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Targeting in the final stretch

October 04, 2018

Outreach in the final days before an election has the biggest effect on getting voters to the polls, making Get Out The Vote (GOTV) programs one of the best opportunities for impact. GOTV is also the time when inefficiencies and mistakes carry the highest risk. Over these next weeks, every campaign should be asking the strategic question: are we talking to the right voters? The stakes only get higher from here to Election Day, and every dollar or hour spent talking to voters who are already certain to vote – or who are certain to support your opponent – is wasted at best and counterproductive at worst.

So, who should your GOTV program target? The best voters to talk to in this final stretch are people who definitely favor your candidate, but who are inconsistent voters, likely to be on the fence between voting and staying home. Campaigns often find these voters using GOTV models, which rank potential targets by combining two pieces of information – expected support and turnout – into one clear metric. If you don’t have a GOTV model, use the data available to your campaign to identify likely supporters (high support score or identified support in the field or in polls) with a mixed turnout history (middling turnout score or inconsistent vote history in similar elections).

Here are three guiding principles to keep in mind as you identify target voters and build a plan to reach them over the next month:

  1. Start with people, not program.
  2. Build a framework, and be ready for the details to change.
  3. Improve future targeting: don’t stop entering data.

Start with People, Not Program

Mobilizing the right people to vote – supporters who might not turn out if they don’t hear from you – is your central job during GOTV. And you have a range of tactics available for reaching these voters: field outreach, digital ads, mail, and more. But none of these on their own is your GOTV strategy.

We recommend building a strategy around the people you need to reach rather than around the programs you want to run. If you start with people, it’s easier to take a comprehensive view of how voters are experiencing your campaign – and to make sure no votes are being left on the table. Here are a few specific tips:

“The first GOTV conversation you have with a voter is the most effective one, so it’s better to have one good contact with a larger list of voters than to talk to a smaller number of voters multiple times.”

Build a Framework, And Be Ready for the Details to Change

A lot can change in a month, so balance early planning with using the most up-to-date information in the final days. Concretely, this means:

Improve Future Targeting: Don’t Stop Entering Data

One final thought (and general plea): Keep entering organizing data as Election Day approaches. Mobile canvassing apps and other digital engagement tools are a great starting point for minimizing data entry needs. You could also host post-election data entry parties. Future campaigns will learn from the work you’re doing in this final stretch, from the voters you’ve talked to, and the data you’ve collected. You are contributing to a foundation that will help organize and support future candidates for years to come.

The last month of a campaign is a special time. Focus on the things that matter, remember why you’re doing this work, and go talk to some (targeted) voters!