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Trump Tops Democrats in Email Engagement, Despite Having A Smaller Subscriber List

New “Email for President” tool from Return Path provides an interactive look inside presidential candidates’ email campaigns, revealing voter behaviors that could signal election results

NEW YORK, May 19, 2016 New research from data solutions provider Return Path shows that Democrat frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders hold a massive advantage over presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump when it comes to email list size. Email remains among the most critical avenues for candidates to rally voters and raise donations, and a larger list allows candidates to reach more potential supporters. Despite the Democrats’ vastly larger audience, Trump’s core group of subscribers seem highly receptive to his messages; Trump tops both Clinton and Sanders in email open rate, a critical measure of subscriber engagement.

This political intel is drawn from Email for President, Return Path’s new interactive tool that lets anyone compare candidates’ email programs side by side and extract unique insights about their respective performance with potential voters.

“Trump’s relatively small subscriber list comes as no surprise, given his recent entry into politics. Yet he has consistently maintained strong engagement, and the highest open rate overall,” says Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path. “If potential voters aren’t reading your messages, it’s likely they’re also not donating or attending rallies. So it’s extremely important for each candidate to reach their intended audience and send messages that resonate with voters.”

One metric where Bernie Sanders holds a distinct edge is “deleted without opening” rate. Over the past six months, Sanders’ subscribers are far less likely than others to delete his emails without opening them—a statistic that lends credence to reports of his supporters’ near fanatical devotion.

The Email for President tool will evolve and expand throughout the remainder of the campaign, as new developments (like running mate selection) produce additional data and insights. Data displayed in the interactive tool is derived from Return Path’s Consumer Network, which comprises more than 2.5 million consumer inboxes. Return Path has permission to view and analyze emails that panelists receive, providing the company’s researchers with a wealth of insight into consumer behavior and email engagement.

In addition to the Email for President tool, Return Path is performing in-depth analysis of various aspects of the candidates’ email strategy, including fundraising tactics, welcome emails and unique campaign creative. This exclusive content can be found on the Return Path blog.


The analysis shows how each candidate’s email data stacks up against the industry benchmark. Industry is defined as government, nonprofit, and education. “Percent Variation” indicates the difference between the candidate’s email data and the benchmark. All data is based on a 30-day average ending on the date shown. Information provided by Return Path is updated daily, uses global consumer data captured from the Return Path Data Cloud, and is based on activity from over 2.5 million consumer panelists. Learn more about the Return Path Data Exchange or benchmark metrics from our recent study: The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability.

About Return Path

Return Path analyzes the world’s largest collection of email data to show businesses how to stay connected to their audiences, strengthen their customer engagement, and protect their brands from fraud. Our data solutions help analysts understand consumer behavior and market trends. We help mailbox providers and security providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam and abuse don’t. Find out more about Return Path Email Optimization, Email Fraud Protection, and Consumer Insight solutions at