Business, Community & Government

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.

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

Topics include: Know the Issues in the Community • Look at Historical Data • The Difference Between Persuasion and Mobilization • The Value of Microtargeting • Understand How the District Is Drawn


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.

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