‘The Dignity Index’ launches pilot program in Utah to score messaging from candidates

Oct 6, 2022, 9:45 AM | Updated: 9:46 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A new project in Utah is trying to encourage political candidates to use more dignity and get rid of contempt by scoring the words and messaging they use on a scale from one to eight.

The Dignity Index is part of a national project that selected the Beehive State for a pilot program to rate public messages from candidates running for U.S. House and Senate.

“Politicians are scored on how they vote on every issue but not on how they treat their opponents,” project leader Tami Pyfer said in a press release. “By rating how they speak to — and about — one another, we’re hoping they will see the benefit of taking the higher road.”

The University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute have trained a group of coders to score portions of candidates’ debates, speeches, fundraising messages, campaign ads and posts on social media.

“The Utah project will focus on political speech because it’s so influential in shaping our culture,” said a statement from Tom Rosshirt, project director for The Dignity Index. “But those of us excited to be part of this movement will be watching our personal speech as well. We all have a role in changing our culture for the better.”

Starting this Friday and continuing every Friday through Election Day, scores for The Dignity Index will be published on dignityindex.us.

Organizers of the index provided the following scoring criteria that will be used to examine the words and messages that candidates use:

  • 8: Each of us is born with inherent worth, so we treat everyone with dignity – no matter what.
  • 7: We fully engage with the other side, discussing even the values and interests we don’t share, so we know where they’re coming from.
  • 6: We always talk to the other side, searching for the values and interests we share.
  • 5: The other side has a right to be here and to be heard. It’s their country too.
  • 4: We’re better than those people. I don’t trust them.
  • 3: We’re the good people and they’re the bad people. It’s us vs. them.
  • 2: Those people are evil and they’re going to ruin our country if we let them. It’s us or them.
  • 1: They’re not even human. It’s our moral duty to destroy them before they destroy us.

The weekly scores will also have explanations about the scoring process and, at times, include what adjustments could have been made to get a higher score.

“We think the biggest problem we face is division,” Rosshirt said in a press conference Wednesday. “We think the biggest cause of division is contempt. We believe the antidote to contempt is dignity.”

The Dignity Index is the latest initiative from the national group UNITE.

“The Dignity Index reveals both the danger of contempt and the power of dignity, and most importantly, it shows us how to change,” said a statement from Tim Shriver, Founder of UNITE. “It shows us that dignity is the means of preventing violence, easing division, and solving problems. Treating people with dignity has been at the heart of my work in the Special Olympics and in schools, too. But now we need it in our politics and we have no time to waste.”

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‘The Dignity Index’ launches pilot program in Utah to score messaging from candidates