Category Archives: Featured Insights

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.

Continue reading Not So Inevitable After All

Health Care Debate Evolving In Advance Of 2016 Elections


It’s no secret a majority of Americans have consistently opposed the 2010 health care law championed by U.S. president Barack Obama. In fact, over six years of polling this legislation has never once enjoyed the popular support of a majority of Americans.  But with independent socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders pushing the national debate further to the left on health care – is Obama’s law still the issue we should be following?

In 2013, Sanders introduced his “American Health Security Act,” arguing at the time that “we must move toward a single-payer system” – or one in which the government is responsible for collecting all medical fees and disbursing payment for all medical services.

“A large-scale single-payer system already exists in the United States,” Sanders wrote.  “It’s called Medicare. People enrolled in the system give it high marks. More importantly, it has succeeded in providing near-universal coverage to Americans over the age of 65.”

Today, Sanders is campaigning on a $1.38 trillion-a-year plan to expand “Medicare to all.”  And he’s making no bones about how he intends to pay for it.

“We will raise taxes,” Sanders told a crowd at a Democratic town hall this week. “Yes we will.”

Continue reading Health Care Debate Evolving In Advance Of 2016 Elections

Inside The Disenfranchised Conservative Electorate


It’s no secret conservative voters have felt disenfranchised in recent election cycles – especially in dark red states like South Carolina.  Previous surveys conducted for Market Research Foundation (MRF) in the Palmetto State have shown the strain this disenfranchisement has had on party loyalty – while national polling has highlighted the need to appeal to voters on ideological as opposed to partisan grounds.

But is something more fundamental undercutting these established perceptions?

As the 2016 cycle ramps up, there is a major push underway across the country to identify disenfranchised voters, assess their motivations (or lack thereof) and determine which candidates might be able to get them to the polls (using what combination of messages).  Numerous presidential campaigns are vying for these voters all over the country – nowhere more fiercely than in early-voting South Carolina, which has successfully predicted the eventual Republican nominee in all but one of the last seven contested GOP primary elections.

According to a new Palmetto State survey conducted for MRF by Norman Analytics and Research, disenfranchised conservative “leaners” are actively eschewing the pervasive national political correctness and gravitating toward unvarnished candidates who are using non-traditional, “politically incorrect’ conservative messaging.

The survey focused on two niche audiences.  The first audience included voters who were modeled to be Republicans yet didn’t vote in either the 2008 or 2012 presidential primary race.  These GOP non-voters were filtered according to their general election history – with pollsters taking the top half of those deemed most likely to vote in 2016 and including them in the survey’s “high propensity” universe.

Obviously this universe is solid gold real estate in the upcoming “First in the South” presidential primary election – scheduled for February 20.

The second audience consisted of voters who cast ballots in either the 2008 or 2012 GOP presidential primary (but not both).  This group of past primary voters wasn’t modeled by party affiliation – but was filtered by general election history and reduced to a group deemed less likely to vote in 2016.

Not surprisingly, campaigns best able to target the first universe – while identifying common themes running across both universes – stand the best chance of not only winning this important primary bellwether, but also of turning out similarly modeled voters in crucial swing states in the 2016 general election.

Who is currently doing both of those jobs better than any other GOP candidate?  Donald Trump.

Trump is backed by 34 percent of likely Palmetto State GOP primary voters in these two groups – positioning him well ahead of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (13 percent), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (12 percent), former Florida governor Jeb Bush (10 percent) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (6 percent).  Including unlikely voters among these demographics, Trump is backed by 20 percent – putting him ahead of Carson (13 percent), Bush and Rubio (9 percent each) and Cruz (7 percent).

“Among both segments identified for this research, Trump is the clear GOP presidential primary frontrunner,” researcher Erin Norman said.  “His support intensifies when the audience is narrowed to likely primary voters and those who say they intensely support their chosen candidate.”

Driving Trump’s support is a strongly held belief that he is willing to speak truths avoided by other politicians.  In fact this perception of Trump cuts across the support of other top GOP candidates – with 62 percent of Marco Rubio supporters and 55 percent of Ben Carson supporters saying they believe Trump is “willing to speak the truth other politicians avoid.”  Only a majority of Jeb Bush supporters feel differently – with 60 percent of them describing Trump as a “loose cannon and not a serious contender.”

Among all respondents, sixty percent of men – and 72 percent of white men with no college degree – embraced Trump as “willing to speak the truth” compared to just 36 percent and 21 percent, respectively, who described him as a “loose cannon.”

Is this perception likely to move voters to the polls, though?  In a word, “yes.”

Telling the truth was the top turnout driver of this universe of South Carolina voters, garnering 73 percent of all mentions and 38 percent of top mentions when voters were asked what was “most likely” to make them “go out on Election Day and support a candidate.”  Next up was foreign affairs (58 percent and 19 percent, respectively) and immigration (47 percent and 10 percent, respectively).

“Having candidates who are willing to speaking in a direct, forthright manner is the best way to drive turnout at the polls,” Norman concluded.  “Sharing views with candidates on foreign policy is also important – and sharing views on immigration is especially important to Trump supporters.”

But voters’ affinity for a candidate who will shoot straight to them cuts across campaign lines.  Big majorities of Rubio supporters (79 percent) and Carson supporters (78 percent) in South Carolina also mentioned truth-telling most frequently when they were asked what would get them to the polls – with 39 percent of Carson backers and 29 percent of Rubio backers listing it as their top mention.

That’s worth watching over the next few weeks as the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary could conceivably further winnow the presidential field heading into South Carolina.   It’s also worth watching as campaigns look to the general election and targeting both of these universes in swing states.

Norman Analytics and Research surveyed 400 registered voters in South Carolina via telephone using live operators from December 4-7.  The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.


Wrong Track Uptick


Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the “wrong track,” according to the latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal polling.  That’s the highest measure of unease since November of 2014 – and one of the highest measures ever recorded.

“In May 1992, after H. Ross Perot had launched his populist independent run for president, 71 percent said the country was on the wrong track,” the Journal reported.  “In September 2007, when frustration with President George W. Bush was peaking, wrong-track sentiment was 63 percent.”

This elevated unease is “giving a lift to antiestablishment candidates and changing the dynamics of the 2016 presidential contest for both parties,” the Journal concluded – referring to the front-running GOP candidacy of Donald Trump and the surprisingly credible Democratic candidacy of independent socialist Bernie Sanders.

Trump and Sanders may represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but they are clearly tapping into a common discontent with the status quo in Washington, D.C.

Market Research Foundation has explored this discontent in several states – including early-voting South Carolina, where recent polling shows Trump enjoying a three-to-one lead over his GOP rivals.

Meanwhile in the 2016 Democratic primary – which until recently was widely viewed as a coronation tour for Hillary Clinton – “Democrats who are proud of their progressive values are filling arenas to hear Sanders speak in a direct manner,” according to H.A. Goodman of The Huffington Post.

Insurgent candidacies are built on pessimism – and right now Trump and Sanders are rallying thousands to their respective banners based on their ability to reach pessimistic voters.  Naturally if pessimism continues to climb, these insurgent candidates will find broader electoral success.


GOP, Economic Populism and Ross Perot


|| By ROBERT ROMANO ||The National Review’s Quin Hillyer had a very interesting piece on May 11 pointing to the Republican voter turnout deficit in 2012 among people Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics described as “largely downscale, Northern, rural whites. In other words, H. Ross Perot voters.”

Here, Hillyer and Trende are pointing to the 2.5 million potential Republican voters who stayed home in 2012, probably costing Mitt Romney the presidency.

Hillyer explains the deficit by pointing to another one: “Romney was crushed, 81–18, on the question of which candidate ‘cares about people like me.’ Despite first appearances, this isn’t merely a touchy-feely ‘empathy’ question. It’s at least as much a question about cultural cues. The key part of the question isn’t cares, but cares about people like me.”

“The same sort of voters left cold (or at best lukewarm) by Romney were enthusiastic about the even wealthier Perot in 1992,” Hillyer added.

But why? Was it cultural differences? Or something else?

Besides the dramatic growth of the national debt, Ross Perot’s big issue in 1992 was opposing the pending North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  He was an economic populist.

In that year’s presidential debate, Perot famously said, “We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It’s pretty simple: If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor … have no health care – that’s the most expensive single element in making a car – have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.”

That message was enough to garner 18.9 percent of the popular vote and bring 19.7 million people to the polls.  Perot’s run almost certainly cost then-President George H.W. Bush any chance at re-election.

That was also the year Pat Buchanan ran for president unsuccessfully in the Republican primary, promising to “stop foreign imports putting guys up here out of jobs.” Although Buchanan did not win a single primary that year, he did manage to garner 2.9 million votes.

Recall also that with the economy still reeling from the recession of 1991, and with unemployment averaging more than 7 percent throughout 1992, jobs were a key issue in the campaign.

So, perhaps, trade was an issue that showed to voters that Perot and Buchanan “care about people like me.” Illegal immigration would be another issue, too, that falls into this category.

In this context, we’re talking about a constituency deeply suspicious of unlimited immigration and trade deals based on past experience, whether it is the drop of manufacturing employment nationwide or the prior no-borders amnesty policies that have been implemented by past administrations.

These deals, then, pose a direct threat to the economic well-being of these voters, and politicians who present themselves in favor of them risk provoking a sense of betrayal that their own government is intent on importing in cheap labor and exporting jobs — to supplant them.

(To continue reading this piece, press the “Read More …” icon below).

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.  This piece (reprinted with permission) originally appeared on


Female Suburban Voters Moved By Economic Impact Of Government Actions


Female suburban voters will switch their electoral preferences quickly “if convinced that policy positions of one set of political actors will directly impact the quality of life of their community,” according to the results of a new Market Research Foundation (MRF) study in Colorado.

The study – which examined the attitudes of “female voters in suburban or exburb communities” – focused on a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Under the rule, the federal government would be granted broad new authority to change local zoning laws in an effort to remedy what it believes to be uneven housing patterns.  Specifically, the rule would result in the placement of “high-density, low-income housing in many of America’s suburban communities.”

The GOP-controlled U.S. House blocked funding for the enforcement of this rule – however the U.S. Senate refused to follow suit.

In conjunction with a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, MRF conducted research in Colorado in an effort to determine how issues like this impacted female suburban and exurb voters.  According to the results, support for the HUD rule among this target demographic was never above 50 percent – but fell through the floor when female voters were confronted with its potential impact on the community.  In fact the drop-off was “even more dramatic when the voters are asked how they would like their Senator to vote on the rule.”

How dramatic?  The test group saw those who supported their Senator’s decision to back the move cut in half – from 43 percent to 21 percent – over a two-month period.  The control group, by contrast, saw a much smaller decline in support – from 46 to 38 percent.

Did these preferences translate into votes?  Colorado has yet to release detailed reporting from the November 4 election (meaning follow-up polling will be necessary to conclusively document the theory), but the MRF survey found a huge shift in voter preference from August to October – including a much more pronounced shift in the test group.

The key takeaway?

“A focus on quality of life, community and personal economic security are far more important to voters than the contrived issues,” the report’s authors noted, adding that “voters can be moved on the basis of a presentation of the facts in a direct manner than circumvents the media.”

“Voters increasingly make their decisions on such independent information,” they added.

To view the report in its entirety, click on the link below.


Virginia Elections: GOP Still Losing Turnout Wars


The 2014 midterm election was a bloodbath for Democrats nationally – but Republicans’ failure to press their advantage cost them a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. According to a new analysis conducted by Market Research Foundation (MRF), Republicans could have gained another seat in the Senate by simply replicating their 2013 gubernatorial victory margins in GOP strongholds.

“Had the GOP simply equaled the victory margin in 2014 that had been achieved in 2013, an additional 22,800 votes would have resulted in the Senate contest going to the GOP,” MRF’s analysis found.

Victory margins in a whopping fifty Republican jurisdictions were lower in 2014 than they were in the 2013 gubernatorial race – despite turnout being the same or higher than it was last November.

“Higher turnout in GOP counties should mean higher GOP net votes and yet it didn’t,” the MRF analysis found.

In Russell County, where Mitt Romney received 67 percent of the vote two years ago, turnout was up by 3 percent yet the GOP victory margin shrank by more than 500 votes (from 2,006 to 1,505).  In Botetourt County, where Romney pulled 68 percent of the vote, turnout was up by 2 percent yet the GOP edge also shrank – from 4,442 to 3,808 votes.

This trend continued in rural counties from Amelia to Salem – turning what should have been a 5,000-vote GOP upset into a narrow 17,000-vote defeat.

What happened?  According to the MRF analysis, the GOP has succeeded in bolstering turnout in key exurb counties – including Chesterfield, Loudon and Hanover – but “fell down in the many smaller, rural counties that in reality form the bedrock of their base.”

Clearly the Democratic turnout machine failed to deliver in 2014 – in Virginia and many other states – but Democrats “retained a toe-hold” in areas of Virginia where the GOP should have been rolling up much bigger margins.

“By minimizing their losses in enemy turf, the Democrats enhance their strengths elsewhere,” the analysis concluded.

According to MRF researchers, voters in the counties where the GOP could have achieved its upset win “are more insular and require more direct contact.”  In other words mass media is unlikely to impact them to the same degree it does in urbanized areas.

To review the data for yourself, click on the link below.


Beyond Partisan Identification


Earlier this year Market Research Foundation (MRF) studied partisan identification in South Carolina – one of the key early-voting states in the quadrennial presidential primary elections.  According to our study the Palmetto State – while reliably Republican in terms of the politicians it elects – is home to a large and independent-minded segment of the electorate that does not particularly relate to either of the two major parties.

This month a new study by Norman Analytics – prepared for MRF – discusses party identification at the national level as the 2014 election heads into its homestretch.  It found a similar independent streak – one that could play a pivotal role come November 4.

“Conventional wisdom tells us that Americans are more politically divided than they have ever been,” the study’s authors note. “In reality, most Americans fall somewhere between the two highly publicized extremes and are increasingly abandoning traditional political party labels even if they share an ideology with Republicans or Democrats.”

The Norman Analytics-MRF study – which surveyed 1,508 Americans between September 9-17 – explored participants’ self-identification by partisan affiliation and ideology.  It further explored specific issues matrices – economic, health care/ education and moral –  to determine how each matrix influenced voting patterns.

In addition to discovering a broad swath of pure partisan independents – 45 percent (a number consistent with Gallup partisan ID polling) – the survey identified a decided rightward lean on economic policy.  Republicans and Independents obviously contributed mightily to this lean, but the days of Democrats touting their “big government” allegiance appear to be drawing to an end.

“Self-Identified Democrats are more likely to support liberal economic policies, but even in this group very few unilaterally support specific liberal economic policies,” the study found.

In fact 31 percent of Democrats broke with their party on the issue of government spending – easily the leading “defection” issue (followed by immigration at 21 percent).  On the flip side, thirty-three percent of Republicans were likely to break from their party’s ranks on the issue of gay marriage.

Needless to say these fractures within the traditional party monoliths – along with the swelling ranks of pure independents – provide a fertile landscape for candidates of both parties.  Obviously the conservative economic lean is a potential boon for GOP candidates, but this data makes clear it will only provide an advantage to the extent Republican campaigns are able to target turnout strategies along ideological lines.

The American public is economically conservative in a time when economic issues reign supreme giving the Republican Party an edge in electoral politics,” the authors noted.  “Although at first glance it appears there is a higher incidence of Democrats in the population, self-identified members of the Democratic Party are more likely to be unenthusiastic or partial defectors from the party platform. After accounting for underlying policy preferences Republicans and Democrats start out with roughly equal size bases and Republicans may actually have a slight advantage.” 

But does this base advantage matter for the GOP if its turnout effort is missing the mark?

“Republican campaigns that engage in aggressive turnout efforts while simultaneously highlighting liberal economic stances of their opponents are very likely to be successful,” the authors conclude, adding that successful campaigns will get voters to “support individual candidates rather than the Republican Party or its entire platform.”

In other words touting the Republican brand may not always be the best way for Republicans to gain ground in the current electoral environment.

To read the study in its entirety, click on the link below …


The GOP “Haircut” Theory

gop haircut


This week Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus sent out a blast email warning GOP voters of an organized Democratic effort to suppress their participation in the upcoming midterm elections.  Dubbed the “GOP haircut,” Priebus is referring to a September 10 memo prepared by Democratic strategist Chris Lehane in which tactics for depressing Republican voter enthusiasm in Florida, Iowa and Michigan are discussed.

“It’s the liberals’ desperate attempt to trim Republican turnout at the polls – to ‘degrade Republican performance’ by ‘dampening Republican enthusiasm levels,'” Priebus wrote of the memo. “By spreading misinformation about Republican candidates, the liberals hope to divide our Party in a last-ditch attempt to save theirs – and to force their far-left agenda on America.”

Lehane’s memo – chronicled by reporter Dave Weigel, among others – is a fascinating look at the emerging field of “electoral depression,” or the science associated with discouraging certain segments of the electorate from showing up at the polls. 

Of particular interest is Lehane’s focus on the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli – a race that has been the subject of extensive research by the Market Research Foundation (MRF).

“Republican turnout in the Tri-County (Virginia) area was impacted as the result of revelations about the Republican nominee’s support for an out-of-state energy company over local landowners – while the Republican vote over-performed throughout Virginia in 2013, the notable exception was the Tri-Counties, which underperformed by approximately 11,000 votes,” Lehane wrote in his memo.

MRF identified this suppression effort – and discussed how the GOP could have more effectively responded to it – months ago.

“More aggressive efforts should have been initiated to counteract the overt suppression tactics of the Democrats,” MRF’s 2013 Virginia turnout report revealed.  “For example, attacks in the coal counties on support by Consul Energy for the GOP ticket needed to be addressed in a more assertive action, by local supporters, not by press statements.”

MRF’s research has gone much deeper than that, though.  In addition to addressing the Democrats’ effective regional “depression” efforts, our reports have also documented the GOP’s inability to play the same game – i.e. its failure to engage locally on exploitable issues that could have had a similar net negative effect on Democratic turnout (as a separate MRF report has revealed).

Most importantly, our research also documented how the GOP defeat in Virginia last year wasn’t merely due to stagnant vote totals in certain regions, but rather a larger failure to generate the level of vote growth needed across-the-board.

“GOP turnout was depressed throughout the state,” our turnout analysis noted. “In those counties and cities dominated by the GOP where overall turnout increased by more than 2 percent over 2009, the GOP ticket garnered less net votes than in 2009. And, in 38 GOP dominate jurisdictions, turnout was essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2009, resulting in lower net gains.”

“It is no overstatement to say the GOP campaign left the victory (on) the table,” the report concluded.

This is not to say the same thing will happen in Florida, Iowa, Michigan – or other states – this year.  It is simply a reminder of the importance of not only identifying where one’s likely or persuadable voters are – but where (and how) they are being targeted, as well.

Do Matters Of Faith Matter To Women In Democratic Strongholds?

Do faith-based appeals to religious females in Democratic strongholds – especially appeals to African-American and Hispanic women – lead to greater turnout among these constituencies?

That’s the question Market Research Foundation posed during the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.

“Religious females in Democrat strongholds are a segment that is overlooked in polling results,” the study observed. “These females tend to be more African- American and Hispanic but the single most important feature is their strong religious faith. The goal was to see if their voting patterns could be influenced by saturating them with a voter guide on where the two gubernatorial candidates stood on faith based issues.”

Were those patterns influenced?  No.  At least not outside the survey’s margins.

“The test group did vote a few percentage points higher,” the researchers reported, although they added “the movement cannot be determined as statistically significant.”

“It is safe to state that religious women in Democrat strongholds do not consider faith when making determinations on whether voting is or is not important,” the study concluded.

To see the results for yourself, click on the link below …