The evolution of election campaigning: Insights from Parliamentary Affairs

14 Jun 2024
Polling clerk outside a polling station in Martinhoe, Lynton, Devon. ©Alamy / Guy Harrop
Polling clerk outside a polling station in Martinhoe, Lynton, Devon. ©Alamy / Guy Harrop

How have election campaign strategies evolved over the past 15 years to shape today's political landscape? This special collection of articles from our journal, Parliamentary Affairs, highlights the increasing sophistication and personalisation of national and constituency-level campaigns. It explores how political parties target key voter groups, leverage constituency visits from party leaders for electoral gains, and increasingly rely on digital campaigning.

Leaflets from candidates of different parties competing in the 2015 General Election. ©Alamy / BasPhoto

Conceived in Harlesden: Candidate-centred campaigning in British general elections

Caitlin Milazzo & Joshua Townsley (2018)

The personal attributes of prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) feature prominently in general election campaign materials. Using a dataset of 3,700+ leaflets this article explores the conditions under which messages emphasising the personal characteristics of candidates appear in election campaign materials.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses supporters and the media at a rally in Manchester to launch their 2017 General Election campaign. ©Alamy / Ian Hinchcliffe

‘For the many, not the few’: Strategising the campaign trail at the 2017 UK general election

Alia Middleton (2018)

What strategic choices shape campaign visits by party leaders? Drawing on interviews with local party campaigners during the 2017 general election, this article sheds light on the organisation of these visits and their impact on local campaigns.

Muslim voters arriving at a polling station in Small Heath, Birmingham. ©Alamy / Andrew Fox

Taking minorities for granted? Ethnic density, party campaigning and targeting minority voters in 2010 British general elections

Maria Sobolewska, Edward Fieldhouse & David Cutts (2012)

Do parties campaign more intensively in high ethnic density areas and do minorities outside these areas receive less attention from party campaigns? Political parties are sometimes accused of taking racial and ethnic minority voters for granted in Britain. This article explores the relationship between party campaigning, individual mobilisation, and ethnic population density.

Members of the Labour Party in Basildon Town Centre canvassing for support in the 2015 general election. ©Alamy / Gordon Scammell

You get what you (don't) pay for: The impact of volunteer labour and candidate spending at the 2010 British general election

Justin Fisher, Ron Johnston, David Cutts, Charles Pattie & Edward Fieldhouse (2013)

Do local party volunteers make a difference in elections? Using candidate spending data and extensive survey responses from election agents in the 2010 British general election this research evaluates the impact of campaign expenditure and voluntary labour. The findings suggest that while campaign spending influences electoral results, voluntary efforts can offset some of these effects.

Social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp, displayed on a mobile phone scree. ©Alamy / PA images

Mobilising or chasing voters on Facebook? Analysing echo-chamber effects at the UK parliamentary general election 2019

Sam Power and Ben Mason (2021)

Does online campaigning lead to echo chambers, tuning out dissenting voices? Are political parties focusing their online campaigns on easily persuadable electorates - chasing votes as much as mobilising supporters? This research draws on Facebook's Ad Archive to analyse the main parties' online campaign activity in the 2019 general election.

Theresa May's Facebook page 2017. © Alamy / Casimiro

Digital campaigning: The rise of Facebook and satellite campaigns

Katharine Dommett and Luke Temple (2018)

Digital technology has changed the nature of political campaigns. This research analyses the 2017 digital campaign, including the emergence of satellite campaigns like 'Campaign Together', to explore how digital media is reconfiguring party-related engagement and campaign strategies. What are the implications for parties' organisational structures, practices and behaviour as well as public expectations of campaigning?

Party Leaders first television election debate (L-R) Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, 15 April 2010, Manchester. ©Alamy / Homer Sykes

The media and the 2010 campaign: The television election?

Dominic Wring and Stephen Ward (2010)

The 2010 election was one of the most competitive campaigns of recent decades. What influence did the first ever leaders debates have on the campaign and outcome of the election? Did press endorsements make much difference to the campaign? And given the hype about an internet election did e-campaigning make any difference to the campaign?

Britain Votes 2019

In another extraordinary chapter in a series of dramatic recent contests, Boris Johnson's Conservative Party turned prolonged parliamentary stalemate into a decisive overall majority. The Conservatives' victory saw the demolition of much of Labour's 'red wall' of seemingly impregnable seats. This volume explains how and why this happened.

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Britain Votes 2017

Widespread assumptions of a Conservative coronation rather than a contest were confounded as Theresa May mislaid her majority and a hung Parliament emerged. The campaigns, policies and leaderships of the parties are analysed; the targeting of the youth and women's vote are assessed; and the parties use of traditional and digital media is explored.

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Britain Votes 2015

The outcome of this extraordinary general election surprised many analysts. This volume offers a detailed analysis of the overall result as well as the individual contests in each of the four nations. It provides a comprehensive assessment of the strategy, finance and performance of the parties, and explores key issues such as the economy and migration.

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Britain Votes 2010

This volume explores the ideas and fortunes of the main parties, discusses the impact of new campaign features, notably the leadership debates, and examines the key issues which featured in the campaign. How the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition was formed is explored, and there is analysis of whether coalitions are likely to be less exceptional in future.

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