Survey Research for Ballot Measure Campaigns

Change Research is uniquely suited to provide fast, accurate, and affordable online polling for ballot measure campaigns. Ballot initiatives need broad support from nonpartisan advocacy coalitions – and also need to educate and appeal to voters across party lines in order to pass the high threshold required to win.

BEST PRACTICES Identifying and Building Support for Your Cause

To be successful in measuring evolving public opinion for or against an issue on the ballot, especially since many voters abstain from voting since they feel either misguided or under-informed, Change Research recommends three best practices:


    1. Replicate Voters’ Experience: Our polls are designed to be read by respondents, who can take the survey at their own pace – closely mirroring voter’s experience at the ballot box. It can be hard for voters to understand questions over the phone and make forced choices about nuanced issues on the spot, especially if they are worded in confusing or long-winded ways. We can even imitate the font size of actual ballots to get a more authentic response from participants.
    2. Minimize Social Desirability Response Bias: Voters are more favorable towards public policies presented to them over the phone than they are at the ballot box. When engaging with campaign callers, voters may feel pressure to provide biased, socially desirable answers. The anonymity of online polling allows voters to express how they genuinely feel without the fear of being judged, and helps campaigns minimize discrepancies that inflate support for/against proposed legislation.


  1. Poll Frequently: Change Research can poll multiple times at the initial phase of campaign to help determine the best way to phrase the ballot question, make adjustments to the question and/or policy, and test public reception to signatories and endorsers, while also continuing to address voter concerns as they learn more about the issue.

ONLINE POLLING: A Modern Approach for Research

All too often, issue campaigns start off strong in the polls – only to lose on Election Day. Assuming that they will stay ahead, ballot measure campaigns do not take the risks they need to win – but must be prepared to play both offense and defense. 

Change Research will help your campaign get realistic and consistent reads on evolving public sentiment by tackling opposition and building support in each of the following three stages:

STAGE 1: VIABILITY Is a citizen-initiated referendum the best way forward? We can help you decide by testing viability and getting a better sense of voters’ baseline understanding of the issue before collecting signatures. Open-ended questions can be integrated into any poll to measure the initial intensity of positive/negative sentiment, and gauge potential opposition.

STAGE 2: MESSAGE TESTING Polling, especially with frequency, can benchmark and re-test measure wording, key questions, and persuasiveness of positive and negative messages. We also recommend testing campaign logos when possible to see what’s most visually effective.

STAGE 3: TRACKING Frequent tracking polls can help your team measure progress once the ballot language and order are finalized. Optimized for speed, tracking polls can field quickly, in 2-5 days, reacting to breaking news and the shifting dynamics of a campaign.

UNIQUE FEATURES: Using Technology To Understands Voters Better

Meaning Finder: Change Research’s natural language processing software helps your ballot measure campaign identify and assess unbiased qualitative insights from responses to open-ended questions, at scale.

Creative Testing: Testing of images or digital/TV/radio ads can be integrated into any survey, assessing voter response to content before making big media buys.

Modeled Data & Insights: We have polled almost 2 million voters in just over 2 years, and can leverage aggregated data to help your campaign build robust voter models.

SUCCESS STORIES Supporting Municipal, County, and State Campaigns

Ballot measures are often the only way that progressive legislation can be passed in states controlled by Republican lawmakers. Change Research has proudly partnered with numerous coalitions and nonprofit organizations around the country to advocate on a wide range of issues:

Human Rights Campaign
In March 2020, the Arizona House passed HB 2706 along partisan lines, which discriminated against and further stigmatized trans students, and threatened the privacy of all Arizonans through forced genetic testing. In response, Human Rights Campaign partnered with Change Research to release polling results that showed broad statewide opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Portland Clean Energy Initiative
The campaign for the nation’s first BIPOC-led clean energy fund was frustrated by the slow data collection and cost of traditional phone pollsters. By polling with Change Research, the environmental justice campaign refined messaging for the most important and trustworthy source of information to voters: the official voter guide, and successfully passed Measure 26 – 101.

Healthy Food for Denver Kids
Healthy Food for Denver hoped to provide healthy food and education for low-income children through a citywide ballot measure. “Our Change poll allowed us to test our messaging, strategically adjust our communications, and identify the most engaging way to tell our story as a grassroots, citizen-led campaign. After message testing, we even renamed our campaign’”, said Blake Angelo, Campaign Chair. Yes on Ordinance 302
passed with 59% of the vote.

The University of Maine
Samantha Warren, the Director of Government and Community Engagement with Yes on 4 – University of Maine System Bond Issue, said, “The opportunity for a historic $49 million investment in our public university campuses via a voter-approved bond was one we couldn’t afford to lose. Change delivered, and the final votes to win were almost exactly as they predicted.”

Below are some of the ballot measure campaigns that Change Research helped guide to victory:

Statewide Ballot Measures

  • Florida (2018) Yes on Amendment 2: Tax Cap on Non-Homestead Properties with Amendment 2 Is for Everybody (approved with 66.49% of the vote)  
  • Arkansas (2020) No on Issue 3: Initiative Process & Legislative Referral Requirements Amendment with ProgressNow (not approved with 55.93% of the vote)
  • Rhode Island (2020): Yes on Ballot Measure 1: Removing “Plantation” from state’s name with Rhode Island United (approved with 53.12% of the vote)
  • Oklahoma (2020) Yes on State Question 802: Expanding Medicare across the state with Yes on 802 (approved with 50.49% of the vote)
  • Maine (2019)  Yes on Question 1: provide high-speed internet infrastructure to previously underserved communities with The Island Institute (approved with 75.25% of the vote)
  • Missouri (2020)  No on Constitutional Amendment 3: Eliminate the nonpartisan redistricting commission with State Policy Advisors (approved with 51.01% of the vote)


County & Municipal Ballot Measures

  • Seattle, WA (2018) Yes on Proposition 1: Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Program Levy with Families YES (approved with 68.94% of the vote)
  • Miami Beach, FL (2020) Yes on Referendum 1, 2, 3: with Yes for Miami Beach Park (Referendum 1 & 2 each passed with more 60% voting yes, Referendum 3 failed with 51.17% voting no)
  • Key West, FL (2020) Yes on Key West Initiatives 1.09, 1.10, 1.11, with the Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships (each approved by more than 60%)
  • San Francisco, CA (2018) Yes on CA Proposition 1: Housing Programs and Veterans’ Loans Bond with A Home for Everyone (approved with 56.22% of the vote) 
  • San Francisco, CA (2018) Yes on CA Proposition 2: Use Millionaire’s Tax Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Housing Bonds Measure with A Home for Everyone (approved with 62.43% of the vote) 
  • Piscataway, NJ (2019) Yes on the Community Energy Aggregation Initiative, with Food Water Action (approved with 64% of the vote)
  • Newton, MA (2020) Yes on Mixed-Use Housing: with Yes for Newton’s Future (approved with 57.99% of the vote)
  • Portland, ME (2020) No on Question E: An act to restrict short term rentals in Portland with Portland Homeowners and Tenants Coalition (failed with 52.12% of the vote)