As part of a goal to bridge the disconnect between the political establishment and oft-neglected Latino voters, Equis Labs is conducting a series of digital tests that look to identify effective approaches for messaging and engagement. Today’s test looks at the use of “caring” in Democratic messaging.
In a 2020 post-mortem, Equis identified a compelling link between Latinos who feel that Democrats are the party that “cares more about people like them” and their likelihood to say they will vote for a Democrat in 2022. As shown in the chart below, believing that the phrase “cares about people like you” is a better descriptor of Democrats than of Republicans predicts a Latino voter’s likelihood to pick a Democrat in a generic ballot beyond what other factors might anticipate. This data offered some interesting and useful insights on its own, but left some key questions unanswered: Does increasing agreement that “Democrats care about people like you” also cause an increase in vote choice for Democrats? If so, what concrete lessons does it offer practitioners as they develop messaging and content? What kind of content most effectively convinces Latinos that Democrats care more about people like them?
To answer these questions,we designed an experiment, developed 6 videos– 3 in English and 3 in Spanish– and partnered with Civis Analytics to survey over 4,200 Latino respondents across the country. We picked three message frames: positive, comparative, and one we called “storytelling:”
- The positive frame focused exclusively on Democrats caring about working people and the need for more leaders who care in Congress.
- The comparative frame was similar, but included some criticism of Republicans.
- For the storytelling approach, we asked our messenger– a Latina small business owner– to share the ways Democrats made the PPP loan process more accessible, helping save her business and take care of her family. The “storytelling” approach used an authentic and compelling messenger to show that Democrats don’t just care about working people; they also take action to make their lives better.
Overall, the “storytelling” message was the clear winner. The combination of authentic and personal storytelling — along with the key message that Democrats both care and deliver — edged out the other two approaches.
That said, all the messages we tested increased the likelihood that someone would say Democrats are the party that cares more about people like them, and most also led to some meaningful positive movement on vote choice.
As we typically see in all our tests, there were big differences between Spanish and English Latino audiences. The baseline responses from our control group were different for Spanish and English speakers, and the treatment effects for each message were different even though the messages were essentially identical in both languages. For Spanish speakers, both the positive and the “storytelling” frames were effective. In English, the “storytelling” frame was the top performer. Even when surveying Latino audiences only, it is important to remember that Spanish and English speaking audiences frequently react differently to digital treatment.
We also found some big effects with key subgroups: Latino non-voters, infrequent voters, and independents — and some suggestive movement among soft Republicans. On the “cares” question, the English-language messages produced the greatest effects with non-voters. In Spanish, the largest movement happened among infrequent voters. In both English and Spanish, we saw the most movement on “cares” from independents– along with some considerable movement from Republicans.
On vote choice — supporting a Democrat in 2022 — the largest effects were with non-voters and independents, regardless of language, and we again saw some sizable movement from Republicans.
Our most critical finding is that vote choice is strongly related to the “cares” question. With this test we observed a link stronger than what we saw in the post-mortem data referenced at the top of this article. People’s intent to vote for a Democrat in 2022 appears, here, to be heavily impacted by thinking Democrats are the party that cares about people like them. This suggests that, indeed, increasing agreement that “Democrats care more about people like you” is a viable mechanism by which Democrats can persuade Latino voters.
What’s more, we see in this test that one way to do that effectively is to follow the formula from the storytelling approach — showing that Democrats care and take action through compelling personal stories that demonstrate the effects of a larger policy on individual people.
That’s all for now.