Category Archives: Most Recent Insights

Get Ready To Reboot!


San Francisco, California plays host this weekend to the second annual “Reboot” conference – a gathering of liberty-minded technology advocates from all across the country.  According to event organizers, this year’s conference will “focus on bringing together the best and brightest from the tech and political worlds to solve the problems facing both.”

Reboot is sponsored by Lincoln Labs, an organization whose objective is “to create and support a community of like-minded individuals who desire to advance liberty in the public square with the use of technology.”

‘We started with small events in San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” the group explains on its website.  “We were amazed at the response. Our first events spread like wildfire in the technology community. Hundreds of techies and young professionals came out of the woodwork to connect and build a community. A few months later, we were hosting events all around the country to replicate the growing community in Silicon Valley.”

One of the keynote speakers this year is Ajit Pai, a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who has been a consistently outspoken advocate for internet freedom – and a leading critic of the Obama administration’s attempts to over-regulate the web.

“Do you trust the federal government to make the Internet ecosystem more vibrant than it is today?” Pai said earlier this year.

Pai will be joined at Reboot by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon and Fred Upton of Michigan.  Walden is the chairman of the House subcommittee on communications and technology, while Upton is chairman of the energy and commerce committee.

The conference will also include numerous panel discussions featuring rising stars in the political technology industry – focusing on the ongoing evolution of campaigning and activism in the digital age.

Market Research Foundation will be attending the “Reboot” Conference.  Check back soon for a recap from the event …


Nevada: The (Latino) Bellwether


Since joining the union on October 31, 1864, libertarian-leaning Nevada has picked the president in 31 of 38 national elections – prompting University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) professor David Damore to refer to it as “the original swing state.”

Nevada and its six electoral votes are in play again in the 2016 election – and could be decisive in a close contest.  With its surging Hispanic population, Nevada has become a force to be reckoned with at the national level.

“The Silver State” has maintained its swing status despite dramatic demographic shifts.

Twenty years ago, nine out of ten Nevada voters was white.  In the coming election, one in five is expected to be Hispanic.  Latino turnout in Nevada is likely to be especially high during the 2016 cycle because in addition to a competitive national election – there are Hispanic candidates on both U.S. Senate (Catherine Cortez Masto) and U.S. congressional ballots.

The opportunity to make inroads isn’t lost on top tier candidates.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, for example, has hired Emmy Ruiz and Jorge Neri – two operatives who helped Barack Obama score a whopping 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

Meanwhile GOP candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been aggressively touting their Latino credentials.  Bush, for example, received the support of 61 percent of Latino voters during his 1998 gubernatorial race in Florida while Rubio won 55 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote in a three-way race in 2010.

Of course Bush and Rubio enjoyed success with Latino electorates that were disproportionately Cuban. Nationally, there are only an estimated 2 million Cuban-Americans – whereas there are more than 31 million Mexican-Americans.

And more than half of the United States’ Cuban-American population resides in Florida.

In other words Bush, Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz – a Cuban-American who got roughly 35 percent of the Lone Star State’s Hispanic vote in 2012 – must craft their outreach plans to account for a diverse Latino electorate.

According to 2010 data, two-thirds of Nevada’s Hispanic population had Mexican roots, while seven percent hailed from Central America and six percent came from the Caribbean.  Another 16 percent did not specify their Latino roots.

Can the GOP find a way to connect with this traditionally Democratic voting bloc?  Can its candidates capitalize on the 200,000 voting age Hispanics in Nevada who are currently not registered to vote?

Depending on how tight the national election is, their success or failure in doing so could conceivably decide which party wins the White House.


2016: Go Big? Or Go Base?

Every 2016 contender with a shot at the general election has an important question to answer: Go big? Or go base?

Should a campaign focus on building new constituencies? Or turning out existing ones?  From this elemental decision flows the entire operation: Data, money, policy and rhetoric.

David Brooks has an interesting column out this week exploring how the current crop of 2016 frontrunners are answering this question.  Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for example, is “going big.”  Wisconsin governor Scott Walker?  He’s “going base.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is “going base” – in a big way.

“Clinton strategists have decided that, even in the general election, firing up certain Democratic supporters is easier than persuading moderates,” Brooks wrote.  “Clinton will adopt left-leaning policy positions carefully designed to energize the Obama coalition – African-Americans, Latinos, single women and highly educated progressives.”

According to Brooks, Clinton’s approach is bad for the country (in terms of polarization), bad for her legislative future (i.e. reaching across the aisle) and bad for her image as a leading (in that it makes her appear calculating).

But he also argues it’s bad for Clinton politically, citing her husband’s 1992 win, George Bush’s 2000 victory and Barack Obama’s 2008 election as examples of campaigns which all “went big.”  And won big.

“Today’s political consultants have a lot of great tools to turn out reliable voters,” Brooks wrote.  “They’re capable of creating amazing power points. But as everybody from Ed Miliband to Mark Udall can tell you, this approach has not succeeded at the ballot box.  Voters want better politics, not a continuation of the same old techniques.  By adopting base mobilization, Clinton seems to have made the first big decision of her presidential campaign. It’s the wrong one.”


Tea Party Disconnect In South Carolina


A new presidential poll in South Carolina explores attitudes among the state’s Republican electorate toward the Tea Party – the political movement which rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election.

According to the poll – conducted by Winthrop University – an overwhelming majority of GOP primary voters in this staunchly Republican state do not consider themselves to be members of the Tea Party.  However by more than a 2-to-1 margin, GOP primary voters say they approve of the movement.

“Its popularity appears to be on the rise in South Carolina,” Winthrop’s pollsters noted.

A whopping 81.4 percent of GOP voters said they were not Tea Party members – compared to only 13.9 percent who said they were.  But 49.4 percent of those same Republican voters said they approved of the Tea Party, while only 20.4 percent disapproved.  Fully 30 percent of GOP primary voters said they “weren’t sure” or “not familiar enough” with the movement to have an opinion.

What does this data mean?

Well, Market Research Foundation (MRF) has previously explored the early-voting Palmetto State’s fiercely independent streak – and these results would seem to confirm those findings.  And not just as it relates to the self-identification and approval numbers, either, but also the receptiveness of primary voters to candidates who are seen as favorites of the Tea Party.

For example, Ted Cruz (43.2 percent) and Rand Paul (42.5 percent) scored fourth and fifth among SCGOP voters in terms of Republican candidates they would consider voting for.

The Winthrop poll surveyed 956 South Carolina residents by landline and cell phones between April 4-12.  The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.  To view the results for yourselves, click on the link below.




The Oregon Experiment


Oregon has become the first state in the nation to adopt automatic voter registration – a move expected to immediately add 300,000 new people to the state’s voter rolls.

Unlike the federal “motor voter” law – which required states to offer voter registration to individuals receiving or updating their drivers’ licenses – Oregon is taking things a step further by registering any adult who has had any interaction with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles since 2013.  Under the new law signed by governor Kate Brown, these adults will receive a post card in the mail informing them they have been registered to vote as independents (they can respond with their chosen party affiliation, if they wish).  Unless they “opt out” within three weeks, their name will remain on the voter rolls.

Seventy-three percent of Oregon’s adult population is already registered to vote – one of the highest rates in America.  And seventy percent of them cast ballots in last fall’s general election.  Oregon’s aim?  Universal voter registration.  Currently 2.2 million adult residents of the state are registered to vote – with an estimated 860,000 adults eligible, but unregistered.  The state’s new law aims to whittle that number down to zero – or as close to zero as possible.

Automatic voter registration is rife with controversy – most notably as it relates to privacy concerns and the potential for expanded voter fraud.  While those are vitally important discussions, our job at Market Research Foundation (MRF) is to assess how the law will impact the state’s electorate.

How will the “Oregon experiment” pan out in that regard?  Most analysts believe automatic registration will help Democrats by boosting turnout (especially among younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic, yet less likely to be registered).  Of course many believed Colorado’s “vote-by-mail” plan would help Democrats – but the GOP managed several key victories in the Centennial State last fall.

Also recent research shows that non-voters – while demographically very different than their voting peers – share many of the same views.  That includes hot-button national issues like immigration and health care.

Bottom line? The Oregon experiment – however it pans out politically – will be a gold mine for researchers, providing a treasure trove of new data on the political leanings of the non-voting electorate.


What’s A “Conservative?”


Politics is all about labels – and one of the most popular labels in U.S. politics over the past few decades has been “conservative.”  What does it mean for a candidate or elected official to be “conservative?”  We’ll leave that to the pundits and – ultimately – to the voters to decide.  Our focus?  Learning more about voters who call themselves “conservative.”

Recently the Pew Center revealed five key facts about “consistent conservatives” – or the nine percent of the U.S. electorate (and 20 percent of the Republican Party electorate) occupying the ideological right flank of the center’s political polarization scale.

What are those facts?  According to the Pew Center’s Drew DeSilva, they are as follows …


Nearly 80 percent of consistent conservatives “always vote,” and half have contacted an elected official within the past two years.  Meanwhile 26 percent have donated money, 24 percent have attended a political event and 12 percent have volunteered on a campaign.  Each of those numbers outpaces every other ideological group.


Consistent conservatives comprised an estimated 17 percent of the midterm electorate in 2014.  Given that they constitute nine percent of likely voters, that level of turnout means they essentially doubled their impact on the race – which contributed mightily to the GOP sweep.


By a ten-to-one margin, consistent conservatives would rather live in a rural area than in a city – if it were up to them.  Forty-one percent chose a rural area compared to four percent who chose a city.  Meanwhile 35 percent said they would choose to live in a small town.  Conversely, 46 percent of consistent liberals said they would choose to live in a city compared to 11 percent who preferred a rural location.


Nearly 60 percent of consistent conservatives said religious faith was an important trait to teach children.  That’s twice the average for all ideological groups – further proof social conservatism continues to be an important driver within the broader conservative movement.


Forty-seven percent of consistent conservatives said Fox News was their main source of information about government and politics – nearly four times the average for all ideological groups.  Meanwhile 88 percent of consistent conservatives said they trusted Fox News – the highest score any outlet received from any group.  Also of note, 11 percent of consistent conservatives said local talk radio was their primary news source – nearly three times the average for all groups.


Hey Campaigns: Put It On Camera!

As part of its ongoing research into what motivates people to make (or not make) certain choices in the political arena, Market Research Foundation (MRF) keeps a close eye on social media trends.  These emerging mediums – like the internet itself in decades past – are changing the way campaigns are run.

One medium that’s often overlooked in the relentless parsing of trends related to Facebook and Twitter? YouTube – the web’s preeminent video sharing platform.

As YouTube celebrates it’s tenth anniversary this week, some truly stunning data on the emergence of video sharing on the web has been compiled by the Pew Center.  Among the findings?

  • Three-in-ten adults (31 percent) uploaded a video to the web in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2009.
  • With 63 percent of internet users accessing it, YouTube is the second largest social networking site behind Facebook (77 percent).
  • Young adult (82 percent), black (76 percent) and Hispanic (74 percent) internet users are more likely to use YouTube than older (34 percent) or white (57 percent) users.

These data points ought to be kept squarely in mind as campaigns prepare their messages for social media consumption – and determine how (and who) should deliver certain messages.

The main takeaway? Put it on camera!  Written statements can certainly be plenty impactful, but getting your candidate or issues advocate to deliver their messages via video is indispensable in breaking through to broader audiences.  And while video clips won’t always be practical every time you’re looking to disseminate a message, the relative ease with which such “movies” can be produced, edited and uploaded makes them almost as easy to prepare as a standard press release.

Uploading these clips with a picture of the candidate or issues advocate lends a personal touch to the ensuing posts, while the video delivery not only personalizes the message – but better conveys tone and emphasis.  And of course let’s not forget the whole point of the effort – taking advantage of the demographic breadth (and audience depth) of video sharing sites like YouTube.

Tired of your campaign or organization’s messages being glossed over?  Put it on camera!


The Demographics Of Social Media

Usage of social media continues to be ubiquitous in our country – but to fully understand (and effectively engage) the medium, it’s important to identify how people use these platforms. For example, Market Research Foundation (MRF) recently addressed the breakdown in political usage on popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter – using data from the Pew Center.

But every bit as important as the “how” is the “who” – and this week the same researchers have released results from a 2014 study seeking to determine distinctions in social media usage among different ethnicities.

We know majorities of blacks, Latinos and whites use Facebook – and big chunks of all demographics use various other social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.).  But within the universe of social media activity are important trend lines worth noting – and capitalizing on from a campaign standpoint.

For example, according to the new Pew data, 38 percent of online blacks and 34 percent of online Hispanics use Instagram – compared to just 21 percent of online whites.  However 32 percent of online whites use Pinterest – compared to 21 percent of online Hispanics and 12 percent of online blacks.  These varying usage statistics are important to bear in mind in message crafting and delivery – whether you’re selling internet service or ideology.

As for the broader universe?  It continues to grow – with Facebook dominating the landscape.

“Today, about eight-in-ten Latino, black and white adults who are online use at least one of five social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter,” Pew’s researchers noted.  “Among these, Facebook stands out as the most widely used platform, regardless of race or ethnicity: About seven-in-ten adult internet users (71 percent) say they use the site.”


The Politics Of Self-Reliance


Self-reliance used to be a central component of the American experience – part of our national identity.  Once upon a time, there was an almost universal acknowledgment that the dream rooted in this country’s founding was available to anyone willing to work for it.

And so people worked.  And not only that, they took pride in their work – and in the provision it afford both themselves and their families.

But the point of this post isn’t to discuss how things have changed – or to wax nostalgic about bygone eras.  That’s someone else’s job.  Our job is to discuss how the issue of self-reliance impacts the American voter.

According to a new study prepared by Norman Analytics and Research, self-reliance has the potential to be a political winner.

“On four individual self-reliance topics, a majority of Americans favor self-sufficiency,” the study found.  “However, only 30 percent favor self-reliance across all four dimensions. Still, there is more support for self-reliance compared to dependence on others; just 15 percent of Americans never favored the self-reliant option across all four dimensions.”

The study also found that self-reliance was “closely related to self-identified political party” affiliation.

Republicans were much more likely to be supporters of self-reliance (62 percent), compared to Democrats who were disproportionately in favor of collective societal responsibility (62 percent).

Yet while only 38 percent of Democrats were classified as supporters of self-reliance, “a majority of all Democrats support certain philosophies of independence such as lowering individual taxes and excessive government control and waste,” the study found.

The bottom line?  Supporting policies which encourage self-reliance (and/ or incorporating themes which stress self-reliance into one’s political messaging) is a great way for campaigns to gain ground up and down the political spectrum.

“A majority of Americans from all party affiliations lean toward self-reliance so a focus on these issues can simultaneously keep self-identified Republicans from defecting and create doubt in the mind of Democrats,” the study concluded.

To view the results of the Norman Analytics and Research survey for yourself, click on the link below …



2015: Independents’ Post-Election Shift


The 2014 midterm election saw a return to partisanship among certain segments of the U.S. electorate – although these converts appear to be shifting back to the “independent” banner as 2015 rolls around.

In early October 2014, Gallup’s partisan identification index saw the percentage of U.S. voters identifying as independents dip below 40 percent for the first time since May 2013.  Meanwhile the percentage of self-identified Republican voters reached the thirty percent threshold for the first time since November 2012.  Last October – with the election a year away – the numbers weren’t so encouraging for the GOP.  Independents were at 47 percent, while GOP self-identification had dipped to 20 percent.

Even two months before Election Day, GOP self-identifiers comprised only 25 percent of the electorate – roughly equal to Democrats.  Independents were once again at 47 percent.

What happened?  Obviously “an election,” one in which voters – or at least some of them – were compelled to make a choice.

Having chosen, they are now reverting back to their pre-election ideological orientation.  In the aftermath of the 2014 vote, Gallup’s partisan identification index has seen the percentage of independents climb from 35 percent to 41 percent – while the percentage of Republicans has dropped from 33 percent to 28 percent.

Will this shift become more pronounced in 2015 (as it did during the last non-election year)?  Or can one of the two major parties break through with a message that resonates – thus raising their party ID baseline on a consistent basis?  And if so, what sort of message would drive the uptick?

Count on Market Research Foundation (MRF) to continue providing both empirical and analytical observations on these questions in the coming year …