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.


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.”


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 NetRightDaily.com.


Big Data Is Back!


Labor and Tory leaders in Great Britain have retained the services of senior Barack Obama campaign strategists in an effort to duplicate the data-driven success of his two victorious presidential campaigns.

According to analyst David Richards – writing for Tech City News – party leaders have come to realize “the ability to collect and analyse publically available data on a large scale allowed the Obama team to model behaviors before coordinating and targeting communications accordingly.”

This gave Obama’s campaign – which had bigger electronic and social media databases – invaluable insight into which messages were more likely to motivate people to go to the polls and cast their ballots.

“Not only did they have voters’ email address, they also had phone numbers, where they were registered to vote, a decent estimate of their household income and whether they’d opened a credit card recently,” Richards report noted.  “Obama’s camp knew how many children voters were likely to have and what they did for a living. And he knew what time of day people tended to get around to plowing through emails and respond to messages.”

Polls in Great Britain show an exceedingly tight race – with the distinct possibility of a hung parliament.  A YouGov poll found the Labor and Tory parties tied at 34 percent support, while a TNS poll had the Tories ahead by just one percentage point (well within the margin of error).

“Analytics can also make each pound work harder, with parties better able to focus on targeting the voters they need, helping limit overspending,” Richards added.  “Imagine that 10 seats will decide the election – by knowing where seats these are and what issues will sway the electorate, parties can save a fortune in terms of pound-per-vote spending.”

Will “big data” deliver the day for one party or the other?  Or will the efforts of the Obama election scientists cancel each other out?

Tory leaders enjoyed a decisive financial advantage down the homestretch, out-raising Labor by a 10-to-1 margin over the final week of the election.

Will they target those resources effectively – using “big data?”

We’ll find out soon …


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.




2014: Latino Turnout Plummeted


We know turnout was down in 2014.  To be precise, it took a historic nosedive – plummeting to levels not seen in nearly three-quarters of a century.  But we also know about the rapid ascendance of Latino voters – most of whom vote Democratic.  Wasn’t this rising tide supposed to help gird against this pervasive lack of voter enthusiasm?

How could it not?  After all, a recent Pew Hispanic Center report found that two out of every five new voters in America over the next decade-and-a-half are projected to be Latino voters – which would raise the Hispanic voting population from 23.7 million to 40 million.  The Latino voting bloc was “an awakened giant,” the report’s authors concluded.

But did that giant drift of to sleep last November?  UCLA professor Matt A. Barreto – co-founder of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions – has the answer.

“While turnout was generally low in 2014, among Latino registered voters it was even lower,” Barreto reported this week.

In fact Barreto’s firm released the following “turnout table” showing the drop-off …


This decline had a considerable electoral impact, too.

“Latino turnout in Florida was only 36.5 percent compared to 50.5 percent statewide,” Barreto wrote. “In 2010, Census data suggest the Latino turnout rate was roughly equal to non-Latino turnout in Florida. In 2014, there was a significant decline in Latino turnout in Florida. In fact, if Latino turnout rate had been equivalent to the statewide average–as it was in 2010–an additional 276,000 Latino votes would have been cast. Given the Florida Governor’s election was decided by just 64,000 votes, those additional 276,000 Latino votes could have proved critical.”

Barreto also cited the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, which saw Republican challenger Cory Gardner defeat Democrat Mark Udall by roughly 40,000 votes (out of more than two million ballots cast).

“Latino turnout was 54.8 percent compared to 71.3 percent statewide among active registered voters in 2014,” Barreto wrote.  “Had Latino turnout been equivalent to the statewide average about 52,000 additional Latino votes would have been cast.”

What drove this nationwide decline?  Barreto doesn’t speculate on specific issues.  In some cases he said the drop-offs resulted from too few competitive statewide races, while in other instances he cited “a lack of effort in mobilizing and connecting with the Latino electorate.”

“Few Americans will rush to the polling booth if they don’t think the candidates care about their community or issues important to them,” he wrote.  “Or if they don’t see much differentiation between the two options. This is not to say that no 2014 candidates cared about Latinos, certainly many did; or that there were not stark differences between their issues, certainly there were. Rather, the data here suggest that candidates in 2014 did not do a good enough job convincing Latino voters that they truly cared, or that they would stand for their issues.”

That’s true – and it’s something strategists in both parties will be parsing in advance of the 2016 cycle in an effort to separate state-by-state anomalies from a broader national trend.


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.