Non-Activists Are The Most Powerful Relational Organizers

Non-activists are Democrats’ most powerful relational organizers for three reasons: (i) they are the majority, (ii) they have stronger ties to inconsistent voters, and (iii) they may be more influential to inconsistent voters than activists.



Non-activists are the majority. The 2012 Obama Campaign enlisted 2.2 million volunteers. Yet, they won votes from 65.9 million Americans, suggesting campaigns may have roughly 30-times as many supporters who are non-activists than are activists. To mount a thorough get-out-the-vote operation, it makes sense to learn how to best engage this population.



Non-activists have stronger ties to inconsistent voters. Because birds of a feather flock together, activists’ close friends tend to already be regular voters. And close friendships matter for voter turnout. The most cited study on voter turnout found that while “close friends” increased their peers’ likelihood of voting, there was no evidence that “ordinary friends” had any effect. Further, activists who volunteer for campaigns are “demographically unrepresentative, ideologically extreme, [and] care about atypical issues,” according to Harvard University’s Ryan Enos.



Third, non-activists may be more influential to inconsistent voters than activists. Social mobilization research finds politically disengaged people may be the most powerful messengers because they signal that people beyond the “usual suspects” are getting involved which evokes the perception that this time is actually important. Contrarily, to irregular voters, activists who constantly talk about politics sound like they are just crying wolf.