Last week, the ONE campaign released some polling about the support that they have. It claimed pretty deep support. I didn’t write on it because who says "no" when asked, "do you want to end international poverty?" Apparently there are a few people who won’t.  These numbers were not surprising to me. Back in 2005, the Program on International Policy Attitudes did a poll and found that 65% of Americans want to increase foreign aid to (Millenium Development Goal level) 0.7% of GDP per year. For the US, that would be about $77b.

The problem with this polling is that it doesn’t have a trade-off. What are you taking money from, etc. My involvement with PIPA, while I was a Hill Staffer, taught me that it is very, very hard to gauge, with polling at least, people’s dedication to these issues. So I asked ONE for some activation numbers. Here’s what they told me:

In February 2007, ONE members sent over 200,000 letters encouraging Congress to protect $1 billion in funding for the fight against extreme poverty and global disease.  …

In fall 2006, ONE members delivered over 250,000 letters to Capitol Hill, requesting that Congress help up to 300,000 Africans make a living through renewal of a special trade provision within the African Growth and Opportunity Act …

In one targeted campaign in 2005, ONE generated over 500,000 e-letters to President Bush asking for a historic deal for Africa. …

These are real numbers. Any organization that can produce 200,000 contacts to Congress is doing something right. It would be interesting to see a partisan and/or age breakdown. Are these college students? Are they churches? Who are they?

I would also want to know why the half-million to President Bush, but only half that to Congress. That sounds like an overwhelmingly Democratic list to me.

It seems to me that the challenge for the ONE Campaign is drive its numbers up and make sure that the coalition includes people from all parts of the political (although not necessarily ideological) spectrum. This shouldn’t be hard. Students, churches, businesses, etc. should be easy partners in this coalition.

Update: The ONE campaign responds with this:

the 2005 petition was our sign up petition for the 2005 Live8 concerts. The other actions were just that, actions. A whole lot more resources went into building our list that summer.

That makes lots of sense. Getting people to sign up once, the first time, is a lot easier than getting them to act again and again and again. And I want to be clear. I am very impressed by what the ONE campaign is achieving.



martin seebach · August 15, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Well, writing an email to Congress and the White House don’t exactly have a trade-off, either? Did any of these letters contain a call for the relevant authority to end tariffs and subsidies to allow third world countries to trade freely with the US? I think polls, especially in the democratic end of the spectrum, will drop significantly if that’s a premise.

If we want to end world poverty, we can. But we need them to have free access to markets, both in the US and the EU. Everything else is just talking, and self-hating liberals who think they can save the world by paying higher taxes.

eye · August 15, 2007 at 4:22 PM

It is certainly true that sending an email is not a huge difficulty, and that phone calls or physical letters are much more impressive.

But it is still an action. You still have to do something. And you don’t to answer a question.

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