Election '97: In the marginals and beyond, news is a winner

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Indy Politics
From media comment, you'd think everybody is bored stiff with this election. In fact, more than half the public, 58 per cent, say that they are either very interested, 16 per cent, or fairly interested, 42 per cent, in news about the election.

The young are said to have switched off, and are unlikely to vote. Yes and no. True, they are less likely to vote - while three panellists in four say they are certain to vote, only just over half, 56 per cent, of 18-24s say they are. Yet, while 16 per cent of the public generally say they are very interested in election news, marginally more young people, 18 per cent say they are.

Living in a marginal constituency is likely to enhance interest: one person in five in marginals say they find election news of great interest.

More people think that BBC TV is biased, 12 per cent to the Tories, 8 per cent to Labour. ITV is seen by more as even-handed. While 5 per cent think it is biased to the right, 6 per cent say it tilts to the left. Predictably, four times as many Tories say the BBC is biased to Labour as to their party; four times as many Labour supporters say it is biased to the Tories as to Labour.

Posters have made the biggest marketing impact. Over half the public are aware of seeing Tory posters, up from 43 per cent in 1992 and 31 per cent in 1987, while Labour viewing of Tory and Labour party election broadcasts is up over earlier elections, with 59 per cent saying they have seen any PEB on television, up from 54 per cent and 56 per cent respectively on 1992.

Great attention has been paid by the marketing pages of the papers and trade press to the targeting of key constituencies. While 7 per cent of electors say they have been telephoned by a representative of any political party across the country, the figure is double that in Conservative-Labour marginal seats, with Labour, at 10 per cent, doing most of the telephoning, compared with the Tories' 3 per cent.

Only 9 per cent of households have not been leafleted, half the number missed in the 1987 election; only 5 per cent in Con-Lab marginals, and three in 100 in Con-Lib Dem marginal seats. Three people in four in Con- Lib Dem marginals say they have been leafleted by the Lib Dems, and marginally more by the Tories. By contrast, 55 per cent nationally have been leafleted by the Lib Dems and 66 per cent by the Tories.