2020 Uniqueness

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COVID and 2020 Political Strategies

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the political campaign strategies in 2020 especially when it comes to fundraising and political events. Since the pandemic, campaign strategies have focused on using digital platforms and virtual events to raise funds and connect with supporters.

Digital Platforms

  • Election advertising and fundraising has been gradually shifting online over the years. However, the temporary COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in candidates adopting digital tools and being creative to engage voters and donors online.
  • Before the pandemic, both major parties had implemented a digital infrastructure for grassroots fundraising. The Democrats had ActBlue, which was launched in 2004 while Republics launched WinRed in 2019.
  • As a result of the recession due to the pandemic, the tone of messaging on fundraising emails changed. For instance, the DNC reduced the number of fundraising emails and used a more serious tone in the messages it sent. The use of fundraising emails reduced compared to previous years since many people were out of work and facing financial hardship..
  • Fundraising events have shifted to platforms such as Facebook Live and Zoom, which have proven invaluable. Smaller campaigns that do not draw a large crowd have used emails alone to engage voters online.
  • In addition, spending on digital advertising has increased. For instance, Congressional candidates have spent about 25% of their budges on digital ads since people are spending more time online as they follow the temporary restrictions by staying at home.

Virtual Fundraising Events

  • As a result of the pandemic, Joe Biden’s campaign focused on virtual fundraisers and shifted most of its operations online. The strategy helped them cut costs and develop innovative ways of fundraising.
  • Biden has raised millions of dollars through fundraisers on Zoom. His fundraising strategy was to appear on chat with hundreds of people who contributed $1,000 or more to have the privilege of being part of the meeting.
  • Biden’s campaign held several virtual fundraisers in April and May. The former vice-president entertained the donors who showed up in the Zoom using celebrities, such as Carole King, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Buffet, and Billy Porter. In mid-June, Biden held a successful Zoom fundraiser where he hosted President Barack Obama.
  • On the other hand President Trump had to cancel in-person campaign fundraising, resulting in fewer donations from mid-level contributors. One of the reasons why this group of donors did not contribute as much is because unlike the higher echelon of donors, they give funds in exchange for visibility. For instance, they want to rub elbows with major donors at cocktail parties, pose for pictures with the candidate, and be acknowledged on a special list of supporters.
  • Once COVID-19 started spreading in the US, Trump’s campaign and the RNC concentrated on virtual fundraising and direct mail to connect with donors. In addition, they used online platforms to training members of the Trump Neighborhood Team and activated a mass volunteer network to make calls that campaign for the President.
  • In addition, fundraising money was spent differently as a result of the pandemic. For instance, instead of using live door-to-door campaigning, Democrats focused on phone conversation, digital outreach, and texts. On the other hand, the RNC and Trump’s campaign used volunteer in-person canvassers.
  • Mid-summer saw Biden attending more events. However, the political events were different from Trump’s rallies. There were no large crowds and the audience consisted of reporters that were covering the event and maintained social distancing.
  • Conversely, Trump has focused on face-to-face connections in his campaign rallies, which often have a large audience. According to the campaign team, the events “adhere to pandemic safety precautions by supplying free masks and hand sanitizer at all of its speeches.” In addition, everyone who goes to a Trump rally must sign a coronavirus liability release so that the campaign is not held liable if a supporter gets sick.
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2020 Voting Issues

Three of the biggest voting issues to come out of the 2020 election season include the coronavirus outbreak, violent crime, and foreign policy. Details regarding these issues have been provided below.

Coronavirus Outbreak

  • According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, approximately 62% of voters in the US view the coronavirus outbreak as an important factor when it comes to deciding who to support in the election. Approximately 82% of Joe Biden’s supporters view coronavirus outbreak as an important issue. Conversely, 39% of Trump’s supporters consider it an important issue that will affect their voting decision.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Republicans are of the view that the US effectively controlled the pandemic. However, 11% of Democrats think that the pandemic was handled properly. In general, 61% of all US adults hold the view that the US did not control the outbreak effectively.
  • As it stands, over 220,000 Americans have succumbed to COVID-19 and approximately 1,000 are dying every day. In addition, the US recently reported the highest record of confirmed COVID-19 cases, over 85,000. Hospitalizations and caseloads are currently at dangerously high-levels that signify an imminent “third wave.”
  • COVID-19 has resulted in mail-in voting. “Data from past elections find that the increase in voter turnout resulting from mail-in voting has not given either Republicans or Democrats an edge.” However, scholars agree that due to mail-in voting, President Trump will most likely “take an early lead on 3 November, because in-person votes are generally counted before postal ballots.”

Violent Crime

  • Approximately 59% of voters consider violent crime very important when making their 2020 decision. Seventy-four percent of Trump’s supporters consider violent crime an important issue. On the other hand 46% of Biden’s supporters think violent crime is a salient issue.
  • “Institutions that keep communities safe have been destabilized by lockdown and protests against police.” The recession and lockdowns have increased tension among many communities. In addition, there has been a backlash against police tactics.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the largest cities in the US are experiencing a dramatic increase in murder. In 2020 so far, there has been a 24% increase compared to 2019. There has also been an increase in gun violence and shootings.
  • As it stands, there is no publicly available information that highlights any impacts that violent crime may have on election outcomes.

Foreign Policy

  • According to Pew Research Center, about 57% of Americans believe that foreign policy is an important issue that will affect their 2020 decision. Foreign policy is one of the voting issues that both Trump and Biden supporters consider important. Another survey by Gallup revealed that 7 out of 10 Americans held the view that “the United States should take a leading or major role in international affairs.”
  • In addition, the survey by Gallup revealed that 7 out of 10 Americans think that international events have an impact on their daily lives. Also, 50% of registered voters believe that other countries take advantage of the US.
  • As it stands, there is an increasing number of Americans who believe that international trade is beneficial to the US economy. However, Americans also think that trade has a negative impact on jobs and lowers wages. Approximately 73% of Americans have a negative view of China.
  • While there are no indicators of how foreign policy could affect election outcomes, it is clear that whoever wins the elections must focus on ‘America first’. If Trump is re-elected, he will continue to support protectionist, isolationist policies. Conversely, if Joe Biden is elected, he will be compelled by his voters to focus on domestic issues.
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2020 Political Involvement

Political involvement in the 2020 elections has been characterized by increased youth engagement and activism, increased engagement by women, and an increase in small donations compared to previous years.

How Political Involvement in 2020 the 2020 Election is Different from Previous Years

  • In 2020, the number of US voters reached a record-high percentage. The number of voters in the US increased six percentage points from 2016 and “is the highest in Gallup’s trend dating back to 1996.” A high percentage of voters in the US believe that the 2020 election is more important to them than previous ones.
  • Since 2004, 7 in 10 voters have viewed each election as being more consequential than the previous ones. Therefore, there has been a gradual increase in the number of voters in recent years.
  • A survey by CIRCLE revealed that youth engagement in 2020 elections is higher compared to 2016 and 2018. However, there is an issue accessing information regarding voting and registration during the pandemic. Young people are engaged in the 2020 elections because they believe they can make a positive change.
  • There has been a remarkable increase in the number of youth engaging in political marches and demonstrations. In 2016 and 2018, the percentage of youth who had attended a demonstration or march was 5% and 16% respectively. In 2020, approximately 27% of people between 18 and 24 years old said that they had attended a demonstration or march.
  • The number of youth who volunteered for political campaigns significantly increased in 2020. In 2020, the percentage of volunteers increased to 18% from 6% in 2018.
  • Youth involvement has also been high when it comes to donating. The percentage of youth who donated money to a campaign in 2020 was 29% compared to 8% in 2018.
  • According to a study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, “women of all ages and political persuasions, but particularly millennials and women of color, have become more politically engaged since 2016.” Approximately29% of women report increased involvement.
  • Political contributions in general have soared and there has been a significant increase in the number of small donations. According to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics, small donors contributed 22% of the federal committee’s fundraising compared to 14% in 2016.
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Candidate Evolution

Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been an increase in Republican women candidates, diversity in Democratic Party candidates, and a diverse Congress. Details regarding these changes have been provided below.

Increase in Republican Women Candidates

  • Compared to previous years, 2020 has seen a record number of Republican women running for Congress. As of June 2020, “45 Republican women had cleared their primaries, putting the party on track to beat their previous record of 53 general election nominees back in 2004.” Out of the 45, almost 50% were women of color.
  • House Republicans today are avoiding the type of candidates they looked for in the past in favor of people with diverse backgrounds in competitive races. One of the key reasons is that the white, male candidates who have often been associated with Republicans can no longer help the party reclaim a majority in Congress.
  • In addition, the Republicans have more female minority candidates compared to previous years. Examples of minorities include Korean-Americans and Chinese-Americans. In addition, military veteran candidates are also more compared to previous years.
  • As of May 2020, “more than 180 minorities had filed to run for the House of Representatives as Republicans, according to The New York Times, and over 200 women had filed nationwide, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).”
  • The number of women who have filed to run in 2020 is more than that of 2018, which saw 120 women file. The number is also higher than that of 2010, when 133 women ran for the House of Representatives.

Diversity in the Democratic Party

  • In 2020, eight Democratic candidates wanted to run for president. There was one Asian man, one Hispanic man, four women, and a gay man. Seven out of the eight candidates were non-white.
  • The last time there were diverse candidates was in 2008 when Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, and Hillary Clinton sought for the Democratic nomination. However, the percentage of those who ran was less than 50%. In 2020, 86% of Democratic candidates were diverse.
  • There has been a shift from white male candidates in Democratic presidential politics in the past 15 years. In the last two elections, the Democratic nominees were Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. “The last straight white man to win the Democratic nomination for president was John Kerry in 2004, after Democrats nominated them in every single prior presidential election since the party was founded.”
  • The Democratic presidential candidates have been diversifying as a result of a diversifying Democratic Party. For instance, in 2018, 58% of Democratic voters were women.

A Diverse Congress

  • The 116th Congress is the most ethnically and racially diverse in history. More than one-in-five voting members of the Senate and House of Representatives are ethnic or racial minorities.
  • As it stands, 116 lawmakers are nonwhite and include Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and blacks. This represents an 84% increase when compared to the 107th congress from 2001-2003, which only had 63 minority members.
  • A majority of the non-white members are Democrats who make 90% of ethnic and racial minorities in Congress. The figure mirrors a diversified Democratic party that is made up of different races, ethnicities, religion, and sexual orientation.

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