Understanding Your Audience: The Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals
Understanding how people think and receive messages is the first step to winning your election, legislative battle, or public affairs campaign. To win people over, you need to meet them at their value system. When you understand what matters most to them and what they like and dislike, you can then tailor your campaign and messaging accordingly.
The mindsets described below help explain the complexity of people’s value systems and emphasize why any campaign message must be crafted in a way that speaks to them.
Conservative Mindset—Strict Father Figure Model
Those who identify as conservative tend to follow the Strict Father Figure Model and value loyalty, authority, personal responsibility, and moral hierarchy. They are activated by fear and are natural protectors.
Progressive Mindset—Nurturing Parent Model
Those who identify as more progressive follow the Nurturing Parent Model and see government and its actors as protectors who hold the safety net for the less fortunate. They embrace fairness, equality, and empathy.
Moderate Working-Class Voters
Moderate working-class voters take great pride in their culture, work, background, and community. They respect tradition, hard work, and personal responsibility. While they have admiration for law and law enforcement, they dislike forced interference—be it the government or the media. This results in the resentfulness of elites and political correctness.
Since 2012, JVA Campaigns has been working with the United Steelworkers (USW), House Majority PAC, and other progressive allies to identify messages that effectively move working-class voters. The result has been an overwhelming amount of victories all across the country. Although it’s important to understand the issues, what’s most important is getting to the core of what these voters see as a better life for themselves and for their families.
Regardless of the type of campaign you are waging, when speaking to your target audience you must meet them where they are. Focus on their values and community rather than polarizing national issues, and develop a layered communications plan that effectively speaks to all members of your target audience. Frame your message with metaphors, images, and emotion. Lastly, be present at local events, communicate through local media and leaders, and put personal, human touches on your materials wherever possible.