Investigating the Voter Experience with Republican Candidate Websites

Head-to-head competitions between GOP candidate websites show that campaigns too frequently place campaign objectives ahead of voter needs.

Competition experiments, using 15 undecided voters, found that the websites of Michele Bachman and Hermann Cain were the most effective at influencing voters. Surprisingly, the website of GOP front-runner, Mitt Romney, was one of the worst.

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Study Objectives

Specifically, the objectives of the interviews were:

  • To determine which candidate website creates the best overall experience for voters by assessing the general usability of each candidate's website.
  • To identify design inconsistencies and usability problem areas within the user interface and content areas.
  • To determine to what extent candidate websites balance organizational objectives with user wants, needs and motivations.
  • To establish baseline user performance and user-satisfaction levels for each website for future usability evaluations.

Participants & Dates

  • Dates: October 21-24, 2011
  • Participants: 15 undecided voters recruited from throughout the U.S. with a mixture of demographic characteristics and voting histories (5 Democrat / 4 Mixed / 6 Republican)

Sites Tested

Due to the large number of candidates and the still uncertain nature of the front-runner, we used a representative sample of six out of the nine candidates who participated in this fall's presidential debates. The candidates we selected represent a broad cross section of both Republican ideology and website design and functionality. The candidates selected for this study were:

Each interview was structured as a head-to-head competition experiment, i.e. each participant completed the same set of tasks on two different candidate websites. To ensure fair coverage and to determine a "winner", the websites and their order varied from participant to participant.

Results Detail

Participant Voting History Contest
1 Mixed Perry vs. Huntsman
2 Mixed Cain vs. Huntsman
3 Republican Romney vs. Cain
4 Republican Santorum vs. Perry
5 Democrat Santorum vs. Romney
6 Mixed Huntsman vs. Bachmann
7 Democrat Romney vs. Perry
8 Mixed Cain vs. Bachmann
9 Republican Perry vs. Bachmann
10 Democrat Perry vs. Cain
11 Republican Huntsman vs. Romney
12 Republican Cain vs. Santorum
13 Republican Romney vs. Bachmann
14 Democrat Bachmann vs. Santorum
15 Democrat Huntsman vs. Santorum

The tasks were identical for all participants and candidate websites.

After completing both rounds, participants were asked which website had the better overall experience.

Results Summary

The results of our research indicate that republican candidate websites frequently place campaign objectives ahead of voter needs, wants and motivations.

Results Summary

Candidate Losses Wins
Bachmann 1 4
Cain 1 4
Huntsman 2 3
Perry 2 3
Romney 4 1
Santorum 5 -

Major findings include:


"What a loser, the guy was so serious. A little dramatic [laughing]. It's so dramatic and mushy."

Mixed voter

"I wouldn't sign up for this [Join Team Cain] area until I decided that I want to support Herman. I didn't want to do this now."

Republican voter

"This is the most powerful marketing tool he's had so far."

Republican voter

"Just because I want the newsletter does not meant that I am a supporter and that I want to go all out."

Republican voter

"Enough. Enough. Enough. Make it stop."

Mixed voter

"By god, I'm about ready to run out the door and vote for that man. Well done video. Very well done."

Democrat voter

Additional information on our findings as well as findings by candidate are detailed in the full usability report along with recommended follow up actions to be taken to address issues most likely to cause voter confusion.

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