Political arguments may arise over interpretations of words such as “liberal” and “freedom,” according to Sarasota/Manatee survey

On Thursday, October 28 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s Institute for Public Policy and Leadership (IPPL) will present “Meaning Matters: A Civility Survey Research of the Language We Use in Politics.”  The event will be held in the Selby Auditorium at USF Sarasota-Manatee, located at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail.

The focus of the event will be an examination of the words most commonly used in politics and what those words mean to different people. IPPL previously conducted a survey of registered voters in Sarasota and Manatee Counties about the interpretation of language and ideas commonly used in political discourse.

“People find different meanings in the same words,” said Dr. Judy Sedgeman, director of IPPL.  “For example, when I say the word ‘liberal,’ some people think ‘belief in liberty,’ some think ‘government rule,’ and others think ‘equal rights.’  Similarly, if I say the word ‘freedom,’ some people think ‘equality,’ some think ‘doing what I want,’ and others think ‘limited government.’  The way people interpret the language we use in politics shows how diverse people’s thinking is and plays a big role in civility.”

Event attendees will have the opportunity to take the survey using an electronic clicker system, see the results in real-time, and compare the results to the recent IPPL survey. Attendees will also see the results of the same questions asked over social media networks and discuss why those results may be different.

A panel of the lead survey investigators will discuss whether or not it is reasonable to expect civil communication without a shared understanding of the meaning of the words we use.

The panel will include:

  • Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Leadership
  • Sebastian Diaz, JD, PhD, professor in the College of Human Resources and Education at West Virginia University
  • Bonnie Jones, PhD, Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at USF Sarasota-Manatee, and
  • Jeff Orenstein, PhD, adjunct professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to R.S.V.P., call the USF Sarasota-Manatee event hotline at (941) 359-4602 or visit www.sarasota.usf.edu/ippl/.