Cell Phones for GOTV: Voter Mobilization Methods on Election Day

New guest author! Check out Kate Kamber’s excellent overview of campaign mobile apps and the power of cell phones to help Get Out The Vote below. Also, be sure to look at Justin Justin Kutner’s past piece on social media photography on the campaign trail, which looked at Mitt’s Romney’s Instagram app.

Cell Phones for GOTV: Voter Mobilization Methods on Election Day

By Kate Kamber

According to a new survey report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 88 percent of registered voters have some kind of cell phone, and of those, over half are smartphone users. Of all mobile users, 27 percent say that they have used their device to seek out news about politics or the campaigns. So while the Internet may have offered a strategic edge in 2008, mobile provides a tremendous opportunity for politicians to connect with their constituents and to promote voter turnout in 2012.

How are the candidates making the most of mobile?

Both the Obama and Romney camps have revamped their digital strategies to attempt to utilize mobile to its fullest potential.

Obama’s no stranger to iPhone apps, having used an iPhone app back in 2008 allowing iPhone users to use geolocation to find their local campaign office. This year’s app, Obama for America, can function across multiple smartphone operating systems – iPhone, Droid, Blackberry. The app features a number of tools, most notably the Dashboard, that offers information and insights for volunteers, voters and backers of the Obama campaign, including:

  • Get the facts: Find out how President Obama’s policies are helping people in your community, and get the most up-to-date info about the President’s accomplishments.
  • Find events: Track what’s happening near you, RSVP and invite friends, and get there on time with full map integration.
  • Share breaking news: Stay in the loop with important updates, and use Facebook, Twitter, email and text messaging to spread the word to your friends.
  • Take action: Sign up to volunteer, join a local team, and talk to your neighbors about why you support President Obama.
  • Get out the vote: Access voting and registration rules for your state, help register friends, and make sure supporters get to the polls on Election Day.

Likewise, the Romney campaign has also made moves with mobile, rolling out a steady barrage of apps this year: With Mitt, Mitt’s VP, Romney-Ryan and, most recently, Mitt Events. The Mitt’s VP app simply announced Romney’s choice for his vice presidential candidate. Despite being essentially a one-trick pony, the app was very popular. It had 200,000 downloads within the first 48 hours, and hundreds of thousands thereafter. Romney-Ryan and Mitt Events offer information about the candidates and their events, as well as ways to share content and order tickets to see the candidates speak.

Apps Aside

As of August 2011, 50% of U.S. adult cell phone owners had downloaded apps to their phones, and I’m sure that number has continued to increase ever since. However, despite Americans’ active engagement with apps in general, just 8 percent of those surveyed in August 2012 said that they had downloaded and used an app from a candidate, party or interest group to keep up with presidential campaigns in 2012. So apps aside, how can politicians maximize the political powers of mobile in 2012? By using mobile to map out a plan of action for voters on Election Day.

According to the New York Times, simply asking voters to envision how they plan to spend Election Day is likely to increase turnout, experiments show. On behalf of both presidential campaigns, phone-canvassing callers are asking voters questions like: “What time will you vote?” “What route will you drive to the polls?” Specificity matters!

In 2008, an estimated 1.9 million citizens did not vote simply because they didn’t know where to go to cast a ballot. Recognizing this, the most effective mobilization apps are likely to be the ones that provide actionable information beyond candidate insights — i.e. ones that provide users with a personalized plan of action on Election Day.

  • When to Vote
  • What to Bring
  • Where to Vote
  • Transportation Information – schedules, fees, embedded ability to book a reservation

Bottom Line:

Politicians spend most of their time and focus on presenting information to the public about the issues and platforms. When Election Day comes, voters have already decided who they plan to vote for. Mobile provides that final push for voters to drive their plans to action.

Thanks Kate! Great overview, and we’re looking forward to more to come. – cpd

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Kate Kamber
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