The GOP’s Cautious Approach to Online Polling

As more public surveys move to the internet, GOP pollsters are uneasy about emerging modes.

National Journal
Steven Shepard
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Steven Shepard
Sept. 13, 2013, 9:21 a.m.

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.”

What We're Following See More »
TO VISIT US TROOPS
John McCain Paid Secret Visit To Syria
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Senator John McCain paid a secret visit to Northern Syria over the weekend during his trip abroad. McCain reportedly went "to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold." The trip was organized with the help of U.S. military.

Source:
‘MORE WITH LESS’
Trump Budget to Call for Major Cuts
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration will deliver its first budget to Congress in mid-March, and the president confirmed Wednesday it will contain major cuts for federal agencies." The blueprint, expected to be released in mid-March, will not include the kinds of specifics usually seen in White House budgets, but rather will instruct the heads of agencies to "do more with less."

Source:
DEFERENCE TO PRESIDENT
More Republicans Trust Trump than GOP Members
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
THANKS TO MILITARY ROLE
McMaster Requires Congressional Approval
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Congress will need to vote on Donald Trump's pick of Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his next national security adviser, but not for the reason you think. The position of NSA doesn't require Senate approval, but since McMaster currently holds a three-star military position, Congress will need to vote to allow him to keep his position instead of forcing him to drop one star and become a Major General, which could potentially affect his pension.

Source:
SENT LETTERS TO A DOZEN ORGANIZATIONS
Senate Intel Looks to Preserve Records of Russian Interference
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to ensure that records related to Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections are preserved as it begins investigating that country’s ties to the Trump team. The panel sent more than a dozen letters to 'organizations, agencies and officials' on Friday, asking them to preserve materials related to the congressional investigation, according to a Senate aide, who was not authorized to comment publicly. The Senate Intelligence Committee is spearheading the most comprehensive probe on Capitol Hill of Russia’s alleged activities in the elections."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login