case studies

Messaging Research & Polling for the ACLU of Northern California, Central Valley

Industry: Legal
Market: United States
Demographics: General Market and U.S. Hispanics

Introduction: The ACLU of Northern California's Immigrants' Rights team sought to conduct strategic messaging research among the Central Valley and Sacramento communities. The primary objective was to gain support for their advocacy to end state and local cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and terminate contracts with ICE to detain immigrants. The study combined qualitative and quantitative research methods in two phases to understand existing attitudes and identify the most persuasive messages supporting the ACLU's position.

Phase 1: Exploring Attitudes

To learn more about the attitudes and viewpoints of Central Valley and Sacramento voters on state and local cooperation with ICE, ThinkNow conducted three online focus groups with six participants each. The volunteers were a diverse group of people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities from the Central Valley counties of Fresno, Tulare, Stanislaus, and Sacramento. The focus groups lasted 90 minutes.

Phase 2: Message Testing and Validation

Phase 2 tested and refined messages, talking points, and communication techniques based on the feedback from Phase 1. An online survey was conducted among 300 voters from Sacramento and the same Central Valley counties. The 15-minute survey included four open-ended questions that elicited thoughtful comments and opinions from the participants.


  • Effectiveness of the Messages: ThinkNow discovered persuasive arguments in favor of ending ICE cooperation and terminating contracts for immigrant detention.
  • Audience Considerations: The research study revealed attitudinal differences based on age, ethnicity, and gender, enabling the ACLU to tailor their messaging to different demographics.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Meaningful insights informed the ACLU's messaging and branding decisions.

The strategic messaging research conducted by ThinkNow on behalf of the ACLU of Northern California's Immigrants' Rights team was instrumental in gaining support for limiting state and local cooperation with ICE and terminating contracts for immigrant detention. By understanding the views and preferences of Central Valley and Sacramento voters, the ACLU was better equipped to develop persuasive messaging that resonated with its target audience. This research also informed the organization's advocacy campaign and creative strategy.