All posts by MRF1776

The Independent Vote …


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 …


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.

“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 …)

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.

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 …


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 …


2013 Virginia Election: Turnout Analysis

How did ethically challenged Democrat Terry McAuliffe manage to eke out a narrow victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election?

According to a new turnout analysis of the election conducted by the Market Research Foundation (MRF), the real question we ought to be asking is “where” McAuliffe eked out his win.

Or rather where Cuccinelli lost this race …

As expected, McAuliffe and the Democrats scored huge wins in the eleven Virginia jurisdictions with high concentrations of black voters. That’s not surprising – even in an off-year election.

These jurisdictions gave McAuliffe his net plurality of 228,147 votes.

(Click to enlarge)

mcauliffe plurality

What was very surprising, though, was the depressed level of GOP turnout. In thirty-eight GOP-dominated jurisdictions, turnout was unchanged from 2009 to 2013 – resulting in lower net gains.

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

What could the GOP have done to turn a 2.5 percent defeat into victory?

Click on the report below to find out …


State Of The Media: The Proliferation Escalates

Moving public perception used to be all about delivering a simple, potent message on television.

Today? “It’s complicated.” The ongoing proliferation of media has changed the way messages are crafted, delivered and consumed. Potent messages must now be delivered across multiple media platforms to increasingly divergent audiences. This imposes several new demands – first and most importantly identifying where media consumption is taking place.

According to the latest data from the Pew Center – released earlier this year – cable television audiences continued to see declining viewership in 2013. Combined prime time viewership for the top three cable news stations – Fox, CNN and MSNBC – was down 11 percent last year.

MSNBC suffered the steepest fall, losing 24 percent of its audience. CNN was down 13 percent while Fox was down 6 percent.

(Click to enlarge)

media pew

Local news – which according to Pew remains “the primary place American adults turn to for news” – saw upticks in every time frame in 2013 after five years of declining viewership. Local morning newscasts climbed 6.3 percent, while evening news climbed 3.3 percent and late night news inched up by 0.1 percent.

Of course these increases did nothing to stop the ongoing consolidation of local stations – and the increasingly top-down generation of local content.

“At this point, fully a quarter of the 952 U.S. television stations that air newscasts do not produce their news programs,” Pew reports. “Additional stations have sharing arrangements where much of their content is produced outside their own newsroom.”

Network news saw a 2.3 percent increase over 2012 – with ABC News up 2.2 percent (to 7.7 million viewers), CBS News up 6.5 percent (to 6.5 million viewers) and market leader NBC News declining 0.7 percent (to 8.4 million viewers).

Newspapers saw modest upticks – gaining 3 percent circulation during the week and 1.6 percent circulation on Sundays – although Pew notes “that result is influenced by liberalized reporting rules … and includes both paying visitors to digital platforms and distribution of Sunday insert packages to non-subscribers.”

Speaking of digital, 82 percent of Americans now get their news on desktops or laptops – with 54 percent receiving news on tablets or smartphones.

How much of that content is really “news,” though? That’s a good question.

“In digital news, the overlap between public relations and news noted in last year’s State of the News Media report became even more pronounced,” Pew reported. “One of the greatest areas of revenue experimentation now involves website content that is paid for by commercial advertisers – but often written by journalists on staff – and placed on a news publishers’ page in a way that sometimes makes it indistinguishable from a news story.”

Separating the wheat from the chaff, then, becomes an indispensable skill for practitioners – whether in placing messages or responding to messages placed against them.

Don’t Snooze On This Study: How Sleep Impacts Turnout

A rested electorate is a motivated electorate – or so concludes a new study by Iowa State University political scientist Robert Urbatsch. According to Urbatsch, the awarding – or withholding – of an extra hour of sleep not only impacts turnout at the macro level, it has a discernable impact on the ideological composition of those who show up to vote.

Published in the March 5, 2014 edition of American Politics Research, Urbatsch’s findings showed increased turnout in years when November elections take place after the conclusion of daylight saving time. Democrats enjoy a slight edge in those races, whereas Republicans enjoy an advantage in elections held prior to the time change.

How much of a bump are we talking about? Using state-level voter turnout data from 1971-2011, Urbatsch concluded that “having an extra hour in the day just before the election again associates with more voting,” by an average of 4.5 percentage points. Data gleaned from the American National Election Study over roughly the same period – from 1972-2008 – also determined that “a clock change made just before the election associates with a higher probability of voting,” this time by 2 percentage points (when controlled for other influencing factors).

Companion research done in Indiana – which until recently had some of its counties on daylight saving time and others on standard time – also revealed “an approximately 2.5 percentage point increase in predicted turnout” when voters had an extra hour of sleep.

Obviously the impact of a good night’s sleep has no bearing whatsoever on absentee ballots and early voting – meaning the modest outcomes observed by Urbatsch are likely to yield diminishing returns in future elections.

Still, it’s clear there is a cause and effect at work – one savvy organizations would be wise to leverage. Count on MRF to explore optimum ways of doing just that as we incorporate these findings into our research.

In the meantime to view Urbatsch’s study for yourself, CLICK HERE.