Endorsements can give you an edge and help you win more votes on Election Day.
The right endorsement will help voters know who you are and provide your campaign a level of legitimacy and credibility.
Legitimacy and credibility will help you raise money and recruit volunteers to run your campaign.
Why Endorsements Matter
Human beings are social creatures.
People do care what their co-workers, friends, family members, and neighbors think.
Party, organizational, professional, and special interest group endorsements all put you on the radar screens of voters and donors.
But individual endorsements from local community leaders can give you an edge on Election Day.
An interesting study by Alison Ledgerwood, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, found that voters are very much influenced by other people.
Ledger wood discovered group opinions held by a majority of the group’s members mattered most to voters when the Election was far off in the distant future or when voting absentee.
Additionally, Ledgerwood found as Election Day closed in, the opinions of individuals held more sway in the minds of voters.
Legerwood’s study is a big endorsement for endorsements.
But using endorsements properly is what gives you the edge.
The Most Effective Use of Endorsements for Any Campaign
Most winning campaigns I have been involved with targeted the use of their endorsements and made excellent use of them as message carriers.
A message carrier is essentially a person the voter will likely recognize, that carry’s the campaign message in a personal manner.
Generally when a campaign is working hard and the candidate is knocking on doors, they tend to build relationships with a lot of people.
Some of these people are going to have a following. They might be a local well known teacher, police officer, doctor, coach or head of a local residents’ association.
Your campaign may simply find someone that happens to know and influence a lot of people.
Finding and identifying these key people is critical.
Getting them to join your campaign, to be your spokesperson is what can give you your edge with endorsements.
The best use I have seen of these types of endorsements comes in the form of a letter or message on a mailer addressed to voters living in a specific community or precinct.
These types of endorsements seem to work best when tied into local events like precinct coffees and meet and greats.
Where and to Whom Endorsements Matter
Endorsements should be targeted to the people and the places they are most relevant.
Geography, sections of town, specific precincts and how they relate to local issues should all play a role in who a campaign uses as an endorsement.
For instance, if there a particular development project, land use matter, or quality of life issue in a particular community relevant to a particular endorsement, then using that endorsement as a message carrier should be considered.
A great example would be a Neighborhood Watch person endorsing you and making the case to voters that you would be tough on crime.
Maybe, there is a stop sign that is needed in a neighborhood.
A letter from a parent to the neighborhood talking about their support for you and how you are committed to finding the funding for the needed sign.
Endorsements Don’t Fit All Voters
A Republican Party endorsement is not relevant to Democrats, Independents, or Green Party members.
Labor union endorsements are likely not going to be well received by Republicans.
They’re likely not that significant to a lot of Democratic voters these days either.
A National Rifle Association endorsement will probably be a big negative to most Democrats. But in some rural parts of the country maybe not.
The same goes with environmental issues, immigration issues, religious issues, business interests, women’s issues – you name it.
All these groups and issues have a particular audience.
For some voters they matter a lot, some very little if at all.
Some voters could be completely turned off by a particular endorsement.
The best thing to do is to test endorsements with a poll.
It’s important to know your community, know your voters, and really think out your strategy for using endorsements.
The Bottom Line on Endorsements
Endorsements are a good thing to have.
Endorsements can be helpful and give your campaign an edge towards victory.
The right endorsements look impressive and definitely provide you the credibility to help in fundraising and recruiting volunteers. This is always a good thing.
Endorsements can be effective message carriers to deliver targeted messages to targeted voters.
But don’t look at any endorsement like it is a silver bullet.
And don’t look at not getting a particular endorsement as something that will derail your campaign.
The bottom line for endorsements is that they can be helpful but they will never trump a good message and a really hardworking and motivated candidate.