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How Important Is The Election Campaign In Determining Voter Behaviour?

Assessing the 1997 British election, The Economist magazine had this to say in its April 24, 1997 edition:

On the evidence of elections before this one, most campaigns are relatively unimportant.

The majority of voters decide in advance whom they will support (and waverers mostly cancel each other out). Voting decisions are based on voters’ social origins, political preconceptions, personal philosophies and rating of the relevant policies and performance of the contenders for office.

During campaigns, like it or not, they sensibly turn off politics in droves, making most of them immune to the hocus pocus of the likes of Mr Mandelson.

The fact that voters are sceptical of politicians and their blandishments is not a threat to democracy. It’s how democracy, in the real world, really works.

The comment about the “hocus pocus of the likes of Mr Mandelson” is a reference to the use of sophisticated opinion polling, the emphasis on the image of the party leader and the idea of selling politics “like soap powder”.

The article analysed the use of television and the crafting of short “soundbites” and photo-calls of the leaders.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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