In 2018, Katie Porter sought to identify and turn out voters in a historic race. At the time, Porter was a law professor, attorney, single mother of three, and first-time candidate. Katie was hoping to mobilize voters in record numbers through digital efforts.
When we started working with Porter, she was a first-time candidate in a congressional district that had never sent a Democrat to Congress. Porter was up against a two-term Republican incumbent who had previously served in the California State Assembly and California State Senate.
We were determined to help Porter flip California’s 45th district with TextOut. We listened to the district’s voters, curated scripts based on voter perspectives, gave important information, and reminded voters about Election Day.
Porter’s campaign utilized TextOut Turnkey, a full-service texting package that includes a dedicated team to run the texting programs. We worked closely to write texting scripts based on campaign goals and conducted a multi-step plan for victory.
We conducted peer-to-peer listening, persuasion, and mobilization text message campaigns in 2018. We have continued to work with Porter on similar campaigns in 2020 and 2022.
In 2018 and the years following, we conducted engagement texting programs that included best practices in peer-to-peer (P2P) texting: social listening, persuasion, and GOTV.
Phase One: Listening
Listening was the first key step for the texting campaigns. We conducted surveys via text to gather information on the issues that matter most to voters. The texting script for this program began with a strong statement on an important issue, such as abortion or education. We then asked the voter which issues were important to them. Based on voter answers, our texters provided go-to scripted responses modeled after Katie’s political stances on issues. These texting sessions informed the persuasion phase that followed.
While we modeled a predicted top issue for each voter based on demographics, it turned out that healthcare was mentioned the most often.
Phase Two: Persuasion
In 2018, our next step was convincing voters to choose Porter on Election Day. We provided Porter’s goals as a member of Congress and her plans if she were elected. We started four weeks out from Election Day to identify supporters, those opposed, and undecided voters. We then used these labels to create the appropriate conversations.
In 2020 and 2022, we expanded persuasion campaigns with more specific targeting and messaging. With polling data, demographic information and results from texting listening campaigns, we worked together to combine the right audience and messaging for the district. The data tags in TextOut helped us choose the issues that matter to the voters in the district.
Given the close partisan split in Porter’s district, we focused on a moderate audience to create the widest reach. The persuasion program was also an opportunity to tout Porter’s accomplishments and create an additional touch point with voters prior to GOTV.
Phase Three: GOTV
GOTV time was crunch time. We sent reminders prior to Election Day that included personalized details about the voter’s polling place, address and hours, as well as how to view a sample ballot.
We encouraged folks to vote early and we followed up with people with outstanding ballots. We contacted many voters multiple times to ensure supporters voted and reminded others in their network to vote as well through vote tripling. We asked each voter to think of three friends or family members who might need an extra reminder to vote, and asked them to remind those contacts before Election Day. The relational organizing tactic is proven to mobilize voters and increase turnout.
After reaching out to 100,000 voters via text message in 2018, Katie Porter won her race for Congress by just 3.4 points. She added 36,741 more Democratic votes from the previous midterm election in 2014 and held onto the 2016 turnout numbers among young and progressive voters, who were essential to her win.
Her 2018 win helped Democrats regain control of the House. Porter has since won reelection in 2020 and 2022.
We’re excited and proud that TextOut has created a positive impact for Porter each election cycle. Throughout our collaboration with Porter’s campaigns, we’ve sent more than 782,000 texts to potential voters.
Our results show that thoughtful conversations about issues and values can encourage voters to show up for candidates who share those values. Incorporating these key issues into the campaign is crucial to success, which can be a model for Democrats for 2024 and beyond.
By the Numbers
782,305 texts sent for Katie Porter’s campaigns
3.4 points: Porter’s win margin in 2018