November 6, 2014– Hidden beneath the growing narrative of a national “wave,” the 2014 midterms were a good night for gun violence prevention policies and the candidates who favor them. In the one election where expanded background checks were on the ballot, they won resoundingly, and both Republicans and Democrats around the country who support commonsense solutions to gun violence like background checks were re-elected.
“The 2014 elections have delivered some great victories for responsible gun ownership around the country. None of those victories is greater than what we saw in Washington State last night, where the people of the Evergreen State showed that when Americans are given the chance to vote to close the loopholes that let guns fall into the wrong hands, common sense wins out,” said Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “In addition to the success in Washington State, leaders from both parties from Colorado to Maine to Connecticut who support commonsens solutions to gun violence were rehired for the job. More of our Champions won than lost. We feel pretty good about that.”
In its first election cycle, Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC (ARS PAC) ran a comprehensive political program in 19 races across the country supporting its “Champions for Common Sense.” Expenditures included elections for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governors, as well as – critically – passage of Initiative 594, Washington State’s referendum enacting a new expanded background checks law. Our programs included television advertising, targeted digital campaigns, and direct mail programs that used gun violence prevention messages to persuade and motivate potential voters to support ARS PAC’s Champions.
ARS PAC Supports a Victory for Background Checks in Washington State – And a Defeat for the Gun Lobby
In the one election where background checks were explicitly on the ballot, they won resoundingly. Initiative I-594, which will close loopholes in Washington State’s background check system, was overwhelmingly approved, while the gun lobby’s I-591 lost badly. To support I-594 and help defeat I-591, ARS PAC executed a highly targeted direct mail campaign to clarify the differences between Initiatives 594 and 591 to 245,000 households (view the mail pieces here). To determine which households should receive these mail pieces, ARS PAC performed a randomized controlled experiment in which a random sample of likely voters were divided into two groups: one of the groups was sent four pieces of mail, and the other group received no mail and served as a control. Voters in both groups were surveyed by phone to determine their views on the initiatives. Based on survey responses combined with voter-registration and consumer data, every voter in the state received scores indicating how likely the mail would be to change their mind, and by how much.
ARS PAC and its partners then sent mail only to likely voters in 245,000 households whose support of 594 was expected to increase, and whose support of 591 was expected to decrease. Among the group of voters surveyed, ARS PAC’s mail pieces increased voter support of I-594 by 8.2 percentage points, and decreased their support of 591 by 5.4 percentage points among the individuals modeled as mail-receptive. If these rates from the experimental group held in the population at large, ARS PAC’s mail program in Washington would have changed the minds of nearly 20,000 likely voters on initiative 594, and nearly 13,000 on initiative 591.
ARS PAC’s “Champions for Common Sense” Win
Along with the background checks victory in Washington State, a majority of ARS PAC’s “Champions for Commonsense” – Democrats and Republicans – won in some of the nation’s tightest races.
Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy: ARS PAC supported Governor Dan Malloy’s re-election through targeted TV advertising and a strategic four-piece direct mail campaign. ARS PAC aired a 30-second TV advertisement in Fairfield County in the final 2.5 weeks of the campaign highlighting defeated candidate Tom Foley’s opposition to laws that help prevent gun violence. To supplement its TV advertisement, ARS PAC ran a four-piece direct mail campaign highlighting Foley’s out-of-step positions and encouraging voters in Fairfield County to support Malloy. Watch “Protect” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbgGtE7Kfds.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: Gov. John Hickenlooper has shown real leadership on gun violence prevention policies, and he has been re-elected on a night that was difficult for Democrats around the country. ARS PAC ran a statewide digital turnout effort in Colorado to support Gov. Hickenlooper. After targeting and modeling, ARS PAC found that we could talk to certain drop-off voters, including a focus on the Hispanic electorate.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: New Hampshire has a long history of gun ownership and a proud hunting culture. But To that end, ARS PAC research found that 86% of Granite Staters favored background checks.ARS PAC supported Senator Shaheen’s re-election through voter research, a statewide digital and a direct mail advertising campaign to Granite State voters. New Hampshire has a long history of responsible gun ownership and our research found that 86 percent of Granite State voters favor expanded background checks for firearms purchases. ARS PAC conducted a three-piece mail program mail program to a targeted universe of Granite State voters to boost turnout among drop off voters who are likely to support Shaheen. In addition to its direct mail program, ARS PAC used digital advertising to reach voters using a digital ad feature featuring Sandy Hook parent David Wheeler, who thanks Sen. Shaheen for standing up to the gun lobby in a powerful and emotional ad. View ARS PAC’s digital ad here:http://youtu.be/j8SzfG8CDpE.
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken: In 2008, Sen. Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate by a very narrow majority. In an effort to create momentum for Senator Franken, ARS PAC strategically released a five-piece flight of persuasion mail to coincide the distribution of early ballots. As a result, ARS PAC was able to target a narrow universe of 44,000 female swing voters in the Twin Cities suburbs and successfully increase the number of votes for Senator Franken. In addition to its direct mail program, ARS PAC used digital advertising to reinforce the message in our mail, and persuade voters to support Al Franken.
Rep. Gary Peters (MI SEN): ARS PAC ran radio in the Detroit media market in the final week of the campaign to support Congressman Peters’ Senate campaign.
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02): ARS PAC was the first outside group to air a TV advertisement following the NH-02 primary. After our research showed a tight race with the now-defeated Republican challenger Marilinda Garcia, ARS PAC ran 10 days of broadcast and cable TV that helped push Kuster to a big lead. ARS PAC aired a 30-second ad, “Strange Ideas,” highlighting Garcia’s opposition to closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers, stalkers and the dangerously mentally ill to buy guns. Watch “Strange Ideas” here:http://youtu.be/EF5INgQBbkQ. In addition to its TV advertising, ARS PAC used targeted digital advertising to reach undecided voters most likely to be receptive to ARS PAC’s message on reducing violence and open to supporting Congresswoman Kuster.
Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME SEN): Of the four Republican senators who supported the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation in 2013, Sen. Collins was the only one up for re-election in 2014. In recognition of her leadership, ARS PAC aired “Steady for Maine” on behalf of Sen. Collins’ re-election for two weeks on broadcast and cable. Watch “Steady for Maine” here:http://bit.ly/1ts6e7e. ARS PAC also leveraged digital advertising to reach Maine voters.
Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08): Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick was one of the few House Republicans to cosponsor background checks legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. ARS PAC aired “Not Afraid to Lead” on behalf of Congressman Fitzpatrick’s re-election for two weeks on broadcast and cable in the Philadelphia media market early in the race to ensure his race did not become competitive. Watch “Not Afraid to Lead” here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6rI9p1pks8. In addition to TV advertising on behalf of Rep. Fitzpatrick, ARS PAC ran digital advertisements to key voters in the district.