Key public audiences are ready to act on Mississippi River protection efforts. These audiences are sympathetic, motivated, influential and easy to reach. These audiences may already be members of your organizations or key constituents of a policy-maker. In order be more strategic in communications campaigns (and to save resources and time), it is important to focus on the people who can actually change things – the target audience. When identifying the target audience, we ask “Who do we need to reach to achieve our goals?” Sometimes the answer will be obvious. For example, to prevent the spread of invasive species, you’ll need to reach recreational boaters. To clean up shorelines you may want to target civic groups. Other times, such as with public policy issues and decisions, the answer may not be as obvious. This is where public opinion research can help identify receptive audiences and their primary values, concerns and interests. For policy campaigns, you could target elected officials and decision-makers directly. Or you could influence decision-makers through voters or key constituents (e.g. community leaders and business leaders). This is the tactic we have taken in devising the Mississippi River campaign strategy. We are targeting voters to reach the goals of both the public communications campaign and policy objectives. Our goal is to create a better connected, more informed, willing to act public who will adopt river-friendly behavior and will speak-up on behalf of the River. Our research has told us who these people are – the “Mississippi Mavens”, the “Distant Connecteds” and the “You First Neighbors”.

Please Note: In this campaign, we also refer to the Mississippi Mavens as the “Ready to Act” group. We’ve grouped the Distant Connecteds and You First Neighbors together as the “Ready to Learn” audience. We feel these categories more aptly describe these groups in terms of the goals of the campaign.

Mississippi River Public Audience #1 – Mississippi Mavens

Mississippi Mavens (19% of the public polled) live and breathe the Mississippi River and will take little persuading to pick up arms and fight for it. These voters live close to the River and visit it very regularly. As a result, they identify as residents of the Mississippi River region and see themselves as more knowledgeable about it than other voters do. They also see themselves as “very responsible” for the condition of the River, a perception that naturally leads to their overwhelming support for actions by public agencies to protect and restore the River. These voters see environmental and conservation organizations as highly credible, potentially because nearly half of them volunteer time or give money to such organizations. These voters are well-educated, slightly more likely to live in the South and are highly responsive to messages that emphasize the River’s role in the history and cultural identity of their communities – a role they want to preserve for future generations. Generally, they have positive perceptions about the River.

Mississippi Mavens are more likely to have the following characteristics:

Who they are:

  • University or college educated
  • Members of environmental organizations

Where they live:

  • Within 20 miles of the River
  • Primarily in the lower River (Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi)

Where to find them:

  • By or on the River
  • Parks or trails
  • Festivals or community events
  • Fishing, boating, bird watching
  • Attending church

Key values:

  • National treasure
  • Future generations
  • Shared responsibility of individuals, industry and barge owners
  • Accountability and enforcement of laws
  • History and community identity

Key concerns:

  • Untreated sewage
  • Industrial pollution
  • Fertilizers and farm runoff
  • Loss of wetlands for maintaining water quality and flood control

Mississippi River Public Audience #2 – Distant Connecteds

The Distant Connecteds (26% of public polled) do not spend much time at the River. In fact, only a small fraction of them visit the River more than a few times a year, perhaps because most of them live relatively far from the River – in most cases more than twenty miles. However, distance has not bred disaffection for these voters. All of them see themselves as personally “very responsible” for the condition of the River. This belief shapes their attitudes toward the River in a number of ways: it makes them more supportive of policy proposals to improve the River and leads them to place great stock in messages that emphasize shared communal responsibility for protecting the River. These voters, who are heavily female and somewhat less urban than other segments of the electorate, also have heightened levels of concern about the impact that broader environmental problems like overdevelopment and global warming may have on the River.

Distant Connecteds are more likely to have the following characteristics:

Who they are:

  • Primarily women

Where they live:

  • Rural communities
  • Between 21 to 100 miles from the River

Where to find them:

  • Parks or trails
  • Festival or community events
  • Attending church

Key values:

  • Shared responsibility to preserve God’s creation
  • Accountability and enforcement of laws
  • Shared responsibility of individuals, barge owners and industry

Key concerns:

  • Untreated sewage
  • Industrial pollution
  • Fertilizers and farm runoff
  • Loss of wetlands for maintaining water quality and flood control
  • Overdevelopment
  • Global warming

Mississippi River Public Audience #3: You-First Neighbors

The You-First Neighbors (19% of public polled) are absolutely committed to the river. They live near it, visit it frequently, see themselves as residents of a Mississippi River region and say that they know more about the River than any other segment of the electorate. However, they lack a sense of personal responsibility for protecting the River; the vast majority see themselves as only “somewhat responsible” for protecting it. This does not prevent them from supporting others in their efforts to help the River; they offer levels of support for government river restoration programs that are nearly as high as those of any other segment of the electorate. Not surprisingly, the messages that appeal most to these voters – who, save for their proximity to the River and affiliation with environmental groups, have a demographic profile that resembles the region as a whole – are those that emphasize enforcing existing laws and holding “those other people” who are polluting accountable. Generally, they think the River is in good shape.

You-First Neighbors are more likely to have the following characteristics:

Who they are:

  • Primarily men
  • Members or conservation or environmental organizations
  • College educated

Where they live:

  • Within 20 miles from the River
  • Primarily in upper River (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa)

Where to find them:

  • By or on the River
  • Parks or trails
  • Festivals or community events
  • Fishing, boating or bird watching
  • Attending church

Key values:

  • Accountability and enforcement of laws
  • National treasure
  • Shared responsibility of government, barge owners and industry
  • Recreation

Key concerns:

  • Untreated sewage
  • Industrial pollution
  • Fertilizers and farm runoff
  • Loss of wetlands for wildlife habitat

Please read the attached chart for more information on 1 Mississippi-specific audiences and their respective messages, messengers and pathways.