Divided on Defund? We did a little message testing

Echo’s Social Justice Research Division has a lot of goals; one of them being to help us better understand each other and with that, hopefully find more common ground than differences.

Anyone in market research could easily articulate the importance of message testing.  Almost anyone would also likely agree that there is full breakdown in communication when it comes to sharing or defining ideas across the political spectrum.  Rallying cries or phrases used to make points are often misunderstood, poorly defined or simply hi-jacked.

With this year’s elections cycle over, we often found ourselves beholden to very simplistic polling.  Who is ahead, who isn’t ahead, who agrees – “yes” or disagrees  – “no.”  Beyond the obvious problems of sampling bias – there is no nuance to anything.

The fact that the country is essentially divided in half regarding the best way forward is even further proof of the relevancy of this initiative to better understand messaging.

In thinking about all of this we decided to conduct a message test for the phrase “Defund the Police.”  This phrase has been all of the things mentioned previously – poorly explained and broken down, misunderstood and hi-jacked.

We surveyed 2100 people with the primary source being our participant community.  Beyond showing that a bit of education on messaging would go a long way in bringing people together we’re comfortable saying that research beyond polling can be done quickly and for relatively little money.

Not surprisingly – we learned that when this statement was broken out and defined there was significantly more to agree upon than what the polls would suggest.

Only 18% agree with both the term sentiment of Defund the Police while 32% say they agree with the sentiment, but not the term.  28% disagree with the term and sentiment with the remainder unsure.

A surprising learning is that the term and not the sentiment is the issue.  People that completely disagree with “Defund” would only leave 25% of the budget as is while distributing 11% of it to training on identifying mental health issues and 29% to social service workers, community/youth health programs and outreach to people with behavioral/mental health histories.  The rest would go to different police programs like training on non-violent de-escalation, military tactical training and mental health services for officers.

While some of the results were not surprising and some questions were answered – there were other areas that still feel like a more nuanced response might be useful.  It made us think. We would like to understand more and dive even deeper into things.  

It’s our hope that as you view these responses you feel the same way and we can, together, continue to explore the possibility of working together.

Contact us for a copy of the report.

If you would like more information about Echo Market Research, you can follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can also reach out to us via email at hello@echo-mr.com.