Relational organizing is an approach to campaigning that’s increasing in popularity with progressive campaigns and organizations. At its core, it’s no different than retail politics – meeting voters face to face – but, with advancements in data and technology, relational organizing enables campaigns to scale the effectiveness of this tried and true method of campaigning.
Dave Leichtman offers a helpful definition of relational organizing over at Campaigns & Elections. Relational organizing, he writes “allows campaign data teams to focus on two very important pieces of data that were too hard to track before: namely, for every voter who’s the best person in their network to contact them, and what’s the best way to do so.”
Relational Organizing and Social Proof
Relational organizing leverages data and technology to take advantage of the psychological concept of social proof. The principle of social proof simply means we use cues from other people to figure out what we should do. It’s a sort of cognitive shortcut to help us make decisions more efficiently.
As Robert Cialdini writes in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, “the greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.” So if a campaign can get an increasing number of committed supporters to reach out to a given undecided voter they or a voter who is less likely to turn out, the more they will be persuaded to follow along.
It’s especially effective if you map out the existing relationships but it works even if there are other similarities like geography, gender or age.
Democrats and Relational Organizing
Democrat campaigns that use relational organizing report increased contact rates, increased support, and increased turnout over other methods.
Democrats have access to a number of tools, most notably VoterCircle, that help their campaigns implement a relational organizing strategy, which is commonly called “friend to friend outreach” in practice.
Can Republicans Use Relational Organizing?
The obvious answer is yes, but as this post from the ACRONYM team points out, “Relational organizing isn’t a silver bullet, and the tools that facilitate relational organizing programs are not winning strategies by themselves.”
Like most of the challenges facing Republican campaigns today, the issue isn’t technology or our access to it, but rather the cultural commitment to new, more effective approaches to campaigning and a realignment of existing business models around politics.