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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.

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.

 

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.


	

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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Congressional Institute Study: What Working and Middle Income Voters Want From Their Government

by Emily O'Connor

Following the 2016 election, the Congressional Institute commissioned The Winston Group for a study of middle-class Americans and their dissatisfaction with government, including both qualitative research and a survey of voters.

From the overview: “The most recent research indicates that the electorate continues to show serious concern about the direction of the country, and defines the kinds of changes they want to see. In the context of the most recent presidential election, voter perceptions were that the election was a choice between change and the status quo, and the result of voters’ voices not being heard…

From voters’ perspectives, the middle class sees value in their contributions and the work that they do, but do not feel valued by the nation’s elites and institutions… While one out of two voters describes themselves as more engaged and interested in the political process after the last election cycle, they are not fully clear on how to effectively make their voices heard other than by voting. However, the actions taken by lawmakers as a reflection of the issue priorities for which they voted seems to be the most clear signal to voters as to whether or not their voices were heard.”

Head to the Congressional Institute site for the full report.

“Rock the Boat”: An analysis of the 2016 Presidential Election

by Emily O'Connor

What did voters tell Washington in 2016? They wanted to “rock the boat.” Read through our in-depth 2016 Post Election Analysis to find out how voters defined their choice, and what role deeper concerns over the direction of the country, the economy, and the political system played in that decision.

2016 Post-Election Analysis

Analysis: First Two 2016 Republican Primary Debates – By the Numbers

by Emily O'Connor

After the second 2016 Republican presidential primary debate, the Winston Group has written this analysis of the questions and topics covered in the debate, including candidate speaking time and the number of questions addressed to different candidates, along with the full text of each question.

We’ll continue to update this document as the debate season continues, comparing numbers across debates.

(Missed our 2012 Republican primary debates analysis?)

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(cover image credit: Sandy Huffaker, Getty Images)

 

 

National Teacher Attitudes on the Adoption of Common Core State Standards

by David Winston

While teachers’ outlook on Common Core continues to be positive, there are some challenges emerging on the horizon that need to be addressed. By a 2:1 margin (62% approve-31% disapprove) teachers approve of adoption of Common Core State Standards. However, this support is soft as 17% said they strongly approve and 44% said somewhat approve. This overall level of support is basically unchanged from last March, when in a Hart/Winston Group survey, 62% of teachers approved and 32% disapproved.

Additionally, attitudes about approval of state implementation of Common Core has slipped slightly as it went from 66% in March to 60% in July. While the trend is of concern, nonetheless the approval margin is still 2:1 (60-30). Also like overall approval, that approval is soft with 18% strongly approving and 42% somewhat approving.

Finally, and perhaps the most immediate challenge, is that what teachers have heard about Common Core Standards over the last year has not been favorable. Given what teachers said they had heard over the last year, 17% said it made them more favorable, while 32% said it made them less favorable. However, almost half (49%) said that what they had heard had not changed their attitude. Again, this was similar to last March when it stood at 18% more favorable, 32% less favorable, and 49% the same.

This survey occurs as we are in the middle of implementation across the country. Implementation was always seen as a challenging moment, yet 6 out of 10 teachers at this point still approve of how that is occurring. Obviously it would be better if that approval were not as soft as it is. Additionally that softness is complicated by the teacher reaction to what they have heard. Nonetheless, the attitudes are still very positive, but a stronger Common Core narrative is needed to coincide with further implementation to move things forward.

This survey was fielded August 2-3, 2014 for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 800 teachers nationally were interviewed.

PDF Version

Video: Is America Still Center Right?

by Lisa Mathias

In the first of a new series of short, original videos, we decided to look into whether the American electorate has remained ideologically center-right since the last two presidential elections, or whether voters have shifted to the left. We also explain what this means for Republicans as we go into the 2014 election season.

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