This is a humorous, insightful, practical message from our colleagues at Indivisible about polling, data and election night. There will be a debrief on Nov. 11 so mark your calendar. Don’t miss the adorable picture of Zach at the end. Thank you Leah and Ezra!
From: Indivisible Team <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Oct 30, 2022, 1:31 PM
Subject: I heard that your inbox is garbage right now, so I wrote you
Hello Indivisibles and welcome to the monthly Leah-and-Ezra newsletter!
It’s been a whirlwind election season. Ezra and I have been crisscrossing the country to kick off canvassess and rallies with Indivisibles in key target districts and Senate races — from California to Texas, Georgia to Oregon, Arizona to Washington, we’ve been all over the place.
Last week I was in Arizona, bouncing from Prescott (a deep red area of Arizona), where I joined Prescott Indivisibles for the biggest Democratic rally in history in the exact same location where Barry Goldwater kicked off his 1964 presidential run, to Sedona, where I joined Indivisibles to dress up in Civil War-era costumes to let voters know about the Civil War-era law that’s poised to ban early all abortions in the state (pictures here), to some kick-ass canvass kickoffs across Phoenix.
Two common themes:
First, folks are energized.
And second, folks are NERVOUS about this election and what comes next. A LOT of our conversations focused on how to understand the moment we’re in and what’s going to happen.
Since we can’t make it to every place before the election, I thought for this letter I’d cover some of the top questions about election jitters that have come up pretty much everywhere. So here goes:
Q: How should we feel about the polling?
My short answer:
My longer answer: polling this cycle is sufficiently chaotic that you should not spend a ton of time thinking about it.
At this point, most pollsters will admit that they feel more uncertain than ever about how reliably their polls can determine who’s actually going to win a contested race. At the risk of oversimplifying wildly, every poll is a model of who a pollster thinks will vote and who the pollster thinks those people will vote for. For a lot of reasons — the increasing difficulty of reaching a representative sample of people by phone, the challenges in predicting turnout when we keep breaking records on turnout every cycle, and non-response bias by core Trump supporters — it’s gotten harder and harder to predict both parts of that model.
Every year pollsters are trying new tools and techniques to adapt — but we have no idea until the actual election who’s going to get it right. Polling isn’t useless (here’s a great piece by Perry Bacon Jr on what we should use it for), but it’s not determinative. And if your mood rises or falls based on every poll that comes in, you’re not gonna make it to election day.
At the risk of being really obvious, good polls are better than bad polls, and I would prefer that all the polls show us blowing this thing out of the water, instead of what they’re currently showing, which is a tight race. But what I’d really, REALLY prefer is that you take all the time and energy you’re currently spending scouring the polling data and use that time to go contact some voters.
Because another way of thinking about an election that’s within the margin of error is that it’s within the margin of effort — i.e., it’s close enough that the calls we make, the doors we knock, and the voters we reach could make the difference. So focus on what you can control and leave the polling analysis to the debrief.
Q: What about the early vote data?
It’s similarly important to be really careful about reading early vote data. There are a lot of comparisons of 2018 vs 2020 vs 2022 early vote data flying around on twitter and in the media right now. You should be very cautious about this stuff unless it’s coming from a trusted source.
Why? The politics and access of early voting have shifted dramatically in recent years. The 2018 midterm took place before Donald Trump and his cult spent years railing against early and mail voting as fraudulent. The 2020 election took place in the middle of a pre-vaccine pandemic. Laws have changed, both to make early voting easier in some places and to suppress votes in others. If you just take the 2018 and 2020 numbers and stack them up against what we’re seeing now, things get weird real fast.
The same basic principle on polling applies here: Good numbers are better than bad numbers and all things considered you’d rather have big early voting (which we are seeing!). But we simply cannot draw clear conclusions about what’s going to happen from this data yet.
Q: What should we expect for election night?
I would be prepared for election night to feel pretty weird.
On the one hand, if things are going badly, we’ll know pretty fast. In a scenario where we really do see a red wave, we’ll have a pretty good sense of it on election night even if it takes a few days for all the results to be determined.
On the other hand, in the best case scenario, we’ll need to know the results of a LOT of toss-up races in different states with different vote-counting systems before we can conclusively say that we’ve held or expanded our power. That’s going to take some time.
The other X factor here is that we are contending with an organized criminal conspiracy to overturn our elections. We’ve got criminal conspiracists on the ballot nationwide — from Secretary of State candidates, to local election administration officials, to Congress. MAGA Republicans are talking openly about subverting our elections. Right now they’re trying to stop people from voting — but voters are still turning out in large numbers because they know what’s at stake. After election day, we can expect them to turn to disrupt vote counting and certification or silence certain voters.
Unfortunately, this is the new normal. It’s not election day anymore — it’s election week, or month. But we are building the power to protect against these attacks. Preparations are happening, led by state groups in the places most at risk, to counter this conspiracy — and they’ll likely need support, like volunteers to monitor the vote count and report issues. We can’t predict everything that will happen in advance but we’ll keep you updated on what we’re seeing and where you can help.
Right now, what we’d advise is to be really careful about not using messaging or frames that validate this coming attack. It’s not a contested election — it’s an organized, criminal conspiracy to overturn the will of the voters, led by people who deal with losing by lying.
And finally — whether we win, we lose, or we are in uncertainty mode, we’ll be having an all-movement call on 11/10 to process, celebrate our work, and talk about next steps. Please mark your calendars and get ready to join us:
Q: Can someone please do something about the avalanche of fundraising emails?
I’m with you. It’s super-annoying. There are certain Democratic consulting firms who run email campaigns for candidates — even candidates we really like! — that are just cynical and depressing. They do it for a reason: this style of email — 10 emails a day, weirdly aggressive and needy language, straight-up lies about fake matches, etc. — tends to do better in the short term. But in the long term, it’s highly destructive — not just for your October inbox but for email as a communications medium.
At Indivisible, we really hate it. We use email to share our strategic advice and ask you to take action first, and to fundraise second. Stuff that makes your inbox suck makes our job harder. And we think Democrats tend to underestimate the damage that comes with taking such a cynical, manipulative approach to our core supporters. You’ve probably experienced the whiplash of getting five “ABANDON ALL HOPE, WE’RE DOOMED”-style emails in the morning and then an ask to help phonebank that afternoon — does that make you feel like a valued part of a movement? Probably not!
We can’t fix the ecosystem on our own, but we try to model the approach we’d want — we avoid the annoying and destructive stuff, we ask for action more than we ask for money, we try to be really clear when we write emails exactly where the money goes, and — while we do send more fundraising asks this month, because our data says this is when you’re most likely to give — we try to be thoughtful about our asks, including raising money for stuff that mostly benefits others, like Crush the Coup.
As for you, if you’re frustrated about this, I would recommend being the change you want to see — make your donations to candidates and grassroots groups early so they can use your money most effectively, then unsubscribe from their lists liberally if they’re getting spammy. Campaigns will stop doing this when it stops working. It’s just a question of how much damage they’ll cause in the meantime.
In conclusion, go contact some voters
OK, this is getting way too long so I’m gonna cut it off here. If you take one thing from this email, remember: the polls are within the margin of error. The outcome of the election is within the margin of effort. Figure out what you can do for these last few days — whether it’s calling voters, texting voters, giving money, or contacting your own neighbors. That’s the single best way to ensure that we are celebrating in November.
Leah Greenberg, Indivisible
P.S. — Some happy personal news
This is a bit of an abrupt topic change, but Ezra and I have some exciting news to share: We’re expecting a baby girl in March 2023! We’re thrilled to be adding to our family, and Zeke, who loves babies, claims to be very excited too (although it’s not totally clear he grasps what’s going on).
Having a kid is an act of hope. it’s a commitment to not only having a child but building the world that we want them to grow up in. When Zeke was born in 2020, three weeks before the election, we didn’t yet know if we’d successfully get Trump out of office. As Zeke gets older, I find myself thinking about the difference between the bedtime stories I read him — where people and animals live in harmony with our planet, where fairness and kindness are everything, where children are safe and loved — and the current state of the world. Our new daughter will be born into a world in which she has fewer rights than I did — but we’re determined to fight like hell to ensure that’s not the world she grows up in.
So if you’re happy for us, please celebrate by sending a contribution to your favorite pro-choice candidate. And let’s kick all these MAGA assholes out. 8 days, y’all.
P.P.S. — Obligatory Zeke photo: Zeke celebrates his second birthday!