Thursday, July 7, 2011

Winning Transit Elections, part 3

What's an effective Message?

We heard from lots of people - both winners and losers of elections - about messages that work for voters. Here's a brief distillation:

Campaign "SMART":

  • Specific plans ,rather than "improve transit"
  • Measurable goals
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Get on message and stay on message!

  • Answer the question: What's in it for me?
  • Present a long term vision: What's the plan?
  • Assure voters of accountability: Can I trust you to use my taxes wisely?

A couple of observations from studies of election results:

  • New rail projects appeared to have some correlation with lost elections in some regions, but maintaining or expanding existing rail does not; this makes sense, as there is a widespread phenomenon of support for rail transit in areas that have experienced the benefits.
  • A very positive factor is the perception of a congestion "crisis" (or other need for transportation alternatives) in a region; but this doesn't always work: Atlanta is the prime counter-example, since they built a heavy-rail transit line ("MARTA") in the 1970s, but refused to expand it because of an apparent perception that only "undesirable people" used it.

Nine Focus-Points

  1. Focus on return on investment, rather than taxes
  2. Forget TV, print, and radio. Use Facebook, blogging & tweeting. There was a strong counter-argument to this assertion as well: while e-media are ideal for young, engaged professionals, senior citizens by-and-large don't use e-media, yet they are the demographic most likely to vote in "off" elections.
  3. Get young professionals on the team (maybe "lost") but passionate and wanting to contribute.
  4. Hit the chamber of commerce - through the chambers, you can work better with business.
  5. Set specific goals and stick with them.
  6. Own the "emotional vibe" - don't respond to the angry vibe. Be optimistic, returns-oriented, positive.
  7. Don't try to convince the hard-core opposition; work hardest to get support from independents; they respond best to solid numeric support and evidence on the Web.
  8. Get a progressive coalition together, but consensus is illusory; rather than seek con census, look for common ground among progressives.
  9. Leave ideology at home: talk about issues on which you share common ground. For example, climate change and global warming are perceived as ideological issues (many Americans don't "believe in" man-made climate change), but most people can support job-creation and economic growth.

OK, there we are. I learned a lot at this conference...hope you find it helpful, too!

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