Case Study

New Jersey’s Public Question 2: Open Space and Water Quality Dedication

New Jersey is the nation’s most urbanized state and has been using public money to buy open space for more than 50 years. However, with the state in $40 billion in bonded debt, all environmental and conservation funding had run dry.

On November 4, 2014, New Jersey’s Public Question 2 successfully passed with 64 percent of voter support, a measure in which The New York Times called “especially significant.” Our mail hit nearly 900,000 homes of base and absentee voters. Public Question 2 redirected two percent of New Jersey’s corporate business tax to fund preserving open space, farmland and historic sites. Ultimately, the initiative will dedicate $2.15 billion to land conservation over the next 20 years.

“This measure will ensure that critical efforts can continue to protect open spaces that provide clean water, flood protection and outdoor recreation, as well as preserve farmland and historic sites that enhance our quality of life and economy,” Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator, said.

New Jersey is the nation’s most urbanized state and has been using public money to buy open space for more than 50 years. However, with the state in $40 billion in bonded debt, all environmental and conservation funding had run dry.

Instead of borrowing money or increasing taxes, Public Question 2 dedicates a small percentage of Corporate Business Tax revenues. For the first four years, the measure will be funded from the 4 percent of CBT revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs, with the dedication increasing to 6 percent of existing CBT revenues in 2019. This increase represents an estimated $50 million annually, which is less than one-quarter of 1 percent of current state revenues.

Approximately $29 million will be dedicated to other important environmental programs that improve water quality, protect water supplies, remove underground storage tanks and clean up polluted sites.

TARGETING

Wampold Strategies’ direct mail strategy plan was fairly straightforward. Because our polling showed hard support at 50%, along with New Jersey’s great history of approving and supporting conservation measures, we were able to utilize C(3) funding to produce educational mail to base voters and other strong supporters of Public Question 2.

The Keep It Green measure started with an impressive base of 50 percent of voters saying they will definitely vote in favor of the measure, making communications with these core supporters a prime target. We had two main mail targets: 595,145 base-voter households with at least one person who had voted in three out of three Democratic primaries and 83,000 absentee-voter households with at least one person who voted absentee in three out of three Democratic primaries (2010, 2011, 2012). We also included non-Republican women under 55 and non-whites who voted in two out of three general elections (2010, 2011, 2012).

EDUCATION MAIL

Since our polling showed 75 percent support for passage with 50 percent strong support for the measure, it was apparent this campaign was more about educating voters versus persuasion. Thus, the campaign made use of C(3) funds to produce education mail.

In our first absentee piece, we focused on educating voters on what the measure entailed and how to vote absentee. This was essential in order to maximize our voter turnout and ensure our base supporter voted down ballot. Key phrases in our first flight of mail included, “Public Question 2 would dedicate existing funds to protect open space and water quality” with an emphasis on the accountability measures that ensured funds were properly spent.

In our second flight targeting base voters, we focused our message on what the measure would protect and fund: “Public Question 2 will preserve New Jersey’s natural areas, protect drinking water sources and improve the water quality of New Jersey’s rivers, lakes, and waterways.”