Working America’s Face-to-Face Conversations Reclaim Vote for Democrats in Trump Country
Roanoke — Confronting head-on southwest Virginia’s waning support for Democratic candidates cycle after cycle, Working America marshaled an evidence-based field program in the region and held more than 16,000 conversations with persuadable working-class, swing voters of all backgrounds. The door-to-door effort yielded 7,300 new Working America members concentrated in GOP House Districts who signed digital petitions demanding statewide Medicaid expansion and lays the groundwork for future engagement in 2018.
In 2013, Terry McAuliffe earned 36.5 percent of the vote in the region in the gubernatorial election. Working America’s well-trained ground team helped secure support for the top of the Democratic ticket by 41.6 percent.
“We learned hard lessons in 2016 and worked to apply them in 2017. In an air war, an economic message is not as likely to gain as much traction as Trump-style messaging, but our face-to-face conversations break through that noise,” said Matt Morrison, co-executive director for Working America, the 3-million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO (@WorkingAmerica).
Faced with a daunting set of electoral factors (Trump won the region by 19.4 percent), Working America applied its innovative integration of traditional field organizing with analytics to increase targeting precision and drive up vote gain for the Democratic candidates. A recent independent study done by political scientists David Broockman and Josh Kalla estimates that an investment of $3.5 million in Working America’s 2016 program in Ohio and North Carolina, a combination of field canvass contact and clinical experimentation to refine targeting and validation, yielded an additional $14.8 million in electoral value — a return on investment of more than 400%.
Working America’s doorstep engagement offered a welcome opportunity for voters frustrated by political stagnation to engage in meaningful dialogue about policies such as statewide Medicaid expansion and Ralph Northam’s inclusive G3 jobs program. Data collected by canvassers shows that health care (30%) was a top concern for voters, followed by good jobs (16%) and education (11%). By delivering information on issues that voters found salient, Working America organizers served as an independent voice and trusted messenger.
Working America canvassers spoke with likely voters in the Virginia counties of Bedford, Campbell, Henry, Montgomery, Pittsylvania; and in the cities of Salem, Danville, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Radford and Roanoke.
Since 2003, Working America has mobilized working people who don’t have the benefit of a union at work to fight for good jobs and a fair economy. As the 3-million member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, we unite working people in urban and suburban communities around a shared economic agenda.