Saturday, November 3, 2012

Advances In Campaign Field Tactics and Electioneering

Saturday afternoon, my wife and I spent a couple of hours knocking on doors for the Washington United for Marriage, the campaign to endorse the legislature's decision to enact gay marriage. As is to be expected at this point in the campaign, field efforts are concentrated on turning out voters who are known to support marriage equality or are very likely to do so, but who are not in the habit of voting consistently even in Presidential elections.

Yes on R74's primary GOTV message is to get these non-habitual voters to visualize and plan the physical act of filling out their ballot and dropping it in the mail box (Washington is 100% vote by mail, though there are dropboxes placed throughout the state). The scripted questions look something like this.
  1. Have you voted yet? (If yes, you're done; otherwise, proceed)
  2. Do you plan on supporting marriage equality? (If no or unsure, at this point in the election you thank them for their time and move on).
  3. Do you have your ballot? (If no, at this point, ask them if you'd like to call the state party HQ for information on how to vote).
  4. Have you picked out a time & place to fill it out? (If they haven't start offering them suggestions ... "during the pre-game show before the football games tomorrow", "after work on Monday", etc., until they come up with something)
  5. Do you think you will mail in your ballot or put it in a drop box? (if mail it in, ask "do you have stamps or have a place where you can pick them up?" -- I swear, I'm not even making this up. If drop off, ask them if they know where the drop box nearest to their home or work is.)
  6. Remind them that the sooner they turn in their ballot, the fewer mailings, phone calls, and knocks on the door they will get.
So this is the new normal. Campaigns that are attempting to reach less-than-consistent voters are emphasizing the small amount of planning that needs to go into the physical act of voting.

When we arrived home, a card from the League of Conservation Voters sat in our mailbox that matched the research. The card included a "voting report card" that graded me as "excellent" since LCV thinks I've voted in the last five general elections. The card also listed the average voting grade for my neighborhood. This message draws from research on the most effective turnout techniques for mailed advertisements, which seems to involve comparing the target's (lackluster) voting propensity to their neighbors. The original experiment actually the listed names of do-gooders and slackers, but advocacy groups have soft-pedaled the guilt trip/shaming aspect of these messages after complaints from a few voters.

In other GOTV news, the Obama campaign has put out some of their GOTV metrics. The campaign claims they've registered twice as many swing state voters as they did in 2008 and made over 125 million in-person voter contacts in swing states (this number counts actual person-to-person interactions, not leaving literature or robocalls). The registration numbers are a little hard to interpret, since we don't know what outside groups may have been involved in registration drives in either campaign. But at the outer margins, the Obama campaign's field edge might be worth up to 2 or 3 percentage points on election day.
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