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How future thinking are manifestos? 2010 vs. 2015

The final party manifesto was released this morning – here, we use the Political Futures Tracker to compare manifestos from the top 7 parties, providing a bite sized summary of how future thinking they are and differences between the 2015 and 2010 UK General Elections.

We look at the way parties talk about certain themes in a future thinking manner. Future thinking analysis automatically identifies words that are time sensitive, and codes the extent to which a theme is being written about in a past, present or future context. This tool allows us to compare and contrast how future thinking political texts are and provides comparable data for all parties. 

We use the number of times a theme is mentioned in a future context in the manifesto, and look at this as a proportion of the number of words used in the manifesto - so we can compare like for like. Because, as the graph shows below, there is huge variation in the length of these political documents.

The Greens top the chart for the longest manifesto in 2015 - besides Labour, every manifesto has been longer this time around compared to the 2010 election

Future thinking graph

This may suggest that, on the whole, parties have more to say in 2015 than they did in 2010.

In 2015 we see that parties mention a far broader array of themes than in 2010 - there are few parties in 2015 that do not mention any of the top 5 themes in a future thinking context. Whereas in 2010, on Tax and revenue and Schools, we notice a number of parties making no future thinking reference.

When we aggregate future thinking across all themes mentioned, we see that...

Conservatives are far more future thinking than the last election, and Labour much less

Future thinking graph

There has been a shift in future thinking from 2010...

We see that the incumbent government is radically more future thinking than the challengers

Future thinking graph

Parties mention roughly the same top 5 themes in 2015 as they did in 2010. With the exception of Schools in 2010, and Business and enterprise in 2015, the top 5 themes remain the same across the electoral cycles. But in fact, if we look at the top 10 future thinking themes, we see Schools in 6th place in 2015 and Business and enterprise 6th in 2010.

So the big political issues of the future in 2010 remain the big political issues of the future.

This may stem from references to young people, and delivering jobs for the next generation in the context of Schools and Employment. But it may also be a reflection of parties' electoral instinct to plan (or speculate) for the future when in power, and criticise exisiting government when challenging those in power.

In 2010 Labour were the most future thinking about the UK Economy...in 2015 the Conservatives have taken the lead on future thinking

Labour and the SNP are less future thinking about the UK economy, and all other parties show raised levels of future thinking references. Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Greens indicate a profound difference in future thinking from 2010.

Future thinking graph

We will be conducting analysis on the final debate on 30 April, and bearing the white heat of the final weeks of election build up on Twitter using the Political Futures Tracker. Stay tuned for the latest analysis.

Author

George Windsor

George Windsor

George Windsor

Senior Policy Researcher

George was a Senior Policy Researcher in the Creative and Digital Economy team.

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Jen Rae

Jen Rae

Jen Rae

Head of UK Innovation Policy

Jen Rae is a policy advisor on innovation and economic growth for Nesta’s Policy and Research team.

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Stian Westlake

Stian Westlake

Stian Westlake

Executive Director of Policy and Research

Stian led Nesta's Policy and Research team. His research interests included the measurement of innovation and its effects on productivity, the role of high-growth businesses in the e...

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Ian Roberts

Ian is a Research Associate in the Natural Language Processing Group at the University of Sheffield.