Budgets and Taxes

In late 2008, FrameWorks began a multi-year investigation of American thinking about budgets and taxes. Building on FrameWorks’ research of how Americans think about government, the goals of this project are to understand the underlying assumptions Americans have about budgets and taxes, and to develop more productive strategies for communicating about these issues.

Our Funders

Support for FrameWorks' research and message development on Budgets and Taxes was provided by Demos, Kansas Action for Children, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Our Recommendations

How to Talk About Budgets and Taxes: A FrameWorks MessageMemo This MessageMemo summarizes the findings from our research, and provides advocates with a communications map for improving the public's understanding of the linked topics of budgets and taxes, and shifting attitudes and support for policy alternatives.

Our Research

Like Mars to Venus: The Separate and Sketchy Worlds of Budgets and Taxes (2009).  This report uses cognitive interviews to investigate Americans’ thinking about budgets and taxes- both as separate issues and as they relate to each other. FrameWorks researchers found that the concepts of budgets and taxes remain largely unconnected in the minds of Americans. This gap in public understanding is explored and possible opportunities for reframing this issue are suggested.

Having Our Say: Getting Priority, Transparency and Agency into the Public Discourse on Budgets and Taxes (2009).  This second phase of research uses group discussions to test potential reframes that were generated in the cognitive interviews. This method helps to show how Americans negotiate these issues in group settings and in public discussions. Recommendations for improved communications strategies are provided.

An Ounce of Prevention: Experimental Research in Strategic Frame Analysis™ to Identify Effective Issue Frames for Public Budgeting and Taxation Systems (2010).  This report details the results of an experimental survey of 6,700 registered voters and evaluates whether alternative ways of communicating can bridge the gap between expert and lay understandings of the US budgeting and taxation systems.  Although advocates typically use the Crisis frame or simply give descriptive information to the public about the state of fiscal policies, this research suggests that neither approach is likely to move support for policies that reform our system of budgets and taxes.

Planning for the Future: The Contribution of Explanatory Metaphors to Conceptualizing Budgets and Taxes
This report presents "Forward Exchange" as an explanatory metaphor that helps people reason about the connection between budgets and taxes. It also reports, step by step, the research process undertaken to arrive at this conclusion.

Related Reports

How To Talk About Government: A FrameWorks Message Memo (2006) distills the research on government that was conducted prior to this project and explains the recommended strategies to communicate more effectively about government.

Products and Tools

The Budget and Taxes Trigger Video is a compilation of On-The-Street Interviews that show what dangers lurk in the "swamp" of cultural models, and what prevents people from seeing how responsible budgets ensure the well being of communities and how taxes support those budgets.  The video goes on to show advocates how the value "Prevention" and the explanatory metaphor "Forward Exchange" help people see how budgets and taxes are related, and why they are an important part of a well functioning society.  As such, it serves as a useful primer for the array of research reports that inform it.

Talking About Budgets and Taxes is a compendium of essential tools to help experts and advocates apply the research findings to their communications. The toolkit includes templates for products used in everyday communications practice, such as talking points, sample op-eds, how to use data effectively, and other essential resources.

Budgets and Taxes Video

FrameWorks Institute

  Updated: 11/03/17