Courtesy of the traditional route of documents left on Parliamentary photocopiers, I’ve seen the results of an in-depth piece of market research the party has carried out into the use of bar charts in Liberal Democrat leaflets and other literature.
The research, including focus groups and a national opinion poll, found that by a margin of 63% – 18% the public disagree with the statement, “We receive too many bar charts from the Liberal Democrats”.
This margin is likely to please many of the party’s most experienced campaigners, as is the finding that by 72% – 9% people agree with the comment that “Liberal Democrat bar charts look much nicer than those from other parties”. Focus group work reveals that the 9% are largely people who don’t like hand-drawn pictures of “a two-horse race”. As one person (male, mid-30s, Scotland) said, “How can you take seriously a party that can’t even afford to get a proper photo of a pair of horses?”
It’s not all good news for the party’s traditional campaign techniques though. In a series of online tests, the party tried out bar charts against other graphical devices to see which were most effective at getting a message over.
Whilst bar charts were found to be better than other forms of graph for explaining sporting statistical information (bar charts showing the number of test matches lost by different cricket teams are particularly effective) – but that bar charts work much less well for politics.
Perhaps surprisingly, pie charts are found to be the most effective. The focus group report concludes, “For Mosaic E (urban intelligence), bar charts with statistical footnotes are the most effective graphic device. However, for all other Mosaic groups, and particularly residents of the East Midlands, pie charts are by far the most effective. Based on these findings, we recommend that the party reviews its policy of promoting bar charts.”
I hear that no proposal has yet been made to the Federal Executive (FE) because a group of Cowley Street staff are making a rearguard action for scatter graphs to be used instead.
Any such change will come too late for the Liberal Democrats in Oxfordshire, where a councillor who insisted on using pie charts and who defected to the Conservatives, who are now avid pie chart users.