For six weeks the political parties have hammered home their talking points. By now they might think that voters are familiar with what they have to say.
The reality is that for hardly any of this campaign has the general election been the most noticed news story for most people. Populus asks a representative sample of the public to name, unprompted, the story they have paid most attention to each week and the election has only surpassed the 50 per cent mark once.
While the campaign has attracted the highest share of attention for the past five weeks, the focus paid to it has been surpressed by three major stories: the floods in Yorkshire and other areas (the most-noticed story for 22 per cent), Prince Andrew’s interview with the BBC (27 per cent), and the attack at London Bridge (26 per cent).
Polling by Lord Ashcroft paints a similar picture. In any given week, he finds that about 40 per cent are unable to name any specific incident, event, or story relating to the election campaign. The details that do get mentioned rarely surpass 10 per cent individually (with “lies/not trusting politicians” the consistent winner).
Most voters don’t follow election campaigns in great detail, and those that do have usually already made up their minds.
Polling like this helps to explain why Jeremy Corbyn’s widely criticised interview with Andrew Neil – in which he declined to apologise for the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism – appears to have had little effect on voting intention.
In all, the interview and its fallout was recalled by less than one in ten people according to Lord Ashcroft’s polling, and data collected by Populus shows that Labour antisemitism has never been the most noticed story for more than 5 per cent. Individual incidents of this kind rarely move the dial on their own.
Many voters make up their minds in the last few days before the ballot. Research from previous elections has put this proportion at anywhere between 10 and 30 per cent.
To stand a chance of becoming the next prime minister Mr Corbyn will have to rely on either a polling error or late deciders and switchers breaking in his favour, neither of which is unprecedented.
But unlike in 2017, Mr Corbyn went into this election a known entity. Attitudes towards him are baked in to a greater extence. There is still time for things to change, but it is running out.
Friday’s debate and the subsequent media cycle was the last hope for Mr Corbyn to grab the attention of those undecided voters. There is no guarantee they will be listening.
Populus polls a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 British adults every week, and asked what news story they had noticed the most. The question is open-ended and participants can name any story.
Will Clothier is a Consultant at Populus
Will is a Consultant at Populus where he has delivered stakeholder research projects for household names across a range of sectors including sport, telecoms, culture, food, and leisure – advising clients on the views of politicians, journalists, and industry leaders. Recent stakeholder clients include the Premier League and BT.He researches public opinion quantitatively and qualitatively for political organisations, government departments, and businesses. Recently he has analysed public attitudes towards ‘populist’ economic policies post-Brexit, and the political attitudes of voters in different parts of the country. He works within Populus’s Reputation and Strategy division, having joined the company as a Research Executive. He graduated from Durham University with a first class degree in English Literature and holds the Market Research Society Advanced Certificate with a double merit.