Using issue-oriented political communication to activate the alienated voter : a case study of the referendum vote for the George R. Brown Houston Downtown Convention Center from May to November 8, 1983



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This thesis studies the George R. Brown Houston Downtown Convention Center (HDCC) referendum election on November 8, 1983. The Fair Vote Committee (FVC), formed by the Houston Sports Association (HSA), and the Friends of the Downtown Convention Center (FDCC), backed by Texas Eastern Corporation, opposed each other on Proposition A. The overall purpose of this case study is to describe the strategies used by both sides, explore the outcome of the election based on those strategic decisions, and draw conclusions in order to contribute new knowledge toward understanding effective political communication. The hypothesis of this study is that in local referendums the side which more effectively mobilizes normally inactive voters, particularly those classified as alienated, is likely to win such contests. Through interviews of the campaign decision-makers for both sides, the HDCC study researches the Alienated Voter Model (AVM) following pre-imp1ementation, implementation and post-imp1ementat1 on stages of the campaign. Within this framework, campaign strategies are analyzed through the five decision-making stages of awareness, conversion, reinforcement, motivation and action. Relevant studies in persuasion, marketing, mass communication and political communication are used to provide understanding of the ways in which voters can be persuaded to action in a referendum campaign situation. The FVC campaign focused initially on gathering signatures for its petition drive to secure a referendum election. However, this "underdog� side did not follow through adequately, either in reaching alienated voters or in countering their image as a special interest group. The FVC campaign contained strategic flaws that resulted in neglecting alienated voters. The FDCC planned and executed a classic campaign that targeted alienated voters, particularly in minority communities. The pro-convention center advocates pulled alienated voters through the five decision-making stages.This accurate campaign targeting was a key to altering the negative feelings of alienation in the HDCC issue. in light of the FDCC victory and the effectiveness of its campaign, the evidence in this thesis supports the contention that the side which more effectively mobilizes normally inactive voters, especially alienateds, will probably emerge victorious.



Communication in politics--Texas--Houston, Referendum--Texas--Houston--Case studies