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Study of political campaigning will identify the 'electoral edge'

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Does money give political parties the electoral edge or will hours of door-knocking, telephone calls and e-campaigning make the difference?

This is the question that Brunel University London’s Professor of Political Science Justin Fisher will be looking to answer after being awarded a £257,000 grant by the Economic and Social Research Council to study the impact of constituency campaigns on the outcome of this year’s General Election.

By the time the country settles down to watch television swing-o-meters and late-night counts, the days of constituency visits, handshakes, tweets and photo opportunities will be over for another five years and Prof Fisher and his team will investigate what activities, if any, gave would-be MPs the edge.

Head of the Politics, History & Law department at Brunel University London, Prof Fisher said: “Since the early 1990s we have tracked the influences on Britain’s political landscape where they matter most – on the campaign trail and doorsteps of Britain.

“This will be a fascinating election to study. Not only is it the first ‘post-coalition’ election in modern times but there are also many other parties making in-roads. Our study will enable us to examine how parties campaign on the ground in these very specific circumstances.”

The research will look at the importance of constituency campaigning, how techniques have evolved and if their impact varies among different groups of electors.

Surveys will be made of election agents across the country on volunteer numbers, pre-campaign work, leafleting, canvassing and polling day operations to create an index of campaign intensity.

It will factor in the role of national level party officials in the planning, managing and monitoring of local campaigns, as well as candidate election expenditure. The index will be judged against the outcome of the election and similar data back to 1992.