Democratic voters say Democratic fundraising spam is backfiring

Democratic voters say Democratic fundraising spam is backfiring

In a tremendous public service to the grassroots universe, Daily Kos and Civic Shout commissioned Civiqs to conduct a survey about how Democratic voters feel about unsolicited fundraising emails and texts. There is a whole lot for the DNC, the DSCC, the DCCC, and every candidate to learn from this. Number one: Stop it.

The survey was of self-identified Democrats and Independents who voted Democratic in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections, asking about the unsolicited contacts. These voters are not fans, as Josh Nelson, CEO of Civic Shout, tweets.

Here’s a sample of what we heard from respondents about spam emails and texts: “It makes me want to never donate again.” “I did not vote for any of the candidates that were harassing me by email and text.” “Extremely annoyed and less likely to donate or volunteer.” 14/18

— Josh Nelson (@josh_nelson) November 17, 2022

That’s just a smattering of the responses. According to Civiqs director Drew Linzer, there’s much, much more like that. They also heard:

  • “It is very annoying and counterproductive to building meaningful relationships with voters, volunteers, and donors. Receiving messages on behalf of out of state candidates makes even less sense and should be generally abolished as a practice.”
  • “I find it very annoying and it makes it clear my email has been shared or sold without my permission. This reduces trust which is important with political candidates. It also makes me regret the donations that I have made.”

In other words, “Make it stop.” (It’s worth noting at this point that neither Daily Kos nor Act Blue will sell your email addresses when you donate through us. Don’t blame us for your inbox!)

Campaign Action

Clear majorities of both independent voters (57% of them) and the critical group of all voters aged 18-34 (59%) agreed with this statement: “I get too many impersonal emails and text messages from Democratic campaigns that I never signed up for.” Out of the whole group of respondents, 60% said that Democratic campaigns should not be sending out emails and text messages to people who didn’t sign up for them. Just 18% of people are okay with that.

A big majority, 57%, said they got “a lot” of emails, and 46% said they didn’t sign up for them. One-third of them said that those emails were “mostly annoying,” 35% said they were “tolerable,” and only 14% found them helpful. Not as many said they got “a lot” of texts (36%), but 54% said they had never signed up to get them, and 32% found them “mostly annoying.”

Here’s a really troubling finding: 24% said have been demotivated by the cold contacts because getting involved in the campaign would just result in them receiving more unwanted emails and texts. They agreed with statement that ”There have been times when I have decided not to donate to or volunteer for a Democratic campaign because that just means I’ll get more emails and text messages.”

Campaigns might counter, “yeah, but it works.” Except for the response to this question: “Did you donate any money to a Democratic political campaign based on any emails or text messages that you received from Democratic groups in recent months?” More than two-thirds—68%—said “no.” Oh, and to reiterate what that one person said: “I did not vote for any of the candidates that were harassing me by email and text.”

Overwhelmingly voters said they wanted out: 57% of all of the surveyed voters said if there was a universal way to opt out of all these unsolicited contacts, they would use it; a full 72% of independents and 67% of 18- to 34-year-olds (the people who got Democrats elected this time around) said they would to stop receiving all political campaign emails and texts if they could.

The survey didn’t get into the content of the messages, the never-ending “DOOM” and “THE END IS NEAR” and “WE’RE IN CRISIS MODE” subject lines screaming across the internet to land in your inbox, multiple times. It would be helpful to see as well just how motivating—or not—that is. But based on conversations with all the people I know who follow campaigns closely and give money, they hate them.

But the message from this group of Democratic voters is clear: Being inundated by spam fundraising requests is at best annoying and at worst angering enough to make them tune out. “Democratic campaigns are demoralizing their supporters, annoying potential donors and driving independents away by inundating Americans with unsolicited fundraising emails and texts,” said Nelson. “If Democrats want to preserve their major advantage in grassroots online fundraising, they must stop spamming and scamming potential supporters.”

“Democratic and independent voters are being absolutely inundated with unsolicited digital campaign materials from Democratic Party campaigns and organizations,” said Civiqs director Linzer. “These voters are clear: It’s too much, and they want a way out.”

Election Night 2022 was full of surprises—mostly for people pushing the last couple months of traditional media narrative of a “red tsunami.” The problem is that Americans are not super into the GOP. Markos and Kerry have been saying the media narrative was wrong for months, and on Tuesday, Daily Kos and The Brief team was validated.

Daily Kos recruited more than 50,000 volunteers to get out the Democratic vote for the November election. Chip in $5 to help us get out the vote for the Georgia runoff.

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