Working America’s High-Powered Field Organizing and Innovative Digital Membership Engagement to Help Boost Andy Beshear to Victory
LOUISVILLE, KY – Working America—the 3.5-million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO—married high-powered field organizing and innovative digital communications to help boost AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat Andy Beshear to election victory on Tuesday night.
In the 11 weeks leading up to the Kentucky gubernatorial election, Working America visited 40,000 likely working-class voters’ homes across the state, including in Jefferson and Fayette counties. The organization also ran digital ads targeting 200,000 voters. Working America digitally engaged with its 114,000 in-state members in support of Beshear. These efforts were bolstered by randomized control trials to find and target the voters most likely to be persuaded as a result of a conversation with a canvasser from the organization.
“In a state that Trump won by 30 points, we had a lot of work to do,” said Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America. “Electing Beshear was a test of overcoming the nationalized partisan mood, specifically in a state where Trump remains popular. We did it by having face-to-face conversations and incorporating what voters shared with us at the doors into compelling digital content.”
Working America developed a unique digital communications program during this election cycle in Kentucky that used messages from the field and advanced targeting to add votes for Andy Beshear. Based on our issue ID data that showed health care as a top voter concern, we ran paid digital ads to increase exposure to our health care message. We also used the ID data to refine our targeting for a larger statewide digital program, using our field learnings to more efficiently target the voters our analysis showed were most likely to be persuaded. Based on results from the randomized clinical trial and evaluation of this program conducted on election night, we estimate a vote gain of 7,905 Democratic votes statewide from Working America’s digital program.
"Time and again, Working America's face-to-face conversations break through with voters to be a difference-maker in tough elections," said Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO. "By identifying the issues that animate voters and introducing information about the candidates’ records on the topic, Working America's program delivers votes by changing minds."
Governor Matt Bevin and his supporters tried to nationalize the race by drawing close connections with President Trump and dialing up hateful rhethoric on hot-button topics such as abortion and immigration. But Working America’s direct door-to-door conversations refocused persuasion and low-propensity voters back onto issues that resonate with working people.
Over the course of the months-long program, Working America canvassers shared important information about Beshear’s support for teachers and public education, which voters we spoke with identified as their top concern. Undecided voters and Bevin supporters who were parents or who knew a teacher in the Kentucky school system were persuaded when Working America canvassers talked about Bevin’s harsh treatment of educators and his damage to their pension plan. Voters also voiced their desire for access to quality, affordable health care. When we spoke with undecided voters and Bevin supporters about Andy Beshear’s work to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, they shifted support to the Democrat.
Working America kicked off its work in the Bluegrass State this year with a digital accountability campaign targeting Senator Mitch McConnell and his role in needlessly drawing out the federal government shutdown. In the spring, we published a statewide assessment showcasing Working America’s innovative general election persuadability model, which, when applied to Kentucky, identified close to 800,000 persuadable voters from the anticipated 2019 electorate. We then used that model to target the most persuadable voters during our field efforts.
The 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial race laid the groundwork for progressives ahead of the 2020 election. Specifically, robust evidence from Working America’s randomized clinical trials show our canvass contact has long-term, positive effects on turnout for four years after contact. As a result, we anticipate that our sizeable on-the-ground organizing efforts in the 2019 election will win votes for union-backed candidates in November 2020.
ABOUT WORKING AMERICA IN KENTUCKY
With more than 3.5 million members nationwide, Working America reaches working-class voters via a professional canvass to mobilize them to fight for good jobs and a fair economy. In Kentucky, Working America has organized more than 114,000 members and been active in dozens of gubernatorial, state house and federal elections stretching back to 2007.
Working America believes it’s essential to set in place a roadmap for a large-scale and sustained political realignment that brings more working-class voices into politics.