Obama’s grassroots calling campaign | MIT Center for Civic Media
I am a senior at MIT in computer science with a concentration in science writing. I am currently the online media editor at The Tech and a collegiate correspondent for USA TODAY. I am interested in creating useful tools and platforms for journalists and news developers, interactives that tell a story, and discovering a way to disrupt the news industry.
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Doing silly things to get myself on late night talk shows
Obama’s grassroots calling campaign
How many emails, texts, or phone calls from an organization can you stand until you start automatically labeling the entire operation as spam? For my final project, I will focus on mass communication from organizations with the intention of driving civic action, particularly methods and frequency of communication.
With the 2012 elections, many found themselves the target of mass communication. This blog post will focus on one example of mass communication from a political campaign — Barack Obama’s calling campaign call.barackobama.com, a grassroots campaign to reach voters through their neighbors.
A blog post from April 18 by the campaign described the tool well — “The call tool is already changing what it means to volunteer—allowing anyone, anywhere, to pitch in.”
Instead of making volunteers drive to call centers, the online campaign allows volunteers to call from anywhere. The website provides volunteers with the full name, city and state of residence, and phone number of a random person in the Obama database — it isn’t obvious from the site where these names come from.
Volunteers can sign up to call voters in a certain geographic area (by state) or in one of the following groups (or “rooms”).
• National Room
• Asian American and Pacific Islanders for Obama
• African Americans for Obama
• Educators for Obama
• Environmentalists for Obama
• Jewish Americans for Obama
• LGBT for Obama
• Latinos for Obama
• National Call Team
• Nurses for Obama
• People of Faith for Obama
• Seniors for Obama
• Veterans for Obama
• Women for Obama
• Young Americans for Obama
Each room has a leaderboard that keeps track of volunteers who have made the most calls. It also keeps track of how many calls you have made and how many calls have been made so far. The call room for a specific area is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time.
The website provides a script for callers. Before November 6, the script was geared towards getting people out to vote. The script looked like this:
Hi, is JEANETTE home?
My name is JOANNA, and I'm a volunteer with President Obama's grassroots campaign. [ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION]
Who do you support for President?
1 Strong Obama
2 Lean Obama
4 Lean Republican
5 Strong Republican
6 Other/ 3rd Party
7 Not Voting
[IF STRONG REPUBLICAN] Thank you, have a good day. [END CONVERSATION]
[IF UNDECIDED/LEAN REPUBLICAN] I am supporting the President because he wants to continue building an economy that’s built to last and restores financial security to the middle class, where hard work pays, and everyone from Wall Street to Main Street plays by the same rules. [DECIDE TO END CONVERSATION OR CONTINUE]
[IF STRONG/LEAN OBAMA] Great! I am so glad to hear it. It's a really important and close election, with a lot at stake for the middle class. We're talking to voters like you today to make sure you have the information you need for this election.
According to official records, you requested to vote by mail.
Have you received your ballot yet?
[IF VOTER HAS ALREADY VOTED] Great! Thank you for supporting Barack Obama and other Democrats. [SCROLL DOWN TO LAST SURVEY QUESTION]
[IF NO] If you requested your ballot more than three days ago but did not receive it, you need to vote in person on Election Day. You will have to vote what is called a provisional ballot, but don’t worry, your vote will be counted once the elections officials verify that you did not also return your mail in ballot. Do you know where your Election Day polling place is? [LOCATE POLLING LOCATION IN UPPER LEFT HAND COLUMN]
[SCROLL DOWN TO CLOSING INFO]
[IF YES] Excellent. All you need to do is fill it out and drop it off at a local ballot drop off box, a service center or at your polling location on Election Day.
Reminder that if you're a first time mail-in ballot voter, you will need to provide a photocopy of an acceptable form of voter ID and include it in the ballot when turning it in. If you need to provide ID, the instructions with your ballot will make it clear that ID is required.
If you have any questions about voting please call (855)OFA-VOTE or visitvote.barackobama.com
Will you commit to mailing in your ballot or dropping it off at a ballot drop off location?
Will mail in ballot
Will drop off
[IF WILL MAIL IN BALLOT] At this point, we recommend dropping your ballot off at a local drop box. Because of the time it takes to mail your ballot, we can only be sure it will be received by the county in time if you drop it off in person.
[IF WILL DROP OFF] You can drop off the ballot at any drop box or service center in the county. Do you know when you plan to drop it off? Do you know where the nearest drop box is? [LOCATE POLLING LOCATION IN UPPER LEFT HAND COLUMN]
Great! Thank you so much for your commitment to vote for President Obama and other Democrats.
This election will be close and we will need supporters like you to help us deliver the state of Colorado for President Obama.
Would you be willing to volunteer with our grassroots team?
[IF YES/LATER] Thank you, someone will follow up with you shortly, but you can always go to barackobama.com/gotv to sign up right away to talk with your neighbors!
[IF MAYBE/NO] OK. You can visit BarackObama.com for more information and ways to get involved in your community or learn more about the President’s accomplishments. Thanks for your time! [END CALL]
Now that the election is over and Obama has been voted in again, the script is now geared towards building support for the Affordable Care Act.
Hi. Is KOKO available?
Hi KOKO, my name is JOANNA and I’m a volunteer with Obama for America. How are you today? [ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION.]
Who do you support for President in 2012?
1 Strong Obama
2 Lean Obama
4 Lean Republican
5 Strong Republican
[IF STRONG REPUBLICAN]: Thank you for your time. [END CALL.]
[IF LEAN REPUBLICAN/UNDECIDED]: This month is the two year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act – the new health care law. People have heard a lot of different things about the law, but I am reaching out to voters in my neighborhood today to let them know how the Affordable Care Act helps them.
The Affordable Care Act strengths Medicare and keeps insurance companies from taking advantage of consumers. If you want to read more about the Affordable Care Act, visit www.barackobama.com/healthcare. [DECIDE TO HANG UP OR CONTINUE.]
[IF LEAN/STRONG OBAMA]: That’s great. This month is the two year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act – the new health care law. I am reaching out to voters in my neighborhood today to let them know how the Affordable Care Act helps them.
The Affordable Care Act strengths Medicare and keeps insurance companies from taking advantage of consumers. If you want to read more about the Affordable Care Act, visit www.barackobama.com/healthcare.
Would you be willing to volunteer with the campaign?
[IF NO]: Thank you for your time today. Take care.
[IF MAYBE]: President Obama is relying on people like you to help build the grassroots foundation that is necessary for this campaign. Making calls and reaching out to your neighbors is an important first step. Visit barackobama.com if you decide you can help out.
[IF YES/LATER]: Great, an organizer in your area will be in touch.
Over the next week or two, I’m going to try to contact people behind the call center. If you know any contacts or have suggestions, let me know!