All posts by Dan Centinello

Political Polling: An Introduction

When you watch or read the news, you often encounter a myriad of statistics describing the public’s attitude on any number of issues or events: 56% of the country supports a bill currently before Congress. 48% of Americans want reform on a given issue. 61% of voters approve of a speech given by a major candidate. You may be wondering where all of these statistics come from, and the answer is simple: polling.

Public opinion polls have been staples of political campaigns for decades. The first opinion poll was conducted in 1824 by a Pennsylvania newspaper and showed Andrew Jackson ahead of John Quincy Adams in that year’s race for the White House; Jackson went on to win the popular vote but lose the election. Unlike the straw polls that predicted a win for Jackson, today’s polls are highly sophisticated and can forecast electoral victories, describe public opinion, and more while controlling for various factors, including age, gender, education, race, socioeconomic status, and so much more.

The complexity of modern polling requires thorough planning before a poll is even put into the field. This begins with the question of the poll’s purpose: What information do you want to learn, or what attitude do you want to measure? Will the poll guide your campaign’s strategy or is it simply intended to take the public’s temperature? Furthermore, it’s vital to consider the poll’s audience—will it be for the candidate’s eyes only or for public consumption? And, of course, you’ll need to develop the language for the questions you’ll be asking, which can be a difficult task.

There are also various mediums of polling, so political operatives and pollsters must consider the most effective medium to structure and conduct polls. While telephone-based polls were the standard method of polling for much of the twentieth century, they’re much less of an viable option today since fewer and fewer people actually answer their phones. Instead, many of today’s polls take place online, which are radically less expensive and faster. Online polls can offer campaigns a wide range of additional options, but they do present their own challenges, including issues with surveying representative samples of the population in order to achieve the most accurate results.

Despite the challenges and investment of effort required to conduct polling, however, most candidates and strategists agree that polling is an invaluable asset for any campaign. If you don’t believe that, we’d be happy to put a poll together to prove it.

The Art of Campaign Ads

The ultimate idea of a political campaign is to engage communities. Candidates give speeches, for example, that they hope will resonate with their constituents-to-be and inspire them to vote. Today, thanks to the proliferation of new technology, there are more ways than ever to engage members of the public through avenues like social media, the internet, and of course, campaign ad videos.

These videos, which are typically about a minute long, allow candidates to present their position or attitude on an issue, discuss their philosophy, and speak directly to voters. One of the many benefits of campaign ads are their tremendous reach: In presidential elections, for example, campaign ads can reach as many as 87 percent of American adults, which makes them an invaluable medium for candidates who want their message to reach the largest audience possible.

Campaign videos first came onto the political scene during the 1950s, as more and more Americans were bringing television sets into their homes; in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first presidential candidate to incorporate video ads into his campaign, and they were wildly successful.

Since the 50s, the popularity, scale, and scope of campaign videos has increased dramatically. Today, they are a fixture of races at every level, from presidential contests to local elections and even referendums or ballot initiatives. In fact, Lincoln Strategy Group develops campaign ads for its clients, including these two videos which were designated Gold Winners in the 2017 AVA Digital Awards.

We were honored to receive these accolades for our work, but beyond that, we were particularly proud that we were able to present such a strong articulation of our clients’ message, whether it was in support of clean energy initiatives in Nevada or for quality leadership in Arizona. And we’re happy to say that both campaigns were successful!

While there are myriad approaches to producing a political campaign ad, many voters tend to dislike ads that “go negative,” or deliver ad hominem attacks against specific candidates. Instead, voters prefer positive or optimistic ads, such as President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign ad, “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” more commonly known as “Morning in America.” It remains one of the most celebrated campaign ads in American political history.

How to Make Your Voice Heard

Contacting U.S. elected officials to ask questions and share your opinions is an important element of democracy, but it can often feel like your voice isn’t heard or valued. Representatives are hard to get a hold of during their busy schedules, and a form-letter response you may receive after sending a letter or phone call to their office can make it seem like you aren’t getting your point across. Here’s a list of tips you can use to help make your voice heard by your elected officials.

Visit their Office

It can be hard for your representatives or members of their staff to read and respond to every letter or telephone; after all, since the size of the average congressional district is more than 710,000 people, your letter or call will be one of thousands—perhaps millions—in a year. But while a call or letter can be overlooked, it’s impossible for your representative or their staff to ignore an actual human being in their office. Learn the location of your representatives’ offices and make a point to visit regularly so that you can ensure your voice gets heard and isn’t lost in the shuffle of a busy office.

Join a Group

If there’s an issue that you’re passionate about, do some research and see what groups in your area are working to bend the ear of your representative on that topic. These groups have more of a chance to make contact with representatives or catch their attention since they can leverage the work—and potential votes—of large numbers of people towards a common cause; this makes it easier to broadcast a message since it’s carried by many voices. Your group can visit your representative’s office, attend their town halls, or even invite them to one of your own meetings. Or, if you can’t find a group that’s right for you, go ahead and start one yourself!

Write Letters to the Editor

If you’ve made several attempts to contact your representative but haven’t made any progress, you can consider writing a letter to the editor in a newspaper explaining your view and asking your representative to respond. While you can shoot for a national newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, you have a greater probability of being published in the local paper—plus, since your representative will be concerned with the press coverage they receive within their own district, they’ll also be more inclined to respond to you, either directly or in a follow-up letter of their own.

Before the Oval Office: The Careers of Former Presidents before Politics

A candidate for President of the United States is expected to have a wide range of expertise, knowledge, and leadership experience if they hope to win election to the highest office in the land. But how exactly does a president-to-be go about accumulating the necessary experience to hold the job? Is there a precise formula of work history, education, and civic engagement that brings on a win in the electoral college? Not exactly—in fact no two presidents’ former careers are the same. Take a look at the careers of several former presidents before they ascended to the Oval Office.

George W. Bush (2001-2009)

After service in the Air Force, in 1977, Bush founded an oil exploration company called Arbusto Energy that was later renamed Bush Exploration. The company then merged with Spectrum 7, another oil company, and Bush subsequently became Spectrum 7’s Chairman and CEO. In 1986, Harken Energy Corporation bought Spectrum 7; Bush was appointed to Harken’s Board of Directors, a post which he held until 1993.

Bush also famously purchased a controlling interest in the Texas Rangers in 1989, and he served as the managing general partner for five years. He was a common face at many games where he enjoyed sitting in the stands with fans.

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Following his graduation from Eureka College in 1932, Reagan moved to Iowa and found work as a radio personality and announcer for Chicago Cubs games. While traveling with the Cubs in California, Reagan began his career as an actor by signing a seven-year screen contract with Warner Brothers Studios.

By 1939, he had appeared in 19 films, and thanks to his performance as George Gipp in 1940’s Knute Rockne, All American, Reagan earned the lifelong nickname of “The Gipper.” His favorite role, and perhaps his most famous, was as double-amputee Drake McHugh in the 1942 film King’s Row. In 1947, he was elected President of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and he was reelected to the position seven times.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

Eisenhower attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army after graduating. He served at bases across the country as well as in the Panama Canal Zone and the Philippines. During World War II, he was promoted to the role of Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, where he planned the invasion of Normandy and oversaw Allied operations until Germany’s eventual surrender in 1945.

After World War II, Eisenhower served as President of Columbia University in New York City. In 1948, he returned to active military service as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe of the newly-formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

How to Discuss Politics on Social Media

It’s often said that there are two topics you should never discuss at the dinner table–religion and politics–in order to keep conversations civil and polite. Social media users never got that memo, however: According to a study published by the Pew Research Center, more than 30% of social media users feel “worn out” by politically-oriented posts, and over half of them characterize digital interactions with people of opposing political viewpoints as “stressful and frustrating.”

Political conversations on social media become even more likely for people like me who have made careers out of politics and campaigning, so you quickly learn how to turn these moments from stressful and frustrating to rewarding and informative. Take a look at some ways that you can responsibly and politely discuss politics on social media!

Consider Your Purpose

Whenever you post on social media, whether it’s about politics or not, there’s a reason behind each post. You might share a photo from your vacation to let everyone know you had a great time on the beach, for example, or you might want to post a status inviting people to an event you’re hosting. When you post about politics, keep your goal in mind. Are you trying to raise awareness of a particular issue? Are you trying to declare your support for a candidate or a policy? Are you trying to change people’s minds or to see what they have to say? So, before you post, think about the purpose of the post and how you can best communicate it.

Stick to the Facts

The best political arguments–as in arguments that are well-constructed and well-phrased–rely on evidence to support their claims. If you refer to the dangers of a certain proposed bill, for example, make sure that you have the most up-to-date information about it and that you’re laying out that information for your digital audience. One of the best ways to do this is by including links to articles, videos, statistics, and other sources in your post so that people can educate themselves on the issues.

Never Make it Personal

If people are already going to be agitated when they encounter political posts on social media, you don’t want to fan that fire by insulting them. Don’t fall into the trap of calling someone stupid just because they don’t understand or agree with you and avoid blanket statements like “Anyone who supports Senator Smith is an idiot.” While these comments might momentarily inflate your ego, talking down to someone who disagrees with your point of view doesn’t help spread your message or convince people to change their minds. Instead, being insulted will only make people dig in their heels and turn what could have been a positive discussion into a screaming match about politics.

Of course, it’s OK to disagree with someone’s opinion and to tell them so, but don’t do it by insulting them. Always keep your focus on what they have to say about the facts, and avoid typing out of anger.

Join Private or Closed Groups

One way to ensure political conversations never get out of hand is to keep these discussions to small circles of informed, respectful individuals. Consider creating a private group and inviting people you trust to ensure that people will remain cordial even when opposing viewpoints are being discussed. You can add more people to the group as time goes on, but starting off with a select few will give you an opportunity to share ideas in a respectful space while also developing your skills discussing politics on social media.

The Importance of Local Politics

If you walk up to someone and ask them to name the President of the United States, they’ll be able to answer your question in the blink of an eye. If you ask them to name their congressional representative or their senator, however, you might be faced with blank stares, and some people may be unable to answer. Ironically, in fact, as you ask people to name their local officials–their state senators or legislators, their city councilmen, and so on–they have a harder and harder time responding.

For a nation that was founded on the idea of citizens’ direct access to representatives, this lack of awareness about local officials is ironic. After all, while their jurisdictions may be smaller than that of presidents and senators, local officials arguably have more influence in people’s daily lives than commanders in chief. Of course, presidents and national leaders have much more of an ability to set the political agenda, but local officials have a tremendous power of their own in terms of how they deliver government services to citizens.

For example, does it matter more that the president signs a bill into law strengthening police forces, or does it matter more that your mayor and city council get to decide how to spend money on the police and how many officers patrol your neighborhood on a daily basis? And while senators may campaign on the importance of creating jobs, local officials play a role as well by offering incentives to attract new businesses to town and by passing laws, such as ordinances and zoning codes, that can determine what jobs are available in their communities.

This actually gives local politicians surprising influence during state or national elections. As a result of their work to provide government services to citizens, mayors, city council representatives, sheriffs, and other local leaders develop strong relationships with voters, which they can use to mobilize those voters in support or against particular candidates for higher office; therefore, mayors can offer state or national-level candidates important endorsements and help energize voters to go out and volunteer for them as well.

Local politics may lack the glamor and spotlight of national campaigns, but despite this, local politics play a pivotal role in the operations of the government and nationwide elections. President Ronald Reagan once remarked of America’s local communities, “That’s where miracles are made, not in Washington, D.C.,” and there are thousands of mayors, state legislators, sheriffs, and other local officials who would surely agree with him.

Elections Around the World

While America doesn’t need to worry about electing a new chief executive for another four years, in the rest of the world, election season is just getting started. Take a look at what’s happening on the campaign trail in France, South Korea, and Germany!

France

Under the French presidential election system, candidates must secure an absolute majority of the popular vote, but if no candidate does so, then a runoff election occurs two weeks following the first round of voting between the two candidates who garnered the most votes. This year, the first round of voting is scheduled for April 23 with a second round planned for May 7, as needed.

Although the full field consists of 11 candidates, three have emerged as frontrunners: Marine Le Pen of the Nationalist Front, who has drawn attention for her fiery populism and her disparaging remarks about immigrants as well as France’s religious and ethnic minorities; Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Forward!); and the center-right Francois Fillon of the Republicans.

Fillon was an early favorite to win, but his campaign suffered a nearly-fatal blow when the press revealed he had paid his wife a salary from public funds for a job she never had. Current polls now predict that Le Pen and Macron will make it to the runoff election, with Macron winning the final contest.

South Korea

Originally, the elections were scheduled for December 20, but after the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges in March, the election was pushed up to May 9. In South Korea, presidents are elected by popular vote.

Although the race is only just beginning after the unexpected removal of President Park, the current favorite to win is Moon Jae-in, a former head of the leftist opposition party Minju, who has promised to rebuild the country after a decade of conservative leadership. His closest opponent, Ahn Hee-jung, trails him by 15 points.

Germany

Germany has a parliamentary system of representation where the members of the legislature, known as the Bundestag, elect a chief executive from amongst themselves; this often requires the formation of political coalitions. The voting mechanisms, however, are more complex. Each voter has two votes–one for a specific candidate for legislature and a second vote for a certain political party–which is designed to ensure that each party’s representation in the legislature is proportional to the amount of votes it received. The Bundestag elections are set for September 24, although it may take several days to form a coalition government after the polls close.

Angela Merkel, the incumbent chancellor, is up for re-election to a fourth term. She is favored to win as her party, the Christian Democrats, still lead in the polls, although it has been declining in popularity exactly as the Social Democratic Party under Martin Schulz has surged forward. At the same time, the fringe party Alternative for Germany (AfD) that is reminiscent of the alt-right in the United States has been hovering at about 10% support among voters. Key issues in the election are the economy, the future of the European Union, and the mass migration of Syrian refugees into Germany.

How to Craft a Campaign Message

If you’re getting into politics as a candidate for office, there’s probably a particular issue that you’re passionate about or that inspires you. This passion is a powerful asset, but it’s not necessarily enough to propel you to a victory on election day: You also need a campaign message that communicates that passion to voters as well as your plans on how to move forward or craft a solution. While crafting a campaign message can be one of the most challenging elements of your campaign process, in my experience, it’s also one of the most important. Take a look at what you can do to craft a strong campaign message!

Identify Your Issue

Before you can develop a message, you need to figure out what your campaign will focus on. This might seem straightforward, but if there are multiple issues at stake in the race or if there is more than one topic you want to discuss, you’ll need to figure out which one is most central to your campaign. While it’s not necessarily a problem if your issue is open-ended or broad, it helps if your issue is specific and clearly defined.

Consider Demographics

Your next step will be to determine the demographics of your community so that you can begin thinking about how to make sure that your message appeals to the voters. For example, if your issue is educational reform and you live in a district where 20 percent of residents are teachers, then that will influence how you frame your campaign message. Understanding demographics helps you understand what issues matter to the voters, how you can persuade voters to support your campaign, and much more.

Write a Draft

Now that you’ve chosen your primary issue and learned about local demographics, it’s time for you to start developing drafts of your campaign message! Ideally, your message will discuss your issue, why it matters or what is at stake by failing to address it, what solutions you propose, and how you will mobilize the voters around the issue.

Test and Revise the Draft

Once you’ve drafted a message, feel free to test it out! If you have the resources, you can hire a pollster to work with voters and see how well they react to the message, or you can simply ask members of your staff who weren’t involved with crafting it to offer their feedback. You shouldn’t feel compelled to change your core beliefs or ideas in response to their answers, but definitely consider rephrasing in order to make your message clearer and more appealing.

Campaign Game Changers: Four Winning Components of a Successful Campaign Plan

If you want to succeed in your political campaign, you need to have a solid plan that will help you win. Candidates who head into campaigning without a concrete strategy and hope to figure things out as they go along do not have a good understanding of how to run a successful campaign. There are various strategies people use while campaigning, but some are more successful than others. Here’s an overview of four strategies that can really help out your campaign plan.

Define your goals

Before you begin writing out your campaign plan, it’s vital that you and your team have a concrete idea of your ultimate goals for your campaign. Obviously you want to win your election, but what do you think needs to be improved in your district? What would you want to change? Where do you stand on hot-button issues? By creating a clear outline of what you want to accomplish and making sure your entire team is on the same page, you’re pushing yourself even closer to success.

Map out your campaign

Once you define your goals, you can map out your campaign plan. Identify major milestones that you’ll need to hit and when you expect to accomplish those. Knowing when you should achieve each step allows you to work toward your goals and break them down in a manageable way that doesn’t seem overwhelming.

Identify your vital supporters

If you learn who your strongest supporters are, you’ll be able to focus on them and find the ones who can influence other voters the most. Spend time growing your voter base and learn how you can use your strong supporters to appeal to other voters. Learn what kind of person you’re aiming to gain support from and use your best supporters to further your campaign.

How to finance

An incredibly important aspect of your campaign is financing it. You can have the best campaign plan in the world, but without enough funds, it’ll be difficult to achieve your goals and succeed in your campaign. Find donors and host fundraising events to raise funds for your campaign, so you can run a successful campaign and not worry about how much it’ll cost.

Breaking Down the Tactics: Three Ways Technology has Affected Campaigns

We now live in a world where people can connect with one another in an instant and search for any information, using a device that fit in their pockets. Technology has drastically changed presidential campaigns, especially in the last few years. Since the first televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon, technology and politics have been entwined. Today, politicians use the same social media platforms and types of technology as their constituents and connections are made like never before. Technology has also made campaigns of any type much more publicized and interactive when promoted online.

Easier communication about politics

With the advancement of technology, it’s now easier for voters and politicians to communicate with one another, as well as voters from completely different parts of the country who have different life experiences and views. Politicians remain active in current events through utilizing Twitter and their Facebook pages, disseminating campaign messages and videos that people can view in order to learn about the candidate’s stances on various issues.

Social media and technology particularly becomes prominent during presidential campaigns. With candidates frequently sending out messages about any major issues or events that may affect voter perceptions.

For example, President Trump used his Twitter account to clearly state his viewpoints about political issues and changes that he would like to make in the coming months, which also provided to work throughout his campaign.

Data can be analyzed

Technology has made it much easier for presidential candidates to identify patterns in voting data. Analytics allow candidates to examine data and determine what’s best to do for their campaign and what has been positively influencing voters.

For example, many presidential candidates look at what demographics and areas they need to focus on while creating a campaign and what sections of the country have the most undecided voters in order to predict which demographics they will focus on the most.

Everything is recorded

For the last few decades, film and audio allowed candidates to record their speeches and debates, so they can later process these recordings and find areas for improvement. Presidential candidates study their opponents speaking style and work on ways to successfully challenge them during debates.
With recordings so readily available, it also allows voters to stay up to date with debates or speeches that they otherwise couldn’t watch live. Voters can instantly share recordings and review speeches to understand what the candidate’s goals and ideas are.

In essence, social media and the advancements of technology can be used throughout any type of campaign to promote success, not just political. By using a few of these examples listed above, you can implement a winning social media strategy within your campaign to see the best results.