Mobilizing Hope: Winning Messages for Polish Civil Society Supporters
Written by: Matthew MacWilliams, Global Public Opinion Strategist, Comms Hub
A majority of Poles who support civil society norms and objectives find themselves at a crucial crossroads as the national elections approach. While they are passionate about the need for change in the country, they are also burdened by fears and concerns that can lead to disempowerment. In this article, we explore the challenges and opportunities in engaging civil society voters in Poland, drawing insights from recent focus groups Comms Hub organized in partnership with Liberté! Foundation of Poland. We’ll explore the prevailing mood among civil society supporters, dissect the problems they face, and outline winning message strategies to activate and inspire this vital demographic.
By civil society audience, we mean citizens who are consistent supporters of democracy and not authoritarian – based on their responses to worldview questions pioneered over the last several years – were included in the research. They fell within the age range of 24 to 45 and primarily resided in larger cities with populations exceeding 100,000. Furthermore, the Polish citizens who took part in the discussions tended to possess higher levels of education and demonstrated significant engagement on social media platforms, with many regularly using at least Facebook and Instagram. Notably, some of them also indicated regular use of three social media platforms, with Twitter (X) being the third platform of choice.
The Mood of Civil Society Supporters
Polish supporters of civil society harbor deep concerns about the state of their nation. For many, these concerns go beyond pessimism and into despondency and depression. Some describe themselves as “pissed off, “alarmed,” and even “terrified.” The dominant source of their distress is the current government and its divisive, intolerant, and backward politics. They decry the arrogance of those in power, rampant corruption, a shift away from Western values, and the loss of forward momentum in the country. The present leadership is seen as responsible for the mess they find themselves in, and the erosion of freedom is a growing threat.
While they are proud to be Polish, they are not proud of their country’s regressive leadership.
When it comes to the upcoming election, a minority expresses hope for change, but this sentiment is overshadowed by fear and uncertainty. Civil society supporters recognize that their country is in turmoil and understand that change will take time. Some are also determined not to repeat past mistakes. While very pessimistic, they know that this time, they must act.
“I didn’t vote for something less bad once and have had the consequences for 8 years.”
From the participants
- On the arrogance of the government and those in power: the divisiveness and backwardness of politics in Poland “is the fault of the governing party and someone should be held accountable.”
- On corruption: the powerful and connected “steal our taxes…just take them, and no one can do anything about it. They aren’t (even) hiding their stealing. They just do it*.”
- On the backwardness of the government’s politics: they are “moving us away from the Western world and the European Union. They are making us into Hungary. I don’t want that.”
- On losing forward momentum toward a better future that Poland had fought for: “We fought for Poland’s freedom and future for a long time, and we don’t want to lose it.”
- On the lawlessness of the ruling party, they are “breaking the Constitution.” They “fight for power without rules.”
Messages that Activate Civil Society Supporters
Winning messages must revolve around the future and the role of civil society supporters in shaping it. Voting is presented as the starting point for change, emphasizing that one vote won’t transform Poland overnight, but it’s a crucial step toward a better future.
These messages should be direct (devoid of rhetoric and rhetorical flourishes), specific (about the problems and solutions), and realistic (no overpromising), addressing the problems, desired actions (voting and convincing others to vote), and the changes they can expect to see. Visuals should feature inspiring young Poles working together to solve these problems.
Empowerment with Realistic Hope for Change
In times of despair, simplicity and sincerity matter most. Messages should avoid humor, irony, and sarcasm, focusing on straightforward communication. Some effective messaging approaches include:
- Empowerment Activated Remorse (EAR)
- Message: “I didn’t vote for something less bad once and have had (lived with) the consequences for 8 years. That’s why I must vote this year.”
- Power In Numbers (PIN)
- Message: “The younger generation…there are more and more of us now. So maybe together we can win and begin to change Poland.”
- Voting is Easy and, If We Do It, Can Make a Difference.
- Message: “Do the Right Thing for Your Future, Vote! Go vote. It takes 10 minutes. And if we all do it, we can make a real difference.”
The Winning Frame: “The Future is Freedom”
One phrase that resonates deeply with civil society supporters is “The future is freedom.” This framing aligns with their aspirations for:
- Women’s Rights
- Abortion Rights
- Energy Independence & Environmental Sustainability
- An Independent Judiciary
- Separation of Church and State
- Security for Poland
- An Accountable Government that Works for the Polish People.
In conclusion, activating the base of civil society supporters in Poland is a crucial task. To ensure their engagement in the upcoming election, messages must resonate with their aspirations and acknowledge the challenges confronting them. By offering realistic hope for change, emphasizing the power of their votes, and not overpromising, civil society supporters can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Poland.
Photo credit: Kris Cros on Unsplash
*One male participant, who was an EU ambivalent or skeptic also cited corruption in the European Union. This was a minority view and expected.