Running electoral registration - England

Checking the audience for public engagement

Checking the audience for public engagement

Eligible electors in your area will fall into distinct groups in relation to registration. 

Unregistered / new electors

Any new electors will need to make a registration application and provide their personal identifiers in order to register to vote.

Those who are not on the register, including typically unregistered groups, remain a target for registration activity. The groups that are less likely to join the register and the barriers that stop them doing so will vary by area, creating unique local challenges. There is an ongoing challenge in identifying local issues and taking action in response to these to ensure that as many people are registered as possible.

Social groups needing additional engagement activity 

Research has shown that certain groups are more likely to be absent from the register or not registered at their current address. 

The reasons for particular groups being absent from the register are diverse – for example, they may be transient in where they live, they may be disengaged with politics, or they may be unaware of their rights. This means that these groups need to be reached in different ways, using different channels, and that they will be motivated by different messages. 

From the profile data you have gathered, you will have identified the specific social groups in your area that are less likely to join or be on the register, either because they are typically under-registered, or because they do not typically respond to communications from the ERO. These groups will need additional targeted engagement activity to increase the likelihood that they will join the register. 

These groups may include: 

  • Private renters 
  • Home-movers and mobile population 
  • Young people (under 35s) 
  • Attainers 
  • EU and Commonwealth citizens 
  • Some black and minority ethnic groups (African, Mixed, Bangladeshi) 
  • People resident at their property for less than 2 years 
  • People who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years 
  • Low level of English fluency 
  • Unemployed 
  • Young people with no qualifications
  • Students at term-time address

Some challenges may not be audience-specific but may be particular to your area. For example you may have geographical barriers, or you may have low levels of broadband connection that mean people will find it harder to access online registration. Your strategy should also consider how to address these considerations.

You will have identified the groups that need particular engagement activity in your public engagement strategy. After reviewing the profile of your registration area, you should review the particular groups identified to ensure that they remain relevant. Your resources might need to be re-directed, you might need to continue your work but refine your approach, or another group might have emerged requiring particular engagement, such as attainers. 

Electors who are already registered

These electors will have their names included on communications sent out as part of the canvass. They will need to know what to do if any changes are required to their registration information.

Example target audiences and opportunities for reaching them are set out below:

Audience Challenges Opportunities to reach
Registered electors Need to know how to update their details if they change 
  • Canvass communications
  • Household notification letters
  • Public information through broader audience channels such as local authority website, magazine and other communications 
  • Local awareness-raising advertisements
  • Local media work
Not registered (including typically under-registered and harder-to-reach groups) Barriers such as transient residency, unawareness of rights, disengagement, or difficulty with registering
  • Canvass communications
  • ITRs
  • Follow up with direct contact (e.g. letters, phone calls, and house-to-house canvassing/personal visits)
  • Household notification letters
  • Targeted engagement activity including public information provision, advertising, and working with partner organisations

Hard to reach groups

Research has shown that certain groups are more likely to be absent from the register or not registered at their current address. 

You will have identified the specific social groups in your area that are less likely to join or be on the register, either because they are typically under-registered, or because they do not typically respond to communications from the ERO. These groups will need additional targeted engagement activity to increase the likelihood that they will join the register.

The table below sets out some of the challenges and opportunities for reaching these hard to reach groups.

Demographic Challenges Opportunities to reach
Young people and attainers
  • Not reached by traditional media
  • Unaware of need to register
  • Reliant on family influences
  • Disengagement with politics
  • Distrust of authority
  • Other priorities
  • Peer influenced
  • High social media users
  • High smart phone and text message use
  • Online registration and information
  • May be in school, college or training, providing potential communication channels
Students
  • Highly transient
  • Disengagement with paperwork and post
  • Other priorities and distractions
  • Not used to registering themselves
  • Institution asks them to complete paperwork- Grouped in halls of residence or student areas of town
  • Potential to be incentivised
  • High social media users
Home movers
  • Unaware of need to re-register
  • Not a priority
  • Partners helping to spread messages
Mobile population, private renters and communal residency
  • Unaware of need to register/change details
  • Disengagement with politics
  • Other priorities
  • Partners helping to spread messages
Under-registered black and minority ethnic communities
  • Disengagement with politics
  • New residents may be unaware of rights
  • Partners helping to spread messages
  • Local advertising in locations with higher density of target population
People with disabilities and particular communication requirements
  • Unable to access mainstream communications
  • Some may rely on carers to receive and return post
  • May need help with completing forms
  • Need to produce accessible communications
  • High users of service providers, providing potential communication channels
  • Potential to reach carers and those who have influence with them
Over 80s
  • Low internet use
  • Difficulty getting to post box
  • May rely on carers to receive and return post
  • May need help with completing forms
  • Less exposed to outdoor advertising    High users of service providers, providing potential communication channels
  • Potential to reach carers and those who have influence with them
Disengaged households; young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs)
  • Disengagement with politics
  • Distrust of authority
  • Difficulty with completing forms
  • Not involved with institutions
  • High users of certain services providing potential communication channels
  • Peer influenced
  • Potential to be incentivised
Low level of literacy or understanding of English
  • Unaware of rights
  • Difficulty completing forms
  • Provision of information in other languages
  • Partners helping to spread messages and providing help with form completion
  • Information in world language media
Homeless and travellers
  • Difficulty accessing and completing forms
  • Partners helping to spread messages and providing help with form completion
Residents in very rural areas
  • Less exposure to central services
  • Less exposure to outdoor advertisements
  • Partnering with community groups
  • Rural communications
  • Reliant on concentrated range of services

Our example tactics sheets for reaching target audiences contain ideas for targeting and communicating with typically under-registered groups, such as young people, BME groups and private renters.  

Further information and practice examples of how some EROs are working with care homes and students to encourage registration is also available.

 

Last updated: 6 October 2020