Business, Politics & Society

Understanding the Electorate and Targeting Voters

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 14:38 min

Karl teaches you how to determine which parts of the electorate your campaign should target and how to go about it, while David shares his advice on the importance of addressing what constituents care about most.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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Elections don't take place in a vacuum. There is a political landscape that exists in the election. That landscape changes every two years. It's constantly changing. It varies even in places where you think it's sort of like stable. This is a Democrat state or a Republican state. Things are changing. And you need to look at what's happening. Part of it will be seen in voting patterns. Either one party's making some-- is progressing slightly or falling slightly. You look at it in demographics. And you look at it in the terms of the current range of issues that are out there for the election itself. What are people concerned about? There will be an overall mood. Do people think the country is going in the right direction? They could think the country is going in the wrong direction. Are they fearful? Are they optimistic? Is the economy doing well? Is the economy doing badly? Is there some external event that is dominating the public discussion? The war in Iraq, or the collapse of the big banks. So every election takes place in an environment that has subtle characteristics like changes in demography and voting patterns, and big, visible characteristics like major events. And as you think about the campaign, you've got to figure out how that's going to impact your candidate. But all these things need to be discussed and reviewed, and conclusions arrived at as you begin to plan what you think your message ought to be in the campaign. - It is really, really important for you to understand what is important in your community. What are the most salient issues in your community at this particular moment? I did a race for Nevada's Supreme Court in 1992. And our candidate, a woman named Miriam Shearing, was running. And the biggest issue in Nevada at that time was a Yucca Mountain, a proposed nuclear repository for the nation in Yucca Mountain, which meant that all nuclear waste would be shipped to Yucca Mountain in Nevada and stored there. This was, as you can imagine, wildly unpopular in Nevada. Now, the likelihood that that was going to be an issue before the Nevada Supreme Court was rather low. It was really a federal issue. There were all kinds of regulatory agencies that oversaw this. The Congress oversaw this. The president oversaw this. But it wasn't impossible that some aspect of it would come before the Nevada Supreme Court. And our opponent was very tied to corporate interests who would favor such a move. So we did an ad about Yucca Mountain and talked about the need for having a justice who was independent enough to rule in the interests of Nevadans. It was kind of out of left field. It probably won us the race, because we understood what was most salient to voters. So really try and understand the issues that are of greatest concern to the voters who are going to make the difference in your particular venue. - When I start a campaign, when I start planning, I'm sort of old fas...


What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The two part views coming from a messaging stand point and the organizational stand point was very helpful in understanding the balance of both in a campaign. The practical lessons, balanced with personal anecdotes both solidified the lessons and provided fun and engaging storytelling.

I feel like even in conversations I have with people who are politically similar and different, this helps me to be smarter about what I say and also understand politics more.

As someone who jumped into local politics for the 2018 cycle and watched a super energetic but completely disorganized candidate improbably win, I found this to be a really helpful brain dump from two masters in the craft. The step-by-step process they outlined will help me help other local candidates who need strategy and structure.

Early on in the course, I wanted more solid examples...and you both delivered. Thank you so much for the patriotic shot in the arm. You remind us all that we cannot fall asleep at the wheel. Democracy is worth getting off the couch for, regardless of party preference.


Comments

Maryliz B.

Wacthed on 5/24/20. Interesting, but so much has changed in the current political arena that this felt irrelevant and dated.

Eduardo P.

I still have many concerns about the ethics of using microtargeting in a political campaign.

jimmy.wong888@outlook.com

A fascinating access to insights into the American political campaign from the 2 leading masters of the US political spectrum.

Josh F.

Microtargeting == Psycho-metrics a la Cambridge Analytica. And Rove glosses over the fact that bad actors will justify the means by the ends achieved: Brexit, Trump's election were both made possible by the intentional mis-information campaign by Leave in Brexit, and with the muddying of the waters with all the conspiracy hypotheses regarding the Clintons, and Democratic party. They didn't have to be true. They just had to get the incredulous to pay attention and ruin everything for everyone else. Micro-targeting in the hands of political agents is a double edged sword. Danger Will Robinson. Danger.

Allison F.

The advice to be yourself from the get go is excellent. Pivoting from hard left or right and thinking to go to the center once elected is a terrible strategy and has produced disappointment and cynicism about the election process from voters. Many voters distrust politicians and the political process because of a perceived (and often correct) lack of authenticity of the candidates. Rove is correct in making it clear a candidate has to run as he or she actually wishes to be, not what he/she thinks will get them elected.

Liz

I am disgusted by the Yucca Mountain example. Fear mongering tactics should not be apart of politics. Even by those articulate enough to mask it as micro-messaging.

Michael O.

Micro targeting is done by every corporation these days. Realpolitik. Invasion of privacy is the norm. And that of course justifies using it in politics. Micro-targeting = Big Brother. Scary?

Ron H.

One thing that I may have missed here is that it is very, very important in every single campaign to know your win number.

Mia S.

A: "It is really, really important for you to understand what is important in your community, what are the most salient issues in your community at this particular moment? I did a race for Nevada's Supreme Court in 1992, and our candidate - a woman named Miriam Shearing - was running and the biggest issue in Nevada at that time was a Yucca Mountain - a proposed nuclear repository for the nation, which meant that all nuclear waste would be shipped to Yucca in Nevada and stored there. This was, as you can imagine, wildly unpopular in Nevada. Now, the likelihood that that was going to be an issue before the Nevada Supreme Court was rather low; it was really a federal issue. There were all kinds of regulatory agencies that oversaw this, the Congress oversaw this, the president oversaw this, but it wasn't impossible that some aspect of it would come before the Nevada Supreme Court. And our opponent was very tied to corporate interests who would favor such a move. So we did an ad about Yucca Mountain and talked about the need for having a justice who was independent enough to rule in the interests of Nevadans. It was kind of out of left field, probably won us the race, because we understood what was most salient to voters. So really try and understand the issues that are of greatest concern to the voters who are going to make the difference in your particular venue."

Mia S.

R: "Elections don't take place in a vacuum. There is a political landscape that exists in the election. That landscape changes every two years; it's constantly changing. It varies even in places where you think it's sort of like, stable - 'this is a Democrat state or a Republican state.' Things are changing. And you need to look at what's happening. Part of it will be seen in voting patterns - either one party's making some... is progressing slightly or falling slightly. You look at it in demographics, and you look at it in the terms of the current range of issues that are out there for the election itself. What are people concerned about? There'll be an overall mood. Do people think the country is going in the right direction? They could think the country is going in the wrong direction. Are they fearful? Are they optimistic? Is the economy doing well, badly? Is there some external event that is dominating the public discussion? The war in Iraq, or the collapse of the big banks. Every election takes place in an environment that has subtle characteristics, like changes in demography and voting patterns, and big, visible characteristics like major events. And as you think about the campaign, you've got to figure out how that's going to impact your candidate. But all these things need to be discussed and reviewed, and conclusions arrived at as you begin to plan what you think your message ought to be in the campaign."