Read our latest musings about poltics, policy, and others out there who are making ideas matter.

Placing Priority: How Issues Mattered More than Demographics in the 2016 Election

by Emily O'Connor

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group has released two new reports exploring the views and values motivating the American electorate. As part of the Voter Study Group, the WG’s David Winston used a unique longitudinal dataset of 5,000 voters to explore which issues mattered most in 2016. Read the full report here or take a look at the highlights:

Viewing the electorate through the lens of issue priorities rather than through demographic variables yields valuable insights. Our analysis suggests that the mix of issue priorities revealed more about voter decision-making than demography.

Using voters’ views on the importance of 23 different issues, a cluster analysis produced five distinct groups — the “Democrat/Independent Liberal Elites” (15 percent of the electorate), the “Democratic-Leaning Working Class” (the largest cluster, at 25 percent), the “Moderate Younger Middle-Income” voters (17 percent), the “Conservative Older” voters (21 percent), and the “Conservative Younger” voters (12 percent), with an additional 10 percent unidentified by these clusters because they did not respond to all 23 issue priority questions.

These clusters demonstrated distinct presidential election voting patterns, party preference, and ideological patterns that can provide insight into voters’ decision-making. The conservative, Republican-Leaning clusters appear more cohesive than the two Democratic-Leaning clusters. The “Democrat/Independent Liberal Elites” cluster prioritized issues popular in the media coverage of the election, but not issues that were “very important” to the other Democratic cluster and the country as a whole, such as the economy and jobs. These differences will be consequential for Democrats in the future.

The key issues driving the election, based on what voters found most important, were the economy, health care, jobs, and Social Security. Issues such as climate change, gender, and racial injustice that made up a significant level of the media coverage of the 2016 election were not among the most important issues for most voters. The Rust Belt was key to the election outcome, and the economy was the top issue among Trump voters in that region, and the fifth most important issue among Clinton voters.

Of the four top issues, Trump had the advantage among voters who highly prioritized jobs and the economy while Clinton had an advantage among those who prioritized health care. Neither candidate had an advantage on Social Security. Clinton won a majority of those voters who prioritized 12 of the 23 issues included in the survey, and often by large margins. But Trump won a majority of those who prioritized two of the top three issues, including the most important, the economy.

Voters were not satisfied with the status quo when it came to the economy, and deep economic frustration and desire for change underlied their issue prioritization and political decision-making.

Roll Call: “Issues Matter in Elections Even More Than You’d Think”

by Emily O'Connor

David Winston’s latest for Roll Call reviews the 2016 election and the importance of voter issue priorities:

So what does this analysis show really happened in 2016? Trump won the issues that mattered.

In the future, both political parties need to recognize that the electorate has a clear set of priorities. Issues matter — and going forward, they may matter much more than demographics.

NFL Brand – Structural Change or Mild Improvement?

by Emily O'Connor

The newest monthly WG Sports Survey (November 29-30) found that the NFL brand improved very slightly, going from 44% favorable – 40% unfavorable in October to 48% favorable – 38% unfavorable. While this is a slight improvement, favorability is well below where it was in August when it was 57% favorable – 23% unfavorable. The question is whether this is a small start back toward the original brand standing, or a settling-in process for the new brand standing of the NFL with the public.

 

Roll Call: “Bottom of the Ninth”

by Emily O'Connor

The WG’s David Winston writes for Roll Call on what outcomes matter to an electorate that feels this is the “bottom of the ninth” for the middle class:

…In the end, there are two numbers that will matter most in the 2018 election: How many jobs have been created and how much have wages gone up? Transformational tax reform legislation is essential to create the kind of economic growth that delivers both. This is a battle Republicans must win — on the floor and in homes and businesses across the country.

Principles are important. But you can’t win without outcome-based policy products that connect with people.

NFL – Brand Struggles Continue

by Emily O'Connor

There was no comeback for the NFL’s brand in October after significant slippage in September.

The newest monthly WG Sports Survey has found the NFL with the same 44% favorable – 40% unfavorable brand numbers in its October 31 – November 1 survey (1,000 registered voters), giving the NFL significantly higher unfavorables than any other major sport. This latest data adds to concerns that the impact of the events over the last two months may represent a longer term change in the overall public’s view of the NFL. Even more problematic, the survey found that almost a third of the NFL’s potential “fan base” (people who watched at least 2 games in a season) have a negative view of the league.

Get the full analysis here.

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Image of the NFL and Other Sports

by Emily O'Connor

Image of the NFL and Other Sports

Discussion Points: Issues Driving the Electorate

by David Winston

In the most recent survey for Winning the Issues (July 5-6, 1000 registered voters), we updated the list of issues and news stories in how they are driving voting decisions for next year’s mid-term elections. The chart below shows how each item was ranked on Election Day, in March, and this week. Economy/jobs remains the most important issue on the list, which is consistent with what we observed on Election Day and back in March. The issue that continues to be a close second on the list is need to get things done in Washington and get the parties to work together.

Issue Rankings Chart

Foreign policy (#3 and #5 on the list) and tax issues (#4 and #6) continue to be significant factors in voting decisions. However, news stories being heavily covered by the media – including stories about White House ethics scandals (#18) and allegations of Trump ties to Russia (#20) – are lesser priorities in voting decisions at the moment. As shown in these results over time, the electorate is remarkably consistent in their priorities.


	

The Ripon Forum: “Great Expectations”

by Emily O'Connor

The WG’s David Winston and Myra Miller have a new piece in the latest volume of The Ripon Society’s magazine, The Ripon Forum, discussing the opportunity and challenge for Republicans in Congress:

“Republicans have to transition from the mindset of ‘reacting to President Obama’ into a new era of creating Republican initiatives that deliver results and provide a governing framework.  People want change and they want it soon.  They expect Congress and the President to get something done and get government working again for them.

In a focus group after the election, one voter in Pittsburgh told us that it now felt like the country was in ‘the bottom of the ninth and there are two outs.’  In other words, this might be America’s last chance to get it right. Republicans in Congress need to focus on voter priorities and they need to deliver results.”

Read the full article on The Ripon Society page.

WG Discussion Points: The Future of Health Care

by David Winston

As part of the immediate discussions about how to deal with problems in the health care system, the future of health care and the opportunities that exist should be a key part of those discussions.

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WaPo: “GOP leaders urge patience — not panic — amid Trump’s early stumbles”

by Emily O'Connor

As the Trump presidency nears the 100-day mark, the WG’s David Winston comments on what people are looking for from the president:

“People were voting for change,” said David Winston, a GOP pollster. “It doesn’t have to be everything all the time, but there has to be a sense of forward progress. They’re looking for two basic outcomes: more jobs and higher wages. It’s pretty straightforward.”

Continue reading here.

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