The Daily Exchange: Now it's all about getting out the vote
Today all the political parties will concentrate on getting out the vote, often referred to by its acronym, GOTV.
In part this involves phoning people and knocking on doors in an effort to ensure that every last supporter goes to the polling station and marks an ‘X’. Strong GOTV requires excellent logistics, meticulous planning and a strong volunteer base.
Without diminishing the importance of a good field organization and detailed preparation (for both are vital), I want to explain why getting out the vote is based on the campaign's prior communication effort.
The core activities of any campaign are persuasion and mobilization: persuading voters to support a candidate and then prompting supportive voters to cast ballots. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that if a campaign spends money or expends volunteer labour on a function unconnected to persuasion or mobilization, it is wasting resources.
The act of persuasion involves more than convincing the undecided. It also includes attracting accessible (soft) supporters of other candidates, and hardening the intention of one's own soft supporters.
And mobilization extends beyond the mechanical acts associated with getting out the vote. A necessary component is motivation and encouragement of supporters, that is, giving them reason and inspiration to vote.
Thus, campaign communication is as important to mobilization as it is to persuasion. Think of today's phone-banking and door-knocking as harvesting: reaping what was sown during four weeks of campaign communication, not to mention months of communication before that.
In reference to mobilization I said supporters need both reason and inspiration to vote. I used those words deliberately, because human beings operate on two levels, cognitive and emotive. Effective campaign communication must address both levels. It must reason with, or convince, the audience. And it must move the audience. It must cause people to feel something.
A campaign might deliver a convincing message, but that's only half the battle. Its messaging needs emotive content, too. Campaigns fail when they succeed in convincing but fail to move.
Our human brains are wired with both cognition and emotion. As psychology professor Drew Westen has written, “You can't win an election with half a brain.”
Each party requires strong field organization to get out the vote today. But the number of votes available to harvest is determined by the communication that has already occurred.
- Guy Giorno, former chief of staff to Mike Harris and Stephen Harper
Response from Jeffrey Ferrier, former communications director for the Ontario NDP:
Guy has done an excellent job breaking down the importance of voter persuasion, volunteer mobilization and getting out the vote. Getting these things right are crucial to a campaign's success.
In this campaign, the conventional wisdom is that the Liberals and PC Party have the get-out-the-vote advantage because they have lots of money that they have invested in sophisticated voter contact technologies. This, we are told, will mean they should harvest more votes than polls say they will, while New Democrats will harvest less. It's an interesting theory, but I'd argue that it fails to consider a force we see playing out in the campaign's final days: the NDP's re-energized grassroots.
Take a look at Andrea Horwath's most recent campaign rallies. Yesterday, while Tim Hudak was drawing a few dozen supporters to his campaign events, and while Dalton McGuinty was stacking a Tim Hortons with Liberal supporters to make it look like the public is swinging his way, Horwath was speaking to big and boisterous crowds. That includes 400 supporters in Guelph, and 500 at her final campaign stop in Scarborough.
These rallies, often positioned by media as indicators of public support, are in reality better barometers of how motivated the grassroots are. Judging what we've seen the last few days, I think it's accurate to say that New Democrat get-out-the-vote efforts will be stronger than they've been in two decades, that the Liberals will perform better than anyone expected at the campaign's outset, and the PC Party will be counting on paid call centres. I mean, how else do you explain the curious strategy of pulling volunteers off getting out the vote for a series of photo ops, as Hudak is doing today?
There are two things behind the resurgence of the NDP's grassroots.
The first is Horwath's positive campaign. In their hearts, New Democrats are hopeful and optimistic. They don't get excited by the negative, sandbox politics we've seen from the Liberal and PC camps this campaign. They are motivated by talk about what we can accomplish together, about how we can build a better Ontario, about how (dare I say it) government can and should put people first for a change. To her great credit, that's exactly the kind of campaign Horwath and her candidates have run. New Democrats are proud of that, and they will be out in full force today.
The second factor is the Jack Layton effect. I don't know what impact Jack's death will have on the electorate. But one thing I know for certain is that it is having a huge impact on NDP volunteers.
Today, moved by Jack's message that love is better than anger, hope is better than fear, that optimism is better than despair, thousands of New Democrats will fan out in communities across Ontario to try and elect an Andrea Horwath NDP government. Jack called on New Democrats to pick up his torch and help create a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. That's what you'll see NDP supporters doing in record numbers today. How will all this play out? We'll find out tonight. All indications are that it'll be a nail biter. So for heaven's sake, no matter who you support, get out and vote.
Response from Erika Mozes, former senior adviser to George Smitherman and Gerard Kennedy:
It all comes down to today. Since Oct. 11, 2007, all three of the parties have been preparing for this day. Two of them have undergone leadership reviews and an overhaul of their brand. The other, although in government, has a very different slate of candidates up for consideration.
I think I am safe to say I don't think any of the parties thought they would be in the position they are today, and if they did, then they should be very careful what they wished for.
Election day is the most important day for any campaign. Parties have been preparing for this day for years. All the ads, literature, non-stop, cross-provincial tours, rallies, media, door knocking, it all comes down to today, and who you can mobilize to get out the vote. Because the person who gets the most votes in a local riding wins. The party that has the most elected MPPs gets to form government. And that party's leader becomes the 24th (ongoing) or 25th (new) Premier of Ontario.
Polls are one way to gauge how the results will turn out. But as we have seen in spades in this election, polls are simply a snapshot in time until voters actually vote. Depending on what poll you read, and at what time during this campaign, each one of the parties leaders is mere hours away from sitting in that premier seat at 99 Wellesley Ave. W.
It is what parties do with what they learned during the past 30 plus days that matters most.
Local campaigns have been phoning, knocking on doors, polling, and unique to this election, online trolling, to find out who you support. And if you said it was them, then be prepared to be stalked all day today until you vote. It's that old GOTV: getting out the vote. They enlist thousands of volunteers across the Province, beg them to take the day off work, and have them do everything they can to get you to the polling stating to cast your ballot.
A good get-out-the-vote strategy can absolutely make all the difference. Stories have been told and re-told about volunteers driving people to polling stations, dragging people out in their pyjamas, or babysitting the kids while mom and dad vote. Because every vote does matter.
The Ontario Liberal, PC Party of Ontario, and NDP need to get out their vote today. As I argued yesterday, Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal party have nailed the ballot question. Point in their favour. Further, they are an experienced party who have the right technology and expertise to know where and when to get their votes. They also have thousands of volunteers across the province who are prepared and motivated to get every last vote out.
In the past, Liberals have had the issue of getting their voters to the polls as they were "soft" voters. In this election I do not see that being an issue — their supporters are motivated to get out and vote for fears of a minority government, and the message they have been selling speaks to this base. Further, as I have argued before, I believe a big swath of red Tory voters — the ones who voted for both Rob Ford and Prime Minister Harper — will be voting for Mr. McGuinty.
The Conservatives share every bit of the Liberals’ expertise and technology. And I would argue their voters are generally more apt to show up at the polling stations. However, their base in the past has surprised them — think John Tory. And I think this election they may be surprised again with supporters staying home because they do not believe Mr. Hudak is up for the job — he is no "Mike Harris."
The NDP will have the biggest issues pulling their vote. They simply do not have enough people or technology to (a) have their vote identified, or (b) to pull them. They will have to cross their fingers and hope the polls actually deliver seats, as it did federally in Quebec. And Quebec I think is the key to this argument — the "orange wave" of the Spring Federal campaign did not translate to a massive seat gain in Ontario.
In less than 24 hours Ontarians will know what their next provincial government will look like. It will be a demonstrably different parliament than the one that was dissolved just over a month ago, regardless of the outcome of the seat count. And it is going to be fascinating to political junkies like me, Jeff and Guy. Now I hope that you will go out and vote!