Elections 2012 and the Rise of Mobile
After receiving my mail-in ballot for the November 2012 elections, the first thing I questioned is why I can’t digitally submit my ballot. With the percentage of American smartphone and computer users rapidly increasing, it seems that this would be a logical and rewarding option. As I am sure many factors come into play when enabling this, this is not an option for the current election. Despite this, the role of mobile in the 2012 Presidential campaign is immense.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that 66% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 in the United States own a smartphone, and smartphone usage among all adults is up 10% year-over-year. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are paying close attention to these statistics and have revamped their strategies to emphasize mobile.
Mobile Politics is an app and website that allows U.S. political candidates to interact with their constituents. The developers of this app estimate that more than 80 million voters in the United States will access political information critical to their decision making process via their smartphones. If accurate, this is more than a 200% increase from the 2008 presidential race.
Campaign organizers and advocates are working hard to keep up with this trend across fundraising, advertising and apps.
Evidence suggest that supporters are more apt to give the lower the barrier to do so, which is why true SMS donations could be a boon to campaign fundraising efforts. This may explain why Obama appears to own the mobile advantage in fundraising, according to Michael Galloway – co-founder of Mobile Politics. In late August, the Obama campaign became the first to accept donations via SMS. He beat Romney by about a week which, although seems small, could be a game-changing element.
In August 2012, 98% of the Obama campaign’s 1.1 million donors were small-dollar amounts (less than $250) compared to 31% for the Romney campaign. Since mobile donations are generally small amounts, this points to a likely advantage for Obama, at least when it comes to fundraising.
Another major player in mobile fundraising has been Square. Square allows any political fundraising team to accept credit cards using a small square-shaped card swiper dongle that plugs into mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, making it very easy for supporters to donate on the spot. When Obama announced that his campaign would be utilizing this last January, Romney’s campaign made a similar announcement within the same day. Although no numbers will be released until after the election, one staffer at a Republican convention campaign store reported that the devices had been “very, very successful.”
In terms of mobile Apps, the Romney campaign has took the reigns through the release of a number of apps including With Mitt, Mitt’s VP, Romney-Ryan and, most recently, Mitt Events. With Mitt, an iPhone app that allows people to take photos of events, add pro-Romney banners and easily post the images to Twitter and Facebook, is probably the best known thanks to an infamous misspelling of “America.” The Mitt’s VP App, although just a one-off function of announcing the his VP, had over 200,000 downloads in just 48 hours. Other Romney apps offer event information and ticket purchasing options for speaking events.
Obama’s utilization of mobile apps has revolved around the Dashboard which acts a sort of digital desk for supporters and volunteers, where they can search through options for getting involved with the campaign. Additionally, they revamped the Obama for America app, providing information to supporters regarding the president’s policies, news, events, community activities, volunteer opportunities and information on how to register to vote.
Lastly, both campaigns have heavily relied on mobile advertising by aggressively placing ads in EA mobile games and on Facebook. Apple’s iAds and Google’s mobile platform advertising services are being used widely by both the Obama and Romney campaign circuits.