in which Motorway Man votes
Microtargeting has played a key part in the 2010 General Election, with all parties pursuing swing voters in marginal seats. The practice, a modification of the direct marketing used by commercial marketers, uses large and sophisticated databases to track voter habits, identify floating voters such as this years “Motorway Man” or “Lambrini Ladies” and cross reference these with the UK’s postcode system (GIS). The resulting geographical depiction makes an ideal reference for local based campaigning.
But microtargeting databases reveal more than a roadmap for the party campaign bus. They identify the issues that are important to each voter, how that voter is likely to side with a party over these issues and therefore how a candidate can tailor their message on these issues specifically for different sections of the voting public.
One of these voters, who has drawn the attention of election pollsters and the press, is “Motorway Man”. Termed by Experian, the name refers to a floating voter who “lives on a modern housing estate with easy access to the motorway”. He is seen as the successor to both “Essex Man” and “Mondeo Man”, who respectively backed Margret Thatcher and Tony Blair during the 1980s and 1990s. According to the Observer the term describes, “Childish, youngish voters who live in modern homes close to the main motorway networks, the less environmentally attractive pockets of England where planning permission for new developments is often easier to obtain.” In the same article, Richard Webber states how “where these sort of people live is increasingly incidental; the homes they live in are temporary… Often couples who live near motorway junctions and who will drive off separately in the morning to the different towns and business parks where they work… These people are much more politically and ideologically footloose. They look at political parties like some people look at cars. How they voted last time is not going to influence this time. For them, it’s purely a shopping experience.”
The constituencies where Motorway Man votes, identified by Rob Hayward the elections expert advising the Tories, are “infill” areas where abandoned mines have been replaced by new housing estates. “They are inhabited by people who may be regional sales managers, reps production managers”. It is these people that Labour lost the support of, Peter Hain MP told the Financial Times, “The classic thing is where your mum and dad live in a solid Labour Town but you move into one of the suburbs, a new housing estate, and you start to think a little differently about yourself.”
The Observer suggests that the rootless lifestyle of this demographic - to which the old ties of community are no longer important, having been replaced by a greater focus on material possessions - is something that will have major ramifications for the political process.
Experian claims that “given that this younger group are followers of celebrity culture, it is likely to be more responsive to personal politics, which means they are more inclined towards the perceived charisma of ‘new man’ Cameron over the perceived dourness of Brown.”
According to Webber, Labour’s emphasis on improving public services is unlikely to hold much support with Motorway Man. “They feel overtaxed, but they feel they are not getting much back from the state. Because of where they live, they don’t encounter people from different backgrounds. They don’t meet handicapped or old people; they don’t have children; and they don’t use public transport. So they don’t meet people who benefit from the services they are funding. As a result they don’t see the point of all the tax they pay.”
Experian claim that the group represents 15% of the electorate. However, Motorway Man is significantly over-represented in key marginal constancies such as Crawley, Milton Keynes South, Rugby, Tamworth, Warwick and Leamington, Broxtowe, Loughborough, Worcester, Nuneaton, Stafford and Dartford - all Labour seats now held by the Conservatives.