2015 Florida Legislative Aide study: To change law, bring solutions and don’t be a jerk

kevin cate survey

Citizens are twice as important in the lawmaking process as lobbyists or the Governor, less than half of lawmakers operate their own social media all of the time, and newspapers aren’t dead to lawmakers, according to the 2015 CATECOMM Florida Legislative Aide Study.

“Most of the advice from legislative aides to the public is strikingly simple,” said Kevin Cate, founder of CATECOMM, a public relations and advertising firm. “If you want to make or change a law, get off the couch, bring solutions, and don’t be a jerk.”

This is the fourth annual survey by CATECOMM, which received a record setting 86 anonymous responses from email verified legislative aides. Respondents self-identified party affiliation as 67% Republican, 29% Democrat, and 4% other. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers.

How important are the following people or groups in the lawmaking process?

Ranked “Very Important:”

86%: Citizens
73%: Legislative Staff
52%: Business Groups
44%: State Economists
39%: Lobbyists
39%: The Governor or Governor’s Staff
27%: Reporters
25%: Family Members of Lawmakers
23%: Political Groups (Tea Party, Dream Defenders, Americans for Prosperity, etc.)

Which describes your lawmakers use of social media?

43%: My legislator operates his/her own social media at AT ALL TIMES
27%: My legislator operates his/her own social media presence SOMETIMES
16%: My legislator RARELY operates his/her own social media
14%: My legislator NEVER operates his/her own social media

… Rank these social networks from most important to least important.

Most Important: Facebook 74%, Twitter 24%, Instagram 1%, LinkedIn 0%

Which of the following do lawmakers read or watch regularly?

66%: Sayfie Review
65%: Local Print Newspapers
59%: News Service of Florida
58%: Local Television News
53%: Local Print Newspapers Online
51%: Sunshine State News
48%: Fox News Channel
46%: Politico
45%: Tampa Bay Times Buzz Blog
43%: FloridaPolitics.com
41%: SaintPetersblog
37%: Tweets by Reporters
37%: National Broadcast Television News (NBC, CBS, ABC)
34%: National Print and Online Newspapers
34%: CNN
31%: Sunburn by Saintpetersblog
30%: Local Talk Radio
30%: Daily “Clips” Emails from Staff
22%: Facebook Posts by Reporters
22%: Florida Five from the Daily Times Buzz Blog
20%: National Talk Radio
19%: Politico Florida Playbook
19%: MSNBC
8%:  Context Florida
7%:  Above the Fold Florida
2%:  Periscopes by Reporters

How likely are these paid methods to influence legislators?

Ranked “Very Likely”

44%: Public Polling of Constituents
40%: Private Polling of Constituents
31%: In District Direct Mail
23%: In District Radio Ads
22%: Patch Through Calls from Constituents
20%: Local Newspaper Ads
18%: In District TV Ads
12%: In District Robo Calls
7%: Tallahassee TV Ads
5%: Online Banner Ads
3%: Promoted Tweets
1%: Facebook Ads

Assuming a legislator doesn’t have a firm opinion on an issue, how likely is he/she to be influenced by these methods?

Ranked “Very Likely”

68%: In-Person Visit from Constituent

55%: Personal Phone Calls

47%: Individualized Email Messages

34%: Local Newspaper Articles with Constituents

33%: Contact from Constituent Representing Other Constituents

34%: Individualized Postal Letters

32%: Local TV News Coverage with Constituents

16%: Lobbyist Visit

16%: Newspaper Editorial Endorsement

16%: Endorsements by Coalitions or Associations

15%: Protests

13%: Op-Eds or Columns

13%: Form Postal Mail

 9%: Comments on Social Media

 9%: Petitions

 9%: Blogs

 7%: Web Videos by Constituents

 5%: Form Email Messages

How important are these methods when communicating with constituents?

Ranked “Very Important “

87%: Attending Events in the District

75%: Replies to Constituent Communication

67%: District Offices Hours

64%: Legislator Hosted Town Halls or Events

57%: Local News Media

55%: Email Newsletters

55%: Social Media

44%: Op-Eds in Local Newspapers

42%: Postal mail

39%: Legislative Website

31%: Political Ads During Campaigns

27%: Political Rallies

20%: Blogs

How important are the following types of information for influencing lawmakers?

Ranked “Very Important “

85%: Fiscal Impact

84%: Localized District Impact

84%: Economic Benefits

71%: Legislative Staff Analysis

60%: Personal Stories

49%: Academic Study or Report

26%: Political Party Position

Advice from Aides:

“Come in calm, tell the whole truthful story, and most importantly understand what is possible to our office and legislator. Every entity has its own jurisdiction and there are issues we sometimes can’t control either.”

“Call, write personal letters — do not use form letters, visit your member in their district office.”

“Be short, concise and share something personal about the good or bad impact of a proposal. If you oppose something, offer a solution.”

“Help us understand how an issue effects the district.”

“Schedule an appointment to speak to your representative directly but come prepared with ideas and potential solutions for your problem as well as local support. You need to show its a local issue and that you have support from the community.”

“Know what you are talking about; leave the emotional craziness out of it. Be direct with the problem and have a solution that is reasonable. Do not expect immediate solutions to complicated problems. Understand the legislative process. Know the difference between a state issue and a federal issue. Know if you are talking to your House Member, Senate member or Congressional member. Nasty letters and phone calls get no results.”

“Continue your advocacy efforts. Build a solid, respectable platform and understand your approach to an issue. Continue to stay in contact with the office on the matter at hand.”

“Call or write personalized letters. If you want the help, attention, and time of your legislator then you should be willing to put in attention and time to tell your story.”

“Take a trip to Tallahassee. Constituents add color to the black and white pages of bills and issues.”

“Get to know your legislator well in advance of Session.”

“Set an appointment – before or after but not during session.”

“Talk to your legislator early in the legislative process – don’t wait until the last week of session to try and effect change.”

“Read information from multiple types of sources. We often encounter individuals and groups who are only informed on one small aspect of an issue, when in fact the issue is much more in depth and a decision is based upon the whole and not part.”

Staff Reports


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