Finding Commonalities and Solutions With Decision-Makers
Church & Country
Decision-makers who are guided by faith, and who feel loyalty and respect for chosen leaders, represent the conservative Church and Country archetype.
Description: Loyalty to chosen leaders; relate personally to those they serve; believe in finding common ground but unwilling to compromise on conservative Christian values; pride in position earned through personal hard work.
Quote: “Life is not fair. Life is hard. I’m bound by my faith in my obligations to my fellow man but I don’t want the government dictating a redistribution of resources. That’s the basis of Marxism. That does not work.”
Authority, respect, loyalty (to political leaders, church)
Tradition, order, adherence and loyalty to conservative ideals
Motivated By: Helping families.
How to Approach:
Emphasize shared values.
Understand that their beliefs are intrinsic; state your opinion, but don’t cross into persuasion.
Remember that progressive language can feel “othering” and polarizing; choose your words carefully.
Local small business leaders
Approach to PN-3 Issues: Believe mom and dad make a family, and mom should stay home; see education as the solution.
Approach to Local Decision-Making: Empathize with leaders who want to help families, but their faith influences which policies they see as helpful vs. harmful.
“Most importantly — I'm a Christian, conservative and a Washington outsider.” — Congressional candidate, female, mid-50s, rural, on Twitter
Deeply influenced by conservative interpretation of Christian values and a moral approach, Church & Country decision-makers believe in finding common ground but are unwilling to compromise on faith-based or moral issues (abortion, marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights). They empathize with leaders who want to help families, but their faith influences which policies they see as helpful versus harmful.
Called by their faith to help others, they often relate to those they are serving on a personal level and express sympathy to others’ needs even if they don’t agree. They believe churches and communities already have sufficient resources to help people. As a result, governmental support is often not supported. Not leaving people behind is important, as is being a protector of constituents and community. Opinions and approaches are conservative in all realms, including social and economic.
“Life is not fair. Life is hard. I’m bound by my faith in my obligations to my fellow man, but I don’t want the government dictating a redistribution of resources. That’s the basis of Marxism. That does not work.” — State representative, male, 48, urban/suburban
A strong belief in the primacy of families, not society, especially when it comes to decisions about babies and young children drives many of the Church and Country archetype’s policy decisions. A shared belief is that a mom and a dad make a family — and policies that support this are desired — and that the mom should stay home, especially before a child enters kindergarten. Opposition to abortion is common.
“We need to have a society that is supportive of new moms and young families, and employers that can help work around those issues. But at the same time, it is not the responsibility of society to provide day care and things like that for a family that has a new child. For the first five years, one-on-one care from the mom is the most important. We should encourage one parent to stay home with that child as much as they can, not make day care more available or affordable.” — State representative, male, 31, rural
“… I believe people have a natural, God-given right to freedom, to be free, to make their own decisions.” — State senator, male, 39, talking about COVID-19 vaccines on Twitter
There is strong pride in position, earned through personal hard work. This creates an expectation that others should work hard for what they desire in life. At the same time, there is sympathy for those in poverty, especially in rural areas or “regardless of ZIP code.” Arguments based solely on race tend to be rejected.
“The good Lord will make it work and you also need to make it work. You sacrifice, you get help from folks, your extended family, your church.” — State representative, male, 60, rural
Faith leaders: One resource you might consider is the May 2022 campaign backed by a broad coalition of Christian leaders to urge Congress to extend the child tax credit to low-income families. The letter’s signing organizations invoke a passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers to care for the “least of these.”
Local doctors: Polls have consistently shown that people across the U.S. trust their own doctors, even if they mistrust the healthcare system in general. That sentiment was especially notable among the Church and Country archetype.
Local small business leaders: Small business perspective tends to be valued by decision-makers in the Church and Country archetype. A 31-year-old male state representative from a rural area, also a small-business owner, described the challenges of offering leave in a 24/7 business where cash flow can be paycheck-to-paycheck. He also acknowledged that not providing leave could lead to employee turnover, also at a high cost. Another said that people need time with their baby and to recover after giving birth but described “many stories” about people taking paid leave and then not coming back.
Measurable evidence that the pros outweigh the cons. “There are a lot of cons right now.” said a 60-year-old, male state representative from a rural area. “Find more pros that you can measure. … You have to be very exact. What will this program do – don’t waiver. If a program is getting lots of money and can’t show ROI it’s an issue. Truthfulness is key. We pride ourselves on being conservative but efficient in my county.”
Solutions that work for everyone. “The best policy can come from people sitting down together,” said a 63-year-old, female state representative from a rural area. “I want … all entities involved to try and come up with a common solution,” she said. “I’ll ask (advocates) if they’ve been to see certain legislators who may have an interest but are on the other side of the aisle and they often say no.”
The right timing and connections to other issues. A 60-year-old male state representative from a rural tobacco-farming community described how video poker had gotten “out of control” and needed to be banned, which led him to support a tobacco tax increase to replace the significant revenue stream from video poker. “I asked for lots of information on the tobacco tax and got to a point where I understood and felt comfortable and framed the issue so I got no pushback at home,” he said. “The timing was right for a solution.”
Efficiency and return on investment. Be truthful about program models and outcomes. “If a program is getting lots of money and can’t show ROI it’s an issue,'' said a 60-year-old male state representative from a rural area. “Truthfulness is key. We pride ourselves on being conservative but efficient in my county.”
Listening is easier when conversations are grounded in respect and politeness. This group is most open to listening if you approach politely.
Acknowledge the importance of faith and the role of church and nonprofits to support families well before suggesting a role for the government. Show respect for these priorities and make clear you aren't there to try to negotiate on values. If applicable, recognize the strength of child care provided by the faith community, and show how it is not adequate to meet the community’s full needs.
Be transparent and precise about facts. Share all the information and sources, explain what you support and what others support, and offer clear reasons for your position. “There is nothing worse than getting half the picture,” said one male state representative from an urban/suburban area. He suggested this framing: “You may not agree on all our positions and I’m not here to change your worldview, but on this one issue you may see some benefit, or maybe not. Would you hear me out for 30 seconds and see if you want to hear more?”
Emphasize shared values of wanting better outcomes for families and communities. “We both agree that improving the health of women and babies is key to building stronger young families and making the economy stronger,” said a male state representative from a rural area. “We have a similar goal to where the finish line is – is there a way we can both move the ball down the field? How can we both walk away victorious?”
Recognize the influence of the overall political context, the electorate and party leaders. A 48-year-old male state representative from an urban/suburban area suggested this framing: “This may be a very hard sell in your area because of X, Y, and Z, and I get that, but here is some information for you to think about. … You are a persuader and a thought influencer. Maybe you can help people in your district think about this differently and see potential benefits.”
Church and Country decision-makers want the best for people but may see different paths to get there and may have different perspectives on what makes a “good life.” Listen for underlying values and speak to those, rather than focusing on the differences in policy or approach.