Next year’s midterm elections may be the most controversial yet, and both parties have started gearing up for highly contested races. Millions of dollars have been raised, field offices have been assembled, passionate staffers have been hired, and candidates are ready to kick off an exhausting effort in an attempt to make it to Washington.
Congressional elections consistently garner less national attention than the presidential election. However, there seems to be a new sense of urgency and significance placed on November 6, 2018. Both sides of the aisle always give (and spend) everything they have in an attempt to either hold or gain the majority, but for this election, the traditional challenge of public visibility seems to have disappeared. No matter which side of the aisle they stand on, Americans care deeply about the outcome of their local congressional and Senate races next year, and they are willing to be vocal about those opinions.
With the country’s attention focused on the races, some of the most difficult campaign work is already underway. The next task is shaping a narrative that matters to voters. A Pew Research Center poll found that approximately ten percent of voters from both major parties defected to the opposite party between December 2015 and March 2017. Americans are weary of empty promises and flowery rhetoric, but there are many ways to advance a perfectly crafted message to resonate with constituents. To achieve that, campaigns need to hear and understand what constituents are advocating for on a hyper-local level. Nielsen reports that Americans across all age ranges favor local news, and watch double the amount of local news compared to national broadcast news. Voters place a high importance on community and local issues that affect them daily.
There is no question that advancements in technology have forever changed the way that campaigns are run – its strategic use can uncover what voters truly want and amplify compelling messages either to victory, or loss. The use of social media in the 2008 Obama campaign is just one well-known, successful case-study of this process. Gone are the days when campaigns could primarily rely on human and grassroot efforts to win. With information moving at the speed of light across a multitude of outlets, it has become increasingly challenging for campaigns to stay ahead.
New tools such as artificial intelligence promise to be an advantage for campaigns to tip the odds in their favor. Human efforts are now being augmented by AI, allowing staffers to quickly identify topics important to their constituents, keep track of the opponent’s message and better craft their own narratives. The ability to obtain critical information in seconds, a task that once forced campaigns to scour airwaves and TV footage for hours, if not days, now provides campaigns with immediate insights. The potential to create and communicate content specific to voter needs affords campaigns the opportunity to take ownership of their message and shape their narrative throughout the entirety of the race.
The upcoming midterm elections are imperative to our national discourse in a way that is nearly unprecedented. There is more at stake and yet more unknowns than ever before. Running a campaign that listens and responds to voters will undoubtedly propel candidates to the finish line and will change the trajectory of this country.
Elisa Henry is a senior member of the Veritone Politics team, continuously delivering value to the politics and advocacy community. Her entrepreneurial spirit and experience spans over 20 years and includes the development of interactive voice survey and automated messaging solutions.