Off-Year Voter Turnout Trends Since 1950

Midterm election turnouts are always significantly lower than on presidential election years. This is a natural byproduct of what voters perceive to be a less significant election, so no one is surprised by low midterm turnout.

However, this cycle, candidates and consultants alike were surprised at the very low turnout in 2014. A mere 36.4% of eligible voters actually voted.

Such a low voter turnout has not occurred since World War II. In the 1942 midterms, turnout came to 33.9% of eligible voters. One would think that the same cycle that set campaign expenditure records would also have turned out more voters. The opposite seems to be true. Record high expenditures seemed to only be able to produce a little bit of involvement.

Here is a comparison of midterm election involvement since 1950:

  • 1950: 44%
  • 1954: 44%
  • 1958: 45%
  • 1962: 48%
  • 1966: 49%
  • 1970: 47%
  • 1974: 39%
  • 1978: 39%
  • 1982: 43%
  • 1986: 39%
  • 1990: 40%
  • 1994: 42%
  • 1998: 39%
  • 2002: 41%
  • 2006: 41%
  • 2010: 42%
  • 2014: 36%

These figures definitely demonstrate significant variance in voter turnout during midterm election cycles. However, it is fascinating to realize that just over 42 percent of eligible voters on average determine who our elected officials are.

Not only was this year’s turnout incredibly low, but turnout is just low in general. Only two people in five, roughly, make their voices heard about who will govern them. This country is truly run by a minority of its overall population.

Door-to-Door Canvassing: Collecting Data That Matters

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Upon reaching the top of the hill, Jack got distracted because he saw dozens of empty pails all sitting around the well. Some of these pails were very nice, so he and Jill both grabbed as many pails as they could carry and walked back down the hill. When they got to the bottom of the hill Jack and Jill were both soundly scolded because they had wasted all kinds of time collecting more pails than they would ever need, when all they were supposed to do was fill their one pail with water so that they would have something to revive their unconscious, and overheated mother.

Continue reading →

Does Messaging Matter for the Campaign Volunteer?

Volunteers don’t always “get” messaging. Though committed and enthusiastic, they are not often trained in the do’s and don’ts of what they can and can’t say on the campaign trail. A staff member at campaign headquarters may simply point a Super Saturday volunteer in the right direction after handing him a tablet (or sadly still, a printed walk book) uploaded with a walk list and survey questions, and a handful of campaign literature.

Continue reading →

Early Voting Means Early GOTV

With only three Saturdays remain before Election Day, over 700,000 early and absentee ballots have already been cast. This includes votes in states that will likely decide who controls the Senate. The dynamics of GOTV efforts are changing as more and more states are allowing early voting, typically 15 to 30 days before Election Day.

I say this because 33 states in the U.S. allow for early voting. That old cliché, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush holds true. The more voters you can have locked in at the earliest possible moment, the better. Also, this means that your efforts can be focused and targeted only on those who have not yet voted. It saves campaigns time and money. As a senior Obama campaign aide said in 2012, “You stop sending them mail. You stop calling them. You don’t need to knock on their door anymore.” After all, well over 32 million ballots were cast before election day in 2012. That’s a lot of people campaigns didn’t have to contact, making their jobs immensely easier.

Continue reading →

4 Questions Every Candidate Needs to Ask About Money

Often candidates run for office because they want to help people and lend a hand in solving problems in their community. But such well meaning candidates don’t always realize that the bulk of their time will be spent asking people for money. There are five questions a candidate who is going to make a serious run for office must ask — and answer.

1: How much money will it take to win?

The answer to this is crucial and you must be able to answer it. Come up with a realistic sum. You can accomplish this by looking at reports from previously successful campaigns.

Continue reading →

What the Stats Say about Politics in Social Media

Political IndependentsSeventy four percent of all internet users interact on social networking sites. This is a number that should get the attention of campaign managers. In the last few years forward thinking marketers, digital managers, and communications professionals have known that they can’t ignore social media. What has been less than clear is how much time and resources a business or campaign should put into social media — and how far social media will take you and your campaign.

Continue reading →

Why We Love Voter Canvassing (And You Should Too)

Is paying between $7-$19 dollars per vote too much? Not when you compare it to the $60 per vote that campaigns pay for direct mailings. When you send people to campaign door-to-door, it averages out to $15 per vote if you pay them $10 per hour. Of course, if they volunteer, it doesn’t cost you anything. This is one of the reasons why voter canvassing is the most tried, true and effective way to gain support as a campaign. In an in depth piece exploring the effectiveness of voter canvassing, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Alabama Dr. George Hawley referenced several fascinating studies done by Green and Gerber, the preeminent scholars on campaign techniques. He notes:

“They estimated that face-to-face voter mobilization increases voter turnout by 53 percent among those canvassed in a local election. These results are congruent with older studies, such as those conducted by Rosenstone and Hansen and Verba, Schlozman, and Brady. In their analysis of all the major studies conducted on voter canvassing, Green and Gerber found that the overwhelming majority of all research on the subject indicates that voter canvassing boosts turnout. Based on their thorough examination of all the relevant research, they concluded that one additional vote is generated for every fourteen voters that canvassers contact. In a tight race, effective voter contact can make the difference between victory and defeat. As they noted in the conclusion of a 2003 study of canvassing in local elections (which concluded that as few as twelve face-to-face contacts with voters were necessary to earn an additional vote), at a large scale, voter canvassing can have an impressive effect and be worth the expense.”

This means that if you pay canvassers $10 per hour and they travel in pairs; making 8 contacts per hour, you will be paying that $15 per vote. Read the full paper for more insight on face-to-face campaigning: In The Trenches: What Republican Operatives Need to Know About Voter Canvassing.