It’s not lost on anyone that in the midst of 2020’s grave crises, disruptions and anxieties, there’s also a Presidential campaign happening.  On the Democratic side, an unwieldy field of over twenty was finally culled down to Joe Biden, after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8th. The Republican nominee was never in doubt.

We periodically check on the email programs mounted by these campaigns, and now is a good time for an update. This analysis focuses on email activity and performance for the Trump and Biden campaigns, as tracked through our consumer panel over the past six months.

Bottom line

Trump’s is a more active email operation than Biden’s, and has developed a far larger overall email audience footprint.  The tone of their respective email programs tends to mirror the personalities of the candidates themselves.  Both campaigns show significant spam rates; Biden’s higher than Trump’s.  But the read rate engagement of Biden’s audience has grown a ten percentage point margin over Trump’s, reflecting similar polling differentials.  And within roughly the first half of 2020, Biden’s campaign has outraised Trump’s by a 72% margin.  Details follow.Note:  In looking at some of the differences reported below, remember that Trump never stopped mailing to the considerable email audience he’d built for his 2016 campaign.  Biden only began to cultivate a serious email audience as he mounted his 2020 campaign. 

Campaign Email Footprints

Our platform projects email audience size, based in part on the largest recent campaign send sizes we see.

Currently:

  • TRUMP: 15 million
  • BIDEN: 6 million

Send Activity

Both campaigns have increased send volumes steadily through the year.

  • TRUMP:
    • January: 177 campaigns; 112 million emails sent
    • June:       354 campaigns; 892 million emails sent
  • BIDEN:
    • January: 405 campaigns; 110 million emails sent
    • June: 669 campaigns: 247 million emails sent

Inbox Performance

Not being bound by the strictures of CAN-SPAM, politicians are notoriously spammy emailers.  Acquisition methods are often dubious, and contact strategies far from sophisticated.  These two campaigns are no exception, although they’re actually better than many we track. Their spam rates for June, 2020:

  • TRUMP: 22% spam
  • BIDEN: 37% spam

Read Rates

Here, a time-series graph tells the tale. Trump’s email read rates have trended down steadily since February, while Biden’s, even with some variability, have stayed about the same.  In the most recent period, Biden’s read rates outperform Trump’s by ten percentage points.  These differentials would appear to mirror the respective candidates’ polling data.

Other Observations

In terms of content and execution, these campaigns’ respective email programs are as different as the candidates themselves, and in fact mirror how they project in other settings.

  • BIDEN’S are direct but polite. Their fundraising intent is obvious, but almost apologetic (“I hate doing this …”).  They say “please” and “thank you.”   Sometimes, they invoke the previous President (“Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a message for you  . . .”). References to Trump are relatively mild (“the most powerful thing you can do to defeat Donald Trump;” “Trump is claiming that the Supreme Court “doesn’t like” him;” “Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a political statement. Period.”).  Philosophical statements are simple (What’s at stake in this election.”). 
  • TRUMP’S echo his general communication style and approach.
    • They’re personal (“Sleepy Joe;” ‘Where is Hiden Biden?”). They’re accusatory (“Nancy and Chuck are corrupt.”; “They want to take your guns.”).. They target special groups likely out of reach (“White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative;” ”Join us for Black Voices for Trump Prayer Call”).  They project resolve (“I will never back down”).
    • In addition to their political and image positioning, Trump’s emails have long promoted the sale of campaign swag; e.g., MAGA hats, Trump-Pence yard signs and home welcome mats; special commemorative coin sets (“Ronald Reagan and yours truly”);”membership” cards (”Your Platinum Card: ”) 
    • They’re also mailed under numerous “proxy from’s.” Most of the mail is “from” Trump himself, but messages may also come from sons Don, Jr. and Eric, and daughter-in law Lara, in addition to the likes of Mike Pence, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Newt Gingrich, “Trump Finance,” or “Trump Sweepstakes.”
    • Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Trump’s email is its frequency. On an average day in recent weeks, as many as eight or nine Trump emails may arrive in an inbox, beginning about mid-morning and then every 1-2 hours thereafter until around midnight.  This level of contact frequency is almost unprecedented, even for Trump.

Results?

Demonstrating cause and effect here would be a stretch, as so many factors other than email drive candidate image and fund raising.  But if we take the premise that political email is almost solely intended to drive cash contributions, then the fund raising results of these two campaigns are instructive.

According to data reported to and by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and for what the FEC calls ‘Individual” contributions only:

  • Trump’s campaign raised $124.6 million, between 1/1/2020 – 5/31/2020
  • Biden’s campaign raised $214.9 million, between 4/1/2020 – 5/31/2020 (the time-period inconsistency may have to do with when the Democratic primary race officially ended)

~ John