A shocking lack of campaign activity in vulnerable seats

This really caught my eye from Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling in Conservative-Ukip seats:

Ashcroft campaign activity levels

No-one quite knows how people’s recollection of party campaigning matches up with actual party campaigning. It’s certainly likely to under-report it judging by figures in Lib Dem seats in the past where I’ve been able to compare reported recall with actual delivery and canvassing levels. But even with that caveat, and especially compared to the contact recall in other seats, these figures are shockingly low given that three of the four seats are extremely marginal (with the Tories 1 point ahead in Castle Point, 3 in Boston and Skegness and 6 in South Basildon and East Thurrock; only in North East Cambridgeshire is there a decent sized 21 point lead).

They also illustrate a big strategic campaigning dilemma for both Conservatives and Labour this time round.

Forget the talk of super-clever data-rich targeting of small numbers of swing voters in swing seats . With nominally rock solid safe seats under threat (hello Ukip, hello SNP), both parties are severely hobbled when it comes to concentrating resources on swing voters in marginal seats by the need to fight on a much broader front, especially given the weakness of their local organisation in such ‘safe’ seats as shown by the extremely low recalled campaign contact scores.

For slightly different reasons, this is why the increase in the Liberal Democrat vote in 2010 did not translate into more seats: the focus of the party’s targeting efforts was lost in the midst of the post-TV debate surge in poll ratings, with both paid-for and voluntary resources being diverted away from super-tight targeting into a much broader range of seats and voters. The result? An underperformance in turning votes into seats.

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