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   July, 2010

Netroots Nation Straw Poll Results

Results Show Attendees Want Administration to Focus on Jobs, See Senate Battlegrounds as Priority in the Election

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Democracy Corps, in conjunction with Revolution Messaging, conducted a straw poll of progressive activists, journalists, and bloggers at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the third year the straw poll was conducted at the conference, but the first time participants were able to take the poll via text message, and the largest straw poll conducted yet at the conference, with more than 300 people participating.

With the midterm elections under 100 days away, the poll asked progressives to identify what race they considered their priority this November. The emphasis fell heavily on winning some of the crucial battleground Senate races. Of the five races provided, the top priority was given to the hometown race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle in Nevada, at 31 percent. However, the Pennsylvania race between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey came in a close second at 25 percent, and the matchup in Kentucky between Jack Conway and Rand Paul came in third at 21 percent.

“Progressives are showing a clear desire to protect these critical Senate seats, especially when the alternatives are extreme right-wing ideologues pushing the agenda of the Tea Party,” said Greenberg Quinlan Rosner chairman and CEO Stan Greenberg.

Key findings include:

  • These participants want to see the Obama administration and Congress make one issue their top priority: jobs. An overwhelming 74 percent think that improving the employment market should be the principal focus for the President and Congress. The next most important priority – finishing the conflict in Afghanistan – lags at 8 percent.
  • This preference seems to be driven largely by concern about the state of the economy. A majority – 53 percent – believe that the economy has moved into a serious long-term decline, versus just 35 percent who believe that the economy will correct itself before too long.
  • These respondents see a strong role for government to play in achieving economic recovery. When thinking about job creation, in a choice between strong government investment or cutting government spending and taxes, they prefer government investment 93 percent – 4 percent. They also want to see the remainder of the economic stimulus package money spent (91 percent) rather than have it cancelled to help pay down the budget deficit (8 percent.)
  • President Obama receives high marks from the progressive community. His approval rating stands at a robust 84 percent, with only 16 percent expressing disapproval. Progressives also clearly want Sarah Palin to be his opponent in the 2012 presidential election, with 48 percent picking her. Ron Paul comes in a distant second at just 11 percent.
  • Health care reform is predominantly viewed as the top accomplishment for President Obama since taking office last January. Nearly seven out of ten participants (69 percent) believe it is the defining achievement of his presidency thus far. 

These results are based on a straw poll of 306 conference attendees of the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The poll was conducted June 22–24, 2010.

Broadband Stimulus and the Revolution’s Part In It

The NYTimes featured a story in its July 9 edition regarding the Broadband deployment resulting from the Stimulus package. It’s worth a read for the inspiration alone. The point and purpose of the effort is to bring high-speed connectivity to areas of the country, typically but not always rural, that have lacked for anything beyond dial-up for accessing the Web: “The types of Internet activities that most Americans take for granted — watching videos, downloading songs, social networking — are out of reach for millions of homes across the United States. These people — many in poor, rural pockets — either have outmoded dial-up Internet service or have no affordable high-speed service. Sometimes the nearest high-speed connection is at the local library, 10 miles away.”

The digital divide has cleaved a clear path between, quite literally, the have’s and the have not’s. If ever there was a positive need for stimulus dollars, solving this challenge is it. The plain fact of the matter is that without solid, fast Internet connectivity many Americans are marooned; and we’re not just talking about Facebook status updates. We’re talking home-based businesses, critical medical information, and online education.

I was a member of the citizen advisory board that reviewed and selected among the hundreds of vendor submissions for deploying broadband. Based on that I can tell you this process was exhaustive and resulted in truly selecting best of breed suppliers, some with innovative wireless methods for stretching connectivity out over miles of land to others with tried-and-true, simple wired methods. It was an honor to participate and proved to me just how serious this Administration, including the FCC and its chair Julius Genachowski, are about bringing broadband to every American, not just those of us lucky to be on the carriers’ path. (Not only that, but for you doubters out there who think stimulus money isn’t well-spent, I have hours upon hours of vendor reviews to prove otherwise.)

For broadband Internet is the 2010 equivalent of the railroad or the telegraph; without it, towns and families aren’t on equal footing to thrive. This revolution truly will be broadcast… online.

Making Mobile Apps Work

For any organization-whether it’s a nonprofit or political campaign-there is a list of social media tools that should be kept up with.

Moving up on that list are mobile applications, created by non-profit and political organizations to connect directly to their support base.

If you think it’s social media overkill, think again. Currently, there are 45 million smartphone users in the U.S. With that, 2010 has become the year for mobile apps. In 2009, there were 2.5 million downloads for paid and free apps. Gartner Research predicts that it will increase to 4.5 million downloads, totaling to $6.7 billion in revenue in 2010.

From reading the New York Times to tracking naps, there is an application for just about anything. For political and nonprofit organizations, our biggest tip is to avoid creating a mobile app that’s an RSS feed of an organization’s Twitter or blog. Instead, view the mobile app as a way to creatively inform, entertain and engage users.

The mobile world

What do people have on hand at almost any given time? Keys. Wallet. Cell phone.

Mobile apps should include features that capitalize on information that people want to read and share on-demand. The most valuable kind of application is one that gives information that’s important and relevant to their audience.

To help educate pet owners about toxic plants, the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) created Pet Safe, an app with a searchable database of plants harmful to dogs, cats and horses. When an animal ingests a suspicious plant, a concerned pet owner can read a detailed profile of the plant, find out what actions they need to take and if necessary, dial the ASPCA Animal Poison Control with just one touch.

Location is key

GPS-enabled mobile devices gives organizations the opportunity to leverage location-based features. Whether it’s finding a local health clinic or polling office, GPS can be used to fit an organization’s cause. One example of GPS being used effectively is the new iPhone app by Volunteermatch. The app makes it easier for people to do good by allowing users to search for local volunteer opportunities based on their location.

Sharing is caring

Allowing users to share information from the app or the program itself can help spread an organization’s message to like-minded friends.

Voto Latino released the Be Counted App for users in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley in March. The app featured videos and a quiz about the U.S. Census that worked to dispel myths and encourage Latinos to fill out the form.

A huge driving force for the application was a free concert featuring Latino pop stars, guaranteed to users who shared the app with their friends through SMS or email. Giveaways, secret shows and meet-and-greets are a few ways to drive online and offline action.

A novel approach

Two way-communication is an important component of any social media approach. To raise awareness about their opposition to Tom Emmer, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota created Tom Emmer’s Minnesota, a fake travel app that shows what life Minnesotans would face if he were to be elected.

The section “Things to Do in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota,” gives a guided tour of Minnesota under Tom Emmer’s leadership.  One of the suggestions is to visit what would’ve been the “former site of the Mayo Clinic,” a comment on Emmer’s anti-healthcare reform stance. Users are also able to contribute their own “travel tips.”

The last word

All in all, consider why a supporter would want to connect through mobile apps. Is it because they want timely information? Are there other incentives-like in Voto Latino’s case, a free concert? Could it be novel and entertaining like the Tom Emmer Minnesota app?

Lastly, mobile apps are only as effective as their user base. When making an app, consider that even though iPhone and Android sales are on the rise, they still only make up a small percentage of phones in use. comScore’s recent report shows that non-smartphones are the majority. Devices created by Samsung, Motorola and LG make up about 60 percent of the market. So when developing a mobile app, it is possible and important to create one that can operate on a cell phone with a basic data plan, as well as high-end smartphones. The larger audience the app can reach, the bigger impact it will have.