There is no political advertising on television or radio in Britain. Fund-raising and spending are strictly limited. Tight elections can turn on a relative handful of votes in a small number of competitive parliamentary constituencies. So as Britain’s political parties head into a tight, unpredictable election on Thursday, they are even more reliant than their American counterparts on social media as a way to mobilize supporters for a last push and disseminate their messages directly to voters. Social media makes up for “that small difference of being that tiny bit marginally better than the other party,” said Anthony Wells, director of political and social opinion polling at YouGov, a prominent polling company here. Digital technology also helps parties winnow undecided voters from the rest of the electorate, he said.
The governing Conservatives, the opposition Labour Party and at least four smaller parties that could hold the balance of power are targeting disaffected young people who might not otherwise vote as well as undecided voters in critical districts.
They are drawing to some degree on the lessons of recent campaigns in the United States and in particular the digital expertise of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. The Conservatives are being advised by Jim Messina, who as Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager set a new standard for the use of data and digital technology, and Labour by David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s communications guru.