Project New America was among the first to recognize and build messages around the widespread public consensus in favor of common sense policies on women’s health issues. Beginning with our research around the Personhood ballot initiative in Colorado, we’ve built on our existing knowledge base to identify the most effective messages for building that consensus and motivating voters around issues related to women’s health.
In 2008, then-Project New West conducted research around the Personhood ballot initiative in our home state of Colorado, which lost by a wide margin. When the Personhood organizers placed the initiative on the ballot again in 2010, we seized the opportunity to take a deeper look into attitudes surrounding women’s health issues in Colorado.
What we discovered through this research is that voters’ views on abortion are far more complex than the simple pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy that has been used to define the public debate. While voters harbor complex and often conflicting views on the issue, we found wide consensus around the idea that decisions on women’s health should be made by a woman, her family and her faith, not government bureaucrats.
This research was key to creating the messages around women’s health that helped to defeat Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck in tightly contested Colorado race. Progressives used Buck’s support for Personhood, as well as several other episodes and statements Buck has made, to cast him as anti-women’s health. The result was a narrow victory for Bennet, fueled by a 17-point margin of victory among women.
Building off of the knowledge base we gained in Colorado, PNA was commissioned to conduct messaging research around the 2011 Personhood initiative in Mississippi. At first, the initiative was expected to pass easily in this conservative state. However, anti-personhood organizers in Mississippi enacted a highly effective strategy informed in part by PNA’s research. Television ads, mail pieces and canvassers all hammered Personhood as a “government gone too far,” and slammed Personhood for taking health decisions out of the hands of women, and placing it in the hands of bureaucrats.
After months of effective messaging on the ground, the Personhood measure was defeated 57%-42%.
After Mississippi, PNA conducted a nationwide research that honed in on even more precise messages that reflect voters’ attitudes toward abortion and other womens’ health issues. As a part of this national research, PNA also explored attitudes and opinions of Latino and African American voters in order to better understand these important demographic groups.
Recently, PNA has been conducting state-based message trainings based on our nationwide women’s health research in states throughout the country and will continue to build on its national and state-based research in 2012 and 2013.