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WKYT Investigates: Campaigning in a Pandemic

Less talking, more texting. We take a look at candidates' strategies in the COVID-19 era.
More texting, less talking with candidates this election year. The pandemic has canceled many...
More texting, less talking with candidates this election year. The pandemic has canceled many in-person events.(WKYT)
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 10:57 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A lot of things look different in the year 2020, and the election is no exception.

Candidates are holding smaller, more outdoor, and more socially-distanced events. They’re also holding more virtual gatherings. Have you noticed a few extra messages on your cell phone? Texts and targeted social media ads are on the rise, too.

“Campaign events can not be the mass rallies with shaking hands and kissing babies that it normally would be," notes Dr. Stephen Voss, an associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky and a specialist in elections and voting behavior. He says candidates are appealing to voters online, and so are special interest groups.

“There are these sort of posses, special interest groups that come in from out of town, out of state, and their main goal is to take down an opponent they don’t like. They come in all guns blazing with negative ads. They’re willing to use tactics that campaigns themselves would not be willing to use, willing to use attacks and language that the campaigns and the candidates are often not willing to use," says Dr. Voss.

Special interest groups aside, local campaign leaders are relying on more digital messages.

“It used to be that we made a lot of phone calls, and you only had landline numbers. My parents now in their late 60′s and early 70′s, they don’t have a landline anymore. They only use cellphones. So how do you reach folks? The cellphone is the way to go," remarks Josh Mers, Chair of the Fayette County Democrats. “We have not asked any volunteer to knock on a door this campaign cycle.”

If you live in Lexington, you’re more likely to get a knock at the door from the Republican Party of Fayette County. They decided in late July and early August, to return to door-to-door campaigning. Chair Fran Anderson says, “I think people are glad to see someone out, seeking their vote, giving them information, and they’ve been very receptive to it.”

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