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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


The ‘Luntzification’ of the Health Care Debate

Mark Harmon, ProfessorCollege of Communication and Information - School of Journalism & Electronic Media

Pollster Frank Luntz has built a substantial global business by shifting the terminology in public policy debates to a corporate and conservative perspective. He played a substantial role in the recent United States health care debate, and his approaches and terminology regarding health care policy in other nations likely will be tried again. Harmon researched US broadcast news transcripts to discover to what extent they reflected Luntz’s list of words for opponents of health care reform. Sixteen Luntz terms were compared to a list of sixteen more neutral terms describing the actual changes being considered. This content analysis adds to the growing body of work on framing, specifically how tactical use of terminology can turn a mediated debate.​

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