In recent years, we’ve noticed that language is changing rapidly and feels increasingly fraught, which got us thinking about an opportunity to go beyond polling to listen to how the changing linguistic landscape impacts members of our audiences who don’t live and breathe these terms. 

For instance, words such as “unhomed,” “underserved,” “food insecure,” “equity,” “freedom,” and “structural racism” are words or terms that are well understood by certain people but either understood differently or rejected by others. We wanted to explore why, and to get some sense of how people are reacting to evolving language.  Getting this right is key to effective messaging, meeting our audiences where they are, not where they wish they would be.

Working with our partners at Bellwether Research, we conducted online focus groups to dig into not only how people from across the country feel about certain terms, and why – and to hear perceptions about the pace of change and who’s driving it. 

To be clear on what this is and what it is not: 

  • It is a snapshot of views representing gender, race, education and political ideology, with intentional recruitment of voters in the middle of the political spectrum in key battleground states.

  • It is not a statistically significant or nationally representative group of respondents or primer on what words to use or avoid. 

Our key takeaway: although much of what we read and hear in the news implies that language is divisive and a shortcut to knowing what someone believes about a given issue, that’s not always the case. And people are generally more open to using new terms than we had assumed.

Read more here.