The 2018 Midterm Elections saw a historic increase in the use of political mail. At the United States Postal Service, we delivered over three billion pieces of mail to voters. Political mail spending reached more than $573 million, which represents an increase of 42 percent over the 2014 Midterm Elections and 11 percent more than the 2016 Presidential Election, according to USPS internal data.
We also saw campaigns using mail in creative ways, often paired with text messaging and digital advertisements. Both media-pairing and the increased use of political mail are a testament to the staying power and effectiveness of mail to influence voter behavior.
We wanted to better understand these trends around the use of political mail. So, we commissioned a survey conducted by Summit Research of 821 Florida voters and 803 Ohio voters immediately after the midterm elections (November 6-11, 2018) with the results weighted to exit poll data. We chose these states because they have similar early-voting and vote-by-mail policies. Florida and Ohio also featured especially competitive races in the midterms and will likely act as battleground states in the 2020 presidential election cycle.
The results of our survey generated five key insights for campaigns and consultants: political mail is memorable, impactful, actionable, effective and credible.
1. Political mail is memorable. The majority of surveyed voters find political mail memorable. Nearly half (47%) said that political mail was the most memorable form of political advertising they received during the midterm election. And over half (54%) of surveyed voters remember reading or hearing about candidates or issues mentioned in political mail.
2. Political mail is significantly more impactful among young voters. Mail is among the most impactful channels influencing all surveyed voters. This is especially true for Millennials, who were more likely than older voters to say that mail was impactful to them. Results show that 60% of Millennials say mail is impactful, compared with 41% of all surveyed voters.
3. Political mail is actionable, promoting voter turnout and education. Political mail drives political education and turnout, as more than a quarter of surveyed voters take action to educate themselves about the candidates or issues mentioned in political mail. This is reinforced by research conducted by Donald P. Green in 2013. Green’s Field Experiments and the Study of Voter Turnout (2013) found that certain forms of political mail had more than twice the impact on voter turnout (2.85%) than live calls (0.98%).
4. Political mail is effective at reaching and informing voters. During the midterm election, 80% of surveyed voters received political mail at least once a week, with almost half (47%) receiving political mail on a daily basis. And six out of ten surveyed voters said that political mail made them a more informed voter.
5. Political mail remains the most credible form of political outreach at a time of increased social media use and heightened skepticism. When asked to rank the credibility of political advertising techniques, more than half (57%) of surveyed voters ranked political mail as among the top three most credible. This is more than twice the number of surveyed voters who said that social media (20%) and website ads (23%) were credible.
As you prepare for your next election, talk with an expert at the Postal ServiceTM about the advantages of using political mail and how to apply insights from this research to your own campaign. For more information about the survey, please visit deliverthewin.com/the-media-mix.