Decision 2020

How Effective Are Political Campaign Mailers?

Political hopefuls are using campaign mailers to try to get the attention of 2020 voters. But how effective is snail mail at reaching its intended audience?

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With two weeks until Election Day, candidates are doing whatever it takes to capture the attention of voters -- including sending campaign mailers to voters

Political consultants say mailers can be an effective way to help voters recognize and remember candidates in different political races.

"Reinforcement is one of the keys to ensure that a message gets through, so direct mail can be valuable in a situation where it's serving to reinforce messages that are being communicated through television and social media and digital advertising," said Tom Shepard, a San Diego based political consultant.

Shepard has managed several campaigns in the San Diego area. He said that mailers are most effective when sent to older voters and early voters. California has a sophisticated voter registration system that allows campaigns to target key demographics they might need to win their race, Shephard said..

"The ability to get very specific in targeting certain geographic areas, demographic characteristics, party affiliation, age, makes direct mail a relatively efficient way of reaching voters in a state like California," Shepard said.

There is no real data to show that mailers sway voters to vote in a particular direction, political scientists say, though some believe that mailers can be a more cost-effective way for candidates in hyper-local races to reach their constituency.

"TV ads cost a lot of money, and all these other ads may not be geographically focused enough, so you may end up paying a lot of money for people who can’t vote for you anyway," said Dr. Stephen Goggin, a lecturer in political science at San Diego State University.

Mailers can also help in local races that are officially nonpartisan, Goggin said.

"So on the ballot, a 'D' or an 'R' doesn't appear next to a lot of these names," Goggin said. "For many voters, they may be really wanting to know, 'Are these candidates [Democrat] or [Republicans?' and kind of what they stand for, and these mailers can put right in front of them a very simple cue about who supports them and what issues they might have," Goggin said.

Political strategists say that, with many voters casting their ballot from home this year, mailers might be more effective than normal because people could be looking at them right before they fill out their ballot.

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