Low Propensity Republican Voter Turnout

Overview

In the final weeks of the 2014 general election for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, both candidates, Republican Martha McSally and incumbent Democrat Ron Barber, had saturated the pool of likely voters with paid media. Over $10 million was spent between the two candidates in what would be the closest election in the country in 2014 and the closest congressional election since 2002. Axiom’s successful turnout of non-traditional voters had a major impact on McSally’s narrow, historic 167-vote victory.

The Challenge

Behind in the polls, just outside the margin of error, and with more outreach to likely voters becoming expensive and ineffective, McSally and Axiom Strategies piloted an innovative get-out-the-vote program targeting low propensity Republican voters—those who probably would support McSally, but hadn’t voted in more than two of the past four elections. Many of these voters have historically voted only in presidential election years even with other competitive state and federal races on the ballot.

The Strategy

The turnout program utilized a “Hazmat Team” for phone-banking and door-knocking and an aggressive mail campaign featuring four memorable mailers—a positive Conservative Values piece, a Thank You Letter from Martha, an Uncle Sam-themed appeal to civic duty, and— just days before the election— a social pressure piece, which revealed the recipient’s voter grade and the grades of his or her neighbors, that received national attention and earned media.

 

The Results

In AZ-2, overall turnout district-wide was 56.54% of all registered voters. Turnout among the target universe of our GOTV program was a bit higher at 57.60%. That slight increase is impressive on its own, as the vast majority of our targets were the lowest propensity voters in the district, who haven’t turned out to vote in most past elections. Compare that increase of 1.06% from overall to GOTV-targeted turnout with the 8.81% decrease we see in AZ-1, the control group for this study, from overall turnout to turnout among those low propensity voters who would have been the target of our GOTV program in that district.

The Impact

Analysis of these results gives a clear indication that Axiom’s get-out-the-vote program had a direct impact not only on increased turnout among low propensity voters but, considering McSally’s margin of victory was only 167 votes, also on the outcome of the election and the historic Republican majority in the House.

The Data

If you enjoy diving into the data and metrics as much as we do, here’s our source data for the study, which is all publicly available.

McSally Case Study Data