Targeting Voters

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Network Analysis
Network analysis offers a number of findings that may be relevant in target group work.

We know that in Austria, for example, the Green voters are those who have the largest networks and who talk about politics with the majority of people in their immediate surroundings. Such a phenomenon exists in various professions and age groups.

Opinion makers and connectors between internal networks have important roles in target group work.


How to identify the key players: Opinion Leaders vs. Opinion Brokers
Opinions form around the utterances of central persons, who take on the role of ‘opinion leaders’. In a given group, opinion leaders are those who have the most relations with other members. They possess accurate knowledge about the current mood of the network, and they stabilise rather than influence opinion within it. Opinion leaders can be identified by a simple ‘snowball survey’ – one chooses a person at random and asks, for example: “If I want to know what’s going on in the company, who should I turn to?” If you then ask these people the same question, and repeat the procedure 5-10 times, you end up with a list of individuals who are frequently referred to. These, then, are the opinion leaders. They are a particularly important group for action and direct communication.

Opinions are spread not only by opinion leaders. Spreading also takes place at departmental, educational, professional sites, and at bridges between core networks. These are the so-called ‘opinion brokers’ (or ‘connectors’). Opinion brokers transport information into a completely different environment, and feed their network. In contrast to the opinion leaders, they are often the innovators, and a gateway to another world. They are often situated on the edge, rather than in the centre, of a network. Opinion brokers are responsible for ensuring that information between different social groups is exchanged, while at the same time exerting influence on various social networks, and thereby changing their opinions. Opinion brokers can also be identified using the snowball practice.

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