Will Peer-to-Peer Texting Spark a Backlash in 2020?

Mouse tempting fate

Peer-to-peer texting exploded as a voter-contact tool in 2018. Building on its success in 2016, campaigns and independent turnout operations employed it on a vast scale in the mid-term elections, abetted in part by the Democratic National Committee’s commitment to appending voters’ cell numbers to the voter file. But just as we’ve had to ask with email fundraising, how much is too much? After a couple of dozen text messages, will campaigns suffer blowback, and could it affect the future of peer-to-peer texting in general?

I raised these questions in my latest Campaigns & Elections column, in the course of a breezy overview of 2020 presidential campaign tech:

Just about everyone's bullish on social media and text messaging, with the average presidential campaign posting on Facebook about four times per day (according to my Crowdtangle monitoring list). Texting an SMS short code also seems to have replaced signing up for an email list as the candidates' ask du jour, judging by what I see on their podiums and signs. But will the voters be as enthusiastic about 24/7 contact? They at least say they're souring on the socials when pollsters ask them, though we'll see if they live up to that sentiment and do something else with their fingertips this year.

I do suspect that broadcast SMS and peer-to-peer (P2P) texting may both see somewhat of a backlash this election cycle. I've heard anecdotal evidence that voters in battleground states wearied of the constant barrage of texts Hustle-ing out of myriad turnout operations last year, partially fueled by the DNC's big mobile-number buys for the 2018 cycle.

Friends of mine at least are already being turned off by campaign texts this time around, with one noting that Beto's campaign texted him five times on the day he announced his presidential campaign alone. Considering that P2P lives in a grey area (it does an end-run around the usual limits on mass-texting from a phone number), could overuse imperil the entire industry?

For more on presidential campaign texting, fundraising and social-ing, check out the full article. What do YOU think? Should the vendors be concerned, and what can they do about it?


Written by
Colin Delany
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