Year of Publication
Martin School of Public Policy and Administration
In political campaigns the strategic use of resources, including time and money, are often critical in optimizing performance. !twill not always be the difference in winning and losing, but it is often the most important factor in running an effective campaign. Specifically, within field operations, the area in which the campaign directly connects with the voter, and a Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) operation, the trade-offs between seemingly miniscule choices can mean the difference in the ultimate success or failure of a political campaign.
Using data from the 2010 Lexington Mayoral campaign of challenger Jim Gray, this study evaluates the effectiveness of GOTV targeting using a pro bit model and the individual and overall effectiveness of the field techniques or elements utilized with a liner regression model. Within the pro bit model, there are two dependent variables. The first is the designation by the Jim Gray campaign of precincts as "Get Out the Vote" target precincts. Of 285 precincts with this information, 105 were so designated. The second is the change in the percentage of votes received by Jim Gray in the runoff. The linear regression has five measures for field operations: Staff/Volunteer canvass, paid employee canvass, staff/volunteer Get Out the Vote activity, paid employee Get Out the Vote activity, and whether a house party was conducted.
The pro bit model showed the best predictor of a GOTV target precinct was an Isaac precinct with a predicted effect of 5 percentage points per point of Isaac's primary percentage and a large z score of 6.45 (p<0.001). Closely following the Isaac precinct score, was a Gray primary precinct with a predicted effect of 3.5 percentage points per point Gray's primary percentage and a large z score of 5.92 (p<0.001).
On the question of what characteristics tended to make a precinct targeted, the results show very clearly that the precinct being one in which Teresa Isaac was successful in the primary election mattered a lot. This reinforces, on a scientific level, the perception held among informed political observers; that the endorsement of Teresa Isaac had a major impact on her supporters, who did turn out and vote for Jim Gray in the general election.
In terms of the effectiveness of the field operations, the results are somewhat surprising, given the review of literature. None of the individual field elements meet the minimum scores for significance, nor did they collectively. The larger take away suggests that voters were going to vote how they were going to vote, regardless of any contact from the campaign.
Coots, Samuel Taylor, "Get-Out-The-vote (GOTV) Targeting and the Effectiveness of Direct Voter Contact Techniques on Candidate Performance" (2011). MPA/MPP/MPFM Capstone Projects. 93.