Core American values

I’m pleased to see “values” popping up repeatedly in this year’s election cycle
. Because the fact is that most Americans vote based on values and identity, n
ot on specific issues.

A while back, I saw a presentation by public opnion researcher John Russonello,
who who has advised many progressive organizations on messaging and framing.
Russonello makes a powerful argument about how progressives have failed to unde
rstand and center their arguments in core American values.

Russonello lists only a few core values, and divides them into two tiers.

**Primary values**
* individual responsibility
* family security
* honesty
* fairness
* freedom
* work
* spirituality

**Secondary values**
* responsibility to help others
* compassion
* personal fulfillment
* respect for authority
* love of country

Russonello argues that if you tie your issues and arguments only to second tier
values, you are in danger of being trumped by an opponent who can tie his argu
ment to first tier values.

4 thoughts on “Core American values”

  1. I know this entry is specifically relating to politics and the election but I t
    hink in principal it crosses over into many issues. Since I work at an environ
    mental nonprofit, I often find myself looking at things through that lens. As s
    uch, I would add that tying environmental issues to tier one core values is a m
    uch more effective strategy than relating to tier two values.

    I know that it doesn’t equate exactly, but if you put env. issues in the contex
    t of children, family, health, and work/economics, it can be much more powerful
    than appealing to a person’s compassion for the wilderness & other living bein
    gs.

    There has to be a way to tap into the eighty some percent of people that say th
    ey care about the environment. I find myself exploring this topic often on bot
    h a personal and professional level, very thought provoking indeed.

  2. That’s exactly my point — these values don’t apply just to electoral campaigns
    — but to all kinds of civic questions. Enviros need to focus a lot more ener
    gy on developing AND USING messages that connect to tier 1 values. Too often w
    e go to tier 2 (responsibility to others, compassion, personal fulfillment) and
    get “trumped” by the opposition.

    George Lakoff the the folks at the Rockridge Institute (http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org) have done some gre
    at work on this stuff.

  3. It’s interesting, and important, stuff. Especially if you’re on the left and yo
    u want to be more effective in getting your message across. This is an extensio
    n of what George Lakoff has written about. Lakoff’s paper “Metaphor, Morality,
    and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust” gets deep i
    nto the meat of what Russonello is saying:

    Here’s a link to the Lakoff:
    http://www.wwcd.org/issues/Lak
    off.html

  4. It’s interesting, and important, stuff. Especially if you’re on the left and yo
    u want to be more effective in getting your message across. This is an extensio
    n of what George Lakoff has written about. Lakoff’s paper “Metaphor, Morality,
    and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust” gets deep i
    nto the meat of what Russonello is saying

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