Over the past few decades, the population of swing voters within the United States has shrunk. As the American electorate and party lines have diverged from the center, it’s become far more challenging to change the minds of voters. However, every once in a while, a major event will force voters to reevaluate their beliefs, giving marketers and political consultants alike a brief window to persuade voters for their cause or product – a persuasion window. The AAPC recently spoke with Maya Bourdeau, CEO of Frameshift, about how the current persuasion window could, and will, impact the November elections.
What is the “persuasion window”? What do you believe caused it to begin?
Maya: Please see my recent report for more details, but there are constantly windows opening and closing. Sometimes they’re national, sometimes they’re micro. And they are usually caused by an event that shocks/surprises a group of people, after which there is a temporary period when they are open to belief change.
How is the persuasion window effecting the daily lives of American voters?
Maya: Well, this is an unusual year, one could say a biblically bad year, and American voters’ lives have been turned upside down. As a result, there have been some huge persuasion windows that opened (COVID and George Floyd) and others that continue to open (resurgence of COVID, and expiry of UI end of July).
Do you expect the persuasion window to have any effects on the upcoming November elections?
Maya: A huge effect – it will be critical to try to predict the windows and tailor content to them, given how large (national) and earth shattering those windows have been.
How do you expect the persuasion window to impact voter turnout?
Maya: Sometimes in positive ways, sometimes not – in the case of COVID, probably depress turnout, but in the case of George Floyd, potentially increase turnout. It’s also a question of learning how to message on GOTV during a persuasion window.
What advice would you give political consultants when considering their campaign efforts within the persuasion window?
- Try to predict when the next persuasion window will occur – what’s a big upcoming event? For example, Unemployment Insurance (UI) is going to expire at the end of July – when do you think people are going to start getting anxious about their finances? Well, probably now – so let’s get material ready to speak to these concerns.
- Feel what your voters will be feeling – if you believe they’re going to be anxious, create messaging that empathizes with them about it. Or post a quiz asking how they’re feeling about their finances, to build your list via Facebook.
- Know that persuasion windows often peak and then fall, so think about when the peak might be. If congress doesn’t settle the UI issue, people will really panic 1-2 weeks before the end of July.
- Monitor the window – do regular persuasion testing (in survey Randomized Controlled Trials work) to see when the persuasion starts to spike, and then invest heavily at that point. Expect that there will be a long tail after a major window (1-3 weeks?) so keep monitoring to see when the window closes, at which point you should reduce your investment. This way, you get the most persuasion bang for your buck.