When “Tried and True” Advocacy Strategies Backfire
Narrative Messages Can Undermine State Legislator Support for Early Childcare Policies
A core principle of policy advocacy is that to engage decision makers in the urgency, complexity, and controversy of problems, advocates must effectively tell the story of those issues. Policy stories, or narratives, paint mental pictures of what a problem is, who is affected, and how it came to be. Yet, the persuasive effects of narratives on one key group, state legislators, remain understudied. Drawing from the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF), media advocacy, and public interest communications, we sought to inform advocacy strategy by illuminating state legislators’ responses to messages about public investments in quality childcare for all. Contrary to expectations, we found that narratives can have unintended effects challenging or even diminishing legislator support. We discuss implications for advocacy strategy.
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