Voter Gravity will be at CPAC, will you?

Voter Gravity’s Ned Ryun, Chris Littleton, and Aubrey Blankenship are set to speak at the CPAC Activism Boot Camp March 2-4 on campaign technology, GOTV, and digital activism. If you’re attending CPAC, the boot camp is included in your conference pass.

This year’s CPAC Activism Boot Camp is set to build on last year’s talks. Featuring the best speakers in the industry, each day will bring a slew of engaging topics to get you prepared for campaign season. Candidates, campaign staff, and campaign volunteers will find valuable training tailored to fit their prospective roles in modern campaigns.

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New Study on Party Affiliation: The Rise Of the Independents

Every campaign strategist worth their salt will tell you that you never need to win the “other side”: you only need to keep yours and convince the independent vote. While much research and advice has been given on this subject, one thing remains: according to an April 7, 2015 Pew Research study, voters who identify as independent are at an all time high:

“For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling.” Continue reading →

The Cost of the 2014 Mid-Term Elections

How much do federal campaigns cost? The Center for Public Integrity published a listing of some interesting financial facts related to the 2014 mid-term elections in which they calculate that the estimated cost of the federal mid-terms to be at least $3.66 billion (others have estimated it to be $4 billion).

Where did all this money come from?

1,004 Super PACs and Hybrid PACs were registered as of late December of 2014. Of those PACs, 13 included the name “Hillary” or “Clinton” in their name. None of them included “Jeb” or “Bush.” Some of those PACs did more than just provide money though: the pro-Democratic PAC “Senate Majority PAC” ran over 50,200 ads, more than any other group. Some of those PACs made raised quite a bit of money too: liberal environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action super PAC raised over $78 million all by itself.

What about non-PAC money? “Dark money” groups were plenty active as well: 6 key Senate races had at least 1 in 5 ads provided by dark money groups, and 3 of those Senate races had at least 1 in 4 ads provided by dark money. Illinois’ Republican Governor Bruce Rauner donated over $27.5 million to his own campaign.

You can find a full report here. What do you think: are we spending too much money on electing “public officials” (aka public servants)? Join the dialogue on Twitter.

At Voter Gravity we encourage PACs and campaigns of any size to rethink how they spend their money. Why waste money on things that don’t matter? We believe that money is saved when it is spent contacting the right voters at the right time with the right message. Focus and integrate. Request a Voter Gravity demo today to learn more.

Direct Mail: Is It Worth It?

Many campaigns will choose to have at least one direct mail effort, sometimes issue-based, sometimes non-partisan “feel good” pieces to improve the candidate’s standing in the eyes of their constituents. Regardless of why it’s released, the question needs to be asked: do they make a difference? Are they worth the time and effort needed to get them sorted and sent out? According to a paper by University of Alabama professor Dr. George Hawley, released by Voter Gravity, they can be. He writes:

Tens of billions of advertisements and solicitations are sent to Americans in the mail every single year. A substantial percentage of the population will receive more than 1,000 solicitations for charitable donations within a single year. For this reason, one might be justifiably concerned that voters may become overwhelmed by campaign material and tune everything out entirely. There is little evidence that this occurs, however. A study conducted in 2009 reached the following conclusion: while people find direct mail solicitations annoying, that annoyance does not stop them from sending donations.

Dr. Hawley explains in the course of the paper the amount of voters who can potentially be reached in comparison to other media options like TV and how using different methods of conviction can influence how effective a mailing can be. He summarizes:

Direct mail is an important element of campaigning, but it is expensive. In order to make direct mail worth the expense, it is important to be realistic about what it can do, and what can be better accomplished via other campaigning methods, such as door-to-door canvassing. Direct mail is probably not your best bet for ensuring high turnout among your voters, but it can be an effective way to raise money, and it may be an effective means of voter persuasion. However, to maximize effectiveness, direct mail campaigns should be carefully targeted.

Targeting, messages, and cost-benefit ratio are all things that must be taken into account before proceeding with a direct mail effort. Dr. Hawley further explains methods of determining this in his paper which can be found here.

Do Independent Voters Actually Prefer One Party Over the Other?

Independent voters might seem like a daunting obstacle at first glance: they have their own political preferences that might not be able to be generalized, their voting might be unpredictable, and yet you so urgently need them for your campaign to be successful.  But are “independent” voters really all that people make them out to be? According to a recent paper by University of Alabama professor Dr. George Hawley that has been released by Voter Gravity, they are in fact more politically biased than most would think they are.  He writes:

It turns out that most of these so-called independents will admit to preferring one party over the other. The number of true independents is actually small, and always has been. More importantly, these independent “leaners” are often just as partisan as people who immediately admit to supporting a political party. In fact, they may be more dedicated to their party.

As such, it is important to understand the actual voting patterns from previous elections as well as other geographic or social data that might indicate how an independant might vote. This data can be found researched and ready to go in tech formats on the market from groups like Voter Gravity.  Is this data really important for determining who to target?  Dr. Hawley continues:

Affiliating with a party is one of the most important predictors of vote choice, but many of those who affiliate with the opposing party can be peeled away. Hillygus and Shields describe a category within the electorate called “persuadable voters.” These voters typically describe themselves as members of a political party, but they disagree with that party on one or more very important issue. Without a push, this issue is not likely going to sway their standing decision to vote for a particular party. However, if a campaign pushes that issue, either through a targeted message or more generally, such voters can be persuaded to abandon their party on Election Day.

Thus we can see that identifying and targeting independent voters will be critical to achieving success in your campaign. Check out Dr. Hawley’s full report here.

The Data on Winning by Voter Canvassing

Every campaign guru will say a candidate needs to be knocking on doors to drum up support for your cause and help identify with voters, but does it really work? Furthermore, even if it does work, is it worth a candidate’s time? According to a paper by University of Alabama professor Dr. George Hawley released by Voter Gravity, it does make a big difference — actually, it can make THE difference. He writes:

Donald Green and Alan Gerber are the most renowned scholars of campaign techniques. In a 2000 study, 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.

So, clearly it makes a noticeable, impactful difference. But does that mean that a candidate should spend time and money on canvassing instead of using volunteers and money in other areas? Not if part of your canvassing plan includes modern technology. Dr. Hawley explains that knocking on doors of voters who have already determined who they are going to vote for is, in fact, a waste of time. This is why the integration of voter identification and likely voting tendencies is so vital. He summarizes:

In a close race, effective canvassing can make the difference between victory and defeat. However, in a world of limited time, money, and volunteers, you need to target your canvassing efforts on those who can be persuaded to vote for your candidate. Because we are dealing with human beings, there is always a stochastic element – until we directly ask them, we do not know for sure if a person is planning to vote, for whom they plan to vote, or whether they can be persuaded. However, we now know enough about turnout and vote choice to make reasonable decisions regarding whom to target, and possess the technology to put that knowledge to work.

Please find Dr. Hawley’s full analysis and results here.

A Candidate’s View: What Campaign Technology Could Have Meant for Me

As a candidate for a state house of representative I had planned for many things throughout the course of the campaign, from what to say at debates and which informational briefings to attend, right down to what kind of pizza to provide for volunteers. One thing that I failed to plan for: losing. Yes, I lost the race, the dreaded thought, “What happens if I don’t get elected?” that I had pushed to the back of my mind became reality and I had to decide what to do next.

Two options became available: I could either assume the way I went about the campaign was correct and it was just a bad year or I could evaluate my methods and determine what went wrong. Initially, I choose the former: “Why of course I am a good candidate!” I told myself.  As time went on, however, I realized I had, in fact, made many critical errors. The greatest was the inability to get my message to the voters, from mailings, to calling, to yard sign placement, data and how to use it ultimately sank the ship.

Trust me, there were other flaws; poor ship design, hyping something up to be something that it wasn’t, and a captain who refused to listen to reason. But in the end, my inability to communicate the right message and track data correctly was the iceberg that brought the ship down. So I decided to change that and discover how I could avoid this mistake in the future and help others in similar situations.

Organizing data of all kinds, allowing for easy understanding of large amounts of information, and the ability to quickly filter the data are now musts in 21st century politics, and for campaigns of all sizes. That’s why I’m excited about Voter Gravity. I’ve run for the state legislature, have seen what a campaign looks like in the real world, and In the following series of posts, I will outline some of the advantages of Voter Gravity, how to utilize the technology, and how that technology enables candidates to manage a successful campaign.

Tips For Creating A Great Campaign Palm Card

As a candidate, one of most space and cost effective tools you can have at your disposal is a palm card. Palm cards should be thought of as “campaigns in a capsule” because they should contain all of the highlights of your candidacy. With that said, having a good palm card is not as easy as slapping your name in a pre-formatted card from your home printer. Here are a few tips to have a great and memorable card.

Tell the voter why you deserve their vote.

Your campaign should have a motto or catchphrase “Confident. Caring. Committed.” or “For a better today and a brighter tomorrow” are some examples. Use this and expound on it. Give a short stump speech as to why you are the candidate they should vote for.

Use high quality, professional photos.

Just because you might have a good camera at your disposal doesn’t mean you should skimp here. Pay for a professional photograph and use it on the card. Some retail stores even have booths you can make an appointment for. They don’t take long, look great, and are usually quite inexpensive. Also use high quality stock images.

Follow election laws: remember your disclaimer!

All election advertisements or publications must include who paid for it. Find out exactly what has to be included and have it somewhere on the card. Note that the font can be as small as possible while still being readable.

Be consistent with the rest of your campaign.

Don’t try to cater to everybody if that’s not what the rest of your campaign is about. Keep your message, and thus your campaign or “brand”, consistent as it will affect your credibility and public image.

Include your contact information.

Make sure to include reliable contact information on your card so that potential donors or political contacts can reach you. If you don’t already have “secondary” emails or phone numbers that you check regularly it might be useful to set them up: odds are you will not want to have your mobile number or primary email for every John Doe that you hand a card to.

Separate yourself from your opponent wherever possible.

This includes not only message but media appearance. Avoid similar colors or design schemes that your opponent uses, include key policy differences, and always try to have positive themes about yourself on your cards. Remember, these are like tiny summaries of your campaigns and should represent you as such.

As a note, one vendor we have received good prices and great palm cards from is Voter Contact – www.votercontact.org. If you haven’t already, check them out today!

The True State of Voter Turnout

The fundamental principle of a democratic society is that the general population (however that population is measured or qualified) decides its own course through the election of public officials and leaders. The consent and active participation of a population is thus critical for the accuracy of the public beliefs to be made manifest in the election of like minded individuals: without a majority opinion on any given issue, a radical or extreme minority can easily sway a nation in any direction it pleases once it has reached a critical mass of voting power.

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