Saturday, 1 May 2010

Policy area importance vs political party

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In the previous blog post we examined how close in context each party leader was to the various policy themes in the election. This time we have repeated the analysis but instead focused on the political parties themselves (and therefore not exclusively on the party leaders).

As before, this data came from every single comment from every single discussion topic made on the BBC Have your say discussion forum in the month of April.

To begin with, let's look at the analysis for the Liberal Democrats. In the chart below you can see the analysis undertaken which shows a slightly different picture to that of Nick Clegg. As you can see, immigration is now no longer the top discussion topic for the Liberals, and perhaps shows the influence of their widely respected Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable, as we see the topic of taxation being the number one discussed topic for the Liberals.

Liberal democrats

The chart shows that immigration is still an important issue, with equality and Europe also coming through strongly.

Now let's look at the Conservatives. Again similar to David Cameron we see the economy at the number one issue with defence also coming through very strongly. Unlike David Cameron however, we can see that there are fewer conversations relating to topics like education, health and corruption. Again it is worth emphasising that this analysis does not show the underlying sentiment for this topics, simply that these areas have been a focus for discussion for the electorate.


Finally, let's examine the scores for the Labour party. Here the analysis again shows a majority focus on the economy and taxation. It is worth noting that it is possible that the other areas such as health and education could have been discussed just as often as the Conservatives but that the number of discussions on the economy in context with Labour have reduced their relative importance for these figures.


This analysis begs the question for the Labour party, is their message being buried beneath the focus on the economy? Are their other policy areas being sufficiently communicated to the public, or is the focus on the economy instead reflecting the mood of the electorate, and what they are mostly concerned or angry about?

For the Liberals, it also begs the question - is the focus on Nick Clegg diluting the policy messages of their party? Or is this to be expected given that this is the first time for some time that a third party is being seriously considered by the media? Perhaps they should be comforted by the fact that their policies are being discussed and broadly speaking are at similar levels to the other parties - this may indicate that they are indeed being taken seriously by the electorate.

For Labour, is it a worry that there is quite so much focus on the economy? Is this a strength or a weakness for them? As often with these types of questions, it is probably a bit of both - but if the electorate holds them to blame for the economic woes the country has been experiencing then this may explain the inability of Brown to shift the opinion polls in his favour.

We will look to examine this in more detail in the coming days in the run up to the election.

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