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Frank Luntz and the art of a political wordsmith December 21, 2010

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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Republican Frank Luntz is widely known in politics for his use of dial technology and focus groups to discover language that works in swaying public opinion. As he explains his trade:

“I’m not going to let you twist the words, because if I say to you that you can sell a politician the way you sell soap — and it may even look that way from the outside — that says to Americans that they shouldn’t respect politicians or soap. It really isn’t that way. The way you communicate an idea is different than the way you communicate a product. However, the way you measure [the response of the public in both instances] is quite similar. And the principles behind explaining and educating the product or the elected official is similar, even though the actual execution of it is very, very different.”

Lately, Luntz has been in the news for finding language that the Republican party could use to kill Obama’s effort to gain support for a public option. Luntz discovered that the term “government option” created the biggest public split, and many people in the conservative media were starting to adopt it until the issue eventually died.

For more on Luntz’s art, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Frank Luntz is a very controversial figure because of what he does. Why are so many people turned off by his work?

2.  Is “wordsmithing” simply a form of propaganda?

3.  Is Luntz right in arguing that selling politics is somewhat similar to selling any kind of commercial product? If not, why should it be different?

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