A few years ago at a campaign school I nearly left for a coffee break when the "polling" lecture was coming up. Most of my clients are running for small, local offices and aren't able to spend money on polling.
I'm glad I stayed.
Polling firms offer a few more options than most candidates realize. There are many ways they can get you a little bit of useful information without doing a full blown, $10,000 benchmark poll.
Determine your budget
First, keep in mind that polling should be 5-7% of your budget, so if the quote is more than 7% of what you plan to raise for the campaign, it may not be a good option. Here are a few options if you're running a small dollar campaign and intend to raise between $10,000 and $20,000.
Find a firm
I suggest asking current elected officials or people you know who have run in the past for recommendations. You can also ask the party. If all else fails, check out the political pages directory provided by Campaigns & Elections magazine.
What to ask for
Rather than create and implement a survey specific to your own race, ask the pollster if they have any recent polling information in your district that you can purchase. If they've done a recent poll for another candidate locally or nationally, they may be willing to sell some of that information to you at a much lower price than it would cost you to do the poll on your own.
It won't be perfectly tailored to your race, but it may be worth the cost anyway. The purpose of a benchmark poll is to understand how well voters know you (not well, yet) and to understand voters opinions so you can tailor your message. The latter part will be similar whether the poll is tailored to your campaign or to another campaign.
Feel free to contact me if you want recommendations on how to get started.
- Do your own polling (Voter Gravity)
- Political pages directory (Campaigns & Elections)
- Loyal demographic groups (Pew Research)
- Key American values (University of Missouri - St. Louis)
If you would like to get more campaign tips, you can check out "First-Time Candidates" magazine, subscribe to the blog or connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn. You can also get an campaign tips emailed to you once a week by signing up to to the right of this post.