The Politics of the shrinking marketplace: Marketing voter disengagement

This source preferred by Darren Lilleker

Authors: Lilleker, D.

http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21104/

Start date: 19 April 2007

Publisher: Journal of Marketing Management

Marketing is traditionally associated with expanding the market for a branded product in order to increase profit; brands undertake research to ensure they possess a thorough understanding of the consumer, their wants and needs. We would all perhaps expect that the brand that is closest to their consumers, most on the pulse of the market, would be expected also to be the most profitable within a competitive marketplace. While a simplification of marketing, this highlights the important irony with political marketing; that while marketing increases in use and sophistication within political campaigning and communication, voter disengagement rises contiguously.

Data collected during the 2005 UK General Election, and a long term study within the political parties’ heartlands, allows us to understand the nature and causes of political disengagement, and see why marketing is one root cause. The segmentation of voters, and targeting of those voters who can deliver the greatest profit, a victory in a marginal seat, leaves the majority of the electorate metaphorically out in the cold feeling unrepresented and marginalized. Through a comparison of attitudes within a safe and marginal Labour seat we find the dichotomy between opinions is stark on questions of representation, efficacy of the democratic process and interest in politics. This dichotomy filters through to voting behaviour and attachment to the parties and candidates and will often argue that they will only turn out to vote if they are asked and that support is deserved.

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