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Recent News

Events of note in the world of strategic framing and communications – from the Topos perspective

Team Topos Tweets the #Debates

Our real time reactions to the candidates’ framing and communicating of the issues. Read from the bottom to the top. Tweet your reactions to us @TeamTopos!

Debate Season: The Olympics of Framing


We’re excited about debate season! Yes, we’re political and policy communication nerds — and this is like the Olympics of framing.

Kennedy and Nixon Debate 1960


This year’s debates are sure to offer some great lessons in contrasting frames.  In fact, the winner of any debate is likely to be the candidate who more compellingly frames the fundamental issues.


For example, look at the competing visions of the American Experience that each candidate outlined in his convention speech:

Individual Freedom, Individual Success 

That very optimism is uniquely American.


It is what brought us to America. We are a nation of immigrants. We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones, the ones who woke up at night hearing that voice telling them that life in that place called America could be better.


They came not just in pursuit of the riches of this world but for the richness of this life. Freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom to speak their mind.


Freedom to build a life. And yes, freedom to build a business. With their own hands.


This is the essence of the American experience.  

Mitt Romney    


Shared Responsibility, Shared Success 

But we also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.


We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.


We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy…


As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

Barack Obama


The debate frame clashes are likely to be even more obvious since the candidates will be seeking to highlight contrasts.

During the October 3rd debate we’ll be watching for framing moments — watch this space for some thoughts about the most interesting ones. (Want to share your thoughts? We’ll be on Twitter and Facebook for the debate!)
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Responding to the “Job Killer” Allegation

Everyone knows the simple rule about repetition being key to changing public understanding. Here’s a new finding about the framing of government policy that researchers and advocates need to consider: The  number of news stories using the phrase  “job killer” about a policy idea increased significantly between 1984 and 2011.

A new study, “Job Killers” in the News: Allegations without Verification, by Professors Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher R. Martin of the University of Northern Iowa, revealed that  “job killer” allegations were targeted at policies to safeguard consumers, protect the environment, raise wages, expand health insurance coverage, increase taxes on the wealthy, and make workplaces safer.

Most troubling is the study’s finding that in 92% of the stories alleging that a government policy was a “job killer,” the news media failed to cite any evidence for this claim.

A recent Topos memo, Rebutting the Idea of Business Taxes as “Job Killers”, addresses this issue and makes recommendations about pivoting and inoculating against this claim in order to build broad support for progressive policy proposals.