GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — From TV advertisements, circulars, billboards, social media and more, it’s hard to escape political messaging ahead of the Tuesday primary election. The main purpose, experts say: Get voters to the polls.
“Most Americans aren’t interested in politics most of the time so the campaign is a very special period,” Michael Traugott, research professor at the University of Michigan Center for Political Studies, said. “The expenditures of these campaigns increases as election day approaches and that includes their advertising and their mailers.”
The main goal of all these ads is to get people who will vote for their candidate to the polls on election day.
“We know that in the off-year election where there is not a presidential race at the top of the ticket to stimulate turnout, turnout is typically lower,” Traugott said. “But the candidates will be doing the best that they can to mobilize turnout among supporters.”
In the Republican gubernatorial primary race, none of the candidates have prior political experience and the name recognition that comes with it. This means campaigns need to put their candidate’s name in front of voters so it becomes familiar.
“We think that in contemporary campaigns, most of the purpose of the advertising is not to convert but to tell people how important it is to vote,” Traugott said.
With the primary election, Traugott said most of the voters tend to be middle-aged and older. They’re known as habitual voters, while younger voters haven’t picked up that habit.
“They can be stimulated to vote in the general election, but younger voters don’t have the highest turnout in the levels of the age distribution in the population,” Traugott said.
That younger, less likely-to-vote demographic can change the outcome of an election and campaigns are working to get them excited about the primary.
For voters who are unsure who they are going to vote for, Traugott recommended researching ahead of time.
“While it is possible to go to the candidates’ websites, normally, I would recommend going to information provided by the League of Women Voters or some news organization in conjunction with the League of Women Voters because you would probably get a more balanced view or similarities and differences between the candidates,” he said.
After Tuesday and the party nominees are chosen for the various races, messaging to voters will be shifting.
“Whoever gets the (Republican gubernatorial) nomination will switch their advertising very shortly after the primary as they develop these contrast ads trying to emphasis the difference between their positions and (Democratic Gov.) Gretchen Whitmer’s positions,” Traugott said.