Two kinds of voters

Really, really loved this piece from Sasha Issenberg.  It’s going on next Fall’s Campaigns & Elections syllabus.  Nicely summarizes and applies a ton of political science research on midterm elections and political campaigns.  On the longer side, but well worth a read.  He writes a lot about “reflex” voters who favor Republicans and “unreliable” voters who favor Democrats.  Here’s a great infographic that nicely summarizes this:

I think his most important argument is that for Democrats, it’s all about securing the money and support from activists right now:

If Democrats fail to see midterms as sufficiently sexy, the problem may lie not with the party’s rank-and-file but with its donors and activists. The strategists engineering the party’s campaigns now have at their disposal databases containing the names of every Unreliable voter in the country, as well as guidance on where, how, and when they can be reached. (Democratic analysts have developed predictive models to anticipate which voters are most likely to actually open and read their mail.) Volunteers who live near those passive sympathizers can be dispatched; when in-person contact is unfeasible, carefully crafted letters can be sent instead. But all of these increasingly powerful tools also require money and manpower. This is why it’s not intensity scores on polls but rather the bustle of field offices and the sums on fund-raising reports that are the best guide to the Democrats’ midterm prospects. When those indicators sag, says Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director and chair of the Analyst Institute’s board, “the effects are cascading.” For a party populated with Unreliable voters, the midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments. Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.

Of course, even knowing all this, it’s a heavy tide the Democrats are against.  Still can’t hurt to have smart social science on your side when swimming against it.  Though, money would be nicer.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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