Squeeze refers to the creation of a situation where you are one of two credible options in an election. In this situation you stand to gain from third and fourth party supporters who vote tactically to stop our main opposition from winning. Squeeze is one of the most important parts of an election campaign, particularly for Liberal Democrats.
Hopefully, squeeze has been a big part of your campaign so far. The main message here is keep doing it all the way to polling day. This far into a campaign, there is a natural urge to spend time speaking to our supporters. This may make us feel good but tactically, we also need to be finding support from people who naturally lean towards other parties.
The basic squeeze messaging is this:
‘Round here the election is between the Liberal Democrats and [main opposition party]. If you vote for [party not in first or second place in ward], you will get [option the voter wants least].’
In most cases, this means we are telling Conservatives and Labour supporters that by voting for a party who can’t win, they’re increasing the chances of the result they least want.
WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?
It’s important because it frames the question voters have in their heads when they vote. For example, with a good squeeze campaign a Labour supporter may go to the ballot box thinking, “I know Labour are unlikely to win here so I’ll vote Liberal Democrat to stop the Conservatives because I really don’t like the Conservatives”. In this example you’ve taken the Labour party out of the equation, which benefits the Liberal Democrats who are preferred to the Conservatives.
SO WHAT IF I DON’T DO IT?
If you don’t do it then it will happen to you. Squeeze groups are not a new phenomenon nor are we the only party to utilise squeeze as a tactic. However, many of our electoral successes have come from doing it better than any other party. It’s a key tool for a smaller party but don’t think that Labour and the Conservatives can’t use it also – making you an irrelevant choice in voters’ minds gives them a huge advantage.
IS IT NEGATIVE?
No. We have an electoral system that means that most people’s votes are wasted most of the time. We want to change that, but we need to win first. Until we make that change we need to be in the race, without a squeeze message we won’t be.
HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO TELL PEOPLE?
Again, hopefully squeeze has played a significant part in your campaign so far. However, squeeze voters can take the most persuading and are always open to returning to their ‘natural’ voting intention. This means that we actually need to increase the pressure and make a clear, quite simple and very powerful case to our squeeze group.
That means delivering the squeeze messages through as many channels as possible:
- On 100% of your leaflets in the remaining campaign
- Squeeze leaflets (in addition to main leaflets)
- Squeeze target letters (again in addition to main leaflets)
- On the doorstep (every conversation with squeeze voters)
- On the phone (every conversation with squeeze voters)
- And by email (as a PS or by building into story copy)
The squeeze group should include every individual who has previously canvassed for those parties (the ‘Squeeze’ target pool in Connect), areas that you know have a high third/fourth party vote, and, if you have it, everyone in the ‘Squeeze plus’ group in Connect.
If someone has told you in this campaign that they are leaning towards the party in third/fourth etc. don’t discard them, squeeze messaging can take some time to settle with people and these are crucial voters.
It’s also important that you bolster the ‘tactical’ message with other solid reasons why third/fourth party supporters should switch to us. You need to work out the strongest messages you have that will persuade them to move their vote. This might be a message about you as a person (e.g. you live locally and the third party candidate lives miles away) or it may be about a local or council campaign issue (e.g. we’re fighting Labour’s waste at the council).
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
There are several techniques that Liberal Democrats use to show the squeeze message, you will find bar charts on many template leaflets which prove we are in the race by reminding the electorate how close it was last time. Alternatively many people choose to do head to head graphics showing the pros of the Lib Dem candidate directly juxtaposed with the negatives of the main opposition candidate or party.
The Campaigns & Elections team have produced a New Squeeze Campaign Pack.
The pack contains all you need to know about how to run a year-round squeeze campaign, from print and digital to stakeboards and canvass planning to how to identify your squeeze voters on Connect.
That is all very well. Here in South Dorset, we appreciate your help for Development seats. However, what advice, if any, re 'The Squeeze', do you offer for seats where the party is currently in third place under the Conservatives and Labour?