Steve, Scott Scott Foreman, Pennsylvania discussed on Swing Left - How We Win


The big send. Yes Save the day. We'll have the we have the link to the event on our page may twenty fourth. Also my birthday. It's not forget that those Ra's Ari started. They're not as important so in just a few minutes. We're going to hear from St Phillips who has an excellent podcast democracy in color and you probably read his writing in newspapers and magazines all over the country. And if you get confused by all the Steve's and Scott's coming up in the interview segments don't worry they sound very different and the conversations are great so in a few minutes. We'll hear from Steve but first up is the interview. Scott Scott Foreman. Thanks so much for joining us. It's good to be here. Thanks for having me first of all. You founded vote forward. What gave you the idea. And when did you start it up? Tell us a little bit about the vote for origin story. Yes sure happy to so. We're about three years old. I started the project in twenty seventeen and a lot of people. I was really looking for something that I could do. Personally to. An impact on Our political environment. I don't come from the political world. My background is in a software mostly and so you know I had some experience with various tech startups on the most important one for this story. is a company called. Ode Power Other familiar with power. I am not I. Why don't you explain what it is to? Steve Sure Yeah Committee with Jack Okay. Shame expert Mariah way smarter. Everyone knows that please continue. Yeah so power was still is the company that does really big behavioral science based direct mail campaigns to encourage people to reduce their home energy consumption So in some ways that was very useful professional experience to have for this purpose Because what we did. There was harnessed some of these. Social Nudges nudge type messages. To get people to use less energy and we were able to show through some really big experiments that it works it works really well and consistently and so that was a for profit and it was a really great experience. But I've been nursing for a long time. The idea that we might be able to use similar kinds of tactics to influence civic activities like voting and so it's kind of the combination that the lessons learned there and a lot of personal anxiety about the state of our politics that inspired. You know this this project and everything that we've done since so you're you came to vote forward through a real strategy and evidence based processes sounds like. I thought maybe you were GONNA say like you're like Meghan markle like a professional hand writer and then you decide into her but it sounds like for a much more scientific birth Matt I think. That's I think that's safe to say so. One of the lessons learned from a power was that When you can do a randomized control trial to see whether your idea works you absolutely should. And so. It was kind of the combination of that scientific inclination and Uh some of the specific tactics but including the one you're referring to which is the whole thing is oriented around handwritten letters so the specific tactics that we experimented with in two seventeen in two thousand. Eighteen was to have a fellow citizen. In the first instance. It was just me writing a thousand letters at my kitchen table to people and see if it caused them to vote and we were able to show that it in fact does of my hand muscles very much worse for the wear. Burn since then. We've gotten a lot of help from volunteers who Who participate as well so. Yeah that's kind of the background. That's cool so we know the first thousand were done by you. How many have been done since then by volunteers? I'd have to check but I think it's at least two million because in the end you can believe that In the end we on the basis of those experiments that we did in seventeen eighteen. I kinda decided to make it my full time job in two thousand eighteen and then we were able to recruit this really enormous army of on tears in the lead up to the midterms So I think we sent just north of one point two million in two thousand eighteen. And then we've done another at least million in two thousand nineteen Might even be one point five closer to two on. We'll talk more about our plans for for this year but we're no well into the millions and which is still very hard for me to believe But it's been in a very exciting urging to see that happen. It's amazing and with those millions of letters. You have a much larger sample size for which you can judge the efficacy of it. Are they looking now? Like where the results of all those letters power. They moving the needle force. Yeah that's a great question. So there's a variety of different experiments that we've done not everything that we do is a randomized trial but in the Alabama experiment in that first one that we did. We saw an increase of about three point. Four percentage points between the treatment group and the Control Group of which is a huge startling number. Kind of an an impossible thing to replicate. I I think that there was some lock there but in the subsequent trials that we've done including one in Ohio twenty eighteen in another experiment in two thousand nineteen special election in Pennsylvania. We've seen one point. Four percentage points Two Point Zero. One percentage points in that Pennsylvania trial so we pretty consistently seen in the trials that we've done results ranging from one to three and then in that one case a little bit north of three percentage points which is really fantastic for this world. I mean If you're not familiar it might not sound like much but that compares very favorably to a lot of the other tactics that people might be familiar with like making phone calls and send messages and for people listening who might hear. A percentage like two percent. And that's not a lot you know. That's what we call field margins. That's actually incredibly significant especially bearing in that the races primarily that we're working with Are Really Tight races? Where those two percent? One percent margin is the difference between winning and losing. So that's work that volunteers can do to literally win an election absolutely and so for the volunteers who who participate in this. If people haven't done it before they can go online. Get approved very quickly and easily to become a senator and get stack of letters to print off and they're partially written and then there's room for people to handwrite a personalized message. Can you talk about why? It's both because I tried to get away with typing up with not advisable so why why the mix of print in handwriting. And what are some recommendations that you have for people to effectively personalized their letters? Yeah so I actually did try handwriting. The entire thing the first time around and the main reason I didn't stick with it is because it was illegible of a lot of people and I'm sure I'm not alone in this have kind of like doctor handwriting as they say so so the original idea was that. I wanted to make sure that there were at least part. Sid that read Ed. So it's mostly bad but there is another advantage. Which is that by having both it makes much faster to pretty ass versus riding the whole thing. Obviously and then I guess the last reason is that we do use the typed part the pre written part of the letter to set the tone of the thing so part of the message that we are making sure that everybody sends is a clear explanation of what the letter is for. Why it's being sent on so that stuff is Consistent in the types of the messaging and then there's also very importantly a line in the in the template to emphasize that the sender isn't asking the recipient to vote for anybody in particular. What we're doing is really just about mobilization not vote for X. candidate or don't vote for why candidate but vote at all and with this Ferry Civic Virtue. Oreo wanted lands And we do that both because we think it's probably more effective but also because We we we try not to make too many assumptions about about the recipient. So the message. That really appeals to a shared identity as Americans. We WanNa make sure that always comes through and so that's the other reason for having both now. Why have the handwriting at all? Why why were you discouraged from from doing your Your time saving trick pariah The reason is bit part of the reason. We think this thing works is that there's an investment of time and a little bit of money on the part of the center to produce thing so it's kind of like there's some skin in the game like if you get a letter in the mail that somebody took the time to handwrite. You're going to think that will be evident that somebody cared enough to do that. And so that's why both are important personal messages are are what really cuts through the political noise two and connects us so exactly and so you asked also about The messages themselves. We don't give a lot of prescriptive guidance about that The message that people are asked to complete is an answer to why they the sender vote in every election. They're eligible to vote in the only real guns we give is to make it as personal as possible so I've seen a lot of examples and some people are fairly brief. And that's fine. You don't have to say all that much to make it resonate but you know some of the more vivid examples that I've seen people talk about. How hard won the right to vote at all is Sometimes people talk about memories of going to the polls with their parents as kids or taking their own kids to the polls So that kind of stuff. We definitely encourage the more personal. It feels. I think the better you talked about The people getting these letters. Who are they who are getting these letters? And where do you get the addresses from? Yeah that's a good question of people often ask about that. So that's why I asked always asked me that so there's a somewhat complicated answer to the WHO am. I do want to emphasize that of vote. Forward is a five hundred one C four nonprofit organization which means that most of our work is for. What's known as a core social purpose of increasing participation in our democracy by traditionally underrepresented parts of the electorate so that's typically a members of racial minorities young people etc and so for the bulk of the campaigns that you'll see on our website. Those are the goals and those are the people that were writing to in various states throughout the country. Then on top of that because five. Oh One C. Four is like ours also are able to do some amount of explicitly political work. You'll also see campaigns on the website that are focused on people who we believe are very likely to vote for Democrats when they do vote so those are the two different categories of campaigns that we run. There's one thing that they have in common which is almost always writing to people who we think are unlikely. Otherwise relatively unlikely to vote and that is measured by what's known as a vote propensity Which is a model of likelihood to vote So it's really just a percentage of how what are the odds that we think that any given person is gonNA show up and it's mostly based on people's voting histories. Now the other part of your question. How do we have access to that information? Well it's basically public in most states. Who is on the voter rolls and their history of of voting and so usually it comes from a secretary of state or other election authority. We don't typically get the data directly from the States. Instead we use one of a few different commercial vendors that aggregate that data and normalize it to it easier to deal with but the the heart of the answer is that the voter rolls public. And so that's how we're able to to do these programs at all. Also our able to see how they worked. Great one mystery solved as people who who want to participate. They're going to have an opportunity coming up with the big send. Can you tell us about that? Yes you're a so. We needed a few minutes ago to Our Project for twenty twenty. The big picture goal for this year is to increase the number of letters that were sending by essentially another a factor of ten. So we've set this really ambitious goal of stockpiling and then sending ten million voter turnout letters in October of this year. And because it's a you know a an exciting new project To TO BE CONCRETE ABOUT THAT. And it's such a an ambitious goal. We also decided to give it a name and build try to build some momentum around it so we're calling the project the big send and there is a a new landing place on the web which is at the big send dot org and it's a it's also in addition to being a rallying point around this big project of At big ambition goal it's also a coalition so we've done.

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