With the upcoming federal election on November 6 where the President, the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for reelection, I always wonder how many citizens actually contact their congressman or congresswoman. It’s important to let them know your feelings, and they want to hear from you.
When I’m on Capitol Hill awaiting a meeting in a Senator’s or Representative’s office, I hear the receptionist taking calls, keeping tally on the variety of issues from callers. So they do and should listen, and in an active democracy, should pay attention to their constituents. They can’t—unless you tell them your opinions; otherwise, they guess. Do you want that
Sure, you may contact your elected official for a variety of reasons, such as for help with a federal agency or information about a specific issue. However, in this instance, I’m referring to contacting them to express an opinion on an issue or pending legislation.
So, just how many Americans contact their elected officials? Last January, Wikipedia, the unofficial online “go-to” source, said during its 24-hour blackout in support of a bill, eight million people “wikied” elected officials’ contact info—but did they contact them? Likewise, according to Google, 4.5 million people signed its petition supporting a bill. However, and not surprisingly, it’s very difficult to define a clear number. I’ve heard as few as 10 calls on an issue will raise attention. Ten calls?
I attended an association’s meeting a few years back in which the group’s lobbyist encouraged folks to contact their officials. I remember him detailing the number of U.S. voters, the number who actually voted, the number who contacted their elected officials, and finally, the number that actually visited them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the November 2010, congressional elections, 45 percent voted, 20 percent were registered but didn’t vote, 18 percent weren’t registered and 16 percent just didn’t respond when asked.
Interestingly, gender has no effect on voting levels; older folks registered and voted more often than younger folks, and educated folks voted more than less-educated folks. But, how many of them contact their elected officials?
Suffice it to say, it’s probably less than 0.1 percent of registered voters—that’s over 207,000 voters. When it comes to writing letters to the Hill, many send form letters and emails supplied by various interest groups. Then, there are the phone trees to call legislators and “robocalls” (a “get even” for those we receive every election, if you will). Even emails garner attention.
It’s difficult to find data and hence, difficult to answer my question; but I know that individual voter contact is far less than your elected official would like to receive. Always remember, they need you much more than you need them.
So, what if every registered voter sent a letter to their three elected federal officials (two senators and one representative) about taxes? Try it—I am. You can start with www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.