Case Study: How a Leading Research Firm Optimized Messaging to Win 67% of the Vote and Pass a $4.2 Billion Ballot Measure

The Problem: 

New York state took a risk. The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 would put new clean infrastructure funding in the hands of their voters. But would it pass or fail? 

Educating and mobilizing voters on ballot initiatives introduces a unique set of persuasion challenges. Traditional political campaigns are often organized behind a party or candidate. Yet ballot measures, like this one, often give voters the ability to directly enact laws based on their support for a particular policy change. 

The risks were substantial. Would their voters agree with the increased funding for new environmental protection, clean energy, and infrastructure projects? Would this ballot initiative pass?

New York state’s water infrastructure was aging and a coalition of environmental organizations knew it. The environmental coalition wanted to develop messages educating voters on these infrastructure challenges and how increased funding would help. 

The coalition partnered with a leading full-service public opinion and research firm, to understand and influence New York voters. The firm then partnered with Grow Progress to optimize their messaging and do exactly that. 

The researchers signed on to develop the messages that would impact voters the most. Yet, a new challenge arose: What messages would most resonate with voters? Particularly, what messages would be most persuasive with Moderate and Republican voters — a key voting audience?

The firm used Grow Progress’ Rapid Message Testing to find out. 

The Solution: 

The Grow Progress platform helped easily and quickly determine which message was most effective with New York State’s voters.

The research firm tested three distinct facts about New York’s aging water infrastructure intended to increase support for the Environmental Bond Act: 

  • Message 1: The American Society of Civil Engineers gives New York’s drinking water infrastructure a C-.
  • Message 2: Many of New York’s drinking water systems are over 100 years old and operating well past the end of their useful life.
  • Message 3: There are 360,000 lead pipes delivering drinking water to homes in New York — the 4th highest of any state.

Grow Progress’s Rapid Message Testing tool handled all the behind-the-scenes details that allowed the research firm to run a scientifically rigorous randomized controlled trial to measure the effectiveness of each message. Grow Progress recruited survey respondents and randomly assigned each respondent to see one of the three messages or a neutral placebo message.

After each group viewed their messages, all survey respondents were asked a standardized set of questions. They were asked, “Do you plan to support the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act in the upcoming election?”

The firm launched the test on a Thursday and had results back on Friday, delivering actionable answers the coalition could quickly act on.

Grow Progress’s results dashboard was easy to understand and readily transparent, helping to effectively, and with increased certainty, determine the client’s winning message.

Impact: 

New Yorkers across political parties resonated with the message “Many of New York’s drinking water systems are over 100 years old and operating well past the end of their useful life.”  

Rapid Message Test results showed that this message had the greatest impact. It increased net support by 7 percentage points for this ballot initiative. Crucially, Message 2 was also the top performer for Republicans and Moderates. 

The research firm built creative around their winning message and worked with the environmental coalition to educate voters throughout the state. 

What happened on Election Day? The firm and their environmental advocacy partners’ efforts paid off. The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 passed with 67 percent of the vote! 

The state of New York is in the process of investing the $4.2 billion made available through the ballot measure, thanks to the environmental coalition’s education efforts, and from partnership with Grow Progress. 

Working With Grow Progress: 

Grow Progress’ platform makes it easy for Agencies, Pollsters, and Consultants to quickly and effectively test messages. Deliver innovative and data-driven services to stand out from your competition. To learn more or get started, drop us a line anytime at hello@growprogress.ai.