I was trying to assess the campaign so far- when the obvious dawned on me: how will affect my vote? That’s a tricky question to answer at the best of times but when you’re submerged under a sea of manifesto launches, carefully pre-packaged soundbites and noisy bickering over a few billion here or there, it all seems, well irrelevant. Or if not irrelevant then so abstract that our votes might just be determined by something else. It turns out that that may be the case anyway due to something the number-crunching geeks call ‘valence’. Prospect magazine published an excellent article earlier in the year by Peter Kellner and one of his points was that the way many of us make decisions is not based on key political principles (‘positional voters’) but rather the general mood, tone and integrity of those after our polling station affections.
The other (personal) factor in all this is the unfortunate geographical reality that I live in what the ‘Progressive Parliament’ call a ‘democracy deadzone’. In other words a majority of over 17,000 at the last election means that there is absolutely no anticipation of a change here. Indeed, the party in charge have sent out leaflets saying ‘no canvassers here, I’m voting [party name]’ – they really needn’t have bothered as nobody will be calling. As I’ve never lived in a marginal I feel democratically unloved (no tears please). So it’s no surprise that I favour a different way of voting that might just reinvigorate the parts of the country that other forms of voting cannot reach.
So who’s winning the valence war? Rather than answer a question that is by definition highly subjective, I’ll make this note for our campaigning politicians: if you drag us into the gutter of negative cat-calling and spinning webs remember this, what’s it doing for your valence factor?
For more on rational choices and voting decisions see Prospect’s latest article here.