What Debt Message Works Best?
Many politicians favor talking about the debt in terms of stealing from our children. Others talk in terms of specific budget or pro-growth proposals to address the problem; freezing the budget, cut-cap-and-balance legislation and amendments, entitlement reforms, and pro-growth tax reforms. And still others speak about the debt in terms of free-market values vs. an over-grown and stultifying federal government, or in terms of our National Security should our creditors leverage our debt against us.
But what message is really most effective at increasing support for controlling government spending and the national debt? Which argument works best, and with which swing voters? How do arguments on the debt impact the political landscape, support for Democrats and Republicans?
To answer these questions, we ran a PocketTrial® online survey experiment exposing more than 4,600 registered, pure independents and weak partisans – no strong Republicans or Democrats – to one of eight Conservative messages on the debt and deficit crisis and a comprehensive Progressive message or a Control group (fielded February 10th - 20th). All Conservative messages were tested alone as well as in combination with the Progressive message (the Progressive message was also tested alone).
Immediate Release: April 15, 2013
Media Contact: Victoria Coley | [email protected]
NEW DEBT MESSAGE-TESTING RESEARCH
Americans Open to Serious Entitlement Reform For Future Generations
How Conservative Communicators Can Effectively Discuss the Debt and Budget Crisis
Washington, D.C. –Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), as part of its continuing effort to rigorously test what works and what doesn’t, commissioned Evolving Strategies (ES) to conduct innovative experimental research to determine what messages are most effective at increasing support for controlling government spending and the debt with swing-voters.
So, what messaging should conservatives use to boost support for broad spending constraints? ES ran a PocketTrial® online survey experiment testing 8 conservative messages (against a compelling progressive message) on the national deficit and debt. A PocketTrial® quantifies the true impact of a message using a randomized, double-blind, and fully controlled experimental design.
Adam Schaeffer, director of research and co-founder of Evolving Strategies, describes the approach as an “experiment that identifies a real causal impact - like a small-scale clinical drug trial, but it’s a message we’re testing. And it allows us see how the Conservative and Progressive messages interact, just as they would in a real-world media environment.”
To foster support for fiscal sanity and shift political support away from the Left, conservatives should talk about;
- Just spending the same next year as we did the last (not about cutting), as a family would do
- Saving Medicare and Social Security, and in particular adjusting them so wealthy citizens get less in order to preserve the viability the programs and our country’s fiscal health
To boost political support for the Right, conservatives should talk about;
- The debt and deficit problem in general
- How pro-growth economic policies will help bring down the debt and help all citizens
- Why it is wrong to steal from our children by burdening them with debt
“Our nation must address serious entitlement reform if we are to save these programs and solve our budget crisis. The message testing that IWV conducted makes it clear that messages focused on reforming these programs advance important reforms while also yielding significant political benefits for conservatives who articulate these goals.,” said Heather R. Higgins, President and CEO of the Independent Women’s Voice.
The “Entitlements” message, which talks about the extent of the problem and means-testing Social Security and Medicare to save them and the country, increased support for both spending restraint and serious entitlement reform. And contrary to popular wisdom on both sides of the aisle, the message about the need to get serious and save entitlement programs hurt Democrats badly, especially with women, shifting their support to Republicans by +15pts.
To view the full report, please click here.
Independent Women's Voice is a 501(c)(4) nonpartisan, nonprofit organization for mainstream women, men and families dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility. IWV is an affiliate organization of the Independent Women's Forum.