Now What? How Manufacturers Continue to Break Through and Shape the Issues

By November 7, 2018Shopfloor Main

Louder, nastier and divisive. Think our politics can’t get worse? Think again. The political campaign ads may be dwindling and the social media arguments may be quieting, but it’s all just a brief break as the political world now sets its sights on 2020.

In the era of the “perpetual campaign,” manufacturers have our work cut out for us—to break through the noise, grab people’s attention and ultimately persuade voters to take action on issues that matter. There are several reasons, however, to be optimistic that we can achieve this:

  1. Polls, whether independent or sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), continue to show voters overwhelmingly favor candidates who support manufacturing in the United States. Unlike other issues, the industry’s favorability numbers do not change significantly when considering differences in geography, gender, race, education and political affiliation.
  2. In these same polls, we have found that voters often say that a candidate’s approach to manufacturing issues is a key factor in deciding how to vote. This gives manufacturers incredible leverage moving forward to use the industry’s seal of approval to enhance the public perception around important issues.
  3. As NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons has said, manufacturing voters are not wedded to political parties, meaning elected officials win by courting manufacturing employees and supporters and finding ways to advance our issues. According to a recent NAM poll, more than 70 percent of manufacturing voters said in the closing days of the election that they prefer a member of Congress to work collaboratively to achieve solutions, rather than stick to his or her political positions. Based on our recent “Building US Up” Listening Tour discussions and congressional dialogue meetings around the country, manufacturers want to engage in discussions about public policy and seek out forums that give them a chance to air their concerns and aspirations.
  4. Politicians spent millions of dollars to get their message in front of manufacturing workers and their families. Our community is one that candidates value and seek out. We can leverage that to encourage elected officials to stand with us, recognize them when they do and hold them accountable when they do not.

These are promising data points. But here’s one major threat ahead: voters continue to be susceptible to populist sales pitches when they feel institutions, like business and government, have let them down. As the election results have indicated, many voters still feel that tax and regulatory reform have not lived up to what they could mean for people’s wages, savings, benefits and retirements. That finding underscores the value and necessity of the NAM’s “Keeping Our Promise” campaign, to help defend the progress we’ve made in the court of public opinion. This morning it’s clear that manufacturers need to redouble our efforts to more clearly show how we are using the tools we’ve been given, like tax and regulatory reform, to support our people and communities.

Manufacturing voters were energized and shaped the election in 2018. It’s up to us to keep that momentum going and get results for manufacturing workers—and the country they build.

Keith Smith

Keith Smith

Senior Vice President at National Association of Manufacturers
Keith Smith serves as senior vice president of public affairs and mobilization at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). He helps lead the association’s issue advocacy campaigns as well as the NAM’s national grassroots advocacy network.
Keith Smith

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