By ReThink Media
The public hasÂ conflicted opinions about Â nuclear weapons. Â They donâ€™t like them, but they see them as necessary and essential. Â They like theÂ idea of eliminating them, but Â donâ€™t see that as realistic. Â The Â challenge Â is Â to build public confidence in a process Â of Â reductions.
- Lake Research Â found Â 77% Â of Â respondents describe nuclear weapons Â as Â â€œnecessaryâ€ and Â 79% Â as Â â€œessential.â€
- Â At Â the Â same Â time, the next Â four top Â descriptions were Â â€œtoo Â expensiveâ€ Â -Â 65%; Â â€œtoo Â manyâ€ Â -Â 52%, Â â€œmismatched Â to Â todayâ€™s Â threatsâ€ Â – Â 50%: Â and Â â€œCold Â War Â weaponsâ€ Â – Â 46%.
- Â Quinnipiac Â found Â that Â 70% Â favor Â the elimination of nuclear weapons, Â but Â 87% Â donâ€™t Â think Â that Â is Â realistic. Â Similarly, CNN found Â that Â 75% Â believe Â the Â elimination Â of Â nuclear Â weapons Â is Â impossible.
- Â Bottom Â Line: Â Characterizing Â nuclear Â weapons Â as Â â€œuseless,â€ or words Â to Â that Â effect, Â will Â alienate Â you Â from Â your Â audience. Â Leading with a Â message Â of Â elimination Â will Â likely Â do Â the Â same. Â We Â recommend Â an Â approach Â that Â meets Â audiences Â where Â theyâ€™re Â at Â and Â aims Â to Â increase Â their Â comfort Â with Â step-by-step Â reductions.
The public is strongly in favor ofÂ â€œreshapingâ€ Â Americaâ€™s military to address 21st century Â realities. Â â€œCutsâ€Â imply weaknessÂ and reduced security.Â An Â implied reduction Â in Â security is a Â loser since Â the debate occurs within a Â frame of what approach will make you Â safer.
- Lake Â Research Â found Â large Â majorities, Â 89%, Â 81%, Â 88% Â in Â favor Â of Â language Â advocating Â re-Âshaping, Â refocusing Â or Â reorganizing Â Americaâ€™s Â military, Â but â€œre-shapingâ€ Â polls Â best.
- Research Â into Â word Â association Â shows Â that Â â€œre-Â-shapingâ€ Â implies Â agency, Â control Â and Â strategic Â decision-making. Â â€œCuttingâ€ or â€œreducingâ€ invoke weakness.
- By Â a Â 28-point Â margin Â (59% Â > Â 31%), Â men Â agree, Â â€œOur Â military Â needs Â to Â adapt Â to Â 21st Â century Â threats and spend Â less on nuclear Â weapons Â systems.â€ Â Women Â agree Â by Â an Â even Â stronger Â 38 Â points Â (65% Â > Â 27%).
- Research Â by Â the Â Program Â for Â Public Â Consultation Â reinforces Â the Â same Â theme. Â A Â message Â on Â â€œreshapingâ€ Â for Â 21st Â century Â and moving Â away Â from â€œoutdated Â nuclear Â weaponsâ€ was Â convincing Â to 64% Â of Â respondents and very convincing Â to Â 35%.
- Bottom Line:Â Build on the strong public support for reshaping our military to address 21st century security needs.Â Do not base your argument on â€œcuttingâ€ our nuclear arsenal.
Draw a contrast between spending Â on nuclear weapons and spending on Americaâ€™s Â troops.
- The Â #1 Â top Â performing Â message Â in Â the Â Lake Â Research Â made Â this Â direct Â linkage: Â â€œFor Â the Â cost Â of Â just Â one Â new Â nuclear Â submarine, Â we Â could Â provide Â body Â armor Â and Â bomb-resistant Â Humvees Â to Â all Â our Â troops Â overseas, Â house Â and Â treat Â every Â homeless Â US Â veteran, Â and Â still Â have Â $2.2 Â billion Â leftover to Â pay down Â our debt. Â OurÂ troops and security should come beforeÂ pork-barrel nuclearÂ programs.â€ Â 70% Â of Â respondents Â found Â this Â convincing, Â with Â a Â very Â high Â 45% Â finding Â this Â message Â very Â convincing.
- Â An Â enormous Â 97% Â of Â Independents, Â 96% Â of Â Republicans Â and Â 87% Â of Â Democrats Â feel Â it Â is Â personally Â important Â to Â protect Â troops Â from Â cuts. Â That emotional responseÂ is critical toÂ strong opinions.
- Bottom Â Line: Â People Â understand Â that Â there Â are Â choices to be Â made, Â and Â spending Â reductions Â are Â forthcoming, Â but Â they donâ€™t want Â to Â harm Â the Â troops. Â This Â provides Â an opportunity to suggest cuts Â that Â would explicitly not Â impact the troopsÂ and could proactively benefit Â them.
Talk About the “Big Number”
Talk about theâ€œBig Number.â€ Â The enormous cost of Â nuclear Â weapons Â is a persuasive opening across party Â lines. Â Many Â think Â we Â spend Â too much on Â nuclear weapons Â before Â they Â hear Â any Â facts Â on Â the Â topic. Â After Â they do, Â those Â numbers jump up by double-digit Â margins among Â all Â voters.
- Before Â the Â dollar Â amount Â is Â mentioned Â 48% Â of Â Democrats, Â 35% Â of Â Independents Â and Â 21% Â of Â Republicans Â think we spend â€œtoo Â muchâ€ on Â nukes, Â according Â to Lake Â Research.
- After Â hearing Â how Â much Â is Â spent Â there Â is Â an 11% Â increase Â in Â Democrats Â thinking Â itâ€™s Â â€œtoo Â muchâ€ Â (48%>59%), Â a Â 12% Â increase Â in Â Independentâ€™s Â thinking Â that Â (35%>47%) Â and Â the Â number Â of Â Republicans Â holding Â that Â view Â doubles. Â (21%>42%).
- The Program for Public Consultation Â reached Â the Â same Â conclusion. Â Presented Â with Â the Â details of Â nuclear Â weapons Â costs, Â 64% Â of Â Republicans, Â 57% Â of Â Independents and 78% Â of Â Democrats favored Â cutting nuclear weapons budgets.
- Â Bottom Line:Â Always find a way to work in information about theÂ Â overall cost of nuclear weapons.
Arguing Â for cuts Â in nuclear weapons spending Â in order to reduce Â the deficit Â goes nowhere. Â But Â re-Âshaping our military in order to strengthen our military competitiveness is powerful.
- By double-digit margins, Â Lake Research found that Americans reject Â the Â idea Â of Â reducing Â nuclear weapons Â if Â the Â purpose Â is Â to reduce Â the Â deficit. Â 56% Â oppose Â reductions Â if Â that Â is Â the Â aim, Â while Â only Â 37% Â support Â that. Â Men and womenÂ hold this view by nearly Â identical Â margins.
- Â In Â sharp Â contrast, Â voters Â agree Â by Â a Â 20-point Â margin Â (57% Â to Â 37%) Â that, Â â€œto Â be Â strong Â as Â a Â nation Â and Â competitive Â in Â the Â global Â economy, Â we Â need Â to Â invest Â less Â in Â our Â military and Â more Â in Â education Â and Â jobs.â€ Â InvokingÂ competitiveness Â and Â programs Â that Â strengthen Â our position is persuasive.
- Â G.Q.R.Â focus Â groups Â also Â indicate Â stronger Â support Â for Â cutting Â Pentagon Â spending Â is Â the Â aim Â is Â increasing Â Americaâ€™s Â economic Â competitiveness. Â – The Â Program Â for Â Public Â Consultation Â similarly Â found Â that Â 63% Â found Â it Â convincing Â that Â high Â Pentagon Â spending Â means Â that Â â€œother parts of Â the economy Â are Â short-Â-changed, Â diverting Â talent Â and Â resources Â from Â other Â goals and weakening Â Americaâ€™s Â economic Â competitiveness-Ââ€“which Â hurts our security Â in Â the Â long Â run. Â We Â need Â to Â re-balance Â our priorities and Â rein Â in Â defense Â spending.â€
- Â BOTTOM Â LINE: Â Donâ€™t Â argue Â that Â reductions Â in Â nuclear spending Â are Â necessary Â to Â reduce Â the Â deficit, Â argue Â that Â theyâ€™re Â necessary Â to Â strengthen Â our Â economy Â and Â economic Â competitiveness.
People may believe Â nuclear weapons Â are Â essential for Â deterrence, Â but Â they Â donâ€™t Â necessarily Â think Â we Â need the arsenal that we Â have. Â Instead Â of Â making Â an Â argument Â about Â how many weapons Â we Â can eliminate Â and Â â€œstill Â be Â safe,â€ Â make Â an Â argument Â about Â how many Â weapons Â we Â need Â to Â be Â secure Â and Â position Â the Â remainder Â as Â wasteful Â and Â redundant.
- As Â noted, Â 84% Â of Â Americans Â view Â nuclear weapons Â as â€œessentialâ€ Â and Â 76% Â see Â them Â as Â â€œnecessary.â€
- Â 90% Â view Â nuclear Â weapons Â as Â â€œimportantâ€ Â to Â â€œdeter attack Â against Â the Â US Â and Â our Â allies.â€
- Â However, Â by Â a Â 38-Â-point Â margin Â (67% Â to Â 29%) Â Americans believe Â a Â smaller Â deterrent Â would Â be Â perfectly adequate Â and Â find Â the Â following Â statement Â convincing Â â€œThe Â idea that Â we Â need Â thousands Â of Â weapons Â to Â deter Â an Â adversary Â is Â absurd. Â We Â can Â effectively Â destroy a Â country Â with Â a Â small Â number Â of Â weapons.â€
- Â BOTTOM Â LINE: Â Make Â a Â â€œbottom-Â-upâ€ Â argument Â that Â positions Â most Â of Â the Â arsenal Â as Â redundant, Â wasteful Â and Â contributing Â little Â to Â our Â security. Â Donâ€™t Â make Â an Â argument Â about Â howâ€low we can go.â€
Beware of the Numbers!
Beware Â the Â numbers! Â Providing Â details Â about Â the Â number of Â weapons Â in Â the Â world Â or Â the Â number Â of Â countries Â that Â have Â them Â weakens Â support Â for Â reductions. Â If Â you Â do Â cite Â the Â numbers, Â do Â so Â in Â a Â way Â that Â reinforces Â the Â perception Â of Â security.Â Voters Â are Â split Â on Â the Â overall Â subject Â of Â reducing Â arsenals Â (46% Â oppose, Â 44% Â support). Â Men Â oppose Â reductions Â (50% Â to Â 41%) Â but Â women Â support Â them Â (46% Â to Â 42%).
- When Â it Â comes Â to Â Russia Â though, Â all Â voters Â strongly Â favor Â mutual Â and Â verifiable Â reductions Â (45% Â to Â 24%). Â This Â is Â also a Â bipartisan Â winner Â with Â Republicans Â favoring Â negotiated Â reductions Â with Â Russia Â (40% Â to Â 34%) Â and Â Democrats Â favoring Â them Â strongly Â (52% Â to Â 14%).
- Additional Â information Â about Â other Â countriesâ€™ Â nuclear Â arsenals, Â however, Â leads Â to Â an Â evaporation Â of Â support.
- Posed Â with Â the Â following Â question: Â â€œCurrently Â the Â US Â and Â Russia Â each Â have Â 5000 Â long Â range Â nuclear Â bombs, Â while Â China, Â France, Â Britain, Â Pakistan, Â India, Â Israel, Â and Â North Â Korea Â combined Â have Â less Â than Â 1000 Â long Â range Â nuclear Â bombs. Â Do Â you Â favor Â or Â oppose Â reducing Â the Â number Â of Â nuclear Â weapons Â the Â US Â has?â€ Â men Â oppose Â further Â cuts Â (48% Â to Â 47%) Â and Â women Â sharply Â increase Â their Â opposition Â (53% Â to Â 42%).
- This Â pattern Â repeats Â when Â the Â number Â of Â weapons Â is Â included. Â Voters Â oppose Â cutting Â the Â warheads Â the Â U.S. Â has Â from Â 1800 Â to Â 500 Â by Â strong Â margins Â (Men: Â 49% Â to Â 32%; Â Women: Â 40% Â to Â 24%).
- People Â are Â strongly Â conditioned Â to Â fear Â unilateral Â reductions. Â Always Â mention Â verification Â and Â mention Â mutual Â reductions Â whenever Â possible.
- Â BOTTOM Â LINE: Â Stick Â to Â the Â broad Â assertive Â messaging Â for Â why Â reductions Â are Â desirable. Â If Â you do Â invoke Â numbers, Â do Â so Â in Â a Â manner Â that Â reinforces Â the Â perception Â of Â security. Â For Â example: Â â€œThe Â US Â has Â 36 Â times as many Â nuclear Â weapons Â as Â China. Â We Â can Â afford Â to Â eliminate Â the Â ones we Â donâ€™t Â need.â€
A Â narrative Â that Â sticks has both â€œgood Â guysâ€ and â€œbad Â guys.â€ Â Congress Â and Â lobbyists are almost Â universally seen as impediments Â to practical change. Â Messages Â that invoke Congress and special Â interests as obstacles resonate Â more effectively.
- The Â #2 Â top-Â-performing message in Â the Â Lake Â Research, with Â a Â 65% Â â€œconvincing Â rateâ€ Â was: Â â€œOur Â military Â budget Â today is Â determined Â by Â politicians, Â lobbyists Â and Â special Â interests, Â not Â safety. Â Lobbyists Â working Â for Â military Â contractors, Â their Â CEOs, Â and Â boards Â of Â directors, Â lobby Â Members Â of Â Congress Â and Â make Â big Â political Â contributions. Â Then they are Â awarded Â contracts.Â Decisions should Â be Â made Â based on whatâ€™s Â best Â for our military, Â not Â politics and profits Â for Â special Â interests.â€
- Research by the Program for Public Â Consultation Defense Â shows Â the Â same pattern. Â The Â message Â â€œcontractors Â persuade Â lawmakers Â to Â approve Â weapons Â that Â arenâ€™t Â needed Â by Â giving Â them Â large campaign Â contributions Â and Â other Â personal Â benefits. Â Clearly there Â is room to Â reduce Â the Â national Â defense Â budget without Â affecting Â US securityâ€ Â was Â convincing Â or Â very Â convincing Â to Â an Â overwhelming Â 81%.
- Bottom Line:Â Policies donâ€™t just happen. Assign responsibility to congress and special interests when explaining why we maintain a redundant and expensive nuclear arsenal. Voters are poised to agree.
PuttingÂ ThisÂ MessageÂ Research Â into Practiceâ€¦
We Â want Â to Â avoid Â headlines, Â like Â this Â recent Â one Â from Â The Â New Â York Â Times: Â â€œCuts Â Would Â Not Â Effect Â Security.â€ Â This Â framing Â is Â doubly Â problematic. Â By Â arguing Â for Â cuts, Â in Â audiencesâ€™ minds Â we Â are Â de facto Â arguing Â in Â favor of Â weakening Â our Â security. Â By Â arguing Â that Â cuts Â wonâ€™t Â affect Â security- we are Â inherently accepting Â the Â premise Â that Â they Â will.
We Â want Â to Â meet voters where theyâ€™re at, make a connection and build Â support for our policies such as in this pending op-Âed addressing Pentagon Â spending Â overall:
â€œFrankly, Â many Â of Â our Â long-Â-term Â needs Â are Â self-Â-evident. Â First, Â we Â need Â to Â reshape Â our Â national Â security Â budget Â to Â prepare Â for Â 21st Â century Â priorities. Â Second, Â we Â need Â to Â honor Â our Â commitments Â to Â the Â American Â troops Â that Â have Â fought Â for Â a Â decade Â and Â are Â now Â coming Â home. Â And Â third, Â we Â need Â to Â invest Â in Â the Â programs Â that Â strengthen Â our Â economy Â and Â maximize Â our Â economic Â competitiveness Â and Â this Â means Â investing Â in Â education Â and Â jobs, Â particularly Â in Â the Â technology Â sectors. Â Nonstrategic Â government Â spending Â that Â prevents Â us Â from Â achieving Â these Â long-Â-term Â goals Â is Â simply Â unacceptable. Â We Â spend Â entirely Â too Â much Â money Â on Â weapons Â that Â do Â little Â to Â keep Â us Â safe Â and Â that Â are Â driven Â more Â by Â lobbying Â dollars Â than Â 21st Â century Â needs. Â For Â example, Â we Â are Â slated Â to Â spend Â between Â $600 Â and Â $700 Â billion Â on Â redundant Â nuclear Â weapons Â over Â the Â next Â ten Â years Â â€“ Â money Â we Â could Â be Â putting Â into Â other Â priorities.â€ Â Î¦
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