Presidential Approval Follows Similar Trends

A recent article by Pew Research demonstrates changes in presidential approval ratings from Eisenhower through today.

A recent article by Pew Research demonstrates changes in presidential approval ratings from Eisenhower through today.

Pew Research just released an overview of presidential job approval ratings from Eisenhower to Obama based on research conducted by Pew and Gallup from 1952 to 2015.

There were a few things that struck me as interesting in the data included in Pew Research’s article, For Presidents Day, a look at presidential job approval ratings from Ike to Obama.

  1. Approval ratings by party for each president changed in a similar fashion. Regardless of president or party, approval ratings went up and down at about the same rate and time for all 11 presidents.
  2. Approval ratings for nine of 11 presidents declined as their term in office drew to a close. The only exceptions were Carter and Reagan.
  3. Overall high and low approval ratings for Reagan and Obama are similar. Reagan’s high approval was 68 percent and low 35 percent compared to Obama’s high of 64 percent and low of 41 percent.
  4. The largest gap between high and low ratings were for the two Bushes, net 60 for George and net 64 for George W. Conversely, the smallest change from high to low were for Obama, net 23, and Kennedy, net 26.
  5. The fond memories of the Camelot Years of the Kennedy administration may be an illusion. Kennedy’s approval ratings were declining significantly during the months immediately prior to his assassination.

When released, Presidential approval ratings are interesting tidbits for coffee shops and cocktail parties. But a closer look at trends and comparisons yields surprising and unexpected results. You find substantive topics such as war, the economy, domestic strife, international relations and perhaps the favorite topic of all, scandal.

Open-Ended Survey Comments = a Content Treasure Chest

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

Open-ended responses in surveys are a treasure trove of information, but usually the marketing team doesn’t review the verbatim. Instead, similar comments are combined into short-worded themes, such as on-time delivery, great customer service or product doesn’t perform.

Combined comments are easy to read and give managers overall concepts. However, combined comments are the Cliff’s Notes of research – short, succinct and to the point, but without depth, nuance or insights.

Marketing and communications managers should read and use verbatim to provide food for thought and action. Here are some suggested ways verbatim from open-ended survey questions can be used to support marketing and operations.

Topics for articles

Open-ended remarks are full of new ideas or angles for articles, tweets, speeches and case studies. Use quotes to highlight themes or emphasize why actions will be taken.

Content

Open-eneded remarks can be converted into quotes for newsletters, press releases and social media. The phrases are genuine and will be recognized as such. Remember to get permission from respondents if you want to attribute the comments to an individual.

Improving the Customer Experience

When customers write: “I love this product but...,“ take note. It is that additional information that identifies where your customer service or operations team are falling short of expectations. Once changes are made, prepare an article about what you heard and what you did.

Promotions

Nuggets about why people buy or recommend products can be found in open-ended remarks. Encourage the PR and advertising team to incorporate the features and benefits that customers say are important into promotional materials and advertising.

Customer service

Don’t ignore complaints found in surveys. Customers who have bad experiences will complain to 20 people. Ask customer service to follow up with people that had trouble navigating customer service, a website or simply weren’t treated well. The people you call will be surprised you read their feedback and impressed you want to make amends.

FAQs

Use questions found in open-ended remarks to develop FAQs. The responses provide information about real concerns and problems.

Thought Leadership

Organizations in crisis will conduct research to understand how customers may react to communication about the issue. Encourage senior managers to use quotes from surveys in speeches and articles to highlight that customers are heard and help in providing direction. Don’t forget to include the changes that will be made as a result of the comments. For more information about handling a crisis read CFM Crisis Ebook.

Research can be much more than statistics. It can provide the foundation and content for communicating and engaging with customers, communities and stakeholders.

Customer Panels Deliver Quick, Trusted Feedback

Online panel research offers many advantages, but none are any more important than delivering quality findings you can trust in only 24 hours.

Online panel research offers many advantages, but none are any more important than delivering quality findings you can trust in only 24 hours.

CFM was asked to evaluate two print ads and a companion digital ad just days before they were due to launch. Turning to our client's existing online panel, which we helped create, CFM was able to produce solid findings in less than 24 hours, after questions and format were approved. The client thought five days was all it could spare. It was stunned to get results within a day.

In this case, the findings gave a thumbs up to the ads, along with some valuable suggestions, such as adding clearly visible contact information. That's something creative types can forget, but is crucial for the eyeballs of those intended to see the ads.

This quick, on-point feedback reassured senior executives to give the ads the go-ahead. They acted based on solid information. Online customer panels made sure they got the information they needed and deserved when they needed it.

This kind of online research using panels allows CFM to conduct research among targeted groups quickly, accurately and inexpensively and provide clients with information worth knowing.

Panel Research and Engagement: A Perfect Fit

Check out panel research to see whether its information-rich benefits match your need to understand and engage a key audience.

Check out panel research to see whether its information-rich benefits match your need to understand and engage a key audience.

Panel research and engagement go together. You can gain feedback, share information and reap the benefits of extended conversations.

There really isn't any other formal research technique that can deliver that full set of benefits.

The research technique used always should match the objective of the research. Panel research works best under these conditions:

  • You want a large, representative sample of opinion from — for example — your customer database or registered voters.

  • You want the ability to segment your sample for follow-up research based on answers they give, not random selection.

  • You want to engage people in an extended dialogue, with repeat conversations about multiple products or in-depth discussion of an evolving piece of legislation.

Web-based panel research offers other virtues, such as the ability of respondents to answer survey questions at their leisure, not when someone calls them on the phone, or to participate in an online focus group instead of trooping to a hotel room equipped with a camera and cold sandwiches.

While erasing time and space concerns is valuable, the bedrock value of panel research lies in its capacity to engage. You can do more than ask questions. You can cultivate the panel by sharing the findings of the survey they participated in, asking follow-up questions or soliciting their volunteered thoughts.

Unlike a phone call during dinnertime, panel research isn't intrusive. It is inclusive. Respondents can participate at noon or midnight. They can offer more than the one answer to a multiple-choice question. They can ask questions and seek answers. Your research goes from an uneasy transaction to satisfying involvement. 

Two-way involvement is a very different quality than you get from a traditional telephone poll, in-person survey or point-of-sale intercept. The richness of information that panel can yield is the argument for doing it.

Not all situations require rich information. But many do. Panel research is worth exploring to see whether it is the right choice to meet your challenge.

Finding Messages That Are Persuasive and Believable

A message that is persuasive but not believable can undermine your investment in marketing or public affairs communications.


A message that is persuasive but not believable can undermine your investment in marketing or public affairs communications.

A message that is persuasive but not believable can undermine your investment in marketing or public affairs communications.Arguments can be persuasive without being believable. Good research will help you determine whether your argument is both.

The worst trap you can wander into is betting the farm on an argument that research shows is persuasive, but fails to probe deeper to see whether it is believable.

Several years ago, we conducted quantitative research to test the best arguments for a state transportation funding package. The argument that proved most persuasive was the list of transportation projects contained in the legislation to be funded. People liked knowing what the increased gas tax money would pay for.

However, probing deeper revealed that many of the people who liked the idea of a specific list of transportation projects believed that they never would be built. The list was persuasive, but they doubted the credibility of the state agency to follow through.

When the transportation funding bill went to the voters, it was soundly thrashed. Exit polling underscored the problem — a persuasive argument wasn't credible enough to carry the day.

The questions of persuasiveness and believability don't just apply to public policy issues and campaigns. They also are meaningful in a marketing context. A product feature may appeal to potential customers, but unless it convinces them to buy, it is just a nice feature — appealing, but not put-it-in-my-shopping-cart convincing.

For those who like to skimp on research, the persuasive-believable conundrum can become another excuse not to do any research. For people interested in getting a return on their investment in communications and marketing, more nuanced research that digs deeper than superficial appeal is a money-saver.

In reality, a deeper research dive isn't always a lot more expensive. It is more dependent on using a research instrument that enables more careful exploration of views. That is one of the built-in values for online research tools. You can ask more questions because people will answer them, if they get to choose the time and place to respond.

Sifting through rival messages to see which one has the most appeal is an important first step. To make sure it isn't a misstep, find out whether the appeal is real. You could be sorely disappointed if you don't.

The Right Tool for the Job

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

We live in the digital era, but that doesn't mean social media platforms such as Twitter can substitute for reliable public opinion instruments.

What's trending on Twitter isn't always an accurate reflection of public opinion. A large number of tweets may indicate public interest in a topic or event, but not a full picture of what the public thinks.

This isn't surprising. Twitter is a self-selected social media tool. The body of tweets doesn't need to reflect the demographics of a community, state or constituency. People who tweet on a topic may be more liberal, more conservative, richer or poorer than the public at large. Comments have value, but can't be rendered in quantitative terms the same as public opinion polling.

Quality public opinion polling is centered on a representative sample of who is interviewed. That assures the findings have credibility as a reliable reflection of the group being surveyed, with a slight margin of error.

The breadth and depth of the digital revolution may tempt some to see social media platforms as mirrors of public opinion. They certainly are reflections, but not ones you can totally rely upon to make decisions on messaging, trustworthy spokespeople and effective communication channels. A solid poll is a much better instrument for that.

Twitter conversations can be valuable to assess. For example, tweets can show the emotional charge in an issue or how an issue activates a particular group. The compressed format helps people distill what they feel to a few words, which in effect become sound bites. Tweets also can show the range of reactions.

In the world of measurement, there is room for evaluation of platforms such as Twitter. But it is important to recognize the right tool for the job. When you need an accurate picture of how a constituency views an issue, a poll with a representative sample is a much better choice.