MRF Board Meeting: Advancing Innovation


Market Research Foundation is hosting its annual board of directors meeting in Leesburg, Virginia this week.  Last year’s gathering – which featured Victory Lab’s Sasha Issenberg as its keynote speaker – was a huge hit.

Not only did the organization showcase the success of its groundbreaking training programs, but MRF graduates and program participants were able to network with some of the leading figures in their industries.  Panel discussions also facilitated a host of new connections – which is ultimately what this annual gathering is all about.

This year’s event will feature Bob Ellsworth as the keynote speaker. One of last year’s expert panelists, Bob will not only explore the rapidly evolving political applications of big data – he will address how technological advancements are continuing to change the way we approach public policy.

Attendees will also hear from Erin Norman – whose data on lapsed and non-registered voters in Pennsylvania (presented at last year’s event) presaged the shocking Keystone State upset pulled off by Donald Trump earlier this month.

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Not So Inevitable After All


The 2016 presidential election is in the books and the mainstream polls – as they did during the “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom – wildly missed the mark.

Republican nominee Donald Trump won the presidency with victories in several states that appeared to be locks for Democrat Hillary Clinton heading into the election.

The biggest shocker of the night?  Wisconsin – a state that hadn’t voted Republican since Ronald Reagan‘s reelection in 1984.   On the day of the election, aggregate polling data from RealClearPolitics showed Clinton winning the state by a comfortable six-percent margin.

Meanwhile the website gave Trump only a 16.5 percent chance of winning the state.

In fact the pollsters were so confident Clinton would win America’s dairyland that Wisconsin wasn’t even included among the website’s fourteen “battleground” states.

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2016: Is It Already Over?


To hear the pollsters and pundits tell it, the 2016 election is over.  Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is going to defeat GOP nominee Donald Trump in a popular and electoral landslide – and that’s that.

It’s a done deal, they say.   You can “take it to the bank,” “stick a fork in it,” “cue the fat lady” or use any other turn of phrase you wish.

How inevitable is a Clinton victory?  According to the website,  Clinton currently has an 85.8 percent likelihood of winning the White House on November 8.  Trump, on the other hand, has a 14.2 percent chance of victory.

Take a look …

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Can Government Data Be Trusted?


It’s been said that numbers don’t lie.  It’s also been said there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Obviously, we know politicians lie.  And we know media outlets like to lie about politicians.  And at this point it’s become abundantly clear traditional polling lies about elections.

But shouldn’t we be able to trust the data that’s produced by government agencies (using our tax dollars)?  Shouldn’t basic economic data – employment, income, GDP growth – be held to a higher standard than faulty political polling?

It should be … but increasingly it isn’t.  In fact, it appears as though this data is more and more prone to manipulation – especially in advance of popular elections.

That’s a scary proposition to contemplate, isn’t it?  Yes.  But it frankly isn’t surprising.  If we think long and hard about the numbers we’re bombarded with on a daily basis … we know things aren’t as good as the government bean counters tell us.

That’s why it is critical to assess the information government provides us – to break it down in an effort to determine whether we are being told the truth.  

And if groups like Market Research Foundation don’t do the assessing/ breakdowns, no one will.

Consider this …

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End Of The “Meet And Greet” Era?


All politics is local … or is it?

Market Research Foundation has studied this issue in the past – and determined that local issues matter a great deal in statewide and national races.

But what about candidate visits?  Do these “meet-and-greets” – which offer candidates a chance to weigh in on local issues – really provide an advantage?

New data from Ohio State political scientist Thomas Wood suggests they do not.  According to Wood – who examined data from the 2012 election cycle – the era of the “meet-and-greet” is over.

“Campaign events probably don’t influence voters,” Wood told The (U.K.) Guardian.

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MRF And The Lincoln Initiative


Last week in San Francisco, Market Research Foundation (MRF) was a sponsor of the Lincoln Initiative‘s annual “Reboot” conference.

Billed as a gathering of “top influencers from diverse industries – civic tech founders, engineers and designers, politicos, corporate tech, foundation executives, angel investors and serial entrepreneurs,” this year’s event did not disappoint.

Title sponsor i360 – a top data analytics firm – was well-represented, as were co-sponsors ComScore, Google Elections, Microsoft and Facebook.

MRF’s chief operating officer Ray Wotring was a speaker at the event.

“After the 2012 election, a group of donors asked our Chairman Bill Wilson, and myself, to complete an assessment on the state of data and technology on the right,” Wotring told attendees. “As most can expect, the assessment was bleak. Some tools did exist; however the emphasis was placed on the paint. Little to not thought was placed into data architecture; or how to effectively manipulate data; especially in down ballot races.”

The result?

“Most candidates were shooting in the dark,” Wotring said.

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Big Brexit Miss


Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – the “Brexit” – is a seismic development.  A stunning rebuke of the global corporate and bureaucratic elite, the vote has already yielded regime change in London – and shaken the EU to its core as other nations mull departures of their own.

Putting politics aside for a moment, though, the “Brexit” offers a fascinating case study for pollsters – nearly all of whom missed the outcome of the election.

Two polls released just ahead of the big vote showed “Remain” prevailing.  According to an Ipsos MORI survey released one day before the voting, 54 percent of Brits were supposed to vote “Remain” compared to only 46 percent voting “Leave” – an eight-point margin of victory.  Meanwhile a YouGov poll released on the day of the vote had “Remain” prevailing by a 52-48 percent margin – identical to a follow-up Ipsos MORI survey released on the same day.

“The results are close and it’s too early to call it definitively,” YouGov’s pollsters noted.  “But these results, along with the recent trends and historical precedent, suggest a Remain victory is the more likely outcome.” 

In fact the outcome was so certain the leader of the “Leave” faction – Nigel Farage – actually conceded the outcome on the day of the vote.

“Looks like Remain will edge it,” he said.

When all the votes were counted, though, “Leave” prevailed 52-48 – meaning Ipsos MORI and YouGov’s final polls missed the mark by eight points.

What happened?  Well, when survey results fail to project electoral outcomes any number of factors could be involved.

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Analyzing “First In The South” Voter Turnout Programs


This year’s “First in the South” presidential primary in early-voting South Carolina saw a massive 23 percent increase in turnout from 2012.  It also saw 215,082 first-time voters – comprising nearly 30 percent of the GOP electorate.

Prior to the election, various efforts were undertaken to identify potential first-time voters who would support presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump – and to target these potential voters with multiple communications aimed at increasing their turnout.  Market Research Foundation was asked to verify the efficacy of this first-time, pro-Trump model – and provide back-end analysis of its impact.

Did the model work?  Absolutely.

Of the 122,000 modeled voters who received seven communications from the pro-Trump Super PAC during the final twelve days of the race – 25,063 voted for an impressive 20.5 percent turnout rate.  Among the control group of 20,000 voters, only 1,760 (or 8.8 percent) cast ballots.  The 188,259 remaining first time-voters represented 8.3 percent of the 2.2 million eligible voters in the state (minus repeat GOP voters).

Here’s the breakdown:

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Economic Jitters


Is America’s economy getting better or worse?  Or is it simply stuck in neutral?

According to Bloomberg’s latest Consumer Comfort Index (CCI) – published weekly by Langer Research Associates – only 26 percent of Americans believe the U.S. economy is improving.  Meanwhile 37 percent believe it is getting worse, and another 37 percent say it is holding steady.  Over at Gallup, 38 percent said the economy was “getting better” while a whopping 57 percent indicated it was getting worse.

Those are hardly ringing endorsements of an economy that many believe may have already slipped back into recession.

Are these concerns impacting the 2016 election?  Yes – all over the map.

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Has Trade Policy Become A Voting Issue?


In an election year dominated by the illegal immigration issue, are there any other hot-button topics capable of moving the needle among America’s angry electorate?   Yes, according to a new survey from veteran pollster Pat Caddell.

Conducted on behalf of Americans for Limited Government (ALG), Caddell’s latest survey explored public sentiment regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a massive global trade deal currently being pursued by U.S. president Barack Obama and certain Republican members of Congress.  At first blush, a majority of respondents (51 percent) said they “didn’t know enough” about TPP to form an opinion of it – hardly qualifying the issue for “hot button” status.  Meanwhile 22 percent oppose the agreement (9 percent strongly) compared to 15 percent who support it (3 percent strongly).  Another 11 percent were undecided.

Informed of the deal’s potential to “open the door for more foreign workers to enter the American job market without any restraints” and to “benefit entrenched global corporations but hurt working Americans, small businesses and startups,” public perception on the agreement changes dramatically.  Even when coupled with positive statements about the TPP – including the claim that it will “lead to improved wages, economic growth, and access to other markets” – the informed vote on the trade deal becomes decidedly negative.

After hearing both positive and negative information on TPP, opposition to the deal more than doubles from 22 to 45 percent – including 17 percent who strongly oppose it.  Meanwhile the percentage of respondents who support the bill peaks at 32 percent – including just 5 percent who strongly support it.

That’s a big intensity gap – one that continues expanding the more people learn about the controversial pact.

Continue reading Has Trade Policy Become A Voting Issue?