As we approach the 2021 legislative session, nothing could be more important than advancing policies that improve peoples’ lives. Yet a harmful narrative is evolving that legislators representing rural districts should avoid embracing progressive policies that could be perceived as controversial, contentious, or divisive. However, polling and research suggests that rural constituents do support progressive policies and would benefit from more tailored messaging and engagement strategies. We recently hosted a discussion with experts to learn more about working with rural constituents while advancing progressive policy. If you are a legislator or staff who missed the discussion, you can email us and get a recording.
Here are SiX Main Takeaways from that Discussion:
1. Talk to people, not lobby groups, about issues that impact rural people. Large agribusiness organizations do not speak for all rural constituents.
2. Progressive messaging works. The data shows that our policies are popular, but we have to overcome the polarization created by national media and political parties.
3. Constituent outreach is something that needs to be year-round. Meaningful, deep outreach can actually change people’s perspectives about progressive policies.
4. Your constituents aren’t as partisan as we’ve been made to believe. People tend to have strongly held beliefs, but they aren’t necessarily consistent based on traditional left-right spectrums. Research shows that leaning into progressive values goes further with constituents than code-switching in an attempt to be viewed as more moderate with people living in rural areas.
5. Rural constituents often pride themselves on self-sufficiency but also on community compassion and showing up for their neighbors. As a legislator, work to highlight the ways you are working to promote good government which is serving local rural people.
6. Connecting with people one-on-one, having a values-based conversation, and doing a lot of listening will help to build your rural constituents’ trust in you as a leader.