A “listening tour” is a strategic series of meetings, events, or visits conducted by a politician or candidate to gather input, concerns, and perspectives from constituents or specific groups.
Often staged prior to launching a campaign or introducing major legislation, the aim is to engage directly with the public, giving the appearance of open dialogue and grassroots involvement.
While the stated goal is often to inform policy decisions, critics sometimes view listening tours as carefully managed PR exercises designed to generate media coverage and build political capital.
More on “listening tour”
A tried-and-true rhetorical fig leaf candidates use before announcing they’re in a race.
Potential candidates want to make it appear as if they’re being recruited to run, rather than doing so out of their own ambition. That has given rise to expressions seeking to stress that they’re seeking voters’ input before they enter the fray, including the “conversations with citizens” that Jeb Bush used starting in December 2014.
The former Florida governor announced on Facebook and Twitter that he’d decided “to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” He wrote that he intended “to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”
Presidential candidates don’t usually establish these fundraising vehicles just for the chance to converse with the electorate. Bush likely had already made up his mind he would be running. But the “conversation” aspect of his note provided a veneer of doubt about his intentions—which, of course, fueled further speculation among political insiders.
Such expressions are a linguistic cousin of the oft-employed “listening tour” among all-but-certain presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton took that route before she jumped into the 2016 scrum.
The New York Times reported that just after Democrats’ 2014 midterm election drubbing, Clinton would “embark on an unofficial listening tour to gather ideas from the business community, union leaders and others. And she will seek advice from such far-flung advisers as an ad man in Austin, Texas, behind the iconic ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ campaign and a leading strategist at a Boston-based public affairs consulting firm with ties to the Kennedys.”
From Doubletalk © 2016 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.
Use of “listening tour” in a sentence
- Ahead of her presidential run, the senator embarked on a listening tour across key swing states, aiming to understand the nuanced concerns of voters that went beyond typical polling data.
- After facing backlash for a controversial policy proposal, the mayor initiated a listening tour to meet with community leaders and activists, hoping to salvage both the policy and his political standing.
- Critics argue that the governor’s listening tour is less about understanding public concerns and more about creating a facade of engagement, as no substantial policy changes have followed previous tours.