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Above Average Voters Swing Elections

By Art Murray


Voters have been identified as belonging to one of two groups, sometimes referred to as the “uneducated” and the “educated” voters or commonly called the “average” and the “above average” voters.


Most recent voter performance indicates that approximately 86% of voters are “average” voters, leaving only 14% in the “above average” group.


The average voter is described as one who votes for a candidate based on the following characteristics (in the following order of priority): Name ID; Party; and the assumed religion, nationality, race, or sense of familiarity with the name of the candidate by virtue of previous experiences.


An above average voter is defined as a voter who knows at least one or more characteristics about the candidate over and above the preceding characteristics (known by the average voter).


The name ID rating measures the percentage of polled voters that recognize the name of a particular candidate at any given moment. Since, both the average voter and the above average voter are driven first by Name ID, you can be certain that a candidate who does not achieve equality with the opponent in name ID will lose. 


The average voter group, in today's political climate, is divided almost equally along party lines.  Due to this polarization of voters, it is a rare election in which the outcome is decided by a margin greater than five percent. As long as the average voter group continues to split 50/50 along party lines, it is only the above average voters who create the winner's margin of victory.


These finding are based on research of the University of Michigan's National Election Studies (NES) that conducts extensive election analysis following every major election, since the mid-1940's. 


More than ever before, the results of these studies deserve serious consideration. Assuming these figures are accurate, 86% of the voters know virtually nothing of substance about the person for whom they are voting. They will usually have a positive, negative, or neutral feeling about the individual, but relatively speaking, will know nothing about the candidate, or about where the candidate stands on the issues.


Incidentally, the percentage of above average voters was only 6% in the 1940's. The percentage increase of the above average voter group to 14% indicates a slow improvement over the years.


Fundamentally, these two groups necessitate two strategies by the candidates. The strategic elements to be incorporated must be recognized in order to develop a successful political game plan.


In a “landslide” election, elements are in play that stimulate both average and above average voters to vote for the same candidate. In today's climate, landslides are rare and usually as a result of something so scandalous, that the average voter ignores the party line.


In a close election, winning the majority of the above average voters will determine the outcome. Consequently, two strategies must be developed and implemented, one in conjunction with the other. One strategy must be directed to all voters, while the other must be directed to voters in the above average category.


The first strategy must build Name ID and Party affiliation any way that places the candidate's name, Party, and the office vied for in the public's view. Lawn signs (actually signs of every kind and description), bumper stickers, billboards, newspaper ads, precinct walks, printed brochures and tabloids, and direct mail are the most common vehicles.


The focus of this strategy should be to implant the Candidate's name and Party in the mind of the voter in the same manner that the “Golden Arches” have been implanted in the minds of every child over 2 years of age. To be successful in increasing the name ID rating, the strategy must achieve maximum saturation on a continuous basis in order to penetrate the consciousness of the average voter (up against the massive advertising bombardment from every imaginable product that is being promoted by all other advertisers daily).


The second strategy must add elements that will appeal to the above average voter pool.  Consider the above average voter to be those who will seek information about the candidates.


The most often used vehicle to deliver this communication is direct mail.  In a letter containing a flyer or brochure, or in a tabloid format, a candidate has the space necessary to cover several pertinent points about the candidate and the issues. 


A candidate web site is also able to present this information in an organized professional manner. These details must be made available to the above average voters to inform them prior to making their decision. 


A 30, or even 60 second TV or radio commercial essentially projects an impression, but a printed message or browsing a professional web site will project the substance necessary to make a final decision. Radio and TV commercials are in competition with the continuous bombardment from the general advertising medium and if used, must certainly be used substantially to make any dent in the voter's consciousness.


Until a candidate establishes name ID, the targeted messages to the above average group, for the most part, are unlikely to be considered.  Public image and recognition demonstrate credibility in a viable candidate.  It is at the point of established credibility that the above average voter will invest their attention in the messages being directed to them. 


Since many of the above average voters are in the middle to higher socio-economic levels, the campaign can save money by using zip codes to target its mail more effectively. Unfortunately, since it is only possible to identify a part of this group, a considerable amount of time, effort, and money must be spent directing a detailed message about the relative positions and differences between the candidates to a larger segment of the voting public.  This is often referred to as a “catch-all” approach.


Every effort must be made to identify the above average voters in your district.  Assuming that equality in Name ID has been attained, how well the campaign accomplishes its objectives with the above average voters will determine the election outcome. This is why 5 percent or less of the final vote determines so many serious campaign elections.


It is why few incumbents are really that secure. It is not so much that incumbents beat challengers, but more often than not, the challengers beat themselves by failing to give the appropriate attention in terms of money, energy, and effort to both basic groups of voters.  Invariably, they will focus on one and exclude or minimally address the other.


Most incumbents do not invest their resources on the above average voter since incumbents have campaigned previously, sent franking mail through their elected office, and have a stronger name ID rating in the first place.  When presented, a candidate should not miss the opportunity to capitalize on an incumbent's failure to focus on the above average voters. 


An incumbent, who concentrates his or her resources on the average voters, while excluding the above average group during the campaign, will in all likelihood lose to a challenger who builds his or her name ID rating to equal that of the incumbent and communicates a message that is both relevant and accepted by the above average voters.


Art Murray is a Campaign Computerization Consultant with
AmeriCan GOTV Enterprises, LLC. He has worked
in the development campaign management and
financial reporting software applications.
Art can be reached at
Click here to contact this Author

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