Assessing US Elections Part I:Framing Issues Properly is an Important Political Tool
Previously published on May 21, 2010
Viewing issues from other perspectives is important as it allows an individual to understand problems with greater insight and flexibility; however, seeing issues from the eyes of others is not necessarily enough to provide an individual with the ability to uniformly deal with issues that strongly affect each other. Framing is more than just looking at problems from other perspectives as it is a process which shifts a person's viewpoint to a context that encompasses several connected issues, thereby allowing for the coherent and objective analysis of the issues as a group. Frameworks put issues into context, thus enabling individuals to deal with several problems at once through a process that treats the issues as a group instead of single issues; by dealing with issues as a group, the consistency in the process limits the amount of personal bias that affects the analysis.
People automatically classify and rearrange information into categories in order to facilitate their comprehension and processing of data; understanding how this process works for different people helps improve a person's ability to facilitate comprehension, communication, and analysis of political issues. Furthermore, using several frames helps analysts view the issues from various perspectives; it also helps politicians communicate their ideas by providing a consistent outlook which appeals to large numbers of people. Additional, viewpoints, such as the legal and economic perspectives, provide tools that further allow for objective analysis as these perspectives inherently seek to be objective. For individuals, framing can help improve comprehension of issues and allow people to understand how politicians reach their stances while giving them insight as to whether or not those views are consistent and honest.
Although an individual can use frames of their own creation, I employ the national security, economic, and foreign policy frames as a means of classifying and addressing all political issues. In justifying the use of a frame, it is important to demonstrate that the various perspectives within the frames allow for the issues, which someone might place in a series of frameworks, to be properly analyzed with similar treatments. Of course, the only true qualification for placing an issue into a frame is that the issue must be resolvable under the framework. As such, an analyst must be able to demonstrate that the issues within a frame have overt relationships, such that, a change in one results in a change for one or more of the others.
Although framing allows someone to broadly and objectively analyze issues, there are dangers that come with framing as misframing will slant a person to misconstrue the impact of an issue while leading them to improper views that do not adequately address the issue in question. As multiple frames allow for analysts to view issues from different angles, for many issues, certain frames are not as significant, or relevant in the least bit. Furthermore, cross-framing provides a person with the ability to place conflicts into alternative frames which give alternative requirements for a solution. If a party fails to recognize what requirements are more significant or comes to the conclusion that a nearly irrelevant condition is essential to resolving a conflict then the conflict will either remain unresolved or will be poorly resolved, thus creating many new problems.
Misframing has created a great number of problems for this Nation, among others, but fine tuning analysts' framing abilities will allow such analysts to recognize when politicians misframe or misconstrue issues. The same is true for other individuals as understanding the concept of framing will give a voter the ability to closely assess a politician's stance. There are a great number of issues in America that tend to go unresolved, such as immigration, abortion, medical malpractice lawsuit reform, and many more. There are also those that are dealt with poorly, such as oil dependency, pollution, globalization, free trade, surveillance laws, and many, many others that lead to unnecessary conflict. In many cases, there is a lack of understanding on the behalf of American citizens; however, more often than not, politicians have a good grasp of the issues, but they are lacking the ability to perceive or willingness to ensure their solutions fulfill the requirements of differing viewpoints.
Politicians, especially Republicans, have been able to frame issues for many years, with Democrats only recently grasping the principle. The problem is that when it comes to winning votes, politicians tend to be expert framers, but when it comes to legislating, the ability seems to evaporate. As such, framing unfortunately appears to serve as a means of manipulating voters verses a method to properly resolve conflicts. In the future, framing will likely serve a more noble cause as voters who understand framing can better assess politicians, which is especially valuable when politicians are being inconsistent or possibly deceptive. Above all, framing allows people to elect individuals who are more honest and better qualified to hold political office.