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By Steven Foster

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1 Devising the strategic ‘brief’ • • • • • On whose support can we rely? Who else do we need to vote for us? Of this group, who might vote for us and why? Where do these people typically live and how can we best reach them? What are our rivals likely to say about us and how might we counter them? The communications strategy The reality can be stated simply: ‘no major British party would now dream of entering an election campaign without a communications strategy’ (Kavanagh 1995: 148). What, though, is a communications strategy and why is it considered so important?

More than any other campaign, it illuminates the enduring controversy over the proper use of private opinion research, which has been for some years ‘a key influence on the content, style and means of delivery of party propaganda’ (Rosenbaum 1997: 147). 4 Categories of opinion research Quantitative polling This measures voter responses over a period of time and can be divided into two main sub-groups. Tracking surveys ask the same question to different people at different times and are especially useful in monitoring or ‘tracking’ changes in public opinion.

New Labour’s extensive use of opinion research during this time is a matter of record (Lees-Marshment 2001: 184). This has exposed it to two criticisms: • Firstly, that it deliberately manufactured opinion research data in its internal battles with party traditionalists. This is the view of Dominic Wring (2005: 122, 130), who argues that the uncritical collation of the views of focus groups chosen precisely because they had rejected Labour was bound to produce evidence endorsing the Blairites’ clamour for change.

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