By Brent Stephen Henry Waddington, Senior Director, Research and Operations at Resonate
Forget all the talk about a two-party system. Americans are a diverse population, and American voters are a diverse electorate—an electorate will never look the same as it does right now at this moment in history. The incredible set of unique circumstances informing sentiment and motivation at the individual voter level in 2022 is beyond human computing or imagination.
Primary candidates and their agencies need to understand voters beyond just party and turnout attributes. They must know the issues, values and motivations that drive voters’ decision-making at the local level, segment accordingly, and go all in on that messaging. Based on the unique life stage of a voter, how can a candidate empathize with their situation and ease their fears relative to their personal circumstances? Fundamentally, how does a candidate tap into the different values and motivations across the various microsegments that comprise a broad political party—at scale?
The Microsegments That Matter
Resonate recently released a comprehensive analysis of the sentiment, intent, motivations and values of the American voters who will determine the results of the 2022 elections. This research uncovered 10 unique voter segments that candidates must understand, target and engage as they plan their primary campaigns. Here’s a high-level overview:
- Dependable Democrats (10.2% of U.S. population) are the highest turnout group, though they also are more likely to vote using mail-in voting. They oppose socialism and believe the top threats to the U.S. are President Trump and white supremacists. These voters are the most informed about political issues and have opinions about lesser-known politicians like Lindsey Graham and Tom Steyer.
- Blue Dog Democrats (11.7% of U.S. population) are the only Democratic group who are majority male, and they are the least liberal. They’re the most religious, most urban and most burdened by student loan debt. Of the 10 groups, they are the only majority-minority group. While they are most likely to identify as a Democrat, they are the least likely Democratic-leaning group to identify as liberal.
- New Deal Democrats (8.9% of U.S. population) are the oldest Democratic-leaning voter segment. They’re favorable to socialism, extremely union friendly, and they’re also the group with the highest vaccination rate. They are the most liberal group, and are particularly supportive of green energy, gun control and social equality.
- Pessimistic Progressives (12.4% of U.S. population) personally suffered financially due to the pandemic; they had and continue to have a lot of economic insecurity. They want to see racial and LGBTQ equality and police reform. Surprisingly, they’re also the most moderate group on fiscal issues and were supportive of Trump’s trade reforms. They’re the least educated group and the least likely Democratic-leaning group to turn out to vote.
- Apathetic Independents (22.6% of U.S. population) are uninformed on major issues, but they know they’re anti-war. Over 9 in 10 aren’t registered to vote.
- Impressionable Independents (6.9% of U.S. population) look similar to the Apathetic Independents except for one key factor: They are registered to vote.
- Red Meat Republicans (6.9% of U.S. population) are a straight-ticket, high-turnout Republican group who believe Trump made America great again and were particularly supportive of his judicial picks. They’re a rural group who are not open to green energy, and, while they’re concerned about the economy, their personal finances have not been affected by the pandemic.
- Compassionate Conservatives (7.6% of U.S. population) cling to the way things were in the old GOP days, but they’re also the most socially liberal group. They are pro-infrastructure and pro-trade reforms and are the most concerned GOP group about white supremacists, rogue nuclear states and Russia. This group also had higher concerns about the health implications of the pandemic compared to the other GOP groups.
- Middle of the Road Republicans (5.6% of U.S. population) vote mostly because friends and family expect them to, and they will mail in their ballot. They are the least likely GOP group to identify as Republican, most moderate, and they were the most dissatisfied Republicans with Trump’s policies. They are also the lowest turnout, least religious and most urban GOP-leaning group.
- Bro-publicans (7.2% of U.S. population) always look out for No. 1 and vote based on personal economic benefit. They have more student debt than other GOP groups and are most likely to want student loans canceled. These are most likely to be ex-Democrats who voted for Obama, then voted for Trump.
Going Beyond the Two-Party Divide
This election cycle, campaigns are tasked with the impossible: tap into the hearts and minds of voters in a world that none of us could have anticipated just two years ago. That’s why we have the two-party system in this country. Republicans and Democrats have built their tents to welcome voters from all walks of life based on a loosely established set of commonalities meant to maintain unity. The parties maintain lists of the voters who inhabit their tents. These static lists are called voter files: the bedrock of voter information and targeting.
When a modeled voter file is onboarded for online targeting, using household data rather than individual, you can expect a match rate of roughly 40 percent. So, if you’re going digital with a voter file only, you are not reaching 60 percent of your intended audience. Beyond the abysmal match rate, there are deeper problems. While the names on the voter file don’t change much cycle to cycle, the values, motivations, and policy issues driving those individuals often change dramatically based on evolving circumstances. This is problematic for campaigns in tight primaries, where analysis and targeting solely based on political party is less meaningful and can lead to substantive waste. That’s why microsegments like the ones above are so vital this cycle.
To win in 2022, campaigns need rich, relevant, real-time voter intelligence that gets at the deepest insights that help to build and execute campaigns that win the hearts and minds of the evolving U.S. constituent. Campaigns need to know their personal drivers, the values they hold close, and their positions on key issues to determine if they are a winnable segment for a given campaign.
Better segmentation provides more personalized messaging opportunities. More relevant messaging that appeals directly to the values and the issues most important to winnable voters is the most effective way to motivate them to turn out and cast their vote for your candidate on primary day.