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Message Frames Tested

The research was designed to uncover the most compelling message “frames” and better understand the types of narratives that that will help drive voter turnout. Specifically, we looked at five message frames: Issue, Empowerment, Identity, Companionship and Plan/Ease. (These frames were the dominant themes used in GOTV campaigns during the 2018 midterm election cycle, according to a scan performed by the Ad Council.) The goal of the research was not to analyze messages verbatim from previous election cycles, but rather, explore receptivity to overarching message themes.

Respondents evaluated the message frames across a number of different areas, including appeal, inspiration, relevance and believability. For this research, these areas are defined as:

  • Appeal: overall likeability of the message
  • Inspire: message motivates to get out and vote
  • Relevance: message is applicable to someone like them
  • Believability: they find the message to be credible



MESSAGE FRAMES EVALUATED

Issue: I vote because there are important issues that deserve my attention and action.

I make an effort to keep up with the issues that are important to me, and I do my homework to identify the candidates that support my stance. When I vote, I’m voting for or against a cause that I feel strongly about and to impact issues that are meaningful to me.

Empowerment: I matter as a member of society and, therefore, so does my vote.

I believe in us as individuals and our ability to make a difference in the world. But that means we need to make our voices heard, and voting is an important part of making that happen. I vote because my voice matters.

Identity: I am a voter.

I am proud to be a voter. For me, voting is just a responsibility — it is fundamental to who I am as a person. Through voting, I believe I am exercising my freedom of speech, and that is intrinsic to my character. That’s why it’s important for me to be a voter in every election — no matter how big or small.

Companionship: I vote because I feel inspired by the people around me who take pride in voting.

I like feeling that I’m part of a larger community of voters — people who care about issues, believe in their civic duty, and want to be involved in issues that affect our community and the world. It gives me a stronger sense of belonging and makes me feel good about participating.

Plan/Ease: Voting is important, but the logistics of voting can be a hurdle to me.

There is a lot to understand and coordinate — making sure I’m registered, knowing where to go, understanding what’s on the ballot and deciding who to vote for. But with a little planning, preparation, and help where needed, voting can be easy; and I’m always glad I made the effort.

MESSAGE FRAMES: LIKES & DISLIKES

ISSUE: I vote because there are important issues that deserve my attention and action.

I make an effort to keep up with the issues that are important to me, and I do my homework to identify the candidates that support my stance. When I vote, I’m voting for or against a cause that I feel strongly about and to impact the issues that are meaningful to me.

The Issue frame is well-received as nearly everyone has an issue they care about. However, some are concerned about encouraging one-issue voters.

Likes:

  • The overall message is positive and encouraging.
  • Your vote can directly impact issues you care about: feels believable and aspirational.
  • Message is relatable; many vote based on issues and everyone has an issue(s) they care about.
  • Appreciate those who make an effort to keep up with issues/do homework on candidates.

Dislikes:

  • Some are concerned this message is too narrow in focus and encourages “one-issue” voters.
  • A few are skeptical that fellow voters put in the effort to research issues/candidates.

EMPOWERMENT: I matter as a member of society and, therefore, so does my vote.

I believe in us as individuals and our ability to make a difference in the world. But that means we need to make our voices heard, and voting is an important part of making that happen. I vote because my voice matters.

Empowerment is embraced for its inspirational message that individuals can make a difference, though a few are unsure if their vote really matters.

Likes:

  • Most agree that voting is important; they feel that their individual vote matters and can make a difference.
  • Everyone matters as members of society; feels aspirational.
  • Inspirational; some feel this message is especially relevant for those who feel disenfranchised or are reluctant to vote.

Dislikes:

  • Some find this message less believable; disheartened by the political system, unsure if their vote really matters.

IDENTITY: I am a voter.

I am proud to be a voter. For me, voting is not just a responsibility – it is fundamental to who I am as a person. Through voting, I believe that I am exercising my freedom of speech, and that is intrinsic to my character. That’s why it’s important for me to be a voter in every election – no matter how big or small.

While many agree that voting is a way to exercise freedom of speech, some are wary to claim being a voter is part of their identity.

Likes:

  • Voting is a responsibility and a way to exercise your freedom of speech; feels believable.
  • Caring about voting invokes a sense of pride and is relatable for many.
  • Some feel that being a voter is part of their identity.

Dislikes:

  • Being a voter as part of your identity or “intrinsic to my character” is polarizing. Some just consider voting an obligation or task they need to complete, it’s not part of their identity.

COMPANIONSHIP: I vote because I feel inspired by the people around me who take pride in voting.

I like feeling that I’m part of a larger community of voters – people who care about issues, believe in their civic duty, and want to be involved in issues that affect our community and the world. It gives me a stronger sense of belonging and makes me feel good about participating.

Companionship fails to gain traction, as many feel its message is unrelatable and less believable.

Likes:

  • Creating a sense of community feels unique.

Dislikes:

  • Many find the message unrelatable & unbelievable; don’t feel inspired by people around them who take pride in voting.
  • Little desire to feel like part of a community through voting; feels a bit like peer pressure.

PLAN/EASE: Voting is important, but the logistics of voting can be a hurdle for me.

There’s a lot to understand and coordinate – making sure I’m registered, knowing where to go, understanding what’s on the ballot and deciding who to vote for. But with a little planning, preparation, and help where needed, voting can be easy, and I’m always glad I made the effort.

Though many (especially first-time voters) can relate to the hurdles outlined in Plan/Ease, many feel this message isn’t particularly inspirational or helpful.

Likes:

  • Most agree voting can be a hassle, but think it’s a rewarding experience that’s worth the effort.
  • Lists specific hurdles that people can relate to.
  • Could be relevant to young or first-time voters.

Dislikes:

  • Many would not share this message; planning/preparation seem fairly obvious.
  • Many feel that most people are aware of these hurdles and the message isn’t particularly helpful; feels pessimistic to some.