Here at GAIN Power, we are always looking to spotlight different political progressives and changemakers. If you or someone you know would like to be nominated, please fill out this form!
GAIN Power is proud to spotlight Powerful IDEA Award winner Terrance Woodbury. Terrance is a co-founder & CEO of HIT Strategies.
Can you give a brief background and introduction about yourself?
TW: My name is Terrance Woodbury, and I am a lifelong progressive political pollster and strategist who is dedicated to uplifting the voices of the hardest to reach audiences in the public opinion research industry. Four years ago, I co-founded HIT Strategies with my business partner, Roshni Nedungadi, to become a premier public opinion firm that focused on the issues and audiences we valued most.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
TW: As the founder and CEO of HIT Strategies, I oversee a highly capable and diverse team of researchers, data analysts, and political professionals. Through our research, I keep my fingers on the pulse of the emerging electorate of diverse voters who hold the key to solving our most pressing issues. In addition, I am a lead spokesperson at HIT, regularly lending my voice to media and organizations who value our unique and detailed research. I want to spread what we learn from our research far and wide to ensure that progressive candidates and organizations have the best tools to address any challenge.
Why did you choose this line of work? What made you get involved in politics?
TW: Working as a political operative for years before forming HIT Strategies, I was motivated to solve the gaps and issues with the industry at-large. Too often, underserved voters, like Black voters, young voters, AAPI voters, or Latino voters, among others, were not given the care and attention they deserve. These practices were both detrimental to those communities and harmful to progressive candidates’ attempts to build winning coalitions. HIT Strategies fills this gap in the marketplace by elevating these voices, examining their nuances, and providing groundbreaking messaging strategies to help progressive candidates win across a multitude of issues from public safety to abortion to the economy.
How does your work impact the political climate we live in?
TW: Every day we work on solving the best ways to message the most pressing issues of our time. For instance, I pioneered BLACKtrack, one of HIT Strategies’ flagship polls and the nation’s sole monthly tracking poll on the attitudes of Black voters. I began BLACKtrack because too often Black voter’s attitudes in polling were relegated to a small subset without room to parse out the nuances of Black voters. Our research on Black voters proved valuable to identifying growing gender and generational gaps within the Black community on support for progressive candidates and issues. These insights became useful for Democrats at the highest level in the last few cycles and were regularly featured in publications like The Hill, The New York Times, and Politico, just to name a few.
I was honored to win a Powerful IDEA Award for our critical research into underserved audiences in the public opinion arena. Our work on identifying attitudes and winning messages for critical elements of the progressive coalition will continue to be valuable for progressive policy wins well into the future.
What is unique about your workplace and position?
TW: The most unique aspect of HIT is how representative our staff is of the communities we research. We are a minority-owned and millennial-owned polling firm that specializes in polling the folks who make up the emerging electorate of voters. For instance, I am incredibly proud that our firm is majority women, with an entirely female-led research team- especially critical at a time when reproductive rights are under attack. We are looking to break the mold of the polling industry and provide overdue disruption to ensure all communities have a seat at the table.
What has been the most surprising thing you have learned since getting involved in progressive politics?
TW: The biggest surprise I have seen is how issues of race and social justice have become ubiquitous across the progressive coalition. In many cases, white progressives are as supportive, or more supportive, of racial justice policy ideals than voters of color at large- and that certainly has not always been the case. Just 3 years ago, after the murder of George Floyd, we watched that movement evolve from Black people protesting against the police to young people standing up against racism. This welcome surprise has given me an incredible amount of hope about what the next generation of leaders will accomplish.
What has been the best part or best memory of your career so far?
TW: Our work has changed the strategic direction, priorities, and investments of the Democratic Party. For instance, a key element of our research has been tracking and disaggregating the attitudes of Black voters. From this, we identified gaps in support among Black men that were not just consequential in their own right but were growing cycle to cycle. Because HIT was at the table, we saw Democratic organizations invest more into reaching Black men and treating them as if they were swing voters, especially in key states like Georgia. As we all have seen, Democratic victories in Georgia have proved necessary in both electing President Biden, and ensuring Democratic control of the Senate, which has allowed progressives to earn a huge number of legislative and judicial victories. Reaching the highest levels of political influence in just the past few years has been the greatest accomplishment I could ever ask for.
What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve had at work?
TW: The toughest challenges I face are correcting the years of misrepresentation of diverse communities from the polling industry. There are multitudes of outdated- or outright wrong- sets of assumptions, strategies, and messages that I must use our research to object to and rectify. Sometimes those priors are held by influential people in the industry, whose voices I cannot be afraid to confront in order to ensure the progressive movement has the most accurate information to win elections and improve lives.
What has been the most disappointing moment during your time in politics?
TW: The most disappointing moment during my time in politics was watching Donald Trump ascend to the highest office in the land in 2016. I had warned those around me that young people would vote for third-party candidates at higher rates than previous elections- but was just as often dismissed. Unfortunately for the nation, my fears proved correct. After that, I vowed to stand by my research, even in the face of skepticism, to ensure something like that never happens again.
Is there anything you think campaigns should do and should stop? Why?
TW: Campaigns need to stop flooding voters with text messages and alerts, only at the very last minute, to get them to show up to the polls. Voters can see through this shamelessness, creating an environment of cynicism that can hinder progressive victories. Instead, campaigns need to communicate with voters year-round, right in the palms of their hands. The same way we send them texts for early voting that says “click-here” to find out how to vote, we need to send them texts off cycle that say “click-here” to access the student loan forgiveness application or “click-here” to access the jobs created by the Infrastructure Bill, etc. etc. Stop waiting until the last minute to talk to voters and expect them to show up every two years.
What is one issue you think progressives could better message and why?
TW: Progressives need not be afraid to take on the GOP’s insidious and racist “culture war.” Too often, I see candidates or organizations pivot away from GOP culture war attacks and “woke” accusations, trying to deflect toward what are seen as more “popular” issues or policies. That will not work, full stop. Progressives need to lean fully into an anti-racist agenda, call out the GOP for its hatefulness, and forcefully defend things like CRT. Attacking the GOP for its racism is extraordinarily popular, not just among voters of color, but among all in the Democratic coalition. And these voters do not just expect us to fight back in earnest, they will punish those who do not.
What had you wished you had known about getting involved in politics?
TW: The degree to which institutions of power are still controlled by those born with an immense amount of privilege. “Its not what you know, it’s who you know” may be a cliché, but unfortunately it is still very true in industries all across America. We still have a lot of work to do to change these systems.
What advice do you have for young professionals looking to get into politics?
TW: One piece of advice I have always stood by: if there is no seat at the table for you, you need to go ahead, make one yourself, and bring it over.
Lastly, for fun, if you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
TW: Tikki Bartender! Both of my parents are Caribbean, and I grew up as a beach kid, so anything where I get to just work outside and have a few drinks sounds alright with me!