Data Lessons from Virginia: Localize and Win Swing Voters

By this time, you probably have consumed enough pundit analysis about the Virginia Gubernatorial Election and how it all went down. Don’t worry, we’re not here to read out party talking points…our business is in the data.

Pundits may have told you that Virginians are representative of most Americans right now and Tuesday was a rejection of liberal “wokeism”. Or, maybe you heard that Republicans managed to trick voters about critical race theory and win with fear politics…

However, the fact is, Virginia was won on local issues…and on the backs of Independent and swing voters. For battleground campaign operatives, this is really the only takeaway that matters.

Regardless of whether you agree with how the issues were positioned in Virginia, it’s undeniable that Virginia was won locally. Trump didn’t win Virginia for Youngkin. Biden didn’t lose it for McAuliffe.

The national party narratives attempting to justify the Virginia outcome are great “feel good” analyses if you’re a midterm operative in a safe place. However, if you’re a savvy operative in a battleground district/state next year, Virginia reinforces the need to identify your independents / swing voters and the 2-3 issues they care most about, which may be different from the issues of your party.

The Virginia Example: Finding the Swing Voters

Exit polls show that roughly 971.4k Independent voters voted in the Virginia Gubernatorial Race. Youngkin ended up winning independents with 54% of their vote or roughly 524.5k Independent voters.

Back in October, we published a blog that – using Resonate’s real time data models – looked at a smaller subset of those 524.5k  Independent voters in Virginia. Specifically, we used our machine learning algorithms to identify roughly 491k Virginia voters online who are known to vote in non-presidential elections and self-identified as being a “swing voter” in the last several elections.

The difference between “Independent” and “Swing Voter” is an important one, as some Independents may only vote for one party over the last few election cycles. Only Resonate’s “Swing Voter” insight narrows in on voters who the data say change up their votes from election to election, regardless of affiliation.

Virginia Swing Voters: Insights into Education

When we analyzed the online swing voter audience who was likely to vote in the governor’s race, we saw some interesting things in our data. For starters, we saw an audience that, when compared to the average Virginia voter, was about 30% more likely to vote for a candidate based on their education policy and at least half had school-aged children.

Additionally, when compared to your average Virginia voter, these voters were 21% more likely to value the freedom to determine their own actions and 83% more likely to be psychologically driven by expressing their individuality.

In large part, Youngkin made this election about education and specifically, empowering parents to determine and have the freedom to participate in crafting their child’s curriculum. The data supports it – this was a very smart play with Virginia independent-minded swing voters.

values of virginia voters - lessons from virginia

Values and drivers of Virginia swing voters compared to average voters in Virginia


Virginia Swing Voters: Insights into Climate Change

In the days leading up to the election, Youngkin made a point to localize climate change and speak about the need to combat climate change in Virginia neighborhoods…also a smart play with the swing voter!

Our models demonstrated that Virginia swing voters who likely turned-out Tuesday saw climate change as a top issue. In fact, 80% of all swing voters supported reducing climate change and they were 43% more likely than the average Virginia voter to engage on climate issues and 38% more likely to value caring for nature.

Top societal / charitable issues of Virginia swing voters compared to average voters in Virginia.


Virginia Swing Voters: Biggest Fears

Lastly, our data was clear that Virginia voters did not see former President Trump as a big threat to the United States. When surveyed, these voters would tell you that rogue states and terrorist groups represented the biggest threat to our country…along with the mainstream media.

Virginia swing voters wouldn’t have resonated with McAuliffe’s frequent anti-Trump rhetoric – they wouldn’t have cared – and the recent events in Afghanistan did not do McAuliffe any favors either.

Biggest threats to the country as seen by Virginia swing voters compared to average voters in Virginia.

Bonus Insight: Hyper-local Swing Voters

Nearly 70% of all Virginia swing voters online advocated for local issues and they’re 26% more likely than the average Virginia voter to get involved at the local level. How about that?

The Lesson

We’re sure there are many lessons and takeaways from Virginia, but as data experts, our lesson to battleground midterm campaigns is to keep it local! Put the party talking points away and your own biases aside. Allow Resonat’es data to show you who the swing voters and independents are in your race and the issues that matter most to them. We will then segment that audience and target them to help win. Build unity and alignment through shared purpose and goals. Win the independents, win the swing voters, win the close races.

Our survey-based, AI enhanced methodology eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming modeling. In near real-time we will help you find, analyze, and build a plan to target the independents and swing voters with precision and at scale? We are here to help. Request a demo or give us a call at 855.855.4320.

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