Constituency Campaigning at the 2019 General Election

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Social and Political Science


Constituency level campaigning has become crucial to the electoral strategies of all the major parties in Britain, and a significant academic literature has emerged. This work has revealed how campaign techniques have developed over time; how parties have responded to wider changes in society, the electorate, and within their own parties; the degree to which parties are able to harness their resources effectively to fight elections; how voters respond to cues from the parties, the extent to which voters can be mobilized; and how electoral context impacts upon the likelihood of electoral payoffs. However, campaign styles and strategies are changing all the time, both as a result of technological and societal changes, and because of the changing political context.

The analysis of the constituency campaign is now an integral part of studying elections by the electoral studies community, external stakeholders and the ESRC. The ESRC has funded a survey of election agents at each general election since 1992 (with the exception of 2005, which was funded at a much lower level by the Electoral Commission). It is the most comprehensive study of its kind in the world. There is therefore a unique and valuable time series which furthers our understanding of the impact, role, and nature of campaigns in the modern and changing political arena. The objectives of the proposed study are to continue this valuable work as well as delivering significant added value in four key areas: the changed electoral context; the impact of the sudden election on campaign techniques - especially digital; the focus on local versus national campaign issues, and the impact of the Brexit crisis on the campaigns.

Planned Impact

At a minimum, we will publish findings based on the new data examining the electoral impact of the parties' campaigns and conditional effects of voter volatility; developments in campaign approaches and their reach - especially digital; and the differential effects of campaign emphasis (candidate versus national party message). In addition, in anticipation of collecting further data on behalf of the Electoral Commission, we will produce a report to form part of the Commission's post-election reporting, and further develop our work on perceptions of electoral integrity and electoral fraud. We will also present initial findings at conferences in the UK (PSA, EPOP) and overseas (EPSA).
Description The impact of campaigns on electoral performance is conditioned in part by contextual effects. The popularity equilibrium model has proven to be an important guide to how the electoral effects of local campaigns vary by a party's existing level of popularity. Such an equilibrium can, however be disturbed by an electoral shock - a rare event which fundamentally challenges the foundation that underpin predictability in elections. Our research analyses the impact of the electoral shock of the UK's 2016 referendum on EU membership on campaign effects in the subsequent elections of 2017 and 2019. Using a novel theoretical and methodological approach, it shows that not only did the electoral shock significantly disturb the popularity equilibrium, but that by 2019, the 2016 Leave vote had become a better predictor of the electoral efficacy of parties' campaigns.
Exploitation Route This is the first output from the research. The findings from the research will be particularly pertinent to political parties when considering targeting strategies
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

Description We worked with the Electoral Commission to gather evidence in respect of electoral agent satisfaction with the administration of the 2019 general election. The results were consistent with previous elections (demonstrating high levels of satisfaction). A report on our findings was delivered to the Electoral Commission in 2020 and informed the Commission's statutory reporting on the conduct of the election
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Attitudes of Electoral Agents on the Administration of the 2019 General Election. Report Produced for the Electoral Commission 
Organisation The Electoral Commission
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Commissioned questions co-designed with the Electoral Commission on the quality of electoral administration at the 2019 general election. Report produced to assist with the Commission's statutory reporting
Collaborator Contribution Co-design of questions
Impact Attitudes of Electoral Agents on the Administration of the 2019 General Election. Report Produced for the Electoral Commission