Just 10 days after the historic Election Day, AAPC brought together communications experts Nathan Gonzales, analyst for The Rothenberg Political Report, and Mark Mellman, CEO of the polling and consulting firm The Mellman Group, for a thoughtful election post-mortem. Nathan and Mark touched on the intricacies of polling and the impact of this election’s results on next year’s legislative agenda. In addition to the summary below, login or join AAPC today to watch the full webinar recording!
Mark begins by putting polling into perspective. Historically, national polls have had a margin of error between 1-2-points. Back in 2012, the polls were off by more than 3-points, though they accurately predicted the Obama win. Alternatively, this year the polls were off by 2-points, but became a controversial topic because of the incorrect prediction of a Clinton win. Consequently, Mark does not question the efficacy of national polling but does think statewide polling could have been improved. And, while Mark agrees that polling is difficult and will continue to become more difficult, he concludes that there is no evidence from this cycle that suggests there is an insoluble problem with polling.
When looking at the exit polls, we see that while there was growth for both candidates, there was much greater growth for Trump, especially towards the end with more late deciders breaking for Trump rather than Clinton. We also see that there was a higher turnout in Trump areas and a lower turnout in Clinton areas than expected. Mark believes these variances in voter turnout could be attributed to voter suppression and voter complacency. Lastly, we see that the college educated white voter was heavily misjudged with Trump winning this voter group by 4-points.
What frustrates Nathan the most about the discussions surrounding polling this cycle is the question of “What’s the alternative?” While he is not opposed to reporting, and getting various input from across the country in important districts and states, he thinks it can be dangerous to base polls on anecdotes instead of data. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report ratings are an exercise in data, which depending on the data, can provide misleading results. Perhaps if there had been more polling in key states like Michigan and Wisconsin, particularly later in the race, it would have been helpful in developing a more accurate narrative. Despite much of the data having mislead him this time around, Nathan remains optimistic about the state of polling because he knows partisan pollsters have a vested interest in getting accurate data to drive campaigns and make millions of dollars’ worth in decisions.
The Legislative Agenda
Nathan admits that he underestimated the power of not being a politician and how much that would appeal to a segment of Americans that were fed up with the status quo government and were ready for something new. Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders alike, tapped into these voters in the primary process. And we can expect to see more active democratic primaries than we have seen in awhile in the 2018 election which has already begun and will have an impact on the 2017 legislative agenda. Democrats hold the senate seats in 25 of the states up for election in 2018, ten of which are facing an election in a state that Trump won. Meanwhile, Republicans will experience their own challenges.
This election cycle marks the first time since we have been directly electing senators that the senate outcomes all matched up with the presidential outcomes. But it’s still not clear sailing for Republicans. The Republican civil war is going to continue. Republican senators in Trump states will be under increasing pressure as they navigate meeting the demands of their constituents, the Republican Party, and the Trump administration.
Nathan answered the following questions from the viewers:
1. One of the unsung trends in American politics is the growing correlation between presidential and congressional voting. Do you think that trend is going to continue next cycle? Do you think we’ll see any democrats win in red states and vice versa?
2. What do you think this cycle does to the ever-growing national popular vote movement?
3. This campaign brought out a lot of less-than-civil discourse. Is there a chance for civil discourse in the future or is that a lost cause?
4. Have you seen any post-election research that quantifies the premium increases for the Obamacare policies that came out right before the presidential poll?
5. Did you see any new, different and effective techniques employed by the house and senate races?
6. Why do you think the Clinton campaign never went to Wisconsin and completely neglected rural America?
7. What’s your take on the increase in sharing of fake news stories on social media? Have you seen any data suggest that this may have had an impact in voter behavior?
8. What do you believe is causing polls to be skewed towards democratic candidates in statewide races?
Check out the full webinar recording to hear the answers to these questions!
A huge thank you goes out to our speakers for sharing their expertise with the AAPC membership! If you have any questions while watching the full webinar recording, please direct them to Jenn Cutri at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will reach out to the panelists on your behalf.