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Understanding the Impact of Direct Mail on Politics

An innovative study in 2004 revealed just how much political parties, partisan media, and non-profit groups combine efforts when it comes to fundraising. Koger, Masket, and Noel created 50 false identities and from those names made donations to different political organizations. They then tracked each identity.

As Dr. Hawley of the University of Alabama points out in a piece titled Mailbox Metrics: The Data-Driven Impact of Campaign Direct Mail released by Voter Gravity earlier this year:

Specifically, they wanted to know the degree to which these different groups shared their donor mailing lists…. They waited to see whether direct mail solicitations from different organizations came to each specific name and address. This was a clever methodology, as the use of different names allowed the researchers to know exactly who was sharing each name, and with whom they were sharing it.

The result? The unique names and addresses were highly mobile. Addresses and other data were shared amongst multiple different organizations in a relatively short period of time.

This study demonstrates that both liberal and conservative organizations, media, and parties share donor information with ideologically like-minded groups and campaigns. This means that your ability to acquire quality mailing lists will allow for a significantly more effective direct mail campaign. Many campaigns try to build their own quality lists, but acquiring lists is also a valid option. Studies likes this one show that there is a good degree of interaction between organizations with similar goals when it comes to the fundraising. As Dr. Hawley concludes:

The effectiveness of a direct mail campaign will be largely determined by the quality of a campaign’s address list. Carpet bombing an entire community with advertising in the mail is expensive, and may even be counterproductive; sending GOTV appeals to voters who will support your opponent is a less-than-worthless expense. It is important to know where campaigns can find useful and up-to-date voter lists.

For more findings on the effectiveness of political direct mail, read Dr. Hawley’s report here: Mailbox Metrics: The Data-Driven Impact of Campaign Direct Mail.