Old traditions die hard in UK election campaigning

March 29, 2010

number10A study of constituency-level campaign techniques undertaken by Brunel University ahead of a general election expected in early May shows that direct mail is by far the most common method of contact used by politicians to reach potential voters.

Of the 27 percent of the electorate contacted by one of the three main political parties in February, about 90 percent received some form of communication through the post via direct mail, the study shows. Some 92 percent said they had been reached through mailings from the Liberal Democrats, 89 percent from the Conservative Party and 81 percent from the Labour Party.

Although a lot of people have spoken about this being the first new media election in the UK, and there is some evidence of email and Facebook being used, traditional campaign methods are still dominant, says Justin Fisher, director of the Magna Carta Society at Brunel University in West London.

“What we can say about social media is that it may enhance or complement more traditional forms of campaigning, but the idea that it’s going to replace traditional campaigning at least at this stage is very wide of the mark,” Fisher said.

Just over 1,000 people were interviewed for the study.

The Conservative Party, which needs to gain 116 seats in the election to win a majority of 1, have been most aggressive in their campaigning, reaching 60 percent of those polled, compared to 44 percent reached by Labour and 43 percent by the Libdems.

Overall, Labour are making most use of the telephone, the Libdems are making most use of direct mail and the Conservatives are making most use of email in reaching out to the electorate, according to the study.

Of those polled, 14 percent said they were telephoned by Labour, 5 percent by the Conservatives and 7 percent by the Libdems.

Email was used by the Conservatives to reach 18 percent of those polled and 12 percent were reached by Labour and the Libdems via email.

Labour made the most home visits, with 12 percent of those polled saying they had received contact from the Labour Party, 10 percent from the Conservatives and 7 percent from the Libdems.

Evidence from previous elections shows that having money and members is not enough; intensive, organised campaigning is required to get beneficial results.

“When compared with the effects of ‘free’ campaigning, the impact of money is either significantly lessened or disappears,” Fisher said during an election briefing event in London hosted by the Magna Carta Institute.

“It’s not how much you’ve got, but what you do with it.”

Watch the video below of Fisher talking to Reuters about social media and the election campaign, or if you can’t see it, please click on the headline of this blog post to view it.


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Odd isn’t it, that suddenly all the political parties want me as their new best friend, and are really keen to find out my concerns and views. They haven’t cared a jot for the last five years, but now they are falling over each other to write to me and ask for my opinions and support.

Does it never occur to these people that the voters are not mushrooms they can shine a light on at election time, and the rest of the time keep in the dark and ignore?

There’s a political fortune waiting to be claimed by the party that actually talks and listens to voters as a matter of course, regardless of the proximity or otherwise of an election.

Posted by Percy Pants | Report as abusive

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by JoshFeldberg: Old traditions die hard in UK election campaigning – Reuters UK (blog) http://bit.ly/dcP95a…

Posted by uberVU – social comments | Report as abusive

Actually Percy, in many parts of the country you’ll find people from all parties who do just that – and don’t just pop up at election time.

Posted by Mark Pack | Report as abusive

Mark, the constituency boundaries have been redrawn locally, so I’m hoping it will be less of a one-horse race, and I might be able to enjoy the same experience as you. I wait for 6 May with baited breath!

Posted by Percy Pants | Report as abusive

“baited”? I think not – should have been ‘bated’. Mea culpa.

Posted by Percy Pants | Report as abusive

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