SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – In this week’s release of the Dignity Index, campaign fundraising emails from Republican incumbent Senator Mike Lee‘s and Independent challenger Evan McMullin‘s respective camps were scrutinized.
Each were given six scores. Neither scored higher than a four — still on the “contempt” side of the eight-point Index. According to the Index ratings, a four “mocks and attacks the other side’s background, their beliefs, their commitment, their competence, and/or their performance.”
The poor ratings in campaign fundraising emails lowered the total averages for both Lee and McMullin. Both candidates together averaged a 3.6 on the Dignity Index with their scores.
A rundown of this week’s averages and scores for the Senate contenders can be found below:
Mike Lee (R) – AVG 4.14 (Last AVG Reported: 4.5)
- 4 – The Dignity Index first gives Mike Lee’s campaign a FOUR after an October email. In the passage examined, Lee does not morally attack McMullin, but does imply “he is not one of us.” In the email, Lee’s campaign says “He claims to be an Independent – but there’s NOTHING Independent about his campaign. He supported Joe Biden.” The Index says the underlying message is, “He can’t be for you. He can’t be trusted to promote the policies that will help you, because he’s one of THEM.”
- 3 – In an October Lee campaign email, a passage reads, “Americans cannot afford to allow the Democrats to hold their majority and continue their destructive agenda.” The Index says a defining feature of THREE is, “We are the good people; they are the bad people,” which is in line with calling the Democratic agenda destructive.
The Index does point out a way of raising the score with dignity by pointing out specific Democratic policies that would be replaced by specific Republican policies. This would change the message from “They are bad people” to “We have different priorities and approaches for moving America forward.”
- 3 – A passage from an October Lee campaign calls the Democrat agenda “radical,” as well as referencing to places “like Manhattan and Malibu,” “New York and California” and “West coast liberals.” The Index says that the passage is trying to exploit the divisive idea that “we are the good people, and they are the bad people.” It says when that is the tactic, the message may include labels and name-calling that tie the opponent to “the bad people,” which is the purpose of the references to the various locations.
- 4 – The Index points to a passage from an October Lee campaign that uses the phrase, “Joe Biden’s inflation economy,” which they say “is the kind of negative labeling that encourages contempt for the other side.” Another phrase, “We need to put a stop to Biden’s harmful and failed policies” also earns a FOUR, though not because it says the policies failed, but because it doesn’t specify which policies or any alternatives.
The Index says this message could have put a five by being more specific by making proposals and saying “vote for me, this is what I believe, this is what I’ll do” instead of “vote for me, the other guy is a failure.”
- 4 – Another passage from a Lee Campaign email earned a FOUR because the messaging follows “He is not one of us and cannot be trusted” with a charge that his opponent wants to be popular with the “liberal media.”
- 4 – The Index scored another passage from an October Lee campaign email for negative labels as tactics for tying a candidate to “bad groups.” The Index says to make a case for a candidate without using contempt, the names and labels “have to go.” In his case, the passage labels Lee’s opponent saying “McMullin is for the big liberal donors” and “the liberal media” is for him.
Evan McMullin (I) – AVG 4.28 (Last AVG Reported: 4.75)
- 3 – The first email for McMullin judged calls Mike Lee’s politics “divisive” and “do-nothing” and “no-good for Utah” before pointing to Lee “refusing to accept responsibility for trying to overturn our last election and override the will of American people.” The Index says this is a defining moral character attack, saying it’s possible to make challenges while being dignified. The statements are divisive and both sides can glean contempt for both politicians depending on who they are sympathetic for.
- 4 – In a late September campaign email, McMullin’s camp points to “proof that Mike Lee is beholden to special interest groups.” The email speaks to groups that is backing his campaign which the Index says shows, “He fights for them, not for us,” which is earning a FOUR.
- 4 – A third passage examined by the Dignity Index looks at a claim that “special interest groups backing Mike Lee are going to twist my words and continue lying to Utah voters.” The Index says this, along with the rest of the passage, “conveys the view that ‘we’re better than those people – they’re not one of us – we shouldn’t trust them.'”
- 3 – The Index scored another passage as a THREE after a McMullin campaign email said “even for them, this is an all-time low” and “uses shoddy editing to outright lie to Utah voters.” The Index says these send a clear message that the other side are morally bad people and designed to stir up contempt.
The Index goes on to say there is a way of saying the same thing without contempt. By saying, “They edited the video to make it look like I said things I never said… We have filed a lawsuit… He won’t disown the ad,” it could have raised the score.
- 4 – Another passage from an October McMullin campaign email, points to ads from the McMullin group. In the passage, the email says “They introduce you to my family, show you our values, and expose Mike Lee for choosing special interest groups over people.” The Index says the final claim makes the point that “he’s not one of us; we can’t trust him,” which scores a FOUR.
- 4 – The final passage for this week’s scores from McMullin’s campaign emails earned a FOUR. In an October campaign email, the Index looked at a passage that contained the phrase, “Mike Lee chose to be a sycophant for Trump and the far-right.” Index affirmed its rating by saying it conveys the message “he doesn’t belong; he’s not one of us, he’s not working for us; he’s working for them.” The Index says the phrase is not quite a THREE, which would charge that he’s a morally bad person and is trying to hurt us.
NOTE: The Dignity Index did preface this week’s scores by saying the tool does not work in comparing two candidates, as it can only measure passages from a speech, debate or message.
The Index points out that we all use contempt and dignity in our speech and it’s important to measure ourselves as well.
In its release, the Dignity Index states, “If you really want to use the Dignity Index to decide which candidate is doing better on the dignity scale, go to the Dignity Index website – learn the features of each point on the eight-point scale, and then – before you score any candidate for contempt, start scoring yourself first.”
A full rundown of this week’s Index scores, as well as any scores from previous weeks, can also be found on the Dignity Index’s website.