Moving the Middle

I too wondered, who are the ‘Moveable Middle’? I learned, it means those people that have not (yet) taken side on a particular issue; they stand in the middle and are potentially ‘movable’ to the left or the right. Either have they not yet decided, or they simply do not care. When taking part in how to develop a media campaign on human rights I got a few eye-openers that made me think of how to approach the general public, rather than alienating.

Instead of focusing on the few but loud voices on the extreme side, we should move our focus to the middle. Although we would like to win the most radical over on our side, we should be frank with ourselves and ask:

Firstly, if we really believe our campaign will succeed in reaching the far right, and secondly, if it really is the rather small and noisy group we want to reach. Instead we should target those that more possibly can be ‘moved’ by our messages. This way we will have a more realistic chance to succeed and also reach a bigger public audience.

While the political active are on social media to debate, some of them sharing their radical and extreme messages, the ‘moveable middle’ most likely are not hanging out in the same space. They do not care about the issue and nor do they want to be educated. The trick is to design a campaign, identify ‘multipliers’ that carry the messages to the ‘moveable middle’, and finally manage to touch them with a message that relates to their own lives. ‘Multipliers’ can for example be well-known public figures made ambassadors for a cause, sharing their stories or others. (Read also my blog post about going viral.)

We believe we have the general public in mind when being a part of designing a campaigns, but we often fall into the trap of using ourselves as a reference point. With ‘us’ I mean the organized and professionalized representative of the minority group experience discrimination or inequalities. Often we contribute with the expertise on the topic itself with the aim to make sure that our group is correctly represented in all its dimensions and aspects (some might call this political correctness). We tend to be against compromising on our beliefs and values and therefore favor bold messages in front of more conservative ones. Yet, with a sharp tone we risk to scare the ‘moveable’ in the reverse direction, while softness rather can sensitize them to head our way. The ‘moveable middle’ represents many different people, such as young or old, living in rural or urban areas, in Romania or in Denmark. A message may speak to one and not the other, it is therefore even more important to seek a common denominator.

Acknowledging that we are differently opinionated depending on topic and therefore sometimes stand in the middle ourselves, the term ‘moveable middle’ still raises more questions than answers about who we mean..

The European Parliament election turnout was in average 43 percent in 2014, around half of the population in each country did not bother to vote as the majority most likely found the EU not relatable. Do they represent the middle?  I am curious how well the the United Kingdom’s campaigners to stay or leave the European Union will succeed with moving the middle by the day of the referendum vote on 23 June. (PS. if you are interested in learning about the ‘Brexit’ I recommend ‘A diet of Brussels’ that provides short and digestible podcasts about it.)

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