Voters Are People Too: The Importance of Human Connection in Crisis

Every election year, someone – actually most everyone – says: “This will be the most important election of our lifetime!” Well…2020 might actually be.

While all of us practice social distancing and self-quarantine, we all wonder when this will be over. I guess that’s the toughest part about all of this: the uncertainty.

It’s been rough here in America. Millions have lost their jobs (and millions more will). Hundreds of thousands are infected with the coronavirus. Thousands have sadly died from COVID-19 infections. Dozens of states have moved their primary elections later in the year. Most secretaries of state are considering a transformation of how we vote by expanding vote-by-mail programs. Voters are requesting absentee ballots in record numbers. Campaigns have seen fundraising dry up.

Regardless of when life begins to return to normal – whatever that will look like – the campaign season will definitely be different. For those still campaigning now, it’s important to be more aware of voters’ emotions, because there’s a lot of them (emotions, that is) right now!

On a recent call, one of our clients asked how candidates should be handling voter communication in the midst of this crisis. Our response was to acknowledge and empathize with the emotions voters are feeling right now. 

Uncertainty. Concern. Fear. Loneliness. Boredom. Anxiety. Frustration (especially for all those parents that are now homeschooling). Anger. Sadness. Loss.

Humanity is built for connection, and human emotion is the foundation of that connection. Have you ever been having a “blah” day until you had a conversation with someone who encouraged you through their happiness or empathy? Magically you started to feel better about things. That’s the power of shared human emotions.

The same applies to voters…because they’re people. It sounds silly, but sometimes we forget that. We look at spreadsheets of voter data, read polling numbers to understand what “suburban females” think, and write direct mail plans to target “swing voters.”

But what about Karen Cobb?

Karen is worried about making her next mortgage payment. Her husband was just furloughed. She’s now homeschooling her two children, ages eight and eleven. Karen’s worried about her elderly parents who live out-of-state with no family nearby. Everyone in the Cobb household is experiencing cabin fever.

When we talk to Karen, we must acknowledge and empathize with what they’re feeling, what they’re going through right now. The last thing on their mind is deciding which state legislative or congressional candidate to support.

But they are looking to be communicated with, to know things are going to be ok at some point, to know their leaders are working 24/7 to address the coronavirus pandemic and the cratering economy.

So as you speak to voters during this crisis and even after, keep in mind that emotions are the best tool for campaigns to connect with voters. And when we’re back to “normal”, let’s not forget the lessons about the importance of emotional connection we learned in the midst of this crisis.

If you’re wondering how to pivot your messaging to connect with voters on an emotional level, please reach out. Our team would love to brainstorm ideas with you, whether you’re a Cygnal client or not. Our mission is to provide you with intelligence for action; that means we want you to  have all the tools – including emotional ones – to be successful.