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Connecticut Ballot Question 1– Constitutional Convention: Messaging Helps Send Partisan Cues to Reject Ballot Question

ct vote no

The Issue 
Every twenty years, Connecticut voters face a ballot question that reads, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?”

The Challenge 
The 2008 electorate was extremely change-oriented. Connecticut voters wanted change nationally and locally. This mood for change was electric; it not only helped elect President Obama, but it also led many voters to support the Convention. Many voters felt that it was time to look at their Constitution, that it had some “glitches”, and saw “changing” the Constitution as a way to improve their state. The truth is, if conservatives had been able to pass this ballot question, then voters in the state would have faced an endless number of initiatives focused on abortion rights, marriage equality, and how public schools are funded. A progressive vote was a NO vote, but CT VOTE NO! needed to get that message to progressives.

The Outcome 
The message got through. Voters rejected the Constitutional Convention as 59% voted No on Ballot Question One.

The Methodology 
Lake Research Partners began by conducting four focus groups in two locations, followed by a statewide baseline survey of 500 likely voters, all in late July. This baseline research informed multiple facets of the campaign, including messaging, media, and targeting efforts. In mid-October, LRP conducted a tracking survey among 500 voters to reevaluate the targeting strategy, track the impact of the media buy, and determine if the message needed tweaking heading into the final ten days of the campaign.

LRP’s research showed the campaign was wide open, with roughly one-third of voters supporting the Convention, one-third opposing it, and another third who were undecided. Importantly, the “change-oriented” constituencies which conventional wisdom says would be the base for the NO campaign (women, younger voters, Democrats, African Americans and Latinos), were actually divided or even voting YES. The Convention would pass unless progressives and Democrats started hearing the partisan and ideological cues that could persuade them to vote NO.

Two avenues were implemented to get these cues across. First, voters needed to hear that the Convention would be dominated by powerful big-business special interest groups. If voters thought the Convention would be a place for citizens to debate the issues openly, we had to let them know the truth. Second, progressives needed to hear that those who supported the convention did so for right-wing conservative reasons – to repeal abortion rights, to make gay marriage against the law, and to hurt workers. Once that message seeped in, progressives and Democrats knew that the right vote was to vote NO.

The Team 
Lake Research Partners (Joshua UlibarriChristopher Panetta
The Hamburger Company, Media 
Peggy Shorey, Campaign Manager