Problem: How to persuade conservative lawmakers?
A nonpartisan research center came to me with a careful design challenge. The client wanted to ensure that one of their key federally-funded research wouldn’t be mistaken for partisan polling (for confidentiality I refer to it simply as “the Poll”). They needed to persuade conservative politicians to keep their funding. But how do you tell a great story about a jumble of statistics, data, and estimates?
Analysis: Conservatives and liberals hold different moral values
The client needed clear talking points for executive management to follow when defending the important work their Poll has done.
I began where I always do, with audience. To speak effectively to conservatives, I must be fluent in what they care about. Fortunately, sociologists have done the hard work, cataloging the underlying moral values that influence U.S. political ideologies. In particular, Robb Willer shows that conservatives, unlike liberals, specifically value concepts like tradition, purity, authority, and hierarchy. I started here.
Solution: Prove that the client’s Poll is as American as apple pie
With these moral attributes as my guide, I rewrote and revised a two-page memo designed to hit all the right notes while remaining subtle and factual.
Making American Voices Real for Over 25 Years
America is at its best when individuals have the freedom to live by their own values. The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts is one important victory by keeping the government out of needy families’ wallets while fostering individual self-reliance. But the fight for America and its traditions of liberty and self-reliance isn’t over. It requires every weapon at our disposal.
I began by establishing some basic warrants in order to cue conservatives that they should keep an open mind. Words like “freedom,” “self-reliance,” and “liberty” all tell sympathize with conservative reader’s values.
Now, more than ever, political leaders need to reach the hearts of real Americans. The next battle will be to encourage working-age adults to achieve self-sufficiency by allowing states to add work requirements to Medicaid. This alone can increase productivity, promote jobs, raise incomes, support the free market, and ultimately, build stable families. Yet these visionary changes will come with forceful opposition.
That is why institutions like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO institute turn to the Poll for help. As America’s most trusted poll, the Poll is an essential tool for politicians looking to back up their family-oriented and pro-growth policies with accurate, comprehensive, and incontrovertible data. By collecting rigorous polling data from across the country, the Poll can measure a broad array of changes in American society and culture. For years, the Poll has been a valuable tool for patriotic and family-oriented leaders.
I wanted to credential the Poll through conservative institutions that held the most authority and prestige–namely the Heritage Foundation and the Cato foundation. By setting apart a clear and prominent list of conservative think tanks, I hoped to quickly legitimize the Poll as, at the very least, a politically-neutral project.
Outstanding Value at Any Price
Some might question whether the Poll is worth the money simply because its modest budget is funded by the federal government. In fact, the Poll has historically been so cost effective that several Republican administrations have supported it.
For the People, For Free
Most importantly, all Poll data are available for free to the public. The Poll online system is clear, easy, and accessible. Anyone can access Poll data and everyone can evaluate the rigor and quality of its standards. Unlike other kinds of research, the Poll is designed with the American people in mind
I also wanted to address fiscal concerns head on. By describing the paltry price (which in the classified version I state outright), I argued that the Poll provides conservative politicians with the data they need to support their policies and win their elections. Because the Poll tracks many cultural values, I chose the ones that might best resonate based on my researched conservative persona: religious liberty, immigration, and national spending.
Confidential, Respectful, and Accurate
Professionally trained expert investigators collect all of the data by conducting in-depth interviews at the convenience of each respondent. These interviews are the only source of data for the Poll and have proven to be remarkably accurate. All respondents are free to say no—though most people are eager to share their opinions and have their voices heard.
The Poll has even studied its own past polls to ensure its continued accuracy. Most importantly, by law, the Poll cannot report an individual’s responses to government agencies or anyone else. Every respondent’s data is completely confidential.
Finally, I thought it prudent to be particularly sensitive to fears around data security and privacy. Americans from all parties are afraid of data misuse. Many conservative lawmakers are deeply skeptical of the government’s reach into private life. Just like any good PR strategy, I addressed these fears honestly and carefully.