“The task of getting voters out to the polls has changed dramatically over the past half-century.” (Richard J. Semiatin) It has changed from political parties (in the United States at least) being the focus of voter mobilization, to the campaigns themselves.
Campaigns are the new voter mobilization
Campaigns are targeted specifically for tailored audiences. “Campaigns are now developing greater precision to target a voter down to that voter’s household. They will know what someone eats, where they shop, and what they watch on television.” (Semiatin, Campaigns on the Cutting Edge, pg 85) This had all been made possible by technological advancement, through data collection and storage, most precisely the Internet.
Parties delivered roles in voter turnout up until the technology advancements that allowed for massive data collection. They'd get volunteers to go door to door, and host get to the polls events. Campaigns took this one step further, a critical step at that, by tailoring audience participation. Although a competitive election may have increased voter turnout this year, technology has allowed for the message to be delivered directly to the voter/consumer from the campaign. That is why so much success from Obama’s campaign has occurred through Facebook and the youth vote, and his message across all mediums.
FECA, Federal Election Campaign Act, is an amendment of 1974 that helped provide information to candidates. Since about this time, campaigns now can use the “voting data, voter registration lists, turnout mail, radio, and ID calls as the basis for their voter identification and GOTV operations.” (pg 86) This allowed them to “identify precincts on a zero-to-ten point scale.” (Semiatin, pg 86)
The key voter turnout change is campaigning turning into a model of advertising. “Campaigns are moving into a new era of customer-driven campaigning.” (Semiatin, Pg 91) Ads can be placed in target market modes of communication. For instance, liberal media can be portrayed on liberal tv channels. Internet websites who have data about their members already – like Facebook, can take funds from Obama – who wanted to hit heavy with the youth vote, and tailor messages for each demographic. This can be applied to all internet search engines, websites, etc. “So much personal information is becoming available to private industry, and thus to campaigns and parties, that is has raised privacy concerns.” (Semiatin, pg 91)
It isn’t difficult to get the right message to the right person any more. It isn’t like a hundred years ago when there was one newspaper and one mass audience. There isn’t as much necessary labor intensive activities like door to door – although it's still used. “Web sites are playing an increasingly critical role for field organizations.” (Semiatin, Pg 94) This web site recruited volunteers, money, and focused on the youth.
Voter turnout is on the rise
One major different in elections this year, was early voting. There was a rather large increase in early voting, and voter turnout in primaries and the general election. Early voter turnout will revolutionize voter turnout because more people vote, and more people vote sooner. It also makes the voting last more than just one critical day. So events can be portrayed over a few days instead of a single night. This will especially be affected when new technology comes out. Imagine if you could vote on your cell phone? Who wouldn’t vote then?
Semiatin is wrong about “national advertising becoming less appealing to presidential candidates.” Obama spent more on this medium than any other person before. Granted, he spent more money on an election than anyone else before too. He also spent money across the board in other forums as well, like the Internet. But still put a hefty amount into campaigning on the television – so far into it that he held his own 30 minute segment infomercial. So yes resources are changing where we try to mobilize voters – but the same mediums are still being used to at least the same extent.