Is it possible to persuade people to vote for you, or even like you?
Depends on who you’re trying to convince.
Topics like gun control, women’s rights, and climate change can be the deciding issues for many voters (see single-issue politics), and the media they consume only serves to reinforce their beliefs.
No matter how well your platform aligns with theirs otherwise, it may seem impossible to bring them over to your side. That’s because the dividing line between political ideologies can often be a stark one.
Yet, with political persuasion, it is possible to bring in non-supporters to your fold.
What is political persuasion?
Political persuasion is the act of influencing voters to choose your political platform over the oppositions through a series of tactics and practices.
Depending upon how effective you are, it can even bring strong non-supporters into your camp and inspire them to vote for you.
Here are a few ways to do that.
Persuading unlikely supporters? Conveying values is key
In a series of experiments by Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg, they found that the way in which a political stance is framed influenced whether people supported it.
A group of conservatives and liberals were presented with one of two messages that supported an increase in military spending.
One message focused on “national pride” and “unity at home and abroad.”
The other stated that increased funding would help “the poor and disadvantaged achieve equal standing” through the military.
Conservatives tended to support an increase in military spending regardless of message, while liberals were more likely to support military spending if confronted with the second message.
The takeaway here is to present your political platform in a way that appeals to the moral values of the people you are trying to persuade.
Political persuasion tactics can be even more effective if you’re talking to undecided voters or consolidating your own supporter base.
|How does political persuasion help your campaign? |
Political persuasion enables you to:
• Bring undecided (swing) voters to choose your side.
• Convince committed supporters to turn up and vote, boosting GOTV efforts.
Political persuasion for undecided voters
When it comes to persuading undecided voters, the tactics you will need to employ are broader.
|Molding a candidate’s image||Influence the public perception of a candidate|
|Identifying and targeting an enemy||Unite voters towards a common goal|
|Gathering endorsements||Build trust amongst voters through the help of a third party|
|Conveying favorable data||Communicate momentum for your campaign|
|Using peer to peer persuasion||Use social and peer pressure to augment your supporter base|
Note that these tactics can also come in handy when you are trying to consolidate support from your own base.
Molding a candidate’s image
Shaping a candidate’s image is not a quick process, or an easy one. Judgments are passed at a glance, and it can be hard for a candidate to break through negative perceptions. That’s precisely why it requires careful planning from the beginning of a campaign.
The construction of a candidate’s image involves several things:
- The perception of a candidate’s personality traits.
- The ability of voters to identify with the candidate on a personal level.
- Leadership and oratory abilities displayed by the candidate.
On a lesser scale, image is also influenced by how the candidate is treated by contemporaries, political scandals, and spiritual values.
Persuasion here involves highlighting a candidate’s winning attributes to the electorate.
How do you do it
FDR won his first two terms as President, and then a third, and then a fourth, not simply because he was a good leader, but also because of a carefully molded image.
First and foremost was to show that he was a man of the people. In a series of radio addresses he called “fireside chats”, he spoke with familiarity about topics that were relevant and critical.
Millions of Americans tuned in to listen, helping cement FDR’s candidacy.
While radio might be considered an outdated mode of broadcasting, it’s still possible to carry forward the spirit of those radio sessions in other ways.
Bernie Sanders did just that when he sat down with supporters and took their questions, broadcasting simultaneously to Twitch, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. The live streams gathered over a million viewers across platforms.
Identifying and targeting an enemy
When Macchiavelli wrote “The Prince”, It could be argued that he didn’t write it for the conniving tyrants of his age—they wouldn’t need it—but as a guidebook for good and honest rulers to take what they would from shadier tactics to stay in power.
“Creating your enemy” is a method of political persuasion straight from Macchiavelli’s playbook, that digs deep into voter psychology.
The enemy can be a group, a policy issue, or more obviously, your opposing candidate.
When Donald Trump ran for President in 2016, he was a master of this persuasion tactic.
Take the Wikipedia entry of his list of nicknames and phrases for political opponents, media figures, ethnic groups, organizations, and foreign leaders for example (200+ and counting).
But the most memorable were his rallying cries of “Build the wall” and “Drain the swamp”, targeting immigrants, and the government, which was perceived as corrupt among his supporters.
The disadvantage to this particular method of persuasion is that it may alienate parts of the voter base.
How do you do it?
How do you employ this tactic in a way that’s morally agreeable? Focus on the issues.
As mentioned before, many voters are “single-issue voters”. Take the issue that resonates most and identify “the enemy” in that issue.
Then, reinforce it every chance you get.
If you look at any politician, or political candidates’ social media feed or interviews, you will find that they bring up the same issues and talking points over and over again.
Not because they have run out of things to say, but because repetition works.
Another method of political persuasion is getting endorsed by influencers.
Endorsements can increase your trustworthiness in the eyes of voters.
We can observe the power of a political endorsement as recently as the 2020 Democratic Primary race.
“I have never seen an endorsement have as big an impact as Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of Joe Biden in South Carolina. 47% of South Carolina voters said it was either the most important factor in their vote or an important factor. That is enormous.” Andrew Yang
A single endorsement shifted the momentum in the race from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden.
As we see in the example of South Carolina, not any endorsement will do. Find people or organizations who hold sway with voters and reach out to them.
Consider gathering endorsements from:
- Political Parties
- Influential locals
- Community Leaders
- Local unions
- Local newspapers
How do you do it?
Rarely, an influential organization or individual might reach out to a candidate to endorse them. In most cases, however, gathering endorsements involves building relationships.
Most prominent organizations have a process for candidates to follow to apply for an endorsement. You might need to fill out a questionnaire, outlining how the policies you are running on might align with those of the organization.
If you’re seeking an endorsement from individuals:
- Identify candidates to gather endorsements from
- Have face-to-face meetings or phone calls
- Present your platform to get them on board
Advertise these endorsements on channels like social media (and alert the press!)
Conveying favorable data
Data is immensely shareable. And if it comes from a credible source, that’s even better.
Share data that:
- Reinforces your viewpoints and those of your base
- Shows your chances of winning in a positive light
Sure, portraying your candidate as an underdog can work. But for people to go out and vote for you, they need to know that you have a chance at winning.
How do you do it?
Share data across multiple platforms, including:
- Social media
- Media interviews
Be sure to spread the word on channels that supporters and the electorate frequent. Take a look at Elizabeth Warren’s team talking about the fundraising numbers for their campaign on Twitter.
Using peer to peer and social persuasion
Social influence shapes decisions: people are often persuaded by those they personally interact with. (Mark Grasnovetter, 1973; Robert Cialdini, 1984)
Your campaign doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting. Get help from existing supporters and volunteers to build your base and get out the vote.
Using relational organizing, ask your supporters to reach out to their friends and family and convince them to vote for your candidate.
How do you do it?
Tools like OutreachCircle allow them to do this by letting you match a supporter’s contact list with the voter list and filter out voters in their area.
Other campaigns have built their own apps, like the BERN app from the Bernie Sanders campaign.
But the easiest way to utilize peer-to-peer persuasion is by asking supporters on social media to be vocal about their support, and their participation in the election process.
For example, a local influencer (or even a family member) being open about their support for your candidacy on social media can encourage others to take a closer look at your platform.
Political persuasion for your supporters
When it comes to your own supporters, the biggest challenge is getting them to the polls.
Persuasion techniques need to focus on showing them the importance of voting, as well as making it easy for them to do so.
Conveying the information they need
The main hurdle to voting is the lack of information.
Among the most important details voters need to know are:
- How to register to vote.
- How to request a ballot.
- Voting deadlines for early voting.
- Their polling location.
You can ensure that this information reaches your supporters so that they can exercise their right to vote.
How do you do it?
The most effective tactics to get out the vote involve door-to-door canvassing, political phone banking, and texting.
The common thread is that each of these methods allows you to have personal conversations with voters, and clear up any doubts they have about going to the polls for you.
Democrats Abroad used phone banking to reach overseas voters and guide them through a confusing mail-in voting process. Over 90% of the calls they had with voters had meaningful results i.e. translated to a vote.
You May Also Like: 6 Persuasion Techniques Psychology Says Will Get the Most Out of Your Supporters.
Channels for political persuasion
In the examples above, we have seen how campaigns use channels like social media for political persuasion. Let’s expand on the unique benefits that each channel can bring.
• Face-to-face interaction (in the case of door-to-door canvassing)
Social media has its advantages, but a face-to-face interaction is deeply personal. Two people having a respectful conversation on a doorstep are more likely to find common ground.
• Phone calls
Like face-to-face interactions, phone calls are a one-to-one channel of communication. What it sacrifices in terms of individuals interacting with each other in person, it gains by being able to conduct outreach at a much larger scale.
• Text messages
Texting and specifically peer-to-peer texting has emerged as a channel that’s great to encourage people to take action. I.e, anything from clicking on a link to donate to answering a survey. For political persuasion, it means getting out to vote.
• News channels and newspapers
The influence of the media cannot be understated. The majority of people rely on the news, be it on TV, or online to get their political information. That means it’s important to build a good relationship with your local news organizations that will be covering your campaign.
• Social media and ads
Social media is the product of a relatively new era of mass communication, that also allows a degree of personalization. Coming up right after traditional news as a source of information for voters, it is almost essential when it comes to putting any voter persuasion tactic in play.
Once you have the messaging right, political persuasion comes down to being present on the channels that are frequented by the voters you’re targeting. Hopefully, this post helped you with both those points.