Changing Public Opinion
Maybe your issue is too controversial for legislation.
Legislators rarely drive opinion, but respond to it. Frankly,
that is how it is supposed to work - you want our
representatives to follow the public, not the other way around.
The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the
very first object should be to keep that right.
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1787
Maybe there is a prevailing myth about your issue that needs to
change. For example, the presumption that most uninsured people are
healthy, young, irresponsible adults with resources who choose to take
the risk that they will stay healthy and buy a cool car rather than pay
for health insurance. While that undoubtedly happens, it is far from the
whole picture. But until that myth is exposed, it will be difficult to
get government to step in.
So, you need to move public opinion. While that is very difficult for
one person alone, it usually starts with one person.
- Never underestimate the power of talking to friends, neighbors,
and acquaintances about your issue. You'd be amazed at how effective
it can be -- it's a small world. Waiting with the other parents at
my son's school bus stop in the morning, I used to make small talk
about issues that were important to me. Over the years, my neighbors
have become active in healthcare advocacy - many wrote letters and
called legislators for the first time in response to a casual
conversation about an upcoming vote. Now my quiet street is a
powerful force in Connecticut politics.
- Do not pass up opportunities to speak to groups. Many community
groups search for speakers for their events - the PTA, the League of
Women Voters, etc. Take advantage of these opportunities - they want
to hear about your issue. The CT Health Policy Project is developing
Bureau. For more information, read For
Tips on Public Speaking.
- Use the
- the primary way most
of us get information about public policies.
- Get to know the media, let them get to know you
- Read, watch or listen to see which sources pay attention to
your issue area
- Introduce yourself
- Send a packet of information with a personal note offering
your help -- serve as a resource for information and quotes, be
sure to include your
in the packet (do not
assume they will keep the envelope)
- Follow up with a phone call
- Contact them on occasion (don't be a pest) with real life
stories, results of a new survey or report, a different or local
take on a national trend, etc.
- Become a local "expert" - when a story arises on the
issue, work to make sure they think of you
- Write an Op-Ed or Letter to the
- Call into a talk radio show
- Be interviewed by a reporter
- Include the media in any events you are planning
Some issues can be addressed by passing a law, getting one enforced
or just by getting the right information to the right person at the
But some are harder. It happens slowly, but it will happen.
Collaborations and Coalitions
If you only have 5 minutes to
make a difference
How to work with a lobbyist
Tips on Public Speaking
Research - Finding and Using Data
Sample Fact Sheet 1
Sample Fact Sheet 2
Tips for talking with reporters
Tips No Advocate should forget
Writing Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor
How to work with campaigns
How to Create Fact Sheets and
Media Advocacy Presentation
Our Way A media strategy kit with specific tools from We Interrupt
Public Agenda On-line
Family Foundation – Public Opinion and Media Research Section
The Roper Center for
Public Opinion Research at UConn
United States League of
Women Voters' Advocacy Page (includes links to local media)
ImPRESSive Tip Sheets
University of Kansas Community Tool Box (this links to one article,
but the Tool Box is a wonderfully rich resource for all areas of
UCONN list of media outlets in Connecticut http://www.news.uconn.edu/newsourc.htm
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