How Can Public Opinion Research Make Us More Strategic?

How Can Public Opinion Research Make Us More Strategic?

In our recent interview with immigrant rights leader Pramila Jayapal, we asked her: At the September immigrant rights virtual fireside chat we hosted, you mentioned that women have the potential to transform the public policy debate and create a kind of society that only women can create. What would a trasnformed debate look like, and can you tell us move about what the society would look like and for whom? How do we, as advocates, take steps toward that goal? Read this blog to hear what Pramila had to say and join the dialogue about connecting her thoughts to the movement to end violence against girls and women.

Women have long been at the center of the immigrant rights movement, and you chose to actively put them at the center of your campaign. What strategic decisions did you have to make—around data, public policy, resources, etc. – in order to put women at the center?  

Actually, I think women have and have not been at the center of the immigrant rights movement. They have in that we have a vibrant movement with strong women leading many of the prominent immigrant rights organizations. Women, as our campaign now talks about, also make up more than half of immigrants to the United States. But the truth is that both inside and outside of the immigrant rights movement, we had not built the case for the gender lens on immigration policy.  s someone deeply engaged in the immigrant rights movement and a feminist myself, I’ll say honestly that we were a little lazy. And while there were many of us women leading organizations, the strategy we put together was often a strategy for the mainstream. We didn’t think about the benefits, opportunities or NEEDS of putting a gender lens on immigration. There was a lot of great work done by specific parts of the women’s movement—specifically, the domestic violence, trafficking, asylum groups had done fabulous work. And yet, it often felt like disconnected from the “real” immigration reform debate. And it showed—because women across the country (immigrant and non-immigrant), who should have been really active on this issue, weren’t.

So, our work started with doing a real gender analysis on immigration policy today and on immigration reform proposals of the past.  There was lots of data out there on different pieces but no-one had really put them together in a coherent way that mirrored the framework of how the immigrant rights movement was talking about immigration reform.  We did that work first: built a real gender analysis that we could share so that we could start to make a deeper and stronger case for why immigration reform is a women’s issue.

We also had to get at the fact that many women didn’t see the issue as a women’s issue. So we decided to do some message development and testing. That cost money but we had great resources in Lake Research Partners and Anat Shenkar’s work. We interviewed key leaders in the women’s movement, and looked at previous polling. We used a woman’s voice, defying the general misconception that it is always more powerful to use a man’s voice in polling and message delivery.We got amazing statistics! Women were moveable on the issue! We just needed to talk to them, engage them, direct our messages and our messengers to them.



Making Connections to the Movement to End Violence Against Girls and Women

We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts: Here Pramila talks, among other things, about doing public opinion research. How does our movement use this kind of research? How could public opinion research make us more strategic?

Please share your thoughts via a comment below.


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