Candidate Messaging Versus Voter Conversations

Using Infegy data to show differences between candidate messaging and the issues voters care about

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst

With the 2024 Election cycle in full swing in the United States, we wanted to showcase how you can use a social listening dataset like Infegy's to learn about complex race dynamics within local and national races. For this example, we listened to voters' responses in the 2024 Arizona Senate Race between Kari Lake (GOP) and Ruben Gallego (DEM). Within the Arizona Senate race context, we'll walk you through the indicators we use to advise political strategists and campaigns. We'll also look at how post volume can point out how much brand recognition a candidate has, indicators on whether a race has been "nationalized" or not, differences between candidate messaging versus their organic base, and possible ways audiences cross over political boundaries.

Post volume showcases Lake's brand recognition

Kari Lake is known (and controversial) within Arizona politics. She built a statewide reputation as a provocative news anchor but rose to prominence during her 2022 Arizona gubernatorial run. Politically, she has attached herself to the Trump/MAGA brand, which has attracted extensive national media attention. Her post volume reflects this. Over the last three months, Lake grabbed 1.5M organic posts, 7.2x the number of posts that her Democrat opponent, Ruben Gallego, gathered. You'll note Lake's organic post volume spikes dwarf those of Gallego, meaning Lake's conversation threatens to squelch any messaging the Gallego campaign hopes to get out.

Image 1 - Volume-1
Figure 1: Post volume comparisons between Gallego and Lake (January 2024 through April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Geographic social data highlights race nationalization

A post volume mismatch of this size can have severe consequences for both campaigns (and not in the way you think). With Lake's well-trodden position as a national conservative firebrand, her candidacy attracts attention from all across the United States. In Figure 2, we show a distribution of conversation by US State. You'll note that Arizona isn't even the state with the most conversation - it's California. Many posts around the Arizona Senate campaign come from far-flung states like Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

We refer to this phenomenon as "race nationalization," or when the positive (or negative) spotlight on a candidate is so bright that national funding dollars flock to the race to either support or fight against her. We saw this last in the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate Race between Jon Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, where donors from all over the country got involved.

Image 2 - Geography
Figure 2: Statewide conversation distribution around the 2024 Arizona Senate Campaign (January 2024 - April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Race nationalization has real consequences for campaigns. National advertising dollars jack up local ad rates, making it prohibitively expensive for candidates. Additionally, campaigns can get too engaged within national media outlets and forget the axiom that "all politics is local." Campaigns with these dynamics require careful strategies and considerations, so campaigns need to be aware of these types of indicators so they can make shifts before they happen.

Comparing Volume, Passion, and Sentiment across campaigns

After diving into volume and geographic indicators, let's examine how organic content around candidates differs from the content that the candidates themselves are pushing out. As mentioned, Kari Lake built her reputation as a conservative firebrand. This messaging appeals to a vocal, motivated base, but the Lake campaign needs a broader audience to win an Arizona statewide election. As a result, her campaign account has begun pivoting to appeal to Arizona moderates.

We display this pivot in Figure 3, highlighting the vast differences between organic candidate conversations and their owned handles. Lake's organic discussions are still quite negative for a political figure, while Gallego has more positive messaging.

Most interesting is the widely disparate passion and sentiment scores from campaign accounts. Lake's campaign accounts have an almost 50-point lower passion score than Gallego's but have a 50% higher sentiment score. These differentials might reflect her campaign's attempts to lower the temperature to appeal to a more moderate audience by avoiding more hot-button issues and sticking to practical, positive, local electorate-centered concerns.

Image 3 - Multiquery-1
Figure 3: Passion versus positivity relating to the Arizona Senate Campaign (January 2024 through April 2024); Infegy Social dataset.

Source bio reveals Gallego-GOP conservative audience overlap

Finally, we'll wrap up with an audience analysis. We accomplish this by aggregating key topics that appear within the accounts associated with all the conversations within your query. We then color these by relevance (darker ones are more relevant to our query).

Understanding audiences is critical when crafting content to appeal to the broadest group of people possible. You'll note that while Lake's organic and campaign accounts source bios look vastly different from those of the Democratic candidate, Gallego, there is some overlap, specifically the "Veteran" that appears within Lake's organic post volume and Gallego's campaign handle. Gallego is a US Marine Veteran, and many GOP-linked accounts commenting on Lake's candidates are veterans. Arizona has a higher-than-average percentage of its population composed of veterans. Additionally, the US Military is one of the most trusted institutions. Suppose the Gallego campaign tries to build content that appeals to the other aisle. In that case, they should lean into Gallego's past as a US Marine, as the US Marines are an institution that both sides of the political spectrum revere.

Image 4 - Source Bio-1
Figure 4: Source bios attributed to Arizona 2024 Senate candidates (January 2024 through April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Takeaways for your candidate

Leveraging a robust social listening dataset can guide political campaigns aiming to resonate effectively with targeted voter segments. The stark differences in conversation volume, geographical spread, and sentiment between Kari Lake and Ruben Gallego underscore the importance of aligning campaign messaging with the actual concerns and the tone favored by your electorate. Notably, race nationalization and the pivotal role of local issues highlight the strategic necessity to adapt national messages to reflect local sentiments. By analyzing these dynamics and the nuanced overlaps in voter bases, campaigns can craft nuanced strategies that appeal across traditional partisan lines, ensuring messages are locally relevant and broadly engaging.

Stay up-to-date with Infegy insights by subscribing to our blog