MoveOn.org has snagged headlines for its Elizabeth Warren for president agitation, but behind the scenes, things may be looking bleak for the group.
According to numbers from Unroll.me, MoveOn.org’s newsletter was the second-most unsubscribed in 2014 (the first was StumbleUpon), with a 48 percent unsubscribe rate. Spokeswoman Frankie Timmons said those numbers are based on a random sample of 500,000 Unroll.me users.* Among that group, nearly half of MoveOn.org subscribers ended their subscriptions. Unroll.me is a site that lets users mass-unsubscribe from email newsletters, and MoveOn.org was the only politics site to make their most-unsubscribed list.
It’s a dubious distinction. With the ascent of Hillary Clinton—a former Walmart board member who voted in 2002 to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq—the progressive left is desperately hunting for a 2016 presidential standard-bearer. MoveOn.org has won substantial media attention for its “Run Warren Run” campaign and its plans to host an event in a Des Moines, Iowa, coffee shop to try to demonstrate that the Massachusetts Democratic senator has “grassroots” support.
When Warren and her allies tried last week to block a government funding bill that changed some of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations, there was an uptick in populist progressive rhetoric on the Hill. But Warren and the liberal contingent failed to stop the bill, despite finding odd bedfellows in Tea Party conservatives who loathed it with equal passion (though for different reasons). If MoveOn.org’s subscription levels are decreasing as precipitously as UnRoll.me suggests, then those progressives may be struggling to pitch their message.
MoveOn.org did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the UnRoll.me data.
UPDATE 2:50 p.m, Dec. 16, 2014: Nick Berning from MoveOn.org emailed to say that Unroll.Me’s numbers are not reflective of their email list's overall growth rate, nor its unsubscribe rate. "MoveOn is larger than we've ever been (over 8 million members—which of course does not include people who have unsubscribed), and our overall unsub rate—not just the behavior of users of this specific service—is quite low, and a fraction of what's suggested here,” he wrote. Berning said the site's current email unsubscribe rate is .15 percent, less than the .23 percent average for political organizations cited by a MailChimp study.* The headline has been updated to reflect this.
Correction, Dec. 16, 2014: This post originally misidentified Frankie Timmons as a spokesman. Due to an editing error, this post also listed MoveOn's self-reported unsubscribe rate as 15 percent, and the average rate for political organizations as 23 percent.