Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Frank Luntz: Pollster

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

A longtime public-opinion specialist who helped frame the GOP's "Contract with America" in 1994, Luntz doesn't make policy, but he's a master at packaging it. The 43-year-old founder of the Virginia-based Luntz Research Companies was the author of "Straight Talk," a confidential memo—leaked to the media in 2003—that coached Bush administration officials and GOP supporters on marketing a wide range of policies. "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general—and President Bush in particular—are most vulnerable," Luntz warned. "Any discussion . . . has to be grounded in an effort to reassure a skeptical public that you care about the environment for its own sake—that your intentions are strictly honorable."

To that end, Luntz suggested new White House phrasing on subjects like global warming (though "the scientific debate is closing against us," he wrote, minds could be eased by making "the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue"). He also laid out specific language designed to soothe voters. Some of it, such as the phrase "Safer, cleaner, and healthier," soon showed up verbatim in speeches by GOP policymakers.

SOUND BITE: "Climate change is less frightening than 'global warming,'" Luntz wrote in "Straight Talk." "Global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge."

NEXT UP: In February, Luntz released a 160-page strategy memo, titled "The New American Lexicon," to help the GOP open up ANWR for oil drilling, emerge victorious in the 2006 midterm elections, and pursue other key goals. "Never say: 'drilling for oil,'" the document advises. "Instead say: 'exploring for energy.' . . . When you talk about energy," it adds, "use words like 'responsible' and 'balanced,' and always address your concern for the environment."

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