Perhaps the most common mistake political campaigners make is to think that it’s boring, unnecessary and Luddism for political campaigns to keep on repeating a small number of messages long past the point at which they personally are bored with them.
It’s a mistake, because when put to the test the public repeatedly shows limited knowledge of basic political information (though that isn’t as damaging to democracy as you might think).
This is demonstrated once again by the latest polling by Lord Ashcroft, in which 37% say they don’t know the Liberal Democrat position on Europe and another 3% think the Liberal Democrats campaigned for Leave. (A further 9% wrongly believe the party is “completely divided” on the issue.)
The accompanying focus groups found the same thing:
Few could name Tim Farron as leader or associated them with any particular policy positions; only a very few individuals across our fifteen focus groups knew about the party’s stance on Brexit.
Any Lib Dem campaigning thinking ‘oh we don’t need to mention Europe on our next leaflet because everyone already knows what we stand for’ (something I’ve already heard this year), is, quite simply, wrong.
This isn’t a case of the public being ignorant. It’s rather a case of much of the public paying as much attention to politics as I do about women’s hockey. Once every four years, I start to pay attention to it, even hunting out extra coverage on TV. For a few weeks, I can even name several stars, talk about the tactics and look forward to finding out what will happen. Then the Olympics is over and my knowledge quickly slips away. Until the next cycle comes around again.
For more evidence on why repeating political messages is effective, see Delivering lots of leaflets works.