Five lessons from the US 2012 election

Five thoughts on Obama’s victory (along with the gains in the Senate for the Democrats and what looks at time of writing to be further gains, albeit it small, in the House of Representatives):

Women are the majority

You wouldn’t notice it from looking at the ranks of those in elected office or from the way politicians, pundits and political scientists talk about ‘the women’s vote’ as if they are a minority, different from the norm. But women are a majority of the population, a majority of the electorate and a majority of voters.

Romney did well among men, and look where that got him.

Ethnic minorities are big, not small

The electorate is changing and if there is a growing group of people who instinctively do not view your party as being a party for them you can get away with it now and again, but it becomes progressively harder to do so as that group grows in number.

Romney did well among white Americans, and look where that got him.

The state of the economy dominates

Obama’s had almost everything going for him: the power of incumbency, a huge 2008 winning coalition to build on, a formidable campaigning machine, highly effective fundraising and an opposition party deeply divided by ideological differences. Yet he didn’t walk it in the popular vote. The reason? The economy.

You should ask your supporters to take action

I cannot vote in US elections. I cannot donate to US campaigns. Yet Mr Obama kept on wanting me to do things. Phone, donate, visit, donate, tweet, donate, Facebook, donate. And donate. He almost never told me about what he believes; he repeatedly asked me to do things.

Compare that to the sorts of emails UK political parties predominantly send out. They tell you about how wonderful they, their leaders and their policies are. Or, for a more lively message how awful the other parties, their leaders and their policies are.

British politicians love talking about learning from the US. Here’s a lesson on a plate for them.

Integration and consistency wins

The Republicans had a plethora of different campaigning bodies. The Democrats had a much more integrated campaign – more coordinated fundraising and spending, more shared IT systems and more consistent messages. It worked.

4 responses to “Five lessons from the US 2012 election”

  1. "You should ask your supporters to take action" on this point I wonder if it has something to do with the way email addresses are collected? You and I signed up on his website and so were already bought in, he then could get away with 'asking every time'.

    However in the UK email addresses are rarely collected in this way, so being more brazen with an email address which may have been collected from a petition signed 5 years ago to save the local park would leave us open to someone clicking the unsubscribe button?

    • Chris Richards Can certainly imagine a problem if someone leaves it years before starting to use an email address (again), but in my experience if you having interesting information and campaigns, and keep in touch regularly, then people are very happy to go from hearing about the issue they originally got in touch / signed up over to a broader range. (Remember of course to get the data protection bits right so that you can do so legally.)

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