Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Citizens Have More Power than they Realize

Bread member Art Meyer
I recently came across a very interesting report about perceptions of congressional aides in regards to citizen advocacy.

The report, entitled  Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, is based on a survey of 260 congressional staff members between October 12 and December 13, 2010

The survey was conducted by a group called The Partnership for a More Perfect Union (PUP).

There were some interesting findings, and this one stands out:
Citizens Have More Power Than They Realize. Most of the staff surveyed said constituent visits to the Washington office (97%) and to the district/state office (94%) have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided Member, more than any other influence group or strategy. When asked about strategies directed to their offices back home, staffers said questions at town hall meetings (87%) and letters to the editor (80%) have “some” or “a lot” of influence.
And this one is important because it underscores the importance of using our own words in our handwritten letters:
Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns – Staff are Conflicted. The congressional staff we surveyed have conflicting views and attitudes about the value of grassroots advocacy campaigns. More than one-third of congressional staff (35%) agreed that advocacy campaigns are good for democracy (25% disagreed). Most staff (90%) agreed – and more than 60% strongly agreed – that responding to constituent communications is a high priority in their offices. But, more than half of the staffers surveyed (53%) agreed that most advocacy campaigns of identical form messages are sent without constituents’ knowledge or approval.
There are also perceptions on the Internet, social media; and the content of communication with Congress. Read full summary   Read full report (in PDF format) Visit PUP's Web site.

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