Vote Forward asked us:

How can we understand where American voters are at today and how they approach the decision to vote?

Vote Forward an organization that conducts grassroots, nonpartisan voter turnout initiatives, recently approached AnswerLab with a proposal for a pro bono research study aimed at understanding the mentality and attitudes of voters of various backgrounds and experiences, including those who weren’t sure how they were going to vote. Vote Forward was also interested in gauging qualitative responses to four different letter designs meant to inform and motivate voters. 

We answered:

We conducted in-depth interviews to uncover the deep attitudinal data Vote Forward was looking for. Additionally, since Vote Forward wanted to understand participants’ realistic reactions to receiving voter turnout letters, AnswerLabbers hand-wrote and mailed 48 letters to 12 participants, who then opened and read them live during research sessions. Our participants came from a variety of locations and backgrounds; we recruited them via Focus Room, our recruit vendor partner, who was willing to support this pro bono initiative.

During the sessions, we dove deep into what sparked participants’ desire to engage politically, how they felt about voting, and their attitudes toward being contacted by pro-voting initiatives via letter. We also gathered reactions to the four letter formats, which included personal messaging about the importance of voting and information to help voters learn more about the candidates they might see on their ballot. We assessed the letters’ clarity and gauged participant sentiment toward letter content on a point scale.

The Impact:
Uncovering basic motivations in order to “meet voters where they’re at”

Emily Wasserman, Senior Director of Data and Research, told us the research helped Vote Forward “discover where voters were at and how they thought about things before asking them to [vote].” One of her team’s big takeaways, she said, was how important it was for any pro-democracy organization to demonstrate a respect for voters’ agency, since many participants reported that they strongly valued the ability to make up their minds for themselves, rather than being told what to think by others.

Vote Forward also applied findings from our letter analysis immediately in their next campaigns. They removed some letter elements and emphasized others according to AnswerLab’s findings, including experimenting with ending letters with a link to more information, since participants appreciated the ability to do their own research and to feel like “the locus of agency was on them.”

This research was just the beginning. In 2023, Vote Forward and AnswerLab will be working together again to continue learning more about what makes voters feel informed and inspired when they prepare to vote.


AnswerLab extends special thanks to our partner, Focus Room, for donating its services to this project.

The Focus Room has been specializing in US online and in-person qualitative recruiting for 30+ years. Their diverse recruiting team and Senior level Project Managers are experts at making sure you have tech-savvy and enthusiastic respondents nationwide, verified to participate in all industry methodologies, both online and for in-person studies.

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