News Intelligence Analysis





Meet the Man Who is Responsible For Turning
Radical Religious Right Wingers Into Jolly Santas:

Frank Luntz, the Propagandist of the Century

by Katherine Yurica

March 23, 2005

Updated April 1, 2005


[Editor's note: NEW April 2, 2005: the Frank Luntz Playbook for Winning the Elections in 2006 can be downloaded in a newly typed and nicely set out PDF file of 1,583 kb:

Volume 1 and Volume 2 are still available but these files are photo copies of the original and are therefore larger files 4,946 kb each, or if you prefer both volumes are available in a WinZip file. 9,060 kb] And you can view the PBS Frontline interview with Frank Luntz here: Play it with your RealPlayer:

For other Online comments Go to this page:



Frank Luntz graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an honors Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. He received his Doctorate in Politics at the age of 25 from Oxford University. He talks a lot. He spoke for 24 straight hours as part of the Oxford Union Society's Guinness World Book of Records debate. In 1993 he was named a Fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

While working for the Republican National Committee on projects like Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," Luntz has been hired for focus groups for MSNBC and CNBC, including live sessions following each night of both party conventions and presidential debates. He was a primary night and election night commentator for The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC and he won the Emmy Award in 2001 for his "100 Days, 1000 Voices" segments for MSNBC.

Luntz is proud to point out that the football he used in focus groups during the historic Contract with America campaign is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution! He's a pollster with a difference. His real strength is that he polls people to test the effect of words on them! He's a guru to politicians. He guides them as to what words are good to use and what words produce negative emotional responses. Luntz says, "We are a polling firm, yet a majority of our work involves message development. We are a research firm, yet we have written more speeches for more individuals than probably anyone else in Washington."

In fact, since 1994, Frank Luntz has been guiding Republican candidates to victory all over America. He says, "We become active partners in the marketing, communication and consultation process." He rankles at the Cato Institute for still calling Bush's agenda for Social Security, "the privatization of Social Security." He says, "seniors become frightened every time the word "privatized" is used instead of "personalized" accounts. Luntz knows this because he is actively involved in testing groups of people and their responses to words. He does not admit that his method clouds and obscures the truth. He insists there is no difference between "global warming" and "climate change." But he says, "climate change" is more acceptable and less threatening than "global warming" to people in general.

In his defense he said, "Look, for years, political people used the phrase 'estate tax.' And for years they couldn't eliminate it...Someone like me comes around and realizes that it's not an estate tax, it's a death tax, because you're taxed at death...and suddenly something that isn't viable achieves the support of 75 percent of the American people."

Luntz says of people's emotional reaction, "Eighty percent of our life is emotion, and only twenty percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. I can change how you think, but how you feel is something deeper and stronger, and it's on the inside, so that's what I need to understand."

Luntz was asked in a Frontline PBS interview, "How important is keeping consistency of the message in political language?" Luntz responded: "There's a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again, and about the time that you're absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time. And it is so hard but you've just got to keep repeating, because we hear so many different things--the noises from outside, the sounds, all the things that are coming into our head, the 200 cable channels and the satellite versus cable, and what we hear from our friends. We as Americans and as humans have very selective hearing and very selective memory. We only hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest."

Frank Luntz understands the importance of "staying on message." He told his interviewer, "The challenge in working in politics, particularly if you're working for a political party, is that everyone's a messenger. I think the best example of this, frankly, is Israel, where you can have 20 members of the Cabinet, and they've got 68 messages between them....And when you have all these people saying things in a different way, nobody hears anything."

Luntz was asked in the same Frontline PBS interview, "Words are keys to the emotions?" He responded, "Yeah. You call it keys, but my job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion. Words alone can be found in a dictionary or a telephone book, but words with emotion can change destiny, can change life as we know it."

So not surprising, Frank Luntz' influence rises all the way into the White House. In fact, the Congressional Conference Committee, with its Republican leaders, has adopted the White House Office of Communications handbook titled: "Saving Social Security," which features instructions for GOP office holders to use "personalized" accounts and the word "privatized" is forbidden! The White House and the GOP are using Frank Luntz' playbook on how to win in 2006, (Volume 1 and Volume 2 are in PDF files.)

William L. Shirer the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich pointed out that Adolf Hitler was a master at redefining words. Since Frank Luntz isn't a psychologist and has studied only history and politics, one wonders if his skills were not honed in Mein Kampf. Take a look at this passage for a minute:

"The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses' attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

"The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc...its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect....

"The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses. The fact that our bright boys do not understand this merely shows how mentally lazy and conceited they are.

"Once we understand how necessary it is for propaganda to be adjusted to the broad mass, the following rule results:

"It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance.

"The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan."

Yes. The author of those six paragraphs was Adolf Hitler from Mein Kampf. Hey, by Luntz' own words and logic there is no difference between Luntz and Hitler's approach to getting the masses to accept what either one wants the masses to accept. Makes one feel a little sick. Clearly I ought to use a better term, say instead of using the word "propaganda" let's substitute "premiere public affairs communications" and instead of using coercive psychological manipulation of the masses, let's use, "active partners in the marketing, communication and consultation process." Of course lies are always coercive and coercion is evil, but come on--that doesn't matter any more. Or does it?



Katherine Yurica is a news intelligence analyst. She was educated at East Los Angeles College, the University of Southern California and the USC school of law. She worked as a consultant for Los Angeles County and as a news correspondent for Christianity Today plus as a freelance investigative reporter. She is the author of three books. She is also the publisher of the Yurica Report.

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