How we helped a Gulf Coast county pass a tax measure in the face of Tea Party opposition
Jackson County, Mississippi’s tourism advertising budget was woefully short. Hotels and attractions were losing patrons to neighboring cities. The local hospitality industry was in lockstep over the need for an additional two percent tourism sales tax, but knew that any tax increase would be a tough sell. Less than a year before, the Tea Party favorite defeated a five term US Senator in the Republican Primary in Jackson County, and the Tea Party’s grassroots network took a hard line on any new taxes. With an early summer tax measure on the ballot, our challenge was finding a way to measure the sentiments of chronic voters while not disturbing the sleeping Tea Party giant.
We developed a comprehensive digital, phones and mail plan that began with an IVR survey to determine the baseline support and refine our messaging. We continued with a careful ID program to the “super voters” and transitioned into targeted messaging to the different subsets of our target audience. During this short, two week blitz, focused on the benefits of tourism, endorsements from popular local officials and portrayal of local pride in the scenery and attractions—message themes that came out of our original survey research.
Just as we had hoped, the special election generated turnout that was only one-fifth of the 2014 contest. Jackson County voters overwhelmingly supported the two percent hotel tax, with more than 71% voting in favor (60% needed). We had reached our audience, persuaded and mobilized them with such a targeted effort that the very powerful local Tea Party was caught flat-footed.