Is Labour’s strategy working? Possibly. Is it winning? No.

Is Labour’s strategy working? Possibly. Is it winning? No.

GQR Vice President Peter McLeod is writing a weekly column on the UK general election for, where this article first appeared. GQR was pollster to Labour at the 2015 UK general election but does not work with the current leadership.


There’s a meme that seems to go round after every election, noisily touted by disgruntled backers of the losing side. You’ll see a pie chart with colourful chunks for each of the main parties (or sides, in the case of a referendum), but also a great expanse of white or grey: the non-voters. This grey mass squeezes all other contestants, diminishing the differences between them and making the victor look puny. The chart is held aloft as proof that the winners didn’t really win, because in fact the majority of the country didn’t vote for them.

Like all the best deceptions, this is built on truths. It’s trivial to show that in a referendum won, say, 52-48 on a turnout of 72%, only 37% of eligible voters picked the winning side. The message writes itself: how can there be a mandate for something that 63% didn’t vote for? It’s easy to leap from here to an even wronger conclusion - that all you need to do to reverse the decision is mobilise the non-voters.

In the summer of 2015, this idea seemed to provoke a certain giddiness on the left. The Tories had managed to squeak a majority in parliament with 37% of a 66% turnout (only 24% of eligible voters!) and tens, then hundreds of thousands of people were inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign to join the Labour party. If Corbyn could engage so many people, didn’t that mean there was demand out there among the non-voters for a Labour party that looked leftward?

The evidence is taking shape before our eyes. The average at Electoral Calculus has the Tories on 49 and Labour on 27; at Britain Elects it’s 47 to 29. As a reminder, that puts the Tories 10 to 12 points up on their 2015 result and Labour down by between 1 and 3. While it’s true that Labour has gained a few points since hitting a low on 21st April (a few days after the election was called), the Tories have gained the same amount since then.

What’s going on then? There are two problems with a non-voter strategy. The first is with our assumptions about what non-voters are like. The second is about what we can do about them.

First, what they’re like. The fact that a non-voter did not vote for your opponent is the weakest possible evidence that what they really want to do is vote for you. Your opponent can make a mirror-image of that argument with equal justification. A more reasonable a priori assumption is that non-voters are actually a bit like the people who did vote, just less motivated. So if they had to vote they would end up doing so in the same proportions as the voters, which gets you nowhere. A more detailed approximation might use non-voters’ demographics: do they look like the voters of one party or another? People on the left would note that non-voters tend to be younger and less well-off than voters, so there may be more potential Labour voters among them than Tory voters. Beyond this, research among potential voters can give you more. When we poll people and they tell us they don’t know who they’d vote for, or wouldn’t vote, we can use other questions to allocate them to one side or another: how they feel about the direction of the country, their basic sentiment toward the parties and leaders, any past voting behavior. Our experience is that low-propensity voters are usually minded to break against incumbents. But that’s the thing: even if the non-voting population is somewhat tilted in your favour, it still takes a lot of work to get them to the polls. Is it effort well spent?

This brings us to the second issue: how do we attract the non-voters? We need to come up with a message powerful enough to get them to break their non-voting habit and turn out for us. Not easy, as this requires overcoming two biases: toward default behaviours, and against doing anything when given the option to do nothing. But still: let’s imagine we have such a message. What will be the impact of this message on other potential targets? By choosing to target non-voters we’ve turned our backs on, for example, voters who could be open to switching to us from our opponents. We’ve also decided to ignore any of our own past voters who are vulnerable to being captured by the opposition. Let’s not forget that, if they’re smart, our opponents are actively trying to get our voters to switch to them. What if our powerful non-voter message turns some of our own supporters away? This is deadly: if every time we gain a supporter from the non-voter pool we lose one to our opponents, we’re going backwards. We have to win two non-voters for every voter we lose to the opposition just to break even. It’s incredibly hard going.

While this election is most certainly more complicated than the simple model described above, what’s actually happening is pretty consistent with it. I pulled data from the seven most recent polls by different polling houses listed on Britain Elects (YouGov, Panelbase, Kantar/TNS, Survation, ICM, ORB, Opinium), to look at how people have changed their votes since 2015. While all the pollsters include data broken out by 2015 vote, only three of them (Survation, ORB and Opinium) show data for the 2015 non-voters. We need to take the numbers with a pinch of salt because the samples are small. Nonetheless, the 223 past non-voters in those three polls who said they will vote in the next election break 46% Labour, 32% for the Tories, 8% Lib Dem and 5% UKIP. A good sign?

Let’s look at the people who did vote in 2015. The Tories have retained 90% of their 2015 voters, while winning 11% of Labour’s voters, 21% of the Lib Dems’ and 48% of UKIP’s. Labour has retained just 77% of its 2015 voters, gaining only 4% of Tory voters, 16% of the Lib Dems and 8% of UKIP’s vote.

So if Labour really has chosen to pursue non-voters, the strategy is working. The party is winning more of them than the Tories. The trouble is, those gains are dwarfed by those of its opponent, who has chosen to go after the votes of people who - you know - vote.

The only way to make sense of Theresa May’s attack on Europe

The only way to make sense of Theresa May’s attack on Europe

GQR Vice President Peter McLeod is writing a weekly column on the UK general election for, where this article first appeared. GQR was pollster to Labour at the 2015 UK general election but does not work with the current leadership.

On Wednesday afternoon the Prime Minister stood on the spot where she had announced the General Election two weeks previously and launched a paranoid, bitter assault on the EU. Her claims that her government’s negotiating position on Brexit was being misrepresented, that the Commission had hardened its own stance and that threats had been issued against Britain were mere buildup to her most extraordinary accusation: “All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June.”

There are a number of problems with this statement. First, its obvious falseness. It would be reckless for Brussels officials to try to influence a member country’s election – imagine the scandal if details of their plotting got out. More to the point, if the EU institutions have any interest at all in our election it is for it to result in (yes, sorry) a strong, stable government led by the same people it’s been dealing with for the past 9 months. Pause just a moment here. Imagine that the EU wants to have to negotiate with Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a stretch, right?

Second, these claims can only be counterproductive for the negotiations themselves.  Trust is reciprocal: now that May has declared that she believes the EU is plotting against her, it is much harder for her counterparts to take anything she says to them at face value.

Third, May has shown herself to have such a thin skin you’d have thought she got some coaching from Donald Trump during her visit back in January. Openly accusing an ostensible ally of plotting against you is hardly Prime Ministerial behavior. From that narrow perspective, the statement makes her look worse.

Why do it, then? The only angle from which this makes sense is the internal politics of the Tory party. She surprised most of her colleagues when she called this election. Her reputation is one of extreme caution. The polls look magnificent for the Tories, but they have created outsized expectations. A big election win is now priced into her colleagues’ perceptions of Mrs. May. Her authority will be diminished if she fails to get a significantly bigger majority than she has now. If she doesn’t she will be vulnerable both to her hard Brexit wing and any lurking soft Brexiters or closet Remainers. Commentators arguing that her statement was reckless when she’s bound to win anyway seem to miss this point. Yes, everyone’s central assumption has to be a Tory win with a big majority, but Theresa May is the one who now has to deliver on that. This is an election that she has to absolutely nail. She needs the best Conservative result since 1987.

And despite the state of the polls, that thumping win can’t be taken as read. While last night’s local election results should bolster Tory confidence that their poll leads convert to the hard currency of votes, there is still plenty of room for things to go wrong. There are several questions that should be occupying Theresa May and likely led to her big announcement this week.

First, have the pollsters overcorrected? All the major polling houses updated their methodology after 2015, with the goal of better modelling who would actually turn out in a future election. Because of the result in 2015, changes to the pollsters’ models can only have led to them reporting higher Tory numbers, even if the underlying reality is unchanged. But the new models haven’t been tested against a real election yet. While it’s unlikely that there have been no real shifts at all since 2015, those double-digit Tory leads could be offering false hope.

Second, will the CPS charge over 30 Conservatives including MPs and senior officials with offences relating to the 2015 campaign? Any charges would have to land before the election. May could lose control of the narrative right at the time when the country’s full attention will be on the campaign and undecided voters are finally breaking one way or the other. It happened to Hillary Clinton; it could happen here.

Third, how much will the Lib Dems bounce back? They went from 57 seats to 8 at the last election, with 27 of the losses to the Tories. The Lib Dems are up a couple of points over 2015 in the polling averages, but historically they outperform national polls by focusing hard on local campaigns. It would be astonishing for the Tories to hold on to all of their 2015 Lib Dem gains, making their task in Labour marginals that much harder.

Fourth, what if Labour’s plan works? The past few weeks have seen the party start do something on policy: universal free school meals for primary pupils, a rise in the minimum wage to £10 and support for small businesses plagued by late payments from bigger clients all went down well. Corbyn is back to campaigning, clearly a far happier habitat for him than management. He is finally guaranteed press coverage of what he wants to do in power, rather than internal dramas. Voters could warm to his style. He could have a brilliant policy up his sleeve. Labour polled 30.4% in 2015. You might have seen some big headlines about Labour vote shares of 24 and 25. But the current average at Britain Elects has Labour on 27.6 and at Polling Observatory they’re on 27.8. He only has to do as well as Ed Miliband to put May in an uncomfortable position.

None of this is a serious case for the Tories actually losing the election. But for Theresa May, defeat isn’t just not losing: it’s ending up as a David Cameron mark II, beholden to the many people in her party willing to cause her trouble. Her latest intervention gave her another news cycle dominated by Brexit; splashes across the press of her looking tough; more adulation from the Daily Mail; other parties gasping for oxygen. Control of the narrative. Ultimately, she hopes, control of her party.

There will be plenty of time to sit down and make friends with the EU after the election – and if she has another 100 MPs at her back the frosty reception she gets will seem well worth it.

Targeting the Message: How Parties Use Polls in a Campaign

Targeting the Message: How Parties Use Polls in a Campaign

GQR Vice President Peter McLeod is writing a weekly column on the UK general election for, where this article first appeared. GQR was pollster to Labour at the 2015 UK general election but does not work with the current leadership.

 “You all got it wrong, didn’t you?” This, and less polite variations on it, is the kind of thing people say to me when I tell them I’m a pollster[1]. It’s been a rich couple of years for conversations like that, what with GE 2015, Brexit, and Trump. Despite the fact that the final average of polls in each of those elections was within margin-of-error of the result, plenty of people have decided they’ve had enough of the polls; if you’re one of them, I doubt I’m going to persuade you otherwise.

On the other hand if you do believe the polls, and you’re reading this website, you probably already know that Labour appears on course for an historic defeat. You’ve seen that the Conservatives could win the most seats in Wales for the first time since the 1850s; that Labour is doing even worse in its own seats than the national polls show; that it looks like it will be the Tories, not Labour, who finally peg the SNP back; that for the past 6 elections the polls 50 days out overestimated the Labour share of the vote; and that Theresa May has the highest rating as most capable Prime Minister recorded by Ipsos MORI in the 38 years they’ve been asking the question. You know all this.

So instead, I want to talk about how campaigns use polls. While media coverage is getting a lot more sophisticated, it still tends to fixate on the horse race. Of course, parties pay attention to this and it can make a real difference to how they behave. Throughout the 2010-15 Parliament, publicly available polls gave Labour substantial leads over the Tories, enough to convince a lot of people in the party that it was doing and saying the right things. But, as my old GQR colleague has written, our private polling was always more pessimistic than what appeared in the papers. We thought the party needed to shift its position on spending and immigration if it wanted to win a majority, but our bad-news polls could always be set against a weight of public polling that said everything was fine. We all winced when the audience on Question Time a week before the election hammered Ed on Labour’s spending record. Any chance to neutralise it had gone years before.

But again, the horse race is only the beginning of what a campaign uses polling for. More than anything, politics is a persuasion business. This goes for the activist knocking on doors as much as for the leader standing at the despatch box, in a private meeting with their Parliamentary party or going on Marr. And to persuade people, you need a message. This isn’t a line or a paragraph or an essay, it is a story: about how the world is today, what needs to change and why you – not any of the other candidates – are the one to achieve this. Campaign research, then, is all about identifying, testing and honing these messages. Doing it right takes a lot of things, but four are chief among them.

First, targeting. You need to know who you’re trying to persuade. Some people will love a particular message, but would never vote for you anyway. You want swing voters, and for that you need a poll with a big enough sample to delve into each party’s voters and pick out those who a) aren’t convinced about their current choice, and b) haven’t ruled out voting for another party. Depending on the circumstances, you might be more interested in your opponent’s weak voters who would potentially vote for you, or your own voters at risk of being wrested away by your opponent. But once you’ve isolated your targets, start filtering out what the rest think. Right now, Theresa May rightly thinks that she should be targeting huge chunks of Labour’s vote. That’s one reason her attack is so narrowly on Corbyn: she would risk alienating some of her targets if she attacked Labour and its values more broadly. That narrowness is a signal of her ambition.

Second, your subject. You have to find out what your targets care about: you might have a brilliant message on class sizes in primary schools but if the people you want to win are more anxious about the NHS, find something on that instead. The Tories have decided that their winnable voters care about leadership and Brexit. There’s no doubt their research is telling them this. So even when they talk about other things, they will still be talking about leadership and Brexit.

Third, what options do you have for what you will actually say? Write it all down and test it. Your tests can range from the macro (do we advocate a second referendum? Quitting the European Court of Justice?) to the really quite micro (does “strength and stability” or “capability and competence” work better?). It all gets put through the wringer – in focus groups, in polls, in A/B testing on social media.

Fourth, how do we do against the other side? Messages must be tested against what other parties and candidates say: if your target likes what you say but likes what others say even more, you better change what you’re saying. Another trap is to find a message that works wonderfully just so long as no one challenges it. Fail to stress test your message, and this can happen.

By now, most of the heavy lifting should have been done: the parties know who they’re trying to reach, which of their buttons to push, how to package their offer and how to fend off attacks. They’ll track how they’re doing, especially in marginal seats, run quick tests on how to respond to ups and downs in the campaign, and look to tweak their messages for a last late push. But the core message is already brightly polished and ready to spring to life.

Finally: I might have given the impression that campaigns and the research that goes into them are a cynical exercise, all about politicians telling voters what they want to hear. I know plenty of people think that – they say so in focus groups. The reality is that our role is not to tell candidates what to say to make people like them; instead, it’s to show how they can talk about their own ambitions for the country in a way that people understand and relate to. We like to think that this contributes to the democratic process.


[1] There’s also a weird variation sometimes when people think I’ve said “upholsterer,” but that’s another column.

These recent elections show that polling isn’t, and never was, broken

These recent elections show that polling isn’t, and never was, broken

By Anna Greenberg and Jeremy D. Rosner


This article appeared in the Washington Post Outlook section May 7th, 2017. See it here. 


Global financial markets and European Union leaders heaved a sigh of relief after the first round of the French presidential election last month. And so did the polling profession. It turns out the polls were not broken in France, as they were said to have been in the American presidential election and the British Brexit vote.

But in truth, France wasn’t a departure. The polls in the United States and Britain generally worked well. As a new report this past week from the American Association for Public Opinion Research pointed out , national surveys in the U.S. election “were generally correct and accurate by historical standards.” Although polling faces real challenges, nobody has repealed the laws of statistics: When polling is done well, it continues to produce reliable results.

Here, nationwide polls accurately predicted Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote. She won by 2.1 percentage points, while the average polling margin on Election Day was Clinton by 3.2 points. In Britain, our poll for a think tank showed a narrow initial preference to “remain” in the European Union across likely voters but an advantage for “leave” — the winning result — after voters listened to arguments on both sides.

Yes, polling in recent years has had to grapple with major challenges, from low response rates to non-response bias , in which some groups choose not to participate (there is evidence of this to some extent among Trump voters). But none of these problems means that the basic science behind survey research has failed or that we can no longer produce high-quality, accurate data. The problem is that too many people are misusing and abusing polls — in three ways in particular.

First, many people treat polls as predictions instead of snapshots in time based on a set of assumptions about who will turn out to vote. Ron Fournier, the publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business, for instance, has argued that Nate Silver got the election wrong because he awarded Trump only a 34 percent chance of winning. Pollsters make judgments about the composition of the electorate based on historical experience and levels of interest in the current election in order to pull a list of voters to interview. But if those assumptions are wrong, then the polls will be wrong on Election Day. The polls in the Midwest that predicted a Clinton victory generally did not anticipate that, in key industrial states, more rural and exurban white working-class voters would turn out to vote than in past presidential contests.

The tendency of elites to underestimate working-class anger is a real and global problem. The United States and most other major democracies are grappling with intense and historic levels of public grievance related to slow growth; income inequality; and resentments over trade, technology and immigration. That has made voter turnout among specific blocs less predictable worldwide. But that’s not a problem with survey research methodology. Rather, it puts a bigger premium on listening to voters and picking up on who is particularly angry or energized.

Second, the rising cost of collecting high-quality data — because of declining response rates and the increased use of cellphones — has led many researchers to cut corners. Rather than spend more to address such problems, some organizations skimp on practices such as call-backs (to people who didn’t answer) or cluster sampling (to make sure small geographic areas are represented proportionately). They may also use cheap but sometimes unreliable data collection methods such as opt-in online panels or push-button polling (interactive voice recognition) that systematically exclude respondents who primarily use mobile devices.

Indeed, according to “Shattered,” the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the Clinton campaign relied heavily on “analytics” surveys rather than “old school polling” to track the candidate’s standing because the former were cheaper. Analytics surveys are used to gather data for building voter targeting models. They tend to have large sample sizes but skimp on common practices that make traditional polls more accurate. The book quotes a Clinton pollster acknowledging as much on election night: “Our analytics models were just really off. Time to go back to traditional polling.”

Third, good polling requires good listening. Powerful new techniques in big data modeling make it possible to segment and target voters in ways that were undreamed-of a decade ago. Yet voting is an inherently human activity that defies being completely reduced to formulas. The best polling has always been accompanied by directly listening to people, face to face, in their own words.

Many campaigns and media organizations miss opportunities or succumb to polling errors because they do not invest in simply listening to voters. Focus groups are invaluable, as are other ways of listening, such as conducting in-depth interviews, reading online discussion boards or even systematically monitoring conversations on social media.

Open-ended listening can reveal the need to reword survey questions; for example, our recent focus groups suggest that “globalization” is all but meaningless to many voters. Open listening can cast doubt on things that may have become conventional wisdom in a campaign; for instance, we have worked in many races where the “front-runner” was actually quite weak, but that was more evident in focus groups than in standard survey measures of favorability or job performance. Direct listening can also show that all polling numbers are not created equal: While we did not poll for last year’s Clinton campaign, we conducted many focus groups across the country in which it was clear that voters were willing to overlook or tolerate concerns about Trump, while they could not do the same with Clinton (e.g., “I just don’t trust her”). Direct listening revealed that low favorability ratings meant different things for the two candidates. These are qualitative tactics that many media polls and campaigns skip or skimp on, partly because of the cost.

Polling had a good day in France two weeks ago, and with sound practices it could have another good day this weekend. Whether it has more good days, or instead becomes an increasing target of skepticism, will depend less on math and more on old-fashioned matters of hard listening, wise budgeting and human judgment.


Three Keys to Stemming the World’s Downward Democratic Spiral

Three Keys to Stemming the World’s Downward Democratic Spiral

By Jeremy D. Rosner

Liberal democracy is facing severe challenges worldwide. The signs are well known: the success of Donald Trump’s nationalist/populist campaign; the Brexit vote; the emergence of illiberal governments in other EU states such as Hungary and Poland; President Erdogan’s power grab in Turkey; the surging assertiveness of authoritarian regimes in Russia and China; the popularity of leaders, from the Philippines to Kenya, who flout human rights norms; and more. 

All these raise the question of whether the world’s “third wave” of liberal democratic expansion, which began in the 1970s, has now reversed into a downward democratic spiral, and whether we are witnessing a mounting rejection of the ideas that made it possible for liberal democracies to thrive, including economic globalization, norms of protection for those fleeing oppression, an internationalist stance by the US and of its community of allies, and a widespread preference for systems of popular rule with strong protections for procedural and minority rights.

Many respected experts seem to have decided liberal democracy’s best days are over. The US National Intelligence Council’s influential quadrennial Global Trends report, published in January, struck a decidedly gloomy tone for the liberal democratic order. It suggested the next decades will feature “an inward-looking West and erosion of norms for conflict prevention and human rights,” slow economic growth, rising tensions among countries, and increased “populism…on the right and left, threatening liberalism.”

Similarly, the American geo-strategist Robert Kagan has suggested we are in “the twilight of the liberal world order.” In a recent Foreign Policy article, he argues that, akin to the West’s disastrous retreat into isolationism in the 1920s, the world may have already missed its chance to defend the ideas that made it possible for liberal democracy to thrive in the post-WWII era, such as democratic norms, respect for borders, economic integration, and human rights:

The weakness at the core of the democratic world and the shedding by the United States of global responsibilities have already encouraged a more aggressive revisionism by the dissatisfied powers [principally China and Russia]. That, in turn, has further sapped the democratic world’s confidence and willingness to resist. History suggests that this is a downward spiral from which it will be difficult to recover, absent a rather dramatic shift of course by the United States.

There are plenty of recent data points to suggest the world’s liberal democratic order is struggling, and much reason to worry about the Trump administration’s retreat from America’s traditional global advocacy for democracy, human rights, open trade, and strong alliances. It is very possible that the liberal democratic fabric, particularly in the West, will continue to unravel. The upcoming elections in France, Germany, and Sweden will be important indicators.

Yet there is reason to question whether liberal democracy is doomed to keep waning. In many cases, the skeptics’ observations, while well rooted in geopolitics, overlook some dynamics of domestic politics that could alter the picture. Indeed, there are at least three major reasons, linked to internal political dynamics, which suggest how progressive leaders and states can still pull the world out of the downward democratic spiral we observe today.

1. With better campaigns, closely divided electorates could send a different message. While there is no mistaking the populist/nationalist trend in key recent elections, many of those victories were quite narrow. Kagan, in an earlier article, argues that, “With the election of Donald Trump, a majority of Americans have signaled their unwillingness to continue upholding the world order.” Even leaving aside that Trump failed to win a plurality, much less a majority of the vote, this draws too definitive a conclusion – especially given that American voters mostly made their choice in 2016 based on domestic issues, and also given that the result was so mixed.

After all, Hillary Clinton – a strong internationalist – actually won the popular vote. And if just 40,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had been cast for her rather than Donald Trump, the narrative would now be more about the US bucking – or even blocking – the global trend away from the liberal democratic order. Similarly, a shift of just 650,000 votes in Britain toward “remain” – out of more than 33 million votes cast – would have left people concluding that the EU was simply on notice, rather than on life support. 

In both the US and UK, better campaigns could well have reversed the results. In too many democracies, the established progressive parties have become complacent and insular. Many are run by long-time staff who keep their jobs whether their leaders win or lose, which gives them little incentive to listen hard to their electorates or risk new strategies. Those who fail to explore new approaches for communicating with voters are not likely to fare well.

But the closely divided nature of the electorates in many countries means that even marginally better campaigns can create very different results. Indeed, just this year, there have been some notable changes, such as the weak vote for hatemonger Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and a minor but notable Swiss referendum in favor of liberalized migration. The scattering of encouraging results does not mean the illiberal danger is past – only that it is not too late for smart progressive leaders and parties to raise their game and shift the apparent trend.

2. “The Trump Factor” and the rise of “antibodies.” Just as illnesses trigger antibodies, the ills plaguing liberal democracy may be starting to trigger popular and institutional checks and balances. Progressives who were apathetic enough to permit Hillary Clinton’s defeat last November are now full of passion, protesting by the millions, shouting down Republican members of Congress at town meetings, and contributing massively to liberal advocacy groups.

This energy helped fuel the defeat of Trump’s central promise to repeal Obamacare. Trump’s attacks on federal judges may have played a role in the federal judiciary repeatedly blocking his Muslim-hostile travel bans. His attacks on the media have helped spur some of the best US investigative reporting since Watergate. And just in the past weeks, Trump has been forced by his own advisers and the stubbornness of reality to reverse previously held positions, including his campaign pledge to “rip up” NAFTA, his earlier charge that NATO is “obsolete,” and the green light his team initially gave Bashar al-Assad to remain in power.

Of course, not all political immune systems have the same vigor. In Russia, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Venezuela, and many other states, illiberal rulers have succeeded in eviscerating some combination of their countries’ legislatures, judiciaries, media, and civil societies. In the Philippines, President Duterte’s strong approval ratings have cowed the legislature, courts, and even parts of the media from criticizing the thousands of extrajudicial killings he has blessed.

Yet even when liberal institutions have been all but gutted, there can still be push-back; witness the strong (if unsuccessful) campaign against the Turkish referendum to concentrate power under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, or the recent protests in Hungary against the government’s assault on Central European University. A great deal comes down to the creativity of those who seek to defend democracy. As nationalists rise, democratic leaders will have new opportunities to tap the resentment of progressive voters and activists – and if more of them succeed, the trends for democracy could be somewhat better than they now appear.

3. It is one thing to “throw the bums out”; it is much harder to outperform them. “Isms” are relatively easy to start; they are not so easy to sustain. When electorates are angry – especially after an economic slump like the one the world entered in 2008 – the ground becomes fertile for all manner of charismatic leaders, left and right, to claim they have found a better way.

But an electoral rejection of the old model doesn’t ensure success of the new one. Across Latin America, for example, a series of left-leaning populist leaders and parties now face protests and violence from dissatisfied publics. Hugo Chavez touted his “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela, for example, but once oil prices collapsed, so did his economic theories.

As many have noted, the reaction against liberal democracy is largely a backlash against the very openness that fuels its vitality – particularly against liberal conceptions of trade, migration, racial and gender equality, and sexual orientation. But no system has yet emerged that closes borders or restricts individual liberties without sacrificing competing goals, like economic growth, technological innovation, social peace, and political accountability. One opportunity for progressive parties and leaders will be to focus voters on the inability of nationalist/populist leaders, once elected, to deliver real improvements in living conditions, transparency, and justice.

None of this is cause for complacency. Liberal democracy really is under siege – in many cases, deservedly so. Mainstream progressive parties in the US and many other countries have offered only thin gruel policies in the face of widespread hunger for greater equality of income, wealth, and opportunity. Publics nearly everywhere are furious about rampant corruption – and their glimpses behind the golden curtain, as with the Panama Papers, confirm their worst suspicions. Progressive leaders have often failed to take seriously the dislocations working class voters feel due to accelerating flows of goods, ideas, and people (a problem in both the Brexit and Clinton campaigns). Many Western leaders – including both Presidents Obama and Trump – have done too little to challenge Russia’s and China’s ambitions to upend the liberal democratic order.

But liberal democracy has overcome such challenges in the past, and has resilience that is easy to underestimate. As the Economist noted a few years ago: 

Democracy has been on the back foot before. In the 1920s and 1930s communism and fascism looked like the coming things: when Spain temporarily restored its parliamentary government in 1931, Benito Mussolini likened it to returning to oil lamps in the age of electricity. In the mid-1970s Willy Brandt, a former German chancellor, pronounced that “western Europe has only 20 or 30 more years of democracy left in it; after that it will slide, engineless and rudderless, under the surrounding sea of dictatorship.” 

Those pronouncements of democracy’s weakness proved to be overstated. If progressive leaders and parties are able to rise to the challenge of populist nationalism, experiment with new strategies, run more creative campaigns, and mount stronger defenses of the virtues of liberal democracy, today’s gloomy assessments could prove to be overstated as well.

Dr. Rosner is a partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in Washington, DC, where he manages the firm’s international campaign and corporate work. During the 1990s, he served as Special Assistant to President Clinton on the staff of the National Security Council, and as Senior Adviser to President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright on the enlargement of NATO.

Selling flexible immigration to a sceptical country

Selling flexible immigration to a sceptical country

It’s hard, but harder for the Tories than Labour

Brexit, so we were told, is about taking back control. The restoration of sovereignty; the repatriation of powers. Parliament will be in charge once again. Of course most MPs from all parties didn’t actually want these powers to come back to Britain, they were quite happy with the old arrangement. One reason for this is that possessing certain powers means people expect you to wield them.

The newly-acquired power to cut immigration is surely the most testing such case. Expectations for reduced immigration post-Brexit are enormous, yet without migrants British industry would face serious problems. The British car industry’s representative body the SMMT says the sector is currently trying to fill 5,000 open positions. Perhaps in an ideal world there would be enough Brits with the necessary skills to fill those jobs; we don’t live in that world. The SMMT is adamant that free movement between Britain and the EU must continue.

The government has to choose between what’s good for our economy and what people want it to do, because among the British public the idea of cutting immigration is remarkably uncontroversial. When we ask if people agree or disagree with the statement “It is essential for the immigration system to reduce the number of migrants coming to Britain,” 58% agree and only 18% disagree. It’s not just Brexiteers either: there is net agreement with this principle among both Remain and Leave voters. Also Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters; men and women; the 18-34s, the 35-54s and the 55 pluses; all the social grades from A to E; white people and ethnic minorities; the people of Scotland, Wales, the North, Midlands and South; Londoners, for goodness’ sake.

And yet politicians seem to be edging toward a position where migration will not be cut. On 27 March, speaking on the BBC’s Question Time, David Davis said "I cannot imagine that the [immigration] policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest. Which means that from time to time we will need more, from time to time we will need less.” This is a strong message to industry that their interests will be protected, but risks disappointing voters. Over the next couple of years Davis and his colleagues will have to find a way to sell continued high migration to a country that thought it had voted to get rid of it. For the Conservatives in particular this is a liability. It might be an opportunity for Labour, if the party is prepared to take it.

Years’ worth of focus groups and polling for the Labour party and others showed us how hard it is to shift British people’s certainty about cutting migration. In our latest poll we wanted to find out whether there were any circumstances under which people would accept immigration going up as well as down. We designed it to take account of the pushback we’ve heard so many times when testing immigration policy ideas: “sure, sounds good, but let’s get the numbers down too!” So for each of five possible controls on migration we asked people to choose between two statements: “As long as [we implement this policy], the overall number of immigrants should be able to go up or down as needed,” OR “[We should implement this policy], but the overall number of immigrants should also come down.”

We tested five different ideas like this, and the short answer is: the government faces serious trouble. For all five, more people thought we should still cut migrant numbers than felt comfortable with numbers going up as well as down:

But the political breakdowns tell another story. On “make sure that people who come here have a job and skills that we need,” Labour voters picked flexible migration over cutting the numbers by a 51-38 margin. On “As long as employers are not allowed to use migrant workers to undercut British workers' wages,” they picked flexibility over cutting numbers 53-34. These are solid margins. Conservative voters by contrast prefer to cut migrant numbers in either case (by 55-41 in the case of the jobs/skills policy and by 59-34 for undercutting). But Conservative voters who would consider Labour (they do exist, believe it or not) are in favour of flexible migration under the jobs/skills scenario.

All this means that Labour could have a more economically and electorally viable immigration policy than the Conservatives. This of course assumes that Labour is interested in things that are both economically and electorally viable; on that, the evidence isn’t clear.

Politico has covered these results here.

Peter McLeod is a Vice President with GQR and runs the firm’s London office. GQR worked for Labour from the mid ‘90s until May 2015. We have no relationship with the party’s current leadership and are not seeking one.

The survey described in this article is a nationally representative online survey of Great Britain conducted from 8 to 10 March 2017. Results are weighted to be representative of the total population by age, gender, region, socioeconomic grade, ethnicity and past voting behaviour.

Download data tables showing the results here.

For more information contact or tweet Peter McLeod (@mcleodp).

GQRR Polling for the New Economics Foundation: Brexit can’t cure Britain’s crisis of control

GQRR Polling for the New Economics Foundation: Brexit can’t cure Britain’s crisis of control

A new poll, conducted by GQR for the New Economics Foundation, shows that the British public overwhelmingly lacks a sense of control over key institutions in their communities and country – and with Article 50 set to be triggered, those who feel least in control of their lives are more worried than hopeful about Britain’s reality outside the European Union.

Vast majorities of British voters report that they have little or no control over crucial organizations and areas of their lives, ranging from companies that provide them essential services (70% feel they have little or no control), to the Westminster government (81%), and aspects of their community including their local council (79%), public services in their area (79%), and neighbourhood (75%).

Moreover, people lacking control over their lives do not feel confident about Brexit: 48% report that they feel more worried than hopeful about how Britain will be after leaving the EU compared to 42% feeling more hopeful. This is in stark contrast to those who do feel in control over their lives – 58% are more hopeful than worried about the country post-Brexit, only 38% worried.

Further analysis of the results by the New Economics Foundation can be found here.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) surveyed 1,994 people in Great Britain online between 8 and 10 March. Results are weighted to be representative of the total population by age, gender, region, socioeconomic grade, ethnicity and past voting behaviour.

Download data tables showing the results here.

 For more information contact or tweet Peter McLeod (@mcleodp).

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Names Kristi Lowe and Elizabeth Sena as Partners

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Names Kristi Lowe and Elizabeth Sena as Partners

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is pleased to announce that it has today promoted GQR Vice Presidents Kristi Lowe and Elizabeth Sena to become partners in the firm. 

UK Poll Shows Public Rejects Hard Brexit

UK Poll Shows Public Rejects Hard Brexit

New polling data released by GQR today shows that Britain wants a “soft” Brexit. Voters would be happier with a Brexit deal that left Britain inside the single market and with continued free movement of people than with a deal that took the country out of the single market and gave it full control of the borders. But our analysis of the poll shows that if Theresa May focuses on key threats to the Conservative vote ahead of the next general election, she may take Britain out of the single market all the same.

As Peter McLeod, Vice President at GQR and head of the firm’s London office, writes at today:

The struggle provoking this predicament has been going on in the background for decades: Conservatives are split on Europe. David Cameron tried to resolve it by holding the Brexit referendum, and in the wake of that failure Theresa May faces a new version of the dilemma. Unlike the country as a whole, Conservative voters are evenly split on what would be the better Brexit. Soft Brexit would leave 48% of them happy, 42% unhappy; hard Brexit would leave 48% happy, 41% unhappy. So May is bound to leave a significant chunk of Conservative voters feeling betrayed. The challenge for her and her team is to assess the risk each scenario poses at the next general election. Our poll suggests it’s a knife-edge decision: Tory voters who would be unhappy with a soft Brexit are about as likely to turn to UKIP as those who would be unhappy with hard Brexit to jump ship to Labour or the Lib Dems.

Read the full article here

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) surveyed 1,994 people in Great Britain online between 8 and 10 March. Results are weighted to be representative of the total population by age, gender, region, socioeconomic grade, ethnicity and past voting behaviour.

Download data tables showing the results here.

For more information contact or tweet Peter McLeod (@mcleodp).

Voters Oppose GOP Maneuvering to Push through Trump's Ultraconservative Supreme Court Nominee

Voters Oppose GOP Maneuvering to Push through Trump's Ultraconservative Supreme Court Nominee

The following data is from a national telephone survey of 601 likely November 2018 voters. The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research from January 27 - 31, 2017, and has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Fifty percent of respondents were reached on a cell phone.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, a new national poll1 shows that voters believe that the nomination has real consequences for the direction of the country. Voters strongly oppose efforts by the Republicans to change the rules in order to push through Trump’s ultraconservative nominee.

Americans see this as a fight that matters to them. When presented with potential consequences and rulings that could result from Gorsuch’s confirmation, including overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving the flow of special interest money in politics unchecked, large majorities of voters say they are more likely to oppose the nominee.

Key findings from the poll, conducted January 27-31, 2017 on behalf of NARAL Pro Choice America Foundation, Every Voice, and End Citizens United, include:

  • Voters overwhelmingly believe that Trump’s nomination will have a real impact on the country’s future. Fully 72 percent of voters think the nomination will have a big difference on the direction of the country. Voters across the political spectrum agree on the importance of this nomination for the country, with 76 percent of Democrats saying it will make a big difference, along with 75 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents.
  • Americans strongly object to any GOP attempts to use political tactics to strongarm Trump’s nominee through the confirmation process. After hearing balanced messaging, seven in 10 voters (69 percent) oppose Republicans changing the rules to prevent a filibuster and allow the U.S. Senate to confirm a nominee with just a simple majority instead of the required 60 votes, with 54 percent strongly opposing this proposal. In fact, even 4-out-of-10 Trump voters (39 percent) oppose Republicans trying to change filibuster rules. 
  • Highlighting potential actions and rulings that could result from confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee makes voters much more likely to oppose him. Large majorities of voters say they are more likely to oppose Trump’s nominee when they hear a diverse set of issues that could be impacted by a nominee like Gorsuch. Actions that create strong opposition include:
    • Upholding the Citizens United decision to allow corporations, unions, and wealthy donors to spend more money on elections.  
    • Overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal.  
    • Eliminating or weakening environmental regulations that protect air, water, and land from pollution.  
    • Refusing to uphold or eliminating rights and protections for LGBT individuals.  
    • Failing to protect voting rights and make it more difficult for Americans, particularly the poor and people of color, to vote.  
    • Weakening the ability of labor unions to organize workers to negotiate for better wages and working conditions.
  • Voters strongly support legal abortion and oppose a Trump nominee they believe could put that right at risk. Seven out of 10 voters (69 percent) support a woman’s right to choose, and they recognize that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee jeopardizes the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal. More than half of voters (52 percent) think it is very or somewhat likely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned if Trump’s nominee is confirmed. This possibility raises strong opposition for voters, with 61 percent who say they are more likely to oppose a nominee who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Voters have strong negative reactions to a Supreme Court nominee who will continue to allow corporations and special interests to use money to gain influence and drown out the voice of individuals in politics. Opposition to a nominee who wants no spending limits for corporations and wealthy individuals in elections is both broad and deep. Overall, 78 percent are more likely to oppose the nominee (56 percent much more likely to oppose), including 92 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Republicans. Three quarters of voters express a desire for their Senators to oppose a Supreme Court nominee who has ruled in favor of allowing campaign contributors to spend more money in elections.

Voters recognize this Supreme Court nomination is crucial to the direction of the country, and they strongly oppose any efforts by the Republicans to skirt the rules and push through Trump’s ultraconservative nominee. 

Was Barack Obama Bad for Democrats?

Was Barack Obama Bad for Democrats?

Stan Greenberg and Anna Greenberg provide a provocative analysis in their new op-ed for The New York Times. Full article here

President Obama will be remembered as a thoughtful and dignified president who led a scrupulously honest administration that achieved major changes.

People argue over whether his impatience with politicians and Republican intransigence denied him bigger accomplishments, but that argument is beside the point: He rescued an economy in crisis and passed the recovery program, pulled America back from its military overreach, passed the Affordable Care Act and committed the nation to addressing climate change. To be truly transformative in the way he wanted, however, his success had to translate into electoral gains for those who shared his vision and wanted to reform government. On that count, Mr. Obama failed.

His legacy regrettably includes the more than 1,000 Democrats who lost their elections during his two terms. Republicans now have total control in half of America’s states.

Why such political carnage?

Faced with the economy’s potential collapse as he took office, Mr. Obama devoted his presidency to the economic recovery, starting with restoring the financial sector. But he never made wage stagnation and growing inequality central to his economic mission, even though most Americans struggled financially for the whole of his term.

At the same time, Mr. Obama declined to really spend time and capital explaining his initiatives in an effective way. He believed that positive changes on the ground, especially from economic policies and the Affordable Care Act, would succeed, vindicating his judgment and marginalizing his opponents.

Absent a president educating the public about his plans, for voters, the economic recovery effort morphed into bailouts — bank bailouts, auto bailouts, insurance bailouts. By his second year in office, he spotlighted the creation of new jobs and urged Democrats to defend our “progress.”

When President Obama began focusing on those “left behind” by the recovery, he called for building “ladders of opportunity.” That communicated that the president believed the country’s main challenges were unrealized opportunity for a newly ascendant, multicultural America, rather than the continuing economic struggle experienced by a majority of Americans.

Mr. Obama also offered only tepid support to the most important political actor in progressive and Democratic politics: the labor movement. In the absence of progressive funders in the mode of the conservative Koch brothers, unions are the most important actors at the state legislative level. Yet when the 2010 election ushered in a spate of anti-union governors, who eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees and passed “right to work” laws, Mr. Obama never really joined this fight. In fact, he spent the last couple of years of his presidency pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a free trade law vociferously opposed by the labor movement. Under President Obama, union membership has declined to 11.1 percent from 12.3 percent.

While the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 were models of innovation in online organizing and microtargeting, they did not translate into success in the midterm elections or in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Democratic turnout dropped in 2010, 2012 and significantly in 2014. Models, it appears, do not substitute for the hard work of organizing and engaging voters in nonpresidential years; models that apparently drove nearly every decision made by the Clinton campaign are no substitute for listening to voters.

Finally, just as he governed, the campaign messages from the president in the midterms and in 2016 were focused on progress and growth.

On the eve of the 2016 election, the president used the refrain: “We’ve seen America turn recession into recovery” and 15.5 million new jobs. Pointedly, he said, “Incomes are rising. Poverty is falling.”

The public’s reaction was stark from the beginning. People did not believe his view on the economy, and his approval ratings fell in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2010 and in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2014 — the states that led the working-class move away from the Democrats.

Just as important, however, was the discontent brewing with the Democrats’ own base. Combined, the approximately 40 percent of minority, unmarried female and millennial voters disapproved of how President Obama was handling his job in 2010 and 2014, and many stayed home during the off-year elections. Mitt Romney carried white millennials by 7 percentage points in 2012.

Mr. Obama did win re-election that year, though only after embracing Teddy Roosevelt’s populist spirit and criticizing the “breathtaking greed of a few.” He declared it a “make-or-break moment for the middle class.” This posture did not animate his governing message or the 2016 presidential election. The president will leave office with a rising approval rating near the same league of Ronald Reagan, an economy nearing full employment and real wages tipping up. Yet a majority of voters in the last election said the economy was the top issue in their vote.

We think voters were sending a clear message: They want more than a recovery. They want an economy and government that works for them, and that task is unfinished.

November 2016: Election Results & Congratulations!

November 2016: Election Results & Congratulations!

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner would like to extend congratulations to a number of our clients. 

United States Senate

  • GQR congratulates Senator-elect Maggie Hassan and her team on a hard-fought victory in the election for Senate in New Hampshire, one of two Democratic pickups in the Senate. Hassan defeated incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte in one of the nation's most high profile Senate contests, winning by a margin of 1,019 votes out of nearly 740,000 votes cast. Hassan now joins New Hampshire’s Senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen as the only two women in American history to be elected both governor and senator.  She will also serve as part of New Hampshire’s first all-female Democratic congressional delegation. GQR is proud to have been part of the Hassan team, and our work was led by Al Quinlan, Missy Egelsky, and Ben Winston.

  • GQR also congratulates Senator Richard Blumenthal on a resounding victory in the election for Senate in Connecticut. Blumenthal defeated Dan Carter, securing 63 percent of the vote. This project was led by Al Quinlan and Mallory Newall. 

  • GQR was also proud to assist independent expenditure groups working on behalf of Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.

United States Congress

GQR congratulates our numerous victorious congressional clients, including Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03), Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02).

 GQR was proud to work alongside the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC in support of a number of congressional campaigns, including Congresswoman-elect Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congressman-elect Brad Schneider (IL-10).

Other Elections

  • GQR congratulates South Dakotans for Integrity for the passage of Initiated Measure 22, the South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act, a thrilling victory for campaign finance reform. Despite significant paid opposition from Koch brother funded groups, IM-22 won with 52 percent of the vote statewide. IM-22 introduces a set of reforms to crack down on corruption, make campaigns more transparent, and end the practice of lobbyists giving unlimited secret gifts to politicians in South Dakota. It also includes the nation’s first system of Democracy credits.
  •  GQR congratulates the Alliance for Gun Responsibility for the successful passage of Initiative 1491 in Washington, which allows family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that the person poses a serious threat to themselves or others.
  •  GQR was proud to conduct research on behalf of the Wayne County (MI) Regional Education Service Agency and the John Ball Zoo/Grand Rapids Public Museum (Kent County, MI). The successful passage of these initiatives will ensure additional funding for 33 school districts and thousands of students across Wayne County and, in Kent County, create a dedicated source of funding to expand educational programs and care for thousands of animals and unique artifacts. 
  • GQR also congratulates Oakland County, Michigan, Treasurer Andy Meisner and Ingham County, Michigan, Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth on their victories. 

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Promotes Brian Paler and Peter McLeod as new Vice Presidents

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Promotes Brian Paler and Peter McLeod as new Vice Presidents

We are pleased to announce the promotions of Brian Paler and Peter McLeod to Vice President. 

The 2016 US Election - Some Implications

The 2016 US Election - Some Implications

Jeremy Rosner, GQR Executive Vice President and Principal, expands on his earlier article: "The 2016 US Election - Explaining the Results". 

Our earlier note laid out 5 key explanations for the historic result of the November 8 US election:

  1. A strong, angry backlash from lower-educated, non-urban white voters overwhelmed the weakly-motivated “cosmopolitan” electorate that twice elected Barack Obama and supported Hillary Clinton.
  2. Clinton mostly ran a “continuity” election in a year when 62% wanted change, and did not give sufficient voice to the need for economic change that most voters wanted. 
  3. FBI director James Comey’s unethical intervention on October 28 arrested Clinton’s momentum and depressed her vote enough to account for the outcome. 
  4. Attacks on Donald Trump’s unsuitability for the presidency were broadly credible, but not a sufficient reason for many voters to support Clinton. 
  5. The polls got some things right – including the prediction Clinton would win more votes – but missed a lot of the story, due to factors like bad expectations on who would vote.

5 Implications
This note lays out some implications, which are becoming clearer day by day. The consequences of this historic election will reverberate across America and the world for years and decades to come, but five implications already loom large:
1. The decline of major American institutions. Donald Trump is without question the most unqualified person to win the presidency in modern American history. That is not simply a partisan view; it is something many Republican as well as Democratic voices note. He has never run for public office. He has no real grounding in major policy issues. The fact that he is about to occupy the Oval Office raises major questions about the strength and soundness of major American institutions.
It represents, in the first instance, a failure of the Republican Party, which largely acquiesced to Trump’s populist-fueled rise. While some important Republican voices stepped forward to denounce him, most did not, and the party is now largely rallying behind him after his victory. The first responsibility for his rise, election, and presidency lies with his Party, and its long history of flirting with the populist rage that fueled his vote.
But theirs is not the only institutional failure. As noted, the FBI and its director defied long-standing policies to intervene in the election during the last weeks of the campaign, in a manner that predictably had a huge impact, and arguably determined the outcome.
And there is an institutional failure of sorts among the Democrats as well. The bulk of the party paid too little attention to the frustrations of working class voters, and underestimated their rage. Clinton offered many serious economic proposals, and many were laudable; but they mostly were relatively modest in scope and did not add up to a prescription for the kind of changes that might transform those lacking opportunities and mobility in America’s Rust Belt, inner cities, and hard-pressed rural communities.
The world is rightly impressed with the fact that, despite this contentious campaign and unexpected outcome, America is now proceeding with a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. The sturdiness of that American institution remains remarkable. But with the presidency and both branches of Congress now moving into Republican hands, and with Trump certain to install a Republican-appointed majority onto the Supreme Court, there is real reason to worry that we have only begun to see the erosion of key American institutions.
2. Polarization heading toward a new extreme. America has been becoming more politically polarized for decades, with each party’s members in Congress moving further apart, and with voters increasingly segregating themselves into more politically homogeneous physical and media communities. But the 2016 election took American politics to new and toxic lows, and threatens to usher in new kinds of polarization that are potentially very dangerous.
Particularly worrisome is the sense that it is acceptable for political partisans to prosecute and even physically attack political opponents. The Trump campaign seemed to legitimate threats of violence against its critics, and egged on chants of “lock her up” against Clinton. Threats by leading Republicans to continue investigations of Clinton even after the election outcome raise the specter of a new political culture in which the state becomes a permanent institution of political vendettas.
In many other countries, the result of that approach is a culture of “rule or ruin” – in which electoral losers must flee the country to protect themselves – and which in turn leads rulers to cling to power at all costs, through any means, to protect themselves. This political culture is common in various developing countries, but it is horrific to think we could be seeing it take hold in the United States.
3. Worrisome implications for national security. Even with the White House, the Senate, the House, and potentially the Supreme Court in Republican hands, the United States generally still retains institutional checks and balances on what any president can do. But that is far less true in the realm of national security, and that is cause for great concern.
It may be that Mr. Trump will surround himself by seasoned national security hands, listen to their counsel, and show subtlety and skill in the exercise of American power. But there is little in his record to support that, and the initial steps by Trump's transition team to purge many moderate national security advisers are deeply troubling. The affinity that Trump and some on his team have shown for Vladimir Putin and other global authoritarians, and the active support the Kremlin provided for the Trump campaign, raise questions of the highest order about American sovereignty and security – and about the long-term safety of our allies in Europe and other countries around Russia’s perimeter. 
4. A big boost for the “Populist International.” The Trump victory is our “Amer-exit” – the US equivalent of the UK’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union. It is part of the rise across the West of populist, nationalist, usually authoritarian leaders, parties, and regimes. This includes the Britain’s UK Independence Party, Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands; Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France; Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary; and many others.
Trump’s win provides a big boost of validation and momentum for all these movements. Like Trump, most of them draw their energy from outrage against globalization, migration, ethnic mixing, and tolerance on issues of gender, sexual identity, and religion. Like Trump, many of them have received open support from Vladimir Putin and his regime.
The columnist Anne Applebaum has aptly dubbed this movement “the Populist International.” Donald Trump now becomes its unofficial global leader.
Until now, the United States has been the voice for the opposing view, “liberal democracy”: belief in limited government, universal human rights, protection of the rights of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, and a rational, fact-based, scientifically-grounded deliberation of policy. The fight between liberal democracy and “the Populist International” is the most important fight of this generation.  There is no clear leader for the liberal democracy side of the fight. One will emerge, but for the first time, it will not be America’s president.
5. The retreat of objective news. Finally, Trump’s victory has worrying implications for the future of the media, how people get their news, and the quality of America’s political debates. Trump partly won because he emerged as the master of a new media technology. Franklin Roosevelt succeeded partly because of his intuitive mastery of the new media of radio. John Kennedy succeeded partly because of his intuitive mastery of the new media of television. Donald Trump has succeeded partly because of his intuitive mastery of the new media of reality TV and social media. As one writer put it, Trump was the “comments section” running for president.
But there are real reasons to worry about the impact of a political culture built around reality TV and social media. This election saw the ascendancy of fake news sites and fake news feeds, which helped give cover for Trump’s many blatantly false assertions (e.g., that he opposed the Iraq war). The decline of mainstream, curated, edited media has made it harder to define a body of accepted facts. The result is a Gresham’s Law of political discourse, with false and flimsy information crowding out the verified and validated.  This week’s steps by Facebook and Google to restrict fake news sites are encouraging, but do not go nearly far enough.
With the majority of younger voters getting most of their news from social media, and with more Americans tuning in to news sources that align with their own ideological views, there is a real danger that the political debate becomes stuck in two parallel universes, each with their own insistent impression of reality. All this seems to favor the “Populist International,” which relies on the dominance of rage over reasoned discourse. One of the great challenges surfaced by the Trump victory will be to find ways to make this new media environment hospitable for liberal democracy.


Why did pollsters like me fail to predict Trump’s victory?

Why did pollsters like me fail to predict Trump’s victory?

By Stanley Greenberg
Appeared in The Guardian on November 15, 2016.

America is being shaped irreversibly by a growing new majority of millennials, racial minorities, immigrants and secular people. So how did the presidential election produce such a reactionary result, surprising all the pollsters, including me? “Shy” Tories and Brexiters apparently upended Britain. Did “shy” Trump voters upend America?

To understand what happened, you have to start with the demand for “change”.

The elites, academics, pundits and even President Barack Obama look at the US and see a dynamic country that is economically and culturally ascendant. But America is also a country of deepening inequality and growing political corruption. Most people struggle with declining or stagnant incomes, while CEOs and billionaires have taken most of the gains in income and wealth. More than anything, people are angry that the game appears to be rigged by corporate special interests.

Donald Trump managed to become the Republicans’ candidate of change by attacking crony capitalism, trade deals favoured by big business, the billionaire SuperPacs that fund the candidates and Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. That allowed him to ride the support of the Tea Party and white people without a four-year college degree all the way to the nomination.

But the cry for change coming from the new liberal American majority was just as intense. Bernie Sanders’ call for a “revolution” produced landslide victories with millennials and white Democrats without a four-year degree. This progress nearly allowed him to contest the convention. No less than Trump, Sanders attacked Clinton for her Wall Street speeches and SuperPacs.

Clinton achieved her most impressive leads in the polls when she, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren embraced after the primaries and after her convention speech that demanded an economy that worked for all, not just the well connected. She emerged with her biggest lead when she closed the debates with a “mission” to “grow an economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone”, and “stand up for families against special interests, against corporations”.

That led many more voters to see Clinton as standing for the American middle class, which most working people aspire to, and being better on the economy, truthful and willing to stand up to special interests.

Working as a pollster for Bill Clinton in 1992 and Al Gore in 2000, I watched voters settle into their decisions immediately after the debates. Trump and Hillary Clinton were both talking about change, and Clinton was winning.

But then the campaign’s close was disrupted by a flood of hacked emails, whose release was linked to Russia, intended to show that friends of Bill Clinton were using the Clinton Foundation to enrich the former president, and then by FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the reopening of his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

This allowed Trump to close his campaign with a call to “drain the swamp” and reject “the Clintons’ big business trade deals that decimated so many communities”.

The Clinton campaign fought back. It attacked Comey for his unprecedented intervention and then used its advertising muscle to shift the spotlight from Clinton to Trump. Its ads running right through the very last weekend showed Trump at his worst. By then, nobody could remember that Hillary Clinton was a candidate with bold economic plans who demanded that government should work for working people and the middle class, not corporations. She was no longer a candidate of change.

As President Obama campaigned for her at the end, Clinton urged voters to “build on the progress”. She closed her campaign with a call for continuity and incrementalism. That turn is why the polls turned out to be so wrong.

This was a “change election” for the new American majority too, and that late turn by Clinton produced disappointing turnout among Hispanics, African Americans, single women and millennials. The African Americans’ greatly diminished turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee likely gave the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump.

Clinton’s total vote fell well below Obama’s in 2008 and 2012.

The new American majority really did make up the majority of voters for the first time, and they helped Clinton win the popular vote. But their late pull back upended the pollsters’ key assumptions about turnout.

The other change voters, the white men without a four-year college degree, did their part too. They were never shy about their support for Trump, but concentrated in rural and smaller towns in the rust belt, they became even more consolidated in their support for him, put out lawn signs and turned out to vote in unprecedented numbers. Our polls showed him with a 36-point lead before the conventions. But further consolidation and higher-than-expected turnout gave Trump an unimaginable 49-point lead and 72% of the vote among this group. The Trump vote was never shy, just not fully consolidated.

And don’t forget the non-college-educated white women who, after all, are a majority of the white working class. Through most of the campaign, Trump’s disrespect of women and Clinton’s plans for change allowed her to compete with him for their support. She trailed by just nine points after the debates. But with Clinton mostly attacking Trump and no longer talking about change, the women shifted, almost unnoticed but dramatically, to Trump. He won them by 27 points, a nine-point bigger margin than that achieved by Romney in 2012.

These late turns allowed Trump to win Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a percentage point.

America has changed, but this change election produced a reactionary result.


The 2016 US Election - Explaining the Result

The 2016 US Election - Explaining the Result

Jeremy Rosner, GQR Executive Vice President and Principal, writes about some of the most key factors that drove the result in this historic election.

Tuesday’s US presidential election was a political earthquake – largely unexpected, deeply unsettling, and hugely consequential. Fully understanding its causes and impacts will take months, but this note provides some initial analysis on five big factors that drove the result:
1. Cosmopolitanism lost to “whitelash.” As in many other Western countries, the US is in the midst of an epic struggle between those who have a cosmopolitan outlook (favoring a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious, globally-connected society), and those who are threatened by the forces helping to create such a society, especially immigration and global trade.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign was premised on a cosmopolitan view (thus her slogan, “Stronger Together”), while Donald Trump’s campaign focused intensely on appealing to the resentments and fears of the latter group – largely white, non-college-educated, and non-urban. That’s why his signature ideas from the start were “building a wall” and “ripping up NAFTA.”
CNN commentator Van Jones labeled this backlash by lower-educated whites “whitelash,” and it fueled Trump’s victory.  His support was 5 points higher among non-college voters, relative to Mitt Romney’s vote in 2012. While Barack Obama won 54% of non-college voters in 2008 and 51% in 2012, Hillary Clinton lost this group to Trump by 44-52%. The heart of this dynamic was non-college white men; Trump won an astonishing 72% of them, according to the exit polls. The surge in support from lower-educated men fueled big margins for Trump in many Republican suburban and rural districts – especially in industrial states, where Trump’s margin over Clinton in some counties was double that of Romney’s margin in 2012.
One of the challenges going forward will be to determine how much of the positive response to Trump’s rhetoric was motivated by prejudice against women, minorities, and foreigners; and how much was an expression of economic and cultural anger from working class voters who felt that Washington – including the Democratic Party – was ignoring them. The two impulses are related, and both were at play to some degree, but understanding the mix matters.
But whatever the reasons that Trump’s strategy and rhetoric helped motivate lower-educated whites, Clinton’s cosmopolitan message didn’t do much to motivate her natural voters – those who would most benefit from a more diverse, tolerant, global society. Despite all the evidence of Trump’s disdain and abuse of women, Clinton actually won less  of the women’s vote than Obama did in 2012 (54% compared to 55%), and stunningly lost the vote among white women by 10 points (43-53%).
Similarly, her vote among African Americans was down 5 points compared to Obama’s 2012 vote (88%, compared to 93%), and fewer African Americans turned out to the polls. And despite Trump’s insults against Mexicans and American Hispanics, he actually received more of the Hispanic vote than Romney (29%, compared to 27%). More Hispanics likely voted than in 2012, but there was no huge surge in Hispanic voting as some had predicted.
Without a big surge in the “cosmopolitan” vote, Clinton needed at least a decent level of support from white voters – but she didn’t get it. Only 37% of them voted for her – less than the 43% and 39% who voted for African American Obama in 2008 and 2012.  In key swing states, like Florida and North Carolina, her support from white voters was even lower – just 33%.
Without question, the US is steadily becoming more cosmopolitan. The share of the electorate that is non-white is growing by 2 percentage points each presidential election (it was up to 30% this year). The diversity and dynamism of America’s population is one of its strongest assets, and is fueling successes from its technology sector, to its entertainment industry, to its “soft power” in global affairs. But cosmopolitanism sets off strong, passionate resentments and counter-reactions, and Democrats found they cannot just ignore these and still hope to win.
2. A continuity strategy was a losing bet in a change election. This year’s electorate was thirsty for change; 62% said the country was going in the wrong direction – amazingly, 10 points higher than in 2012. Trump’s strategy was all about big changes, and he won 69% of those looking for a different direction. More voters wanted “a candidate who brings change” than any other presidential attribute – and Trump won 83% of those who said this.
By contrast, the Clinton campaign often based its message on continuity. It constantly stressed her experience. She repeatedly talked about carrying on the work of the Obama administration. Unhelpfully, in his election-eve remarks in Philadelphia, Obama said his government had replaced his 2008 slogan of “yes we can” with evidence of “yes we did” – as if Americans should feel that the needed changes had been completed.
Clinton could never have run completely as a “change candidate.” She was too much of an established Washington figure to do that. But she could have gone much further to talk about the need for much bigger economic changes – especially the kind of economic changes that many working class Americans feel are still necessary, after decades of stagnant wages and stifled economic mobility.
3. Unsuitability for the presidency was not enough. Clinton and her campaign put tremendous effort into making the case that Trump lacked the temperament to be president. Her speeches, ads, surrogates, and campaign hammered Trump for his offensive actions and comments toward women, racial minorities, Muslims, the disabled, and immigrants; and for being too thin-skinned, impulsive, and uninformed to be a good commander-in-chief.
Despite the ample evidence supporting these attacks, they proved to be relatively ineffective, especially with change-hungry voters who were looking for a positive economic vision. According to the exit polls, even among those who agreed Trump lacked the temperament to be president – and a big 63% majority felt this way – 20% of them said they still voted for Trump. In a year when both candidates had historically high levels of unfavorable ratings, the “pox-on-both-your-houses” voters ultimately still voted for Trump and change. Among the 18% of all voters who viewed both candidates unfavorably, Trump won by 20 points (49-29%). There is a lesson here: attacks on character sometimes work; but they usually have to be related to aspects of character that align with voters’ top concerns.
4. FBI Director Comey’s unethical intervention. On October 28, just 11 days before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress saying the Bureau had found new emails that “appear to be pertinent” to the investigation the Bureau had earlier conducted, which concluded she had done nothing warranting prosecution. By sending that letter at such a late date – which Department of Justice officials told Comey violated Department policies – the FBI director changed the course of the race – enough to tip its outcome.
The well-regarded “Five-Thirty-Eight” website shows that Clinton’s upward momentum died when the letter was released, and that her margin over Trump likely fell by about 2 points in the following days. Exit polls show that Clinton won the vote of those who cast ballots early on, but lost to Trump 42-47% among those who decided in the final week. In a close race, many factors are sufficient to explain the outcome; but Comey’s intervention stands large among them.
5. The polls weren’t great – but they also weren’t so wrong. Finally, no explanation of the 2016 result can be complete (especially from a pollster) without some focus on why the polls mostly predicted Clinton would win. The polling profession faces many challenges these days, from low response rates, to reaching younger voters who lack landlines, to finding accurate ways to poll online. There should and will be a deep inquiry into how these and other dynamics may have played a role in skewing polling predictions.
Yet if the polling wasn’t great, it also wasn’t so wrong. It is crucial to keep in mind that Hillary Clinton did win – in the popular vote, which is what national polls measure. And her final margin – about 1% over Trump – was only about 2-3 points less than what the average of major national polls predicted.
Some polling did get it wrong – particularly in some key industrial states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Some of this was about turnout. Polls don’t help much in predicting who will show up to vote, and in US presidential elections, that matters a lot. Many of the polls assumed the racial mix of people who actually voted would look like 2012, but as noted earlier, African Americans had lower turnout than in 2012. There may have also been some Trump voters who were reluctant to tell pollsters that they planned to vote for Trump, given his socially offensive profile and his public criticism of much of the public polling.
But it would be wrong to conclude that the polling was mostly wrong. As many more extensive analyses have shown, the average predicted margin among the major polls was accurate across a wide range of key states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner did the polling for New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan in her bid for the Senate – and accurately predicted that she would win, making her one of only two Democrats to beat a Republican incumbent this year. Very close elections – like this one – inevitably lead to more polls that end up on the wrong side. But most of the good polling got things right in 2016.

Congratulations, Senator-elect Hassan!

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GQRR congratulates New Hampshire Governor and Senator-elect Maggie Hassan on her victory over incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte in Tuesday's elections, one of two Democratic pickups in the U.S. Senate.  Maggie Hassan is an extraordinary public official and leader who embodies the very best qualities of the people in New Hampshire and the nation as a whole. She will be a great Senator.   We congratulate campaign manager Marc Goldberg and chief of staff Pam Walsh for an outstanding campaign that was disciplined but also nimble. 

Maggie  defeated Ayotte in one of the nation's most high profile Senate contestsby 1,019 votes out of nearly 740,000 votes cast by highlighting her record of standing up for the interests of New Hampshire as Governor, including leading the way to expand the state’s innovation economy,  maintaining fiscal responsibility, and expanding opportunity for all Granite Staters.   Maggie framed the election as a very clear choice between someone who sides with corporate special interests in Washington or someone who will side with the people of New Hampshire.

Hassan now joins New Hampshire’s Senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen as the only two women in American history to be elected both governor and senator.  She will also serve as part of New Hampshire’s first all-female Democratic congressional delegation.

GQRR is proud to have been part of the Hassan team since 2012, providing qualitative and quantitative research and strategic advice for Hassan's election and re-election as governor, and for her campaign for U.S. Senate. Led by president Al Quinlan, GQRR's Hassan team includes vice president Missy Egelsky and senior associate Ben Winston, assisted by Lester Polchlopek, Clinton Willbanks, and Trevor Hazen.  

GQRR also applauds the work of our colleagues on Hassan's team, including David Dixon and Rich Davis of Dixon Davis Media Group and Ed Peavy and Jonathan Levy of Mission Control, as well as the campaign’s national finance director Emily Mellencamp Smith, digital director Jane Hughes, research director Josh Loewenstein, and communications director Aaron Jacobs.


On behalf of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, conducted a new survey among 1,500 registered California voters.




Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, conducted this survey on behalf of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. These findings are based on a random sample survey of 1,500 (1,500 weighted) registered voters in the state of California, conducted from October 22-30, 2016. Interviews were conducted by telephone using live interviewers from Survey Sampling International, LLC. Voters were randomly selected from a list of registered voters statewide and reached on a landline or cell phone depending on the number they designated on their voter registration. Fifty-five percent of this sample was reached on a cell phone. Up to five attempts were made to reach and interview each randomly selected voter.

The study includes an oversample of 400 known-Latino registered voters, with the total number of Latino voters interviewed at 487 (373 weighted). All interviews among known Latinos were carried out via telephone by bilingual Latino interviewers, and conducted in the preferred language of the survey respondent, English or Spanish. Overall, 33 percent of interviews among the known Latino sample were conducted in Spanish and 67 percent in English. The technique of using fully bilingual interviewers yields higher response and cooperation rates and is greatly preferred because it does not terminate calls with Spanish-language households and require a callback.

Upon completion of all interviewing, the results were weighted to bring the Latino oversample population into line with the racial and ethnic composition of registered voters in California. The data was weighted to reflect the total population of registered voters throughout the state, balancing on regional and demographic characteristics for gender, age, race, and party registration according to known census estimates and voter file projections from several distinct voter files.

The maximum sampling error for the overall sample of 1,500 registered voters is +/- 2.3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error for subgroups is higher. The margin of error for Latinos is +/- 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

This study includes a subsample of 1,382 Likely Voters (1,365 weighted). “Likely Voters” include those who have (1) voted in the last two general elections and report being “almost certain”, “probably”, or “50/50” in their likelihood of vote in Q.8; (2) those who have voted in at least one of the last two general elections and report being “almost certain” or “probably” in their likelihood to vote; (3) those who have not voted in either of the past two general elections but report they are “almost certain” in their likelihood to vote; or (4) those who report having already voted in the 2016 general election. The margin of error for these “Likely Voters” is +/- 2.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Establishment Blues In Europe

Establishment Blues In Europe

These are tough times to be a mainstream party or candidate in Europe. Economic anxiety has left voters all over the continent grumpy. Fears about migration, displacement, national identity, and terrorist attacks are kindling anger.

Voters are flocking away from established parties as a result. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is suffering blow after blow in regional elections as voters shift to the anti-immigrant Alternative fuer Deutschland party. In Ireland earlier this year, the two main centrist parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, won less than a majority of the vote for the first time in the country’s history. Spain has not had an elected government for over nine months because the center-right Popular Party and center-left Socialists have lost so much vote share to new or extreme options.

With the center no longer holding, populist leaders and parties are on the rise. According to the Economist, the populist vote has doubled since 2000. Fully a fifth of European voters back a populist party of the right or left. Such parties hold posts in nine countries’ governments.

The populist roots are diverse. In Western Europe and Scandinavia, the far right is attracting voters into anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties like Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France. In central and eastern Europe, more nationalist and ultraconservative parties hold power, such as Poland’s Law and Justice and Hungary’s Fidesz. Southern European states hit hardest by the economic downturn, like Spain and Greece, have moved to the far left propelled by the Podemos and Golden Dawn, respectively. Still, common threads of frustration bind all these populist forces together: immigration, jobs, EU, and resentment against a political establishment that seems corrupt, out of touch, or both.

With anger and fear building, the post-World War II tide of integration has given way to a new tide of disintegration. Following Brexit, voices in France, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands are calling for their own referendums to leave the EU, and regional voices in Scotland, Catalonia, and Flanders continue to press for separation and independence.

As centrifugal forces continue to tear at Europe’s political unity and stability, here are four dynamics to watch - all of which could make life even harder for those who long for a return of stable, centrist politics in Europe:

First, coalitions will be harder to form and harder to hold. Post-election coalitions are often messy by the nature of parliamentary systems and proportional representation electoral systems. Often, there are minor parties that become the kingmaker in coalition deals and then hold the government hostage over fringe issues.

But the rise of populist parties makes it even harder. Beyond the Spanish case, several inconclusive European elections this year produced fractured parliaments, hostile coalitions, and unstable governments. In Slovakia, for example, eight radically different parties won seats in parliament including two from the far right. The result: a weakened prime minister forced to patch together an unstable coalition of rival parties, rife with disagreements.

Second, voters may not reward success. Or at least, they may have a very different definition of what economic success looks like. Even when the macro-economic statistics tell a story of recovery - inducing politicians to pat themselves on the back and ask for another term - voters are often living a different reality. Too many are still out of a job and saddled with new taxes and charges. Even those who return to work often complain the work is part-time, lower salaried, or less certain. Even where the macro numbers look like good news, the reality still feels pretty grim where most voters live.

In Ireland, the ruling Fine Gael party went into their 2015 elections with all of the economic indicators telling a success story. Ireland rescued its banks after they crashed in 2010, exited the bail-out engineered by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund, and ended austerity budgets. The GDP returned to Celtic Tiger growth rates and unemployment fell back to single digits. But feelings remained raw long after the austerity budgets had ended, and Fine Gael was forced into a minority government of dubious longevity.

Third, referendums are on the rise and they are dangerous for the establishment. There is an easy but perilous attraction to the idea of taking power out of the hands of the politicians and putting it direction into the hands of the people. Brexit, of course, is the prime example. And even though that didn’t end well for David Cameron, his political demise is unlikely to dissuade others from using referendums as a political tool to grapple with populist frustration.

The lure of referendums is almost irresistible to politicians of nearly every stripe. For some mainstream leaders, calling for a direct popular vote is a way to push back on perceptions that they are elitist and out-of-touch. For populist leaders, referendums offer a way to stir the pot further fuel anger against mainstream policies. Yet even some of the populists are getting burned by referenda results: Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban held an early October referendum on his anti-immigration agenda; it got strong majority support - but turnout was so low, well below the mandatory 50% threshold, that, to his embarrassment, the referendum failed.

Finally, Russia is doing its best to disrupt campaigns and influence elections in Europe. The Cold War may be over, but Russia has been waging a Cool War to undermine the EU, Europe’s mainstream parties, and other institutions of European strength.

Russia had long exerted political pressure in neighboring democracies, such as by crashing websites in Estonia and exploiting frozen post-Soviet conflicts in the Republic of Georgia to weaken a democratically elected government. Now Russia has become bolder, directly bankrolling numerous parties on both extremes, such as France’s National Front, Britain’s UKIP party, Hungary’s Jobbick, and Greece’s Golden Dawn. Unsurprisingly, each of these parties praise Vladimir Putin and vocally oppose sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea.

At the same time, Moscow-based online trolls are launching cyber-attacks that propagate fictitious stories in attempts to sway public opinion. Obviously, this effort has not stopped at Europe’s borders: witness the computer hacking of America’s Democratic Party this year, believed to be the work of Russian intelligence agencies. But Russia has a more direct interest and purpose in Europe, where it still longs to regain lost influence, and actively works to hurt the chances of countries in the Balkans and elsewhere from gaining full EU membership. 

With more than a dozen European elections slated for next year, the continent finds itself in its most precarious political position since the fall of the Soviet Union. Disturbingly, with fragile governments, hostile electorates, more frequent referendums, and a meddling former superpower on its periphery, this might just be the new normal.


This article was written by VP Kristi Lowe for the Huffington Post. See it here

Women and the 2016 Elections: Findings from a National Survey of Voters

With the fall political campaigns now in full swing, a recent poll of voters commissioned by American Women* indicates that critical voting blocs of women in the electorate—including millennial women, women of color, and unmarried women—will be a force in this year’s election.  These women have a clear point of view when it comes to their priorities and the issues that matter to them when they head to the ballot box, and candidates can benefit from paying attention to them as they communicate with voters this fall.

While the electorate as a whole sees economic concerns as the most important issue, these women express deeper concerns about economic stresses in their daily life; and as a result, they are more likely to emphasize issues and support policies that address their concerns.  And while these women also have concerns about security issues, their fears tend to focus more locally on gun violence and racial profiling issues than on the issues of terrorism and threats from immigrants and refugees.

The agenda that resonates with these crucial blocs of women voters is well-defined:  they want their elected leaders and candidates to focus on strengthening their economic security, including equal pay for women, job training, college affordability, and paid sick and family leave. They also want leaders who will protect their access to reproductive health care; and they want leaders who will take action to address the gun violence epidemic.

The following memo is based on a national online survey of 1,000 registered voters, including an oversample of 200 women who identify as independent in partisan beliefs and voting behavior, weighted to be representative of registered voters nationally.  The survey was conducted from August 19-25, 2016.


Women view economic concerns as more important than security in this election

Voters view the economy as the more important issue than national security in the November elections by a 61-38 percent margin.  Both men (63 - 37 percent economy/national security) and women (60 - 39 percent economy/national security) believe that economic issues outweigh security by similar margins.  Additionally, growing blocs of influential women voters—including millennial women, women of color, and unmarried women—express a stronger support for economics as the dominant issue in the elections.  The intensity of the preference for a focus on the economy is particularly strong among women of color—73% of whom believe that the economy is the most important issue this election year.  

Figure 1: Economy versus National Security concerns, by subgroup

Women view the economy as the biggest problem facing both the country and their own families. However, for key groups of women, their personal economic situation and concerns outpace other worries by larger margins.

·         In an open-ended question about the biggest issue facing their country, 49 percent of voters volunteer an economic-related response, compared to 29 percent who cite a security-related response.  There is not a strong difference among women, as 51 percent of women volunteer an economic-related response, compared to 31 percent who cite a security-related response.

·         When asked a similar open-ended question about the biggest problem facing their own daily lives, however, women—particularly women of color and millennial women—put economic concerns far and above as their top concern.  Overall, 44 percent of voters cite worries about personal finances, jobs, costs, and the economy as their biggest personal concern.  Among millennial women this number rises to 48 percent, and among women of color, more than half (52 percent) say that economic issues are their biggest personal concern.

Given that women volunteer economic issues as their top problem, it is not surprising that they are more likely to see economic issues as top priorities for Congress and government to address in the next two years. Overall, voters prioritize protecting retirement benefits and addressing the federal deficit as biggest priorities, followed by protecting threats from terrorism and Zika and tackling gun violence.  

However, there are different trends among the emerging blocs of women voters. 

·         Millennial women focus far less on retirement, terrorism, and the deficit, and instead want more focus on helping parents with paid family leave policies, making college more affordable, and reducing gun violence. 

·         Gun violence is also a key agenda item for women of color; it is, in fact, the top issue they want government to address, along with making education more affordable and increasing the minimum wage. 

·         Unmarried women want Congress and the next government to focus on making education more affordable and ensuring equal pay for women.

Figure 2: Top 4 most important things for Congress or the government to focus on in the next two years, by subgroup


Top security concerns for women: gun violence, terrorism, and racial profiling

While women view the economy as most important in this election, this does not mean that they are not also worried about security.  Their fears, however, are not solely centered on terrorism. They also center on threats like gun violence, mass shootings and racial profiling.  Fears about illegal immigration and refugees fall into the bottom tier of security concerns for voters across the board, including various cohorts of women voters.  Women of color express far more serious concerns about gun violence and profiling mistreatment than any other security threats; millennial women and unmarried women are also more likely to be “very concerned” about these issues, though they also worry about terrorist attacks on American soil.

Figure 3: Level of concern about issues by subgroup

These target blocs of women provide clear direction on who they trust and how they want to see these security issues handled by their leaders:

·         Who do you trust to keep us safe? Millennial women trust Democrats over Republicans to keep us safe at home and abroad in the fight against terrorism, and unmarried women trust Democrats more by 8 points.  Women of color are more likely to trust Democrats by 59 points.

·         This widens when it comes to the debate at the top of this year’s ballot.  While voters overall trust Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (54-45) to keep us safe at home and abroad in the fight against terrorism by 10 points, the margin in favor of Clinton is 18 points with women voters (58-40), 36 with millennial women (68-32) and 37 points among unmarried women (68-31).

·         Women of color, millennial women, and unmarried women all overwhelmingly support taking action to strengthen gun laws in the county.  Eighty-eight percent of women of color support stronger gun laws over keeping the laws as they are, including two-thirds who prefer stronger laws much more than keeping them the same.  Support for stronger gun laws also comes from 77 percent of millennial women and 69 percent of unmarried women.


A clear agenda for making voting decisions

For these emerging target blocs of women, there is a clear separation on issues when it comes to making voting decisions.  The women rank addressing gun violence, ensuring equal pay for women, and providing paid sick leave for workers as most important in their voting decisions, when compared against other issues like immigration and national security.  The top three issues are consistent among these blocs of women, with much larger gaps between the top tier and second tier issues than voters overall.

Figure 4: Most important issue when it comes to making decisions about voting, by subgroup

Women strongly support policies addressing gun violence, women’s reproductive health, and economic well-being

Falling closely in line with the issues driving voting decisions, millennial women, women of color, and unmarried women show strong support for a package of policies that address their economic concerns, as well as tackle important issues on guns and reproductive health care. First, these women are more likely to strongly support policies that speak to strengthening the economic standing for women and families, including equal pay for women, job training, paid family leave, affordable college, childcare, and long term care:

·         Ensure that women get equal pay for equal work in order to make women and families economically secure, protect workers from retaliation, hold employers accountable, and provide salary negotiation training for women and girls.

o   This policy resonates strongly among unmarried women.

·         Provide more skills training and apprenticeship opportunities for good, available jobs that pay.

·         Establish paid family and medical leave for workers who have new babies, are caring for aging parents, or have ill family members.

·         Lower student loan interest rates and rising college tuition costs.

·         Expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare for working families by providing child care tax credits to working parents and providing universal pre-K.

·         Invest in home care workers, who are caring for seniors and people with disabilities in their homes so they can live with dignity and independence.

Tied to this economic agenda, women in these key demographics also strongly support protecting access to reproductive health care and birth control:

·         Stop insurance companies from charging women more for the same health care coverage as men, and fight efforts to end free coverage for mammograms and birth control.

·         Ensure access to reproductive health care, including birth control.

And, they demand action on guns, reacting favorably to any proposal that bucks the status quo:

·         Strengthen gun laws by requiring mandatory background checks and preventing those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns, as well as passing a ban on assault weapons.

These women react negatively to just two policies offered: sending a coalition of U.S. and allied troops to Syria to combat ISIS and blocking all immigration from countries affected by terrorism.  While voters overall only slightly support these proposals, the key blocs of women oppose both proposals.

Figure 5: Policies favored by subgroup


*Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted a national online survey of 800 registered voters, with an oversample of 200 self-identified independent women voters for a total sample size of 1,000. The survey was conducted from August 19-25, 2016.