PORTLAND, Ore. – Several political campaigns in Oregon have been sending text messages to voters to gain support, and experts say this is just the beginning.
Moses Ross, a political phone consultant, says we are in the “wild west” of political texting. The Bernie Sanders campaign, he says, used it in the 2016 election and demonstrated to consultants that it could be an effective way to reach voters. It's been growing in popularity since.
“It's literally right there in front of them. You can't ask for a better voter contact than to have a message from your candidate delivered right to a person's phone,” Ross said.
Another consultant called the strategy “pure gold.” Ross says it’s more effective than direct mail or broadcast ads.
“It far outweighs the response rate from direct mail, from broadcast media, and other forms of voter contact. And you can actually see the response in real time,” said Ross.
At a few cents per text, it’s also far cheaper.
"Compare that to over 50 cents for a bulk mail piece, or tens of thousands on broadcast media right now. This is just a little inexpensive way to get the message out in front of people's face," said Ross.
He expects campaigns to use the strategy even more in coming elections.
Ross says every political text message you get comes from a real person. He says it is illegal to send political text through an automated system. In some cases, a volunteer with a campaign sends the text messages. In other cases, a campaign will pay for the service.
But what if you don’t want to receive these? A poll on the KATU News Facebook page found 95 percent of respondents don’t want the texts. Ross says you should reply to the message telling them to stop.
“Send them a request to opt out. Ninety-nine percent of the time they will,” said Ross. “Especially in a political campaign, because they don't want to piss off a voter, they don't want to get a voter angry, they honor those opt out requests because of that.”
But how did they get your number?
Ross says there are two ways campaigns get your number. If you are a member of a political party, or signed up with a campaign in the past, they may already have it. Campaigns also purchase your information from private companies.
Those companies, Ross says, request public voter information from the state, supplement it with phone numbers they obtain, and sell them to campaigns.
“Do your homework when it comes to the political campaigns out there. Don't rely on a text by itself to sway you one way or another,” said Ross. “And most importantly go vote.”