Measuring Political Will: Lessons from Modifying the Policymaker Ratings Method

Published: April 2016

Type: Publication

This brief shares three scenarios where a method for measuring political will was modified. It offers lessons about the tool, the process, and the kinds of products that can be created.

Melissa Howlett

Political will, an often important outcome for advocacy efforts, has been described as the combination of three factors within elected decision makers: 1) opinion about a particular issue, plus 2) intensity of that opinion, plus 3) the degree of salience or importance of an issue. Advocates often seek to move political will as a way to build champions who will drive their issue through the policy process.

Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to easily, accurately, and efficiently measure political will.

The policymaker ratings method was created to do just that, capitalizing on advocates’ existing knowledge and processes for strategizing around advocacy work. The method has evaluators facilitate a rating process with advocates.

Each decision maker in a decision-making body (e.g., legislature, city council, committee) receive three ratings on:

1. Level of support for an issue based on his or her public behaviors or actions on behalf of the issue
2. Level of influence on the issue based on criteria that research shows relate to policymaker influence
3. Rater level of confidence in the accuracy of ratings on the first two scales

This report shares three scenarios in which the policymaker ratings method was applied. It shows what issues emerged, what modifications were attempted, and what was learned that might inform when and how evaluators use this method going forward.

Crosscutting lessons and observations about key aspects of the method also are shared, as well as what’s been learned about the ratings process and related products.