any other country-wide politics, the SU and its candidates' use of manifestos, debates and other assortments of methods all contribute to the creation of meaningful discussions and debates. There are the more fun and light-hearted videos to alleviate a sense of dull monotony, but they are balanced by the straight-forward and direct videos that delve into a candidate's beliefs, aims, and stances.

Related: Why social media is good for political discourse

As such, even if people do end up voting for their friends, people who they are more familiar with, those they find attractive or any other less meaningful quality, this is not a fault of the candidates, nor is it likely a major issue. Given the results of previous elections, as well as the general response from the masses to these posts when presented on platforms such as Newfess, it is clear that the general voter in these elections is not consciously swayed by these underlying biases.

It can therefore be assured that the idea of voting for someone based on their looks is rightfully looked down upon by most, and thus, while there may the potential for unfair biases within student elections, these tend not to carry any real weight or influence on the results.

Featured image credit: NUTV

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