The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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Campaign performance

Our aim was for as many people as possible to be added to the electoral register so they would be able to vote in the elections. We set specific targets for the number of additions to the register during our campaign period – 20 March to 13 April (England and Wales) or 17 April (Scotland) – as well as for campaign recognition and message recall levels among the public.

Additions to the register – targets and performance

CountryAdditions – targetAdditions – results*% of target achieved
England (election areas) 383,000 279,000 73
Scotland 61,000 58,000 95
Wales 40,000 25,000 63
Total 484,000 362,000 75

*Estimated number of people added to the register between 20 March and 13 April (England and Wales) and 17 April (Scotland). These figures are based on data provided by local authorities. They have been rounded to the nearest 1000.

Although we came close, particularly in Scotland, we did not meet our targets for additions to the register for this campaign. Our research has previously noted that when people are motivated to vote in a particular election, they are more likely to register (p7), and turnout figures demonstrate consistently that people are less motivated by local elections; nevertheless, we are able to identify two challenges that may have been contributing factors:

  • TV advertising remains the most effective route to reach mass audiences at relatively low costs; however, for this campaign we faced the challenge of having to exclude Londoners from our campaign since there were no elections in London. This meant that we were unable to buy TV advertising across the whole of Great Britain, which limited the channels we could use to those where we could buy by region, the formerly ‘terrestrial’ channels ITV1 and Channel 4.
  • In England and Wales the deadline to register to vote was 13 April and in Scotland it was 17 April. As a result of these differing deadlines, to avoid the risk of misleading voters we could not include a registration deadline in ads broadcast in the Channel 4 region, which covers Scotland and a significant part of the North of England, or in the ITV Borders broadcast region.

While we took steps to limit the impact of these factors they still contributed to a loss in value in our TV advertising which was impossible to fully compensate for within our budgets.

Campaign recognition and message recall – targets and performance

We set recognition and message recall targets that we measure through two waves of research with the public, before and after the campaign. This is to give us insight into the cut-through of our campaigns and the effectiveness of our messaging, as well as variation across the country and between different audience groups.

The proportion of people who saw at least one element of our campaign

England 65% 71%
Scotland 75% 81%
Wales 75% 76%
Overall 68% 72%

We exceeded each of our awareness targets across Great Britain, indicating that overall awareness levels were strong. However, it is clear that if we hadn’t faced the issues outlined with TV buying our awareness levels may have been even higher, and we may have been closer to reaching our targets for additions to the register.

Level of increase in the number of people who know you need to be registered in order to vote

Target: 80% of people are aware that you need to be registered in order to vote, including 70% of under 34s.

Pre-wave 83% 83% 85% 87%
Post-wave 87% 87% 88% 89%
Under 34s  
Pre-wave 76% 76% 78% 78%
Post-wave 77% 75% 84% 80%

Our targets for the campaign are set well before the pre-wave research is carried out, using performance of past campaigns as a guide. Our pre-wave research shows that awareness of the need to register to vote exceeded this target before our campaign launched.

As a result our base level was higher than expected, but results against this target for a general audience were still strong, with increases across Great Britain. The picture was more mixed for those aged 34-and-under in England and Wales, with no statistically significant change. In Scotland, however, there was a significant increase, reflecting the additional work we did there to appeal to 16- and 17-year olds who form part of this group.

Level of increase in the number of people who know that you can go online to register to vote

Target: 75% are aware that you can register to vote online

Pre-wave 82% 82% 85% 83%
Post-wave 83% 82% 83% 84%

There was no statistically significant change in awareness levels of online registration, but we met our targets due to exceeding them even in the pre-wave research.

We know that awareness is already high because of recent high profile polls and news coverage about online registration, and clearly on this occasion there has not been a significant change in public knowledge around this issue.

Level of increase in the number of people who know that there is a deadline, and (approximately) when that deadline is

Target: Between 30% and 40% are aware of the fact that the deadline to register is approximately two weeks before the date of the election

Pre-wave 10% 10% 10% 10%
Post-wave 17% 15% 25% 19%

The proportion of people who can correctly identify the approximate timing of the registration deadline is low, but for the majority of people who are already registered it is not necessary to know this. While we did not meet our target, the increase here was very positive, showing marked increases in every country.

Level of increase in the number of people who know how to correctly fill in the ballot paper in Scotland

Target: 75% of people can correctly identify how to complete their ballot paper at the post-wave

32% 62% 80%

We exceeded our target of 75% of people being able to correctly identify that they need to rank candidates in order of preference using numbers. In particular the mid-wave figure, captured before polling day so unaffected by people actually encountering the voting system and seeing instructions on their ballot paper, shows the number of people who can correctly identify the voting system used almost doubling.

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