The Case For SMS In Voter Data Collection

June 26, 2017 - 6 minutes read

What’s the single best way to win a voter’s support?

It is not the candidate’s personality or what the campaign message states. It is not the policies you promise to work on, nor the fired-up volunteers knocking on doors on a rainy weekend.

The best way to ensure a voter’s support is to offer a future they want to be part of. Make a personalized approach and you can be sure they would be out there at the polling station on election day.

But wait, you say! “How do I offer something “personalized” through my win without knowing the person?”

Well, you do that by building a solid voter database to back you up, whether you go door-knocking in the neighborhood or send them an e-mail reminder.

Your contact list is where you begin. Hopefully, you have managed a clean contact list where you could add voter information and understand them better.

There are quite a few ways to gather data on voters. The simplest among them, of course, is to simply ask them. You could have a phonebank running, send out volunteers with polling forms or just do a web survey through social media. Using SMS to build your voter database has a certain advantage over any other method.

sms as the best way to collect voter data

SMS is convenient because it is easy to set up and doesn’t require knowledge of market research. It engages the voters, increases awareness and, most importantly, gives insight of the public mindset.

Let’s consider the other factors that give SMS an edge as the preferable way to collect voter data.

A simpler investment

Before technology made its way into campaigns, you’d have needed volunteers with actual forms approaching people one at a time. The process is slow, time (and paper) consuming and uses up volunteer effort. The same could be said for running a phonebank. Even though you minimize the ground effort, you’d need volunteers and it doesn’t allow the people the freedom to choose the time.

SMS is the best option because it can be set up by a single person, reaches the entire list of contacts at once and allows the voter to answer at their convenience.

An incremental commitment

An actual form to fill up is an instant turnoff. A webform is slightly better and so is a phone call where the volunteer takes down notes, but it still asks for a chunk of their time. A lot of voters are inclined to refuse because of that.

An SMS poll breaks down the total time commitment needed so it appears feasible to more people. They can take the poll without taking a break from their ongoing activity.

A wider pool

Volunteers on the ground are restricted on their polling sample to only the people they come across. A webform is not much better unless you have a huge social media visibility. Phonebanking has an advantage in that regard, although you have to account for timezones, volunteer availability and voters’ inhibitions toward discussing politics.

How about SMS?

Most people own a mobile device that supports SMS. With an app or site, you would still be losing about 30% of the population who do not use a smartphone. SMS has the widest reach of all and voters would be more willing to respond over text message.

A dynamic exchange

An SMS campaign can be set up as an interactive conversation that triggers the follow-up based on the voter’s responses.

That is impossible on a physical or web form. Even a dynamic webform misses the instant gratification it provides the subject of having their response taken into account. You’d need skilled volunteers to conduct a poll with a dynamic script while keeping the receiver engaged. It would also be a tiring effort. Instead, SMS can emulate a live interaction with every voter with minimal effort.

An implicated questionnaire

The ability to create prompts helps in more than just personalization. People generally have some reservations about revealing their personal preferences in matters like politics. The polls conducted before the US and UK elections were skewered because of this.

Instead of point-blank questions that people can lie about, you can customize the survey to gather information which reveals traits that make them favor a particular candidate. You can use the systematic profiling to connect social behavior to the way a person votes.


Age, sex, income and education are not identifiers of voter behavior. They might help you build a voter list but to understand how a voter thinks, you have to build a custom approach. It would help you win the voter over by offering something that they personally care about. SMS allows for the perfect custom approach to knowing your voters because of its step-by-step model of communication.

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