Should we focus more on negative voting?

Should we focus more on negative voting?

Is this what ultimately will be the clincher?

As we get closer to elections, it seems, there is one hardy topic that always emerges – that of the impact of negative campaigning and we saw in 1997, 2001 and 2005 how much of the Labour message was primarily about demonising the Tories.

But what about negative voting? Do negative messages chime with what some of the electorate wants and what’s the impact?

So does it matter in the current context whether or not “Dave has sealed the deal” when the evidence from previous elections is that negative feelings towards a party can matter more than positive ones?

People who vote in this way, I suggest, represent large and significant voting segment which might not yet be being fully picked up by the opinion polls for so much is dependent on what they do in their own specific seats.

Only two of the pollsters, ICM and Angus Reid, have voting questions which ask respondents to focus on what they will be doing locally and interestingly both have been recording smaller Labour shares and bigger Lib Dem ones.

We do know that in 2005 ICM found that nearly one in five of all voters answered YES to the question “Did/will you vote … because it is your first choice or because you want to try and keep another party from winning in your Constituency?”

At the same time, on the eve of the 2005 election, Populus found that more than half of those voting Labour and Lib Dem were doing so “more because of negative views about other parties than out of enthusiasm..” for their own one.

All the evidence this time is that the mood is anti-Labour and my guess is that we might see disproportionate swings against the party in the marginals.

For on top of the anti-Labour moves a lot of the anti-Tory votes that are locked in from the last three elections could unwind further distorting swing projections.

In summary I believe the the uniform swing seat projectors will be as “out” as they were in 1997 when the dynamic was all against Major’s Tories.

Mike Smithson

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