Home 5 Case Studies 5 Changes we’ve seen in Voter Contact Methods

Changes we’ve seen in Voter Contact Methods

by | Mar 21

red phone with cord on white backgroundOver the past decade there have been significant transformations in the California voter file. This includes a boom in registration, and higher turnout rates for some segments of the electorate. For more on recent election reforms and impacts on turnout, check out our previous blog posting here.

But while we see a growing electorate and changes in the composition of the electorate, there’s also a transformation in how these voters can be contacted. And it speaks to the need for campaigns to adjust their methods to ensure they’re making successful connections with voters.

For example, consider the increased use of cell phones instead of land lines. In 2014 there were 9.2 million land-line phone numbers on the voter file, and only 2.8 million cell phone numbers. Fast-forward to today and the voter file has fewer land lines, down to under 8 million, and cell phones have more than quadrupled, up to nearly 8 million. Note: a raw voter file doesn’t break out land-line from cell phones, but PDI segments this so that campaigns can follow the different rules for each contact type.

The shift away from cell phones has been most dramatic among young voters. Where in 2014 only 28% of young voters had a cell phone number on their voter file, now more than 42% do. In contrast, 37% of these voters had a land line in 2014, and that number is now down to just 24%. How many actually use these phones? That’s got to be somewhere much lower.

For older voters, there are still advantages to using land lines. Among those over 60 years old, half of them have a land line and only 30% have a cell phone. But, while land lines persist, the percentage that have a cell phone number has dramatically increased from just 8% in 2014.

This growth in cell phones also introduces the idea of texting voters – something PDI helped many campaigns with in 2020, sending more than a Billion texts.  Yes, a billion, with a “B”.  Many of these texts were engagements with voters with reminders that their ballot was mailed to them and texts urging them to return ballots – two things shown in research to help improve turnout.

Aside from phones, more voters are also reachable by email. In 2014 PDI had already invested in building an internal emailing program that would allow campaigns to send unsolicited emails to voters. This is something which state and federal law make clear is completely permissible, but also something that is not allowed by major emailing firms like Constant Contact or MailChimp.

The rate of emails on the voter file in California is pretty astounding. While most states have no email addresses on their file, PDI has 11 million emails, more emails than cell phones or land lines. This is a dramatic increase since 2014, when we had fewer than 3 million emails statewide. And, unlike 2014, these emails are mostly from online registrations, making them higher quality emails since voters are using these emails to verify their registration and receive updates from the state.

Looking at these changes more closely, we can see some interesting differences by partisanship, age, and ethnicity.

2014 2023 Change 2014 2023 Change 2014 2023 Change
TOTAL 52% 36% -30% 16% 36% 126% 22% 50% 125%
DEM 53% 35% -33% 16% 37% 127% 22% 52% 134%
REP 59% 43% -27% 13% 34% 151% 21% 47% 121%
OTHER 44% 32% -28% 17% 35% 102% 23% 49% 111%
AGE <44 37% 24% -35% 28% 42% 51% 27% 57% 112%
AGE >59 64% 50% -22% 8% 30% 289% 19% 43% 128%
LATINO 53% 32% -39% 20% 40% 95% 20% 48% 139%
ASIAN 54% 37% -31% 14% 36% 147% 23% 52% 122%
BLACK 47% 33% -29% 19% 34% 74% 19% 45% 140%
WHITE 52% 38% -27% 14% 33% 137% 23% 51% 120%


As this table shows, Independents, younger voters, and Black voters are least likely to have land lines, while young voters and Latinos are most likely to have cell phones. Asian and white voters are most likely to have emails, along with younger voters, and Democrats – although the increase in emails has happened across the board.  And those over 60 may have fewer cell phones, but check out that nearly 300% change!

If you’re planning a campaign, you should be aware of how different voters in your area can be contacted.  And, if necessary, expand the methods you’re using to use more things like emailing and texting.

Don’t know where to start? Reach out to our team and we can help.