In recent years, many political leaders have been convinced they should not talk about the poor but instead focus exclusively on the middle class in their political message and strategic choices. A nationwide survey of a representative sample of voters conducted September 26-30 has found this is a mistake for candidates, advocates, and policy makers. When framed correctly, voters across the socioeconomic and political spectrum respond much more favorably to those who talk about the working poor.  And perhaps more importantly, this new messaging trumps the best conservative arguments for cutting funding to government programs that help lower income Americans.

Key Findings

  • When framed correctly, voters are much more likely to support candidates promising to protect programs that help the working poor than candidates using the most effective arguments for cutting them.
  • Just shy of 60% of voters say this new language is the stronger argument when compared against the most successful conservative arguments for cuts, and this new language is especially effective with Independents and Republicans.
  • Voters are more likely to trust politicians  who talk about the importance of helping the working poor over those who talk only about fighting for the middle class.
  • Personalizing the poor and describing them in terms of their struggles and how hard they have to work just to get by is much more effective than focusing on their vulnerabilities, needs, or lack of privilege.
  • 87% of Americans think helping the working poor should be a top or important priority of government.
  • By a 72% to 28% margin, voters think millionaires paying taxes at a lower rate than their workers is a bigger problem than “47% of Americans” not paying federal income taxes.