In past generations, grassroots activism was based on guts, hunches and instinct. The best guess based on personal experience won the day.
There was some data available, but it was hard to come by. Grassroots campaigns either had to pay for expensive polling or spend hours poring over printed spreadsheets and paper maps.
Thankfully, today there’s a wealth of information out there for grassroots activists. It’s easily accessible online, and much of it is free!
Before taking on a new fight, take the time to do your homework.
Recent Election Results
Many local governments post election results on their websites. But it’s more than just who won or lost. These results often include turnout numbers and results on the precinct level.
If you’re trying to persuade an elected official to support an initiative, knocking on every door in their district can seem like an insurmountable task. But with election-result data, you can find pockets of people who agree with you on the issue and target those areas to encourage them to contact their representative.
Countless organizations conduct polling on the national, state and local level. FiveThirtyEight, the site run by numbers guru Nate Silver, can be a great place to start to find polling results and analysis.
Pew Research Center also has lots of polling information on everything from where Americans stand on issues to where they get their news. Pew even puts together profiles of different demographics, so whether you’re planning to target suburban housewives or urban millennials, you should be able to find insights on Pew’s website.
On the local level, newspapers, television stations and universities often conduct polls and share their results.
Studies and Experiments
Universities and other research organizations regularly conduct studies on how grassroots campaigns can effectively reach Americans. Before settling on a particular tactic, spend some time researching online and you’re sure to find studies about the effectiveness of different techniques.
For example, this study from Yale looked at get-out-the-vote tactics and found “the most consistently effective and efficient method” of getting the word out is knocking on doors.
Gathering research before developing your plan can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensure your goals and tactics fit into the SMART framework. Do your homework at the beginning, and success won’t be far behind!
To learn more about data and other grassroots skills, check out one of the upcoming Grassroots Leadership Academy trainings coming up near you here. For grassroots tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our email list here.