Market Research Foundation was founded in 2013 to provide tangible research on aspects of the political process that are often overlooked by candidates, parties, and mainstream media outlets. We were one of the first non-partisan research groups to pioneer contact methods to reach and turn out First Generation naturalized citizens, White Non-College voters, and Low Propensity voters.
In the 2022 midterm election our team set out to test contact methods with a subset of the voting-eligible population in key battleground states who, based on their voting records, were infrequent participants in the pollical process. Despite being less likely to engage in the political process, these Low Propensity voters can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election, and understanding ways to activate these voters is invaluable for campaigns.
We chose to focus on these Low Propensity voters in six swing states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – and tested targeting to encourage voter participation in the General Election.
By matching the voter IDs of our targeted Low Propensity voters to their 2022 midterm vote and previous votes in the 2018 and 2014 midterms, we were able to demonstrate a rise in voter turnout compared to previous election years.
Our results showed a much lower voter participation rate in 2018 and 2014 compared to 2022 in part because we specifically selected Low Propensity Voters who did not vote frequently in off-year elections.
Our results are as follows:
Arizona saw a 14-percentage point difference in 2022 turnout between the Targeted universe (68%) and the Untargeted universe (54%). When comparing the 2022 turnout rate of the Targeted universe (68%) to the 2018 midterm turnout rate (48%) and the 2014 turnout rate (24%) it is clear the Targeted group was more active in the 2022 midterms.
Georgia 2022 midterm turnout rates between the Targeted and Untargeted universes were identical, an indication that outside groups may have influenced the turnout rate in the Untargeted group we did not reach. However, comparing the turnout rates of the Targeted group in 2018 (33%) and 2014 (7%), it is evident the Targeted group increased voter participation significantly in the 2022 midterms compared to previous elections.
Michigan saw a minimal increase in participation between the Targeted and Untargeted groups, indicating outside influence played a larger role in the increase in turnout compared to previous midterm elections. Turnout rose 8-percentage points in the Targeted group compared to 2018 and 33 points compared to 2014.
Pennsylvania saw one of the most significant differences in 2022 voter turnout between the Targeted universe (59%) and the Untargeted universe (47%). This represents a 12-percentage point difference in 2022 turnout between Low Propensity voters we targeted and those we did not target. This demonstrates that our targeting efforts in Pennsylvania made a marked impact on the results of the 2022 midterms despite a significant amount of outside influence. In addition, turnout in the Targeted group was 33 percentage points higher in 2022 than it was in 2018, and was 55-percentage points higher in 2022 than in 2014.
Wisconsin saw a modest difference in 2022 turnout between the Targeted universe (49%) and the Untargeted universe (47%). Because the difference was so modest, it is likely outside groups played a role in targeting the Low propensity voters in our control group. Both groups voted at Subsnatially higher rates in 2022 than they did in the 2018 or 2014 midterms.
Virginia saw one of the more significant differences in 2022 voter turnout between the Targeted universe (69%) and the Untargeted universe (60%). This represents a 9-percentage point difference in 2022 turnout between Low Propensity voters we targeted and those we did not target. Our targeting efforts in Virginia made a notable impact on the results of the 2022 midterms. In addition, turnout in the Targeted group was 19 percentage points higher in 2022 than it was in 2018, and 22 percentage points higher in 2022 than in 2014.
We were able to demonstrate the significant impact of the voter messaging, particularly in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. The impact of our work is evident in the rise in voter participation among those who were targeted compared to the control groups who received no contact from us.
Throughout the election year, we monitored and measured outside influence from political groups focused on the Low propensity voter in our target states. Of note, our team found that groups which leaned Left and sought to reach Low Propensity voters in battleground states largely overlooked White Non-College voters and focused primarily on Low Propensity minorities.
For instance, in Arizona, a non-profit called Chicanos Por La Causa specifically focused on Latinos who had not cast a ballot in the two most recent elections.
In Berks County, Pennsylvania, groups focused on grassroots mobilization of Low Propensity Latinos partnered with Centro Hispano, a nonprofit that helps with voter outreach on social media. Meanwhile, in Montgomery County, grassroots efforts were made to reach Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean, and Polish voters through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Language Access Committee. The fact that we demonstrated a significant impact in Pennsylvania despite these outside efforts further validates our work in the state.
In Georgia, former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams made the activation of Low propensity Black voters a cornerstone of her campaign, with The Emory Wheel reporting in September 2022 that Abrams had “narrowed her focus to Black voters, especially men, who have decreased in their support for Abrams, reportedly due to factors such as Kemp’s COVID-19 response and the stability of Georgia’s economy.” Given the fact that there was little difference in voter participation between our Targeted and Untargeted groups in Georgia, and only a modest increase compared to the 2018 midterms, it appears the messaging of various groups may have canceled each other out.
While we acknowledge the involvement of other media may have influenced voter participation, this is primarily a result of heightened involvement on all sides. The surge in political communication no doubt had an impact on participation, but we can demonstrate that our target groups saw a substantial increase in voter participation compared to control groups in all five states except for Georgia, which showed no change.
Overall, we demonstrated that, where ground contact is executed well and candidates make direct appeals to attract Low Propensity voters, our targeting efforts can have a substantial impact even in the face of outside influences muddling the message voters are receiving. Virginia and Pennsylvania were blanketed with political messaging from all sides, and yet our targeting still demonstrated a significant impact in these states.