Luntz at the 2009 Texas Book Festival
February 23, 1962 |
West Hartford, Connecticut
|Education||University of Pennsylvania
University of Oxford
|Occupation||Republican Party strategist, communication consultant, and political pollster|
|Home town||West Hartford, Connecticut|
|Political party||Republican Party|
The Republican National Committee hired me, and they hired me because they wanted someone who could look members straight in the eye and tell them the truth.
We decide based on how people look; we decide based on how people sound; we decide based on how people are dressed. We decide based on their passion.
Ideology and communication more often than not run into each other rather than complement each other. Principle and communication work together. Ideology and communication often work apart.
Preserving parks and open spaces is a winner because it doesn't need to be explained to everyday Americans.
People like me have to have the discipline only to work for clients, corporations, political people, products, services, networks that we believe in and we want to see succeed.
Eighty percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. I can change how you think, but how you feel is something deeper and stronger, and it's something that's inside you.
The challenge in working in politics, particularly if you're working for a political party, is that everyone's a messenger.
I have seen how effective language attached to policies that are mainstream and delivered by people who are passionate and effective can change the course of history.
When I started in this business, everybody said the Democrats were the better communicators because they sounded like social workers, and Republicans were awful because they sounded like morticians. In some cases. they actually dressed like morticians.
There's a problem with political polling in that you have so much pressure to do what your client wants you to do and say what your client wants you to say. I've never felt that pressure. I am independent of the political parties.
The fundamental problem for Republicans when it comes to the environment is that whatever you say is viewed through the prism of suspicion.
Some people call it global warming; some people call it climate change. What is the difference?
The way you communicate an idea is different than the way you communicate a product.
The language of America changed with the election of Bill Clinton, because with all due respect to my friends on the Republican side, Bill Clinton is the best communicator of the last 50 years. He felt your pain.
In fact, in more cases than not, when we are rational, we're actually unhappy. Emotion is good; passion is good. Being into what we're into, provided that it's a healthy pursuit, it's a good thing.
There are people still in the Republican Party that I believe practice the communication of anger, of disappointment, of regret, of pain, of sorrow, of suffering. That's not what the American people want to hear.
The advantage of working for a corporation is that it has only one message, because a product or a service doesn't speak; it's just there, and you can advertise it.
I don't understand why people whose entire lives or their corporate success depends on communication, and yet they are led on occasion by CEOs who cannot talk their way out of a paper bag and don't care to.
One of the things that you have trouble with politicians, particularly in Washington, is when you get mad at them and you can't touch them; you can't punch them; you can't yell at them.
How I say it has as much of an impact on what people think of me as what I say.
There are words that work, that are meant to explain and educate on policies that work, on products that work, on services that work. I'm not going to ever try to sell a lemon. I don't do that.
It is acceptable to bring someone to tears if it explains to them in an emotional way why a product, a service, or a candidate is the right person, is the right thing to do.
What matters most in politics is personality. It's not issues; it's not image. It's who you are and what you represent.
Republicans use think tanks to come up with a lot of their messages. The think tanks are the single worst, most undisciplined example of communication I've ever seen.
It's all emotion. But there's nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are on vacation, we are not rational; we are emotional.
We as Americans assume that big companies are bad, and big power companies are even worse.
A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.
I've done reasonably well over the last 10 years because I took the strategy of language and politics and applied it to the corporate world, which has never been done before.
Sound science must be our guide in choosing which problems to tackle and how to approach them.
So often corporate America, business America, are the worst communicators, because all they understand are facts, and they cannot tell a story. They know how to explain their quarterly results, but they don't know how to explain what they mean.
We as Americans and as humans have very selective hearing and very selective memory. We only hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.
There's a lot of money with a lot of big law firms that have a tremendous amount at stake by getting the right language to convince the right jury that my client is either innocent or that the opposition is guilty.
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.
Words can sometimes be used to confuse, but it's up to the practitioners of the study of language to apply them for good and not for evil. It is just like fire; fire can heat your house or burn it down.