In a nationally watched Arizona special election last month, a Democrat came close to victory in a district Republicans won by a 37% vote margin in 2016. The results in Arizona came off the heels of another special election in Pennsylvania, where a Democrat bested a Republican in a district the Democrats didn’t even bother to challenge in 2016.

Conventional intelligence suggests the early special election results are a bellwether for the 2018 midterm elections. Perhaps they are…but if we are to listen closely and objectively, what do these bellwethers actually indicate for campaigns throughout the country?

At Resonate, we leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) models to gain an advanced and unbiased understanding of how voter behavior in AZ-08, home to last month’s special election, and media consumption patterns throughout Arizona can help inform the best strategies for targeting and messaging voters this cycle.

Want to learn more about the digital media bubble phenomena in modern day politics? View the SlideShare – Breaching the Bubble: Establishing an Effective Counter Narrative in an Era of Echo Chambers.

Digital Media Bubbles in AZ-08 Called for Persuasion Tactics
Media Bubbles in AZ-08

 

This map represents the average level of liberal-conservative bias in digital news consumed by AZ-08 voters – at zip code level – in the months leading up to the April 24th special election. Calculated by AI powered behavioral models, we call these pockets of political news consumption, “media bubbles”.

If the red on the map is indicative of conservative media consumed by voters heading into the election, does this look like a district the Republicans carried by 37% less than 2 years ago?

 

The fact is the landscape and voter patterns in AZ-08 drastically changed in a short period of time…and AI suggests this is happening on a real-time basis in districts all over the nation.

By mapping out these media bubbles, our models showed the best way to win a plurality of the vote in AZ-08 was by adopting a persuasion plan aimed at targeting and appealing to independent-minded voters. Represented in the purple that dominates the above map, these voters were ready for messages that appealed to their policy positions and values, not just party bias or voter history.

Statewide Media Bubbles Reinforce Swing Vote Significance
AZ Media Bubbles Reinforce Swing Vote Significance

This map represents the average level of liberal-conservative bias in digital news consumed by voters throughout Arizona. White space represents low census areas that fail to provide adequate scale.

Even the behavioral patterns throughout the entire state reinforce the major role independent and swing voters will play in deciding several major races this year, including the Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections. As the map shows, staunch conservative and liberal media consumption is few and far between…

 

 

To add another layer of significance to the independent voter, AI reveals that only 21% of registered voters in Arizona will choose a candidate based on their party affiliation.

The Bellwether Political Campaigns Should Follow

Early special election results and behavioral patterns in battlegrounds like Arizona are highlighting the essential role independents and swing voters will play in races throughout the nation this year – even in races that were just recently considered foregone conclusions.

To successfully track and engage these audiences, midterm campaigns should embrace AI solutions that power the most relevant data and targeting tools built for political persuasion and real-time measurement.

By adopting these tactics, campaigns will keep speed with quickly-evolving voter patterns and have the tools necessary to engage an entire constituency, not just a broad party platform that is sure to let some voters fall through the cracks. Come Election Day, those voters could very well be the ones who decide the winners and losers.

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