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Republicans v. Democrats v. Other: 2016 Presidential Election

August 27th, 2015

The data from our last post suggested that after the first Republican primary debate on August 6, favorability of past Presidents John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt – both Democrats – spiked, while Conservative favorite Ronald Reagan’s favorability rating was unchanged. This result was the opposite of what might be expected, i.e., that the appeal of a Republican past President would receive a bump following a major Republican event.

Following that post, we were asked about the favorability of the two parties, generally, and whether the Democrats also received that unexpected spike in their ratings.

The answer to that is a bit puzzling. Although two great past Democratic Presidents rose in appeal following the debate, the Democratic Party itself lost favorability, with 57% of respondents before the debates reporting leaning Democratic and 54% after. It’s not a huge loss, but it does occur within the Democratic base (lean “very strongly” Democratic: 16% pre-debate, 14% post; “somewhat strongly”: 28% vs. 25%).

The Republican Party suffered a very similar loss in appeal, from 33% to 29%. The strongest base of the party remains unchanged, but respondents saying they lean Republican “somewhat strongly” dropped after the debate, from 17% to 12%.

It was our Other category that jumped the most when respondents were asked, “Which way do you lean?” Before the Republican primary debate, Other was at 10%; after the debate: 16%. When asked to supply a reason for their “other” choice, response centered around independent voting (picking the best candidate) or simply “neither / don’t vote.”

There has been much made in the news of the rise of Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson as a result of the primary debate, and it’s true that according to many polls, their favorability numbers have increased in the past two weeks. But according to our own data, Americans walked away from the Republican debate feeling less certain than ever about the two parties. Yes, we would like a superhero President like JFK or FDR to come back and guide us to better times. But voters are simply not yet convinced that that hero will be found in either of the major parties for the 2016 Presidential election.

 

To make sure that you get periodic reports in a timely fashion, be sure to sign up for 8Sages’ RSS feed or follow this blog to get email updates. Look for the follow button in the lower right corner.

 

Copyright August 2015 by Leo J. Shapiro – All Rights Reserved.

Reagan vs. Kennedy in the 2016 Presidential Election

August 24th, 2015

Reagan_JFK

 

Since we started surveying Americans a year ago, we have periodically asked them, “If miracles could happen, which one President since the nation was founded would you want to lead the nation today?” We ask the question with the thought that Americans may be seeking in their current candidates the same leadership they see in past Presidents.

In our August 2015 survey, the past President most desired is Ronald Reagan at 14.5%, followed by John F. Kennedy (14.0%) and Abraham Lincoln (11.0%). These men appear near the top of best Presidents lists, generally, so it is not surprising that respondents name them here.

What is interesting is that we ran half of our most recent poll just before the August 6 Republican primary debate and the other half immediately after.

Throughout our surveying, JFK had been mentioned quite steadily near 12%, including 11.8% in the survey run just before the debate. Just after the debate, his numbers jumped to 16.2%.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt experienced a similar increase, from holding steady at about 5%, to 8.2% following the debate.

Pre-debate, Ronald Reagan’s numbers had slipped three points from his standing in April, and they increased only 0.2% after the debate.

What does this mean? Often after a debate, the publicity of the event gives candidates a bounce in their numbers. One could reasonably expect that the most revered Republican President (Reagan) would have received a similar bounce, but that didn’t occur.

What did occur is a bounce for two of the great Democratic Presidents – JFK and FDR. It may be no coincidence, as we are every day confronted in the news with issues of racism and income inequality. These two men presided over the height of the Civil Rights movement and the Great Depression, respectively, and respondents may be instinctively turning toward the same leadership that helped the nation through the same issues that are so prevalent in recent days.

Republicans have reason to be concerned that – after a debate in which their candidates were to lay out their solutions to the nation’s problems – respondents increasingly wished for Democratic Presidents.

 

To make sure that you get periodic reports in a timely fashion, be sure to sign up for 8Sages’ RSS feed or follow this blog to get email updates. Look for the follow button in the lower right corner.

 

Copyright August 2015 by Leo J. Shapiro – All Rights Reserved.

The 2016 Presidential campaign is one argument in a 200-year-long debate started by the Founding Fathers

August 13th, 2015

Tomorrow’s News Today: The 2016 Presidential campaign is one argument in a 200-year-long debate started by the Founding Fathers

 

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stea...

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stearns, Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Presidential campaigns in the United States are, in effect, a continuation of the heated and protracted arguments of the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Issues that come up in our debates today – for example, the Republican debate held just last week – are those that were not resolved and written into the Constitution. Presidential debates throughout American history serve as an extension of debates held over 200 years ago, a continuous dialogue with history.

Voters and campaign organizers sense this continuity. In effect, each Presidential campaign is organized in terms of finding a way to identify and elect someone who embodies the leadership qualities of a favorite past President – John F. Kennedy, Ronald Regan, Abraham Lincoln, FDR. At heart, we are seeking a miracle – to reelect to office a past President who is no longer available. And so campaigners (and voters) search for current candidates to find which ones have the leadership qualities of that past President.

In the first year of the present campaign, we conducted six National Polls to measure Americans’ preference for their next President. Each poll was based on online interviews with an average of 538 Americans selected from the nation at large. Cumulatively, the database at this point for information concerning presidential preference totals 3,228 interviews. In each National Poll, respondents were asked the question: “After president Obama’s term is over, who would you like to be our nation’s next President?” This was an open-ended question, and no person or candidate was named.

Over the past year of surveying, Hillary Clinton has been the clear frontrunner, being named spontaneously by an average of 21% of a sample. Differences between surveys were of the magnitude of 2 or 3 percentage points. So Hillary Clinton was named by 19-23% of the population. This variation from survey to survey reflects statistical variance and indicates that preference for Clinton remains flat and unchanged during the first year of the campaign.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have made significant gains in preference since August 2014, when neither man was spontaneously named by any respondent – 0%. Now, a year later, Bernie Sanders is the preferred next President of 7% of Americans, and 9% favor Donald Trump. No other candidate received mentions greater than 2.5% of respondents.

In the early days of a Presidential campaign, preferences for President are built on personal interactions and conversations between individual Americans. They often revolve around who is likely to announce a candidacy and current events that might affect those who have already announced their runs. In addition, the conversations often have a historical context, where longings for the return of an admired past President are voiced.

To follow this historical thread, after naming their preference for the next President respondents were then asked to name their favorite past President: “If miracles could happen, which one President since the nation was founded would you want to lead the nation today?” Given the current standings of the candidates, we chose to examine and compare the favorites of those who preferred Clinton, Trump, and Sanders.

 

Election_Table

 

In summary, the leading Democratic candidates name as their past President John F. Kennedy, also a Democrat. Among those who name the leading Republican, Trump, as their favorite, the honor of favorite past President goes to Ronald Regan (although Trump’s followers also claim a strong connection to JFK, as well). In effect, respondents are trying to elect a past President who is already gone and dead. That President’s reputation is established by history, by personal knowledge, by conversations among people, and in public stories amplified by the media.

The campaign for the Presidency is not like a footrace, where all contenders compete with all contenders simultaneously. Rather, it is more like a tennis tournament, in which two contenders compete and the loser drops out of the race while the winner advances to the next round. The ultimate final election gives the population the choice between candidates that have already demonstrated their ability to win in competition with others.

As of August 13, the survivors – candidates that have demonstrated their ability to win – include Clinton, Sanders, and Trump.

As we continue to monitor this election cycle, it is also important to bear in mind that there are really two campaigns in progress – one to elect the next President, and one to elect that President’s successor. In effect, followers of Hillary Clinton (or Trump or Sanders) campaigning for her victory are also simultaneously mindful of establishing a basis for electing her eventual successor.

This returns to the initial idea – that elections in America are points of argument along the arc of a longer debate that stretches back to the Founding Fathers and that continues forward into the future, as old issues are re-argued and new challenges arise.

The tracking survey will continue. The next event in the election process will be the primaries, where the contenders for President will be chosen. To make sure that you get the results of our surveys as soon as we get them, sign up for 8Sages’ RSS feed or follow this blog to get email updates. Look for the Follow button in the lower right corner.

 

Copyright August 2015 by Leo J. Shapiro – All Rights Reserved.

 

Things are getting better for the nation, but they’re still not good

July 21st, 2015

Tomorrow’s News Today: Things are getting better for the nation, but they’re still not good

Americans mistakenly believe that things are getting worse for the nation, because they are horrified by the bloody terrorism stemming from religious, racial, political prejudices that persist because the Confederacy refused to accept defeat in the Civil War and live by the rules set by the federal government.

 

Actually, with the exception of the breakdown of police controls, almost everything else is getting somewhat better for the nation. Mentions of the economy as a problem diminish over the period of study, from 47% in August 2014 to 34% in April 2015. Similarly, mentions of foreign affairs as a problem decline from 36% in August 2014 to 16% in April 2015.  Mentions of government as a problem decline form 37% to 34% over the period of study. Moral issues and the environment continue to be mentioned by relatively few people and remain stable over the period.  Moral issues are mentioned spontaneously by 5% of the population in August 2014, and 8% in April 2015. Concerns with the environment are mentioned by 6% in August 2014 and continues at 6% at the end of the study period, in April 2015.

 

Feelings of success in managing the problems of the economy, the government, and foreign affairs do not offset the real concern of Americans with failure of their government to protect them from the police and to protect the police from them.

 

In effect, the 5 national surveys done since October 2014 find that the nation is doing quite well in managing the problems it faces, except for the problem of protecting the population from violence prejudice. Knowing the problems facing the nation helps define the kind of leadership that nation requires.

 

In August 2014, 21% of 548 Americans selected from the nation at large spontaneously named Hillary Clinton as the person they would like to have as their next President, after Obama’s term is over. Mitt Romney, in a weak second place, was mentioned by 4%, with Jeb Bush at 2%.

 

Five months later, in April 2015, a national survey of a fresh sample of 508 Americans found that Hillary Clinton has held her position and is mentioned by 22%.  Mitt Romney, who decided not to run, is mentioned by only 1%. Jeb Bush, who has now announced his candidacy, is mentioned by 3% of the nation, and mentions of Elizabeth Warren have increased from 1% in August to 3% in April.

 

After President Obama’s term is over, who would you like to be our nation’s next president?

 

  2014 2015
  Aug

(543)

100%

Oct

(526)

100%

Dec

(525)

100%

Feb

(516)

100%

Apr

(508)

100%

Candidate Mentioned by Name 41% 44% 42% 43% 46%
Hillary Clinton 21% 23% 20% 21% 22%
Jeb Bush 2 2 3 3 3
Elizabeth Warren 1 2 2 2 3
“Clinton” (general) 2 3 3 2 2
Rand Paul 1 * 1 2 2
Obama 1 1 1 2 2
Scott Walker 2 2
Bernie Sanders 1 1 2
Marco Rubio * * * 1 2
Chris Christie 2 2 2 2 1
Dr. Ben Carson 2 1 1 1 1
Mitt Romney 4 4 3 1 1
Ted Cruz 2 1 1 1 1
Joe Biden 1 1 1 * 1
Ron Paul 1 1 1 * 1
Mike Huckabee 1 * 1 1 *
Sarah Palin * * 1 *
Bill Clinton 1 * * *
Rick Perry 1 1
Paul Ryan * 1 * *
Donald Trump 1
John McCain *
No one / don’t know (Net) 46% 43% 41% 47% 40%
No one 3 1 1 8 7
DK / NA 44 42 40 39 33

 

 

 

Despite the large number of contenders, 40% of Americans in April still cannot name the person they want for President.

 

During the period covered by the national surveys, the nation was having a rocky time.

 

In your opinion, are things getting better or worse for the country as a whole?

  2014 2015
  Aug

(543)

100%

Oct

(526)

100%

Dec

(525)

100%

Feb

(516)

100%

Apr

(508)

100%

Better 23% 30% 27% 37% 31%
Worse 53 50 52 41 47
Same 24 20 21 22 21

 

 

In each of the five months, more people said things were going worse than going better for the nation. Specifically, “worse for the nation” ranged between 41% and 53% in the five periods when surveys were conducted.  “Going better for the nation” ranged from a low of 23% to a high of 37%.

To explore the reasons for Americans’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the nation’s situation, the survey asked respondents to describe the major problems that are facing the nation. In naming problems, respondents were indicating what kind of leadership they are looking for in their next President.

 

  2014 2015
Major problems
facing the country
Aug

(543)

100%

Oct

(526)

100%

Dec

(525)

100%

Feb

(516)

100%

Apr

(508)

100%

Social problems 15% 29% 32% 25% 34%
Economy 47% 48% 40% 40% 34%
Government 37% 35% 36% 34% 34%
Foreign / international 26% 23% 20% 20% 16%
Social services 18% 28% 20% 17% 16%
Moral issues 5% 5% 6% 7% 8%
Environment 6% 6% 5% 10% 6%

 

In April, the problems mentioned most often were governmental, social, and economic (each at 34%). Government problems mentioned include budgeting, national debt, lack of confidence in elected officials, leadership, corruption, and high taxes.

 

Among the most disturbing problems are those involving social issues – crime and violence, racism and discrimination, and poverty and economic disparity. The social problems mentioned indicate that Americans do not believe their government is performing its primary function: protecting the population from dangers, including attacks from each other.

 

Americans divide, in terms of affiliation with political parties, into five groups.  When asked whether they were independent voters, a broad majority (60-70%) consider themselves to be independent voters.  When asked more specifically which way they lean, more Americans lean toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party (47% vs. 35%). True independents constitute just under 20% of the vote, in that they assert their independence and then do not provide information which way they lean.

 

To get a sense of how important Americans feel their relationship is to a political party, we asked if they lean very strongly or somewhat strongly. 15% of Americans in April lean very strongly toward the Democrats, and 10% lean very strongly toward the Republicans.

 

We explored the extent to which people feel they are getting as much income as they need to live comfortably. A major proportion of the population – roughly a third – say they have less than they need to live comfortably.

 

 

  2014 2015
Have more / less than need to live comfortably Dec

(525)

100%

Feb

(516)

100%

Apr

(508)

100%

More 11% 18% 20%
Just enough 50% 51% 49%
Less 39% 31% 31%

 

This means that total income for the country is not large enough to satisfy all of its citizens. The same question was also asked in modified form: Comparing yourself and your family to other Americans in terms of how hard you and your family work and how much you contribute to society, do you feel that you are getting as much income as you deserve or are you getting more or less income than you deserve?

  2014 2015
Getting the income you deserve? Dec

(525)

100%

Feb

(516)

100%

Apr

(508)

100%

More 7% 9% 11%
As much 38% 42% 42%
Less 55% 49% 47%

 

After 5 months buildup of publicity, 40% of Americans have not settled on who they want as President. This prompted 8 Sages to investigate the possible candidacies of a small group of people known for their vast fortunes and tremendous philanthropic efforts: billionaires.  Given that there is no clear successor to the office, might Americans accept a wealthy philanthropist as President?

 

In our April survey, we asked 508 Americans (selected from the nation at large): How would you feel about the idea of electing as President of the United States a billionaire who has the resources, the experience and the will to dedicate himself and everything he or she owns to the good of the people?  We then asked them to choose as their answer: a good idea, not a good idea, don’t know.  As it turns out, 42% are open to the idea of a billionaire President, in that they selected “good idea” as their answer to the question.

 

Among Americans who believe they make less income than they deserve, only 34% believe a billionaire President is a “good idea,” and 41% aren’t sure. People who respond favorably to the idea tend to believe they make more or as much income as they deserve (58% and 46%, respectively).

 

8SAGES then asked about four specific billionaires. Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Pete Peterson. When asked, Have you ever heard of these American billionaires, 96% had heard of Bill Gates.  77% said they had heard of Michael Bloomberg, 53% had heard of David Koch, and 18% were familiar with Pete Peterson.

 

Having brought these four men into respondents’ minds, 8SAGES then asked:

These billionaires have dedicated much of their fortune to foundations that are doing things to improve the lives of people in the United States and worldwide.  These men represent both liberal and conservative views, and have the money, background, and experience to perform the duties of the President.

 

Would you want these men, or others like them, to run as candidates for the office of President in 2016?

Respondents split: 51% yes, and 49% no.  Before specific names were presented and the characteristics of the billionaires described, respondents were somewhat less open to the idea of a billionaire as President, splitting 42% yes, 24% no, and 35% don’t know.

 

Of people who named Hillary Clinton as the person they would like to replace Obama in 2016, 68% said they would not want these billionaires running for President.  In contrast, of those desiring Jeb Bush as the next President, 74% would want billionaires running.

 

When asked why they favor the idea, Americans wanting billionaires in the running repeated what they had been told in the question, citing caring for the people, understanding business practices, having the necessary resources, and being capable (leadership and problem-solving).

 

Americans who don’t want billionaires running for President cite as reasons: selfishness, inexperience, the possibility of corruption, and a general unease with the combination of vast wealth and vast power in one person.

 

There is no indication that Gates, Bloomberg, Koch, or Peterson are interested in running for President in 2016. And if they were to enter into campaigning, they would likely meet with a highly mixed reaction from the voting public.

 

To repeat, it is unlikely that any of these four billionaires would want to abandon what they are now doing for the country and enter a race for President. But, they and other billionaires stand to exert substantial influence in the choice of nominee for each of the two major parties. They have the money to provide a potential candidate with meaningful support, enough money to mount an expensive campaign to disseminate false information on the eve of the election, leaving the opponent no time to refute it.

 

An example is the “Swift Boat Attack” on John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election. A description of that October Surprise appeared on 8Sages.com, in a posting called “Bloodless Revolution of 2008 – October Update” (October 13th, 2008).

“In the 2004 Presidential election, an ‘October Surprise’ swept Bush into office. Our survey in early October 2004 showed Kerry winning. Then, Bush mounted a major assault on Kerry. In November our survey, as well as the actual election, showed Bush as the winner. A January repeat of the survey found that the effect of Bush’s attack had moderated, and that had the election been rerun in January, Kerry would have won.”

 

In the author’s career as an advisor to managers of political campaigns, he experienced a defeat of a referendum to open the primary to candidates of all parties, where voters do not have to declare a party affiliation. Tracking research found overwhelming support for the open primary. But immediately before the referendum was held, a campaign was launched promoting a perfectly legitimate reason to vote against the referendum – namely, that if you were a Democrat and the Democratic Party was running a primary, an open primary would allow Republicans to vote, thereby possibly thwarting the will of Democrats. After the campaign, the initiative was defeated. Going back in history, incidents both small and large incidents repeatedly demonstrate that with money, outcomes of elections can be altered by taking action close to the date of the election itself.

 

But, more to the point, billionaires have enough resources so they can afford to take actions that could otherwise be taken only by a government. This has begun to happen. Howard Schultz, president of Starbucks has committed his company to pay the tuition for the first two years of college for employees. Other companies have voluntarily increased the minimum wage they have agreed to pay.

 

Fortuitously, as we were writing this post, the New York Times published an article about Sean Parker and his philanthropic efforts, called “Sean Parker Seeks a New Approach to Charity.” He argues for bold risk-taking in charity work, funding projects for the public that the government and other charitable foundations don’t do, thereby filling a gap.

“It seemed like there was a point where if I was going to do these things, I’d have to make big bets in a concentrated way,” he said in a telephone interview. “That I should do things that were reputationally somewhat weird, or would have some reputational cost.”

 

The article goes on to discuss the projects of PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Elon Musk – both engaged in riskier, less traditional forms of philanthropic giving.

 

As each party figures out who they will select to represent them in the 2016 Presidential election, the pace of campaigning will be escalating sharply in the coming months.

 

It is going to be difficult to interpret the findings of the follow-on research that will start in July, because the requirements for getting chosen as the party’s nominee for President are different from what is required to actually win the office. To make sure that you get periodic reports in a timely fashion, be sure to sign up for 8Sages’ RSS feed or follow this blog to get email updates. Look for the follow button in the lower right corner.

 

Copyright June 2015 by Leo J. Shapiro – All Rights Reserved.

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