Could better communication improve voter turnout?

I’m interested in how organisations communicate with their audiences. It’s my job to be. And I’m interested in whether that engagement has an impact on the organisation’s success. That goes for voter turnout, too. Last month, I contacted the three main political parties in my area (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats), as I have done before every election since I was able to vote. I had already read all the manifestos, but wanted to know whether they would be prepared to answer additional questions around areas that I really care about that were not addressed in the manifesto. These varied by party, but overall included:

  • The funding of care provision, particularly dementia care
  • Support for small businesses, including quarterly reporting and clarification on taxation issues
  • Policies on dealing with tax avoidance schemes
  • European trade deals
  • Equality targets
  • Tackling governments on their human rights records, in particular policy to address the reports of concentration camps for gay people in Chechnya

I contacted each of them through the official email address or contact form (or both) given on the local party websites (Southwark Labour, Southwark LibDems, Camberwell & Peckham Conservatives).

After I wrote a blog post on it, a few people asked me to document the responses of each party, which I thought would be interesting for a follow up post.

Except it’s going to be a very short post, because not one of them responded. Unless you count an ‘out of office’ from Harriet Harman’s office (she’s my local MP).

Harriet Harman

In a recent Commons Select Committee research document on political and constitutional reform, there is a section that looks at low voter turnout. It examines voter dissatisfaction and disengagement. One of the reasons for this, it says, is that that many voters have low opinions of politicians. That low opinion comes, in part, from ‘politicians not respecting and not listening to the public’.

Low voter turnout
You can see where I’m going here.

Of course, this is just one constituency. Gemma, who produces the majority of our content and copywriting, also wrote to her MP, Ruth Cadbury, (Labour, Brentford & Isleworth), and received a very detailed response.

But why is it so patchy across areas? Is it because politicians don’t care? Or just administrative inefficiency? I know political parties are busy in the run up to an election. But surely one of the things they’re busy doing is courting voters. No wonder voter turnout in my constituency is below the national average. This video, filmed one month ago by BBC London, was filmed in my local area. It makes depressing viewing.

Let’s hope today’s voter turnout where I live doesn’t rely on the standard of communications between politicians and voters.




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