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November 14, 2007

Americans Say "engagement" Means Guns, Not Wedding Bells
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

That smacking sound you hear is progressive communicators like me whacking our foreheads all over America.  The UN Foundation's new report on surveys and focus groups carried out jointly by Democratic and Republican pollsters has lots of fascinating nuggets, some big conclusions I completely agree with, and at least one effort to segment the voting public that I don't -- why call a group "new isolationists" if their key concern is international cooperation?  But there are a few nuggets about word choice that everyone who talks about our issues should notice.  Please? First, "international cooperation" polls 16 points higher than "multilateralism" -- because people know what it means.  As the authors say, words matter.  Second, in their words:

Language and messaging that is too narrowly focused on only benefiting the United States or is too focused on our own security does not work well. Voters tend to perceive these concepts as arrogant and a continuation of much of the same. It is not about “engagement” or being more engaged around the world. Voters perceive "engagement"as the U.S. physically being inother parts of the world, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

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