Finding the Balance between Negative and Positive Messaging


How do you recruit and motivate advocates when the audience has a negative view towards the person, or entity, that they are going to be advocating for, or contributing to?

Let’s use Congress as an example. According to a recent Real Clear Politics average (at time of posting), congressional approval was slightly below 17 percent.

The dissatisfaction isn’t just with Congress; it is also with the two major political parties. A Pew Research Report found that the Republican Party’s favorability is 32 percent. While the Democratic Party results are more evenly divided, they also see high levels of dissatisfaction from citizens.

Negative messaging is having a long-term impact on party identification and, in some states, candidate selection. Candidates and political organizations can see this trend by utilizing Aristotle’s national voter file of over 190 million registered voters.

Mistrust of the two parties can hurt efforts on issues that would otherwise receive bipartisan support. Further, mistrust can also lower advocacy and PAC participation levels.

So, what can you do?

  • Messaging: Focus on the goals of your organization. Convey what you are for more than what you are against.
  • Transparency: Be open about why you might be supporting a controversial figure or issue.
  • Remain positive: Your narrative needs to focus on the positive. How will the outcome of your efforts help your organization?

Consider this: A PAC chair said, “… you know Congress isn’t well liked…” to a group of potential donors and then wondered why no one made a contribution. As shown above, negative messaging can distract citizens from listening to what you are advocating for. Focus should be on convincing why a potential donor would help someone get elected to office.

Adam Melis
Director, Grassroots Consulting
[email protected]

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