Fuelling the campaign machines, for the first time, are the views of ordinary voters, marshalled into focus groups to represent a cross-section of opinion or a target group. Apparently, it is the outcome of these meetings which is responsible for the downplaying of Tony Blair's smile and hair, and the emphasis on John Major as a man you can trust.
The TES, conscious that the teaching profession's "real voice" has often gone unheard, decided to do some research of its own. We employed RSL, a respected international opinion research company, to do in-depth interviews with six groups of classroom teachers in different areas of England and Scotland early last December.
We published these findings, along with a Teachers' Manifesto (see right) of preferred election promises, this January. Last week we contacted two-thirds of the focus group teachers to find out how the start of the election campaign was affecting their opinion and voting intentions.