Why Polling Is Critical to Success by Margo Scott Dunn

By at September 27, 2013 | 5:48 pm | Print

Why Polling Is Critical to Success  by Margo Scott Dunn

Margo Scott Dunn

What polls can do for down-ballot campaigns

Creating a campaign budget is all about choices.  What do I think I can raise, and what will I spend it on?  One thing that more down-ballot races should consider is polling.  If you’re running for a citywide office, a countywide office, or any office where more than a few thousand votes determine the winner, a good poll done by a professional is a wise investment.  Here’s why:

  • Your pollster can basically help to provide you with a road map to victory.  Based on the sample, your pollster should be able to tell you what your chances are, and what kind of voters you need to persuade and turnout to win. Without a good poll, you’re stabbing in the dark when it comes to who to target and what message to use.  Unless you’ve got gobs of money to blanket a big swath of voters, stabbing in the dark is probably a big waste of precious resources.

  • A good poll gauges voters’ reactions to current issues, other elected officials, and the overall feeling of going on the right or wrong track.  This is invaluable.  This will help craft the tone of your communications.

  • A good poll tests different ways of talking about certain issues. Take, for example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  When described that way, it may have tested better than calling it “Obamacare.”  The same goes for “marriage equality” versus “gay marriage.” How we talk about things matters, and polling will help you find the best way to communicate about important issues.

  • As much as people say they hate negative campaign attacks, they work.  A good poll will test both good and bad attributes about you and your opponents. You want to know how badly your negatives affect you, and you want to know which negatives are the most effective to use against them.

While I’ll concede that polling might not be right for every first-time candidate, I think most should consider it.  It’s critical to knowing who to talk to, about what and in what way.

Margo Scott Dunn, Account Manager, The Campaign Workshop; a full-service political consulting firm that specializes in direct mail, print and online advertising for issue advocacy, candidate and ballot initiative campaigns. Margo worked for the Close Up Foundation in Government Relations. Over the 2008 election cycle, she worked at Compass Media Group

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