The Government yesterday (11th April) sent out leaflets to households around the UK giving their reasons for staying in the EU, at a reported cost of £9 million. But are mail shots actually worth doing?

The government have a problem. In a referendum they want as many people as possible to vote; it is not like in a parliamentary election where you can pick winners and let some constituencies go by the board – every vote counts. The evidence seems to show that younger people are more likely to want to stay in the EU but are less likely to vote than older people who may wish to leave (and are more likely to vote). So the mail shot has to do two jobs: it has to convince people to go out and vote, and to vote in the way the government would prefer. The leaflet gives voters what is called an Opportunity to See and will hopefully get the attention of the older people with their argument (one very much on the risks of leaving) and also that of younger people, who with the best will in the world are unlikely to be following the government line on social media. Of course the success depends on whether people see the mailshot and don't just throw it out. Then there is whether they read it and are convinced by the arguments. That is much more of an unknown but at least by a blanket mailshot you know that everyone has had the opportunity to see.

Professor Isabelle Szmigin
Professor of Marketing
Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham

Professor Szmigin was interviewed on BBC 5 Live Breakfast on this topic on Monday 11 April 2016. Listen to the interview on iPlayer (21:33-25:35).