He’s a veteran Republican strategist whose messaging skills have been recognised by everyone from Barack Obama to David Cameron.
But after more than 30 years helping political leaders across the Atlantic hone their brand, Frank Luntz says the “toxicity” of US politics has left him wanting to use his powers for good.
He has used a recent stay in the UK to meet with Britain’s most senior politicians, including his old university friend Boris Johnson, and warn them: “Don’t make the mistakes that we did in America”.
The 59-year-old travelled to Britain to recuperate from a stroke he suffered in early 2020, which he is convinced was caused by the political acrimony within America.
While in the UK he conducted focus groups for the centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies.
His research on both sides of the Atlantic suggested alarming parallels between the polarisation of voters in America and Britain.
“The only thing that we agree on is that politicians suck,” he said as he shared his findings in his plush apartment in downtown Washington.
In the UK, “you still value public debate. Your democracy is still functioning. Ours has seized up… but [I] want to make people aware so they don’t make the mistakes that we did in America,” he said.
He has distilled US voters’ attitudes – and his solutions for politicians – into what he called the “Great Rethink”.
Underscoring the state of the challenge, he said, was his polling of US voters’ feelings about their political leaders. Some 34 per cent described themselves as “disappointed” or “ignored” while just 16 per cent felt “hopeful”.
Mr Luntz sees reasons for optimism among Britain’s current and former leaders, many of whom he met with recently to discuss his findings.
Sir Tony Blair “gets it more than anyone”; Sir John Major is the “most sensible person in the UK” and David Cameron is “still the best communicator that I’ve ever worked with”.