An electoral problem

The following data is from MORI’s aggregate polling 6 April – 6 May and shows how levels of Liberal Democrat support and turnout varied across different age groups:

MORI election data graph

This problem isn’t new to the 2010 general election, though the pattern was less neat in 2005. It does raise an interesting question for the party’s get out the vote efforts though, both in terms of technology and targeting.

Some places have made very successful use of technology such as text messaging to remind people to vote, but generally there is very patchy take-up of these sorts of approaches which are likely to be particularly effective with younger voters (more ready to sign up to receive text messages from others, harder to find in when knocking on doors etc.).

Similarly, the use of actual or estimated age data to help identify and then concentrate on younger voters to remind them to vote or to get them sign up to postal votes is more widespread but far from universal.

Learning about and trying out both approaches need not wait until there is an election immediately in the offing, so if your local branch or local party wasn’t already doing both of these to the full, why not make use of the summer months to start a few experiments?

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17 Comments

  • George W. Potter 16th Jun '10 - 12:39pm

    Good article, it would be nice if we could see a few more articles on here detailing precisely how to do such things. At my university the best we could manage was knocking on everyone’s doors on election day and getting them out to vote.

  • Andrew Suffield 16th Jun '10 - 1:14pm

    It would be interesting to see some targeted polling to find out what reasons people give.

  • paul barker 16th Jun '10 - 1:56pm

    Another way to look at these figures is that we have a lot of potential for growth. All the research shows that most voters form their allegiancies at an early age, often simply inheriting the opinions of their family or background.
    Someone who is 80 now may have made their political choice when the Liberals were a joke with 5 MPs & 50 odd councillors, its been a long, uphill struggle against the drag of the past.

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jun '10 - 2:41pm

    I suspect that this may be down to elections where the public mood swings towards a strong change in government, which is bound to lead to increased turnout and more polarisation towards the two major parties.

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jun '10 - 2:47pm

    Also, doesn’t this mainly show that older people are more likely to vote Labour or Conservative, and that – hardly surprising – younger voters couldn’t be bothered turning up to vote?

  • Is this equally a failure of campaign literature and liberal ideas being marketed adequately to older voters? Is the harder task getting young liberals to vote or persuading older people, who can reliably be trusted to go to the polling station, that liberal policy is for them? From the look of this graph, one liberal pensioner is worth two liberal students at the polling station.

    Anyone got any good jam/cake recipes?

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jun '10 - 9:11pm

    @Dave Pollard – and rightly so!

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Jun '10 - 12:33pm

    A lot of our campaign literature does seem to be designed on the basis that the people who are getting it know how to vote and what they are voting for. So we end up competing for the pool of regular voter rather than bringing in new ones. More material which is simply informative rather than hectoring “Vote for us, the others are rubbish” might work better than we suppose.

    The points Darren Reynolds makes are good ones – we take it for granted people know how to get to the polling station and what to do once they are there, for those of us who have been voting all our lives this is so trivial we hardly think about it. It is surprising, however, how much young people who may be full of bravado over some things are intimidated by what seems to those older as fairly trivial. It’s part of growing up and the fear of losing face.

    Another point is that people who are young but old enough to have left home and moved away are likely not to feel a particular attachment to some place where they may be living for just a short period. If you’ve just moved on and will probably move out next year, you aren’t going to be bothered about local council issues, and you may feel that who is MP for that constituency isn’t really something you should interfere with either.

  • If young people aren’t sure where the polling station is just make sure the postcodes are on all of our literature. After that Google Maps takes over. If we can print a different version of the leaflet for each polling district (even if the only difference is the address of the polling station) that’s even better.

    When I was involved in local elections in Woking we always used to make sure we concentrated in getting older voters out in the afternoon. Perhaps we also need to determine the best time to concentrate on getting younger voters out to vote.

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