Understanding the propensity of any given voter is essential for a winning campaign. It can make the difference between a victory or a defeat.
First off, let’s get a firm understanding of what voter propensity is.
Propensity simply describes any given voter’s likelihood of voting in any particular election based on the type of election being held.
There are five main categories of elections:
1. General Elections – these elections are scheduled for November of every even-numbered year.
2. Presidential Elections – these are also General Elections, but the office of President of United States is also on the ballot, and occur every four years.
3. Primary Elections – the date of these vary state to state and are held weeks to months before a General Election.
4. Off-Year Elections – these are any elections scheduled in odd-numbered years.
5. Special Elections – such elections are not regularly scheduled but called based on the specific laws of a state or a jurisdiction.
A voter’s propensity is determined by his or her turnout history. Specifically, we look to see which elections they cast ballots in — and which ones they do not.
Turnout history is without a doubt the best predictor of the likeliness of any voter casting a ballot in any particular election.
Why? Because people are creatures of habit. We all are.
We get gas at the same station.
We hit the aisles at the grocery store in the same pattern.
We order the same meal at our favorite restaurant or the same drink at Starbucks.
People form habits when it comes to voting too and they stick too them
Their voting habits determine the propensity candidates must look at when targeting the message of their campaigns.
Here’s how voter propensities break down:
High Propensity Voter
This is a voter that seldom if ever fails to vote in an election. They always show up.
They vote in General Elections whether or not a presidential race is on the ballot, in Primary Elections, Off Year Elections, and in Special Elections.
The lower the voter turnout in a given election, the more valuable the ballots of high propensity voters become.
High propensity voters dominate most Primary Elections. They may also be the only voters to show up in Off Year and Special Elections.
On top of that, these voters are known to complete their ballots and vote in every contest listed.
Because of this, no matter when your election is scheduled, the high propensity voters are essential to your chances of success.
Candidates for local office need high propensity voters to win because either based on the length of the ballot, or the timing of your election, these are the people who will be voting in your contest.
Mid Propensity Voter
The mid propensity voter is generally a reliable voter in November, but that’s it.
They’ll cast ballots in General and Presidential Elections. They tend to skip voting in Primary Elections, Off Year Elections, and Special Elections.
Not all of them will make it down a long ballot in a General or Presidential Election, but some will.
Local candidates running in an even numbered year November General Election cannot ignore these voters. They will be casting ballots and there’s no way to measure ballot fatigue looking at a voter’s history.
Therefore, get your name and your message out to the mid propensity voters.
If they vote in your race, make sure they are familiar with you and why you’re running for office.
Low Propensity Voter
You may have heard the low propensity voter referred to by the media in recent years as the “low information voter.”
This person will show up for a Presidential Election and that’s about it.
You may be able to get them to vote in a General Election without a Presidential contest, but don’t count on them to vote in Off Year, Primary, or Special Elections. They’re just not that interested or involved.
Should your election coincide with a Presidential Election, low propensity voters will be casting ballots alongside mid and high propensity voters.
Will they make it down the ballot or just vote for the top of the ticket races? Some will. Most won’t.
Because of this, if you have the funds, you should communicate with these voters once or twice in the days leading up to the Election.
They need to know your name at the very least so if they see it on the ballot they will vote for you.
Knowing which voters in your district are which propensity will enable your campaign to efficiently target its communication efforts.
And that will be a significant part of any victory your achieve regardless of when your Election is scheduled.