The changing shape of modern constituency campaigns: Part II

27 October, 2007

This is the follow on post from the first part

Table 3. Aspects of modern campaigning – all parties

1992

1997

2001

2005

% used computers

74

85

88

94

% had computerised electoral register

43

64

71

80

% used party software

33

54

61

73

% used computers for knocking up lists

28

37

43

62

% sent ‘substantial amount’ of direct mail

23

21

31

% some telephone canvassing during campaign

32

52

51

63

Mean % of electorate telephone canvassed

7.6

7.7

7.5

% ‘knocked up’ by telephone

37

45

60

% some telephone canv in year pre election

48

47

57

% had outside telephone calling pre-campaign

19

31

% had outside telephone calling during campaign

10

16

30

% with website

44

66

NB. The dash means that the question wasn’t asked in that survey.

Soon a campaign without a computer will be as strange as an election without voting. Already British political parties are moving into the world of social media whether this is Labour Central or a multitude of Facebook groups set up to support particular constituency campaigns.

What is pretty clear to me is that this is tending to be used amongst political activists themselves rather than as a way to reach the electorate. Who can name a British election result where the perceptions of the voters have been changed by what’s on the net to such an extent that it changed the results.

The next stage will be when campaigns start putting their facebook groups details on leaflets and the collection of constituent email addresses becomes the passion that it has become for the Presidential campaigns in the US. Significant numbers of candidates are also running blogs and the static website is looking just a little staid these days.

Personally I favour direct mail that is both personalised and localised rather than something sent out by a national party as the voters I think are much more likely to perceive this as “junk mail”

With fewer activists on the ground political parties will be increasingly tempted to automate telephone canvassing as this will also be substantially cheaper than using paid staff whether the voters will accept it is another matter. Personally I can’t stand such technologies.

Table 4: Mean Scores on Index of Campaign Strength

Con

Lab

Lib Dem

SNP

Plaid

Overall

14.3

9.4

7.1

8.6

4.7

Very safe

14.3

10.4

11.4

Comfortable

13.6

15.1

14.6

15

11

Marginal held

14.7

15.4

16

15

Marginal not held

16.8

8

13.7

Possible

15.5

6.6

13.8

Hopeless

9.6

3.1

4.9

7.3

4.1

Put simply the strongest campaigns were run by the Conservatives in the seats that they wanted to gain. With the Ashcroft millions and the same electoral position of the Labour government looking to defend its majority I think this will be a pattern we shall see in the next election as well.

In the safest seats either Labour was the most effective at moving activists out to the marginals or we have problem in motivating our core vote. Unfortunately I suspect that it is the latter. Presently this is not a problem after all a very safe seat isn’t suddenly going to jump to opposition control but it is not a situation that we can let slide indefinitely.

The Conservatives put more than 3 times as much effort as Labour into hopeless seats which seems pretty stupid to me at least. This may not be a surprise to some. 

I can’t help but think that it is a boost for the argument in favour of PR because the logical extension of this focused campaigning is focused policy which would leave out the vast majority of the electorate as they are neither in a marginal seat or indeed swing voters in such a constituency.

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One Response to “The changing shape of modern constituency campaigns: Part II”

  1. el Tom said

    These are all great posts, extremely useful. Keep up the good work.

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