Political Persuasion: Creating and Engaging Your Audiences

May 29, 2023 | Brandon Blumenherst
A political campaign volunteer engages with a voter through political persuasion

Every political campaign or organization wants to convince and mobilize enough voters to win their election or advance their organization’s cause. However, convincing voters to support your campaign or cause is not an easy task. While political persuasion is a valuable tool for campaigns and causes to assemble the support they need to win, it’s a time-consuming practice that requires effective communication and voter targeting to execute it well. In this blog, we will define political persuasion, the types of voter audiences you may want to target in your persuasion universe, and how you can engage with those voters effectively with tools from NGP VAN.

Watch our webinar below on Creating and Engaging Political Persuasion Audiences! 

What is Political Persuasion?  

Political persuasion is the art of convincing voters to support your campaign. It’s a valuable tactic for many campaigns and causes that may not be able to win their race without convincing unlikely supporters to support their efforts. Creating a persuasion universe is necessary when there aren’t enough likely supporters to hit your win number or you want to expand your margin of victory in the upcoming election. Political persuasion is particularly effective for a few groups of voters that you can easily target in VAN. But first, let’s describe the differences between persuasion and mobilization.

Is Political Persuasion Different from Political Mobilization?  

While political persuasion is focused on convincing voters to support your campaign, political mobilization focuses on getting identified and likely supporters out to vote. Some may only execute mobilization efforts because they have a comfortable margin of identified and likely supporters for their campaign or cause, but that’s not the case everywhere.   

Political persuasion differs from mobilization in more than just its ultimate goal. It also requires more planning and message development, more communications and “touches” (contacts with voters), and savvier communicators. As we mentioned before, these audiences will likely need different messages served to them to convince them to support your campaign. For instance, messaging that works well with voters who don’t know you may not work well with voters of different political parties. Your persuasion universe will likely require more communications (or “touches”) to secure their support than your mobilization universe. Finally, communicating with your persuasion audience typically requires savvy communicators who can adapt and address issues that this audience may raise. It’s also beneficial to find trusted volunteers who can communicate respectfully with those who have different opinions than their own.  

What Is a Persuasion Universe? 

With those differences in mind, we can now share the audiences that may be most effective to include in your persuasion universe. A persuasion universe is the group of voters you will contact to convince them to support your campaign or cause. However, this group of voters will not be as likely to support your campaign as your mobilization universe (which is composed of likely and identified supporters).  

Types of Voter Audiences for Persuasive Politics  

Several voter audiences may be potential targets for your persuasion universe. To target these groups effectively, you will want to serve them different messages to convince them to support your campaign or cause. Here are three common groups that may need to be in your persuasion universe. 

People Who Do Not Know Your Campaign or Cause Yet

These people may not know who you are, but they may support you once they learn more about you and where you stand on the issues.

Members of Another Political Party

While these people are unlikely to support your campaign or cause, there are likely some of them that may be upset with the direction of their political party, the candidate who is running on their party’s ticket, or another factor that may present you an opportunity to convince them to support your campaign or cause or just not vote for your opponent or opposing cause.

People Who Are Not Likely to Support Your Campaign or Cause

While some of these people may fall into one of the other groups we discuss here, some may not be likely to support your campaign or cause due to a stance on a particular issue or some other factor. While these voters may be more difficult to target, they may be another valuable persuasion audience to engage with.

Creating Your Persuasion Universe 

VAN makes it easy to create your persuasion universe through several scores and other targeting parameters. You can use ideology or support scores and past voting history to find a group of voters that will be critical to your campaign or organization’s success. Your persuasion universe will be unique to your campaign or organization, but you should understand how many voters you must convince to win your race. Once you have that determined, you can build your persuasion universe to meet or exceed that number to set your campaign or cause up for success. 

Identifying Supporters In Your Persuasion Universe 

As you begin your outreach to your persuasion universe, you will want to gather a Supporter ID score that you can use for outreach later in the campaign. Campaigns will usually create a Supporter ID Survey Question with responses from 1 to 5 (1 indicating strong support for your campaign or cause and 5 indicating strong opposition to your campaign or cause). Once you progress through contacting your persuasion universe and gather more data, you can better understand how you are advancing towards your win number. You will then add those supporters (those marked as a 1 or 2) into your mobilization universe. Depending on how many supporters you identified in your first pass and how much time is left in the election cycle, you will likely need to make another pass through your persuasion universe to those who you were unable to contact during the first pass, undecided voters, and those who are leaning towards supporting your opponent or opposing cause (those marked as a 3 or 4). 

Unique Benefits of Campaign Channels for Political Persuasion 

The best channels for political persuasion are those through which you can have one-on-one conversations with voters either in-person or over the phone. However, there are a few other methods that may have varying levels of success. After creating your persuasion universe in VAN, you can determine what areas may be ideal for canvassing and phone banking based on their geographic spread. Ideally, you’d be able to contact this universe multiple times through several channels. But to start, you may want to canvass in areas of higher voter density and make calls in areas with lower voter density. 

Canvassing with MiniVAN

Door-to-door canvassing is one of the most effective channels to employ political persuasion. With our mobile canvassing app, MiniVAN, your campaign or cause can easily guide volunteers’ conversations with voters, record valuable data, and sync it instantly back to VAN to act on later in the campaign. MiniVAN even offers the ability to use branched scripts that offer different questions and prompts based on a voter’s answers. Additionally, MiniVAN allows you to choose a default script and up to four alternates to give your canvassers up to five scripts to employ, or you can choose a default script and alternate scripts based on a target’s subgroup.

Phone Banking with OpenVPB

Phone banking is another effective method to contact voters in your persuasion universe. Similarly to MiniVAN, OpenVPB now allows users to create phone banks that can map different scripts to different people and allow callers to toggle between scripts.

Other Methods Phone Banking with OpenVPB

While one-on-one conversations allow campaigns and causes to address concerns or issues from your persuasion universe, other broader contact methods may play a role in convincing voters to support your campaign or cause. For instance, some voters may value endorsements from elected officials or advocacy groups, digital ads that communicate why you’re the better candidate for the job, or something else to determine how they’ll vote in an upcoming election.

What Purpose Might a Persuasive Political Speech Serve?

Persuasive political speeches may sway some voters to support your campaign, but the impact of these speeches is difficult to measure. Depending on the size of your race, speeches at large rallies may serve as a valuable motivator to drive additional action for your campaign from your supporters. Also, speeches at debates may be a valuable opportunity to convince people to support your campaign or not vote for your opponent because the debate is likely televised or shared with a larger group of potential voters. In other words, while the impact of persuasive political speeches is difficult to measure, in the right circumstances, it may be a valuable opportunity to drive additional action or garner support.

Creating & Engaging Persuasion Audiences with NGP VAN

Through voter targeting in VAN and effective voter outreach through tools like MiniVAN and OpenVPB, you can easily and effectively create and engage with your persuasion audience to help you achieve your campaign or organization’s goals. Get started with NGP VAN today to set your campaign up for success