Campaign: Speed-dating SMPs get to meet the electorate

Like the rest of the UK, voter apathy is a serious problem north of the border - with just 49.4 per cent of Scots having voted in the 2003 Scottish Parliament Elections.

Introducing Scotland to Political Speed Dating
Client The Electoral Commission
PR team Pagoda Public Relations
Budget Undisclosed

With the 2007 elections just around the corner, the Electoral Commission felt it needed to address the issue. It appointed Pagoda PR to help engage disaffected voters.

The issue was pressing as the 2007 elections would see the introduction of the single transferable vote (STU).

To encourage interest and participation in the Scottish elections across the community. To help explain reformed voting systems, and bridge the gap between voters and politicians.

Strategy and Plan
Studies showed that young people were alienated from politicians - rather than simply disinterested in politics. Older generations did regularly vote, but research showed they were confused by the complexity of the new voting system.

‘Political speed dating' was developed for young people, while older voters were offered ‘political tea dancing'.  For the first event, ten politicians were paired with young people at Edinburgh's Youth Café, and given three minutes to impress them.

The ‘electorate' then scored them on attributes including listening skills and approachability. For the tea dance, older members of the Edinburgh community jitter-bugged with politicians. The grey groovers then voted for them, using STU rules, to find a winner.

Meanwhile, the PR team launched a ‘Democracy Cookbook' for young people. A feature was placed in The
Herald, and the cookbook was distributed among education staff.

Measurement and Evaluation
Political speed dating was trailed in the Daily Record and on BBC Good Morning Scotland. It was also covered by BBC TV, ITV Border and others. 

Six local authorities have requested information on how they can replicate the schemes. Positive letters of support were received from seven politicians looking for further involvement.

Olivia Bell, Inverness Courier news editor, says: ‘The commission created something different to catch the eye as politics can be a real turn-off.'

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