Finding Commonalities and Solutions With Decision-Makers
Methodology: How We Built the Archetypes
The goal of identifying conservative archetypes is to build advocates’ understanding of how to connect with decision-makers, create common ground and design effective policies with the broadest possible support. This is a request we heard repeatedly from advocates: building space for connection and understanding.
We created an initial set of archetypes based on existing research and conversations with message researchers, a political scientist, organizational leaders and advocates — aiming to listen across the ideological spectrum. We then interviewed three to six decision-makers or influencers within each archetype about their needs in policy conversations, their perceptions of various issues and their reaction to existing messages. From those insights, we offer the suggestions and messages in this guide.
Further details about our methodology follow.
From January to June 2022, we used multiple research tracks to develop, refine and test archetypes of conservative decision-makers. At the time, we were beginning work with a coalition of organizations focused on policies that support families in the prenatal-to-three (PN-3) period. So we used this lens to talk with decision-makers and define the archetypes, exploring perceptions of support for pregnant people, babies and toddlers; this is why we include PN-3 messages and examples.
We started with the Pew Research Center’s Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology analysis, which provides a road map to today’s fractured political landscape.
In one-on-one interviews with key influencers representing both conservative and progressive viewpoints and party affiliations, we further developed the archetypes by naming and understanding deeply their motivators.
We applied a nonpolarizing communications lens to the archetype descriptions.
We continued to meet one-on-one with experts to further refine and validate the archetypes and dials. We also workshopped the archetypes with advocates working on PN-3 issues in conservative states.
We conducted a social listening scan to understand how decision-makers representing each archetype were talking about PN-3 and related issues. We concentrated on Twitter and Facebook; in future phases we hope to dive deeper into other platforms such as Truth Social, Rumble, Telegram, Gab and Parler.
We went back to prior national survey research conducted by Hart Research Associates, along with GMMB and Echelon Insights, for the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers in 2021. Although this was conducted before the archetypes exploration, it gave us a good starting point for PN-3 messages. To inform the archetypes work, Hart analyzed responses of the 489 respondents who identified themselves as Republicans or conservative independents.
In each round of revisions to the archetype descriptions, we applied a nonpolarizing communications lens.
We identified decision-makers and policy influencers who fall within each archetype, based on the descriptions we created and informed by suggestions from previous interviewees and advocates.
We narrowed that list to three to six within each archetype, aiming for a mix across the full cohort of age, gender identity and geography. All of the people on the list self-identified as white and/or visually presented as white.
We interviewed 17 decision-makers. The interview guide tested reactions to PN-3 messages and explored guiding values, decision-making styles and needs in productive conversations. This allowed us to fine-tune messages and to add dimension to the archetypes.
Hearing that this approach was helpful, we conducted another round of research from October 2022 through March 2023 to further explore the archetypes and develop messages about the importance of local decision-making in policy. We focused on this topic because advocates were noticing an increase in decision-makers using preemption, a strategy that allows a higher level of government to limit or even eliminate the power of a lower level of government to regulate a specific issue. The guide also includes messages and examples specific to the importance of local decision-making.
We met with advocates to understand feelings, needs and values in conversations with decision-makers about local-control and preemption.
We created messages, based on existing message research on local control.
We tested those messages through 30+ minute scripted phone interviews with 16 policy and/or decision-makers, four for each established archetype. Consistent with the demographics of those with conservative political beliefs in the states they represent, all those interviewed identified and/or visually presented as white. Similar to message testing with our PN-3 research, we explored values-based decision making and what was needed for constructive engagement on local decision-making issues.
These findings informed updated messaging on local decision-making and provided additional insights about the archetypes, creating a fuller, more nuanced picture of each.