Community Change/Action ‘Ideas Labs’ Illuminate How Voters Are Thinking About Economy
by Domenica Ghanem | October 5, 2022 2:17 pm
For Immediate Release
Community Change/Action ‘Ideas Labs’ Illuminate How Voters Are Thinking About Economy
Results from the vast public research project show cross-partisan support for bold economic ideas
(Washington, D.C.) – This year, Community Change/Action launched a major initiative coupling traditional public opinion research methods with an innovative, grassroots approach to information-gathering among voters nationwide to create “Ideas Labs.” Voters from across partisan, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds joined in conversation with others share their views about the current economy, and also brainstorm and generate ideas for the economy of the future.
This memo lifts up some of the key findings from our ongoing Ideas Labs research that illuminate how voters across communities are thinking about changing the U.S. economy to solve the struggles many are feeling, from the gas pump and grocery store; to finding good jobs with benefits, wages, and security; to finding work-life balance; and being able to care for their loved ones in times of need.
“What these Ideas Labs showed us is an opportunity for motivating voters across partisan, racial, and general lines around real and sustained economic change in this country. It’s why our voter engagement strategies at Community Change Action are about organizing beyond electoral waves that come and go and engaging authentically with peoples’ lived experience. We are building something sustainable and investing in long-term political power for low-income and Black and Brown voters,” said Grecia Lima, National Political Director at Community Change Action.
Center lived experience. In a post-COVID environment where economic anxiety is elevated and stability and security are highly desirable values held by voters, we found people were more motivated to listen and support new economic ideas when we validated their lived experience. Our open-ended line of questioning throughout the Ideas Labs substantiated participants’ experiences and in turn gave them a safe space to think outside the box when it comes to “solving” the economic issues facing families so that all communities thrive. This made it easier to relate the changes in people’s lives to macroeconomics.
Speak of “ideas,” not policies/proposals. One of the best ways to find common ground and prevent dog-whistling polarization in conversations with the public about the economy is to frame any desired changes as “ideas” rather than “policies” or “proposals.” Through the “ideas” lens, conversations become less about politics, divisions, and cynicism, and more about underlying values and how we make things better together. A key umbrella that emerged was ensuring individuals and families have opportunities and what they need to thrive, which is at the heart of the progressive movement. Additionally, it is important to start with the positive, not the negative; and discuss ideas, not problems.
”In the labs, people came together and worked together. They respected and built on each other’s ideas. This seemed to them to be in stark contrast to the division and political self-interest that our current public policy debates often generate,” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. “These labs also helped turn back one of our biggest barriers – cynicism that it can even happen, not opposition to new and progressive ideas.”
Top ideas generated by and tested among voters focused on jobs and getting a living wage for the hard work they do. People’s expectation of employment – their desire for a good, quality job for themselves and for their loved ones – is higher than ever, creating a strong basis for progressive organizing. Over 79 percent of survey respondents favored these ideas about jobs that allowed them to provide for their basic needs, provided benefits and gave family sustaining wages:
- Better Jobs / Benefits. To meet the immediate needs of individuals and families – from child and elder care to health care – we should invest in creating good, quality jobs in every community so anyone willing to work can earn a living wage from one job, rather than having to work two or three.
- Family Sustaining Jobs. To meet the immediate needs of individuals and families, like putting food on the table, paying utility bills, and keeping a roof over their heads, we should invest in creating stable jobs in every community that pay employees wages they can sustain a family on.
We need to re-imagine jobs and work. Though the progressive movement and voters alike talk about good-paying jobs in general, our messaging would benefit from broadening the conversation to highlight specific benefits, including flexibility, dealing with caregiving responsibilities, changing the work week (in terms of hours and days worked), investments in job skills training and development for both students still in school and members of the workforce. Over 70 percent of survey respondents agreed with these ideas that job trainings and better standards were necessities in building a quality workforce.
- Training. We should help people prepare for the jobs of tomorrow beyond relying solely on a 4-yr college degree & invest in programs & training opportunities that teach people the skills they need & help people find quality jobs.
- Better Standards. We need to encourage new 21st century standards for work, like flexible work schedules, guaranteed paid leave for being sick or to take care of a loved one, and tougher rules on employers to prevent firing workers without cause.
Voters are open to a new economic framework, but security and stability are paramount. Throughout the entire questionnaire, participants across racial and ethnic backgrounds shared a desire to work collectively to find solutions, whether or not there were differences in ideology. Black and Latinx respondents were the most willing and open to join together and effect positive change.
The top performing messages in the Ideas Labs build upon new ideas voters themselves generated, but underlying themes of security, stability, and opportunity persist. Other values expressed throughout the Ideas Labs include care, community and family, and racial justice. Nearly 70 percent of participants across demographics were excited about these ideas to join together to take action and bring about positive change, even if they had differences.
- Across partisanship, zip code, and background, voters want an economy that allows them to care for themselves, their loved ones, and their community. They want their families and communities to thrive, to be healthy, and to feel safe and secure financially.
“Participants highlighted an economic issue of having to compete with corporations for housing and for the freedom to make decisions about their lives. In each session participants referenced lack of housing and corporations buying up all the houses as a seemingly immovable barrier. The theme of battling corporations was also mentioned in reference to healthcare costs.” said Angela Peoples, Co-founder of the South.
Methodology Note: Lake Research Partners conducted 10 virtual focus groups and three 3-day QualBoards among voters nationwide in January-March 2022. The focus groups were segmented by the following criteria:
- January 18th: Democrats, mixed gender, white, over 40, at least half low-propensity voters
- January 19th: Black voters, mixed gender, mix of party ID excluding Republicans
- January 20th: AAPI voters, mixed gender, mix of party ID
- January 24th: Suburban Republican women, mixed race, under 50
- January 25th: Younger Democrats (18-39), mixed gender, mixed race, in GA, AZ, WI, and NV
- January 26th: Latinx voters (mix of regular and low-propensity voters), mixed gender, mix of party ID
- January 27th: White non-college women, under 50, mix of party ID
- January 31st: Younger Republicans (18-39), mixed gender, mixed race in GA, AZ, WI, and NV
- March 30th: White voters, mixed gender, 21-65, mix of party ID
- March 30th: Voters of color, mixed gender, 21-65, mix of party ID
In addition to meeting the demographic criteria of each group, participants were recruited to reflect a mix of marital status, parental status, geographic location, and employment status. The three QualBoards were among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans and ran from February 8th through 10th, 2022. Participants had previously participated in a 2-hour virtual focus group discussion and were selected to reflect a mix of gender, age, and race/ethnicity. Participants responded to a set of 6-10 questions and exercises twice a day about the current state of the economy and their personal economic situation. Participants also shared their reactions to a variety of ideas related to changing the U.S. economy that had been generated in their focus group discussions in January 2022.