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Changing the Narrative California Labor CoalitionJune 2012
What the Opposition Says about Us • We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem • Government needs to get out of the way and let job creators do what they do best • Public employees are bankrupting our state • Unions stifle competition and protect lazy workers. They had a place once, but now there are laws to protect workers.
How the Opposition has Branded Our Issues These messages “stick” in voters’ minds because the opposition has mastered: • Coordination • Repetition • Discipline
The Opposition’s Branding Impacts our Families • Budget cuts • Pension takeaways • Regressive taxes
Changing the Narrative Change how we talk about unions, taxes, and the investments we need to create jobs. Move beyond the opposition’s attacks and put forward our own plans to create jobs and improve opportunities for our families. Find the message that works…. and stick to it! We are ready to meet these challenges head-on, with a new approach to:
Drew Westen, Ph.D.Changing the Narrative Research Drew Westen, Ph.D. is a psychologist, neuroscientist and professor at Emory University. Building on current research about how the mind and brain work, Westen researches the role of emotion in politics. Westen and the California Labor Coalition have just completed a year-long project to find the language and narratives that move people on three key issues: tax fairness, investments vs. cuts, and unions. Message Testing Opinion Polling • Finds out where the public could be • Identifies specific language that works against the opposition’s branding over the long-term • Takes the temperature of the public right now • Identifies winning arguments campaign by campaign
Different Goal, Different Approach Traditional Approach Goal: Win a single campaignResearch: Finds out where voters are now Communications: Driven by single campaign outcome Westen Approach Goal: Change attitudes over long term Research: Identifies where voters could be Communications: Bring voters along, campaign after campaign, to long-term goal
Methodology • Representative sample of 888 California voters conducted in Dec. 2011 • Online dial-tests and quantitative polling • Voters hear opponents’ messages in their actual language, followed by a progressive message • When voters rate messages in real time, we see which of our message are most effective in breaking through the opposition’s branding • Messages are then honed to find the most compelling specific words, phrases, examples and values to counter our opponents
Dial test: Tax Fairness Californians should be working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it. Over the last 30 years, the average middle class family saw their income drop, while the richest 1 percent saw theirs go up by a million a year after taxes. Big corporations are posting record profits, while our state’s families are struggling just to get by. So I don't want to hear that we can't afford to pay unemployment insurance to people who've lost their job through no fault of their own, when nearly one out of eight Californians is looking for a job. I don't want to hear that we need to lay off or furlough firefighters and teachers, leaving our homes unprotected and preventing our kids from getting the first- class education they’ll need to compete in the global economy. I don't want to hear that over 60 percent of our bridges are structurally unsound while tens of thousands of construction workers sit idle. It's time we ended special tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations, and let big corporations know that if we invent big ideas in California, we’re going to manufacture them here. It’s time we put people back to work and started investing in California again.
Learning from Dial Tests Californians should be working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it. Over the last 30 years, the average middle class family saw their income drop, while the richest 1 percent saw theirs go up by a million a year after taxes. Big corporations are posting record profits, while our state’s families are struggling just to get by. So I don't want to hear that we can't afford to pay unemployment insurance to people who've lost their job through no fault of their own, when nearly one out of eight Californians is looking for a job. I don't want to hear that we need to lay off or furlough firefighters and teachers, leaving our homes unprotected and preventing our kids from getting the first- class education they’ll need to compete in the global economy. I don't want to hear that over 60 percent of our bridges are structurally unsound while tens of thousands of construction workers sit idle. It's time we ended special tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations, and let big corporations know that if we invent big ideas in California, we’re going to manufacture them here. It’s time we put people back to work and started investing in California again.
Changing the Narrative • Narrativesare how we tell our story in a way that connects with ordinary people. What we learned: • Voters in the middle can be persuaded. They key is to speak to them in clear, values-based language. • Pithy, populist messages break through even the toughest, well-branded statements from the opposition on tax, union and public employee messages. • Repetition of these winning phrases is essential. • Talking points are key words and phrases that “stick” in the minds of people who hear them. • “Kitchen Table” language consists of words everyday people use and relate to.
Changing the Narrative: Tax Fairness
Connect to voters’ sense of fairness Raise concern about inequality(Corporations and CEOs vs. everyone else) Point to solutions that protect the middle-class and hold corporations accountable Key Points: Tax Fairness Fairness
Message Framework Tax Fairness 1.Play by the same rules We learned as kids that we should all pitch in for things we all use. It’s about time the rich and big corporations started living by the same rules as the rest of us and pay their fair share. Our tax code needs to reflect the interests of middle-class Californians, not the special interests of corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. 2. Protect the middle class It’s time the middle-class and small businesses stop picking up the tab while the rich and big corporations get special loopholes, carve-outs and tax dodges the rest of us don’t get. 3. Put corporate tax breaks to the jobs test Corporations say tax breaks will create jobs here at home, so if they ship jobs overseas, their tax breaks should disappear.
Using Narratives to Tell Our Side of the Story Tax Fairness Opposition Message: California is already over-taxed and over-regulated. But rather than cut bloated government spending, politicians want to raise billions more in taxes, which will force more companies to leave the state and take jobs with them. No one likes paying taxes, but we all have to chip in. The problem is that corporations and the wealthy have been getting a free ride at our expense. Still, CEOs want more and more special tax carve-outs even though corporations haven’t delivered on job creation. The Governor’s revenue initiative asks the richest to pay their fair share for schools and public safety while protecting the middle-class and the poor. Connect Raise Concern End with Hope
Changing the Narrative: Cutting vs. Investing
Key Points: Cuts vs. Investment Waste = Corporate Tax Breaks Connect to voters values of hard work and opportunity Reframe the opposition’s attacks on “waste” ---- We have a choice: invest in CA or give more wasteful tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations Point to investments that make for a stronger California in the future
Message Framework 1.Put Californians Back to Work We can pay for employment or we can pay for unemployment. Put Californians back to work rebuilding the roads, bridges, and world-class infrastructure that make California a good place to do business. Cutting vs. Investing It’s time California worked again for people who work for a living. The way to grow our economy and create good jobs is to invest in California again. 3. Make California competitive with an educated, innovative workforce We shouldn’t cut education when we know that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Invest in the workers of the future – our kids -- by giving them the schools and colleges that create an educated, innovative workforce. 2. Choose to Invest in California We have a choice: we can invest in our kids and our future or we can keep giving big tax breaks to corporations that ship our jobs overseas and to the wealthiest 1%, who are taking home more and paying less than at any point in decades.
Using Narratives to Tell Our Side of the Story Cutting vs. Investing Opposition Message: No one wants to cut education but with the state budget deficit so large, our schools need to learn to do more with less. We can’t settle for anything but the best in our schools because our competitors in China, Japan, and India aren’t settling either. Cuts to education have made California classrooms the most overcrowded in the country. We can protect our kids’ future and make sure California has the most skilled workers in the world by rolling back wasteful tax breaks. Connect Raise Concern End with Hope
Changing the Narrative: Unions
Key Points: Unions Populism Connect unions to the American Dream – yesterday, today, and tomorrow Tap into concern over the disappearing middle-class Educate voters about unions’ roles as champions for all workers and a better future for all our families
Message Framework Unions 1. Unions helped build the American DreamOur grandparents and their unions fought hard for our ability to feed our families, pay our rent or mortgages, and know our kids will have a good education and a shot at a better life. That’s the American Dream. Californians who work for a living deserve good American wages and benefits for a hard day’s work. 3. Unions are fighting for what’s best for all of us Today, unions are the voice of California’s working people, fighting for what’s best for all of us like quality public schools and jobs in our communities. With unions on our side, we can take on corporate power and greed. 2. Unions stand up for the middle-class Corporations and Wall Street bankers are systematically dismantling the middle-class. The only thing that stands in their way now is working people standing together in their unions.
Using Narratives to Tell Our Side of the Story Opposition Message: "Labor has asked for too much and business people have [acceded to] their demands only to see the business ultimately fail. That's what happened to GM and Chrysler. The demands of labor unions over time killed those businesses and made America become less competitive.” - Mitt Romney Unions The American middle-class was built by our grandparents whose hard work made companies profitable, and by unions who made sure workers shared in America’s success. Now corporations and Wall Street bankers are dismantling the middle class we’ve built, tearing down workers and their unions so CEOs can take a larger share of the pie. Today, working people standing together is still the way to protect the American Dream. Unions are leading the way in training workers for new jobs and helping businesses stay competitive in the global economy. Connect Raise Concern End with Hope
Using Narratives to Tell Our Side of the Story Public Employees The problem isn’t that the people who educate our kids or care for our aging parents can count on $25,000 a year in retirement because they have unions looking out for them, it’s that the rest of us don’t. If no one’s negotiating for the working families of California, we already know what CEOs will do: negotiate themselves a sweeter deal. The best way to solve our budget problem isn’t to wipe out the retirement plans of people who’ve been paying into them for 30 years, it’s to put Californians back to work. Opposition Message: Public employees use the special interest power of their unions to secure bloated pensions, high salaries and benefits the rest of us don’t get even if it means more cuts to our kids’ education. Connect Raise Concern End with Hope
Public Employees Give a vivid description of who workers are and what they contribute. Examples: • Teachers who inspire and challenge our kids • Police officers and firefighters who put theirlives on the line • Sanitation workers who pick up our trash so wedon’t have to drive to the dump
Changing the Narrative California Labor CoalitionJune 2012
“Invest in California” California Labor’s Jobs Plan • Build the California of the Future: Infrastructure • Make It Here, Buy It Here: Manufacturing • Innovation and Skills Training for the Future: Education • Invest in California: Revenue • A Strong Economy Through Clean Energy • Good Jobs Now: Ending Income Inequality “It is time California worked again for people who work for a living, not just those who can buy tax loopholes in Sacramento. It is time to return to the policies of shared success that made the state great, so that the Golden State can be what it always has been: a place where Californians are working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it.” - Art Pulaski & Bob Balgenorth
Governor’s Tax Initiative example If this measure doesn’t pass, there will be $5 billion in automatic cuts to schools. If these cuts go through, the school year will be shortened, more teachers will be laid off and class sizes will continue to grow. You just don't cut education when you know that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. The wealthy should pay their fair share to fund education and public safety. We learned in kindergarten that we should all pitch in for things we all use. It's about time the wealthy started living by the same rules as the rest of us.