The voting period has already started and you want to get voters on board who haven’t yet cast their ballots? But circular emails and letters too often end up in the (digital) wastebasket. One reason for this is that everything you are writing is mostly repetitive. The voters already know that the election is going on, and they also know what it is about.

One trick is to promote interaction: When an addressee has to take action themselves during an election, the step to casting their vote is quicker. One popular technique to achieve this is polls. Practical side-effect: You become more acquainted with the voters.

“The questions are what arise
from what is left.”

– Erich Kästner, German writer –

Using questionnaires during an election

Election predictions inform you of the possible outcome in advance. Voters are called and asked who or what they wish to vote for, or have already voted for. The results of these opinion polls serve, among other things, a specific purpose – namely motivating non-voters to cast their ballots during the final stretch of the election.

Election research has yielded a few theories for this already. For instance, there is the mobilisation hypothesis, which states that a predicted close election result leads to high voter participation. There is also the bandwagon effect: Voters cannot decide or are too little informed, and simply join the majority upon looking at the voting predictions. The opposite of this, i.e. relating with the minority opinion, is called the underdog effect.

Why polls can motivate your voters

Cleverly structured polls activate dynamics. Of course this does not work solely with election predictions – which can also be truly persuasive and involve a lot of effort. Polls as a motivational tool can still be useful, however, for participation alone mobilises: When a voter actively answers questions about the election, they are already “in the middle of it instead of simply there”. The path to casting their ballot has been paved.

Even non-voters are integrated into the voting process through this rather indirect manner.

When is the right time for a poll?

The best time for a poll is in the middle of the voting period. For instance, create a circular email with a brief reminder in the greeting that participating in the election is still only possible for a certain amount of time. In closing, explain that answering the poll is important to optimise upcoming election processes. Note that the poll will only take a little amount of time.

The questions you ask are at your personal discretion. Ask yourself beforehand what exactly you would like to learn, and define a goal for yourself.

Tips for creating a poll

Questions about the organisation of the election are a good option; for one everybody is available to answer these quickly. Secondly, you learn quite a lot about the voting behaviour of the voters and can optimise your next vote accordingly.

Possible questions:

  • On what day and at what time do you plan to vote?
  • Do you wish to vote from home, from work or from somewhere else?
  • Would you like to vote via paper ballot or online?
  • If voting online, which end device would you use?

When creating the poll make sure that it does not demand too much effort from the voters. Do not ask too many questions for that reason. Furthermore, choose closed questions with predetermined possible answers and one free text field each with which to provide any missing options. Keep your formulations brief, understandable and written with everyday language. Under no circumstances may questions suggest already determined answers.

Limit the answering of the questions to one possible answer each. This demands more precise consideration and ultimately enhances your results. Yet always provide the opportunity to skip questions – forcing answers often leads to abandonment of participation or falsifies the result.

Use the poll results for the next election

Among other things, you can use the results to ascertain the best methods and times of day to reach your voters. With this basic information you can adjust your means of communication and your approach. You also learn if it might be sensible to implement an online voting system, so as to facilitate the opportunity to vote, for instance.

A poll gives voters the opportunity to share their opinion and take part in the voting processes. This also creates belonging. And those who are involved in what is happening participate more often.


About Anna-Maria Palzkill

As a communication scientist I am interested in the impact of technics on life among politics and economics. I want to trace nuances and am not afraid of big words.