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The Targeted Turnout Strategy: Lessons from Passage of the Transit Tax in St. Louis County . Todd Swanstrom and David Kimball, University of Missouri-St. Louis Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference, St. Louis, Missouri J. Surprising Victory in April 2010 Two earlier defeats:

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the targeted turnout strategy lessons from passage of the transit tax in st louis county

The Targeted Turnout Strategy: Lessons from Passage of the Transit Tax in St. Louis County

Todd Swanstrom and David Kimball,

University of Missouri-St. Louis

Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference, St. Louis, Missouri

J

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide2

Surprising Victory in April 2010

Two earlier defeats:

1997: Lost 58-42

2008: Lost 52-48

2010: Wins 63-37

Economic Recession

High Unemployment

Tea Party Anti-Tax Movement

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide3

Two Characteristics Make the 2010 Victory Even More Surprising

Off-Year Election

  • Votes on Prop M (2008) and Prop A (2010)

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide4

2. Lack of unified business support

Civic Progress opposes an April 2010 tax initiative:

1. October 2009 Poll: 55% support for a transit tax

2. Negative image of Metro (cost overruns)

3. Poor economy

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide5

What’s Up?

How was St. Louis able to overcome obstacles and achieve a historic victory for transit?

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide6

Prop A Campaign

Three-Pronged Campaign:

1. Educational Campaign (CMT)

2. Political Campaign (Advance St. Louis)

3. Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) Campaign

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide7

1. Educational Campaign

    • CMT ($300,000) and St. Clair County Transit ($100,000)
    • Hiring of R&R Partners (Salt Lake City)

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide8

2. Political Campaign: Advance St. Louis

  • 40-Member Steering Committee
  • Co-Chairs: Chancellor Mark Wrighton (Washington University) and Donald Suggs, St. Louis American
  • Chose John Nations (Rep. Mayor of Chesterfield) to Lead Campaign

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide9

Contributions in Support of Public Transit Initiatives

in 2008 & 2010 (Dollar Amount and Percent of Total)

  • Note: Figures are based on campaign reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide10

3. GOTV Campaign

Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance (coalition of 50+ organizations)

Independent Student Campaign

Targeted GOTV Campaign

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide11

Student Campaign

  • Multi-campus
  • Social Media: 5,000 on Facebook; 500 changed their picture on Facebook to “Vote April 6” emblazoned over Metro logo
  • Blogging and twitter to as a rapid response to critics of Prop A
  • Counter-cultural campaign style
    • Tee-shirt painting parties
    • Cookies on election day the shape of buses with Metro logo
    • “Miss MetroLink”: Liz Kramer
    • Transit flash mob dance on Wash U. campus

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide13

Targeted Turnout Strategy

Scientific consensus: Increasing turnout requires face-to-face contacts (Gerber and Green, 2008)

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide14

Geographical targeting

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide15

GOTV Activities

Targeted media buys, direct mail

Door hangers

Rallies: unions, churches (MCU), civil rights groups

Phone banking (SEIU)

“Ninety-five percent of the phone banking and door-to-door outreach was done by them [volunteers].” Tom Shrout

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide16

Little money spent on GOTV effort

Expenditures Paid to Support Public Transit Initiatives

in 2008 & 2010 (Percent of Total)

  • Note: Figures are based on campaign reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

did the targeted turnout strategy work
Did the Targeted Turnout Strategy Work?
  • Turnout in April 2010 was about 50% higher than average April turnout.
  • Was that due to the GOTV campaign?

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

data county voter history file
Data: County Voter History File
  • List of all registered voters (roughly 800,000)
  • Identifies who voted in April 2010 election
  • Model of turnout in April 2010 controlling for:
    • Voting history
    • Other competitive campaigns (schools, mayors)
    • Demographics (age, income, race)
    • Campaign target
      • Media (direct mail, cable TV)
      • Phone bank

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

estimated impact of ad campaign on turnout
Estimated Impact of Ad Campaign on Turnout

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

estimated impact of phone bank on turnout
Estimated Impact of Phone Bank on Turnout

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

prop a campaign impact on turnout
Prop A Campaign Impact on Turnout
  • Prop A campaign had a bigger impact on the turnout of infrequent voters.
  • Overall, the campaign boosted turnout by an estimated 18,000 voters.
  • The Prop A campaign shaped the composition of the electorate.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide23

Lesson #1:

Civic initiatives should not be controlled by big business (or any other single element of the community) but by a broad coalition that stretches across economic, racial, and civic divides, and engages citizens who are directly affected by the issue and care the most about it.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide24

Lesson #2:

Well-designed GOTV efforts with large numbers of volunteers can increase turnout among supporters without mobilizing opponents.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy

slide25

Lesson #3:

Off-cycle elections with low turnout can offer an advantage to organized coalitions, such as transit supporters.

The Targeted Turnout Strategy