Who’s persuadable in 2022?

Posted on June 15, 2022

When we talk about message framing, we’re aiming at a fairly narrow target because most Americans, both on the right and left, are not persuadable. Who is persuadable and what do they need to hear?

While micro-targeters can segment endlessly (NASCAR dads, soccer moms, etc.), when you’re communicating to the public at large, there are really only two kinds of people who are persuadable today: infrequently voting (mostly young) leaning Democrats and big-lie-rejecting (mostly educated) leaning Republicans.

First the Democrats. As we discussed in prior IdeaLogs here and here, Republicans won or did better than expected in 2021 elections because conservatives voted like maniacs and progressives voted like a typical off-year electorate. Republicans won pretty much because of turnout, and most of that was a disappointing turnout by Democrats aged 18-29.

So today, the most important job for people on the left is to increase turnout among younger Americans. The latest polls show that President Biden has lost the support of about 15 percent of younger Democrats since taking office, and fewer than 30 percent of Democrats under age 35 “strongly approve” of Biden’s performance. Interestingly, young Democratic women are substantially more disappointed in Biden than young Democratic men.

That does not mean young people have become more conservative. It’s the opposite; they are more progressive and Democratic. But right now, young people are surprised and disheartened that Biden and Democrats have failed to deliver needed political changes. To quote a recent Harvard Kennedy School poll, they are thinking that their vote “doesn’t make a difference.”

Obviously, we need to emphasize issues that energize these potential voters. Eighty-five percent of younger Americans want some relief on student loans. Younger voters are far more favorable to abortion rights than any other age group. Younger Americans are more anxious and engaged on the issue of climate change. Even without legislative victories, progressives can energize young people by speaking out strongly on progressive issues. Anybody remember Bernie Sanders?

Now let’s turn to Republicans. There is a modest percentage of the Party who are appalled by the MAGA racism, lies and corruption.

According to an NPR/Ipsos poll earlier this year: 23 percent Republicans disagree that “voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election.” So yes, the great majority of Republicans believe the Big Lie, but a substantial slice remains grounded in reality.

According to the same poll, 10 percent of Republicans believe that January 6 was “an attempted coup or insurrection.” Twelve percent of Republicans disagree with the idea that “social policies such as affirmative action discriminate unfairly against white people.” And 43 percent of Republicans strongly disagree with the idea that “sometimes it is okay to engage in violence to protect American culture and values.”

According to YouGov polling, about 18 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. The AP-NORC poll found that 33 percent of Republicans are pessimistic about the future of their party. In short, there are still some truth-based Republicans and they could be persuaded to switch sides or abstain from voting.

For both younger Democrats and more educated Republicans, the immediate need is to nail down conservatives. Get each individual candidate or official on the record about the Big Lie, January 6, the need for COVID vaccinations, as well as their positions on abortion rights, climate change, student loan relief, gun laws, and other potential wedge issues. That takes work on our part, but it may mean the difference between winning and losing.