Following a strong primary season, GQR sets its sights on November

Following a strong primary season, GQR sets its sights on November

It has been a long primary season, but with our decisive victories Tuesday night in New Hampshire GQR is energized and ready for November.

As we all know, elections matter, and campaigns matter. Our strategic insights have made the difference between winning and losing; and our team is winning. We are winning elections in State Houses, Governors’ Mansions, the US Capitol and everything in between.

This year GQR is proud to have worked directly with 18 first-time candidates and more than 25 women who are running for office.

Just this week we watched as former State Senator Molly Kelly won a staggering 66% of the vote, securing the Democratic nomination for New Hampshire Governor. In another equally impressive victory, NH Executive Councilor and small business owner Chris Pappas garnered 42% of the vote in an 11-candidate field to win the nomination to succeed retiring Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. If elected in November, Pappas will be New Hampshire’s first openly gay member of Congress.

These wins cap an extraordinary primary season where GQR worked with impressive candidates across the country. As we look toward November, we are humbled to be in this fight, shoulder-to-shoulder, with such an amazing group of leaders, first-time candidates, women and men of color and LGBTQ candidates who share our values and ideals.

  • In May Theresa Gasper won 68% of the vote and secured the Democratic nomination in Ohio’s 10th Congressional District.

  • Liz Watson took home nearly two-thirds of the vote in her Primary victory in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District.

  • Anthony Brindisi has been a fighter for public school education and as the Democratic nominee in NY’s 22nd Congressional District - he is going to take that fight to Washington.

  • In North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District Linda Coleman garnered 56% of the vote in her 3-way Primary and is leading her opponent in what has been a reliably Republican district.

  • Our victory in Texas’ 7th Congressional District primary was hard fought, but Lizzie Fletcher put in the work and achieved the nomination.

  • Iowa saw first-time candidate Deirdre DeJear win 51% of the vote, defeating a two-time congressional candidate to become the nominee for Secretary of State. Her victory in November will make her IA’s first African American statewide officeholder.

  • We saw three big wins in New Jersey this primary season. Donald Norcross earned more than 84% of the vote, securing his nomination to serve his third full term in the First Congressional District. First-time candidates Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim locked up the Democratic nomination in NJ’s 7th and 3rd Congressional Districts.

  • June brought victory to Michelle Lujan Grisham in her bid for the Democratic nomination for Governor of New Mexico, where she received over 66% of the vote. When Michelle wins in November she will be the nation’s first Democratic Latina Governor.

  • Kim Schrier’s background as a pediatrician has put her at the forefront of solving problems and winning a spot on the ballot in Washington’s 8th Congressional District will put her skills to work for all of us.

  • In Michigan and across the country Debbie Stabenow is standing up for families. She fights for the dignity of all people in all that she does. Victory in November will deliver her a fourth term in the US Senate.

  • Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin has served our country with distinction, and now as the Democrat vying for the 8th Congressional District, this first-time candidate will bring principled leadership to Washington.

  • Ned Lamont won an impressive Democratic Primary in Connecticut in August winning 81% of the vote.

  • Candidates like Kara Eastman in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District who are committed to fighting for healthcare and job training are leading the way forward.

  • August brought many successes to Minnesota this primary season. Tina Smith achieved a decisive victory with 76% of the vote. Amy Klobuchar achieved a remarkable 95% of the vote, securing the Democratic nomination to serve her third term in the US Senate. Dean Phillips rounded out our candidate hat trick securing his nomination too. Our work with the Minnesota Victory PAC to help Tim Walz win his Democratic Gubernatorial Primary with 43% of the vote achieved what we were looking for in the land of 10,000 lakes.

  • Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District Democratic candidate Susan Wild won her primary because she believes in the power of community and wants to harness that power to work for working-class families in Washington.

  • Democrats like Katie Hobbs, who as a state legislator fought for Medicaid expansion and the protection of voting rights, is now continuing that mission as the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State.

  • Late August saw our team add four wins to the list. Florida’s Kristen Carlson and Nancy Soderberg both in 3-way primaries earned more than 53% of the vote to secure their nominations in the 15th and 6th Congressional Districts. Both Mary Barzee Flores and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell also picked up primary wins in Florida’s 25th and 26th Congressional Districts.

These fighters are on the ground everyday making our country stronger. Our work with state legislative caucuses in WA, CT and TN and our insightful research is making the difference in advocacy efforts from coast to coast.

We are in this game, we are ready for a fight and we are prepared to win.

GQR, in bipartisan project, shows American voters overwhelmingly support press freedom, but do not detect a strong threat

GQR, in bipartisan project, shows American voters overwhelmingly support press freedom, but do not detect a strong threat

An unequivocal majority of American voters believes in the importance of free press, yet many do not see this crucial freedom at risk. Despite intensifying political attacks against the press, many voters do not see an urgency around defending the media, nor even believe the news media is currently under threat, according to a bipartisan study carried out by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Echelon Insights.

The study was jointly sponsored by the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and Democracy Fund. It shows that a majority of voters, 52 percent, do not see a threat to press freedom; further, only 28 percent report seeing an urgent threat against the press.

Yet the research suggests hope for those who seek to build support around press freedom and the news media. The survey points to clear guidance for advocates, journalists, and news media organizations for building back trust and reinforcing the value of a free press.

  • Highlight the press’s role to inform. According to the survey, this is far more compelling to voters than framing press attacks as an affront to democracy or democratic values. Voters are more troubled if attacks prevent the news media from doing their job to inform the public.

  • Address perceptions of bias in news coverage, especially as relates to the business of gathering news. Perceived bias in reporting is a top concern, with a majority of both Republicans and Independents saying journalists “filtering news with their own political opinions” is one of their biggest doubts about the news media. Democrats are not immune, and frame their concern around the media sensationalizing news stories for likes and clicks.

  • Don’t make President Trump the focus of the free press conversation.  Mentioning President Trump by name in a message as attacking the press (rather than generic “politicians”) results in a double-digit drop in support among Republicans and Independents who find it a convincing reason to defend the press.

  • Reach out to politically diverse audiences, including more moderate Republicans. The data shows there are many sympathetic Republicans who are concerned about journalists’ ability to inform the public.

  • Illustrate threats to press freedom by using real examples. In the poll, voters who assess the threat to the press before and after hearing facts about attacks on journalists see a 9-point increase in their perception of a threat.

  • Be transparent about newsgathering decisions and promote accountability for mistakes. Across political affiliations, voters point to acknowledging mistakes as the most important thing the news media can do to show they are listening and a credible source.

Learn more and download the full report here; and here to read the release from Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

UK: new technology to bring both benefits and burdens for workers

UK: new technology to bring both benefits and burdens for workers

A major new study carried out by GQR for the UK’s Trades Union Congress shows that workers have high hopes for how technology could improve working life, as well as some major worries. Key opportunities identified by the poll are for future jobs to put more emphasis on interpersonal skills (56% of workers think this likely), and creativity and original thinking (also 56%). However, the study also identified areas of risk. 66% of workers think automation will lead to work becoming more fast-paced and intensive, and 72% think that they will be more closely monitored by bosses.

Workers are also hopeful that technology can free up their time. In a world where technology had brought about significant productivity gains, 81% of workers would reduce the working week to four days or less – with a 4-day week the most popular at 45%.

With technology having an ever-greater impact in the workplace, the TUC commissioned this poll to understand workers’ hopes and fears linked to technology, and to devise a collaborative strategy which will allow unions, employers and government to manage the changes ahead fairly for employers and employees alike. GQR designed and carried out the survey of 2,145 working people in Great Britain aged 16 and over. Fieldwork was conducted online and the results were weighted to the national profile of working people by age, gender, region, ethnicity, full/part-time work, public/private sector and industry.

Data tables for the poll are available to download here.

For more information, contact GQR’s London Vice President Peter McLeod, on Twitter @mcleodp or info@gqrr.com

New Rosner/Paler op-ed for The Hill: Preventing the suicide of American Democracy

New Rosner/Paler op-ed for The Hill: Preventing the suicide of American Democracy

This article was originally published in The Hill, August 2, 2018. 
 

John Adams was not particularly optimistic about democracy. In an 1814 letter, he wrote: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” A new study of American public attitudes suggests our democracy indeed may be heading toward a cliff, but it also suggests ways we can pull it back toward health and long-term survival.

The study was commissioned by Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center. It’s notable, during this polarized era, in part because of its bipartisan sponsorship and design. Our Democratic polling firm carried out the research jointly with a Republican polling firm. (The views here are strictly our own, however.)

The study — which included 10 focus groups and a nationally representative phone poll of 1,400 voting age adults with a representative mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents — finds Americans feel our democracy is at the edge of a crisis of confidence. Although there has been no fall-off in recent years in the public’s overwhelming support for the idea of democracy, the level of dissatisfaction with our democracy’s performance is alarming. In three key questions in the survey, a 55 percent majority say our democracy is weak, 68 percent say it is getting weaker, and 79 percent are concerned about our democracy’s condition.

While many elements of public opinion about our government follow partisan patterns, serious concern about the health of our democracy crosses party lines. Over two-thirds feel this among Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.

Comments from participants in our research show this is not only about Donald Trump. The democratic ills they cite almost entirely pre-date President Trump — things such as increased political polarization, the growing role of special interest money in politics, and declining trust in the federal government, media outlets and other public and civic institutions. These trends all have been building for decades, but now are reaching a breaking point for the public.

Yet, in two related ways, Trump bears responsibility for deepening this crisis of democratic confidence.

First, his comments have fanned America’s always smoldering flames of racial resentment. A new Quinnipiac poll shows a 49-47 percent plurality believes not just that he has inflamed racial tensions but that the president does, in fact, hold racist views. Our survey finds “racism and discrimination” is one of the two things that concern the public most about our democracy (from a list of 11 factors), roughly tied with “big money in politics.” Among all adults under 40, and all non-whites, it is the top concern. This is the first study to identify racial tensions as a primary factor now undermining our democracy.

Our focus groups underscored how people perceive that Trump is exacerbating racial tensions. An African-American woman in Indianapolis said: “America has a tone since Trump that has brought out things that were suppressed. ... People hold it in but now it’s coming out and boiling over.” Her point seemed to be confirmed by a Trump voter in Pittsburgh, who said: “We got … people that went into construction — getting smashed by illegal immigrants — there are very few white American men working on the construction sites.” In one group, white and non-white voters sparred about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, a conflict that Trump inflamed beginning with his campaign.

Disturbingly, a 50-41 percent majority of whites in our survey saw “equal rights and protections for minorities” getting better in America, while a 63-31 percent majority of non-whites saw it getting worse.

Second, while democratic principles remain important to most Americans, Trump has built his strategy partly on rallying those who place little value on democratic notions of equality and freedom of the press. Only 7 percent of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 voters do not say it is important to live in a democracy; but among Trump’s voters, the figure is over three times as high, 22 percent.

That is still a minority. But given Trump’s roughly 63 million votes in 2016, that 22 percent translates to over 13 million people. As we saw from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville — which happened a year ago next Sunday — it only takes hundreds or thousands of people with low regard for democracy to have a corrosive impact on our political system.

Trump has actively played to this fringe, by calling the press “the enemy of the people,” attacking the patriotism of his partisan rivals, denigrating the idea of an independent judiciary, and refusing to protect America’s electoral system from confirmed foreign interference. If Trump is not the source of America’s democratic crisis, he is certainly working hard to deepen it.

Fortunately, the study shows steps that leaders can take to push back on such assaults on our democracy. It shows overwhelming, bipartisan support for steps such as stronger limits and disclosure of federal campaign contributions, rules to make it easier to vote, and stronger protections against racial bias in policing and criminal sentencing. Above all, the research shows strong public desire for a new call to public service, as in JFK’s day, with 81 percent supporting incentives for young people to serve their country or community.

All this suggests that, if there is some tendency toward democratic suicide, as John Adams speculated, the driving force is not our public, but rather certain leaders, such as Mr. Trump.

 

SURVEY: NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF AMERICANS OPPOSE CUTS TO SNAP PROGRAM

SURVEY: NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF AMERICANS OPPOSE CUTS TO SNAP PROGRAM


A majority of registered voters oppose recent efforts to scale back Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits and believe the government should be doing more to meet the needs of people facing food insecurity and other challenges, according to a new survey commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future (CLF).

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research from June 5 to June 12, explores voter attitudes on several key farm bill issues, including conservation programs designed to protect U.S. land, water and food supply. The farm bill, when passed, will replace the Farm Act of 2014, which expires this year. In addition to support for SNAP, a majority of survey respondents would like to see increased environmental regulations for the agricultural industry. The nationwide survey conducted by phone included 1,005 registered voters.

Among survey respondents, almost two-thirds (61 percent) said that they were opposed to reducing funding for SNAP, more commonly known as Food Stamps. Among those opposed, over 73 percent said that they were “strongly opposed” to cuts. Registered voters are more divided on whether to cap the number of SNAP recipients in a single household.

The SNAP program was permanently put in place in 1964 and since then has gradually expanded to assist over 45 million Americans in gaining access to food for themselves and their families. Currently, funding for SNAP, which has been part of farm legislation since the 1960s, makes up almost 80 percent of farm bill spending.

“SNAP funding and reorganization of conservation programs are just two of several issues facing Congress as they prepare a new farm bill,” says Bob Martin, director of the Food System Policy Program at the CLF and a faculty member in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health & Engineering. “Providing support to farms and farmers of all stripes was also found to be important to survey participants.”

The survey also found that 85 percent of respondents support increased opportunities for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers to participate in government support programs, and 57 percent support increased funding for small- and mid-sized farms.

In addition to supporting an increase in funding for the nation’s farmers, a majority of registered voters also support maintaining conservation programs for farmers. According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents oppose “eliminating funding for conservation programs that help farmers and agricultural operations maintain environmental quality.” Of those, 38 percent indicated that they were “strongly opposed.”

While the vast majority of respondents were unfamiliar with many aspects of the farm bill, most expressed support for increased funding for it. Overall, the survey found that many registered voters believe that the government should do more to support agricultural producers and meet the needs of its citizens. There is also strong support for food and nutrition assistance at home, with an even greater number of respondents (80 percent) favoring an increase in funding for food assistance to those experiencing a natural disaster abroad.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) with funding from the CLF. The survey results are available here
 

About the Center for a Livable Future
Since 1996 the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has been addressing some of the most pressing issues in the food system while advancing public health and protecting the environment. As an interdisciplinary academic center based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the CLF is a leader in public health research, education, policy, and advocacy that is dedicated to building a healthier, more equitable, and resilient food system.

Reclaiming Native Truth:  A Project to Dispel Myths and Misconceptions

Reclaiming Native Truth:  A Project to Dispel Myths and Misconceptions

 

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is proud to have partnered with the First Nations Development Institute, Echo Hawk Consulting, as well as other consultants and researchers, to provide critical public opinion research behind a recently released report called Reclaiming Native Truth:  A Project to Dispel Myths and Misconceptions. 

This ground breaking research involved analysis of two literature reviews, 38 focus groups, 45 in-depth interviews, over 13,000 national surveys completed, and nearly 5 million social media posts. This work aimed first to measure then to change core assumptions and presumptions about America’s First Peoples.

Some key findings:

  • Americans understate the level of discrimination facing Native Peoples.
  • This community also can draw on several key assets: respect for Native American commitment to family, appreciation for Native American contributions to our national culture, and broad—if also not fully appreciated—understanding of the tragic history between Native American peoples and the federal government.
  • Most Americans believe we should “do more” to help Native peoples and support most Native American policy goals, most notably, sovereign control of their own land and water.

  • Narratives designed to move perceptions of Native American found considerable traction in the final phase of this research.  

Please visit www.reclaimingnativetruth.com/research for the complete report and additional details about this project. 

GQR in Bipartisan Project that Shows US Democracy on Edge of Crisis of Confidence

GQR in Bipartisan Project that Shows US Democracy on Edge of Crisis of Confidence

Click here to read the full study

Americans still believe in democracy, but are on the edge of a crisis of confidence about the performance of US democracy, according to a pioneering new, bipartisan study, carried out by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, in partnership with Republican pollster Whit Ayres, and his firm, North Star Opinion Research.

The study was jointly sponsored by Freedom House, the Penn Biden Center, and the George W. Bush Institute. It shows that while there has been no recent decline in the share of Americans who want to live in a democracy, a 55% majority believe America’s democracy is weak, and a 68% super-majority believe it is getting weaker. Americans are deeply concerned by the corrosive roles that political polarization, big money in politics, and racial inequality have on the faith in the country’s political system.

The study is path-breaking in that it goes beyond measures of attitudes toward democracy, and also shows how leaders and activists can restore faith in American democracy. There are encouraging signs here; the study shows that Americans respond strongly to messages that stress the need for civic engagement to prevent a whittling away of our democratic freedoms. It also shows that large majorities support reforms that will strengthen democracy - from limits on big money in politics, to reforms that ease racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, to rules that make it easier to vote. And it shows that large majorities continue to support US efforts to support democracy and human rights abroad.

Learn more about this research here in an article by the Washington Post; and here to hear an interview with GQR partner Jeremy Rosner and NPR's affiliate in Phoenix.

New GQR Poll Shows Americans Want More Regulation of Tech Companies

New GQR Poll Shows Americans Want More Regulation of Tech Companies

Read the original press release from Campaign for Accountability here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), released the results of a new poll showing voters support increased regulation of internet and technology companies.  The poll also found that Americans believe internet and technology companies have a negative impact on many aspects of society, particularly privacy.

Click here to read a summary of the poll results.

Click here to download the complete poll results.

CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Americans are concerned about the power and influence of the world’s largest tech companies.  Polling data shows people feel like they have no control over the information collected about them online, and they want the government to do something about it.  It’s time for Washington to wake up and rein in Silicon Valley.”

CfA commissioned a national phone poll of 1,001 registered voters from June 11-19, 2018.  The results of the poll indicate voters are alarmed about various aspects of internet and technology companies.  For instance, majorities say internet and technology companies have a negative effect on personal safety and privacy.  Additionally, 46 percent of voters think the impact of internet and technology companies on society is negative compared to 37 percent who think it is positive.  Voters believe internet companies have been good for the economy and decreased consumer prices.

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Voters were asked about their impressions of the most prominent internet companies – Facebook, Google and Amazon.  Sixty three percent do not trust Facebook to obey the law when it comes to protecting their personal information.  People like connecting with friends and family on the platform, but 29 percent believe Facebook allows fake news and misinformation to spread too easily.

Voters expressed more support for Google and Amazon, praising their convenience and low-cost products.  Again, though, privacy remains a concern.  Twenty six percent, and 24 percent, respectively, were concerned with the companies’ personal assistants, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.  Thirty three percent of voters believe Amazon damages local retailers.

Click here to see the complete poll results.

One takeaway from the poll is that the more voters learn about these internet giants, the more they favor increased regulation.  This holds true for Republicans and Democrats alike.  Ultimately, 73 percent favor increased regulation while only six percent believe there should be less regulation.

Stevens continued, “The poll results demonstrate that Americans are concerned that internet companies do not protect their data. Our elected leaders need to stop dithering and work together to address these problems.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, nonpartisan watchdog organization that uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Names Missy Egelsky and David Walker Senior Vice Presidents

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Names Missy Egelsky and David Walker Senior Vice Presidents

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is pleased to announce that it has promoted GQR Vice Presidents Missy Egelsky and David Walker to become Senior Vice Presidents in the firm. 

The firm’s two Senior Vice Presidents bring decades of experience in conducting cutting-edge opinion research and providing winning strategic advice to campaigns, government leaders, and organizations.

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This year marks Missy Egelsky’s 20th anniversary at GQR, where she provides research and strategic advice for domestic political campaigns and organizations. She joined GQR as an intern in 1998 and has worked her way up through nearly every role within the firm, from data programmer to junior analyst to senior leadership. In 2014, Egelsky was part of the polling team that re-elected Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and in 2016 she helped elect Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), establishing both clients as the only two women to serve as both governor and U.S. Senator in American history. Other current and recent clients include Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), EMILY’s List, the AFL-CIO, and both House and Senate Majority PACs. Egelsky holds a BA in English from The Pennsylvania State University and MA in Political Management from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

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This year marks David Walker’s 30th anniversary as a public opinion researcher and his 15th year advising issue campaigns and domestic political campaigns at GQR. Walker has helped elect some of the leading Democrats of our time, including Governors Mark Dayton (D-MN) and Tom Wolf (D-PA),  Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) and former Congressman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  Walker has also fought for equality issues with the Human Rights Campaign, helped lead the firm’s efforts to modernize the nation’s marijuana laws, advocated gun violence prevention with Giffords (formerly Americans for Responsible Solutions) and other state groups, and leads GQR’s work with the Small Business Majority. Walker holds a BA in History from the University of Virginia.
 

GQR Partners Anna Greenberg, Al Quinlan, Jeremy Rosner, and Elizabeth Sena said of the two promotions: “We are tremendously delighted to have Missy and Dave become Senior Vice Presidents and take on an elevated position with the firm moving forward. They represent strong leadership at GQR. Both have proven records of winning the toughest campaigns, producing spot-on accurate results in complex races, and providing their political and organizational clients with penetrating insights and advice.”

The need for a sweeping agenda for democratic security

The need for a sweeping agenda for democratic security

By Jeremy D. Rosner

This article was originally published in The Hill, March 27, 2018.

As the Russia investigation continues to accelerate, there is some chance the national policy agenda could experience a seismic shift. Yet there is little evidence our leaders are ready for it.

Of course, nobody knows what Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation will conclude about possible crimes linked to the 2016 presidential election. But the felony charges he has brought against 19 individuals, including 4 Trump aides, and the guilty pleas extracted from 3 of them, suggest bigger shoes may drop. If that happens, the national conversation will change quickly.

Consider what happened in the Watergate era. Just one year before Richard Nixon’s resignation, Watergate was not a dominant issue for most Americans. In April 1973, Gallup found that a 53-31 percent majority said the scandal was “just politics,” rather than something “very serious.”  Through late 1973 and early 1974, although Watergate was often in the news, the country’s agenda was more defined by the Vietnam War and the OPEC oil embargo.

But as the scandal deepened, the national focus shifted toward corruption and political reform. The Congress elected soon after Nixon’s resignation focused intensely on cleaning up campaign financing and other parts of the political system. Jimmy Carter won the presidential election two years after that in part by campaigning on political morality.

There has been too little consideration of how the national agenda would change if the Mueller investigation yields bombshells. Even if that is only a minor possibility, it warrants a major focus on what would follow.

First, at that point, big shifts in public opinion and the public agenda could come very quickly.

Our firm’s research suggests most of the public today is withholding judgment on the Trump-Russia story, waiting to see what Mueller finds. But once his conclusions are out, many who paid little attention to this story will focus intently. It is good to recall that just weeks before Nixon’s August 1974 resignation, a majority still did not feel Nixon should step down. That changed quickly as the White House tapes provided vivid evidence of wrongdoing.

Second, if Mueller’s findings are damning, this scandal will almost certainly play an outsize role in defining the 2018 elections, with voters demanding accountability. A February survey our firm did for Stand Up America found 64 percent of registered voters said they would be less likely to vote for their incumbent House member if Mueller produced evidence of criminal activity by Trump and his team, and if that member of Congress had been involved in efforts to attack or delay Mueller’s investigation. Just among Republican respondents living in districts now represented by a Republican, the figure was still 62 percent — even though 84 percent of these people voted for Trump.

Third, in the event of strong evidence of illegal cooperation with Russia, it is likely a major debate would emerge about how to secure our democracy against foreign subversion. Yet there is little evidence of national leaders so far framing a comprehensive answer. Democrats apparently don’t want to count unhatched chickens; Republicans apparently don’t believe chickens exist.

There are many relevant ideas in circulation; leaders in both parties should be focusing on integrating them into a single agenda; that could include:

Protecting our elections. The Senate Intelligence Committee this past week outlined a good six-point program to strengthen cybersecurity for state election systems and reduce the chances of tampered vote counts.

Social media transparency. Evidence of Russians creating fake social media accounts, and this past week’s stories about potential misuse of millions of Americans’ Facebook accounts, should prompt new rules to require that social media platforms disclose what political ads they are airing, who paid for them, and at whom they were targeted.

Foreign subversion. The Foreign Agent Registration Act, little enforced since its adoption in 1938 to prevent fascist subversion, needs stronger restrictions, disclosure and penalties. The security clearance process for White House staff needs to be tightened. We should require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns as a security matter.

Healing our democratic culture. Reform-minded leaders might also address weaknesses in our political culture that helped bring us to this point, such as steps to reduce political polarization; to encourage greater political and civic participation; to reduce the role of big money in campaigns; and to narrow expanding inequalities of income and wealth, which political scientists convincingly argue helped fuel the populism and anti-constitutional tone in 2016.

Helping defend democracy abroad. The emerging scandal also underscores the need for a more resolute set of policies toward Russia and other regimes trying to undermine democracy worldwide, including mutual support among democratic countries.

Whatever the particulars, we would do well to consider now what it would look like to have a truly sweeping agenda to secure our democracy — just in case Mueller’s findings are truly sweeping.

Jeremy D. Rosner is a partner at the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. He earlier served as a senior staff member on President Clinton’s National Security Council.

GQR’s Jeremy Rosner featured in NPR segment: "Trade Is An Identity Issue, And Trump Knows It"

GQR’s Jeremy Rosner featured in NPR segment: "Trade Is An Identity Issue, And Trump Knows It"

By Danielle Kurtzleben

Text of the original NPR segment follows.


There is little question that when President Trump holds a rally in Moon Township, Pa., on Saturday night, he will tout the tariffs he imposed on imported steel and aluminum this week.

Western Pennsylvania is steel country, after all, so his message should play well there. But it will likely resonate with millions of other Americans, well beyond steel plants.

That is because, on top of all the economic implications of new tariffs, trade is also an identity issue. That doesn't mean it's overtly a race or gender issue, as the phrase "identity politics" tends to evoke — rather, it taps into a specific idea of what it means to be American. That identity is loaded with nostalgia and emotion, which together have been at the core of Trump's message since Day 1 and appealed to millions of white, working-class voters who supported his campaign.

Trade taps into America's identity as a country that makes things. Political discourse surrounding trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a tendency to focus heavily on manufacturing, even though TPP also dealt in large ways with intellectual property, environmental regulations and labor standards.

And that means that messages surrounding these tariffs may resonate deeply with some voters.

"People — especially when you go to Trump voters — they have this view of manufacturing that's really emotionally packed," said Jeremy Rosner, executive vice president at Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

"There's definitely a huge, nostalgic '50s, '60s, heyday-of-America, Rosie-the-Riveter-laden kind of thing around manufacturing. So people in those communities who hear Trump or whoever it is talking about protecting those jobs, there's a lot of emotional overtones."

To be clear, trade packs far more than nostalgic resonance for some voters. Those who work in manufacturing and manufacturing-adjacent industries and fear that their jobs or cities will be hurt by offshoring have much more concrete fears and hopes surrounding these types of policy proposals.

But for many other Americans, championing manufacturing evokes an America that — at least, in the rearview mirror — looks rosier.

"Manufacturing is who we thought we were not all that long ago. Think of World War II, right? 'The arsenal of democracy,' " said Thomas Frank, political analyst and author, referencing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1940 speech encouraging the United States to ramp up manufacturing.

"That's who we thought we were not all that long ago. That's what the prosperity of lots of places depended on."

Manufacturing is strong ... but not manufacturing jobs

Note the past tense Frank uses there — depended. When Trump (or any other politician) laments the decline in manufacturing, he is talking about a decline in manufacturing employment, which has dropped precipitously since its height in the 1970s.

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But importantly, manufacturing output has grown in recent decades.

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This is in large part about automation. America has been able to crank out a wealth of manufactured goods with fewer and fewer workers, meaning trade won't bring many of those jobs back.

And that means, strictly by the employment numbers, America is far from being the manufacturing country it once was. Rather, it has become an office-worker country, a health care country, a retail country and a government worker country. Those industries that have surpassed manufacturing employment since its heyday.

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But regardless of all that, the industry has maintained a hold on the American psyche, says one GOP strategist.

"It wasn't that long ago that you couldn't find a politician who [would] drive a foreign car. Every car had to be made in America," said Republican strategist Alex Conant. "That sent an important signal to voters that they respected the American manufacturing."

"And then I think culturally, certainly the blue-collar jobs where you punch in and punch out and wear a hard hat or work on the factory floor, those are core parts of the American identity, as opposed to sitting in the office," Conant said.

America's businesses know this, too.

In 2013, AdAge declared it "cool again to be 'Made in America.' " The CEO of a metal stamping company wrote in 2015 at Industry Week that one reason Americans want to buy American-made products goes beyond patriotism — rather, it's that they "evoke our nation's rugged individualism or imply an artisanal mystique."

And these businesses are happy to advertise their potential to boost American manufacturing. When ExxonMobil in 2017 made an ad burnishing the company's image — touting emissions reductions and supporting jobs — it led with a message that it was "powering a manufacturing revival."

Companies further removed from goods production know this, as well. Walmart, which has long championed "made in America" products, singled out its hopes to boost manufacturing in a 2013 campaign. Economists disagree on whether there is something inherently beneficial to manufacturing jobs, as opposed to well-paying jobs in other industries. But in the American mind, Frank said, that is beside the point.

"I can totally understand why people from a completely nuts-and-bolts, strictly numbers-based, reality-based point of view understand why people like manufacturing," he said. He points to the fact that these jobs were both plentiful and well-paying at a time when economic inequality also wasn't so stark.

"People are right to be nostalgic for that, to want that back," he said. "Whether they can get it back is another question."

Trump's politics of nostalgia

For Trump, with his "Make America Great Again" campaign tagline, championing manufacturing fits in perfectly with his message.

"He has an impressively integrated narrative that is very nostalgic," Rosner said. "The phrase 'Make America Great Again' is backwards-looking, It's evoking a time when a certain kind of people felt on top of the world, and it was kind of a white manufacturing, more rural and suburban population on top of the world."

Likewise, Trump's pledge to be the president of "forgotten" Americans is an inherently nostalgic idea, implying that there was a time when these people were front and center.

But trade isn't the only issue on which Trump has painted a rosier past. Many such comments are about broader cultural debates.

"In the good old days, they'd rip him out of that seat so fast," Trump said of a protester at a 2016 rally. "But today, everyone is so politically correct. Our country is going to hell — we're being politically correct."

He has brought gender into his nostalgic politics as well. "All of the men, we're petrified to speak to women anymore, we may raise our voice — you know what, the women get it better than we do, folks, they get it better than we do," he said at another campaign rally.

"Globalization, civil rights, empowerment of women, LGBTQ, the decline of manufacturing, the rise of information technologies, the world becoming less unipolar, all those things are threatening potentially to those who thrill to that era," Rosner said. "A lot of what explains global politics right now is a backlash to those forces, and Trump tapped into it, Brexit tapped into it."

Of course, it's not just economics or national mythos that keep manufacturing front and center on the campaign trail. Straight-up politics plays a big role as well, since battleground states like Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin happen to be among the states whose economies are most heavily reliant upon manufacturing.

Not only that, but it's also one area where opinions aren't strictly along party lines, meaning there's the potential to appeal to voters on either side of the aisle with trade policy.

Meanwhile, the love of manufacturing will remain embedded in Americans' brains.

"What is the wavelength on national narrative change — national mythology change?" said Rosner. "I think it's long. We still revere the family farmer, and it's more than a century since we've had any share of our population involved in family farming."

So will political ads someday glorify the home health aide, the computer programmer or the grocery cashier the same way they do manufacturing workers? Not soon, Rosner added.

"I think these things change real gradually," he said. "These things are pretty hardwired. They're pretty deep in our DNA."

Protecting Mueller and the Investigation: Results of a New Nationwide Survey

Protecting Mueller and the Investigation: Results of a New Nationwide Survey

By Jeremy D. Rosner

Despite attacks by President Trump and his allies on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation he is leading, a new survey shows the public believes Russia meddled in the 2016 election, is concerned about it, and is prepared to support Trump’s impeachment if the investigation produces evidence of illegality.

The survey also shows that, if there is evidence of crimes, members of Congress who attacked the Mueller inquiry could pay a high price in November. These polling results send a clear message to elected officials that their constituents care deeply about protecting the Mueller investigation. A strong 64% majority – including 62% of Republican voters in GOP-held House districts – say they will be less likely to vote for their members of Congress if the Mueller investigation produces evidence of criminal activity, and their House member had been involved in efforts to attack or stall the investigation.

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The survey suggests voters would also turn strongly against the President if the investigation produces evidence of illegal actions by Trump or his team, with little variability depending on the details of the crimes. Whether the illegality involved unlawful coordination with Russia, obstruction of justice, or financial crimes by Trump’s companies; and whether it directly involved Trump, or only his top aides - solid majorities, ranging from 58% to 65%, say they would support Trump’s impeachment. In each case, support for Trump’s impeachment includes solid majorities of independents, and about a third of all Republicans:

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Such evidence of a likely public swing against Trump and the Republican Congress, if clear wrong-doing emerges, helps explain the intense, coordinated attacks they have launched on Mueller and his investigation. These attacks may be having some impact; although a 57-43% majority say they have high confidence in Mueller’s investigation, that margin is relatively narrow.

But the survey shows a strong majority feel more confident about Mueller and his investigation once they hear the most basic information about him – and it is worth keeping in mind that Mueller is still not a well-defined figure for most of the public. A 59% majority are more likely to trust Mueller and his handling of the investigation when they hear this statement: “Mueller has an outstanding record of integrity and patriotism. He is a highly decorated former Marine who fought in Vietnam. As US Attorney he served under both Democratic and Republican presi-dents, and built a reputation for fearlessly going after corruption and sticking to facts.”
The public is already highly concerned about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Already, 65% believe it is true that Russia was trying to interfere in the 2016 election, and 67% say this is a very or somewhat serious concern to them personally, including 36% who say it is a “very serious concern.” As respondents hear about three ways of describing facts already established, the share who say they are “very concerned” rises further, to over 40% in each case:

It is notable, in the messages below, that nearly two-thirds reject the Trump claim that there was “no collusion,” and instead express real concern that the facts already established suggest just the opposite.

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These findings are based on an online nationwide survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted January 29 to February 3, 2018. The survey was commissioned by Stand Up America; it was designed and fielded by DC-based Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

Click here to view the original memo. 

COLLIN WARD JOINS GQR TO LEAD EXPANDED CORPORATE & ADVOCACY COMMUNICATIONS PRACTICE

COLLIN WARD JOINS GQR TO LEAD EXPANDED CORPORATE & ADVOCACY COMMUNICATIONS PRACTICE

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Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is pleased to announce a major enhancement of its communications consulting services with the addition of Collin Ward as Vice President and the new leader of GQR’s Corporate and Advocacy Communication practice.  For over three decades, GQR has helped US and global companies, NGOs, and political leaders by providing accurate, penetrating opinion research and helping them to translate it into action agendas. With the addition of Ward, GQR expands its capabilities to provide services such as message and speech development, marketing and communications campaign planning, branding, reputation management, and crisis communications.

“The best communications strategies start with a deep understanding of your audience,” says GQR Partner Jeremy Rosner. “By providing communications services that build on our opinion research expertise, we can help ensure our clients have data-driven, winning ways of telling their story and making their case. With Collin on board, we will be able to meet even more of our clients’ comprehensive needs.”

Ward joins GQR this month after more than a decade working with corporations, political campaigns, and advocacy groups to develop innovative and effective marketing and communications strategies across multiple channels, with a strong focus on the digital world. Before joining GQR, Ward was the Director of Marketing for Women for Women International, a global NGO that works with the most marginalized women in war-torn countries. While there, he aligned the organization’s earned and paid media strategies and rebuilt its digital program. He also served as the Director of Marketing for the Democratic National Committee. At the DNC, he integrated messaging across channels, and brought a data-driven orientation to the marketing department, to increase grassroots support and mobilize millions of supporters.

Prior to the DNC, Ward worked with a variety of corporate and advocacy clients including national campaigns for brands including Safeway, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, and the Smithsonian Institution. He started his career working with corporate clients at a boutique advertising agency in his native Southern California.

“Collin brings such a high level of communications experience and talent to our firm,”  says GQR Partner Anna Greenberg.  “He has a unique expertise in leveraging data and research to inform, design, and execute integrated communications plans, creative content, and branding strategies, and marketing campaigns.”

GQR is a global leader in cutting-edge opinion research, strategy, and communications. For over three decades, in the US and over 90 other countries, GQR has helped top leaders in business, advocacy, politics, and government understand their audiences, sharpen their communications, move opinion, and achieve their goals. GQR helps its clients through its Opinion Research, Data Analytics, Digital, and Communications practices, with offices in Washington, Boston, Toronto, and London.

Britain Wants to Keep EU Pesticides Regulations Post-Brexit

Britain Wants to Keep EU Pesticides Regulations Post-Brexit

Leave and Remain voters united in preference for strong pesticides regulations

No matter how they voted in the EU referendum, British voters support keeping the EU’s regulations on pesticides after Brexit. Our poll, carried out for SumOfUs and Pesticides Action Network UK, found that 63% of voters agree with the statement “EU regulations on chemicals and pesticides exist to protect people and the environment and should be incorporated into British law after Brexit”, while just 16% agree with the alternative, “After Brexit the UK government should relax EU regulations on chemicals and pesticides which have imposed significant financial burdens on British companies.” Remain voters supported the first statement 77% to 11%, while Leave voters supported it 57% to 23%. This is further evidence that despite the vote to leave the EU, British voters across the spectrum do not find the vision of a deregulated economy persuasive, even when it is sold as an economic benefit.

Meanwhile, both Leavers and Remainers also agree that “The use of pesticides in the UK should be reduced,” not “There is no need to reduce the use of pesticides in the UK” (by 75% to 12% among Remainers and 65% to 20% among Leavers). Strong majorities agree with banning pesticides harmful to human health, harmful to the environment and harmful to bees and other pollinators.

We also found strong backing for farmers seeking alternatives to today’s pesticides, with 78% agreeing that “The government should provide more support to British farmers working hard to reduce their pesticide use.”

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GQR polled 1203 adults in Great Britain between 11 and 13 September 2017. The survey was fielded online and results were weighted to be nationally representative of the adult population by gender, age, region, social grade, education, ethnicity and past vote.

Data tables for the poll are available here, and slides illustrating the results are here.

TUC poll: Workers on zero-hours contracts want more security

TUC poll: Workers on zero-hours contracts want more security

GQR Research shows workers don’t take up ZHCs by choice and most want guaranteed hours

Two thirds of British workers currently on zero-hours contracts would rather have guaranteed hours, while only a third think a ZHC is the best choice for them. GQR’s poll of zero-hours contract workers for the Trades Union Congress also found that workers most often take up ZHCs because they are the only type of work available to them.

The challenges often associated with insecure work are very real for many workers on zero-hours contracts: just one in eight say they are entitled to sick pay and one in fourteen to redundancy pay. 43% say they do not get holiday pay.

These factors are surely associated with the fact that zero-hours contract workers are less satisfied with their jobs than those with guaranteed hours, and more likely to seek a new one.

 The research contributes to the TUC’s Great Jobs agenda, more information is here.

 GQR Research surveyed 300 workers on zero-hours contracts and 2987 other workers, all in Great Britain, online during August 2017. Results were weighted to the national profile of working people, by age, gender, ethnicity, full/part time contracts, public/private sector and industry. The zero-hours sample was separately weighted to national statistics for zero-hours workers, by gender, age, region, full/part-time hours and industry.

Data tables for the poll are available to download here.

For more information, contact GQR’s London Vice President Peter McLeod, on Twitter @mcleodp or info@gqrr.com.

UK: Strong support for banning pesticides that harm pollinators

UK: Strong support for banning pesticides that harm pollinators

Over three quarters support a ban, across the political spectrum

Polling by GQR for SumofUs and PAN, the Pesticides Action Network, shows very high support for a ban on pesticides that harm pollinators. In our survey, 77% agreed that “Pesticides that harm bees and other pollinators should be completely banned.” There is little political partisanship on the issue, with 80% of Labour supporters behind a ban and 79% of Conservatives, while Remain and Leave voters back the ban by 81% and 78% respectively.

GQR polled 1203 adults in Great Britain between 11 and 13 September 2017. The survey was fielded online and results were weighted to be nationally representative of the adult population by gender, age, region, social grade, education, ethnicity and past vote.

Data tables are available for download here

Big 2017 Victories for GQR Clients

Big 2017 Victories for GQR Clients

Congratulations Democrats across the country! In the hard fought victories last night we begin our march forward to 2018.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner congratulates our victorious 2017 clients, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Seattle Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Manchester, NH Mayor-elect Joyce Craig, Toledo Mayor-elect Wade Kapszukiewicz, and the New Jersey Senate and Assembly Democrats.

  • In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio swept to re-election with 66 percent of the vote. De Blasio’s first term as Mayor was highlighted by steady economic growth, increasing wages, police and criminal justice reform, Universal Pre-K, and an increase in affordable housing. We are excited to continue helping Mayor de Blasio enact positive, progressive change in America’s largest city. GQR’s team was led by Anna Greenberg, Dave Walker, and Aida Bibart.
     
  • In Seattle, GQR was proud to help Jenny Durkan emerge from a field of over 20 candidates to become the next Mayor of Seattle. A former U.S. Attorney under President Obama, Durkan earned 28 percent in a crowded primary and leads with 61 percent of the vote after early returns in the hard-fought general election. Durkan will become Seattle’s first female Mayor since 1926 and first ever openly lesbian Mayor. Congratulations to the entire Durkan team. GQR’s team was led by Anna Greenberg, Ben Winston, and Jason Ashley.
     
  • In Detroit, GQR congratulates Mayor Mike Duggan, who won a resounding 72 percent of the vote and another term as Mayor. Duggan has helped expand opportunity and prosperity as Detroit rebounds and rebuilds from the economic downturn. GQR’s team was led by Al Quinlan.
     
  • In Manchester, NH, Joyce Craig became the first woman elected Mayor in the city’s 171-year history. Craig won 53 percent of the vote, defeating four-term incumbent Republican Ted Gatsas in the contest to run the largest city in New Hampshire. GQR’s team was led by Missy Egelsky and Clinton Willbanks.
     
  • In Toledo, GQR congratulates Wade Kapszukiewicz on becoming the next Mayor of Toledo. As Lucas County Treasurer, Kapszukiewicz founded the Lucas County Land Bank, bringing in over thirty million dollars to improve local neighborhoods.  He has a history of getting results for his community, starting the pharmacy card network saving seniors and others money on their prescription drug costs, and creating a low-interest program for small businesses that helped local businesses create and retain jobs. Kapszukiewicz brings strong leadership, new ideas, and a history of making government work for the community to City Hall. GQR’s team was led by Elizabeth Sena and Jason Ashley.
     
  • Greenberg Quinlan Rosner congratulates the Senate and Assembly Democrats in New Jersey, who each won their largest Democratic majority in decades. GQRR was proud to be a part of the effort and our work was led by Al Quinlan, Ethan Smith and Kelly Higgins.
     
  • Greenberg Quinlan Rosner would also like to congratulate New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, who won a hard fought race despite millions of dollars spent against him. Sweeney garnered 59 percent of the vote in the most expensive legislative race in history. GQR’s team was led by Al Quinlan and Kelly Higgins.

 

*All numbers as of reported returns on Nov 8, 2017.

 

TUC Poll: not enough training opportunities at British workplaces

TUC Poll: not enough training opportunities at British workplaces

GQR Research shows only a third of British workers offered regular training

Just one in three British workers have regular training opportunities at their workplace, and those opportunities that do exist tend to go to older workers in higher-status jobs. These findings are from GQR polling for the Trades Union Congress, released today.

The poll of over 3000 British workers shows 33% had regular training opportunities at work over the past year, while about a quarter (24%) are in workplaces offering no training apart from new starters’ induction. Workers in the A and B social grades (managers and professionals) were twice as likely to get regular training as those in the D and E grades (routine manual and casual workers), at 40% compared to 21%. The age group least likely to have regular training is the 18-24s, at 28%.

We also found that many workers feel they have little or no voice at work: 41% say that big changes happen at work with no staff consultation, while a fifth (21%) say suggestions from staff are ignored by management. Furthermore, 22% say people are stressed at their workplace and management does nothing about it.

The research contributes to the TUC’s work on its Great Jobs Agenda, more information is here.

GQR Research conducted an online poll of 3,287 respondents in work in Great Britain, during 11-24 August 2017. The results were weighted to the national profile of working people, by age, gender, ethnicity, region and job characteristics: full/part time contract, public/private sector and industry.

Data tables for the poll are available to download here.

For more information, contact GQR’s London Vice President Peter McLeod, on Twitter @mcleodp or info@gqrr.com.

New GQR poll shows Democrats erase national security trust gap with Donald Trump

New GQR poll shows Democrats erase national security trust gap with Donald Trump

A new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shows a 55- 45% majority of registered voters trust Democrats in Congress more than Donald Trump to handle America’s national security.  This represents a huge 18-point swing toward Democrats since March, when a 54-46% majority said they trusted Trump more.

 The declining trust of Americans toward Trump on national security comes at a time when the country and Trump administration face a host of foreign challenges, from growing tensions with North Korea, to Trump’s recent decision to decertify the Iran deal, to a consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.

 GQR partner Jeremy Rosner, who served on the National Security Council staff under President Clinton said: “The American public is rapidly losing faith that Donald Trump can keep them safe. The more they watch him handling foreign challenges, from North Korea to Iran to Russia, the less confidence they have in him.”

 The American public particularly lacks faith in Trump’s ability to deal with North Korea – arguably the most dangerous of his immediate national security challenges. The public trusts Democrats in Congress more than they trust Trump to deal with North Korea, by a 57-42% margin. This 15 point Democratic edge is up 5 points just since this August, when Trump first threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” – a sign that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric is undermining his own public support, rather than enhancing it.

 Equally notable: at a time when Republicans in Congress have dismal ratings – CNN polling in September shows 72% of the public disapproves of the job performance of “Republican leaders in Congress” – the public trusts Trump even less than Republicans in Congress on these life-or-death issues of national security. By a wide 62-37% margin, respondents in the GQR poll say they trust Republicans in Congress more than Trump on national security.

 Trump’s mishandling of national security is starting to erode the Republican brand on these issues. In March, voters trusted “Republicans in Congress” on national security more than “Democrats in Congress,” by a large 20 point, 60-40% margin. But nine months of Trump’s tenure as Commander in Chief has cut that margin to just a 5-point, 52-47% advantage. Indeed, the GQR poll shows that on the central threat of North Korea, the public already trusts Democrats in Congress more than their Republican counterparts, by a 53-47% margin.

 The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey fielded online, October 3-10, among 2,000 registered voters.

For more information, contact GQR at info@gqrr.com.

People Power - Dilemma of Democracy

People Power - Dilemma of Democracy

Back in 2014, a group of high profile Catalans, including FC Barcelona star Pep Guardiola and famed tenor José Carreras, penned an article making the case for the simple freedom to vote on whether Catalonia should be independent. They laid out the argument for holding an independence referendum and concluded by asking, “Who can be afraid of democracy?”

Democracy is nothing to be afraid of, but we should all be apprehensive about referenda.

Referenda are on the rise. In 2017 alone, over 15 countries will have held referenda on more than fifty issues. Last year, 25 countries held referenda on over 200 issues. From Brexit to Catalan to Iraqi Kurdish independence, coverage of these direct democracy votes fill the 24-hour news cycle and commentary floods our Twitter feeds.

The referendum wave comes at a time when populist leaders and parties are also on the rise. One in five Europeans (a total of 55.8 million people) voted for a populist party in 2016 or 2017, according to a summer study by the European Policy Information Center. And last month, Germany added to those totals when AfD went from zero to 94 seats in the Bundestag.

Although the causal connections are complex, the simultaneity of these two developments is no accident. Both movements purport to take power out of the hands of politicians and technocrats and put it directly in the hands of “the people.” Both tap into frustrations about globalization, job displacement due to trade, economic stagnation, income inequality, corruption, migration, and perceived resentments against perceived elitism and political disenfranchisement.

"Referenda often become a vehicle for a passionate minority to impose their will on the whole country"

Both are actively backed by the Russians, who view them as forces to undermine the stability and credibility of liberal democracy, particularly in the trans-Atlantic area. It is extremely telling that populism and referenda share not only wellsprings of frustration, but also secret funders and online helpmates. The spike in referenda mixed with the uptick in populism is a recipe for turmoil and instability.

Referenda are billed as giving a population the chance to have a voice and be heard, but often they become a vehicle for a passionate minority to impose their will on the whole country.

In this 2017 referendum on Catalan independence, the yes campaign used the simplest of slogans: “we want to vote.” Who could be against that? But wanting a voice and caring about the issue on the ballot are two different things.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that from Germany to France to Spain to Italy, majorities support holding a referendum on EU membership. But this does not mean people want to leave the European Union. For example, while 61 percent of French respondents want the chance to vote, only 22 percent would actually vote to leave. In theory, citizens want a say in their future. But that does not equate to a passion for or interest in the issue on the table.

Rather than “letting the people decide,” referenda are typically a recipe for “letting a minority rule.” In Catalonia, only 43 percent came out to vote.  In Colombia’s referendum on the FARC peace deal last year, just 37 percent cast a ballot. This makes it difficult to say the people have spoken.

Referenda create a distorted binary choice that voters are ill-equipped to decide. They take incredibly complicated issues and put them in the hands of people without the knowledge or capacity to make informed decisions. Not only are the policy issues at stake complex, the wording of the question on the ballot is often technical. Therefore, campaigns often hijack the issues at hand and reframe the intricate policy decisions into binary, emotion-laden choices.

Campaigns play on these emotions – both fears and aspirations – but often fail to responsibly debate the practicalities of the result. Only after the Brexit vote did people start having a real discussion about the hard practical truths of leaving the EU. In the days after the Catalan referendum, there was equal confusion about what happens next and what an independent Catalonia looks like in terms of EU membership, trade, and families who would be separated.

"Should human and civil rights issues ever be put to a popular vote?"

For decades, California has offered the world a warning on the perils of direct democracy. With 17 ballot measures last year alone, $473 million was spent on these direct democratic campaigns that have become a blessing for special interests and extremists pursuing laws with murky ramifications. These ballot measures also devalue representative democracy by sidestepping lawmakers who were elected to deliberate over complex issues in favor of decisions via mass gut impulses.

Proponents say direct democracy engages citizens. They say referenda can bring attention to issues that are in gridlock. Some could argue that without a referendum, the hard discussions in the UK or Colombia and now Catalonia would never have happened – the vote forced difficult issues to a head and brought opposing factions to the table. Some also point to the 2016 vote on same sex marriage in Ireland as evidence that referenda can progress human rights issues with a popular stamp of approval. It was the first time a country adopted marriage equality by national referendum - it was an inspiring and important milestone in the world’s changing attitudes on the issue. 

But the very next year the voters in another island country, The Bahamas, decided against enshrining gender equality into their constitution.

This begs the question: should human and civil rights issues ever be put to a popular vote? Majorities can give rights, but then they can also take rights away with direct democracy. That should give some pause to “the people” and make us all afraid.

 

This article was originally published in Europe's World Online

Kristi Lowe is a Partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a global polling, strategic communications and campaign management consultancy