Give Smart: How Did We Do?

5 mins read


So how did we do?

First, let’s start with the good news. With vote counts going final, we can say that the Give Smart community backed seventeen winning candidates, ten of whom won by less than 5%

Look at how close some of those races were. You can all walk away from this election incredibly proud, knowing that you helped make the difference for some amazing candidates nationwide. Farkas and Hurtado prevented North Carolina Republicans from getting a supermajority in the State House while Pohutsky and Marsh got Democrats within three and one seats, respectively, of breaking Republican majorities.

But as you likely know Democrats underperformed downballot nationwide. We backed a lot of candidates that made a valiant effort but fell just short in our attempt to gain power in state legislatures nationwide and as a result we fell short of our goals in these candidates’ chambers. We had 24 candidates come within 5% (including three candidates in New Hampshire who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes, the difference between keeping and losing the majority), another 17 candidates came within 10%, while the remaining 15 candidates we backed who lost by more than 10% were mostly located in our longer shot states of Montana and Wisconsin.

In 2018 exactly 50% of the candidates supported by Give Smart won their races, and in 2020 we aimed for a comparable ratio, but did not achieve it.  To hit that 50% win rate, we would have needed a  nationwide vote in Democrats’ favor of 8%, which is 4% larger than what happened —  a difference that looks similar to what the nationwide polling miss will end up being. 

The final D +4 electorate is close to what we predicted in our state previews at the start of the year. But after looking at hundreds of polls from across a dozen states, FNF started seeing more like D +8 being predicted by polls and modeling — and factored into devising Give Smart slates accordingly. 

We’re working on a rigorous statistical analysis of what happened. With results not even final in most states yet, we’ve got a working theory of the case that we’re testing as we go through them:

  • Public opinion may have actually stayed static for most of the year, but with increasing polling errors in the summer and fall that made it seem like Democrats were making gains among voters during the pandemic.
  • The isolation fomented by the degradation of community institutions and exacerbated by the pandemic led to a large swath of unreliable voters being unreachable by Democrats, and unexpectedly coming to the polls in November.
  • Owing to differences in believing in the existence of the pandemic Republicans canvassed in person a lot more than Democrats; a tactical advantage that led to them overperforming their polling numbers and especially hindered Democratic state legislative candidates.

Narrowing Republican majorities in Arizona, North Carolina and Michigan will still help Democrats govern over the next 2 years.  We were the only big grassroots group who took preserving the New Hampshire Senate majority seriously and we came very close to pulling it off.  And for less than 1% of what some losing Senate candidates raised, we were able to rack up some impressive wins. Of course, the results were not as good as we hoped and expected down the stretch.

In the coming months, we’ll have a better idea of the impact we made, as well as any lessons we’ve learned and how we can make Give Smart more potent than ever in 2021-2022.  In the meantime, if you have any questions you know where to find me.

Thank you as always,

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Future Now Fund is building the power to improve Americans’ lives — by winning state legislative majorities and working with them to achieve goals for the common good.

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