Has technology affected campaigning?
As a party the Liberal Democrats have always been innovative in campaign methods. This is notable by our utilization of technology as an aid during campaigns. Needless to say, the internet and mobile phone technology have had a huge impact in the way campaigns are organized and orchestrated, yet Liberal Democrats have long been harnessing the power of technology to oil our party machinery.
Since the 1980s the liberal democrats have used an intelligent data-base system to record and analyse data collected on voting intention, called EARS (Election Agents Record System). From rudimentary beginnings, EARS is now a highly sophisticated piece of technology that not only stores voting history and intentions, but can produce projections for wards and seats. By analysing and codifying the data entered for a ward or seat, EARS can determine whether the area is “Labour” or “Conservative” etc. facing. This in turn aids campaigning as it helps organizers strategically organize man-power and resources into areas that are feasibly winnable. In addition to this, EARS helps organizers to produce “targeted literature”, for example a “soft” labour voter might receive a leaflet regaling some gross error that a labour councillor may have made. Technology is therefore integral to campaign success, as when used appropriately, it leads to a more effective campaign. Whilst the Labour and Conservative parties now doubtlessly use similar systems, it is largely the case that the Liberal Democrats got there first. We have been, and will be, a pioneering party when it comes to campaigning.
Whilst the virtues of technological advances, such as mobile phones, emails and social networking sites are acute in campaigning, it is necessary to stress that the Liberal Democrats rely heavily on more traditional methods of campaigning. The Liberal Democrats believe that the construction of a relationship between the councillor and ward, or MP and constituency, is the real key of campaign success. This is why liberal democrat councillors are renowned for their regular appearance on the doors steps. Furthermore, EARS is only as good as the data that is imputed. Hence why the volunteers whom canvass on the doorstep and by phone are all important.
Here in Sheffield, the Liberal Democrat party machinery is currently highly on show, as the party fights the campaign for the local elections in May. As Labour continues to pour resources into their campaign in Sheffield, it will prove of little value unless they can organize themselves to the same extent the Liberal Democrats have, through their use of volunteers and technology.
Article by Andrew Tromans, member of Liberal Youth Sheffield.
Edited by Vicky Shreeve.