A Positive Role for Government
Core Message: Investing in opportunity— such as expanding skill-building job training, investing in education, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure—is a unique role that only our government can play.
Adapted from “Building Support for Government” by Public Works.
Focus on Mission and Purpose. To overcome Americans’ lack of understanding of the unique mission of government, talk about government’s embodiment of shared values that we all hold dear.
- Highlight the roles of government that the public can acknowledge and value, including planning for a prosperous and healthy future for all, stewardship of our resources, and the building and preservation of community.
- Reinforce the notion of interdependence and shared fate. Promote civic thinking, advance notions of mutual responsibility, and discuss why government is necessary to the functioning of society and a tool for achieving a better quality of life for all.
- Emphasize its mission as distinct from, but not at odds with, business. Illustrate how we all benefit when business and government work together. But underscore that it’s government’s unique role to protect and preserve our common good and public interest.
Talk About Systems and Structures. People forget the extent and diversity of government’s day-to-day work. Bring into focus its actual activities.
- Describe government as the “public structures” that are the foundation of our society and fundamental to our prosperity, stability, opportunity, and a strong middle class.
- Define government using terms that reflect democratic ideals: responsible manager, watchdog, long–term planner, the people’s voice, etc.
Encourage Civic Thinking. Combat the pitfalls of consumerist expectations.
Reinforce notions of interdependence. Talk about how our shared quality of life and prosperity depend on how we work together and support each other.
Use “ownership language.” Refer to government using collective pronouns that emphasize collective ownership and responsibility of “our” government.
Avoid portraying government as a laundry list of services that individuals “buy” with tax dollars. Focus on shared community benefits from public services, systems, and structures we build and maintain.
For full reports of the research that informed these tips, please go to http://www.publicworks.org/.