Geotarget campaigns by zip code

6 mins read

Geotarget campaigns by zip code

Focus your campaign on the areas with the most potential supporters.

Make the most of your campaign time, money and volunteers with geo-targeting. Use information on their demographics, past voting habits and where they live to find the best zip codes to target digital ads and canvass. Zip codes are especially important as advertising platforms like YouTube and Facebook do not allow individual-level targeting, but do offer ZIP code-level targeting.

This blog explains with two recent examples, how technology lets even small grassroots campaigns focus their effort better with maps and data. Learn more here.

  • Where are your most likely supporters based on criteria you’ve chosen?
  • Which are the most promising areas for your volunteers to canvass?
  • Which zip codes should you target through ads on Facebook and YouTube?
  • How do you use the voter file to find areas with clusters of likely voters?

GeoTargeting to get out the vote case studies

  • Activists mobilize voters upset with South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott voting against confirming Ketanji Jackson Brown to the Supreme Court
  • Campaign in Baltimore, Maryland chooses the best areas to canvass

Mobilize voters

Focus your campaign with demographics

Use demographics to find the areas with your most likely supporters. Tim Scott was accused of supporting ‘racist political ideology against his own people for a ‘seat at the table”. In the South Carolina project, organizers wanted to target middle aged Black women who were upset with Tim Scott for voting against confirming Ketanji Jackson Brown to the Supreme Court.

Geotargeting allows campaigns to pick, for instance, areas with clusters of Black women aged 50-54 and somewhat liberal. Selections are adjusted with sliding scales which change the upper and lower range of each criteria. This exercise takes about 10 minutes and produced a summary sheet of the demographics of the area to be targeted. Learn more about targeting campaigns with demographic geotargeting here.

Geotarget based on Zip Codes

Find the Zip Codes that cover the area you are interested in using a map like this. Overlay other political boundaries on the same map including State Legislative Districts and Congressional Districts. One legislative district may span several zip codes and a single zip code could be part of several political districts. Zip codes 29631 and 29634 for the area around Clemson University with the chosen demographics were then found. Apply to get a free copy of this map which maps political districts to zip codes here.

Geotarget based on past voting patterns

Data from the voting file, if available can be used to further refine geotargeting with party affiliation and past voting patterns. This information can includes tens of thousands of records so applying data visualization can help pick the best areas to focus.


Use hotzones to find clusters of voters and their zip codes

Sherman Hardy is running for County Executive in Prince George’s County in Maryland. He uses a different approach to identify the zip codes with the most potential for his campaign. He used the Voter File to identify Democratic voters in his district. This allows him to see where they live and then overlaid that map with a Zip Code map layer. Sherman also created a Hot Zone map which shows at a glance where these voters are clustered revealing that two areas to focus ads on might be 20706 and 20785.

More campaign geotargeting resources

These projects use software and data from esri which can be used with or without voter file data. Apply for pro bono help with geotargeting help with social justice and voting rights advocacy campaigns here.

TakeAway: Find the best zip codes to target with mapping, demographic data and past voting patterns.


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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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