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June 18, 2018

Riling Up the Base May Backfire on...

This article by Stanley Greenberg first appeared on The New York Times website on June 18, 2018.   Political commentators and strategists write...
June 20, 2018

The Broad Support for Taxing the...

By Stanley Greenberg for the Summer 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. (This article originally appeared online on June 20,...
July 13, 2018

Trump & GOP Strategy Make Blue...

Pundits built a new conventional wisdom that included higher job approval ratings for President Donald Trump due to the tax cuts and strong economy...

Battleground Surveys
Trump & GOP Strategy Make Blue Wave More Likely
Friday, July 13 2018

Pundits built a new conventional wisdom that included higher job approval ratings for President Donald Trump due to the tax cuts and strong economy that could shrink the enthusiasm advantage and midterm vote for Democrats. But they are wrong about the political trends, the economy, and what motivates Democrats. They miss how the GOP strategy branded Trump and the GOP as only out for themselves and the rich. This is according to the second of three waves of WVWVAF’s battleground research program conducted by Democracy Corps. This program consists of phone polling among registered voters and an on-going web-panel of 1,813 target voters – the Rising American Electorate of minorities, millennials, and unmarried women, plus white working class women – in 12 states with competitive races for governor, Senate, and Congress, including 42 Cook competitive seats. The same web-panel respondents were interviewed in April and late June, so these reported trends we know to be true.



New Message Platform for 2018’s Key Battlegrounds: report from phone survey & web-panel in the 12-state battleground
Thursday, May 03 2018

Democrats sit at the edge of a landslide repudiation of President Trump and Republicans – in the Congress and states where they govern – in November. This is according to the first of three waves of a phone survey (conducted mostly on cell-phones) of registered voters and a coordinated on-going web-panel of more than 3,100 target voters in 12 states that include 12 Governor races, 10 Senate races, and 18 races in DCCC battleground districts. This suite of research provides clear guidance for progressive domination in these battlegrounds: take away the GOP’s presumed strengths – the state of the macro-economy and the new Republican tax cut – and make the most of their weaknesses on key issues that go to the heart of the case against Republican Trump-ism.

  • First, Democrats must appeal to the large majority of voters struggling with wages that don’t keep up with rising costs, particularly the cost of health care. Trump and the Republicans promised to reduce these costs but supported policies with the opposite effect. 
  • Second, they should embrace an evolved economic message that insists on better from politicians than the short-term spending spree for the top one percent that endangers Social Security and Medicare and the short-sighted cuts to education and health care. (It is notable that this new message out-performed the “rigged” economic message that performed best up until now).
  • Third, they should join the students of Parkland and attack Republicans for failing to act on gun control, which has become a top voting issue, particularly for millennials.  

African Americans are already performing higher on turnout measures in this poll, but this message framework and the attacks on health care costs and gun-control significantly increase the number of high turnout voters among Hispanics, millennials and unmarried women as well.

Focus groups find early breakthrough moment in off-years
Thursday, April 13 2017
Download this file (Dcor_March FG_Press Teaser_4.11.2017_FOR DISTRIBUTION.pdf)Key Findings[ ]254 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_WV_March FG_Full Public Memo_4.13.2017_FINAL.pdf)Full Report[ ]623 Kb

America has been roiled by the election of Donald Trump and total Republican control of the federal government. Will it be roiled again by a wave election in the coming off-year elections? That would require engaged and consolidated anti-Trump voters, demoralized Trump supporters and independent voters reacting against Trump and Republican overreach. On behalf of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF), Democracy Corps went to the battleground states of Virginia and Ohio to speak to African American, white millennial and younger unmarried women and white older unmarried and working class women – the working women who will play a critical role in determining whether Democrats make a comeback in the coming off-year elections.[1] Each of these groups disappointed Democrats to varying degrees in terms of vote and/or turnout in past off-years and in 2016, but our findings in these focus groups give us confidence that a dramatically better performance, even a wave, is possible.

  • The Trump voters among these women are not yet regretting their vote, but the defeat of the Trump-Ryan health care replacement was demoralizing and opened their eyes. For the first time, Trump voters do not push back when presented with critical new information. They accept the CBO findings about the Trump-Ryan health care bill and are disturbed it would not lower costs as promised and would hurt seniors and the disabled. They accept an attack on Trump’s budget because it mentions of one of his signature priorities – the wall. They strongly oppose the wall, especially when paid for by cutting Meals on Wheels and after-school programs that make a difference in their communities. 
  • Exposure to information about the Trump-Ryan health care replacement and Trump’s radical budget priorities lead the women in these groups – the Trump voters included – to express a potentially disruptive new doubt about Trump: that he is too rich and far removed from ordinary struggles to see the harm his policies would do. This is the context in which Trump’s wealth and temperament matter to his voters.
  • The women who oppose Trump in these groups are already leaning into the upcoming off-year elections and are energized by the resistance to the Trump presidency. Many of these focus group participants – especially the more Democratic-leaning African American and millennial women–would typically drop off in a midterm election. Their early engagement and intense opposition to Trump suggest a greater level of participation is possible in the upcoming off-year elections.  

So, only two months into this new administration, we are confident that Democrats can communicate messages that engage anti-Trump voters and that begin to erode the confidence of Trump voters in both Trump and Republicans. Democrats should not let up on their attacks on the Trump-Ryan health care alternative – specifically how it would make health care even more unaffordable and actually raises costs for seniors and the disabled. They should let everyone know of his main budget priorities: his wall paid for by cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and after-school programs and cancer research. 

Read the key findings.

Read the full report.

[1]  On behalf of WVWVAF, Democracy Corps conducted six focus groups among working women March 23, 27-28 in Ohio and Virginia: white unmarried women over 45 and white non-college women in Akron, OH; white unmarried women under 45 and white millennial women in Cleveland, OH; African American women and white non-college women in Richmond, VA. Each group had a representative mix of Clinton (anti-Trump) and Trump voters.

Moving to scale to win on health care
Wednesday, April 05 2017
Download this file (Dcor_WV_Winning HC Debate_4.5.2017_FOR RELEASE.pdf)Handout[ ]321 Kb

The humiliating retreat of President Trump and Speaker Ryan on the Obamacare replacement was a powerful moment for working class women, financially pressed unmarried women, millennials, and minorities – both the Clinton and Trump voters. Based on the findings of just-completed focus groups with these key voters, the Republican failure has created a major opportunity for progressives.

  • The Democrats’ attack using the Congressional Budget Office was credible and poignant and should continue to tarnish all involved.
  • If Democrats press their attack in the context of affordability, Trump voters begin to think the president is forgetting the people who elected him and who want him to show more empathy for the middle class.    
  • The Democrats’ approach to the Affordable Care Act – saying only that “the law is not perfect” – misses how radically different voters see health care since the ACA’s passage, and how important it is for Democrats to be the voice of change and positioned as the drivers behind fixing health care to make it “affordable for all.”

Health care is being cited as one of the top problems to be addressed by leaders and has surged to be one of the primary personal challenges facing people in new focus groups conducted for Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund.[1] These women are working class, millennials and minorities who are the least likely to have decent employer-based insurance. They are struggling with increasing costs, whether they are in the exchanges or not, and desperate for change.

With affordability top of mind, they can tell you exactly what they are spending on their son’s diabetes medications, their monthly premiums for their family, the increase they face next year, or the deductibles of the plans on the exchanges.

That is the context for why so many working class voters struggled with the ACA and many voted for candidates who promised to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare.’  But now that context gives progressives the upper hand, if they understand that the combination of stagnant wages and rising premiums, along with high deductibles, makes ‘affordability’ the dominant concern, and if they understand why this has become a federal issue.  


[1] These focus groups were conducted March 23, 27 and 28 in Akron, OH, Cleveland, OH and Richmond, VA among white non-college women, white unmarried women under 45 and older than 45, white millennial women and African American women. The groups included a representative mix of Clinton and Trump voters.  

The millennial strategy
Friday, October 07 2016
Download this file (Dcorps_WV_Millennial Webtest_10.7.2016_EALERT.pdf)Presentation[ ]976 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_WV_Millennial Webtest_Memo_10.7.2016_FOR EALERT.pdf)Memo[ ]279 Kb
Download this file (Democracy Corps Millennial Web Survey 100416 FQ.pdf)Toplines[ ]240 Kb

Millennials are poised to give Hillary Clinton and Democrats a big margin in November's election if they are engaged to vote and if progressives are smart in dealing with the third party vote. Millennial voters are in a very different place than they were two weeks ago, according to a new web-survey of likely millennial voters in the eleven most competitive battleground states for Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund.[1] Democratic millennials have started to consolidate for Clinton, but their Republican contemporaries have not done the same for Trump. Gary Johnson's millennial vote is now a repository for most of those anti-Trump Republicans.

The biggest, genuine problem is whether millennials will vote. The emerging battle over the economy – centered on taxes, trickledown and corporate responsibility – is getting their attention. Millennials are in an anti-corporate mood and desperate for change, and this new focus may move them to the polls on Election Day. 


The vote, shift to Clinton and partisan consolidation

Clinton now has a huge 25 point margin over Trump in a four-way race, comparable to Obama's 2012 performance with millennials in these same battleground states. Among white millennials, Clinton’s margin is 14 points stronger!

While she is getting 54 percent of the millennial vote, down from Obama’s vote in 2012 and 2008, Trump's vote sits at only 29 percent. Many Republican millennials are supporting Gary Johnson who is getting 14 percent of the vote.


Clinton is wining huge margins with unmarried women, including white unmarried women (+41 Clinton and +22, respectively), and is winning 78 percent of minority millennial voters. She has a 12 point margin with white college graduates, including a 20 point margin with the white college women, and gets a respectable 44 percent with white working class millennial women.

Page Gardner, Founder and President of WVWVAF, said the new poll demonstrates the strength of millennials and other members of the Rising American Electorate (millennials, people of color and unmarried women) to shape elections. “Unmarried women favor Clinton over Trump, creating a massive 'marriage gap' between single and married women. For white unmarried women, the gap has become a potentially insurmountable divide for Trump, and our new poll shows that millennials also are uniting around Clinton," Gardner said. “The electoral power of the Rising American Electorate has never been more evident. They clearly are in a position to determine election outcomes up and down the ballot.”

At the heart of the millennial story are the different reactions among partisans. Millennial Democrats are now giving Clinton 91 percent of their votes, up from 83 percent in our earlier battleground. With her two-way vote at 96 percent, there is reason to believe Democrats can be further consolidated, including squeezing more third party votes.


Republicans, on the other hand, are not consolidating around Trump – and that has allowed Clinton’s margin to grow. Trump is getting just three-quarters of the Republican millennials in a four-way vote and it gets no better after messaging at the end of the survey (77 percent). In a two-way ballot, he gets only 85 percent of GOP identifiers at the beginning and end of the survey. That 15 percent is determined not to support Trump.

Gary Johnson's voters are mostly Republican anti-Trump voters, and progressives should allow Johnson to play that role.

Attacks on Johnson do not have much of an impact on his vote and the margin. In fact, this survey includes an experiment that shows third party voters shift 8 points to Clinton in a two-way ballot when they instead hear messages about corporate responsibility and a contrast with Trump on taxes and trickledown economics. Attacks on Johnson only produce a 1 point shift.


Will Millennials vote?

Millennial enthusiasm is a huge issue and is unchanged from earlier polls. A significant gap is emerging between millennials and other voters on their level of interest in voting. Our September battleground survey for WVWVAF found 71 percent of all likely voters gave the greatest possible score for enthusiasm for voting, but just 49 percent of millennials in this survey say they are extremely interested in voting this year.


Their lack of enthusiasm is reflected in the 41 percent of Trump voters and 46 percent of Clinton voters who say their vote is more a vote against the other party’s nominee than for their candidate.


Anti-corporate millennials want revolutionary change

Millennials want big change and are deeply frustrated with an irresponsible corporate America and its undue influence over politicians. The intensity of their feelings is hard to underestimate. Nearly 60 percent of millennials say “we need a revolution in this country and we don’t have time for incremental change” – including 50 percent of Clinton voters. That gets your attention.


The focus of their revolutionary angst is the regime of trickledown economics and corporate governance. Just 18 percent of millennials have a favorable reaction to “trickledown economics” and their antipathy crosses party lines. They blame the big banks and corporate CEOs they believe use government to lock in unfair advantages while betraying their workers and paying too little in taxes. Millennials are primed for a message that aims to raise taxes on the rich and reign in corporations, particularly the third party voters who are the most negative towards corporate executives and banks.


Millennials need to hear that Clinton is upset with what is happening with corporations and politicians and she will take on the corporate special interests. A 59 percent majority says, "Hillary Clinton is too beholden to special interests to look out for people like me.” That includes more than half of Sanders voters who are, unsurprisingly, the biggest targets for Clinton to consolidate – one-quarter are not yet voting for Clinton.

Their turning out and voting is dependent on Clinton continuing to put forward the powerful economic message she has been delivering.


Economy, trickledown, taxes and corporate responsibility

In our dial meter testing of the first presidential debate, Clinton's economic message shifted voters toward her on handling the economy, jobs and taxes. Those gains also produced significant shifts in her personal favorability, and whether she is looking out for the middle class and is honest and trustworthy.

This survey tested Clinton’s economic message (in effect, the speech she delivered in Toledo) and found it is the key to building intense support and getting millennials to vote. Her message is infused with anger at corporate irresponsibility and centers on creating an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. She lays out her economic plans and makes clear the rich have to pay their fair share and corporate CEOs need to be held accountable.


The best reason to vote for Clinton is the contrast between her and Trump on taxation and trickledown economics: Clinton wants to end the reign of trickledown economics and raise taxes on the rich while Trump wants to enact the biggest tax cuts in history for the top 1 percent and his family. This is also the best reason to vote for Clinton among the Sanders voters who need to be consolidated: one-quarter said this was a very convincing reason to vote for Clinton.


Tax & trickledown contrast

Clinton wants to end the reign of trickle-down economics and raise taxes on the wealthy that have seen all the new income gains so they pay their fair share and so we can invest in the middle class. Trump will enact the biggest tax cut for the one percent in history, including a $4 billion dollar tax break for his family, and make inequality even worse.


The powerful contrast between Clinton and Trump on trickledown economics, together with her current economic message, is likely to consolidate the Democratic vote and give these change voters a reason to cast a ballot.

Other top reasons to vote for Clinton among millennial targets include the contrasts between her and Trump with respect to reproductive rights, dealing with climate change, and preparedness to be Commander in Chief. Climate change is particularly important to millennials and climate denial is a disqualifying position: 62 percent say it “is a severe threat and I won't vote for a candidate who won't take action to address it.”

These millennial voters are not cynical about the choice. They believe there are "huge" differences between Trump and Clinton and they do think the election result will make a difference in their lives.


Progressives now have a strategy for getting millennials to act on their continued belief that this election matters.

[1] This online survey of 1,000 likely millennial voters took place October 1-4 in 11 presidential battleground states: AZ, CO, FL, IA, NV, NH, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI. Likely voters were determined based on stated intention of voting in 2016, and vote history in 2012 and 2014. Millennials were defined as being born in 1980 or later.

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