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December 11 2013

Budget Solution that's a Policy and Political Win

Sabrina Schaeffer

I appreciated Carrie’s analysis this morning of the budget deal spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan. And she’s absolutely right that moving forward it’s time our lawmakers start doing the hard work of “identifying programs that should be eliminated” so that we can get back on a fiscally sustainable path.

What I’d add to Carrie’s post is that Americans want to get spending under control.

Last year the Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) commissioned Evolving Strategies (ES) to conduct new experimental message research to determine what message really is most effective at increasing support for meaningful budget reforms.  

And what IWV learned is that Americans are much more open to serious change when it comes to the national debt than lawmakers seem to realize. Republicans can win on policy and political ground with a clear message on overall spending restraint (rather than cuts) and serious, targeted entitlement reform.


More than 50 percent of respondents in our Control group of swing voters supported a spending freeze. As Carrie acknowledges, trying to fight specific spending is a challenge. But speaking in terms of “just spending the same” next year as we did this year, just like a family facing financial concerns would do is effective among both men and women. In fact, directly addressing the spending issue in language that is analogous to a family budget increases support for a budget freeze by nearly 14-points (from 51-65 percent).

What’s more Republicans should be seeking opportunities to change the conversation from counter-productive disputes over spending “cuts” – which inevitably lead to a government shut down – to the common-sense idea that government should live within its means and not overcommit, a concept every American family can identify with.

One message stands out in particular. IWV’s research found that talking about saving entitlements for future generations was effective in driving up support (from 51 to 57 points) for a spending freeze, in addition to increasing support for serious entitlement reform policies. A message that clearly articulates the extent of the entitlement problem and positive ways of addressing it boosted support for means-testing both Medicare and Social Security by 8-points, from 44 percent in the Control group to 52 percent.

You can read more about randomized controlled experiments here and the findings from this research here.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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