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Responding to fear-mongering

Responding to fear-mongering

SURVEY:  Crime, family values must be Democratic issues too.


We’re all hearing a lot about messaging, and rightly so. As the old saying goes, “Perception is reality,” and Democrats have a reputation for doing a worse job than the MAGA right at shaping perceptions.

PSG Consulting recently presented the results of a Hart Research survey of 2,500 registered voters in Sept. 2023 designed to identify which fear-mongering messaging about “others” is most effective with which groups of voters, and what counter messaging works best.

Some of the results challenge traditional Democratic assumptions about what “our” voters care about and provide important guidance for what themes we need to hit, and avoid, to win this November. For example:

  • Attacks about rising crime rates are a major vulnerability for Democrats and must be treated seriously, not just as a “dog whistle” about racism.

  • Rhetoric against trans athletes is very widespread and effective.

  • Voters of color (not just the stereotypical Trump supporter) are vulnerable to concerns about traditional family values and gender roles.


According to the survey, the counter-messaging that works best is strong “callouts of politicians’ divisive fearmongering.”  Examples that tested well with voters includes:

Righteous anger: “Enough is enough. It’s time to see through the fearmongering that some politicians are using to distract us from the real issues facing our nation. While the rich get even richer, the rest of us struggle with rising costs and wages that don’t keep up. If they want us to blame our neighbors and people they say are different instead of holding corporations and corrupt politicians accountable.”

Freedom: “America is about freedom for all. It is a national promise written in the Declaration of Independence. As a country we fight not just for our own freedoms but the freedoms of all people regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. If one of us loses our freedom because of who we are what we look like or what we believe we all lose.”

Immigrant foundation: “Our nation’s founders were immigrants seeking a better life, driven by the promise of liberty and equality. Like them, many others have come to America seeking freedom from oppression. When we uphold these values for all, regardless of where they come from or who they are, we build a society that respects individual rights and provides opportunities for everyone to thrive.”

You can find more detail on the survey results, and the messaging recommendations, by viewing the Webinar or downloading the slides at the PSG Web site.

PSG Consulting

Founder, Page S. Gardner, is an authority on demographic trends, voter participation, electoral politics and, with a particular expertise in the voting patterns of women,

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