WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — “Every vote counts” is a simplified, yet important, political adage tossed around every election season, and as such, voter mobilization efforts are implemented in order to foster higher vote counts for political candidates.
It’s no different for the 2012 presidential election which is just days away.
MoveOn.org Civic Action is mailing 12 million registrants voter report cards, detailing a score of their voting history. Each report, sent to potential voters in key states and districts, tells the recipient’s participation in elections over the past five years as well as how their record weighs against the neighborhood average.
Studies show that when voters are aware that their voting record is made publicly available they are more likely to show up at the polls, and MoveOn is using online advertisements to bring attention to its project and show registrants that that information is, in fact, out there.
Donnie Fowler of Dogpatch Strategies says this research coincides with data demonstrating that the most effective way to move a voter is through personal contact or through social media. Though MoveOn’s views are often motivated and limited by ideological rigidity and stereotyping, the tactical decisions are numbers-driven, which tends to make up for those inadequacies.
The project was previously utilized by MoveOn before Delaware’s state and federal primary elections in 2011 among 173,000 voters, and it was called a great success.
However, the tactic won’t be as wildly effective this presidential election. Because the races are so tight, the organization hopes to nudge any additional number of people toward the polls this Election Day.
This mobilization tactic is the most effective of its kind, and therefore, is the most prevalent. Similarly, a number of voters have received fundraising report cards of sorts, showing their donation history among campaigns and a suggested dollar contribution.
These techniques are often criticized for what is cited as shame tactics, seen as a threat to out voters to their neighbors if they do not contribute or vote in an election. And because of the fear of highly negative press, candidates do not institute this method of campaigning.
Alternatively, campaigns pioneer situational approaches.
Third-party surveillance engines contribute to an increased campaign presence online. In visiting official campaign websites, the users’ digital trails are used to customize their ad experience. A company that monitors campaigns use of such third-party tracking programs, Evidon, reported that barackobama.com had used 76 different programs. Contrastingly, the company found mittromney.com to have 40.
Local campaigning is also a way to personalize a potential voter’s experience.
In 2008, the Obama campaign set up 700 field offices across battleground states with a witnessed rise in the Democratic vote, disproportionate to that of the Republican Party, and the increase was large enough to effectively turn three swing states from red to blue.
Such shoe leather politics has a history of high efficacy, when stacked against TV advertisement, increasing neighbor-to-neighbor contact, volunteer involvement, and the number of citizens educated on campaign issues. Through the maximized contact, social pressure then becomes high, as political life infiltrates personal life.
“MoveOn is tapping into this social pressure created by letting voters know that they are under-voting compared to their neighbors,” explained Fowler.
And when the goal is to increase voter turnout, even by a few points, it is a smart choice as a GOTV tactic.