07 May 2007

How effective is campaigning?

If elections were determined by who delivered the most leaflets then on the evidence of how many I received the Lib Dems should have won regency ward easily. The Lib Dems obviously thought their leafleting had won the day by their over-confidence on election day but if you have nothing important to say then it doesn't matter how many leaflets you deliver.

This is only an estimate but I must have received almost 50 different leaflets/cards/newspapers etc from the Lib Dems over the last 18 months or so. Of the other parties Labour have delivered around 15, the Tories about the same and the winners the Greens around half a dozen. Regency ward of course - being a four-way marginal is unusual, most people don't get this much election literature.

The Lib Dems must be gutted, regency ward was their top target but they ended up losing their seat here and finishing in 6th and 8th place, even coming behind the Tories. The Tories even got David Cameron to campaign with them here on the doorstep but still finished behind Labour's Roy Pennington. It was clear there was a tidal wave of support for the Greens here that the other parties could not stem. The demographics were in their favour - regency ward has a huge turnover of voters making it very difficult to predict and I think it would have been impossible for the other parties to win here no matter how hard they had campaigned. It is notoriously difficult to change people's opinions on political issues and on the doorstep you can never more than touch on the complexities of issues - in fact most of the campaigning consists of just smiling at the electorate, agreeing with everything they say and hoping they like the 'look of you'.

People make their minds up on who to vote for on all sorts of things - who their parents and partners vote for usually being by far the most important, then what they know about the national issues, what they read about the local council, whether they know the councillors personally and like them (sometimes regardless of their policies), which party they think can win, the papers they read can skew their vote, and finally any election literature they might get to glance upon and the realities of their day to day life. It is the final one that usually helps the Left win votes but this is not necessarily the most important factor in determining people's votes as the discrepancy between people rating their local services as good but their impression of services nationally as poor demonstrates. They get this impression from the bias in the newspapers which must boost the Tory vote significantly.

In the building where I live, one of the other residents in another flat informed me she was going to vote Green because 'they were the only ones who had delivered leaflets'. She would have received exactly the same leaflets as me yet the only ones she remembers are the Green ones - it just goes to show how well people can filter out stuff they are not interested in.

I have lived in safe Labour wards and safe Tory wards and you are lucky if you get one leaflet off each party in the year before an election so it was quite pleasant for a political junkie like me to get so much literature to read and for parties to genuinely be fighting it out with their campaigning. Like I say I am not sure what difference it makes to the overall result though!


  1. How many leaflets did you deliver?

  2. Thousands! I've lost count.