Which campaign techniques engage voters best?

Election Engagement Index finds politicians are wasting their time on outdated campaigning techniques

Weber Shandwick, in association with Research Now, has published a first-of-its-kind ‘Election Engagement Index’, based on new public opinion research.

The research finds that traditional media (TV, Radio and Newspaper articles) are more likely to capture the attention of voters than billboard advertising, or than newer social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

When asked what would grab their attention during the election campaign, respondents put ‘TV programmes and leader debates’ at the top of their list (57%), with newspapers and magazines at 46%, followed by radio at 35%.

Only 25% of respondents said that outdoor advertising such as billboards would grab their attention, signalling to politicians that ‘paid-for’ traditional advertising is less effective at gaining the attention of voters than taking part in media interviews.

Although there has been widespread reporting of the growing influence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter in the General Election campaign, only 22% of survey respondents thought social media would grab their attention during the campaign.

The findings suggest low voter expectations regarding how candidates and political parties will make use of email during the campaign.  Only 15% of respondents thought their attention would be grabbed by an email from their candidate or a political party – the same percentage as expect to have a conversation with their local publican or hairdresser about the election!

However, beyond capturing voters’ attention, when the research looked at what would actually influence how people vote, then social media commands greater influence than any ‘traditional media’ channels, excepting TV.

Among people who had received news or information about the General Election recently through social media channels, 38% thought that it would influence how they vote, suggesting that, once candidates connect with voters through channels such as Facebook or Twitter, the potential for changing opinions and winning votes is high.

Social media pipped traditional campaigning approaches such as doorstep canvassing (reported influence of 33%), and vastly outstripped the reported influence of billboard advertising (just 14%).

However, TV remains ‘king of channels’, having reached more respondents in the last two weeks than any other channel, and also being rated by respondents as having higher influence on their voting intention (at 47%), than any other channel.

Weber Shandwick Chairman of Corporate, Financial and Public Affairs, Jon McLeod, said,

“This first of its kind Election Engagement Index from Weber Shandwick and Research Now shows that political candidates and parties are not delivering their messages to voters in the way voters want.  The public say they are not influenced by billboard advertising, yet the parties continue to place great influence on paid-for advertising.  Just as businesses are shifting resource away from paid-for advertising into earned-media and digital, so the political parties need to re-balance their activities in-line with what voters want. “

Weber Shandwick Head of Public Affairs, Tamora Langley, said,

“Our Election Engagement Index flags a clear opportunity for political parties, in these last weeks of the campaign – to ‘close the social engagement gap’.  Voters want to be persuaded of who they should vote for through effective social engagement on channels such as Facebook and Twitter.  In particular we have found very low voter expectations of how political parties will use email to contact them.  Given that email is a highly targeted and cost-effective channel, the parties clearly could do better at digital campaigning.”

Ben Hogg, Managing Director Portfolio Companies – EMEA Research Now said,

“In the lead up to this election more than ever, it is imper ative that the parties are communicating to their electorate in a way that is relevant to them.  As well as wanting to hear policies and manifestos, it is clear that the voting population wish to see how party leaders behave and react in live scenarios such as the TV debates, rather than in pre-prepared and pre-polished advertising campaigns.”