The GOP Primary And The Power Of Voter Comprehension

With 15 candidates vying for the Republican nomination, the race to capture voter loyalty is fierce. For candidates, success means making their voices heard in what has become an over-crowded and noisy space. This challenge — the need to capture market share in an extremely finite amount of time with competition jockeying for the same attention — is not unique to the political arena. Many brands face similar challenges in their crowded markets.  

Last month’s GOP debate spotlighted this challenge. In an effort to appeal to the masses, candidates stayed safely in the middle on most policy issues. But in this day and age, that strategy may be a campaign’s Achilles heel. With the help of big data, we’ve learned that what appears at first glance (a libertarian female, for example), may not reveal the small nuances that comprise a large categorical group. It’s this detailed information that makes the difference in who captures market share, either for a political campaign or traditional brand marketing.

A cursory look at some key voter data hints at the power of this strategy, where the sum of the parts are greater than the whole. In light of the latest GOP debate, let’s review voter data from the last presidential election in regards to two key issues discussed: immigration and taxes. By taking a closer look at these issues and voters’ stance, we see that traditional groupings do not hold the same credibility they once did: 


The L2 Nationwide Voter File shows that the majority of the voter population opposes loosening immigration restrictions — not an overly insightful piece of information. But dissecting this particular subset of the population tells a much different story:

Voters of both parties oppose loosening immigration restrictions, with 67.1% of Democrats, 93.3% of Republicans and 83.8% of non-partisan voters fitting into this camp. This means that despite generalities that these views are mainly held by Republicans, there is an opportunity to connect with a voter of an otherwise rival party (or undecided camp) if a candidate takes a stance on the immigration issue that hits home. 

Gender tells another story since 75.4% of men who oppose loosening immigration restrictions identify as Republican, with 72.4% of females who oppose loosening immigration restrictions identifying the same. Interestingly, females who oppose loosening immigration restrictions affiliate with the Democratic Party at a slightly higher proportion than their male counterparts (16.5% and 12.2%, respectively).


The majority of the voter population also opposes raising taxes, according to the same dataset — a key issue discussed in nearly every election cycle. This audience, however, is not a “one size fits all”: 

While it might not be surprising that 91.8% of Republicans oppose raising taxes, 61.8% of Democrats also feel the same way. For candidates running on a strong fiscal plan, a significant tax decrease could be an opportunity to reach across the aisle and connect with voters that would otherwise vote Democrat. Many voters would be warm to the stance on the issue, despite party affiliation.

Different generations also hold slightly varied opinions on this topic. Voters ages 25-34, although 79% oppose raising taxes, represent the smallest generational proportion in this camp. This age group has the largest proportion of supporters for raising taxes, at 21%.

With so much information now available, we have the ability to market smartly, and so we must. Personalization is no longer a competitive differentiator, it’s a requirement. The sooner candidates, and brands learn this principle and adjust, the sooner they will capture the support they seek.

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