Competitive Edge Announces That Predicting When Voters Decide Offers Advantage to Campaigns

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Learning about the ways voters think and when they make decisions about casting their votes can be critically important in determining a political campaign’s ultimate success and failure. As Dan Hopkins, Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, notes in a recent article in The Washington Post, “when it comes to understanding why voters make the decisions they do, there is no substitute for numbers.”

Just as people do with anything from buying cereal to making career choices, different groups of voters make decisions at different times during a campaign.

Learning about the ways voters think and when they make decisions about casting their votes can be critically important in determining a political campaign’s ultimate success and failure. As Dan Hopkins, Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, notes in a recent article in The Washington Post, “when it comes to understanding why voters make the decisions they do, there is no substitute for numbers.”

“Just as people do with anything from buying cereal to making career choices, different groups of voters make decisions at different times during a campaign,” says John Nienstedt, Sr., President and CEO of Competitive Edge Communications and Research. “Using this knowledge to your advantage is one of the little-understood ways in which good research and microtargeting can leverage a successful political campaign.”

Smart microtargeting programs help identify two types of voters within a campaign setting—people who think in black-and-white terms and those who might be called “shades of gray thinkers.”

Black-and-white thinkers:

  •     Make quick decisions
  •     Speak up and speak plainly
  •     Are usually more predictable about making decisions and their reasons for making them
  •     Have less anxiety about being wrong
  •     Are less likely to see or consider other opinions

Shades of gray thinkers:

  •      Are more thoughtful about their choices
  •     Procrastinate and sometimes avoid making decisions at all
  •     Have more regrets about their choices after making them
  •     Seek out multiple (and sometimes opposing) points of view

Black-and-white thinkers tend to make their voting decisions early, rather than wait for Election Day. Shades of gray thinkers will seek information up to nearly the minute they walk into the polling place. But they should not be confused with what are known as “low-information voters.”

Apply resources where they really count

“All campaigns work with limited time and funds,” Nienstedt says. “Every bit of effort should have a pay-off and every dollar spent must be used wisely. Campaigns that reach voters when they are ready to make their decision—not wasting efforts on those who have already made their choice—can apply resources where and when they really count.”

If a voter segment is comprised of 70 percent mail-ballot voters, campaigns shouldn’t be sending them mailers a few days before an election. “But what if we can predict when a voter decides, rather than merely knowing when he or she will cast their ballot?” Nienstedt asks.

Campaigns that can accurately predict which voters have decided and remove them from their communications efforts have three advantages:

  •     They save money on mail and other direct contact efforts.
  •     They deploy human resources and the candidate more effectively.
  •     Communications are more successful as campaigns focus their message to meet the demands of only the remaining undecided voters.

Says Nienstedt: “Smartly designed research can give direction and structure to a campaign and save money and resources in the long run.”

About Competitive Edge
Competitive Edge Research & Communication is a San Diego-based consulting firm specializing in public opinion surveys and analysis, political polling, civic studies, and phone-based campaign services. Since 1987, Competitive Edge has provided clients with accurate survey research and campaign services, including designing sound research plans, collecting and analyzing accurate quantitative and qualitative data, providing clear strategic advice, and communicating with voters to identify their opinions and persuade them to take action. For more information, visit http://cerc.net.

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John Nienstedt, Sr.
@CompetitivEdge
since: 03/2009
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