Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Reform vs. Snappy Slogans

How can progressives build support for progressive reforms? Political scientists on the Post Monkey Cage blog provide some evidence that snappy slogans like defund the police or a Green New Deal are actually counter-productive to achieving such goals. More moderate framing just works better--as common sense and an appreciation of the actually-existing opinions of the actually-existing American electorate would already suggest.
"As President-elect Joe Biden continues his transition to the White House, House Democratic progressives and centrists are fighting over how to frame the party’s agenda for the public. For instance, progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said “I can’t be silent” and will continue speaking about policy goals ranging from defunding police departments to passing the Green New Deal. But centrist Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) argues that if party members keep using such language, Democrats will get “torn apart in 2022.”
Which side is right? The answer depends in large part on how partisan lawmakers frame issues. Our research suggests Democrats’ most effective strategy would be to frame a progressive agenda in more moderate terms....
[A]mong Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike, calls to “reform” the police are far more popular than calls to “defund” the police, “abolish” the police or “reduce police budgets.” In August, Kyle Peyton, Paige E. Vaughn and Gregory A. Huber found and wrote here at TMC that they found protests to “defund the police” were far less popular than protests supporting BLM or opposing police brutality. Our results are consistent with theirs, showing significantly less support for such language about policing across the political spectrum. Compared to their support for reforming police, Democrats’ support for defunding, abolishing, and reducing the budgets for police were 19 percent lower. Republicans’ support was 21 percent lower and independents’ support was 27 percent lower....
More people believed good would result from “more aggressive environmental actions” than from the “Green New Deal.” Specifically, respondents are 18 percent less likely to agree that a Green New Deal would help address climate fires around the world, 15 percent less like to agree that Green New Deal would help address flooding in their state and 9 percent less likely to agree that Green New Deal create jobs than believe “aggressive environmental actions” would lead to those results. That’s despite the fact both terms describe essentially the same things. Meanwhile, respondents are 4 percent more likely to agree the Green New Deal would “cost so much that taxes would have to be raised” than believe that of “aggressive environmental actions.”
Progressives dismiss such findings at their peril. Achieving reform is hard and that effort can ill afford being handicapped by unpopular slogans.

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