“I became leader of the Scottish Conservatives in 2011, following two decades of stagnation and decline, where the party was frequently dismissed as an electoral joke.

To turn our fortunes around, I needed help from the very best and that’s why I asked Andrew Cooper and the team at Populus to help me.”

Ruth Davidson, Party Leader of the Scottish Conservatives

As a result of Populus’s research, the Scottish Conservatives became the main opposition in Scotland, pushing the Labour party into third place for the first time in 60 years.

The challenge

From a research perspective, Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservatives faced two distinct challenges. They needed to identify and find their priority audience in a nation of over 5 million people; who and where were the voters most likely to switch. They also needed to understand how these particular voters felt about Scotland, its future directions and which issues they were most concerned about.

What we did

Populus started by building a demographic model of the UK electorate – based principally on micro-level census data, rather than polling.  Through this model, we were able to define a set of factors that together correlated extremely closely with support for different political parties.  From this we were able to identify voters whose demographic profile indicated a high propensity to vote Conservative in England and Wales, but who weren’t Tory voters because of the party’s perceived irrelevance in Scotland.  From the core model, Populus built a simple, flexible, tool to enable the Scottish Conservative team to find these target voters.

Populus then conducted a large-sample telephone poll focused exclusively on the postcodes with a high propensity to contain voters with strong Conservative-indicating inter-locking demographic characteristics. The poll probed their social and political attitudes, their feelings about Scotland and the big political issues, giving Ruth Davidson and her team clarity about what the priority target audience really wanted politicians to deal with and what their most important priorities were.

From that point, there was no stopping them.

“The Populus work in identifying and researching the voters we should be speaking to and helping us understand how to have those conversations, allowed me to reach countless thousands of people I never thought would give us a second look.”

Ruth Davidson, Party Leader of the Scottish Conservatives

The results

As we find with clients in all sectors, what matters more than anything is the clarity, resonance and authenticity of the brand.  Populus helped Ruth Davidson to see the wood for the trees to find the people she should talk to. The fact that she then won them over is all down to her.

“In a few short years, I’ve turned our party’s fortunes around – doubled our strength, become the main opposition in Scotland and pushed the Labour Party into third place for the first time in 60 years. None of this would have been possible without the help of Populus and I cannot thank them enough for working with me to set our goals and helping us to exceed them. They are a class act.”

Ruth Davidson, Party Leader of the Scottish Conservatives