The best election campaigns do a good job of both turning out supporters and winning over a healthy share of “persuadable” voters.
Turnout is more of a science – good campaigns know where most of their supporters are and take tried and true steps to get them to the polls. It’s not an exact science, since people keep moving and changing their minds, and sometimes it’s not enough. But you can’t win an election without a solid turnout effort, unless your candidate is a really good one.
Persuasion, on the other hand, is more of an art. there are some tried and true rules for winning hearts and minds. But they don’t always work as planned, either, and these voters can be found in many demographic groups. Yet no campaigns win important elections without persuading a significant number of previously uncommitted voters to support their candidates.
America is so polarized now, that even identifying persuadable voting groups is increasingly difficult. At The Wall St. Journal, Aaron Zitner and Kara Dapena share some interesting statistics about persuadable voters in their graph-rich article, “A Quarter of Americans Can’t Decide Whom to Vote For. What Do We Know About Them?” including:
….most voters say their choice for president is already settled, if their options are Biden and Trump. That leaves a small but meaningful share of voters, 26%, as “up for grabs,” or persuadable. And these voters are conflicted: They don’t think Biden is doing a good job but dislike some of Trump’s personal qualities. They have a sour view of the economy but favor abortion rights. The findings give clues to how each party will try to reach these voters in the coming months.
The persuadable voters have a negative view of both Biden and Trump, more so than do the rest of the electorate. Some 70% have an unfavorable view of Biden, and 74% have an unfavorable view of Trump….Biden faces a number of challenges in winning over these voters. Only 29% approve of his job performance. Two-thirds say the economy has gotten worse during his time in office, and few say he has handled economic issues well.
Trump also faces hurdles: The persuadable voters favor abortion rights, which many states rescinded or scaled back after Trump’s Supreme Court nominees helped overturn Roe v. Wade. These voters disapprove of GOP efforts to move toward impeaching Biden, and they think Trump took illegal steps to hold on to power after losing the 2020 election.
Zitner and Dapena note also that “these persuadable voters, as a group, are not driven by the liberal or conservative ideology, with 39% identifying as ideologically moderate….They are also sour about the state of the nation, with only about 11% thinking the country is going in the right direction.”
The 26 percent persuadable figure is a lot larger than I would have guesstimated. Perhaps the volume of partisan voters is so loud and amplified beyond measure in big media that their numbers are overestimated. Meanwhile, quiet, more persuadable voters may be keeping their powder dry until the closing weeks of the election.
In any case, 13 months out from the presidential election, Democrats still have plenty of room for improving their turnout and persuasion efforts.