Voting Special: Part 1: Data and Messaging

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Today we begin our four-part series on voting. Part 1 revolves around data, messaging, how information on voters is gathered, who might vote or what will resonate with voters. Gathering data involves polling focus groups and other methods. Paul Bentz, Senior VP of Research and Strategy at HighGround, Inc. and Michael J. O’Neil, Ph.D., of O’Neil Associates explain how data and messaging affect voters.

How is voter information gathered?

According to Paul Bentz, when people register to vote their information becomes public data. All that information can be gathered from the county recorder and helps to get a better understanding about the demographics of the voters. To get an even deeper understanding on the people’s preferences, surveys are conducted.

“That’s the limitation on the voter data. That’s why the follow up is in the surveys to get quantified responses or focus groups to understand more often than not the why behind people’s feelings,” O’Neil said.

How does the layering in survey and polling work?

“Well the first step is quantitative, get an idea of what things are important and at what level. And sometimes you can ask about the same issue a couple of different ways,” Bentz said.

When conducting these surveys the key for getting to the core of what people really want is asking “why?” and leave it open for the voters to speak. “That’s where you pick up some of the language. Then you bring those same ideas back in subsequent focus groups and when you find terminology that resonates you have the basis of a message,” O’Neil said.

How complicated this process is?

The standard method of polling is live phone calls. People in charge of conducting these must call both home and personal phone numbers. However this method can sometimes present challenges. “I would add repeated calls to non-responders which adds both budget and time,” O’Neil said.

Are data informed campaigns nowadays’ best way to operate?

According to Bentz and O’Neil, any campaign in the present day uses data collected from polling and surveying to spread their message. “It’s a roadmap to how to win,” O’Neil said.

Paul Bentz/ Senior VP- Research and Strategy at HighGround, Inc; Michael J. O'Neil, Ph.D./ O'Neil Associates

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