It’s more than common knowledge that political campaigns use surveys to make all types of decisions. A perfect example of this is when polls suggested that Medicare for All was a hot button issue for citizens in the 2020 presidential race. Every major contender for the Democratic nomination adopted a stance and began to create their ideas for policy around it.
By surveying voters, campaigns were able to identify that this specific issue was something that people cared about. With this information, they were all then able to craft a response to persuade constituents to vote for them and be on their side.
No matter the size or scale of your campaign, political surveys have the ability to help you make informed decisions that will resonate with your supporters on your messages and policy.
How Do Political Surveys Help?
Depending on the data that you plant to collect and the different stages at which you conduct these polls, you can gather different insight and information into voter sentiments. These polls and surveys help you plan your initial campaign phase - the place where you are going to start and kickoff. It will help you target your initial audience.
In order to get a baseline view of voter perception, knowledge and opinion of a candidate, you can conduct a benchmark survey. Normally, a benchmark survey consists of posing a short series of questions to voters. Based on these answers, your campaign can begin to plan out strategy. They will help you figure out where you need to navigate and which demographic of people may need a bit more of your attention.
Political surveys allow you to measure voter sentiments. You can get a sense of the shift in voter sentiment during a race by utilizing a bushfire poll. Bushfire polls usually fall in the middle of a campaign - conducted usually after the benchmark survey and before the tracking polls. They are used to judge how favorable a candidate has become or where their position on a particular issue falls. Bushfire polls can help campaigns judge whether or not they are making the right amount of progress. You can also use them to test messages - how are your constituents responding to campaign ads, attack ads, and the like. It’s a gaining or losing ground poll.
Political surveys also help you keep track of progress. In order to get regular data input throughout an election cycle, you can use tracking polls. Tracking polls are conducted periodically to gauge upticks and drops in a candidate’s support. These polls usually target the same group of people in order to see how their support of a candidate ebbs and flows (if it does at all.)
Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Surveys also help to gather necessary data in order to carry out quantitative or qualitative research. Here’s a quick difference between the two types of research: qualitative research is based on opinions and reactions of a certain group of people. Quantitative research is based on numbers, upticks, and down ticks.
You can conduct quantitative research via opinion polls in order to find the hard numbers on how your campaign is doing. One awesome example of how to do this among your supporters is via phone surveys. This will help you better understand supporter opinions and behavior around a specific issue.
Another way you can conduct this type of research is by sending out text messages with quick polls. If a debate was on the night before you can send out a message that says something like:
“What did you think of the Congressman’s performance at last night’s debate? Respond Y or N to let us know your thoughts.”
As supporters respond, you can record these responses on your CRM software. From there, you can get a quantitate view of the success of your campaign - you can see in real time how people are responding to what you’re putting out.
Qualitative research can be done just as simply (or perhaps even simpler). It can be done by judging the reaction of a crowd at a rally when you debut a particular message. It can also be done by asking them questions after a town-hall. You could even resort to a more “intensive-style” approach by setting up in-person interviews and focus groups.
Just by taking that one step further, you can find out what drives your supporters towards a message and ask them more specific questions in order to discover the answers you need to get them out to the polls.
Channels You Can Use to Conduct a Political Survey
There are a couple of different ways you can conduct a political survey. If you decide to use a phone service to do this, a live interviewer or machine makes calls to a list of voters. At Robocent, we call this a push poll. Here is a quick rundown of what we are Robocent do with push polls and surveys:
- A Push Poll is a single question with 1 or 2 as possible responses.
- A Survey is an unlimited number of questions with 1 through 9 as possible responses.
- Both work by dialing the numbers on a call list and playing an audio file with questions
- and responses.
If you decide to go with a live interviewer, they will begin by introducing the subject of the survey. Then the person on the other end of the phone will be asked a series of questions. The live interviewer will mark their answers within the calling software.
If using an automated call, a caller will hear the question and can respond by using the touch keypad on their phone. RoboCent’s dialer uses IVR (interactive voice response) technology to record the DTMF Keypad Response made by the caller. While the call is sending the dial process and dispositions, in addition to the full keypad responses for each question, are updated live in the user control panel. When the call has finished sending, a file download with the full list of responses per caller will be available for download.
Setting Up a Political Phone Survey
Upload your contact list. You start by uploading the voter list you want to poll into your calling software. This can be in the form of a .csv file or imported from your CRM.
Add your calling script and survey. The next step is to add a script to your calling campaign. The survey script can include an introduction explaining the purpose of the call, as well as answers to FAQs.
Specify call dispositions. Once the survey is completed, agents can mark the outcome of the call with call dispositions. This helps your campaign filter out the successfully completed surveys from ones that were unanswered or reached an answering machine.
Export your results. You have the option of exporting the results of your completed survey campaign as a spreadsheet. If you have integrated your CRM to the calling tool, the data from your survey will be synced back to your database.
Political Text Message Surveys
Text-based surveys are great because they allow voters the freedom to get to them when they have the time to. Unlike phone call surveys which need to be answered, text-based surveys have a little bit more flexibility. Through peer to peer texting, volunteers can conduct surveys and take down responses right in their chat interface - so easy! By sending a mass text to voters, you can collect responses and even send follow-ups based on keywords. This type of surveying will help you identify a target audience and group that audience together based on their response.
Setting Up a Political Text Message Survey
Create your initial message. Similar to a phone survey, you add a script to your peer-to-peer texting campaign. This will include the initial message agents send out along with survey questions. You can even get a higher response rate by personalizing your messages with merge tags.
Provide reply templates for agents. To allow your agents to quickly respond to incoming messages, you can provide templated replies that they can send out.
Other Methods of Conducting Surveys
Social Media has turned out to be an accessible way to measure public opinion. But while data from these platforms is highly accessible, there are still concerns about the quality of output you will get from them. Not every member of the voting public will be available on these platforms, and most of them often skew towards one political leaning or the other, making the data unreliable. Just as with all research, social media-based surveys must be practically evaluated, with possible error sources identified.
While the image that comes to mind involves a volunteer holding a clipboard reaching out to random people on the street, the more practical approach to in-person surveys is asking people your campaign reaches during your door-to-door canvassing campaigns. To get multiple perspectives in a group setting, focus groups allow you to do so in a controlled setting.
A number of factors determine the best way to conduct a political survey for your campaigns:
What kind of insight do you want to obtain? Do you want qualitative or quantitative data? What form of outreach do your voters prefer?
Contact us at Robocent and let us help you get your political survey up and running! 757-821-2121