Elections place a heavy burden on mail carriers. Their bags are stuffed with political advertising telling voters why they should support this or that candidate. Most of this mail is ignored or discarded with barely a glance, mainly because it does not address issues that really matter to people.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little effort and a relatively small investment, candidates can conduct their own political research using simple survey tools to discover what people care about and what they are looking for in their elected officials.
Discovering What’s Important to People
Effective political surveys have a lot in common with surveys used for market research or any other effort intended to learn about personal interests and preferences. They should begin with an upbeat invitation, such as “Thank you for taking the time to make a difference in our community,” or “Thank you for letting us know what’s on your mind.”
Like other types of surveys, political surveys should be brief and easy to complete. The early questions should be pleasant and fairly simple. Questions about difficult or controversial topics should be put off until the end of the survey, when people feel more comfortable about expressing their opinions. If these questions appear too early, people may abandon the survey because they find it too challenging.
On multiple choice questions, it’s good to give people an option of “Don’t Know” or something similar. On other types of surveys, the Don’t Know response usually doesn’t provide useful information, but on a political survey it can be highly instructive. If a large number of people don’t know what they think about an issue, a candidate might decide that the issue is not very important to them. Of course there are other ways to determine what people care about most. The simplest is just to ask them to rank a number of issues in terms of their importance. Responses to such questions probably won’t lead candidates to change their positions, but they will help candidates decide which issues to emphasize.
The Online Advantage
In the past, conducting political opinion surveys was too expensive and labor-intensive for most candidates. The Internet has changed that. Online surveys yield results very quickly, often within a day or two after they are posted. Once a survey has been posted online, it costs very little to collect and interpret the results. Online surveys can use graphics, colors, and even video to make it easy and entertaining for people to complete them. And, in the Facebook era, many people will feel more comfortable sharing their opinions online than they would responding to a phone survey or even filling out a paper questionnaire.
Online survey software, such as Mineful’s products, can make it easy for candidates to get the most out of surveys. For example, candidates can use this software to sort responses by location or by political affiliation. They can also see how opinions on one issue might be correlated within opinions on another. Affordable, easy-to-use software tools can make it easier for candidates to deliver the right message to the right people.
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