The changing face of US election campaigns

September 7, 2016 - 3 minutes read

US election campaigns have certainly evolved over the years. Access to better technology, more information and the courage to experiment has set a new trend in election campaigning. Here’s a look at the changes in campaign costs, voter turnout, advertising and canvassing that can give us a gleam into this changing future.

Soaring campaign costs

Historical look at US election Campaign costs

Sources: Federal Election Commission, New York Magazine

The cost of running for US Congress has increased by around 300% since 1986. The presidential elections have followed a similar trend with campaign spending increasing by a factor of 60 from the 1960 to 2012. While Nixon had spent $10.1 million for the 1960 presidential campaign, Obama spent $745.7 million in 2012.

Voter turnout



Voter turnout rates in the U.S have been fairly consistent over the past several decades. However turnout rate varies with different racial, ethnic and age groups. The voting gender gap between men and women has waned through the years and has reversed with a higher proportion of women voting than men in the last nine presidential elections. While whites usually went to the polls a few percentage points higher than blacks, the 2012 election saw that gap closed with 66.2% of eligible blacks casting ballots, compared to 64.1 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia




Television changed the way candidates reached out to their audience. It allowed candidates to better allocate effort and money once put into attending town-hall meeting and going out and about among voters. In the decades that followed, political advertising went on to use every new media outlet growing beyond its affinity to TV spots, radio ads and billboards. Campaigns such as the 2012 Obama campaign departed from traditional styles and embraced unconventional forms of campaigning to connect to their voters. Big data analytics, social media, email marketing, well designed websites have all come to play a big part in the modern election campaign.


There’s been a gradual shift in canvassing strategies where we saw improvement in traditional methods by leveraging new technology. Campaigners have moved from using paper and spreadsheets for collecting data to using CRM software like NationBuilder to manage their database of supporters. Printed call lists and manual dialling of supporters has morphed into Phone Banking softwares like CallHub that enable supporters to upload a call list, make and switch calls at the click of a button. Effective database management has allowed campaigns to better understand their voters and thus distribute resources more efficiently. Canvassing still involves door knocks and phone calls, only now the campaign is better informed of the voter. Canvassing tools like Ecanvasser help manage campaigns.

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