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Are election campaigns organized with voters in mind?


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The Conversation

Francisco J. Pérez Latre

Professor. Director Graduate Academic of the School of Communication.


On May 28, Spain has a quotation with the municipal and autonomic ballot boxes. In times of "permanent campaign", campaigns are hardly distinguishable from the rest of the year. Although they are an opportunity to contrast projects and programs, they also show the "pathologies" of the political panorama. Listening to citizens could be a good way to change this dynamic before, during and after electoral campaigns.

Political parties live surrounded by demoscopes and polls, but they have usually been institutions not very prone to listen. Often, immersed in their "political bubble", instead of offering solutions to real problems, parties create new problems.

The participation of citizens, and not only of experts, in the elaboration of programs could be a way to improve electoral communication.

Listening and participation are crucial elements of trust. At this point in time, it is difficult to trust political organizations that do not make an effort to hear the views of citizens. Nor will we be able to trust organizations that consider themselves perfect, do not explain their difficulties and only give the news when it is good. On the other hand, it is important to give a vote of confidence to those that know they are perfectible, in a permanent state of improvement and learning.

The lecture on the Future of Europe, a good example

The lecture on the Future of Europe is an interesting example of another way of doing politics: a series of citizen-led dialogues that allowed people from all over Europe to share their ideas for shaping a common future.

The report of the lecture was handed over to the presidents of the three main institutions of the European Union at the closing ceremony in Strasbourg. The final text was articulated around 49 proposals, comprising more than 300 measures based mainly on recommendations made by the European and national citizens' panels.

On December 2, 2022, the participants in the European and national citizens' panels met with the Union's institutions at the European Parliament in Brussels. There they were briefed on the progress made in the implementation of the results. They had the opportunity to ask questions to the representatives of the institutions and to comment on the information received.

The committee has already taken concrete steps towards the implementation of proposals to improve the daily lives of citizens in areas such as Economics, social justice, employment, energy, climate change, environment and health.

Making communication effective

The idea of active listening is making its way into campaigns, albeit very slowly. In the past, political party communication was mainly concerned with the dissemination of messages and the channels chosen for their distribution through the media. Today, listening is at the center of the actions necessary for effective communication and improving the quality of management. When politicians listen, they show attention, respect and objectivity, qualities that reinforce the trust of their interlocutors.

It would be healthy for the parties, through their presence in the media during election night, to submit their electoral promises to the criticism of citizens. The abundance of electronic and virtual communication in personal and professional contexts is accentuating the need to encourage face-to-face listening. Politicians must learn to communicate in these unscripted contexts.

The media will also have to do more on their part, facilitating spaces for voters in their coverage of the campaigns. Today, the declarations of politicians, who want to guide public opinion according to their priorities, are the most important.

Listening to innovate in politics

Trust is a process that begins within political organizations and spills over to the outside. We often think that innovation comes only from creativity, the "disruptive" mindset, or the analysis of competitors, which allows us to study good practices.

Listening to the public is a powerful source of innovation because sample to political organizations what is going well in our common home, what can be improved and what are the issues core topic that stand out on the social radar: a listening that provides data, but also financial aid to understand the emotions and motivations of the public.

One of the requirements of change is to count on the people who will be affected by the changes. If political parties are attentive, they will have in the voters authentic promoters of permanent innovation. Listening can provide solutions to the major problems facing our society: problems such as youth unemployment or demographic aging that transcend electoral cycles and partisan visions and affect the common good.