Finding Commonalities and Solutions With Decision-Makers


Decision-makers who value individuals making efforts to advance themselves without outside help or government spending, and are led by constitutional ideals, represent the Populist-Aligned archetype.

  • Description: Appeal to populist voters who are concerned about discrimination against white people; distrust institutions and experts; pro-constitution, pro-freedom; want to reverse what they see as the decline of America; see themselves as independent and different from other conservatives.

    Quote: “When I vote on a piece of legislation, I ask myself three questions. Is it constitutional, does it grow government, does it raise taxes? If the answer to the first is yes and to the second two is no, then we can talk.”

    Core Values:

    • Loyalty (to America and Constitution)

    • Diligence, hard work (and earned benefits)

    • Freedom, free will, self-determination 

    • Authority, security, leadership 

    • Directness, straightforwardness (don’t hide behind facts and experts) 

    • Efficiency, restraint and limits (of government) 

    • Originality, boldness

    Motivated By: Being a champion for people’s rights.

    How to Approach:

    • Be humble and friendly; avoid lecturing. 

    • Acknowledge their values and be realistic in your

    • Use humor and avoid getting too serious or angry.

    Trusted Sources:

    • Their own research

    • Individuals in their own communities

    • Their own health care providers 

    • Deep distrust of data, experts, media 

    Approach to PN-3 Issues: No role for government.

    Approach to Local Decision-Making: Believe in freedom, which extends to freedom from what they see as over regulation by local governments. Covid-19 (masking and closings) is their prime example.

  • Note that instead of simply using the term “populist” we use “Populist-Aligned.” This distinction is important because “populists” tend to be working class and have lower levels of academic completion. In contrast, the “Populist-Aligned” are often decision-makers who make a concerted effort to appeal to populists while they, themselves, are often not from that background.

    “I don’t think a state’s goal is to create an equitable outcome. I believe in small, limited government. Public safety and public health are so overblown. It’s incumbent on individuals to make choices. What incentive is there for parents to try to do better if they don’t have to see the grief on their child’s face when they are not succeeding? You have to man up. I don’t want the government to interfere in people’s lives.” — Executive director, GOP professional association, and school board candidate, male, 34, suburban/urban

    The Populist-Aligned archetype is influenced by an “America First” mentality, meaning a preference for U.S. jobs, manufacturing and services, and strong opposition to illegal immigration (especially immigrants of color), which is perceived to be taking away jobs and benefits from U.S. citizens. Hard work is highly valued, and there is resentment toward people who are not perceived to rightfully earn their benefits. This group believes that society does not need to make things fair for everyone while also seeing themselves as championing peoples’ rights.

    “America is the greatest country in the history of the world, and we are watching it fall apart right in front of us.” — Congressional candidate, female, mid-50s, rural

    There is an opening for discussion in prenatal-to-three policies about how child care, when accessible, can impact people's ability to do their jobs and consideration of policies that intersect labor shortage and child care, but not to the extent that it raises taxes or infringes on parents’ rights.

    “I struggle with the solutions. I’m not for more government spending, but you can’t expect people to work if they can’t get care for their kids and we have a labor shortage. So, I would say that you need to tie this issue to the labor shortage. The thing that really bothers me is Democrats around here talk about moms taking kids to a child care center. These don’t exist in rural places. They do not exist. It’s a false narrative. There is so much regulation that you can’t start a new one. We need to find a more individual-based solution.” — Executive director, conservative think tank, female, mid-30s, rural

    That said, child care costs are a shared concern. 

    “Yes, this is a huge thing, child care impacts a person’s ability to hold a job, that is kind of what school is for 5-to-18-year-old kids. We just have to call it what it is — that’s how a lot of people use school. I think it is OK for the government to step in and provide that basic thing (public school). School shutdowns did not go over well with conservatives — broke our trust. But schools are worth fighting for — that’s government spending that I agree with.” — Executive director, GOP professional association, and school board candidate, male, 34, suburban 

    • Their own research

    • Individuals in their local communities

    • Their health care providers

    • Family and friends

    • Conservative media

    • Data

    • Experts (e.g., American Academy of Pediatrics)

    • Institutions

    • Mainstream media 

    “There is just distrust. It’s all about people trying to make themselves look good. The crisis and the issues are not actually what they care about. Everybody loves babies. But it is tough to say what you should do to try to make that situation better without stepping on families. Zero-to-three is when parents need to form a bond. Live your life, trust your local doctor and your family and friends. We don’t look to experts.” — Executive director GOP professional association, and school board candidate, male, 34, suburban/urban

  • “When I vote on a piece of legislation, I ask myself three questions: Is it constitutional? Does it grow government? Does it raise taxes? If the answer to the first is yes and to the second two is no, then we can talk.” — State representative, male, 46, suburban

    Evidence that solutions won’t raise taxes or spending. Populist-Aligned decision-makers want solutions that don’t equate to more spending of taxpayer dollars. A representative from a suburban area mentioned that people often fail to recognize that many new policies or programs will cost America decades down the road, and what was seen as a practical policy or program is actually a burden.

    Acknowledge individual responsibility, not purely government solutions. An executive director of a conservative think tank from a rural area said he’s concerned that Democrats believe children belong to society, which implies that decisions are not up to the parents. It is essential to propose policies that give parents the resources they need to make informed choices. 

  • Constituent fears about discrimination against white people is a major motivator.  

    “The help should start where the need exists, not where the need is greatest.” — Executive director, conservative think tank, female, mid-30s, rural

    Constitutional rights and freedoms deeply inform policy perceptions and decisions. Discuss your initiative through this lens.

    Populist-Aligned elected officials may make provocative statements simply to test your reaction and composure. Humor and humility will go a long way with this archetype.

    Trust comes from working with people in their network. Leading with facts and evidence from experts, or holding yourself up as an expert, is likely to stall conversation. It’s more effective to share stories from the community that reflect actual local experiences. (See our Pathways of Influence tool for help here.)

    “I think you have to come into it and say we are not experts. We have opinions and research. Conservatives and libertarians don’t like experts. This whole concept is just disgusting. It is the whole reason we hate government and especially the federal government.” — Executive director, GOP professional association, and school board candidate, male, 34, suburban

    Likewise, look for examples to cite notable conservative support for the work you’re discussing. For example, former President Donald Trump signed the biggest increase in federal child care funding in history and highlighted his historic investment in high-quality child care in his State of the Union address.

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