After the fiasco of the 1992 opinion polls, this election is different.
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.