GOTV: A Brief Overview (+ Best Practices)

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What is GOTV?

For those that haven’t heard the acronym “GOTV” before, it stands for “Get Out The Vote” essentially, it refers to all the strategies that campaigns and organizations use to persuade and remind voters to get out to their polling places on Election Day.

GOTV efforts are crucial in the weeks before any election. Persuasion and passive voters aren’t enough to win an election the success or failure of a campaign depends on voters coming out to the polls.

Common GOTV Strategies

  1. Canvassing is what a lot of people first think of in terms of GOTV knocking on doors and talking to voters. This is the most consistently effective GOTV method.
  2. Phone calls to remind and encourage people to vote recording, paid phone bank, or volunteers
  3. Social pressure messaging uses a social approach to GOTV rather than a responsibility or candidate based approach. For example, a social pressure mail piece might remind recipients that whether or not they vote is public information.
  4. Door hangers, print pieces that hang on doorknobs, force people to see and interact with them, unlike emails and more so than direct mail. Because they often stay in the same place for some amount of time, door hangers often reach more than one person in a household.
  5. Online mobilization is a newer GOTV method, which can include using social media, display ads, and other forms of digital communication. Have you seen “Find my polling place” and “make sure you’re registered to vote” ads online? These are part of online GOTV mobilization.

GOTV Best Practices

  • Recruit and mobilize volunteers. Active volunteers are an invaluable part of any campaign. Not only are they much more affordable than hiring full-time staff or professional phone banks, but they’re also more likely to be excited and passionate about their cause or candidate. Mobilizing volunteers is a great first step to highly effective GOTV strategies, such as door-to-door canvassing and phone calls.
  • Use social pressure and influence. Social pressure is an effective and often affordable way to encourage people to get out to the polls. Social networking is a great tool for GOTV strategies, because they reach individuals’ built-in networks for less money and time. For example, even the trend of taking selfies with “I Voted!” stickers can help create social pressure and incentive to vote.
  • Use pledge cards. Pledge cards are essentially campaign literature pieces that ask supporters to commit to vote for a specific candidate. Campaigns generally collect these after voters fill out their pledge and contact information, and then send them back out to the voters as Election Day approaches, reminding them of their commitment to head to the polls.
  • Create personalized messages. Research has shown that personalized communication is highly effective, especially face to face or over the phone. And not only do personalized messages work best, impersonal messages (such as robocalls and mass email blasts) have been shown to be ineffective. While conversations are likely to stick in your memory, mass emails and pre-recorded messages are more likely to be perceived as minor annoyances and are easily forgettable.

Each of these strategies and best practices have been shown to help get voters to the polls on Election Day, with varying levels of effectiveness. The best way to mobilize voters is to reach out using multiple different strategies, communicating through multiple media and channels for the best turnout.


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