Evidence + Research

The MVP Model

We believe investing in local organizing is the most effective way to win elections, transform policy, and usher in a progressive era in which everyone can flourish.

A growing body of evidence validates the MVP approach. Here is a sampling.

Sections Below

  1. Local Voter Organizing
  2. Limitations of Political Ads
  3. Broad Political Targeting
  4. Down-Ballot Focus, Up-Ballot Turnout
  5. “State Ecosystem” Approach

 


Electoral Impact of Local Voter Organizing

Investing Small to Win Big: Evidence of Electoral Impact by Local Voter Engagement Groups (May 2024)

By Movement Voter PAC

View as PDF »

This piece presents a compelling, data-driven case for the effectiveness of MVP partners’ person-to-person voter engagement tactics in driving voter persuasion and turnout.

Drawing from extensive research, including meta-analyses and experiments, the piece shows the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing, deep canvassing, and other relational outreach methods, especially among voters in marginalized communities.

“[Investing in locally-based voter engagement] is a brilliant strategy. You are reaching people who traditional campaigns have struggled to reach, and whose language they don’t speak – sometimes quite literally.”

— Steve Grossman, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee

 


Limitations of Political Ads

While candidate-based giving often funds ad spending (typically 45% of a Congressional campaign budget), MVP invests in locally-rooted organizing that can mobilize voters that ads cannot easily reach.

For contrast: $100,000 will roughly buy a thirty-second national TV ad — or an entire twelve-month salary for an experienced local organizer (factoring in benefits and taxes).

What Will $100K Buy? 30-Second National Ad or 12-Month Organizer Salary.

Sources: Statista + Glassdoor

Priorities USA (April 2021)

Memo: How Democrats Can Optimize Media Spending And Stop Wasting Millions, by Priorities USA

Context: After the 2020 election, Priorities USA analyzed the $5.4 billion in Democratic and Republican ad spending by candidate campaigns and outside groups.

Findings:

  • Democrats likely spent 10% of their ad budgets on voters who’d already voted.
  • “Roughly $334 million was wasted on people who had cast their ballot.”
  • 75% of TV ads for U.S. House races were shown to voters in other districts.
  • “Meanwhile, too little is spent on mobilizing voters, especially down ballot.”

 

“If we took just 1% of the late spending and invested it in additional organizing infrastructure on the ground, we could generate an immensely higher longer-term return on investment.”

 


Cambridge University (November 2021)

The Effect of Television Advertising in United States Elections, by John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Christopher Warshaw

Context: This comprehensive Cambridge University study examined 4,500 federal and state-level races from 2000-2018 to assess the influence of TV ads on election results. The study provides “the most comprehensive analysis of advertising effects to date.”

Findings:

  • TV ads do have an impact, but much less in presidential vs. down-ballot races — and mostly for persuasion (changing undecided voters’ attitudes on candidates), not mobilization (getting partisan voters to vote).
  • TV ads only likely sway outcomes “in close races where one party is able to muster a substantial advertising advantage. But we do not claim that this is a common occurrence.”
  • The trend of increased partisan polarization and decreased split-ticket voting could “lead to a decrease in the effect of television advertising on elections.”

 


Broad Political Targeting

MVP follows a deep and broad investment strategy, targeting swing states, close races, and geographies that will be competitive over the long term.
 

Investment Priorities

We believe targeting “Toss-Up” states and races is essential but not enough. If we want to ensure electoral wins now while growing long-lasting governing power, we need to invest in a wider electoral map.

Square One (September 2023)

“Power Brokers: An Analysis of Outside Democratic Spending in Close Congressional Races”, by Square One

Context: Square One assessed 2021-2022 U.S. House race spending, in an effort to assess and ultimately improve the impact of spending on electoral outcomes.

Findings:

  • U.S. House race competitiveness is extremely unpredictable.
  • In 2022, the races with the most outside investment were not the closest.

 

“While there’s no perfect formula for allocating outside dollars, this report does suggest … campaign strategies often deemed “too risky” can actually be a winning strategy. This includes investing in more women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, districts across the country long perceived as “unwinnable,” and campaign tactics like field and other forms of direct voter engagement.”

 


Down-Ballot Focus, Up-Ballot Turnout

MVP invests in local organizations that focus not only on federal races but also on the state, county, and local elections that have a direct impact on voters’ daily lives.

MVP partners get out the vote for these races, as well as identify, recruit, and develop candidates to run in them.

When we invest in local races, we create a “multiplier effect.”

Credit: Run for Something

For Our Future + Run for Something (November 2021)

Reverse Coattails Effect 2016-2020, by BlueLabs Analytics

Context: Run for Something and For Our Future commissioned BlueLabs to study whether Democrats contesting state legislative races could increase vote-share at the top of the ticket in battleground states.

Findings: 

  • “Folks running for state and local offices were responsible for increasing turnout for statewide or national candidates.”
  • “Across states and cycles, we found an estimated 0.4% – 2.3% bump in top-of-ticket vote share when every local state legislature seat within a precinct is challenged.”
  • “While Democratic candidates running in districts that would be otherwise uncontested Republican races may not win those seats, they may provide an important vote share bump in close statewide contests”.

 

“The dollars spent locally go further because they directly reach and educate voters through community based organizing in ways ad-buys and big campaigns can’t. They also build political infrastructure and talent, allowing for us to take a deep red district and over many years, turn it competitive. No race goes from 70/30 to 50/50 overnight!”

 


“State Ecosystem” Approach

Rather than only funding a few big-name organizations working in silos, MVP invests in a diversified “ecosystem” of groups within a state, working together to build lasting power.

This approach has shown results in several states, most notably Minnesota:

Georgetown University (January 2024)

Aligning for Power: A Case Study of Bargaining for the Common Good in Minnesota, by James C. Benton, Patrick Dixon, and Joseph A. McCartin at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor

Context: In 2022, Democrats won a state trifecta for the first time in a decade, and became empowered to enact an almost-dizzyingly vast progressive agenda. But these breakthroughs did not just happen overnight — they were the result of a coordinated, decade-long organizing strategy by progressive grassroots groups.

In “Aligning for Power,” the authors at the Kalmanovitz Initiative lay out this came to pass thanks to over a decade of coordinated work by labor and community organizations, including MVP partners TakeAction Minnesota and Unidos Minnesota.

Key Excerpts:

  • “A foundational insight… was that they were not constructing a transitory coalition, they were building an enduring alignment.” (p.12)
  • “The issues that the Minnesota alignment had been campaigning on for years helped to shape political debate in 2022. Having helped the DFL win the “trifecta,” the social and political ecosystem that had emerged … then helped shape a governing agenda that came to dramatic fruition in 2023.” (p.27)
  • “The political and legislative breakthroughs won there were not the product of a campaign that set out from the beginning to wage political and legislative fights. Rather, the Minnesota victories began in struggles that brought together workers, renters, immigrants, and others in campaigns that challenged corporate power and built power through direct action and the alignment of multiple organizations and constituencies around a common analysis.” (p.29)

What happened in 2023 was less a miracle than the sweet fruits of a long, innovative campaign built around a brilliant and flexible operational model that aligned multiple membership organizations around a common analysis, deep organizing, and community mobilization.