Sizing Up Voters Through Panel Research

CBS News and YouGov are using panel research techniques to create Nation Tracker, a longitudinal look at where the American electorate stands now on President Trump and how they will react to his policies and actions during his presidency.

CBS News and YouGov are using panel research techniques to create Nation Tracker, a longitudinal look at where the American electorate stands now on President Trump and how they will react to his policies and actions during his presidency.

Public opinion polling is changing. A good example is the CBS News/YouGov Nation Tracker that gains insights from a large representative panel of participants who can be segmented and interviewed multiple times to see how their views shift over time.

Anthony Salvanto shared the first set of what will be ongoing insights on Sunday’s Face the Nation. Based on an online survey of panel participants, Salvanto said the nation’s view of Donald Trump as President breaks down into four categories – Believers (22%), Conditionals (22%), Curious (21%) and Resisters (35%).

The first category are true believers who think Trump is on the right track. Conditionals generally support Trump, but may not approve of everything he does or says. The Curious are opponent, but could be swayed depending on Trump actions. Resisters see no hope in Trump and oppose him across the board.

The key test for Trump, according to Salvanto, will be whether he makes good on his promise to restore the nation’s economy, especially for those who feel economically displaced and forgotten. If Trump shows marked economic improvement, Salvanto says he may have surprising political upside for the 40 percent of Americans who are conditionally supporting him now or are curious how he will fare.

Panel-based public opinion polling isn’t new, but it is getting more attention as a way to elicit a more nuanced understanding of what voters are thinking and reacting.  Panel research has some built-in advantages:

  • It employs larger sample sizes, which permit more reliable segmentation;
  • It enables follow-up questioning based on how people answer questions in a survey;
  • It allows tracking surveys to see how events influence panel participants in previous surveys.

The latter functionality of panel research is the reason CBS and YouGov chose this methodology to keep track of movement in the four categories of voters they drew out of the initial survey. For example, if President Trump backs out of NAFTA, the tracking poll could detect how that affects Believers, Conditionals, Curious and Resisters. Pollsters also will be able to probe more deeply through online focus groups with members of each category to see what specifically about the action caused them to respond positive or negative.

Frequent flash surveys, using the entire panel or categories within the panel give a weekly TV political talk show an ongoing source of reliable and original data. The data can be compelling enough for on-air use and detailed enough for longer exposition on a website. Over time, the branded data from NationTracker can be a hook for earned media coverage.

The bottom line is that viewers will get an easy-to-understand picture of the electorate in the Trump era and see how his actions and policies influence the electorate on much more sophisticated scale than whether voters like him or despise him.

Popcorn and a Potential US-Mexico Trade War

Who would think that a trade war between the United States and Mexico could affect the popcorn you chomp on while watching a movie – especially if you were watching a movie in a theater in Mexico

Who would think that a trade war between the United States and Mexico could affect the popcorn you chomp on while watching a movie – especially if you were watching a movie in a theater in Mexico

Building a border wall, making Mexico pay and renegotiating NAFTA would certainly create winners and losers. Like popcorn producers.

What’s a great movie without a buttery barrel of popcorn. Money is no object, within limits. When the price gets too steep for kernels, people shut their wallets and movie house owners look for cheaper alternatives.

The world’s fourth largest movie theater chain owner says a trade war between the United States and Mexico could force his hand and cause him to change popcorn suppliers. Unfortunately, this won’t be a victory for who you think. The losers will be popcorn producers in Kansas, Missouri and Iowa because the movie chain owner is Alejandro Ramirez and his movie theaters are in Mexico.

That’s the tricky thing about international trade. It cuts both ways. Ramirez says just a 2 percent tariff on US-sourced popcorn would lead him to dump Heartland suppliers and start buying his popcorn from Argentina. The same goes, he adds, for the $40 million he spends annually in America for movie projectors and big screens and the $6.5 million for Wisconsin cheese.

Ramirez is not alone. US popcorn exports to Mexico total $2 billion per year.  That may not seem like much in the face of the $58 billion US trade deficit with Mexico in 2015. But it isn’t chump change either and shows that changing the rules on trade can have far-reaching and unforeseen consequences.

According to the US Trade Representative, Mexico is our country’s third largest trading partner with $531 billion in annual two-way trade. We export $236 million in goods to Mexico and import $295 billion. Trying to limit what we import through tariffs could wind up cutting what we export. And there is no guarantee of a net US job gain in a trade war with Mexico. Ironically, what could happen is the loss of more American jobs – for example, in the popcorn business.

Where Millennials Go Will Shape Cities, Suburbs

The Millennial population has plateaued and its appetite for loft living in urban cores may be softening amid the lure of single-family homes and walk-in schools in the suburbs.

The Millennial population has plateaued and its appetite for loft living in urban cores may be softening amid the lure of single-family homes and walk-in schools in the suburbs.

Cities have become congregations of Millennials, pushing up apartment rents, supporting hipster culture and fueling arguments over gentrification. But now some demographers and apartment developers say millennial inflow to urban centers has crested and there are new trickles of outflow to suburbs.

The dream of living in a vibrant, walkable downtown with ample supplies of coffee shops and night life still captivates young adults, but the lure of more affordable housing and elbow room is causing some young adults, especially ones with new families, to look at life in the suburbs, much like their Boomer parents did.

“You can have all the preferences you want, but you have to live somewhere and you have to have a budget,” Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, explained to The New York Times. “Those are the cold hard truths you have to live with.”

Many Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and as colleges tuition and student debt soared. Trouble landing a prized, good-paying job, paying off student loans and finding an apartment have made for some life choices such as buying a home and starting a family more complicated.

How Millennials resolve their dilemmas could influence the shape of both urban cores and suburban areas. In 2015, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living population in the United States.

As young adults crowded into cities, rents skyrocketed and demands arose for rent control. Development is catching up with demand, but the question is whether demand for affordable apartments will soften as Millennials age and yearn for more traditional housing. If that happens, it could put more pressure on inner city neighborhoods within a bike ride to downtown amenities.

Portland economist Joe Cortright thinks this all may be fretting without a reason. He predicts cities will continue to swell even as the Millennial population plateaus because following right behind is Generation Z, whose members are likely to follow a similar pilgrimage to urban centers.

Another interesting wrinkle is that Millennials may be much more diverse than previous US population cohorts.  They also have demonstrably different views about family structure than their parents, which could translate into a wide variance of living styles and housing accommodations.

However, statistics suggest that the migration by Millennials from cities to suburbs has begun. Fivethirtyeight.com cites US Census data indicating more young adults between the ages of 25 to 29 moved from cities to suburbs in 2014 than the other way around. The migration may not be a flood compared to earlier generations, but it appears to be unmistakable as young adults thinking about children fondly recall larger single-family homes with walk-in schools and nearby shopping malls.

Obama Tenure Elicits Positive Feelings and Disappointment

President Obama prepares to leave the White House with a positive favorability rating, but a trail of disappointment over what he failed to accomplish in his two terms in the White House.

President Obama prepares to leave the White House with a positive favorability rating, but a trail of disappointment over what he failed to accomplish in his two terms in the White House.

Barack Obama departs the White House with positive favorability ratings, but also a trail of disappointment over what he failed to accomplished during his two terms as presidents.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey conducted after the 2016 elections shows Obama with a 57 percent favorability rating, which is the same as Bill Clinton and far higher than George W. Bush when their second terms ended.

However, two-thirds of respondents say Obama didn’t deliver on his promises to unify the country and make progressive changes. According to the survey, even Obama supporters expressed frustration at the lack of progress on immigration, gun control and shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nearly eight out of 10 African-Americans view Obama’s presidency favorably, but they also voice frustration at the failure to improve the lot in life for blacks. Almost half said there was no difference and 6 percent said Obama made things worse.

Not surprisingly, partisan views of Obama and his presidential legacy are sharply divided. Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats view Obama favorably, while eight of 10 Republicans don’t. Independents are roughly divided.

Obama will reflect on his own legacy and point to the future he wants to see in his farewell speech tonight. He is likely to recall the economic hole he inherited upon taking office, the actions he was forced to take and the resulting drop in unemployment with 75 straight months of job growth. The AP-NORC poll shows just about 40 percent of respondents view themselves as better off after Obama’s eight years in office, 25 percent view themselves as worse off and a third say there hasn’t been much change.

One of Obama’s signature achievements, the Affordable Care Act, now faces a GOP-controlled Congress eager to repeal it, despite Obama’s pleas to fix what isn’t working instead of starting over. Other polling has shown that repeal of Obamacare may not be as popular as once thought and a nonpartisan study has projected that repeal without an adequate replacement could be a job-killer. 

Data in Context More Valuable Than Just Numbers

Add critical and creative thinking to your review of data so you see the context, not just the numbers.

Add critical and creative thinking to your review of data so you see the context, not just the numbers.

Jay Acunzo says you should act more like Galileo and less like Aristotle when it comes to evaluating data. Hint: He means pay more attention to specific context than generalities derived from data.

Aristotle was interested in finding the absolute essence of something, Acunzo writes in his LinkedIn article titled, “Executives Are in Love with the Wrong Kind of Data.” Galileo was interested in isolating single variables to test for validity.

Jay Acunzo is a marketer and host of the Unthinkable podcast, which explores the value of intuition to success.

Jay Acunzo is a marketer and host of the Unthinkable podcast, which explores the value of intuition to success.

In the world of marketing, Acunzo says this means spending less time on relying on experts to determine “THE campaign” or “THE tactics,” and more time on learning about what makes an opportunity unique or even possible. That, he claims, requires “critical and creative thinking.”

“Because we can measure everything, we aim to be data-driven,” Acunzo says. “But even that term brings to mind a humanoid spreadsheet whipping us forward. We are driven forward by data that comes from the past. And more than ever before, today looks way different than yesterday, and tomorrow will be nothing like the present.”

“We might be able to generally the world [through data] and get some results,” he explains, “but we’ve stripped out the specific context of these people, these customers and this moment in time.”

There is a big difference between reading data and learning by asking specific questions of the audience you are trying to reach. Success comes, Acunzo says, “by acting as constant learners who ask the right questions, not experts who profess to know the answer.”

Santa Biggest Loser in 2016 Election

 Elections produce winners and losers, and the biggest loser from the 2016 election may have been Santa, who has become less believable even though he wasn’t on the ballot.

 Elections produce winners and losers, and the biggest loser from the 2016 election may have been Santa, who has become less believable even though he wasn’t on the ballot.

There are always winners and losers in elections, but the biggest loser in the 2016 election seems to be Santa Claus.

Public Policy Polling says 59 percent of Americans lost their belief in jovial St. Nick following the 2016 election. That contrast with 2012 when only 45 percent of Americans denied Santa existed.

Dean Debnam of Public Policy Polling said Santa defections stretched across the political spectrum. “Everyone is feeling a little bit less hope and joy after this year.”

The poll, which was conducted earlier this month and included 1,229 respondents, produced some other “findings” worth noting in the holiday season:

  • Seventy percent of respondents believed they were on Santa’s “Nice List” and only 8 percent thought they were on the “Naughty List.”
  • Only 35 percent said President-elect Donald Trump was on Santa’s “Nice List;” 48 percent believed he was on the “Naughty List.”
  • Only 34 percent of respondents think there is a War on Christmas and 51 percent don’t believe there is such a war.
  • Almost 70 percent of Trump supporters prefer “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” as a seasonal greeting; 63 percent of Clinton supporters said they didn’t care which greeting is used.

Santa can take some consolation in that public opinion polling took its own hit in the election, with fewer people believing in the authenticity of political polls. Maybe the key is not to take some things too seriously.