Political campaigns use surveys to make decisions.
Case in point, polls suggested Medicare For All was a hot button issue for most US citizens in the 2020 presidential race. This led to every major contender for the Democratic nomination adopting a stance and putting out policy around it.
By surveying voters, they were able to identify that this was an issue that people cared about and were able to craft a response.
No matter the scale of your campaign, political surveys can help you make informed decisions when it comes to messaging and policy.
How do Political surveys help?
Based on the data you collect and the stage at which you conduct a poll, you can gather different insights into voter sentiments.
They help you plan the initial campaign phase
In order to get a baseline view of voter perceptions, knowledge and their opinion of a candidate, you can conduct a benchmark survey. This is usually done by posing a short series of survey questions to voters. This will allow your campaign to plan your strategy at the initial phase of the election.
They let you measure voter sentiments
Get a sense of the shift in voter sentiment during a race with a bushfire poll. Bushfire polls are used to judge the favourability of a candidate or their position on an issue.
It allows candidates to judge whether they are making progress on the ballot and with what demographics they are gaining or losing ground.
They help you keep track of progress
To get regular data input throughout an election cycle, you can run a tracking poll. Tracking polls are conducted periodically throughout a time period to gauge upticks or drops in a candidate’s support.
Quantitative & Qualitative research
Depending on the data you need, you can carry out quantitative or qualitative research.
You can conduct quantitative research through opinion polls to find the hard numbers on how your campaign is doing. One great way to do that among your supporters is through political phone surveys, to understand supporter behavior around specific issues.
Another way to do it is by sending out text messages with quick polls to supporters.
“What did you think of the Senator’s performance at last night’s debate? Respond with Yay or Nay to let us know.“
By recording these responses on your CRM software, you can get a quantitative view of the success of your campaign.
Qualitative testing can be as simple as judging the reaction of a crowd at a rally when you debut a message or asking them questions after a town hall. A more time-intensive approach may involve in-person interviews and focus groups.
It involves taking a step further in finding out what drives supporters towards a message and asking them more specific questions.
Channels you can use to conduct a political survey
Political phone surveys
In a political phone survey, a live interviewer or a machine makes calls to a list of voters.
After introducing the subject of the survey, they are then asked a series of questions.
A live interviewer marks the answers within their calling software. For an automated call, the respondent answers questions by pressing buttons on their device. Understandably, automated calls for surveys are more suited for quantitative research.
Setting up a political phone survey
Upload your contact list
You start by uploading the voter list you want to poll into your calling software. This can be in the form of a .csv file or imported from your CRM.
Add your calling script and survey
The next step is to add a script to your calling campaign.
The survey script can include an introduction explaining the purpose of the call, as well as answers to FAQs.
The questions you want your caller to ask for your survey can be added as:
- Multiple choice questions, where agents can choose 1 or more answers that apply
- Text response, where agents can input the answers to their questions. This is useful for open-ended questions.
- Numeric response, where agents can add a numeric reply to a question.
Specify call dispositions
Once the survey is completed, agents can mark the outcome of the call with call dispositions. This helps your campaign filter out the successfully completed surveys from ones that were unanswered or reached an answering machine.
Export your results
You have the option of exporting the results of your completed survey campaign as a spreadsheet. If you have integrated your CRM to the calling tool, the data from your survey will be synced back to your database.
Political text message surveys
Text-based surveys are great because they allow voters the freedom to get to them when they have the time to.
Through peer to peer texting, volunteers can conduct surveys and takedown responses right in their chat interface.
By sending a mass text to voters, you can collect responses and even send follow-ups based on keywords.
Setting up a political text message survey
Create your initial message
Similar to a phone survey, you add a script to your peer-to-peer texting campaign. This will include the initial message agents send out along with survey questions. You can even get a higher response rate by personalizing your messages with merge tags.
Provide reply templates for agents
To allow your agents to quickly respond to incoming messages, you can provide templated replies that they can send out:
Other methods of conducting surveys
Social Media has turned out to be an accessible way to measure public opinion. But while data from these platforms is highly accessible, there are still concerns about the quality of output you will get from them.
Not every member of the voting public will be available on these platforms, and most of them often skew towards one political leaning or the other, making the data unreliable. Just as with all research, social media-based surveys must be practically evaluated, with possible error sources identified.
Software like Survey Monkey and Typeform make it easy to create online polls and surveys that you can direct your voters to. But since they are often impersonal, the response rates for these surveys tend to be low, when compared to a live interviewer asking questions.
While the image that comes to mind involves a volunteer holding a clipboard reaching out to random people on the street, the more practical approach to in-person surveys is asking people your campaign reaches during your door-to-door canvassing campaigns.
To get multiple perspectives in a group setting, focus groups allow you to do so in a controlled setting.
A number of factors determine the best way to conduct a political survey for your campaigns:
What kind of insight do you want to obtain?
Do you want qualitative or quantitative data?
What form of outreach do your voters prefer?
For example, if you want to find your candidate’s favourability among a young demographic, text message polling is the way to go. Evaluate your campaign’s needs before choosing a survey method.
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