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Discussion shot: Do campaign messages affect elections?

In this video, Victoria and David debate whether campaign messages and sound bites can really change the outcome of an election.
I’m Dr. Victoria Honeyman. This is Dr. David Seawright. And we’re going to be talking today about, do campaign messages effect elections? So David, can you talk me through some of the most effective ways in which political parties sell their message to the electorate? Well, political parties are always trying to set their agenda. That’s what they’re up to, they’re trying to set their agenda. So you may even want to talk past each other. That’s why they’re using campaign messages as such. The sound bites and campaign messages are important to them because they’re always trying to set the agenda. They want to go on their own strengths and they want to flag up and represent the other’s weaknesses.
But surely people don’t come to elections as blank sheets of paper. They come having a complete set of their own viewpoints and their perspective of what they think the parties actually stand for, regardless of whether that’s accurate or not. So I’m not really convinced that they take a lot of notice of what the parties are doing at elections, because they come into it already pretty much knowing what the parties are likely to say to them. Well, more and more, nowadays– in the past, you’d did have through that psychological attachment to the party that grips you or you’re predestined to vote as a Tory or Labour and a lot more psychologically attached. But now there’s more volatility.
And because there’s more volatility in the electorate, the sound bites can help, the messages can help. Because you can get that across to the masses. But how effective are sound bites? If we think about Tony Blair, the kind of king of sound bites in his government, people became very attuned to node one soundbite was they almost became very jaded by it. And they’re so short. And our attention span is so short nowadays, that perhaps sound bites are just a kind of curiosity rather than being something that’s really effective. And he was in power from 1997 to 2007, so there was a decade of sound bites. So they can work. They can work.
Life’s better with the conservatives, don’t let Labour ruin it. A lot of the ones all the way through. As long as it’s resonating, that’s the important thing. It has to resonate with the mass. So you can just sell a dead rat to the people. That’s impossible. You can’t say something which is unbelievable. But that’s why they use the focus groups, the psychographics, the demographics in getting it there, the feedback. Then they can start to message with that– But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the point is that the sound bit reflects what the electorate are already thinking about and are already concerned about. So for example, in the 2015 election, we know that immigration is going to be a big policy.
Because we’ve had all sorts of opinion polls, all of the leaders are talking about it. We know that the NHS is going to come up. And therefore, it could be argued that, actually, these sound bites, the election posters, all the Twitter feeds, and all that are actually just representing what’s already going on, rather than leaving us in a direction that we wouldn’t otherwise be going in. I agree with that up to a point because it has to resonate with the masses. But of course, the strategies there and the spin doctors, consultants, call them what you will, who are constructing these messages are working hard data. Immigration is a high priority in the next election.
But you will find that the conservatives don’t actually want to run in this one, because they have a problem to the right of them and it’s called UKIP. Why would you go on UKIP’s ground? Don’t give ground to them. So Cameron, just after the new year, is running with five themes. Immigration’s not one of those themes. It’s all about the economy. It warrants the play, it has strengths. What the opinion polls say, it has strengths. And that’s why they want to run with it. Yes, it’s important that they do resonate. And that’s why they want to find out what the people are saying and get that message across.
So, if we’re talking about the importance of campaign messages, are there any particularly notorious or famous campaign messages that seem to have had a big impact on the electorate? Not too sure about notorious, but there are ones what do stick in my mind. The first one that comes to mind is the 1979 “Labour isn’t working.” And it’s [INAUDIBLE] poster, “Labour isn’t working.” And that did really resonate with the populous. With the huge queue at the dole office, yes. And that was young conservatives, in fact, that they just photographed a few times and got them to snake around. So that one sticks in the mind.
Also, the 1992 campaign sticks in the mind, where Labour was six points ahead in the opinion polls. But the Tories started to attack them on the economy. Again, it’s their strength on the economy, the double whammy, taxes, rising taxes, rising VAT, a double whammy, double whammy. They kept going at it, kept going at it. And I think that’s the way the conservatives will approach to 2015 election. It will be very much with that, you cannot trust the Labour Party on the economy. We’ve already seen the road analogy being used, you know, we’re on the road to recovery. So those kind of messages– Which, unfortunately for him, was a German road. Yes. You have education, education, education from Tony Blair.
And of course, what might be embarrassing for Cameron is, it wasn’t three words he was using, it was three letters, N, H, S. Now, because of the problems in the NHS, he doesn’t want to talk about the NHS. He just wants to talk about the economy. So there have been times that it has worked. Probably the NHS one did help to detoxify the issues for the conservative party in 2010. Thank you very much, David. That was really interesting. So, thinking about some of the things that we’ve talked about, are there any election slogans or any posters, or even any of those lovely saying and sound bites that we talked about that you can think about that are particularly resonant?
In this video, Victoria and David debate whether campaign messages can really change the outcome of an election. Key topics they discuss include:
  • What are the most effective ways in which parties can sell their message?
  • Do the public pay any attention to what the parties say during an election, or are their minds already made up?
  • How effective are soundbites?
  • What notorious campaign messages have had an impact on past elections, and what will be the key campaign messages in 2015?

Join the discussion

Do you think David is right and that the right campaign messages can sway the outcome of an election? As Victoria asks at the end of the video, what soundbites or election campaign messages have stood out to you so far in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
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Election 2015 for AS Level Politics

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