The Independent Vote …

… AND WHY THE GOP MUST DO MORE THAN JUST WIN IT

Mitt Romney won more than 50 percent of the independent vote in 2012 – the first Republican presidential nominee to hit that threshold in nearly a quarter century. It didn’t matter, though, because far too small a percentage of the partisan electorate (a.k.a. non-independents) identified as “Republican.”

A new analysis of independents conducted by Voter Gravity lays bare the challenge facing the GOP …

“The Republican Party will have to either substantially increase the number of Americans that identify with the party or gain an even greater share of the independent vote if it wishes to remain competitive at the national level,” the study concludes.

Prepared by University of Alabama political scientist Dr. George Hawley, the Voter Gravity study is loaded with data every 2014 campaign should take to heart. For example, it notes that “canvassers who ask for party identification should always ask independents whether they lean toward one of the major parties.”

Why? Because independents who lean Democratic are for all practical purposes partisan Democrats – whereas independents who lean Republican are more likely to be “pure” independents. Failing to accurately gauge the distinction could lead to fatally flawed data – and lost elections.

Hawley’s Voter Gravity study also explores the “attention gap” those campaigns seeking to lure independents must confront.

“Your typical independent is not closely monitoring political news, and likely has little interest in overly wonkish discussions about specific policies,” the study reveals.

Independents are also all over the map when it comes to economic and social issues – supporting tax increases on wealthier income earners to lower the deficit yet opposing additional spending on welfare programs.

“On many policy issues, independents are split down on the middle. On others, they are majority conservative or majority liberal,” the study found.

To view the Voter Gravity results for yourself, click on the link below …

POLITICAL INDEPENDENTS (Voter Gravity)

GOP’s “Black Outreach” Faces Daunting Odds

There’s an article out this month from Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins detailing efforts by national Republicans to mitigate their longstanding inability to attract black voters.

“The RNC has hired at least 42 black and Latino field representatives, spreading them across the country in key states with the mandate to lay a permanent groundwork for future Republican candidates,” Coppins reports. “They have recruited local surrogates, identified sympathetic business organizations and churches, and organized grassroots voter contacting. At the national level, (RNC Chairman Reince) Priebus has spoken at black colleges and given interviews to minority media outlets, preaching a gospel of inclusion and diversity.”

Will it work? Recent results would indicate the GOP faces long odds.

Market Research Foundation has conducted extensive research and analysis in the wake of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election – which took place months after the GOP announced its latest “outreach” efforts. The Virginia race produced a mass mobilization of black voters in key Democratic strongholds – boosting black turnout by 25 percent from the previous gubernatorial election (actually matching the 2012 black turnout for Barack Obama’s reelection).

Blacks voted 9-to-1 in favor of Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe – carrying him to a narrow win over GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

Over the last half century, black support for Republican presidential candidates has never topped 15 percent. And even with high black unemployment and stagnant income growth in 2012, black voters still turned out in droves for Obama. In fact for the first time in history, black turnout as a percentage of eligible voters topped white turnout (66.2 to 64.1 percent) in the last election – and only six percent of those voters chose Mitt Romney.

That’s the definition of monolithic …

The Monica Factor

The reemergence of Monica Lewinsky on the political stage presents an interesting dilemma for election scientists – presuming of course former U.S. First Lady/ Senator/ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016 (as she is expected to do).

Lewinsky’s recent spread in Vanity Fair prompted all sorts of discussion: Was she re-entering the limelight to hurt Clinton’s chances? Or was she trying to help her?

Clinton is the clear frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and early polling from swing states like Ohio shows why: According to a new Quinnipaic University survey of Ohio voters conducted between May 7-12, Clinton leads every one of her likely prospective GOP challengers in a head-to-head matchup.

Currently she enjoys margins of …

  • 48 – 39 percent over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush;
  • 47 – 40 percent over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida;
  • 49 – 41 percent over U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky;
  • 46 – 38 percent over N.J. Gov. Christopher Christie;
  • 48 – 41 percent over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin;
  • 51 – 37 percent over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas;
  • 49 – 41 percent over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Clinton has had her ups and downs in national polls over the previous two decades.

“On four separate occasions over the past 20 years, Clinton’s favorability ratings have fallen sharply – but each time they recovered,” a 2012 analysis conducted by the Pew Center noted. “It is rare for a political figure to accomplish that feat once in a career, much less four times.”

Of particular interest as it relates to the reemergence of Lewinsky? The tremendous uptick in popularity enjoyed by Clinton during her husband Bill Clinton’s 1998 sex scandal. At the peak of the Lewinsky drama in March 1998, Clinton’s favorable/ unfavorable margin stood at a whopping 65-31 percent. Not only that, they remained above 60 percent for the duration of the year – even as her husband was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

So does any mention of Lewinsky translate into a boost of support for Clinton? Not necessarily – but you can bet pollsters at all points along the political spectrum are currently endeavoring to determine how “The Monica Factor” could impact their preferred candidates or causes.

“Victory Lab” Author Discusses Democrats 2014 Chess Moves

Last week I wrote a column on this website assessing Republican over-ebullience in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. I based my analysis on Market Research Foundation (MRF) research done in Virginia during the 2013 gubernatorial election – another race which portended high GOP and independent turnout and depressed Democratic intensity.

That’s not what happened, though.

In Virginia, Democrats engaged in a concerted effort to boost African-American turnout above 2009 levels – when the black vote represented 16 percent of the electorate. They succeeded – matching the 2012 presidential election mark of 20 percent. Black voters comprised 37 percent of Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s vote total – choosing him by a 9-to-1 margin, according to exit polling.

MRF’s research showed how the black vote was boosted dramatically in Richmond City, Norfolk, Newport News, Petersburg and other Democratic strongholds – giving McAuliffe his margin of victory. This research also unearthed equally effective Democratic techniques (usually involving negative attacks) which successfully suppressed GOP turnout in reliably Republican regions. Additionally, the GOP missed many opportunities to effectively capitalize on local issues with potential ideological symmetry – an increasingly fertile ground for picking up new votes.

I concluded that these same tactics – mass African-American mobilization combined with suppression of the GOP vote via negative attacks – will be employed in 2014 on a much broader scale. And possibly with similar perception-defying results.

This contention was lent fresh expression in a New Republic piece published this week. Written by Sasha Issenberg – author of The Victory Lab – the article is entitled “How The Democrats Can Avoid Going Down This November.”

Issenberg’s sprawling piece delves into the scientific advances Democrats have made on the turnout front, including detailed lists of their voters who turn out for presidential races but not midterms. According to Issenberg, party strategists not only have these voters’ names but also “guidance on where, how, and when they can be reached,” which evidently includes “predictive models to anticipate which voters are most likely to actually open and read their mail.”

“The midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments,” Issenberg writes. “Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.”

Issenberg also delves into how Democratic agenda items are being used to blunt GOP turnout – not drive up its own numbers, as the legacy media have led us to believe. Take the minimum wage – an issue MRF has written about previously.

“Obama and his party’s candidates talk about the minimum wage in the hope that working-class whites skeptical of Democrats on other matters will become more ambivalent about voting Republican,” Issenberg notes.

A renewed focus on women’s issues falls under the same category: It’s not about turning out Democratic voters, it’s about keeping GOP voters at home.

No matter what the legacy media says, Issenberg’s reveal of the Democrats’ 2014 game plan – combined with MRF’s 2013 work in Virginia – should give Republican strategists pause as they assess their midterm prospects.

“The New Science Of Democratic Survival”

(The following excerpt appeared in the April 27, 2014 editions of New Republic in a story written by reporter Sasha Issenberg).

In late February, Barack Obama stood before a room of his party’s governors at a Washington fund-raiser and offered a new explanation for the Republican rout that claimed the jobs of more than 750 Democratic officeholders around the country in 2010. At the time, the president had described the outcome, simply and indelibly, as a “shellacking,” but here he ventured a deeper analysis. “We know how to win national elections,” he told the crowd. “But all too often it’s during these midterms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble, because I guess we don’t think it’s sexy enough.”

Beyond the narcissism implied—the suggestion that any ballot without his name on it lacks a certain magnetism—Obama was onto something. Current conventional wisdom holds that Democrats’ prospects this November are grim. After the obligatory acknowledgment that the party in the White House almost always loses ground in off-year elections, the most commonly cited reasons are situational—the botched Obamacare rollout, a zealous conservative base, the fact that these midterms follow a redistricting process largely controlled by Republicans, the preponderance of competitive Senate races in states that lean red. And yet Obama’s diagnosis of Democrats’ midterm woes comes closer to the truth. The party is suffering from a chronic condition, not a short-term malaise.In fact, the very phenomenon that sustained Obama’s own victories is the one that may doom his party in midterm elections for the rest of his life. The dynamic so cripples Democrats’ off-year performance that in 2018, a President Jeb Bush or Rand Paul could see Republicans actually pick up seats.

A decade ago, Obama memorably rebutted the trope that the United States could be neatly cleaved into a red and a blue America that pits coastal liberals against inland traditionalists. But in one very measurable and consequential sense, there are two Americas. There is the America that votes in presidential elections, which has helped Democrats win the popular vote in five out of the last six cycles and supports the view that Hillary Clinton can continue that streak should she run. Then there is the America that votes more regularly, casting ballots in both presidential and midterm years, which led to the Republican wave in 2010 and gives its party’s leaders reason to be so sanguine about their odds this time around.

(To continue reading, CLICK HERE …)

Don’t Believe The Spin: 2014 Elections Are Far From Settled

By Bill Wilson

In recent weeks the media has been flooded with stories predicting a Republican sweep in the 2014 mid-term elections. Every prognosticator, soothsayer, and aspiring pollster has written about the impending doom for Democrats. And, while it may be comforting to read for those who are repulsed by the Obama Administration and their never-ending stream of regulations and disregard of the law to suit their own ends, it may be a bit too soon to start the celebration.

Simply put, most of the polling is based on a turnout model that resembles the 2010 mid-term elections. And, to some extent, this may be justified. Many Democrat-leaning groups are tired and upset. Obamacare is a dismal failure no matter how much gloss NBC tries to put on it. The amateurish foreign policy of the current regime is truly scary to everyone. And Obama’s most loyal followers are mired in high unemployment, reduced welfare spending instead of sky-rocketing increases, and a general sense of being ignored.

So, conventional wisdom would dictate high GOP turnout, low Democrat turnout, and an angry – almost hostile – independent turnout. This, naturally, would translate into massive GOP wins come November. But these same conditions existed in Virginia just six months ago, although at a lower intensity level. The “turnout models” all projected a strong GOP mood. What happened to tip the scales to the Democrat and could it happen again in 2014?

The answer, as bone-chilling as it may be to the Republican cheering squad – is an unequivocal “Yes.” Consider a few facts from Virginia. In the eleven jurisdictions with the highest concentrations of African-American voters, overall turnout in 2013 increased significantly. In these counties and cities, there is no question as to the margin of victory – it will always be heavily Democratic. The only question is as to the overall turnout figure.

So, Richmond City saw its turnout increase from 38.2 percent in 2009 to 45.3 percent in 2013. The GOP lost the governor’s mansion by 56,000 votes. But they lost Richmond City by 33,000 votes. The story is the same in Norfolk, Newport News, Petersburg, and in the other jurisdictions with high black vote.

All together, the Democrat ticket won the 11 jurisdictions by a plurality of 228,000 votes and just barely hung on to win by a mere 56,000 votes.

While the Democrat bastions were turning out in huge numbers, the Republican areas were voting at exactly the “model” of 2009. Most of the GOP counties voted at the same level, give or take a point or two. And, the GOP was still winning “their counties” by 60 percent or more of the vote. It was just that not as many people turned out.

My favorite, and clearest cut, example is Lee County in the far southwest corner of the Commonwealth. The GOP won in 2013 with 73 percent of the vote and had a margin of 2,327 votes. But just a year earlier, Mitt Romney won the county by 71 percent of the vote and a margin of 4,254. In 2013, only 31 percent of the registered voters in Lee County turned out. Had they voted at the state average of 45 percent, it would have meant another 1,000 net votes for the GOP ticket. Now, multiply this result in little, far-away Lee County by the 45 jurisdictions that the GOP won but where turnout was either the same of less than it had been in 2009 and it becomes readily apparent what happened.

The GOP was working on the assumption that turnout would be what it has always been in governor election-years. And, in Republican areas it was. But in Democrat strongholds, it was not; it was radically increased. Nobody saw what was being done. Nobody at the time claimed to comprehend what the Democratic operatives were doing. In fact, there were a number of stories about how difficult it was for the grassroots operatives to motivate African-American voters and the resistance they faced. One must now assume that these stories were well-placed disinformation designed to lull the GOP into a false sense of turnout-security.

One other element of the Democrat campaign must be noted – their active and aggressive effort to suppress the GOP vote. One could argue that their entire “war against women” theme was nothing more than an attempt to make women feel uncomfortable expressing their views in support of the GOP ticket.

It is now well known that married women voted for the Republicans. What is not as well known is that if you only consider Asian and white single women, the GOP did well too. Once ethnicity is taken into account, the gender gap evaporates. Where the “single women” were lost was among African-Americans and to a lesser extent Hispanics. It is far more likely these voters were motivated by considerations other then the hyped-up, made-up “war against women.”

Other suppression efforts were visible in the GOP-rich coal counties, in Republican areas like Virginia Beach City, and in the entire thrust of the Democrat campaign. It is a well-known political truism that negative advertising reduces overall turnout. From the very beginning, the McAuliffe campaign was one negative slur after another.

So the entire Democrat strategy, field tested in Virginia, can be summed up neatly: Suppress GOP leaning voters through negativity and nastiness while doing whatever is necessary to turn out high percentages of identified Democratic vote, especially African-Americans. Since there is apparently no need to convince the black vote on which lever to pull, all that is required is getting them to the polls.

Viewed in this context, Republicans should be more reserved in their predictions. And, the free-media should ignore the propagandists who want to, again, lull the GOP into a sense of false security. The legacy-media will do what they are told, it is all they know to do. But those who want to see a different outcome should not help them.

Any candidate or consultant that looks to the last mid-term election as guidance on turnout and tactics will regret it. The terms and parameters of the “permanent campaign” dictate a total re-evaluation.

Bill Wilson is the chairman of the Market Research Foundation, a non-partisan, research and education foundation that seeks better understanding of public opinion and factors motivating that opinion.

Is There Anything Beyond “Obamacare Is Bad?”

Barack Obama’s health care law is shaping up to be a major millstone around the neck of the Democratic Party in the upcoming midterm election – of that there is no doubt.

A Fox News poll released this week highlights the depth of the problem: Among independents, candidates who oppose Obamcare are preferred by a sizable 54-29 percent margin. Among all general election voters, anti-Obamacare candidates are preferred 53-39 percent. Intensity among independents is also high on the issue – with 72 percent saying the issue will be an “important factor” in their decision.

Add it all up and it’s easy to see why the GOP is salivating at the prospect of expanding its advantage in the U.S. House and possibly taking over the U.S. Senate come November.

Of course the election is still many months away – and there is data to suggest that the GOP is missing a major opportunity on the health care issue by failing to offer a plan of its own (or at least allowing the perception to continue that the party has no plan of its own).

Even though GOP leaders like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have offered detailed health care plans to replace Obamacare, voters do not trust the GOP on health care. According to an April Reuters/ Ipsos poll, nearly a third of respondents “said they prefer Democrats’ plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans.”

One fifth of respondents said they weren’t sure which party had a better plan, while another fifth of respondents said neither party had a better plan.

Those numbers highlight the fundamental dilemma for the GOP heading into November: Do its candidates rally around specific health care reforms in the hopes of winning public trust on the issue? Or do they say nothing of their own plans and continue to bang the drum against Obamacare – hoping for another wave of protest at the polls?

Clearly there is risk in presenting ideas – as Jindal discovered when his plan to offer a $100 billion “innovation fund” to states that guaranteed protection for preexisting conditions drew fire from both the right and the left. Jindal’s plan was generally well-received, but many in the GOP believe Democrats should be allowed to continue hammering them for “not having a plan” – believing such a line of attack to be less effective that specific salvos against potentially unpopular proposals.

“In an environment in which everything can be manipulated, why give your opponent something to manipulate?” one Republican policy analyst told the Market Research Foundation (MRF).

Whether the GOP offers anything beyond “Obamacare is bad” could be the defining question of the 2014 midterm – and is certainly something analysts here at MRF will be monitoring closely.

7 Mobile Stats Every Politician Needs To Know

1. 90 percent of American adults have a cellphone.

According to a recent study by Pew Research, 90 percent of Americans can now be contacted at any time, anywhere. The cellphone has been the fastest adopted technology in history and now 9 out of 10 Americans can perpetually be one button away from anyone in the world.

2. 98 percent of Americans ages 18-29 have cell phones.

While the national average is high, the adoption among the younger generation is almost complete. The most surefire way to reach the younger generation is through the way they interact with the world: mobile technology.

3. 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone.

Now almost 6 in 10 American adults have a smartphone. By comparison, 14 percent of American adults owned a smartphone in 2008. This means that you can now reach them through innumerable modes of communication. Constant access to the internet and social media facilitated by the modern marvel known as the smartphone also means constant potential exposure to campaign messaging, if you take advantage of it.

 4. 34 percent of all users are “mobile only.”

Up 9 percent from 2012, this continues to show the fascinating way our society is moving towards a mobile lifestyle. This rise in mobile computing is quickly rendering the traditional PC obsolete.

5. 25 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices.

The vast quantities of business done on mobile devices is a very recent development and only illustrates further how prominent mobile technology has become.

6. 90 percent of people move between devices to achieve a goal (i.e. smartphone, tablet, PC).

Mobile technology is allowing for increased flexibility in all areas of life, whether business, shopping, or connecting and communicating with peers. People are now using multiple platforms to achieve their goals in the most efficient and convenient manner possible.

7. 189 million Facebook users are “mobile only.”

This alone should convince people that mobile technology use is pervasive. When the most popular form of social media is accessed primarily through mobile technology by a group of people numerically equivalent to 60 percent of the United States population, you should be paying attention.

Mobile technology is in full force in 2014 and is the wave of the future. If you want to be effective, you need to grasp this and learn to connect in a modern, mobile environment.

Wage Fight: All About The Jobs

Americans support raising the minimum wage by overwhelming majorities … or do they?

A slew of public opinion polling would certainly lead one to believe so. For example a Washington Post/ ABC News poll released last month revealed 50 percent of American adults would be more likely to vote for “a candidate for U.S. Congress (who) supports increasing the minimum wage.”

By contrast, only 19 percent said they would be less likely to support such a candidate.

Meanwhile in February, a Pew Research Center survey found 73 percent of American adults supported raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  Last August, a poll commissioned by the liberal National Employment Law Project Action Fund found support for raising the minimum wage at 80 percent.

Those are obviously consistent, compelling numbers.

But what happens when the wage debate is linked to jobs?

Last December, a Reason/ Rupe poll found 72 percent of Americans supported raising the minimum wage – consistent with other polling. But when informed that such a hike could “cause job layoffs or slow job growth,” only 38 percent still supported the increase – compared to 57 percent who opposed it.

Last month these results were confirmed by a Bloomberg poll. According to that survey, 69 percent of respondents supported a minimum wage hike – at least until they were informed that a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimated it would cost the country 500,000 jobs.

After hearing that estimate, 57 percent opposed the wage hike compared to only 34 percent who supported it. The Bloomberg poll also found only 49 percent of respondents who said the minimum wage issue would impact which congressional candidates they supported – making the results of that Washington Post/ ABC survey a little less impactful.

Clearly the minimum wage battle hinges on informing the electorate about the impact a hike would have on jobs. An informed electorate appears poised to reject such a proposal – even if their initial, uninformed inclination is to support it.

How Deep Can The Web Drive A Message?

Internet advertising is an essential component of any modern candidacy or campaign. But how deeply can the web really drive a message all by its lonesome? And what circumstances are most advantageous for such penetration?

According to an analysis conducted by the Market Research Foundation (MRF), targeted Internet advertising to a “clearly defined geographic area” can indeed give candidates a measurable advantage – assuming such an investment hinges around a pressing local issue.

“The use of local issues to reinforce an over-arching theme can produce significant support,” the report found.

How significant?

Take a look …

virginia

That’s a map of Prince William and Loudoun Counties, where MRF performed an internet penetration experiment during the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.

“Beginning the second week of September, MRF, in cooperation with a 501(c)4 organization, ran extensive internet advertising aimed at registered voters in the affected areas,” the study reports. “The advertising was across all mediums including mobile devices and included embedded video as well as links to webpages and linked video. A total of 3 million impressions were registered over the course of seven weeks.”

The ad focused on the proposed Outer Beltway, a planned road with extensive local opposition, and the failure of Democratic candidate Terry McAullife to take a position on the controversial project.

McAuliffe narrowly won statewide, yet his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli registered a marked uptick both GOP and Democratic-dominated precincts where the Outer Beltway internet ads were running. And since neither campaign ran any paid advertising related to the issue, we know the impact came from internet ads – which “elevated an issue that had previously only been simmering.”

To view the data for yourself, click on the link below …

REPORT ON DEEP PENETRATION WEB ADVERTISING (.pdf)