Accounting for Partisan Cheerleading When Reading Polls by Brad Chism

By at September 11, 2013 | 11:04 am | Print

Accounting for Partisan Cheerleading When Reading Polls by Brad Chism

Brad Chism

Consultants and campaign staffers often read a poll and ask themselves, “How can these morons believe these lies?” A hefty body of research shows us that hard core partisans aren’t stupid; their responses to poll questions are often just partisan cheerleading.

It follows that the majority of the “Birthers” accept that our President was born in Hawaii, but they are expressing their dislike for Obama through their response to a poll question about his birthplace.

Earlier this year, a team of social scientists published the results from a series of experiments in 2008 that reinforced this theory of partisan cheerleading. They suggested a novel way to reduce the bias in survey response: pay respondents for correct answers.

Three Yale professors and a colleague from UC San Diego asked highly partisan Democrats and Republicans a battery of “fact” questions and measured the difference in results between those who were paid for the correct answers and a control group. They found that the payments reduced the partisan gap in responses by 55%. A second set of experiments also paid respondents for admitting they “didn’t know” and found an astonishing 80% reduction in the partisan gap in responses. The researchers’ conclusions: don’t take partisan polarization on factual matters at face value.

Campaign budgets are tight and pollsters cannot be expected to pay their respondents, but political professionals can draw useful lessons from this work.

1.  Don’t belittle opposition voters as Neanderthals. Acknowledge that their wacky polling responses are often GOP flag waving.

2. If your poll confirms that key swing voters are swallowing these distorted facts, focus groups can help determine why and how.

3. Spending for a “Truth Squad” to refute every outlandish GOP pseudo fact is very costly. Exposing the lie won’t convert hard core Republicans. With limited budgets, one should redirect those resources to turning out supporters and convincing the chronic voters who are truly undecided.

We thank Dr. John Bullock, Dr. Alan Gerber and Dr. Gregory Huber from Yale and Dr. Seth Hill from Univ. of CA, San Diego for their excellent work. Here is a link to their research paper. http://huber.research.yale.edu/materials/39_paper.pdf  And of course, we apologize for any misinterpretations of their findings.

Brad Chism, Founder, Chism Strategies;  a direct voter contact consultancy integrating telephone contact programs with campaign messaging for Democratic candidates and progressive groups.  

Chism Strategies P O Box 15870  Washington DC  20003 (202) 430-5963       603 Duling Avenue    Suite 211    Jackson   MS  39216   (601) 982-0231

brad@chismstrategies.com

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