Is All Campaigning Equally Positive? The Impact of District Level Campaigning on Voter Turnout at the 2010 British General Election

03.11.2014 - 12:00
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB B-Kolloquium
Prof. Justin Fisher
Lecturer affiliation: 
Brunel University London

A significant comparative literature suggests that campaigning efforts by political parties impact positively, both in terms of mobilization and turnout. However, effects are not uniform. They may be affected by the electoral system used, the electoral circumstances and effectiveness of party management. Studies of district-level constituency campaigning in Britain have identified two important trends. First, that effective targeting is a core component of a successful district campaign strategy in terms of delivering electoral payoffs and that, over time, political parties have become better at targeting resources where they are needed most. While improvements in targeting have helped ensure that all three principal parties’ campaigns have tended to deliver electoral payoffs, a question has arisen as to whether increasingly ruthless partisan targeting by parties could have detrimental effects on overall levels of turnout. Second, they have shown how campaign techniques are continuously being modernised but that, despite these changes, just as in other democracies, more traditional labour-intensive campaigning tends to produce stronger electoral payoffs. This paper therefore considers three questions in respect of the impact of district level campaigns on turnout: whether the combined campaign efforts of the three principal parties in Britain are associated with higher levels of turnout; whether the different campaigning styles of parties affect levels of turnout equally; and whether the campaigning efforts of different parties have differential effects on turnout and whether intense partisan targeting does indeed impact upon turnout overall. It shows that while campaigning boosts turnout, the impact varies by campaign technique and by party, as a function not only of targeting but also of electoral context.