|By Katherine Hamilton
Digital Content Writing Fellow, RepresentUs
Last election season, you probably saw a lot of social media posts and emails telling you to call your congress members and voice your support for certain issues.
But, does contacting your representatives really work?
The short answer? YES! You might be surprised to know just how much of a difference making a phone call or writing an email can be. Here’s why it works.
What happens when you call your representative?
When you call, your message is logged and relayed to your senator and the staffers in their office crafting policy. Every single call helps your senator know how much of a priority this issue is for their constituents. It’s all about building pressure, and calls are one of the most efficient ways to do so.
Four Reasons Calling Congress Makes a Huge Difference
Congress members care about re-election — and you control their chances. Congress members spend more than half their time in office focusing on re-election. If a politician wants to get re-elected, he or she has to ensure they’re addressing their constituents’ concerns. When you contact your lawmakers to let them know what policies you support, you’re telling them what they can do to win your vote in the next election. This is an extremely effective way of getting your officials to listen to you — and it’s exactly how democracy is supposed to work!
A lot of callers can build a lot of pressure. When a legislator starts hearing the same concerns from a lot of citizens, it puts a lot of pressure on them to vote the way their constituents want. Flooding a lawmaker’s inbox or phone line can completely stall office activity, and really get the attention of your elected official. When you contact your representative, you’re adding your voice to a wave of grassroots pressure.
It’s one of the best ways to voice your opinion in the election off-season. There’s not always an election around the corner, and even when there is, you don’t always get to vote on the issues you really care about. But civic participation can — and should — happen year-round. Contacting your elected officials holds them accountable for representing you, even when it’s not election season.
It literally only takes two minutes! One of the best things about calling your elected officials? It’s incredibly quick and easy to do. Most groups that ask you to contact Congress will provide you with easy-to-follow instructions and a simple script to read — although adding personal touches is highly encouraged! Who knew saving democracy could take as much time as brushing your teeth?
Tips and Tricks for Making Your Voice Heard
Only call YOUR members of congress. Calling outside of your district or state can actually be counterproductive to your cause. Remember, these lawmakers care first and foremost about re-election. If you don’t have the power to vote for them, they have little reason to listen to what your opinions are.
Be specific, polite, and personal. Always state your full name, city/state, and phone number. Say the name and number of the bill you’re calling about, and concisely state your points. Sharing a personal story about how the policy affects you can also be particularly impactful. Need an idea of what to say? We offer scripts for calling, like this one.
Writing or calling? Writing letters or emails can be extremely effective. Many members of Congress make a point to respond to everyone, and even have staffers who are assigned to read and respond to all written communications from constituents.
But remember: emails and petitions are incredibly helpful, but they’re not as powerful as a phone call. While emails and letters might get lost in the masses, a phone call has a higher chance of making it to your lawmaker. Even if it’s just an intern taking calls, a large volume of calls about one issue can make it clear just how much constituent support a policy has.
Plus, politicians know that calling can seem a bit more daunting, so if a constituent has worked up the courage to pick up the phone, the lawmaker knows the issue must be extremely important to them.