Apr 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Election-year words that unite, divide Americans

Share of Americans with a favorable opinion of the following concepts
Data: Ipsos. Chart: Axios Visuals

"Honesty," "responsibility," "freedom" and "American national parks" — these are among the country's most unifying words, embraced by 9 in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents alike, according to survey findings by Ipsos.

  • "MAGA" and "2nd Amendment" are two of the most polarizing.

Why it matters: As election season intensifies, it's not just that words matter — but that different groups perceive the same words differently.

Between the lines: Using words that divide people can help win some races when turning out the base is the key, said Cliff Young, Ipsos' president of polling and societal trends.

  • But Young said, "You can't govern effectively through polarization. What we're really talking about is, how do you govern afterwards. How do you build a coalition, consensus, achieve governance?"

How it works: Ipsos tested the favorability of dozens of phrases, names and concepts earlier this year for a survey for With Honor. The cross-partisan group aims to reduce polarization and supports veterans seeking office who take an integrity and civility pledge and agree to collaborate across the aisle.

  • The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults was conducted in two waves, in January and February, measuring the favorability of names, words and phrases.

What they're saying: "Understanding what words and concepts unite us is super relevant," said Rye Barcott, With Honor's co-founder and CEO.

  • "We're talking to Americans across the spectrum. So we are always trying to think through what does actually connect — not just for members that are speaking to their constituents but for us and any nonprofit or advocacy organizations trying to pass something into law. You have to be talking to Americans from both sides."
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