Communication with voters during election campaigns has seen trendsetters and unprecedented channels taking over. From Obama’s 2008 texting campaign to social media and phone banking, we have witnessed the rise, fall, and evolution of campaign communication. But only election campaign communication research can give you enough to strategize for the election to come rather than in hindsight.
This blog post will explore research on various campaign communication methods like phone banking, text banking, social media, and traditional media. We also discuss the importance of authenticity and empathy in political messaging, along with how to measure the impact of communication strategies.
Essentially, this blog is a complete guide to election campaign communication research.
- Phone banking and text banking are powerful tools for election campaigns to engage with voters, build trust, and gather data.
- Research on phone/text banking efficacy helps inform best practices for maximizing voter engagement.
- Social media campaigns require personalized messaging, targeted advertising & content that resonates with voters. Traditional media remains influential in shaping public opinion & influencing the political landscape during elections.
The power of phone banking in election campaign communication
In 2023, political phone banking continues to be one of the most used channels in the USA. It’s the fastest way to reach a wide audience and engage in real-time personal conversations with voters. Volunteer groups- ranging from a small team of 5-10 people to thousands (typically in Presidential elections)- call voters on the campaign’s behalf, persuading, canvassing, and mobilizing supporters.
Phonebanking campaigns are critical in elections to gather critical data on voter preferences, concerns, and engagement levels. These data points inform campaigns on the right communication strategies, segmentation, and messaging for their audience.
Advantages of phone banking
Phone banking provides campaigns with direct and personalized communication, allowing them to:
- Build trust and engagement with voters
- Answer voter questions
- Provide information on important issues
- Encourage participation in the electoral process
While the rate of persuasion for undecided voters through phone banking is inconclusive, it is still a channel of choice to engage hard-to-reach voters. And even amidst annoyed contacts and DNC regulations, phone banking is the first choice for political pollsters. Equally, campaigns call voters for fundraising, mobilization, canvassing, event invitations, as well as GOTV.
Essentially, phone banking features in every stage of an election campaign communication timeline.
Research on phone banking effectiveness
Election campaign communication research on phonebanking ranges from topics like what affects voter turnout to races or communities that are most likely to be influenced. We list a few influential studies from 2000 onwards.
- Best time for phonebanking? we studied 2 million calls for the answer on CallHub (2021).
- The effects of canvassing, telephone calls, and direct mail on voter turnout: a field experiment on JSTOR (2000).
- Mobilizing African-American voters using direct mail and commercial phone banks: a field experiment on JSTOR (2004).
- Volunteer phone calls can increase turnout (evidence from eight field experiments) on Temple.edu (2006).
- Social pressure and voter turnout: Evidence from a large-scale field experiment by Cambridge University (2008).
- How to mobilize reluctant voters by the Washington Post (2014).
- Getting out the vote is tougher than you think on Stanford Social Innovation Review (2016).
- Increasing voter participation in America on AmericanProgress.org (2018).
- Lessons from GOTV experiments from Yale University.
Text banking in political campaigns
As texting has become a preferred method of communication, text banking has emerged as a popular tool for political campaigns. This technique allows for a rapid and efficient way to engage with individuals and share important information or request support. Text banking, facilitated by online platforms or software for peer-to-peer text conversations, has evolved into an integral element of contemporary political communications.
Benefits of text banking
Text banking offers a direct communication channel between campaigns and voters, allowing for personalized interactions and helping build trust and engagement. In addition to providing real-time updates, event reminders, and urgent alerts to supporters, text banking can also encourage them to vote, provide information on polling locations, and remind them of important election dates.
Research has indicated that political text messages can stimulate receptiveness and voter turnout. Campaigns can influence voters’ choices by disseminating information on candidates’ qualifications, policy stances, and performance in office via text messages.
However, the success of text banking may depend on factors such as the content of the messages and the receptiveness of the recipients.
Research on text banking efficacy
Text messaging fills an important role in election campaign communications, allowing for broadcasts as well as 1-on-1 communication at scale. Here’s some telling election campaign communication research on text banking:
- We analyzed ~800,000 texts to see what are the best & worst times for political text blasts on CallHub (2021).
- Estimating policy positions from political texts on JSTOR (2000).
- Measuring and Explaining Political Sophistication through Textual Complexity on American Journal of Political Science (2019).
- Using word order in political text classification with long short-term memory models from Cambridge University (2019).
- Smartphones, text messages, and political participation on Sage Publication (2020).
- How peer-to-peer texting drove voters to the polls in the midst of a global pandemic by Tech for Campaigns (2020).
- The Robokiller political message report 2022 insights & analysis by Robokiller (2022).
- How to text out the vote (TOTV) by Democrats.org
Social media campaign strategies
Social media platforms have transformed political communication, allowing candidates to connect directly with voters and share their message. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become crucial components of political campaigns, offering new ways to reach and engage voters.
Effective social media campaign tactics include consistent messaging, targeted advertising, and engaging content that resonates with voters. Candidates, capitalizing on the strengths of social media platforms, can amplify their online presence, connect with a wide spectrum of voters, and heighten their chances of winning elections.
The rise of social media in politics
The emergence of social media has had a profound impact on political communication, shifting audience preferences from traditional mass media to digital sources and raising political awareness and social engagement among citizens.
Notable examples of successful social media political campaigns include:
- Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
- Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’s social media campaign during the UK general election in 2019.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2020 election campaigning.
These campaigns demonstrate the power of social media in connecting with voters and shaping the political landscape, particularly for political parties.
Research on social media campaigning efficacy
Here’s some recent election campaign communication research on the use of social media.
- How social media is shaping political campaigns on Knowledge at Wharton (2020).
- Political advertising on social media platforms by the American Bar Association (2020).
- Social media influencers and the 2020 US election: Paying ‘regular people’ for digital campaign communication by the University of Texas at Austin (2020).
- Sustainable political social media marketing: effects of structural features in plain text messages on MDPI (2020).
- Analyzing voter behavior on social media during the 2020 US presidential election campaign on Springer Link (2022).
- Introduction: A Decade of Social Media Elections by Sage Journals (2022).
- The effect of social media on elections: Evidence from the United States by Princeton University (2023).
- 2020-2022 social media study by American National Election Studies.
- What is the role of social media in presidential election cycles? On usf.edu.
Traditional media’s role in modern election campaigns
Despite the rise of digital platforms, traditional news media continues to play a significant role in election campaigns. Television, radio, newspapers, and magazines provide extensive media coverage of election campaigns, offering news, analysis, and commentary on candidates, policies, and campaign events. This coverage can significantly impact voter perceptions, candidate image, and campaign strategies.
Traditional media serves as a reliable source of information for voters, helping them make informed decisions. Additionally, traditional media platforms often host debates, interviews, and town hall meetings, allowing candidates to directly engage with voters and present their platforms.
Traditional media remains a crucial channel for political communication and mass communication, having a significant impact on modern election campaigns. A great resource for further understanding this topic is the university press, specifically the Oxford University Press, which offers a wide range of publications in the field.
Authenticity and empathy in political messaging
Authenticity and empathy in political messaging are crucial for building trust with voters and connecting on a personal level. Candidates who demonstrate genuine understanding and concern for their constituents are more likely to build trust and foster deeper connections with voters. Candidates who emphasize authentic communication and empathy can strike a chord with their audience and forge a sense of connection that supersedes conventional campaign tactics.
In today’s hyperconnected world, voters are increasingly seeking genuine, empathetic leaders who understand their concerns and share their values. By demonstrating authenticity and empathy in their messaging, candidates can create meaningful connections with voters and ultimately increase their chances of electoral success.
Building trust through authentic communication
Authentic communication involves being transparent, consistent, and genuine in messaging, helping to build trust with voters. Candidates who communicate authentically are more likely to be perceived as trustworthy and reliable, which can have a significant impact on voter perceptions and support.
Politicians who claim responsibility for their message, uphold consistency, and display credibility and coherence can instill trust in voters and boost their prospects of electoral success. Additionally, communicating in one’s own style and utilizing authentic, transparent, and inclusive language can help foster stronger connections with voters and build trust in the campaign.
The role of empathy in connecting with voters
Demonstrating empathy allows candidates to connect with voters on an emotional level, showing that they understand and care about their concerns. By expressing genuine concern for the challenges faced by their constituents, candidates can foster deeper connections with voters and create a sense of shared purpose.
Research has found that empathetic messages from political candidates can lead to more favorable attitudes and greater persuasion. Incorporating empathy in political messaging enables candidates to connect with voters on a personal level and inspire them to take action in support of their campaign.
In conclusion, effective communication strategies are essential for the success of any election campaign. By utilizing various methods, such as phone banking, text banking, social media, and traditional media, campaigns can reach a diverse range of voters and convey their messages effectively. Strategic election campaign communication research is necessary to implement this successfully.
As the landscape of political communication continues to evolve, campaigns must adapt and employ a mix of traditional and digital methods to connect with voters and shape public opinion. Through constant monitoring and evaluation of the impact of their communication strategies, campaigns can refine their messaging and achieve their ultimate goal: winning the hearts and minds of voters.
Feature image source: Miguel Henriques/Unsplash.
[We took the help of AI for this blog]