Category Archives: Research

BREAKING: Voters Prefer Political Communication From Neighbors

FiveThirtyEight has a post today comparing the early infrastructure of the Obama and Romney campaigns. Obama has a decided early advantage. Towards the end of the article, the author draws attention to the correlation between personalized voter communication and more votes. What 2012 will show is that that personal communication, while evermore important, is no longer dependent on expensive field offices and paid staff. We’ll start to see similar gains correlated to online outreach amongst peers on behalf of campaigns.

A national campaign’s localized outreach — field offices, staff and volunteers — helps a candidate contact voters in a more personal manner. Potential voters have been shown to be more receptive when contacted by someone in their community rather than by a television commercial or automated phone call.

In 2008, about a fourth of all voters were contacted in some way by the Obama campaign. Mr. McCain’s campaign contacted 18 percent of general-election voters. A FiveThirtyEight study from just after the 2008 election found that “each marginal 10-point advantage in contact rate translated into a marginal 3-point gain in the popular vote in that state.”

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Driving Online Action

Bryce over at Local Politechs wrote a great analysis of online actions and the types of advertisements that drive engagement. He cites a study that notes 16% of online adults sent a campaign related email (25 million people) and 4% contributed money to a candidate running for office in 2010. He argues, and we agree, that as usage and political spending increase online these numbers will continue to rise.

We believe the difference between successful and antiquated online strategies will revolve around the intention of online outreach. If it’s just another avenue for messaging, then the internet, like it’s fore-bearers, will display diminishing returns over time and as budgets increase. But, if the internet and social media are used to empower campaign supporters with tools and direction, then we’re on the cusp of a transformational re-imagining of campaign strategy. The internet allows for a crowd-sourced, decentralized campaign – one where campaign loyalists take responsibility for moving their neighbors up the engagement ladder, from undecided to persuaded voter.

All that’s needed are candidates whom their communities trust. Suddenly, when that occurs, the 16% of adults sending emails will have a noticeable affect on the voting patterns of their undecided neighbors.

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Online Contributions up 54% Over Last Year

ActBlue, a democratic donation processor, just released their monthly fundraising numbers.

Mar 2008 Mar 2011 Mar 2012 Change
Contributions 25,344 143,012 167,080 17%
Volume ($) $3,707,738.92 $5,847,994.09 $8,987,964.89 54%
Mean Donation $146.30 $40.89 $53.79 31%
Committees 787 673 1,629 142%

Notice the volume of donations is triple where it was in March of 2008. On the surface, this means political donations are moving online. But it also portends a more significant trend. Not just donations, but the bulk of political activity, is increasingly occurring online. People are going online to research, network, advocate, and donate. Donations are a lagging indicator or greater political activity. That means online outreach needs to be the cornerstone of your campaign.

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Political Messaging Increasingly Moving Online

The Romney campaign estimates that one-third of voters in Wisconsin (where the primary was held this past Tuesday) won’t see political ads on local television. While the majority of campaign funds will still go to television advertising, the effectiveness of this platform is rapidly becoming negligible. These voters are increasingly being sought online instead.

An article in the New York Times explains the change in strategy.

The Romney campaign and a team of online behavior analysts have spent 18 months trying to fight television advertising’s law of diminishing returns, sifting through data on the browsing habits of tens of millions of computer users as the campaign builds a richly detailed cache of potential supporters.

In doing so, Mr. Romney’s strategists are hoping to turn the Web into a political persuasion tool, signaling a shift in the way modern campaigns view digital advertising. It is no longer merely a supplement for traditional media like television. In some cases, it is a substitute entirely.

A survey conducted last May on voters’ television viewing habits, which is often cited by Romney advisers, found that 31 percent of likely voters had not watched television “live” — that is, at the time it was being broadcast, as opposed to online or on a recording device — in the previous week. And of the 17 percent who said they mostly watched programs recorded on devices like a D.V.R., a large majority skipped through ads most of the time.

Online outreach is still in its infancy, but it’s becoming clear that the internet is the battleground of future elections.

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