Robert Moran

Pew Millennials Data

The Pew Research Center recently published its report titled "Millennials, A Protrait of Generation Next. Confident, Connected, Open to Change." It's a wide-ranging, data-driven portrait of the roughly 50 million Americans between the ages of 18-29.

Of course, one of the larger differentiators between Millennials and other American generations is technology. Six in ten (61%) Millennials say that their generation is "unique and distinct from other generations" and those that say their generation is distinct cite "technology use" as their greatest differentiator. In this regard, the data support what most Americans observe on a daily basis. Millennials have slightly more positive views of technology than Xers and Boomers (see page 126) and they certainly use technology to stay connected. For example, 88% of Millennials use their mobile phone to text (see page 126), 83% have placed their mobile phone next to their bed before sleeping (see page (see page 135), 75% have a profile on a social networking site (see page 125), 32% have watched a video online in the past 24 hours (see page 127) and 14% are on Twitter (page 125).

But what of Millennial's political and ideological distinctiveness?

Much has already been made of the party identification chart on page 3 of the Pew report, which shows Democratic party identification among registered Millennials dropping from a 62%-30% Democratic advantage in 2008 to a 54%-40% advantage today. While much of the focus of discussion has been this drop, it is fairly clear from the data that Millennials have a greater affinity to a liberal ideology. Jed Lewison makes this point well.

In fact, Republicans rejoicing at the decline of Democratic party identification among Millennials may be missing the forest for the trees. First, the Pew data shows that the recent narrowing of the party identification gap brings things back to roughly where they were in 2004 (53% Dem - 37% Rep in 2004 and 54% Dem - 40% Rep in 2010). For an even deeper dive on this issue, see page 67 of the report where Pew displays yearly (leaned) party identification averages based on ALL of its polling. As Kristen Soltis has pointed out, the GOP certainly has an age gap problem.

And the internals suggest that Millennials are more politically liberal than Xers, Boomers and the Silent Generation. For example:

1. In a forced choice between government doing more or less (see page 116), Millennials lean toward government activism 53%-42%.
2. When asked to describe their political views, Millennials are split 29% conservative to 29% liberal. In comparison to Xers (+13 net conservative), Boomers (+27 net conservative) and 65+ (+38 net conservative), Millennials appear to be much more politically liberal (see page 140). In fact, this data shows that while 29% of Millennials classify themselves as politically liberal, this classification declines to 25% among Xers, 17% among Boomers and 12% among those 65+.

These attitudes could certainly change over time based on economic and social events. We don't yet know how the "Great Recession", the likely collapse and reinvention of American entitlement programs, and the Obama Presidency will shape the attitudes of Millennials over the long term. But GOP rejoicing does not seem in order.

re: Incumbent Rule

Thank you Mark and Nate for the thoughtful critique of my post regarding incumbents polling under 50%. I think this is an excellent example of the kind of smart, civil dialogue we can have around polling data. And, I think it serves the public interest well.

The data is the data. It is certainly compelling. And it suggests that the old 50% incumbent rule may have fit the 1980s and 1990s more than the 2000s. As Mark noted in his post, those that gained their formative public opinion research experience in that era, absorbed the conventional wisdom of that era. I'm a product of that time. But, times change. Mea culpa.

I found Mark's "Four Pollsters on the Incumbent Rule" (December, 2006) to be the most interesting. Here I agree most with Hickman (incumbents are much more aggressive, not worrying as much about building their opponent's name ID) and Greenberg (nationalization and partisan consistency). I also think that microtargeting combined with a renewed focus on turnout machines can have the effect of both saving endangered incumbents and complicating the vote models.

It will be interesting to see how this old rule works in 2010. Like baseball statistics, we always have another wave of data to analyze.

In the case of the Strickland-Kasich race in Ohio, I remain VERY skeptical of the Governor's reelection prospects.

1. First, Strickland's ballot support average in the new year puts him within that perilous under 45% group that Nate's analysis of the 2006-2009 data highlights (67% average loss rate). Even throwing out the hard to believe OH Right to Life survey, Strickland's average ballot support is 42.5%. Moreover, of the last four surveys, Strickland has only led Kasich in one. This data reminds me somewhat of the DeWine reelect in 2006.

2. Second, Strickland's image looks to be in tough shape and approaching a 1-1 fav-unfav ratio.

3. Third, the President's job approval seems to have slipped into negative territory in the Fall of last year.

4. Finally, as I noted in my initial post on the Quinnipiac survey, Kasich is handily defeating Strickland 46%-34% in Central Ohio. This is the part of the state where voters are most likely to remember Kasich. It is also a key battlegound. This does not bode well for Strickland.

Incumbents "get what they get in the tracking."

This morning, like every morning, I quickly scanned First Read from Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg.

I enjoy First Read and very much like Chuck Todd, but I will admit that I threw down my Blackberry in complete frustration after reading the following:

*** Buckeye State Watch: Is the worm beginning to turn for Democrats in Ohio, too? Yes and no. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) now has a five-point lead over challenger John Kasich (R), 44%-39%. Back in November, the race was deadlocked, 40%-40%. Still, that Strickland is below 50% hints at his vulnerability in this swing state. Meanwhile, the poll also finds that President Obama has an upside-down approval rating in Ohio, with 44% approving of his job and 52% disapproving, which is essentially unchanged from November.

Most readers of Pollster already know what I'm going to write, but I feel duty-bound to write this.

While the Quinnipiac poll may show Strickland ahead of Kasich 44%-39%, that is in NO WAY the headline. The headline is actually that (a) Strickland is way below 50% and (b) incumbents under 50% in a two way race have a very poor track record in November. Why? Because voters already have had time to get to know the incumbent. The incumbent has had their term to close the sale with a majority of voters. If he/she can't close the deal now with voters, then it is very unlikely that they will when the contrast ads get started.

Further, the November, 2009 data showing the two "deadlocked" is in no way a deadlock. An incumbent at 40% is a clear signal to his political team that they need to start requesting cash up front and immediate payment terms. Years ago we used to refer to these clients as "wire jobs", because we knew they were going to lose and therefore were very keen for them to wire payment before their loss and the inevitable vendor scramble for payment.

Now, First Read does caveat things a little with this:

"Still, that Strickland is below 50% hints at his vulnerability in this swing state."

It doesn't "hint at" Strickland's vulnerabilty, it demonstrates it quite clearly.

As the trend data shows, Strickland hasn't been over 50% since last summer.

Barring some massive exogenous event, the next Governor of Ohio will be John Kasich. Strickland is a Governor in a swing, center-right state polling WAY under 50% with an economy that will not come back before November.

Interesting data nugget:
In the central part of the state (where the voters know Kasich) Strickland is getting crushed by Kasich 46%-34%. Ouch.

I've worked both sides of the challenger-incumbent chasm. When you're running the incumbent side campaign in this situation, this is your thought process:

1. Double down on the opposition research investment. Maybe something will turn up.
2. Find a way for (or hope for a way) a 3rd party to do most of the really tough contrast ads. I'm sure Strickland's team has this covered already and this will give them some plausible deniability when the negative campaigner stories proliferate ("Hey, they're not our negative ads and we've asked them to stop.") Standard practice.
3. How do I make this a respectable performance?
4. (If internal:) Begin circulating resume.
5. (If vendor:) Get upfront payment terms. Try not to waste too many flights. Minimize focus group swings.

Returning to the general problem for a moment, this misreporting is a constant source of frustration for those in political polling. I'm sure I wasn't the only one that didn't at least roll their eyes this morning upon reading it. Unfortunately, this is a symptom of a constant problem in reporting polling data relative to an incumbent. In a two way race, political professionals don't even bother to look at the spread between the incumbent and the challenger, they only focus on the incumbent's support relative to 50%. Incumbents tend to get trace elements of the undecideds at the end of a campaign. Sure, there is the occasional exception, but this rule is fairly ironclad in my experience.

The Beltway Ponders America's Global Influence

Was the financial crisis of 2008 a global turning point? Did it mark the earliest stage in the decline of US power? Will historians view the financial crisis and the Great Recession as the beginning of a multi-polar world?

StrategyOne explored this issue further by using its proprietary Beltway Barometer survey to track elite Washington opinions on the subject.

The data we collected over two years and across three survey waves paints a picture of Washington's elite attempting to contextualize the financial crisis and global recession.

With one in four elite Washington Democrats and Republicans believing that the financial crisis "marked the end of American international dominance," American citizens and global policy elites should pause and consider the implications.

As the table below details, StrategyOne leveraged its Beltway Barometer survey of Washington elites to gauge policy influencer sentiment on this question on three occasions:

• September, 2008
• July, 2009
• January, 2010

We asked.

Some people believe that the financial crisis of 2008 marked the end of American international dominance. Do you agree or disagree?

The results (% agree below) were surprising (full xtabs here.)

Sep., 2008_____________39% (Democrats Agree) /// 15% (Republicans Agree)
July, 2009_____________ 25% (Democrats Agree) /// 20% (Republicans Agree)
Jan., 2010_____________24% (Democrats Agree) /// 28% (Republicans Agree)

As you can see, at the present time one in four DC elites truly think that historians will look back on the financial crisis as marking the end of US hegemony on the world stage. They would likely point to massive deficits, sluggish growth and deterioration of the US dollar as a global reserve currency.

It is interesting to note that one in four Washington elites, those with the most to gain or lose from America's position on the world stage and those with the greatest firsthand knowledge of the situation, believe that America's influence is in decline.

Depending on one's viewpoint, this data can be startling, but for two very different reasons.

Those who acknowledge America's present difficulties, but see the country's strengths in an optimistic light are likely to be surprised that so many of the nation's capital elite view America's influence as in decline. They may view the opinion of this group as unpatriotic. They may also point out that the United States has had many bouts of doom and gloom in its history, including post-Sputnik fears of losing its science and technology lead and 1980s era concerns about Japanese competition. But, natural geographic advantages (a nation that can feed itself, good relations with its neighbors, large oceans to its east and west), a strong military, a large domestic economy, the rule of law and business innovation seem to give America significant staying power.

Those who focus on a surging Pacific Rim and an America deeply in debt, with an aging workforce and a devaluing currency are likely to be surprised that so few Washington elites see the writing on the wall. Like Martin Jacques, author of "When China Rules the World", this group views the rise of a multi-polar world as an inevitable product of economies like Brazil, China, India and others "catching up." They might ask how Washington elites are blind to this inevitable change.

And, as one might expect inside Washington, there are differences of opinion based upon party affiliation.

The Democratic Perspective:
Elite DC Democrats are modulating their thinking over time on this question. In the heat of the meltdown in 2008, with Bush as President, 39% agreed that the financial crisis marked the end of US international dominance. Now that number is 24%. The intervening variables are likely (a) the election of Barack Obama and (b) a perception that the worst economically is behind them.

The Republican Perspective:
On the other side of the aisle, elite Washington Republicans are now 13 points more likely to say that the financial crisis marked the end of US dominance. This is in line with their more pessimistic assessment of the US economy generally. It also may reflect a sour mood with President Obama now in the White House.

No matter the perspective, this is certainly one of the great questions of the age and StrategyOne will continue to track elite Washington sentiment on this question.

Fresh Data on DC Elites and Direction of the Economy

Exclusive to pollster.com readers StrategyOne has fresh data from its Beltway Barometer survey on where DC elites think the economy is headed.

StrategyOne's Beltway Barometer survey asked Washington elites if they thought the economy:

1. Has already bottomed out and is getting better
2. Is at bottom and not getting any better or worse
3. Has not yet bottomed out and will still get worse

The results are fascinating and diverge strongly based on partisan affiliation.

For a review of the crosstabs, click here.

Democratic elites in Washington are generally optimistic about the trajectory of the US economy, with 64% saying that the economy has bottomed out and is getting better. Only 19% of Democrats feel that we're stuck at the bottom, and only 15% think the worst is yet to come.

Republican elites in Washington are much less optimistic. One third (33%) think that the economy hasn't bottomed out yet and will get worse. Another 25% think the economy has bottomed out and is not getting any better. 41% think the economy has bottomed out and is on the upswing.

This data takes on even greater import with new jobless claims taking an unexpected rise.

DC Elites Look to 2010 Elections

Although we're still nine (9) months away from the 2010 elections, DC elites are already handicapping the outcome.

In order to get a better sense of what official and political Washington is thinking about the 2010 elections, StrategyOne appended a question on our recent Beltway Barometer survey. The full (crosstab) results can be found here.

So what are the DC insiders thinking?

First, both Democrats and Republicans think Democrats will lose seats in the House in 2010. Only 7% of Democratic elites think Nancy Pelosi will maintain (5%) or increase (2%) her seat margin in the House. The question Washington elites are pondering is not IF Democrats will lose seats in the House, but HOW MANY seats they will lose. This HOW MANY question is where DC elites differ.

Elite Republicans in Washington generally expect to see their party gain between 20 and 39 seats in November. 56% of elite Republicans expect Democrats to lose between 20 and 39 seats, and 25% of elite Republicans expect Democrats to lose 40 or more seats and with this their majority. It is interesting to note here that Charlie Cook's current forecast (Democrats lose 20-30 seats) tracks closely to majority elite Republican sentiment. It is also interesting to compare this survey data to National Journal's Congressional Insiders Survey.

At this stage elite Democrats in Washington expect to keep the losses under 20 seats. Specifically, 62% believe Democrats will lose fewer than 20 seats and 28% believe Democrats will lose between 20 and 39 seats. Only 2% of elite Beltway Democrats currently think that Democrats will lose the House in November. This sentiment may change if Coakley loses today.

StrategyOne will be tracking elite DC opinion on the 2010 elections and reporting this data first to our clients and then to the media (and pollster.com readers).

The warning signs are certainly present for Democrats at this point. I noted in my December 16th article (What Does Bart Gordon's Retirement Tell Us?) that the Moore, Tanner, Baird and Gordon retirements certainly appear to be warning signs reminiscent of past tough election cycles. Vic Snyder's (AR-2) retirement announcement last week only seems to add to this fact pattern.

Although wild card events could easily change the arc of the 2010 election season, the trend is certainly beginning to suggest a Republican wave.

Robert Moran, StrategyOne

Data Under the Tree: Part 2 (Star or Angel? Multi-colored or white lights?)

Today, we look again at the data under our virtual tree.

What cultural artifact is most likely to top an American Christmas tree?

The answer is an angel, narrowly. 44% of Americans report having an angel atop their Christmas tree and 38% report a star. Interestingly, 12% report having something else on top of their tree.

Only in the Western United States are star and angel running head to head. In the other regions, the traditional angel tops the star by 7-8 points.

African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to have starts atop their trees, while whites are more likely to have angels (48%-angels, 34%-stars).

Moving on to decorative lights, we asked Americans what color Christmas lights they prefer to decorate with. Overall, 56% said they preferred to decorate with multi-colored lights, while 33% prefered to decorate with white lights. Every region prefers mutli-colored lights over white lights, but there is a significant SES (household income and education) dimmension to the data.

The tipping point for white lights is at households making $75,000 or more and among college grads. The data here is fascinating.

Households making under $35,000 (68% multi-colored, 20% white lights), $35,000-$50,000 (62% multi-colored, 33% white lights) and $50,000-$75,000 (63% multi-colored, 29% white lights) prefer multi-colored Christmas lights, while households making $75,000-$100,000 (50% white lights, 40% multi-colored lights) and $100,000+ (50% white lights, 44% multi-colored lights) prefer white lights by a narrow margin.

We see the same with educational attainment, as preference for white lights increases by education (16% among high school drop outs, 27% among high school grads, 31% among some college and 44% among college graduates.

So, when you're out looking at neighborhood lights, note the decorative color pallete and you should be able to estimate the SES of the neighborhood and household income of its inhabitants.

Tomorrow we'll look at the popularity of Christmas movies.

Americans Not Feeling the Rebound

While many have predicted or heralded a rebounding economy here in the United States, unfortunately the American consumer is just not there yet.

StrategyOne research from a national telephone survey conducted November 17-22, 2009 finds that:

1. While 5% of the American public describes the economy as doing fine, 34% feel we're in a mild recession, 41% feel we're in a deep recession and 12% feel we're in a 1930's style economic depression.

2. Our economic segmentation (getting better, hit bottom but not improving, and still falling) has barely budged since July. 45% say the economy has not hit bottom yet and will get worse. Another 18% think it has hit bottom, but is going nowhere.

With so much of our economic activity driven by consumer spending, at what point do these attitudes become self-fullfilling?

Combine these findings with the new NBC-Wall Street Journal Survey, and the natural question is whether Americans see this downturn as (a) just another recession that is part of the normal business cycle or (b) part of a much broader economic and geopolitical shift away from American dominance and toward a more multi-polar world.

Based on the Hart/McInturff poll, which I view as gold standard, the answer today appears to be "B".


1. Only 27% today feel that "our children's life will be better than it has been for us". (Q3b)
2. 61% feel that America is in a state of decline. (slightly better now compared to September 2008 during the financial meltdown) (Q15)
3. Americans are now split as to whether China or America will be the dominant power in 20 years. (Q23)

I was at the main market research conference for the US this fall. The prevailing opinion of this group, a group paid to follow consumer trends, was that this downturn is different, possibly a values changer. Our survey suggests that there is something to this thinking, as 30% said that the current economic recession has "very significantly" changed their general outlook on life.

What does Bart Gordon's (D-TN6) retirement tell us?

They say actions speak louder than words.

If this is true, then Democratic Representative Bart Gordon's recently announced retirement is the equivalent of a loudspeaker.

Some folks were trying to minimize the announced retirements of Dennis Moore (D-KS), John Tanner (D-TN) and Brian Baird (D-WA). And, to be fair, I thought that these three retirements were not yet indicative of a wave of retirements that typically precede a difficult election.

But, Bart Gordon's retirement now strikes me as the begining of a trend in which seasoned Democrats in swing, purple or red districts head for the exits and higher pay in the private sector.

Dennis Moore (D-KS) has been a perennial target for Republicans, but in the 1990's Bart Gordon (D-TN) (along with Bud Cramer in Alabama) was something more like Moby Dick with Republicans playing the role of Captain Ahab.

One of the reasons he's been able to survive for so long is his prowess at fundraising. Like any smart incumbent, Gordon has always been exceptional at raising money and using it to intimidate challengers.

What does Bart Gordon's district look like?

In 2000, with Al Gore on the balllot (this was Al Gore's old district), Bush edged out Gore 112,096 to 111,872. In 2004, Bush took 60% to Kerry's 40%. So the district is a purplish-red.

But Gordon has won by solid margins in recent years: 2000 (62%), 2002 (66%), 2004 (64%), 2006 (67%) and 2008 (74%).

So why would a longtime, 60 year old incumbent at the top of his game retire?

I'm sure it was a mix of reasons (although "spending more time with family" has become a cliche, there is often something to this, especially among west coast Members with families back in the district), but political animals with good insitincts know when to go out on top.

Typically, and I have seen this firsthand, Members conduct benchmark polling in the winter of an election year, get their re-elect number, look hard at the generic ballot and Presidential job approval in their district and study the awareness levels and favs of the opponent they think they will need to take down in the fall.

If the data paints a grim picture and they are realists and pragmatists, as opposed to idealists and/or self-deceiving egomaniacs, they decide that the rallies and fundraising and rubber chicken dinners and more fundraising just aren't worth it. That's when a nice trade association gig or hot lobby shop starts to look very appealing.

I suspect something like this happened with Bart Gordon.

He has plenty of cash on hand, he has seniority, he has won handily now for years, but the district is not entirely Democrat friendly and the internal polling data must have been awful.

Add Gordon's retirement to those of Moore, Tanner and Baird, and I believe we are seeing the beginning of what will become a wave of retirements in Democratically held districts that went for Bush in 2004.

Data Under the Tree: Part 1 (Factory or Forest?)

With the Christmas season in full swing, we decided to take a look at some of the changing American behaviors surrounding our annual December festivities.

To do this, StrategyOne conducted some brief national survey research (n=1,000 adults Dec. 4-7, 2009) on a range of holiday topics. We'll be putting one piece of data under the virtual tree each day this week.

Let's begin with the Christmas tree. (Note: My firm has no business interest in either side of this debate.)

In 2009, Americans' Christmas trees are more likely to come from a factory and not a forest.

Our research finds that 55% of Americans now put up an artificial tree and 24% put up a real tree. 8% will have both in their home this holiday season. 13% report either not putting up a tree or not celebrating Christmas.

Interestingly, when you add the 24% saying they will purchase a farm grown tree with the 8% that say they will put up both, our data (32%) comes within 3 points of the National Christmas Tree Association's 2009 survey.

But how does this relate to past years?

Fortunately, we have trend data going back to 1989 from Gallup.

Reviewing this data shows a long term decline in real Christmas trees in the home.

See below (Data is among those who celebrate Christmas and have a Christmas tree):

1989 40% (artificial) 52% (real) 8% (both)
1994 49% (artificial) 51% (real) NA (both)
2004 58% (artificial) 37% (real) 5% (both)
2009 63% (artificial) 28% (real) 9% (both)

The decline of the real Christmas tree over the past 20 years is significant and the tipping point seems to have occurred somewhere between 1994 and 2004.

The region with the most affinity for real trees appears to be the Northeast (33% real), higher than the upper Midwest (21%), the South (21%) or the West (26%).

As one might expect, there is a straight line correlation between household income and the ownership of a genuine Christmas tree. Only 16% of households making less than $35,000 have a real Christmas tree in their homes this season. Among households making over $100,000 this number rises to 34%.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at what Americans have on top of those trees. It's the great Star vs. Angel debate...

Polling Washington Elites on Why Some Public Affairs Campaigns Succeed and Others Fail

Each year a very large number of trade associations, consumer groups, unions, and citizen associations run campaigns in Washington either advocating or opposing legislation or regulation.

Each group has a different set of resources at their disposal. Some have a wealth of activist membes, but little money in the bank. Others have a relatively small membership, but ample financial resources. Some have a regional coalition with strong relations with Congress in a few key states, and others are nationally dispersed and lacking strong relations. The permutations are almost endless.

But, each year groups like this petition their government and run a public affairs campaign inside Washington in order to have their voices heard.

With this in mind, StrategyOne's Washington office conducted a groundbreaking survey of 1200 Washington elites using its Beltway Barometer. Interviews were conducted by phone in only the most affluent Washington zipcodes among people who work or have worked in "official Washington" (working or having worked in the White House, Congress, the judiciary, the Pentagon, a federal agency, a think tank, trade association, PAC, the national parties, state or local government, etc.)

The full results can be found here.

But, for a quick overview, here is what we found:

There is no substitute for people power.
"Building strong grassroots outside the beltway" was chosen as the most important of the nine (9) public affairs ingredients tested. Having a strong lobbying team is surely important, but elites clearly feel that it is subordinate to having strong grassroots. In fact, our research found that even those in the lobbying community felt that grassroots was #1.

Beltway coalitions are a must. The second most important ingredient for success was having a large coalition of groups inside the beltway. These coalitions are a force multiplier and help a group expand it Congressional reach by multiplying its contact points.

Have a clear, cutting, message. The third ingredient chosen was "developing messaging, framing the issue to their advantage, and owning the vocabulary used to discuss the issue." There is no substitute for a message.

Why do these inside the beltway public affairs campaigns fail?

Again, we asked Washington elites and they identified two main failure points:

1. Poor message development
2. Limited grassroots support outside the beltway

What does this mean?

First, it means that groups contemplating a public affairs campaign in Washington need to have the processes and policy positions in place to activate their members in a way that allows them to clearly advocate for a specific policy. Grassroots strength is clearly critical (far more critical than having a great spokesperson or a wonderful media relations team).

Secondly, it means that groups running these campaigns need a message strategy and a message czar that keeps the group on track and on message. Having a well developed message with supporting proof points and logical rebuttals is essential. But, having the discipline to stay on message and not go down rabbit holes is critical.

Afghanistan. You've read about the President's new policy. But have you read the survey?

With so much discussion about US policy in Afghanistan, its worth taking the time to understand what the Afghan people are thinking. One way to do this is to read the Asia Foundation's fifth public opinion poll in Afghanistan. Conducted in the summer of 2009 (June 17-July 6), this survey of 6406 Afghan citizens was released October 27th and is a treasure trove of polling data.

I have seen mountains of polling data in my career, but this survey is easily the most interesting that I have ever read.

Titled "Afghanistan in 2009: A survey of the Afghan People", you can read it all here.

The entire report is a thorough 225 pages, but the questionnaire and topline data can be found on page 167.

Although readers should absorb the report and come to their own conclusions, taken together the data seems to paint a picture of uneven progress despite many obstacles. But, two related data points struck me as informative to the current discussion in Washington. 69% of Afghans agree that "The Afghan National Army needs the support of foreign troops and cannot operate by itself." 70% agree that the "Afghan National Police needs the support of foreign troops and cannot operate by itself." This is not comforting.

One caveat here. Obviously, conducting a survey in a place like Afghanistan is not easy. Due to violence and insecurity, some areas were not surveyed. In some unsecured areas, only men were surveyed. This is because (a) interviewing is face to face and (b) this is a traditional society in which men interview men and women interview women. Read this passage from the report:

"Moreover, in 2009, there were greater restrictions on the movement of survey researchers than in previous years. A number of districts in the country could not be surveyed because of inaccessibility due to logistical problems, natural disasters and security. Overall 208 of the 882 sampling points had to be replaced. The replacements were made by selecting other sampling points in the same region. The instability and frequent fighting in some provinces caused 102 of the sampling points across the country (12%) to be adjusted or replaced to keep interviewers out of areas affected by active violence. This was a significant change from 2008 when only 17 sampling points (3%) had to be replaced for security reasons."

This suggests to me that this data may be slightly rosier than the truth on the ground.
First, some basics about Afghanistan from the survey:

1. 81% have a radio (radio is the main source of information)
2. 52% have a mobile phone
3. 41% have a TV set
4. 6% have a computer
5. 54% cannot read
6. 60% have never attended school
7. Agriculture is the dominant means of support
8. 79% live in villages as opposed to towns (5%), cities (5%) or Kabul (11%)

Now, for the key findings based on my reading.

Are you better off now? 54% say they are more prosperous now than under the Taliban. 24% say they are less prosperous now. Compared to the Soviet occupation, 50% say they are more prosperous than under the Soviet occupation. 32% say they are less prosperous now than they were under the Soviet occupation.

Expectations. One series of questions is especially heartening (see page 179). Pluralities of Afghans expect a range of things to improve dramatically, especially education, drinking water and the security situation.

Violence. The data is not pretty. 16% say they "often" fear for their life and 17% report being a victim of violence or crime in the past 12 months. No wonder insecurity (see page 175) is cited as the biggest problem, just ahead of unemployment and the economy.

Corruption. 53% say that corruption is a "major problem" in their daily life. As an example, 16% say that they had to pay a bribe in all or most cases when obtaining official government documents. It is true that this is normal in most of the world, but Afghans clearly feel it is a problem. Interestingly, I have heard this from several people firsthand on the long flight from Dulles to Dubai.

The economy. Although Afghans feel that they are more prosperous now, they clearly feel that the economic situation has deteriorated. 47% say unemployment has gotten worse compared to a year ago. Only 11% say it has gotten better.

Schools. There is some good news here. The data regarding schooling and school construction seems to be very positive. For example, 40% say the schools have gotten better over the past year and "schools for girls" is the third thing mentioned by the 42% who think Afghanistan is moving in the right direction.

Religious Authority. In a forced choice question, 67% say that religious leaders should be consulted by political leaders. Only 27% say politics and religion should not mix. This is not terribly surprising and "consultation" could take many forms.

Democracy. At 30,000 feet, there is support for democracy. 78% agree with the statement that Democracy may have its problems, but it is better than any other form of government. But, there are clear disconnects. 59% agree with the idea that individuals should vote the way their community votes, not based on their individual conscience. 57% disagree with the idea that all political parties, even the ones that they don't like, should still be able to meet in their community.

This poll should be required reading in Congress and the White House.

Presidential Job Approval, The Age Gap and the 2010 Midterm Elections

As many others have noted, the President's job approval scores are stronger among the young (18-29) than they are among older voters.

For a quick visual synopsis of this, Gallup has a nice breakdown here.

Looking just at the Nov. 30-Dec. 6 time series, you can see that the President has a 13 point gap between approval from younger voters (59% among 18-29 year olds) and older voters (46% among 65+). This gap appears to have been even more pronounced in prior weeks.

Although the gap itself is interesting, the real issue is how this gap impacts the 2010 midterm elections.


Because midterm electorates tend to be older than Presidential year electorates. How much older? If exit polls from 2006 and 2008 are a guide, then the 2010 electorate will shift by about 10% toward the 45+ age group.

Here it is worth taking a look at the exit polls from 2006 and 2008.

As you can see, in 2008 (Presidential year) 53% of the electorate was 45 or older. But, in 2006 (Midterm) 63% was 45 and older. Call it the Midterm Maturity Shift.

The problem for Democratic congressional candidates is obvious. Given lower Presidential approval scores among older voters, this midterm maturity shift could shave a few points off their base voter support.

With this in mind, I would expect Democratic campaign managers to do several things.

First, they will pump up the GOTV efforts among voters under 30. This is an obvious strategy, but it has been notoriously difficult to turn out younger voters in non-Presidential elections. The old joke has been "What do you call a campaign that needs to turn out the youth voter? Answer: A loser."

The other strategy for Democrats is to work on the senior vote. Traditionally this has been done via mountains of early direct mail. Many an incumbent has been saved by senior mail. But the task may be more difficult this year given President Obama's sagging approval numbers among older voters. I suspect that the most effective strategy for Democrats among older voters will be to disqualify their Republican opponent on seniors issues by digging up past statements about social security, etc. The oppo research guys will be going full tilt.

On the Republican side I expect campaign managers to do everything they can to exacerbate this job approval age gap. Viewed through the lens of 2010, this goes a long way in explaining the Senate Republicans' legislative strategy in the past few days.

Life Metaphors Redux

For an entertaining and thought provoking read on this subject and the dataset I posted previously on metaphors that Americans use for their life, I recommend reading Oliver Burkeman's column in The Guardian here.

Market Research Trends for 2010

Anyone interested in research trends should read Jane Mount's Ten Trends for 2010 here.

The research industry, of which polling is a subset, is changing rapidly and there are a number of fast moving trends at work.

Mount's are:

In-Sourcing: Client side market research functions stretch budget by using suppliers less and internal resources more.

Global Studies: The market research industry is a prime example of how the world is shrinking. More and more projects are now multinational. Eventually our project teams will be globally dispersed to work the 24 hour global clock and to provide global analytical perspective. Parenthetically, Guam is the perfect location for Eastern US companies looking to work the 24 hour global clock with dispersed staff.

Rise MROCs: Sometimes called HOC (hosted online communities), these market reseach online communities are rapid insight generators and will put pressure on traditional focus groups. Think of them as an ongoing focus group-forum online among a company's consumer segments.

Decline of traditional focus groups: See above.

No More CYA Surveys: All too common in corporate America, the post-decision validator survey may not survive budget tightening.

The need for higher quality online panels: Online panels are a wonderful tool for surveying niche audiences, but are panelists being burned out? Panel quality is a big initiative for the industry moving forward.

Client Desire for Innovation: Will the industry take advantage of new tools?

Data Mining: I agree with Mount here, but think the real opportunity for data mining is with the client's existing datasets and purchase records.

Triangulation vs. Perfection: Mount argues that RDD is no longer the gold standard and that mixed mode research is the future. She's right about mixed mode.

Death of Survey Research: Here Mount is joking. But she does think it will be scaled back, losing ground to MROCs, qualitative, data mining etc. Long term, perhaps. But, I can't agree on that one.

Overall, an excellent take on an industry in flux, and fairly close to my thinking about where the industry is headed.

Global Attitudes on Global Innovation

For a look at global survey data that is both fascinating and a window on things to come, I highly recommend reviewing the NEWSWEEK-Intel Global Innovation Survey of 4,800 adults in the US, China, Germany and the UK. It was conducted this fall and can be found here.

Key points:

1. The Chinese are more optimistic (twice as optimistic!) than Americans themselves about America staying ahead of the curve on innovation.

2. Where do Americans place the blame? American schools. 42% say the problem is that American schools are offering an inadequate product when it comes to math and science. This eclipses direct government support for innovation (17%), US corporate investment (16%), and current American workers lacking tech skills (11%).

This leads me to believe that at some point very soon a renewed and intense post-Sputnikesque focus on math and science education will erupt in the United States.

3. For an interesting look at what each country views as its weaknesses, a plurality of American parents feel their children will need math and computer skills to drive innovation, but Chinese parents think their children will need creative problem solving skills.

4. Finally, 53% of American parents of teenagers admit that they have difficulty helping their children with math and science homework.

The Business of Polling and Opinion/Market Research

Political polling is a subset of the opinion and market research industry. And it is a big business.

But how is this business doing?

Political polling (which drives the majority of the visitors to this site) is a fairly predictable business driven by the electoral calendar and not by the business cycle. The business of political polling is facing several large (but manageable) challenges. One is cooperation rates and the other is the decline of the landline. But, this business seems to be humming along at its usual clip, relatively immune to the great recession.

However, many political polling firms also have large commercial research businesses. These commercial research businesses are frequently dominated by public affairs and corporate messaging research practices, but have branched out into traditional market research work as well.

And how is this part of the industry doing?

It's been a tough year.

The Research Industry Trends 2009 Survey polled 512 individuals in the market research industry, including those on the supplier and client (inside a corporation) side. The results are unpleasant for anyone in the industry:

1. 57% reported a decline in revenue.
2. Only 42% of US based researchers expect a growth year.
3. 73% agreed that research is becoming commoditized with clients less willing to pay for quality.
4. 70% agree that clients are demanding shorter timelines and faster delivery of results.

To see the full report, here or here

At a broader level, this data tracks closely with my assessment of the industry and where it is headed.

For a lengthier read on where I think the market research industry is going, click here

Multinational Data on Capital Staffers' Media Consumption

In a grounbreaking study of legislative staffers from Congress, the UK Parliament, the EU Parliament, the French Assembly and the German Bundestag conducted for Edelman, StrategyOne found that staffers regularly access digital outlets and social media to research, influence and set policy. Nearly every staffer (96%) uses online resources for public policy research, more than half (54%) reported learning of policy issues for the first time online and one in five (19%) actually changed policy positions based on information and opinions they found online.

The survey clearly identified the growing importance of digital tools for both communicating with constituents and for constituents reaching their members. They noted websites have become ubiquitous in terms of their usage and effectiveness in reaching constituents (82% feel they are effective) while other outlets have also demonstrated their positive impact - online videos (52%), blogging (46%) and micro blogging such as Twitter (22%).

In terms of the effectiveness in reaching their members of Parliament and Congress through digital means, e-mail scored the highest at 87% effective with Member's blog rated at 31%, Member's social network at 22% and microblogs, such as Twitter, at 7%.

The study found that staffers are turning to social networks, blogs and microblogs more regularly for personal usage (Facebook 60%, YouTube 52%, Personal Blog 12%, Twitter 11%) than they are for professional reasons. However, their usage patterns reflect receptivity to these tools and an opportunity to increase usage for analysis, communicating with constituents and reaching colleagues on policy issues.

For the full report, click here: http://edelman.com/capital_staffers_index.pdf

Life Metaphors

You often hear metaphors for life. They run the gamut from a battle to a box of chocolates.

But what metaphors do Americans apply to their own lives? What metaphor do they believe most describes their own life?

I've wondered about this for some time as a researcher. More than just interesting data, I believe that this question can be useful for advertising, writing copy, and marketing products (especially lifestyle products that tend to mesh with life milestones).

The question strikes me as a valuable psychographic data point.

With this in mind, StrategyOne polled Americans (n=1,000 telephone survey) October 9-12, 2009 with the following question:

"People often use metaphors to describe their life... Which ONE of the following do you think best descibes your life?"

A Journey: 51%
A Battle: 11%
The Seasons: 10%
A Novel: 8%
A Race: 6%
A Live Performance, Like a Play: 5%
A Carousel: 4%
Other: 2%
Unsure: 2%

The responses above were provided to particpants and are well-known life metaphors from Western culture. For example, life as a journey is from Homer's Odyssey (and the Epic of Gilgamesh should also be credited as well). Life as a battle is Homer's Iliad. Life as the seasons is from Ecclesiastes and ascribed to King Solomon. Life as a race is from St. Paul. And life as a performance or play is from The Bard - Shakespeare.

The interesting thing about the data in this instance is that (a) journey is the dominant metaphor for life among Americans and (b) there are minimal differences by age, gender and region. The only real difference is by income where those making less than $35,000 are three times as likely to describe their lives as a battle (20% vs. 6% average for the other income groups).

In the political realm this suggests that candidates may be best served explaining their bios within the context of a journey rather than a battle or some other metaphor.

Multinational comparisons would be interesting here. Would more traditional, non Western countries rely so heavily on the journey metaphor?

Finally, it should be noted that this is in no way as penetrating as Zaltman's "Marketing Metaphoria" and does not delve into what the authors of this exceptional work call "deep metaphors." Instead, we were interested in the tactical question of what metaphors for life aare the most useful in basic communication and marketing materials.

Two Very Good Questions from the AP-Gfk Survey

In reading through the July 16-20, 2009 AP-Gfk poll (have not seen the August data release) I came across two very interesting questions worth tracking.

The first is on the pace of change that the Obama administration is pushing (question CURX4 on page 23) and asks respondents if the Obama adminstration is... "trying to change too many things too quickly", "changing things about the right amount at the right speed", or "not changing enough things quickly enough". The wording is a bit clunky, but the segmentation is fascinating and worth tracking. Between April and July the "too quickly" and "right amount" percentages have nearly flipped, suggesting that a growing percentage of the public (32% in April and now 49%) may be concerned at the direction and pace of change. Even more interesting is that this data shows the American public evenly split with 49% wanting a slower rate of change and 49% thinking the rate of change is either about right (37%) or not fast enough (12%). It would be very interesting to see this data among 2008 voters, self IDed independents, and 2004 red state independents.

The second is on job loss. Question CUR38 (page 26) asks for self-reported job loss for the respondent and "someone in your family". It would be stronger if it asked "someone in your household", but the trend data is fascinating and will be interesting to watch over time. Interestingly, the companion question queries on job loss over the past six months among "someone you know personally." This again would be interesting to track over time.

Social Media and Market Research

In a recent article by F. Annie Pettit in the MRA's Alert! Magazine (http://www.mra-net.org/alert/), the author discusses Twitter and potential market research applications. The article (titled "Can Marketing Research Really be Conducted Using Twitter?") is worth reading for several reasons.

First, social media and the digital explosion is an undeniable trend, and it can be harnessed for qualitative (not quantitative) research purposes. Twitter could clearly be used as a part of a qualitative feedback loop for corporations or institutions with a desire to constantly track customer perception and experience. In the marketing and research industries these systems are often referred to as EFM or "enterprise feedback management". Twitter/Tweet monitoring and tracking could make a useful complement to the hosted online communities that many consumer brand companies are building. Communispace (http://www.communispace.com/) and VoVici (http://www.vovici.com/) are two hosted online community providers that leap immediately to mind. If they aren't already, I would expect these two firms to develop social media conversation monitoring as a tandem product.

Second, the author clearly notes that (a) it is impossible to make Twitter data nationally projectable and (b) it is unlikely that it could ever become a quantitative tool. She clearly notes that, "a major drawback reflects the lack of a quality sampling method, a core requirement for obtaining valid and reliable research results." Inevitably, there will be companies over the next few years that will claim to have a conversation analytics offering built upon a social media application that is a statistically projectable quantitative tool. This will annoy real researchers immeasurably.

Third, Pettit notes that on larger subjects or widely used products, an enormous amount of qualitative data could be mined. With advances in text analytics software, research and marketing teams could identify fast moving trends by looking for words or phrases that pop overnight. For example, a travel destination like Dubai could track tweets that utilize standard travel terms and Dubai. A daily or weekly sampling of this datastream could then focus on aspects of the consumer experience and look for patterns, problems and opportunities. Large CPG companies and service-based companies (airlines, amusement parks, etc.) could find this analysis useful.

Finally, monitoring and analyzing conversation streams like Twitter is a passive, non-interventional type of qualitative research. Recently referred to as "listening outposts" in the market research community (see Surinder Siama's April, 2009 article in Research World), there is something to be said for the purity and authenticity of this type of unprompted qualitative data.

This is just the beginning of a much larger trend in market research. Watch for it.

New Blogger, New Data

As a new blogger on Pollster, I'm looking forward to sharing insights on the craft and new data.

And, on the topic of new data, I have some national polling data from June 12-15 to share regarding focus group participation.

In an n=1,000 national telephone survey StrategyOne asked: "Have you ever been recruited for and participated in a focus goup discussion?"

We really had no idea what percentage of American adults have participated, but now we know.


Going through the internals, the only two things that stand out are: (1) much heavier participation among $100,000+ households (25%) and (2) college graduates (25%).

This suggests to me that, if anything, the industry focuses on those with discretionary income more than on the base of the SES pyramid.

I was somewhat surprised to see that there wasn't much difference in participation by gender. Given that women make the vast majority of household purchases decisions, I expected to see this data skewed female.

Among the 14% that have participated in a focus group, 86% responded that yes, they would recommend participation to a friend or family member. Although improvement could be made here, I'm happily surprised that 86% would recommend. Moderator techniques have vastly improved, but I do worry that the participant experience could be more pleasant (directions to facility, check in, pre group sandwhich, etc.)