Campaigns Matter: 08 in a graph

There is often a lot of talk in a lot of places during election time about knocking on doors, making phone calls and raising money. But the question people have is, "Do campaigns work?"

This was actually tested by the Service Employees International Union in 2008, and the results are pretty darn impressive.

SEIU held back a number of "control" subjects from the voter contact program. This was done through the use of a voter database that pulled out a group of representative voters from 11 states that SEIU had boots on the ground.

The control and experimental groups were around 2500 each (obviously SEIU contacted more than 2500 people). The control group got no contact from SEIU. They were likely contacted by the Obama campaign, progressive allies, the McCain campaign, conservative groups etc. But they were never contacted by SEIU. By contrast, the experimental group was contacted through mail (an extremely limited part of the SEIU program) and through field contacts. That meant door knocks and phone calls.

Each group was polled on some specific questions, including their view of John McCain, their view of Obama, if they thought Obama was good on jobs and if they thought Obama was good on the issue of health care, and lastly who they voted for.

The experimental group's opinion of McCain was 9 points lower than the control groups. Obama's favorables were 5 points higher. He did better on the issues of jobs and the economy. And most importantly, the experimental group voted for Barack Obama at a rate that was 4% higher. That is a pretty significant change in peoples opinions.

In his explanation of the 2008 race, Mark Blumenthal at called this experiment the largest and most comprehensive ever on the Democratic side.

So the next time someone asks you if campaigns matter, the answer is an unqualified YES!


Use of term "Non Member"

I should explain by the way that "Non Member" on the graph means that these voters were not union members. The overwhelming majority of contacts were made by union members.

"Keep the Faith"

I'm thinkin' that would hold true for most Americans

I don't think this election was a Union/non-union thingy. I am not surprised at Blue South's presentation. I mean, look.....Bush was inept...his tenure was disastrous. We repubs sit in committees and discuss how we can overcome such a lousy leader of our party. It's not arguable. Blacks, whites, hispanics, union members, non-union members, gays, anti-gays, short people, tall people, bald & folks with full heads of hair would most certainly have that same kind of graph, me thinks.

I'm pulling for Obama. He's put forth some super rhetoric and some fabulous ideas on getting us out of this horrible situation we're in. "Hope is on the way"....and I'm certainly hoping. I don't want to lose my Social Security just because I'm able to live without it, however. Hope that right-talk stuff is false as far as what is being considered ("means testing"). I paid into that for 46 years, for crying out loud. I don't want to have my investments that I've worked my entire life to save up be double-taxes or over-taxed just because I had the forsight to do that for me and my family and some folks didn't.

Like I said, I'm with ya on Obama. I truly believe that he's gonna be changed by the office of president and see things from a very different perspective.

If someone would have polled me when this was done, I'd certainly have been on the positive side for Obama....but, doubt most here would buy that.

The best thinking is independent thinking.


This was about the effect of voter contacts. I talked about SEIU because they put a ton of resources behind the campaign, and they conducted this study, which was unique in its expansiveness. If you look at the full article I linked to you will see that across the spectrum regardless of groups people were more likely to vote for Obama if they received more contacts from anyone supporting Obama.

This has nothing to do with unions, Obama or anything else. It has to do with the effectiveness of field.

"Keep the Faith"

Why was "union" used?

"Sigh"....gotta be condescending. C'mon Blue South.

My post was that regardless what section of our society, it would probably have been pretty close. It was a positive for Obama. It agreed with your post.'re trying too hard to trash stuff I say here.

The best thinking is independent thinking.

Good to know

all that hard work does pay off! I think I worked harder during this past electoral campaign than I ever have before, and I hoped and believed I was making a difference. It's really good to see these numbers. Thanks for posting this.

Hey, C-Dog!

We haven't seen you around for a while. Nice to hear from you!

It's good to have confirmation of what we expected.

The more direct, personal contact a voter receives, the more likely they are to vote the way you want them to. I believe this has to do with those voters getting information and feeling comfortable with it as well as getting to know someone(s) who are supporting the campaign.

This is an eye opener thats for sure

comparing the sway the campaign did for McCain favorable vs Obama Favorably.

Am I reading this correctly that negative adds impacted people stronger then positive adds? 9% drop in favorable for McCain over the same style of folks as compared to a 5% increase for Obama good folks?

Does this mean that going negative is the way to go?

I hope what it says is the message the McCain was putting out, or not putting out was less persuasive then the message Obama was putting out.

I am concerned with the group that said McCain favorable. This group had the greatest impact based on the message presented to them. This graph is about the impact of the campaign Obama used. It has to be assumed that the message McCain delivered had the same impact on both groups and is a wash. So what caused people to have a more negative impact on favorable toward McCain? I am assuming these group of folks are moderate dems with conservative leanings, or the group closest to centric when it comes to politics. They may also include those that are totally apolitical.

So what was the message Obama put out that brought this huge a change on McCain favorable?

It is a given that this campaign would enhance the overall Obama numbers. With the major struggle of the Clinton-Obama fight, convincing people that Obama is good in these areas was needed. That campaign did its intended job. Provided confidence to more that Obama was good. Making it easier for folks to click Obama yes!

I hope I am wrong, but it looks like negative campaigning has been scientifically proven to provide a bigger bang for the buck? That is how I see these graphs.

Not quite

This is actually about voter contact, most of which was done through field, not through any negative ads. The reason being that its impossible in a situation like this to remove a control group from tv or radio ads. The specific effects in terms of Obama going up and McCain going down is due to the specific messaging that was being used.

In terms of effects, studies on the subject have shown that negative ads are effective because people remember them, but they also have a high likelihood of backfiring. The most effective ads are comparison ads. For instance, "Joe wants to do X, but Jane would do Y". These ads are highly effective, and I think are a good type of ad.

"Keep the Faith"

Why I am doing this

excercise is I see a series of charts and graphs trying to come up with a conclussion. I realize that you can prove almost anything with nice looking charts. What I really see is this chart doing a "thank you guys for getting in the trenches for us" speech.

You guys deserve that speech, I did not campaign so have to say you guys. You busted your butts and got the word out. You made it happen. Just do not know why they have to make it so "scientific".

The Ohio turn out graphs

really showed the impacts of campaigning and how to do it. Avoid working in the comfort zone, but get out in the battle area. The amount of green on the 08 slide is indicative of the work campaigners and phone and door to door folks did. That is where the difference was made.

Grats and job well done to those who worked so hard in getting Obama elected.

All the back patting is great...but

Look, demos won this election year because of sour economy and because republicans were effectively presented as inept.

Demos could have run Lurch against most demo candidates that won with success.

If ya want to over analyze's fine with me. Repubs had a tough time winning a dog catcher's position because their leadership above was so inept.

Not tough to figure out.

The best thinking is independent thinking.

missing the point

You are missing the point. Look back at the graph, notice the control group was at 51% and the experimental group was at 55%. So yeah, you are right that Obama would have won without that field effort. But if you took away 4 points from those 11 states he might not have gotten past 300 electoral votes. And in terms of support for policies, there is a world of difference between 290 and 350.

"Keep the Faith"

Yeah, probably....

Could be...but, hey, it's over...Not sure who could prove what.

"If" and so forth...whatever.

The best thinking is independent thinking.

It's not about Obama; it's about the value of the contacts made.

As I posted before, this confirms what those of us who have been working with campaigns have always suspected/thought. It's not up for debate - the study quantifies it; it proves it. I suspect that if you did the same thing with a Republican-leaning group, you'd have the same results.

Obama won because he was the best candidate in the race, and because the country needs a true leader. It wasn't a default outcome; I don't think just "any Democrat" would have won. Had a head-start? Hell, yes. But Obama won on his own merits. Every time you say he won because the Republicans sucked ass for the last 8 years, it appears that you are trying to diminish that.

And I know you wouldn't want to be doing that just as our new President prepares to take office. {wink}


This is qualitative data on the value of person to person contacts in a scope that has never been available publicly, if not ever.  That is a big deal.  To have actual hard numbers to show what effect a field program had is rare in this business, and its really freaking cool.

"Keep the Faith"

Dean and Obama

This is also a confirmation that tv ads and money were not the major weakness in the past for Dems. It is feet on the ground. And for twenty years many impt leaders in the Dem Party were working hard to get that money to have ads, like the repugs. But what Dean spearheaded was fighting in all fifty states.

Obama did this. He had one heck of a ground operation. McCain did not. As we saw also in the primary, the Clinton approach was to be strategic and work on getting the right number of delegates. and she kind of wrote off the states that use caucuses. But Obama was trying to win at all levels, not just the minimum important big states. He was about the small states.

And you do this by having folks like you and me knockin for barack.

If you win the election, and even if you lose , you have made friends and built community. Remember when we all moaned how the Repugs were taking over churches as a way to win elections?

The unions were awesome this time. And the loss of union membership is a big part of the Repug strategy to kill the Dems.

So it is all terribly interesting and the ground games are important on so many levels.



Not sure how many folks are on here right now....but Obama is getting ready to make a speech at the Lincoln Memorial within minutes.

It's history...whether you are a fan or's history.  CNN is gonna cover it live.

The best thinking is independent thinking.


It wasn't long, but I loved the part about (paraphrased): The true test for us is not when things are good in America......"


The best thinking is independent thinking.