Via email from George Phillies. New Path for the LP is a slate of candidates for the Libertarian National Committee, and George Phillies is their candidate for Chair. This is Step 5 of Part Three of the 63-page New Path plan for the LP. IPR is not endorsing any LNC candidates, and is interested in articles from all the different campaigns.
The Basis for Scientific Membership Acquisition
Recently a supporter of a certain LNC chair candidate challenged opponents by asking exactly which demographic groups would we propose targeting. The chair candidate in question has been (to his credit) very upfront about who he thinks is our most promising target market. In his view, it is the Fox News, Newsmax and Palinesque “Tea Party” crowd.
To date, we don’t believe anyone has answered the challenge, so let us propose our thinking on the matter.
Various surveys over the last five years have noted anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of Americans identify as “libertarian” in some sense. That’s 25 to 50 million voting age people. Libertarian candidates rarely get more than a few percent of the vote, and actual party membership is but a tiny fraction of even that depressed percentage.
Our first position is: rather than go after people who are on the opposite end of the Nolan Chart from where libertarians live (that’s the Fox News/Newsmax crowd), why not go after people who are actual libertarians to begin with?
Fortunately, Pew Research provides us with a good snapshot of two “typical” libertarians, based on their research and polling. Our membership profile gives us another starting place. When you develop profiles of potential target “buyers” (members), you can gear your advertising, marketing, public relations and outreach efforts toward these people. When those targeted people come and look at your website, read your publications, and hear your representatives, they realize they have found a home.
The LP has been seriously negligent on this score. Those who argue for improved marketing and branding are right – we currently do nothing of the kind. The key questions are: What are we marketing? And to whom?
Let us then consider the characteristics of a typical “libertarian” voter. Mind you, this person may not call himself (and it is a he; let’s call him “Mike”) a “libertarian”; he may have never heard of the LP. Mike is an important person to talk to and for. What do we know about him? Quite a bit, it turns out!
Young (maybe under 35; certainly under 50)
High income (household income $75k+)
Lives in a metro area in the south, mountain states or west
Not religious (agnostic/atheist or Easter/Christmas/High Holy Days-only type)
How does he identify politically? There’s about a 50 percent chance he is (or leans) Republican, a 40 percent chance he is (or leans) Democrat, and a 10 percent chance he is unaffiliated.
What are his political opinions?
Social issues – He doesn’t understand the energy devoted to denying LGBT people’s rights; he has gay and lesbian friends, family members and co-workers, and thinks society should treat them equally. He is against any further abortion restrictions. He is in favor of stem cell research. He favors decriminalization of marijuana and supports medical marijuana efforts.
Foreign policy – He is deeply skeptical or opposed to aggressive foreign policy initiatives.
Economic policy – He is generally free market, favors low taxes and limited regulation. However, he thinks the health care system is out of whack and needs changes. Generally he is unsure about or even opposed to recent Federal legislation.
Where does Mike get his news? On the Internet. He reads blogs. He’s on Facebook. He tweets and re-tweets. He looks at clips on You Tube. He listens to podcasts in his car on his iPod.
He’s definitely *not* watching Fox News or reading Newsmax.
Before chucking everything the party has historically advocated, in order to curry favor with the Fox News crowd, why not make an effort to “Get Mike”?
That’s one place where we should start. That’s not the only place.
There’s a second libertarian persona. She’s out there (and yes we have met her). We met many like her at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum – a great event the entire LNC should plan to attend next year.
But now, for Libertarian Persona #2, who we will call “Sarah”.
First some basic demographics:
Urban (or close suburb suburban)
Not religious at all
Political affiliation? Definitely nowhere near the Republican Party! Possibly a weak-identifying Democrat, more likely unaffiliated or even a nonvoter at present. She’s been there for a long time: twelve years ago, Massachusetts Libertarians looked at their voter registration. In Central Massachusetts, where Democrats are social conservatives, 60% of registered Libertarians were women.
Social Issues: Way Left. Maximum personal autonomy and freedom, and no government interference at all. Very pro marriage equality, pro choice on abortion, for stem cell research, for drug legalization.
Foreign Policy: Very bright line antiwar/anti-intervention position, across the board.
Economic Policy: Best described as “institutional suspicion and hostility”. Extremely anti-authoritarian. Acts locally. Distrusts bigness, whether manifested as Big Government, Big Business, or any similar institution. Very environmentally conscious. Ultra-individualistic. Sympathetic to the Ron Paul campaign on matters like “End the Fed” but not at all sympathetic on social issues.
Now, what are Sarah’s principal information sources? Do you suspect she is watching Bill O’Reilly, reading Newsmax, or listening to Rush or Savage?
She’s either on the Internet, texting, or involved in direct activity with her friends and associates. She’s reading Antiwar.com or perhaps FreedomsPhoenix. Like Mike, she’s on Facebook and Twitter, reading about and discussing similar things, but with different people and in slightly different language.
So what’s our basic marketing plan?
Mike, meet Sarah.
Sarah, this is Mike.
There’s more uniting us than dividing us.
Let’s figure out what to do, together, to create a freer America.
Redesigning our website, and crafting our messages and outreach to meet these two libertarian archetypes, should provide us with tremendous dividends.
How can we tell if our outreach is reaching these people? How can we tell if we need to fix something? Fortunately, we have a third target audience. We have people who are like our current members. We can use the same design methods to craft an approach to our current members and their peers, and see how it works. That design and testing is a big database problem.
Fortunately, New Path Treasurer candidate James Oaksun has some expertise in the analysis of large datasets. If elected Treasurer, he will analyze the LP’s current active member database to find common characteristics of our current members. Our hypothesis is that if we target people who are most like us, we should have a better chance of getting positive responses. If we use the same successful design methods to pursue Sarah and Mike, we should be successful with them, too. James is offering his services to the party and committee pro bono – without charge.
In addition, James has relationships with some of the country’s leading copy writers. We would have to spend a little money, but the payoff of better letters could be substantial.