This worksheet will review specific ways in which technology can help a party target voters. For more information on general targeting, please see the Green European Foundation’s Campaign Handbook: Targeting Voters and these Voter targeting exercises & worksheets.
Targeting is about focusing party resources on persuadable voters. A party does not need to target its own loyal base or another party’s base, because those supporters have already made up their minds. Rather, a party should focus its resources on undecided voters. To prepare to target the correct audience, a party should answer the following questions.
Where do undecided voters live?
What are the basic demographics of the majority of undecided voters?
The party should then recognize the groups with which it will engage during the campaign. It must keep in mind that the total number of party supporters plus the targeted group(s) should be greater than the party’s goal of total votes needed to win the election; not all targeted voters will vote for the party and some will not vote at all.
(Party supporters + targeted voters) > Total number of votes needed to win
How did the party’s candidate (or a similar candidate) perform in recent elections? Identify precincts that had a high percentage of votes for the party (or a similar party) in previous elections:
In the regions identified, what are the main channels through which populations communicate and receive information? For example, in the fictional rural region of Texmenia, public opinion found that most:
- 16-25 year olds communicate and get news on Facebook;
- 26-40 year olds communicate via email and get their news from the newspaper;
- 41-65 year olds communicate on the telephone and get their news from the television; and
- 65+ year olds communicate mostly in person, whether at community gatherings or social events, and get most of their information from the radio.
Groups of Voters
Once a party identifies its supporters, it should work to identify the supporters or potential supporters who might actually go out to vote.
After identifying and choosing the target groups, a party must decide how to attract their attention and inspire their support. A party’s message must be concise and interesting, letting voters know what the party plans to achieve for them if elected. A party should target specific demographics and use the communication channels that the previous activity identified in order to reach out to each targeted group.
To help form a concise message for outreach efforts, a party should ask:
What are the party’s most important issues and why?
What will the party do to resolve these issues?
Using Polling to Target Data
Good quantitative polling allows a party to identify targeted voters broadly – by age, gender, occupation and region. Using technology to conduct election analyses allows a party to consistently measure the support for each party and estimate the percentage of persuadable voters. A centralized database that party members can access is an essential tool for gathering, storing and sorting reliable, updated and consolidated voter information.
In a low-tech environment, a party can use card files or spreadsheets, which are explained in more detail in the database options in low-tech environments section. In a high-tech environment, a more sophisticated database allows a party to build a statistical model that selects individual voters for direct voter contact; this can help a party predict which voters are most likely to support a particular candidate or issue position. Applying that model to a database of eligible voters creates a particularly powerful tool for selecting which voters to contact. For more information, please see the database section.
While polling can help a political party develop strategies for targeting voters, among other things, it can cause more harm than good if conducted improperly. To ensure the validity of findings and analyses, an independent and properly qualified group should always conduct public opinion research. However, informal surveys can provide helpful feedback on party positions, though they lack the scientific validity of professionally-conducted research.