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Swing Blue and Galvanize Action Aim to Change the National Narrative Around CRT

Posted on June 8, 2022
Image of young white male in combat gear with text reading "I Fight for Liberty and Justice for All and I want my son to do the same. Let's talk openly about race in school."

Getting the right message to the right voters at the right time to create a resilient electorate is essential in this critical election year. Swing Blue’s newest postcarding campaign in partnership with Galvanize Action offers postcard writers an opportunity to reach a key demographic — moderate women in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — with powerful messaging to combat disinformation, push back against “grievance narratives,” and offer hope for moving us toward progress on the issues we all care about. 

Using data science, behavioral psychology, and neuroscience, Galvanize Action works to “identify, engage, and move moderate women in rural, small town, and suburban America to reliably vote for progress.” Galvanize Action’s work seeks to find women who want progress, but haven’t reliably voted in a way that  reflects the society they want to see. They connect with them on their values and reduce barriers to aligning those values with their political behavior.

The Liberty & Justice for All Campaign with Galvanize Action

Creating New Associations Around Critical Race Theory

The 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race showed the impact that fear-based messaging around CRT can have on a close election. Galvanize Action has identified moderate white women in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who may be particularly susceptible to  misleading, fear-focused messages designed to heighten anxiety and distract from the issues they care about. Given the Virginia outcome, we expect an onslaught of similar messaging for the 2022 midterms as the right capitalizes on that success. 

Addressing disinformation and fear-based campaigns with facts has not proven to be an effective strategy. These methods may even backfire. 

Will an early, positive-message approach be more effective? That’s exactly what this new postcarding campaign aims to find out. 

This summer, Galvanize Action and Swing Blue Alliance will get out in front of misleading and fear-based messaging by meeting voters at their values and creating positive associations around talking about race and discrimination in an honest and unbiased way. We’ll be writing postcards that address CRT in unexpected ways, with carefully selected images and copy that data indicate resonate most with moveable white women voters. 

The goal is to combat the forthcoming disinformation and fear — and make these tactics less effective.

The Data Behind the Image and Message

The postcard we’ll be sending (picture above) looks like a meme, doesn’t it?  That’s very intentional. Think of the values listed above — the message and image directly reflect what will resonate most with our intended audience. To start, the prominent military figure is a powerful messenger, appealing to voters’ patriotism and respect for authority – two core values for traditionalist conservative white women.

Additionally, the messaging about the soldier’s son directly addresses these voters’ focus on in-group care, and reframes the idea that white mothers should fear their sons being disadvantaged by honest conversations about race and discrimination. The postcard aims for the recipient to make a new connection: that talking about challenging topics is brave, necessary, and protects everyone.

Finally, the soldier’s direct eye contact intimates closeness, that he is speaking directly to the recipient. 

To ensure effectiveness before starting this effort, Galvanize Action and Grow Progress first tested this meme (and several others like it) with their audience of moderate white women. Through prior voter understanding research, Galvanize Action has identified three subgroups within this population:

  • Traditionalist Conservatives: Three-quarters of these women believe that God controls what happens in their lives. In 2020, 60% voted for Trump.
  • Uncertain Individualists:  Many women in this group have low self-esteem and little interest in politics. In 2020, Uncertain Individualists split evenly into three groups: Trump voters, Biden voters, and nonvoters.
  • Trusting Liberals: This group supports a larger role of government and trusts its institutions. 70 percent voted for Biden in 2020.

They structured their initial experiment as follows:

Subjects were randomly assigned to a control group or a treatment group. The control group saw a placebo; the treatment group saw one of Galvanize Action’s messages (including the soldier meme). Everyone in both groups was asked: “Do you support or oppose schools in your area teaching about the ongoing effects of racism and discrimination in the United States?” Groups with percentage point (pp) increases were more supportive after seeing the Galvanize Action message. 

Here’s how the soldier meme performed with women who identified as:

  • Independents (+16pp)
  • Income $0-$49k (+12pp)
  • Age 18-34 (+17pp)
  • Traditionalist Conservatives (+21pp)

Perhaps most importantly, when Galvanize Action tested whether the message was a turnoff for any of the key groups above, they found it did not backfire with any of them.

The Values of Traditionalist Conservative Women

According to Galvanize Action’s research, white women whom they identified as Traditionalist Conservatives tend to believe that God controls what happens in their lives. They care about people whom they perceive to be like them, but often that compassion does not extend to people who come from different cultures and traditions. In fact, they may blame them for some of the problems in our society. Although they value independence, they are the highest of all groups in benevolent sexism – the belief that women should be protected and cherished by men. Interestingly, they fall much lower on the internalized sexism scale, which means they recognize that women are held back in our society. Common interests for this group include football, NASCAR, and rock music. In 2020, 60% of these voters voted for Trump, 25% voted for Biden, and 15% did not vote.

So, the opportunity is to reach these voters in a way that connects their values with choices that will advance progress on the issues they care about. For maximum impact (i.e., in order to truly connect and have our message received), the message’s method and tone must reflect the recipients’ values and communication style.

Research and Testing

What We’ll Learn from the Liberty & Justice for All Campaign

Swing Blue and Galvanize Action’s postcarding program will test the effectiveness of values-based messaging at moving key women voters on CRT. Research will be conducted on this entire group with the following treatments: one segment will be sent postcards plus messages on other media; another segment will be sent messages on other media without the postcards; a third segment will be controls who will not be sent anything. An additional group of Traditionalist Conservatives will receive the cards, but these women will not be part of the experiment.

Postcards will be mailed in mid- to late June, and surveys conducted in early to mid-July. Results are expected by the end of July. 

This effort represents a new and exciting initiative for Swing Blue: We’re testing the power of persuasion, as well as whether we can inspire critical thinking to ward off polarizing, grievance-based narratives with key voters. The potential for new learnings is high, both for regional and national campaigns.