Canada 2020 Speakers Series: Prof. Drew Westen on Effective Political Communications

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Ottawa, 16 April — Prof. Drew Westen, clinical psychologist, principal of Westen Strategies, LLC, and author of The Political Brain spoke on Effective Political Communications to Canada 2020. …

Ottawa, 16 April — Prof. Drew Westen, clinical psychologist, principal of Westen Strategies, LLC, and author of The Political Brain spoke on Effective Political Communications to Canada 2020.
Bill Clinton called Westen’s ground-breaking examination into the role of emotion in the political life of the nation, “The most interesting, informative book on politics I’ve read in many years.”

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  • 1. All in the Message Winning Hearts and Minds Drew Westen, Ph.D. Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 2. An experiment What networks are active at Fox? Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 3. Suppose someone knew how to shape and activate networks in voters? Volvo-driving Tax and Spend Elite Godless atheists LIBERAL Sushi-eating Cut and run Big government Special interests Latte-drinking Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 4. How were Democrats so successful at losing for so long? The conservative catechism  The conscience of a liberal progressive  Examples from health care  S-CHIP  People who work for a living ought to be able to  take their kids to the doctor Universal health care  A family doctor for every family  The uninsured and the underinsured  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 5. Three principles of effective messaging Tell a compelling, memorable story  If you don’t feel it, don’t use it  Know what networks you’re activating  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 6. Principle 1: Tell a coherent, memorable story We are a story-telling species  Grab-bags of facts, policies, and 12-point plans lack  Emotional resonance  Memorability  Clear principles (the moral of the story)  Your policies should reflect your values, not the other way  around What happens when you don’t tell a story: you lose  Jim Martin’s introduction to the people of Georgia  Hillary’s Christmas  A tale of tale ads: Obama’s Christmas  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 7. The four stories that matter the most in a campaign What you say about yourself  What your opponent says about him/herself  What your opponent says about you  What you say about your opponent  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 8. Principle 2: If you don’t feel it, don’t use it Human behavior is motivated by emotion  The structure of traditional Democratic arguments  Jim Webb’s response to the State of the Union  Beyond words: Images, music, and “hooks” to personal  experiences generate emotions Positive and negative emotions are not the opposites of  each other You don’t win with half a brain  It’s 3am, and don’t believe everything you hear in focus  groups Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 9. Why does speaking with emotion matter? Feelings toward the parties and their  principles Feelings toward the candidates  Feelings toward the candidates’ personal  attributes Feelings toward the candidates’ policies  Facts about the candidate’s policies  Trickle Up Politics  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 10. Principle 3: Know what networks you’re activating Do you really want your Secretaries of Defense  and Commerce to be Republicans? A methodology for developing messages that  work Study the existing data, particularly polls  Develop and focus-group narratives and taglines  Online polling and dial-tests  Refine and test again  Later, rinse, repeat: An example on immigration  A case example: Messaging abortion  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 11. Are Georgians pro-life? (Westen Strategies and Lake Research Partners, October, 2007) I’m not pro life, I’m not pro choice, I’m pro common sense. No one truly knows what’s in the mind of God, and the government shouldn’t be telling a man and a woman when they should and shouldn’t have kids based on somebody else’s interpretation of Scripture. But people shouldn’t be using abortion as birth control, and they shouldn’t be able to get late-term abortions except when the mother’s health or life is in danger. Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 12. A Strong Progressive Message on Abortion (Westen Strategies and Greenberg, Quinlan, & Rosner, January, 2009) Message Rating, 0 - 10 % Rating 8-10 % Rating 6-10 Abortion is a matter between a woman, her doctor, and her 56 67 God. This is a moral and a personal issue, not a political one, and 0 20 40 60 80 100 politicians need to stop using it to Vote on Abortion try to score political points. But we need to do everything possible to Democratic candidate Republican candidate reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies, and 57 abortions. That means teaching our 51 kids not only about abstinence but 41 39 also about responsible use of birth control, so that all the children born in this country are wanted children. Total Independents Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 13. A Strong Progressive Message on Abortion (Westen Strategies and Greenberg, Quinlan, & Rosner, January, 2009) Message Rating, 0 - 10 % Rating 8-10 % Rating 6-10 Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. That's why I'm both pro-choice and 56 64 pro-personal responsibility. Politicians shouldn't intrude on a woman or couple's most personal and painful decisions, and no one has 0 20 40 60 80 100 the right to use government to impose their Vote on Abortion religious beliefs on somebody else. A woman should be able to trust that the advice she gets Democratic candidate Republican candidate from her doctor reflects what her doctor really believes, not something the government forced 58 her doctor to say. But that doesn't mean people 56 should engage in unprotected sex and use abortion as a form of birth control. The best 39 36 way to reduce abortions is to reduce unwanted and teen pregnancies. That means making sure every adult has access to medically accurate information and birth control, and providing honest, age appropriate sex education to our Total Independents kids. Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 14. Conscious and unconscious responses to racial ads in the 2008 Presidential election Racial stealth ads: Kwame Kilpatrick  Conscious vs. unconscious prejudice  We developed and tested two advertising  approaches to reducing the impact of unconscious prejudice  Activate voters’ conscious values  Address voters’ unconscious concerns and conflicts directly Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 15. Favorability Ratings for Five Ads Mean Favorability Ratings for Ads 7.5 ALL GOD'S CHILDREN 1* 7.4 ALL GOD'S CHILDREN 2* 5.5 I'M AN AMERICAN - WOMAN 5.5 I'M AN AMERICAN - MAN 3.6 RACIST Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009 15
  • 16. Subliminal response to Obama 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Kwame I’m an I’m an All God’s All God’s Kilpatrick American American Children Children (racist) (Female) (Male) (2 families) (3 families) Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 17. What applies in elections applies in governing Lessons from the stimulus package  Never let attacks go unanswered  Tell the story of how we got in this mess or you’ll own it  Tell a coherent story about deficit spending  Don’t count on government to re-brand itself  Lessons for the Obama agenda: Don’t give away  the store when you can give away the labels Salazar and expanding offshore drilling  The alternative government health care plan  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 18. Conclusions A campaign is not “a debate on the issues”   The economy was the deciding issue in the 2008 Presidential election  6 in 10 voters reported having no idea how Obama intended to fix it An effective campaign is a set of values-based, emotionally compelling  narratives An effective campaign is one that moves voters  In the words of that great unsung political strategist, Duke Ellington…  Contact: dwesten@westenstrategies.com Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 19. The Democratic primary election of 2008 What Went Wrong?  Nothing Went Wrong  A tale of two ads: Christmas in Iowa  Hillary’s Christmas  Obama’s Christmas  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 20. A tale of two ads Bill Clinton’s first ad in 1992  John Kerry’s first ad in 2004  Identical surface  structure, divergent emotional structure Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 21. Conclusion: Lessons from the past The aftermath of Selma  The face of a child  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 22. Countering stealth racial attacks Distinguishing conscious and unconscious  prejudice Theoretically, two approaches to reducing the  impact of unconscious prejudice  Activate voters’ conscious values  Address voters’ unconscious concerns and conflicts directly Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 23. Race in the race: The 2008 Presidential election The only way to beat Obama: to make him not “one of us”  Muslim, B. Hussein Obama, Pledge of Allegiance, Fox News:  terrorist fist-bump and Barack as Michelle Barack’s “baby mama,” National Review: need to see his birth certificate, John McCain: The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For, John McCain: Country First Countering racial stealth attacks: Distinguishing conscious  and unconscious prejudice Two approaches to reducing the impact of unconscious  prejudice Activate voters’ conscious values  Address voters’ unconscious concerns and conflicts directly  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 24. Racist ad (Kwame-Obama association) “Obama: I want to first of all acknowledge you’re a great Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. He is a leader, not just in Detroit, not just in Michigan, but all across the country people look to him. We know that he’s going to be doing astounding things for many years to come. I’m grateful to call him a friend and a colleague. I’m looking forward to a lengthy collaboration.” [Text overlay: YOU SHOULD KNOW WHO BARACK OBAMA’S FRIEND ARE] Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 25. Favorability Ratings for Five Ads Mean Favorability Ratings for Ads 7.5 GOD'S CHILDREN 1* 7.4 GOD'S CHILDREN 2* 5.5 I'M AN AMERICAN - WOMAN 5.5 I'M AN AMERICAN - MAN 3.6 RACIST On a scale from 0 - 10, please say how you feel about this ad overall, with 10 meaning a very WARM, FAVORABLE feeling, 0 meaning a very COLD, UNFAVORABLE feeling, and 5 meaning not particularly warm or cold. Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009 25 *Shown to half the sample
  • 26. Subliminal response to Obama All God’s Children (3 families) Effect size (SD) All God’s Children (2 families) I’m an American (Male) I’m an American (Female) Kwame Kilpatrick (racist) -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 27. What applies in elections applies in governing Governing requires the same principles of  messaging as campaigning Lessons from the stimulus package  Never let attacks go unanswered  Tell the story of how we got in this mess or you’ll own it  Tell a coherent story about deficit spending  You have to re-brand government  Why a Democrat doesn’t want his Secretaries of  Defense and Commerce to be Republicans Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 28. Conclusions A campaign is not “a debate on the issues”  The economy was the deciding issue in the 2008 Presidential election  6 in 10 voters reported having no idea how Obama intended to fix it  An effective campaign is a set of narratives embedded within  a values-based, emotionally compelling master narrative An effective campaign is one that moves voters  Contact: dwesten@westenstrategies.com Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 29. A tale of two ads Bill Clinton’s first ad in 1992  John Kerry’s first ad in 2004  Identical surface  structure, divergent emotional structure Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 30. Conclusion: Lessons from the past The aftermath of Selma  The face of a child  Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 31. The Shrinking of the Presidency How the 2008 Election was Won Drew Westen, Ph.D. Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry Emory University Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 32. Subliminal response to Obama All God’s Children (3 families) Effect size (SD) All God’s Children (2 families) I’m an American (Male) I’m an American (Female) Kwame Kilpatrick (racist) -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009
  • 33. Delivered to www.canada2020.ca on April 16, 2009