How DeSantis Uses Text Messages to Influence Voters

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He has been praised by former President Donald Trump and has a loyal base of supporters who admire his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, his opposition to mask mandates and vaccine passports, and his defense of conservative values. But how does he reach out to potential voters and persuade them to support him? A recent report by Politico reveals that his super PAC, Never Back Down, has a secret weapon: text messages.

The Power of Texting

According to the report, Never Back Down conducted a “surge” of outreach in May, using various methods of advertising such as broadcast ads, streaming ads, mailers, and more. Then, it used follow-up polling to determine which method had been the most effective and cost-efficient. The result was surprising: text messages.

The report says that receiving a sequence of text messages over the course of two weeks made the average voter about 3.5 points more likely to support DeSantis. Bombarding an individual with 10 texts had more impact than five. The texts included links, ads, and language like “We must remain relentless in our fight for freedom”.

The report also explains how Never Back Down circumvents federal regulations that prohibit the use of auto-dialing technology to blast text messages. The super PAC outsources the work to call centers, paying between two and 10 cents per message, depending on whether it includes images or video. The call center employees have to manually hit the “send” button on every single message.

The Strategy Behind Texting

Why are text messages so effective in influencing voters? The report suggests several possible reasons. First, text messages are more personal and direct than other forms of communication. They can create a sense of intimacy and urgency, especially if they use the recipient’s name or location. Second, text messages are more likely to be opened and read than emails or mailers.

How DeSantis Uses Text Messages

They can also bypass spam filters and ad blockers that might prevent other types of messages from reaching the target audience. Third, text messages can be interactive and engaging. They can prompt the recipient to reply, click on a link, watch a video, or take an action. They can also use emojis, gifs, or memes to convey emotion and humor.

The report also reveals that Never Back Down uses sophisticated data analysis and segmentation to tailor its text messages to different groups of voters. For example, it can target voters based on their age, gender, race, education level, income level, political affiliation, issue preference, or geographic location. It can also test different messages and formats to see which ones generate the most positive responses.

The Controversy Over Texting

While text messages may be an effective tool for political persuasion, they are not without controversy. Some recipients may find them annoying, intrusive, or even harassing. They may also question the source and credibility of the messages, especially if they are not clearly identified as coming from a super PAC or a candidate. Moreover, some critics may argue that text messages violate the privacy and consent of the recipients, who may not have opted in to receive them or may not know how to opt out.

The report acknowledges that texting has its drawbacks and risks. It says that Never Back Down tries to avoid sending too many texts or texts at inappropriate times. It also says that it respects the wishes of those who ask to stop receiving texts or who block their number. However, it admits that texting is not a perfect science and that there is no clear consensus on what constitutes best practices or ethical standards.

The report concludes that texting is likely to become more prevalent and influential in future political campaigns, as candidates and groups seek new ways to reach and persuade voters. It also suggests that texting may have implications for democracy and civil discourse, as it creates new opportunities and challenges for communication and engagement.

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