Supporters who receive peer-to-peer (P2P) texts from a campaign are 1 percent more likely to vote, but the campaign’s texting program must be “personalized, localized and data-driven.”
That was a finding of Tech for Campaigns, a progressive technology group that has expanded from supporting campaigns to researching best practices.
“Just saying ‘we texted’ is not enough and will not work,” said Jessica Alter, co-founder of TFC. “You should be tying it to field work, fundraising – mail, events, email. It's part of building a relationship.”
Texting programs were one of the defining tools of the last midterm cycle, and that level of industry adoption has increased in 2020.
Still, TFC argued that more campaigns on the left need to be investing in P2P texting in place of tools like robocalls.
“Amid a mountain of robocalls, telephone pickup rates are in the gutter and campaigns are scrambling to replace this channel,” the group’s authors wrote in the report. “While 1% may not seem like a lot, competitive races, especially state legislative races, are decided by just tens or hundreds of votes.
In one state alone, the difference between the texted and untexted voters in the districts in which TFC ran texting programs would have been enough to win 5 of the 7 races Democrats lost in 2018.”
The findings were based on the work on texting programs that TFC did in 2018 for 29 Democratic campaigns and committees in nine states. The programs “included a total of 591 text variants and more than 1 million sent through Hustle, GetThru (formerly Relay), and Groundbase texting platforms,” according to TFC.
The texts used either issue-based content or nuts-and-bolts copy like event and polling place information.
“Issue-only texts outperformed non-issue texts in predicting turnout,” according to the report.
In fact, people who received messages with candidate or district-specific information on issues were 8.2 percent more likely to vote.
Programs can also have an outsized impact on certain demographics. For instance, TFC found that younger voters were more likely to turnout after getting texts: “Registered voters between the ages of 27 to 50 turned out at a rate almost 8% higher than those in that same age group that were not texted.”
Millennials are a juicy target for new outreach tools. Another recent study on digital ads’ effectiveness in local elections found millennial voters were also pushed by digital ads. The research conducted in Dallas found that 0.9 percent more people aged 23-35 voted after being exposed to digital ads.