One subject that may have gotten short shrift in my story on the Republican polling reboot in National Journal magazine (available for National Journal members) is the future of non-telephone survey modes, particularly internet polling, which is growing in use and popularity. Most of the pollsters I spoke to emphasized that they were still focused on phone polling, but some are at least beginning to experiment with web and mobile surveys.
Republican pollster Alex Lundry, who works at the Alexandria, Va., firm TargetPoint Consulting, thinks the GOP polling reinvention only scratches the surface by ignoring “emerging modes.” “We are optimizing a failing but functioning system” in telephone polling, Lundry said. “We’ve also got to be putting resources into optimizing an emerging and innovative system.”
Lundry, who led Romney’s data team in 2012, said the lack of emphasis on internet polling makes the project shortsighted. “We can’t neglect the online side as well,” particularly for ad testing, he said. Doing a survey online allows a campaign to show its advertising — whether television, radio or mailer — to voters and capture their immediate reactions. But too few campaigns are utilizing this technology.
“Even among those campaigns that are moving ad testing online, the numbers aren’t that large, and they’re not uniform,” Lundry added. “You lose the opportunities to compare from ad-to-ad.”
But the recommendations proffered by the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Committee (Lundry participated in the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project, he said) focus exclusively on phone polling. “These discussions and these things will continue going forward. The internet-slash-kinda digital aspects of the surveys is kinda an exciting direction that some of these things are going,” said NRCC political director Rob Simms.
“I think for us, in some districts, that’s not going to work, practically speaking. In some other districts, it could be very useful,” Simms added.
Any appeal of web-based surveys in the near future to GOP campaign pollsters might lie in it as a solution to the cell phone problem — the nearly 2-in-5 adult Americans who live in a household without a landline phone. Since cell phones are more expensive to call (numbers must be dialed by a human being, not a computer), polling these respondents over the internetis a possible solution.
The future is “coming sooner than people realize,” said GOP pollster John McLaughlin. “It’s going to be more important to have [a voter’s] email address or Facebook page than it’s going to be to have their cell phone number.”
Other pollsters are more skeptical of doing mixed-mode research. Public Opinion Strategies, in Alexandria, Va., is one of the largest firms on the GOP side, but it was their work for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal in producing their regular, bipartisan survey that allowed them to study this more closely. They, along with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates, conducted 5,000 interviews with cell-phone-only respondents in 2012 as part of their NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling. “And so we have a pretty good profile of cell-phone-only respondents, in terms of who they are demographically and their attitudes,” said POS’s Bill McInturff, at an last week here in Washington on the future of polling, sponsored by the media firm Kantar.
McInturff and POS then conducted large panels on internet and mobile devices with cell-phone-only respondents to see how the people reached there compared with those actually reached by dialing a cell phone.
“They’re interesting because they’re much better educated than phone respondents, a lot less Latino, and, on most attitudes, they were the same, except for gay marriage and abortion, where the internet and the mobile cell-phone-only respondents were much, much more liberal than the phone folks,” he said.
That made him doubt the validity of doing mixed-mode polls. “And so this notion that there’s going to be a world where you can combine methodologies, where you’re going to combine phone, internet or mobile, maybe that world will come,” McInturff said. “But as I look at this data in 2013, I don’t think that you can simply take phone landline and somehow combine it with a different methodology and create one unified survey.”
“We are doing tons on the internet, we are … starting to do substantial stuff on mobile,” he added. “I see them as different products with different objectives. I don’t see how, today, from the work we’ve done in 2013, they oughta be blunted into one survey response.”
The biggest impediment to using the internet for campaign polls, McInturff said, is that there aren’t enough potential respondents in your sampling frame — that is, the group of people who’ve volunteered to participate in internet polls — to survey at the congressional district-level. That means that the phone survey is going to remain the dominant mode for his firm and their competitors, even if other segments of the polling industry migrate to internet or mobile.
“There simply are not large enough cell sizes in the internet panels, mobile panels and others to do [congressional district] or [state legislative] work,” said McInturff. “The political pollsters will be the last, last, last people on the phones.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”