Will this election be about core votes – not swing votes?

Will this election be about core votes – not swing votes?

    Will these supporters vote for Blair?

Could the standard theory of General Elections being decided by which party appeals best to swing voters be turned on its head during the coming campaign?

In a new article just published on the MORI website the firm’s Roger Mortimore suggests that because turnout looks like being the main issue for all the parties then those that get most of their core votes out will be the ones to succeed.

And this could change the whole nature of the campaign and might be the reason why the Tories seem prepared to alienate traditonal liberal opinion by making immigration, crime, and the legality of travellers’ site the key issues.

Mortimore argues….In MORI’s January 2005 Political Monitor survey, we found that 72% of Conservatives, 64% of Liberal Democrats but only 55% of Labour supporters say they would be certain to vote at an immediate election. This is a much bigger differential than we have found at any previous election. Might this mean that it is not too late to close it?

And which are the groups where the shortfalls are biggest? When we asked respondents to pick a description that fitted their political views, those who called themselves “Old Labour” were less certain they would vote than those who picked “New Labour”, and Labour supporters who thought Gordon Brown would make a better Prime Minister than Tony Blair were less likely to vote than those who thought the opposite.

It may well be, therefore, that there is far more to be gained and lost by concentrating on turning out disillusioned “core voters” than on trying to win over voters from the other party. And this in turn implies an essential difference between the familiar position and the one that faces the parties in 2005. Traditionally, both parties have been targeting the same “swing” voters. But if turnout rather than swing is going to decide the election, each party will be concentrating separately on their own strongest areas rather than competing with each other where they are both weak — and that in itself may make campaigning less hit-and-miss, more efficient and more effective.

Another thought. Of course, it is the marginal constituencies which matter most; but who is to say what is a marginal? If turnout falls too far among core voters, freak results are possible — a little real swing will go a long way, and even apparently “safe” seats might not be as safe as they look

In our view the factor that will get the core Labour support out is the prospect of the Tories winning. But with the Labour poll leads as they are and the constant references to what these figure mean in terms of Commons seats the Labour campaigners might have a task on their hands. There’s also the possibility that parts of Labour’s traditional working class vote might find some of the Tory “dog-whistling issues” quite appealing.

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Mike Smithson

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