DESIGN A VOTER CONTACT PROGRAM THAT TARGETS THE INDIVIDUAL VOTER.
What Every Campaign Ought to Know About Voter Contact Programs
Many political consultants view voter contact programs as a boiler-plated license to print gobs of money. Every new campaign is viewed as an old-fashioned California Gold Rush.
Fifteen pieces of glossy, gut-slashing mail pieces and 10 phone calls from volunteers (named Pat) at a call center in India should do the trick. Of course there’s no targeting involved because that would shrink the voter universes and lower the amount of money the consultants make. Voter contact programs! Chaaa-ching!
Not only do these templated voter contact programs cost your campaign more money, they aren’t as effective because there’s very little strategic targeting in these programs that allows for personalized, individual voter contact.
5 Principles of Effective Voter Contact Programs
1. Voter contact has to be people-centered. Most voter contact programs are an exercise in mass marketing. Personalization and individual touch are expensive, but they are necessity with voter contact. Individual voters show up to the polls on Election Day – not voter segments.
2. Begin with a target universe. End up with individual voters. Campaigns operate on limited resources. As part of your campaign planning, you will have narrow down the entire voter universe to a universe that is likely to show up on Election Day. This targeting makes it more affordable. The field component of your voter contact program is the campaign’s way of talking directly to voters.
3. The simple math of voter contact. Let’s assume, you’re in a 2-person General Election race in a district that has 50,000 registered voters. Here the math behind your voter contact program:
- Turnout – Based on prior elections that are similar to yours, you predict a 57% turnout. 28,500 voters on Election Day.
- Votes to Win – 28,500 voters divided by two PLUS one vote. Votes to win equals 14,251. But you want to provide a margin so let’s add 2.5% to that. In order to win you need to persuade 14,821 voters to vote for your candidate
- Base Vote – Determine your base vote of Republicans. Let’s assume the base vote is 37%. This means on Election Day you can count on 10,545 base votes.
- Vote Deficit Should Drive Voter Contact – This leaves you short of your goal by 4,276 votes.
Now you have to determine where you get those votes: Swing voters. Low-propensity voters. Register non-voters. Peeling off opponents’ supporters. This is the magic sauce of effective voter contact programs. Know your numbers and you can build a pathway to victory.
4. Voter contact continuum. While every campaign’s program is different, there are 4 probable components in every voter contact program. Here’s a big picture overview of each component:
- Voter Registration – The campaign should focus on voters who have recently moved into the district. If the vote goals require you to expand the voter universe, you may need to conduct voter registration drives (either online or targeted canvassing) to build your base and pick up new voters.
- Voter Identification – In order to target your persuasion resources more effectively and have good data for GOTV, the campaign should conduct ongoing voter identification activities. Voter ID can be achieved by paid or volunteer calls, canvassing, mail and online activities. Voter ID tactics should be engineered into every possible campaign activity by giving voters a chance to self-identify or by asking voter preferences directly.
- Voter Persuasion – Persuasion activities should be considered a highly targeted function of the voter contact program. You should focus your resources on swing voters, soft supporters and voters who may turn out if pushed. You should avoid spending scarce resources on persuading voters who:-are already voting for you;
-will never vote for you (because they’re hard supporters of your opponent; and
-will likely never turnout to vote (low propensity voters)
- Voter Turnout – if you’ve accomplished your voter ID and persuasion activities, you have the tools to turn out your supporters in early voting and on Election Day. More on GOTV in the next success principle.
5. Tactical programs MUST be integrated into your online platform. As you perform voter contact tactics (phones, mail, online media, etc) make sure that the data collected in integrated into the online campaign platform. For example, nothing could be more tragic than spending time and resources on identifying voters in your door-to-door canvassing, but the data never made it to individual voter records. All that work in vain!
IT’S YOUR TURN
Grab a copy of your campaign plan and re-read it in light of our explanation of voter contact programs. Here are a couple questions to consider:
- Have you done the “simple math” for your race? (see ‘The simple math of voter contact above.’ )
- Does your campaign plan address how you will handle the four component of voter contact: registration, ID, persuasion and GOTV.
- Look at your budget for phones, mail and canvassing. Does your budgeting reflected targeted universes or are you spending money on broad swaths of voters?
- List 10 voter contact tactics that need to be integrated with the campaign’s online platform. For example, “Utilize mobile canvassing technology so that ID and persuasion date is recorded (real time) when canvassers are on the voters’ doorstep.”
- Sample Voter Contact Plan (Wellstone Action)
- Targeting & Voter Contact Slideshare (Progressive Majority)
- Voter Contact Calculator (New Organizing Institute)
Did a friend share this post? Did you stumble across this through social media? Get the whole training series by subscribing below.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
[social_share style=”square” align=”horizontal” heading_align=”inline” facebook=”1″ twitter=”1″ google_plus=”1″ linkedin=”1″ pinterest=”1″ /]