Message Mapping: The Next Evolution of Political Message Testing

One of the most crucial components to any political campaign is television messaging. Knowing how to communicate a candidate’s message and target particular constituencies is paramount to a successful campaign. Television advertising is a great challenge given the scarcity of well-positioned time slots and increased pricing as elections grow nearer. However, time slots and prices are irrelevant if the messaging is faulty. 

From a polling perspective, most campaigns focus on simple toplines and crosstabs to drive messaging decisions for television, but that doesn’t tell you how effective your message will truly be in impacting vote choice. Cygnal’s unique message mapping data allows our clients to understand how voters will interpret and react to a candidate’s messaging, as well as how likely a group is to be moved by that message. In short, we’re able to determine what message is driving a group of voters to shift their support to a candidate.  

Our message mapping matrix is built on three factors: effectiveness, net impact, and believability. If the messaging does not score well in these three areas, then you have not maximized the impact and influence on voters. Having campaigns and consultants sifting through every crosstab and breaking down every group which messages play best is time consuming and inefficient. Your campaign needs concise, concrete, and actionable data at your fingertips. We’ve already broken out the key groups to target, what messages are most effective with each group, and which messages might cut against your candidate. This is the edge Cygnal provides. 

With every benchmark poll, our team analyzes the polling data and presents our clients with a message mapping product, including graph and narrative explanation, to illustrate its effectiveness. At the macro level, this shows how the messages are received by voters. However, our product illuminates the success of messaging down to a more granular level. For example, do you think it would be valuable to know to which messages voters 70+ in your district most strongly react? Which message is most effective in persuading the coveted “suburban mother”? Rhetorical questions…and the answer is obviously yes! Cygnal provides its clients with custom fit message maps to isolate the most important voter groups in their campaigns. 

Our graphs are easy to read and interpret. The effectiveness of a message runs along the X-axis of the graph, and it is represented by a color coordinated bubble. The effectiveness of a message is in direct correlation to its ability to change voter opinion. The more successful a message is, the more voters it will ultimately persuade. The farther to the right a message is on the graph indicates the persuasion power of a message. If your message registers on the farthest right of the graph, you have struck proverbial gold. The Y-axis represents the net impact of a message. The higher a message is along the Y-axis correlates to the popularity of a message. In layman’s terms, the closer to the top of the graph indicates the broader the appeal of that message. The closer to the bottom indicates a message more likely to be a contrapositive and could have drag, which would flip opinion against you. 

The final thing to consider on your message map is the size of the message bubble. The larger the bubble, the more intense voter responses were to the message. Larger circles reflect a high concentration of voters who chose much more/less likely. This is used as a comparative tool, so if two messages have a similar effect, seeing which message elicits a more intense response could be helpful in budget constraint scenarios. 

All messages are not created equal. Do not fall victim to the hope and pray method of messaging in which you throw everything at the wall, hoping something will stick. You will have wasted your money and opportunity to persuade the segment of the constituency that would have put your candidate over-the-top. Test your messages, zone in on your audience, and shape the narrative around your campaign. Trust Cygnal to provide you with the key to unlocking the voters on the margins.