Learning on the Job? Adapting Party Campaign Strategy to Changing Information on the Local Political Context

29 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2016  

Todd K Hartman

Sheffield Methods Institute

Charles Pattie

University of Sheffield

Ron Johnston

University of Bristol - School of Geographical Sciences

Date Written: August 16, 2016

Abstract

An extensive literature demonstrates that local campaign efforts in the UK generally pay electoral dividends for parties. As a result, rational parties focus campaign efforts most in seats where the electoral outcome is not pre-determined, and where a few more votes either way could change the result. An important indicator of where such constituencies can be found is provided by prior election results, and previous research has shown that rational parties tend to focus their campaigns most heavily on those seats where the previous election was close and less in seats where in the past they either lost badly or won comfortably. However, much less attention has been given to how local parties react to new information showing how the competitive situation in their area is changing as a general election approaches. The paper uses data from a rare set of local opinion polls conducted in around a quarter of British constituencies in the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election. Although hampered by their generally small size, limited fund-raising capacity and reliance on volunteers, local parties do respond to new information. Results indicate that parties tended to put more effort into local campaigns in seats where an opinion poll had been carried out than in otherwise similar seats where one had not. And the more competitive the poll suggested their race was, the more resources they devoted to it.

Keywords: campaign spending; constituency polling; British general elections

Suggested Citation

Hartman, Todd K and Pattie, Charles and Johnston, Ron, Learning on the Job? Adapting Party Campaign Strategy to Changing Information on the Local Political Context (August 16, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2824507

Todd K Hartman (Contact Author)

Sheffield Methods Institute ( email )

219 Portobello Street
The University of Sheffield
Sheffield, S Yorkshire S1 4DP
United Kingdom
+44 114 222 7122 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://tkhartman.staff.shef.ac.uk/

Charles Pattie

University of Sheffield ( email )

17 Mappin Street
Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DT
United Kingdom

Ron Johnston

University of Bristol - School of Geographical Sciences ( email )

University Road
Bristol BS8 1SS
United Kingdom

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