Why Legislative Advocacy Campaigns Need Deep Policy Insights

A divided Congress is nothing new. But access to the real-time data to bridge the gap is definitely new.

Can Democrats and Republicans come together to pass the sixth coronavirus relief package for the American people? The answer increasingly looks like, no. Signs point to Senate Democrats now going at it alone by using the reconciliation process to circumvent a Republican filibuster and unilaterally pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan. That is, if Democrats can come together and agree amongst themselves.

The reconciliation process allows the Senate to pass bills that are immune to the filibuster, but the rules state that these bills must deal with taxes and spending only. So, bills related to issues like immigration or the 2nd Amendment seemingly can’t be passed under reconciliation, but tax cuts and stimulus can. This is how the Republicans moved the “Trump tax cuts” through Congress, and it’s how the Democrats will likely pass their major coronavirus package. The reconciliation process allows the Senate to pass bills that are immune to the filibuster, but the rules state that these bills must deal with taxes and spending only. So, bills related to issues like immigration or the 2nd Amendment seemingly can’t be passed under reconciliation, but tax cuts and stimulus can.

If the Democrats unite behind reconciliation and they’re successful in passing coronavirus relief, it’s possible they’ll be emboldened to use reconciliation to advance other top priorities by broadening the scope of its definition to extend to other issues, like raising the federal minimum wage.

This strategy creates a highly unpredictable legislative environment by muddying the role of reconciliation, the only vehicle that enables a majority party to side-step the filibuster and unilaterally legislate in a polarized Congress. This type of uncertainty demands that businesses and advocacy organizations are prepared to act quickly when their issues are on deck…because things may start to move at record speed.

Early indicators of issues that could have some momentum this year have surfaced due to the divisions in the Democratic Party around passing coronavirus relief in partisan form. Moderate swing state Democrats fear that by excluding Republican input from the coronavirus relief bill through reconciliation, they could be jeopardizing future opportunities to work with Republicans on other major reforms. For West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, this includes a trillion-dollar transportation bill that will likely need broad bipartisan support to get done.

However, blue state Democrats representing the party’s more liberal wing see Biden’s victory as an opportunity to pursue top liberal reforms with little to no bipartisan input, such as raising the minimum wage or creating a pathway to citizenship. Whether these issues can actually get done without Republican support remains to be seen. Like a transportation bill, these are not the type of policies that have been historically included in reconciliation, and therefore, would likely need bipartisan backing to beat the filibuster and become law.

Why Issue-Specific Data is Critical

The lesson for advocacy organizations right now is to stay ready. In such an unpredictable and partisan environment, you’ll need to be prepared to act when your issues take center stage. This is where fresh data can play a decisive role.

At Resonate, we help our advocacy clients navigate unpredictable environments by providing the most accurate and relevant data on where Americans stand on the broadest range of policy issues — at scale. Unlike traditional research that provides baseline insights like party affiliation and propensity scores, our AI-driven models build in how Americans feel about the actual issues being debated on any given day, whether it’s raising the minimum age, transportation, or creating a pathway to citizenship.

By using online behavioral data, our models update nightly, ensuring campaigns can activate passionate issue-driven audiences based on how they’re interacting online. Our methodology eliminates the need for campaigns to invest in expensive and labor-intensive field research to build policy audiences from scratch. Our models are “always on” and allow campaigns to mobilize niche, impactful audiences that can help apply pressure and move the needle in the right direction, whether it’s in Congress or at the local level.

Let’s look at an issue that has recently generated attention on Capitol Hill and an audience example that campaigns could leverage to drive a formidable grassroots lobbying campaign.

Example: Raising the Federal Minimum Wage – Mobilizing Republican Support

The issue of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour gained attention this past week as Democrats toyed with the idea of including the provision in the coronavirus relief bill. Ultimately, it looks like minimum wage won’t be a part of the bill, but the move signified Democrats’ seriousness about the issue.

For advocacy campaigns with an interest in raising the minimum wage, broadening public support for the issue could help soften the debate in Congress, bring both parties closer, and give it a shot at a lasting bipartisan deal — rather than trying to ram it through on pure party lines.

For example, Resonate models have identified an online audience of roughly 17M registered Republican voters who support increasing the federal minimum wage.  

Source: Resonate Ignite Platform™

What’s interesting about this Republican audience is that the data show they are in higher income families — this is not a voter segment that would financially benefit from a mandated wage increase. When compared to the average U.S. voter, these Republicans are actually 14% more likely to have a six-figure household income.

Source: Resonate Ignite Platform™


At its core, this is a compassionate audience that is psychologically driven by their devotion to God and religious beliefs. Concern for those in need also shows up in their other top societal and charitable concerns, including homelessness, childhood disease, and veteran care.

Source: Resonate Ignite Platform™


When crafting messaging and building public support around a major issue, campaigns need to understand the values and motivations that can drive critical audiences to amplify the call to action for legislative reform. From a public affairs standpoint, this involves not only empowering your obvious supporters to take action, but mobilizing support from unconventional audiences that can help deliver your message to those who most need to hear it most. If campaigns can activate these voter segments to apply coverage and pressure in those hard-to-reach places, then the olive branch can extend a bit further down the halls of Congress.

The segment analyzed above is just one of thousands of audiences that Resonate clients can analyze and target immediately. What are your top issues this year — where do you need to build support? We are here to help. Request a demo or give us a call at 855.855.4320.

Ready to Put Resonate to Work?

Hundreds of consumer brands, ad agencies, and political and advocacy organizations are using Resonate’s consumer insights to make better connections with their customers and yours. Don’t let your competition get ahead.

Request a Demo