Polling: the Panacea for Persuasion During a Pandemic

Think back to the end of the 2020 state legislative sessions. Legislative chambers across the country closed their doors as the pandemic spread. Some, like in Georgia, hit the pause button due to COVID-19 outbreaks among members then finished up in the summer. The public and lobbyists weren’t allowed in the building.

It’s looking like the 2021 sessions will be a legislative Groundhog Day (and not in a funny, Bill Murray, kind of way).

That got me thinking about what impact closed doors will have on public affairs and government relations efforts.

Traditionally, lobbying and grassroots/tops efforts are effective because relationships are built between policymakers and policy influencers…even down to a registered nurse walking the halls of the statehouse on “lobbying day.” Much of the work done between legislators and those seeking to influence legislation is informal–a quick conversation in the hallways, a request to get a member talking about a specific topic in caucus, some small talk over coffee in the atrium.

That’s gone in 2021.

So how can public affairs practitioners and lobbyists gin up the chatter under the dome of the Capitol if they’re not allowed in the building?

Think about this: legislators are elected, which requires campaigns, which is based on polling. They use data to guide their campaign strategy. The same holds true once those candidates take office; lawmakers are anxious to know which way the wind is blowing so they can make constituent-informed decisions.

If you can get polling data from a reputable firm with a successful track record in 2020 (we might be able to point you in the right direction 😉) in the hands and inboxes of legislators, they’re going to talk about it. They’re going to pay attention to it. They’re going to share it with their colleagues. And they’re going to do all of that because nothing is more important to lawmakers than the opinions of the people that elected them…the same people that will decide whether they’re reelected next cycle.

The only thing more powerful than a spokesperson in the halls of a Capitol is the collective voice of legislators’ constituents back home.

With trustworthy data in hand, it’s not just you saying “vote ‘yes’” or “vote ‘no’” but their constituents voicing their desires and concerns through the results of a survey.

While you may never have asked your clients to make a polling investment before, this year is different. Likely you have suggested it in the past, but the client shot it down because of the massive price of traditional (read: old-school) polling.

You might be surprised what options exist to better align your need for data to drive conversation and clients’ expectations around budget.

Either way, the old rules are out the window and it’s time to think about new approaches to persuading policymakers. While it may be months before this pandemic finally ends, polling is your cure for public affairs in 2021.


Cygnal is an award-winning national public opinion and predictive analytics firm that pioneered multi-mode polling and peer-to-peer text collection. Cyngal was recently named the #1 private pollster and the #2 pollster overall by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, as well as the #1 most accurate polling and research firm in the country for 2018 by The New York Times. Its team members have worked in 48 states on more than 1,100 corporate, public affairs, and political campaigns.