The Winston Group is a strategy and research firm dedicated to making ideas matter.

Why We Compare New Polls to Exit Polls

by Lisa Mathias

As the election draws closer, both the public and the media are paying more attention to polls. With the election less than 40 days aways, polls are not just being read to try and feel the pulse of the American electorate, but also to predict how that electorate will look on November 6th.

It is of course impossible to compare a poll result with an election that hasn’t taken place yet so at The Winston Group we look at the next best thing: exit polls from past elections. We have uploaded charts of national and state level exit poll data on our website for the media and public to use: http://winstongroup.net/2012/09/17/party-id-and-ideology-breakdowns/.

One of the best questions to compare electorates across time is party identification (Party ID). This is a question that is asked in every exit poll. When we compare a newly released poll’s Party ID to the Party ID of past polls we get a sense of how the new electorate compares to the Party IDs of past exit polls.

The polls we have tweeted show there is a wide range of differences in Party ID numbers, but this is not a phenomenon unique to 2012. Ultimately it is up to the reader of the poll to determine if they find the poll’s explanation for Party ID satisfactory or not. The most we can do is provide a resource to allow everyone to make their own comparisons.

The Daily: Minimizing “Mediscare”

by Lisa Mathias

The Daily’s Dan Hirschhorn writes about how Medicare continues to be an on-going debate between Republicans and Democrats as campaign season continues. Hirschhorn points out that while it seems that President Obama is doing better in terms of Medicare, it may not be a huge difference in voter support for him yet, as The WG’s David Winston states:

Earlier this week, a Tampa Bay Times poll found that, even while Obama leads in the critical battleground of Florida, his advantage on the issue of Medicare is negligible.

“That is a dramatic shift in favor of Republicans,” David Winston, a Republican pollster close to House Speaker John Boehner. “Granted, Democrats still hold an advantage but it’s nowhere near where it used to be.”

To read more, turn to The Daily online.

Politico: GOP to Romney: Win the future

by Lisa Mathias

Politico’s Alex Burns addresses Romney’s approach to messaging throughout his campaign, focusing on the “looking toward the future” approach, one that we questioned in our most recent September survey. David Winston further explains:

Veteran GOP pollster David Winston described his party’s messaging challenge as a two-part exercise.
“The first part is looking at the future and the trajectory the present policies are putting us on as we look toward the future,” Winston said. “That trajectory is pretty grim. The other half is, Republicans have to show: what is the trajectory we’re talking about in terms of our policies?”

Read more: politico.com

Politico: Americans for Job Security joins 2012 presidential air war

by Lisa Mathias

Alexander Burns writes for Politico’s “Burns and Haberman” blog today, addressing the messaging direction that one Americans for Job Security is taking in their new ad for Mitt Romney. Burns write that the message is on looking toward the future, rather than what’s happened in the last 4 years, and references what the WG’s David Winston has advised for GOP leadership

It’s not the first indication that Obama opponents feel they need to make a more assertive case about the trajectory of the nation over the next four years: GOP pollster David Winston advised his party’s candidates to move in that direction earlier this week, voicing skepticism about the value of asking voters whether they’re “better off now than they were four years ago.” It’s worth watching whether the future-oriented approach is a nuance Mitt Romney will try to incorporate into his messaging, too.

To read the full article, turn to politico.com.

Politico: GOP pollster Winston: ‘Better off now?’ may not be the right question for 2012

by Lisa Mathias

Alexander Burns writes today for Politico’s blog, Burns & Haberman, about our latest September New Models National Brand Survey. Burns focuses on the recurring question in this year’s campaign, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” Which we asked in the survey. The WG’s David Winston points out that the better off/worse off narrative isn’t as important as addressing the real problem of how the candidates will fix the economy:

The pollster, who advises House GOP leadership, likened the debate over the economy to a squabble over a house fire. One candidate says “he started it” another says “he made it worse.”

“Interesting discussion, but what [voters] really want to know is, who’s going to put the fire out?” Winston said. “They want the focus to be on putting the fire out.”

To read more click to politico.com.

USA Today: Romney fights on Medicare but Obama retains advantage

by Lisa Mathias

A recent article in USA Today addresses the issue of Medicare, one major focus in this year’s presidential election. Polls are showing that Obama has a lead over Romney in his handling of Medicare, which looks like there is a huge disadvantage for Republicans. But David Winston doesn’t think so:

“Now we’re still behind but six points is significantly better than being minus 25,” he says. “That’s an improvement.”
It is an issue on which neither side scores very well, he adds. “The country is still waiting for somebody to come up with a solution that will work. That will end up making it a draw — which for Republicans is a good outcome.”

To read more, turn to USA Today online.

LA Times: What the presidential polls show

by Lisa Mathias

Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus writes about the conflicting messages that recent polls are giving about how Mitt Romney and President Obama are doing, now that November draws closer. McManus turned to The WG’s David Winston for some clarity on the numbers:

“We’re in a kind of political equilibrium,” Republican pollster David Winston told me. “It’s either an even race or a race that slightly favors the president. If you’re in the Obama campaign, that equilibrium looks OK. The question for the Romney campaign is: How do you change that equilibrium?”

To read more, turn to the LA Times online.

Jansing and Co: A look at high-stakes debates

by Lisa Mathias

The WG’s David Winston appeared on today’s Jansing and Co. on MSNBC to discuss two of the latest political debates – one that took place in Massachusetts between Senators Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, and one in Virginia, between Govs. Tim Kaine and George Allen:

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September 2012 Survey

by Lisa Mathias

PDF Version

The Fix: How party ID became partisan — and why it shouldn’t be

by Lisa Mathias

Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza writes for The Fix blog about party identification in polling, discussing how Party ID does or does not reflect the electorate. Cilizza uses one of our Party ID charts from our recent post on Party ID and Ideology Breakdowns


While the exit numbers are slightly less favorable to Democrats than the Pew party ID data, they still show clearly that Democrats have enjoyed an edge over time. (In only one race — 2004 — since 1984 have there been an equal number of people identifying as Republicans as Democrats.)

To read the full article, turn to washingtonpost.com.

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