A new report from The Fairness Project details how ballot initiatives will be a key tool to improve standards for working people in the Trump era.

January 26, 2017

The Fairness Project (TFP) released a new report today that details the organization’s significant contributions to 2016 ballot initiatives that raised wages for 8.1 million workers and provided paid sick leave to 2 million more. The report, “Ballot Box Breakthroughs,” offers a game plan to enact fair economic policies for working families as Donald Trump and Republicans take control of the federal government.

“Whatever is coming at the national level is likely to be harmful to working people and families, whether it’s about wages, healthcare, taxes or any of the critical economic issues,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project. “Our report points to voters’ appetite for real economic change that will improve their lives, and, in telling the story of minimum wage ballot initiatives in 2016, lays out a path for economic progress in 2018 and beyond.”

The report finds that early funding by The Fairness Project, effective organizing, solid opinion research and sound data modeling supported victories for popular ballot initiative campaigns in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Washington state, and Washington D.C.

In the end, ballot initiatives proved to be among the best investments in politics this cycle by providing massive returns on investment. For example, The Fairness Project spent 94 cents for every worker that got a minimum wage raise from ballot initiatives that passed on Election Day in 2016.

TFP's Smart Investments Bring Huge Results

The report also finds:

  • Ballot initiatives are cost effective. At a time when a single U.S. Senate campaign raises upwards of $35 million, our four campaign partners raised $15.6 million in total for Election Day and impacted 2.1 million workers.​​​​
  • Good data models make a difference. The Fairness Project’s data modeling support gave campaigns access to data analysis typically only available to top-of-the-ticket campaigns. This modeling had impact on all parts of the campaigns’ programs, including targeting, media buys, and direct mail, which contributed to the increased popularity of these down-ballot initiatives. While ballot campaigns in these states typically anticipate around five percent fewer votes than the top of the tickets, drop-off on the minimum wage ballots last year was around 1.45 percent, and in Washington state more people voted on the minimum wage than on the presidential race.​​
  • Early funding supports strong organizations. By ensuring Maine had the resources it needed early in the cycle, for example, the campaign was able to have conversations with voters more than a year out from Election Day. This money also allowed the campaign to run more efficiently — it was able to use volunteers to collect most of the signatures. It also enabled the Maine campaign to build one of the most successful business organizing efforts of all the states, with more than 600 businesses in support of the measure, far surpassing the opposition.
  • Strong organizations led to victory. Volunteers in Arizona knocked on 300,000 doors identified by our data models. In Colorado, the ballot completion model was particularly useful by helping to identify voters and increase the margin of victory to more than 10 points, surpassing expectations.

“What we learned in 2016 will have a lasting impact on future election cycles. From these wins, we will build even stronger and better campaigns to ensure future success for workers and families on more issues and in more states across the country,” Schleifer said.

To learn more about how The Fairness Project succeeded at the ballot box and plans to build upon that success, read the full “Ballot Box Breakthroughs” report here.

To read the one-pager for “Ballot Box Breakthroughs,” click here.