UK Politics

Election 2015: How Essex, Florida and motorways decided elections

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Mondeo man, Worcester woman and other such voter groups have been bandied around by political parties and their strategists for years now but what are they about and are they still relevant?

In this interactive video, the BBC's Chris Mason takes a look at what these terms mean and how voter segmentation has changed.

If you are unable to watch the interactive video, you can follow the links below to other content.


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Media captionBBC Look East report on 'Essex man'

Essex man, the sort of moneyed, materialistic, character parodied by Harry Enfield in 1988, didn't enter the political vocabulary until a few years later. It was used to describe voters who had moved out of central London to surrounding counties and had traditionally voted Labour, but that Mrs Thatcher had succeeded in winning over. You can get a taste of the life and times of Essex man, in a BBC Look East report by clicking above.

The ability of Thatcherism to tap into working and middle class aspiration, through policies such as the right to buy council houses, was key. And Mrs Thatcher's visit to one such family, in Essex, which you can watch below, became politically iconic.

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Media captionBBC 1980 news report on right to buy

The importance of tapping into that magic concept of aspiration, was recognised by another future inhabitant of Downing Street. Here Tony Blair is, in 1996, identifying what Labour saw as a crucial voter group.

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Media captionTony Blair at 1996 Labour conference

Now, who likes to holiday in Florida, is married to a plumber and not exactly riveted by the intricacies of politics? Back in 1997, it was the Worcester woman. And you can be transported there courtesy of Newsnight (video below):

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Media captionNewsnight 1997 film on Worcester woman

The focus on female voters came after Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, the year before, had identified "soccer moms" as being crucial. And Worcester was important as a Tory marginal, high on Labour's list of target seats. As you can see from our archive Newsnight report, the Tories felt they had to hang on to Worcester if they were to win the 1997 election. They lost both.

Worcester woman has apparently been succeeded by Aldi mum, and many other voter groups have been identified since the 1997 election. In the 2001 election, the Tories targeted "pebbledash people". And then in 2010 came "motorway man", which led to quite an assignment for Newsnight's Stephen Smith - if there's one video worth clicking on here, make it this one (below):

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Media captionBBC Newsnight's motorway man

The materialistic, car-dependent, middle manager, who lives in a new housing estate around key motorways was said to be at the centre of the 2010 election campaign battle. But are these groups anything more sophisticated than attempts to define the average, middle of the road, voter. The BBC's political research editor David Cowling says the following (video below):

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Media captionDavid Cowling, Editor of BBC Political Research Unit

With this election, the big political parties have been doing some serious data crunching. And the buzz phrase isn't exactly sexy - "voter segmentation". It sees them attempting to break down and reach voters in key seats with increasingly sophisticated methods. You can learn more about this process from a recent BBC Daily Politics report:

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Media captionDaily Politics report on latest voter segmentation techniques

The political parties believe that helping them to identify voters in this way allows them to hone their message, and they hope, make a crucial difference.

You can keep an eye on every development on the BBC's Live Politics page.

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