Should You Add a Password to Your Donation Page?
September 2023 | by Conner Downard
IMGE Studies Marketing Strategy
Back in 2018, we conducted a campaign email suppression study analyzing whether or not email subscribers suppressed Republicans during the midterm elections. The results were striking – every email provider we tested sent Republican emails to spam at a much higher rate than their Democratic counterparts.
Email regulations and sending practices have changed a lot in the last four years, but Big Tech censorship remains a hot topic on both sides of the aisle.
We wanted to see if Republicans were still being disproportionately targeted as spam in Gmail. So we set up a new Gmail account, subscribed to the email lists of both candidates in some of the top midterm races across the country, and kept track of when each sender ended up in our spam folder.
Here’s what we found.
The short answer is yes – Republican candidates’ emails are still being sent to spam. The good news is that the problem wasn’t nearly as prolific this year as it was in our 2018 political spam study.
Only 31% of Republicans whose email lists we subscribed to wound up in the spam folder in Gmail.
Meanwhile, more Democrats’ emails ended up in spam this year than in 2018, and in many cases, they landed there a lot faster.
In fact, 72% of Democratic candidates’ emails were sent to Gmail’s spam folder within the first three weeks of subscribing to their lists.
It’s hard to say. There are many factors that contribute to inbox placement – volume, email quality, sender reputation, and list health to name a few.
In mid-September, Google rolled out a new Gmail Verified Sender Program Pilot to keep political emails out of junk folders, which also could have impacted placement.
Even if you attribute some of the spam issues to bad email practices, it’s clear that a shocking amount of political emails aren’t making it into inboxes. The Verified Sender Program is a good start, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Until there is a concrete solution for the censorship taking place behind the scenes, email deliverability and inbox placement will continue to be a challenge for political campaigns.
This underscores the importance of an omnichannel approach. If email is the only medium you are using to communicate with your supporters and your content all ends up in spam, that could be a death knell to your campaign.
The best thing a candidate can do is find a trustworthy digital marketing expert to guide their strategy. At IMGE, we create omnichannel strategies that leverage the unique strengths of every platform to get your message in front of your subscribers, not lost in the spam folder.
Our methodology was simple – pinpoint the top House and Senate races of 2022, sign up for both candidates’ lists with a Gmail address, and watch what happens if we don’t open a single email.
We used data from Cook’s Political Report, Decision Desk, and 270 To Win to select the candidates, focusing on the races identified as toss-up, leans Republican, and leans Democrat at the time of setup. Here is the full list of candidates we included in this study.
We created a new Gmail account to monitor inbox placement. From there, we signed up for all the email lists on the same day so we could accurately track how many days it took for a candidate’s email to land in spam. We didn’t open or click on any emails – regardless of whether they were in the inbox or in spam.
In a spreadsheet, we input each candidate’s name, state, race, party affiliation, and what day their emails started showing up in spam. The test ran from September 1 to October 31.
Note: Gmail automatically deletes emails in spam after 30 days.
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