Breaking Barriers by Transcending Traditional GOTV

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The Lisa Middleton campaign needed to mobilize their GOTV universe in the waning days of the election. If elected to Palm Springs City Council, she would become the first openly transgender elected official in California.

Palm Springs is a difficult place to walk precincts. The geography and the oppressive heat make for a nasty combination, so the campaign turned to Stones’ Phones for live calls. Standard GOTV language – when are you voting? where are you voting? how are you getting there? – had turned voting into a chore. We had to go beyond the conventional wisdom and break through the noise.

A Better GOTV Approach

Instead of asking the “stalker” GOTV questions, we ran a Convince Yourself to Vote call program based on research conducted by Yale psychologist Dr. Michael Pantalon. While treating people addicted to nicotine, he noticed that allowing patients to express their own reasons to quit was much more effective than telling them why to quit.

So, we asked voters how likely they were to vote on a scale from 1 to 10, and then asked them why they chose that number. This way, voters had a chance to consider why they think voting is important, effectively convincing themselves to vote. This technique is also known as voter self- rationalization, and has been experimentally proven to increase turnout.

Over three days, our operators spoke with 808 Palm Springs voters, prompting them to consider why voting is important to them personally. In addition, we left 1,245 voicemails with a GOTV message about the general importance of voting and encouraging them to make a plan for Election Day.

Victory for Lisa

In the at-large election, with two seats open from retiring incumbents, Lisa Middleton was the top vote-getter with almost 31% of the vote. Close in second was Christy Holstege, a bisexual woman. The third place finisher was more than 17 percentage points below Holstege. Nobody expected such a strong showing.

Now, the Palms Springs City Council is 100% LGBT. But as New York Times’ Frank Bruni writes, Palm Springs seems to have become a “post-gay government, in which LGBT people are prominent not because they mirror their constituents, which definitely matters, but because they have valuable skills.” We can’t wait to see what barriers Lisa will break next.

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