Posts on Jan 1970

5 Online Fundraising Lessons of 2010

So, you want to raise big bucks online for your candidates and causes this cycle?

Step 1: Go back and learn the lessons from last cycle.

Step 2: Read this Campaigns & Elections article from two of the best in the business – our own Jen Stolp and Eric Frenchman.

Find out the 5 lessons you need to learn before jumping into the world of political online fundraising.

Think Twice Before Dismissing Media Bias

Last week, FoxNews.com published a two-part series investigating George Soros’ media influence, bringing back memories of the “Media and Politics” course I took in college.

Whether you choose to consume news from Fox’s “fair and balanced” reporting, head to CNN because it’s the “most trusted name in news,” or look elsewhere, you’ll probably agree with me that every journalist and media personality adds his or her own slant to coverage. But whether or not the majority of news coverage slants to the left or right is an entirely different story.

I’m on the side that believes there is a liberal bias in the media. Now I don’t go around blaming the “Lame Stream Media” for everything, but it does irk me that when George W. Bush fell off of his bike it made headlines for days, but Barack Obama said there were 57 states and news outlets didn’t bat an eyelash! Still examples like this do not prove anything.

However, a little background on one very influential man brings into question the fairness of the news reported by the majority of the mainstream media. That man is George Soros. You probably already know that Soros gave National Public Radio $1.8 million and spent $27 million trying to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. But did you know that he has ties, both financial and personal, to more than 30 major news organizations?

According to the FoxNews.com report, Soros has given more than $48 million to various media organizations. And his ties are much deeper than ABC, NBC and the New York Times. He’s spent money to develop journalism schools! In fact, the level of funding George Soros has provided the media is so complex that it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact number.

I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. But next time you’re looking for news, keep George Soros in the back of your mind.

Playing The Trump Card

America is fascinated with Donald Trump.

In public opinion polls, as a constant media presence, and on NBC’s The Apprentice, Trump seems to have been cornering the media with talk about his future political prospects. In fact, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that Trump is ‘trumping’ the GOP field in media attention. In the last week of April, voters reported seeing or hearing more media coverage about Donald Trump than the entire Republican field combined. As cited by Pew: “Trump is standing out in a contest that has yet to draw much public interest or media coverage.”

Several national opinion polls taken during April focused in on Trump, demonstrating that the public was seriously considering him as a contender for the Republican nomination. That was in spite of the repeated barrages of dismissive pundit ramblings struggling to downplay his prospects at the time. In a field of contenders that (depending on whose counting) includes close to a dozen candidates, Trump was the one standing out without ever being a declared candidate.

His popularity rise had a lot to do with the fact that Trump, a master of modern media, was doing everything and anything he could to engage in relevant debate with direct, frank communication tactics with the American people.

Now, with the news that he’s not planning to run for president, what does this mean for other candidates?

At their core, elections are about choices. And choices are defined by contrasts. Regardless of your opinions of Trump, one thing is certain; with every single comment, he painted a clear difference between himself and the status quo. He wasted no time linking every problem to its cause and reminding people in no uncertain terms how he’s the polar opposite. The result was that people understood his positions; they were identifying, and responding. The choices were clear.

Tough talk and transparent opinions helped Trump appeal to voters that desperately want change. Republican primary voters are close to revolt over what they’re seeing in Washington, and the Obama administration has them steaming over bailouts, healthcare, spending and deficits. His clear positions on hot issues are engaging their support by eliminating ambiguity. While you may question where others stand, Trump’s position has been crystal clear in comparison.

What’s shocking has been the relative absence of other messengers countering Trump’s rapid rise. The same polls that have showed Trump surging also reveal a mostly tuned out electorate. More than half of the people Pew surveyed “could not name anyone when asked which GOP candidate they have been hearing the most about.”

But just last week, a poll emerged telegraphing the first Trump slip, sliding behind more known quantities like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, though Huckabee himself has also stepped out of the ring. It’s a reminder that short term popularity doesn’t always translate into long term gains. In the end, voters have to like what they find to stay on board.

Donald Trump’s short, energetic rise is a lesson to all candidates in the power of effective communication. While Trump’s competition avoided sharp distinctions between themselves, Obama and the status quo, Trump did the opposite. The result was a rapid increase in popularity, buzz, and support.

Elections are about contrast and explaining clear choices for voters. Voters will gravitate towards candidates who communicate clearly defined differences.

Does your campaign offer a clearly defined choice? If it does, it could be your ‘Trump card’ on Election Day.

Early Voting Trends Reveal How Elections Are Changing

In a opinion piece following last year’s historic midterm election, the Wall Street Journal explored emerging trends in early voting (EV) in an article titled, “Who Stole Election Day?” Their concern?

“Too many voters are making decisions when horse-race coverage dominates the news, attention to issues is limited, and key debates haven’t taken place.”

If you’re not obsessing over EV trends, should you be worried? Are EV trends actually changing elections to the point that campaigns have to evolve their strategies to accommodate new voting patterns? Is it a permanent shift or just a short term anomaly from the normal patterns of voting?

Simply put: the change is real, significant, and game changing.

EV data has revealed permanent changes in the way people approach voting that will require new tactics for campaigns preparing for Election Day. And there’s data to back it up.

In 2010, the early voting rate was 29%. That number has been steadily increasing for over two decades, beginning at just 9% in 1992. Recently, we’ve witnessed a 10% jump between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections from 20% to 30%.

EV growth is spurred by increasing acceptance among voters and lawmakers of the idea that voters should be allowed to vote whenever they’ve made up their minds. Many states are slowly opening up their processes by adding new laws allowing unrestricted absentee voting (convenience voting), automatic renewals for regular absentee votes, and periods of EV or in-person absentee in physical polling locations.

States are producing sustained, elevated levels of early voting by legislating more flexible voter participation. Recent advances in voting technology like digital poll books, secure online voting for military voters overseas, and digital applications for voter registration and absentee balloting will only sustain the current trend of early voting growth.

The impact it’s having on Election Day itself may change the way you look at expanding early voting opportunities. In 2010, fourteen states had more than 40% of their ballots cast before Election Day. Thirty states cast more than 20% of ballots. In states like Oregon, every voter participated early and by mail.

For campaign professionals, this means that Election Day is now a sixty day effort of sustained, targeted turnout. Voting will take place at the same time as regular voter contact and advocacy messaging. It’s possible that as campaigns prepare simple phone banks, direct mail lists, or GOTV operations, that up to 50% of their target universes may need to be purged due to the fact they’ve voted. And a campaign’s ability to know who has voted may be dependent on local registrars being ahead of the curve on data processing and information sharing.

“Election Day has become merely the end point in a drawn-out voting period dominated in its early stages by news media preoccupation with questionable polls and predictions,” says Eliot Cutler, a 2010 candidate for Governor in Maine. As barriers are removed and EV increases in prominence, it’s possible it can have negative effects on the outcome of elections by encouraging voters to make their selections before campaigns have an opportunity to complete their arguments. Without sufficient time for debate and exposure of candidate positions’ public scrutiny, ideas won’t be vetted as thoroughly as in the past.

Beyond the obvious challenges for campaign professionals, there could be concerns about what these trends mean for the quality of American Democracy. In a period of intense political polarization, skyrocketing costs of elections and general apathy in the ability of government to provide solutions for our toughest problems, some see this as additional opportunities to trivialize the process of elections by encouraging campaigns to rush voters to judgment. They wonder: Could voting become an impulse buy like purchasing a trashy tabloid magazine or a tempting sweet while waiting in line at the supermarket?

But there is one truth we have trouble escaping: voters like convenience voting. I’ve voted by absentee most of my life and have voted by absentee in person…and liked it. Voting is our most fundamental of rights and government must be making every effort to find ways to keep voting an accessible and a pleasurable experience for everyone who wants to participate. With people working longer, commuting longer and further from home, voting isn’t as accessible as it once was.

It’s clear from the data we’ve seen that in the coming elections, EV trends will continue upward and that winning campaigns will be the ones that fully embrace it’s benefits and challenges. Predicting future trends mostly depends on understanding the patchwork of state laws that allow for EV that are rapidly changing; it’s clear that they’re only going to increase EV’s availability and acceptability. In the 2010 elections, 30% of all votes were cast before Election Day.

Will your campaign be ready for early voting in your election?