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November 04, 2017

The Democratic Civil War Is...

By Susan Glasser. This article appeared in The New Yorker on November 1, 2017. On the morning of October 5th, President Trump was on one of his...
October 18, 2017

Democrats Need to Lead the Fight...

This op-ed appeared in The Huffington Post on October 18, 2017.   Donald Trump remains deeply unpopular with the American people, and his...
September 27, 2017

NAFTA Renegotiation Requires...

Trump’s unexpected victory has disrupted progressive strategies to dominate this period, but no area has been disrupted more than trade. No other area...

National Surveys
Tools for a Wave in 2018
Thursday, July 13 2017

The first wave of Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund’s ongoing web-panel of persuasion and turnout targets with simultaneous national phone survey conducted by Democracy Corps provides progressive leaders and allies with credible tools to turn 2018 into a disruptive wave election.[1]   



Wave elections come when one party is fully consolidated, reacting with intensity and turning out disproportionately; when the other party is divided and demoralized; and when independents react against that party’s overreach. The potential for such conditions is already strongly evident in this first wave of research:

  • The Democratic house margin of 7 points is very close to what’s needed for control, but likely needs to reach 10 points.
  • Democrats and key parts of the Democratic base – African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women and millennials are intensely hostile to Trump and are supporting Democrats for Congress with impressive margins and certainty.
  • Independents are deeply opposed to the GOP health care bills and Trump and break heavily for Democrats in the congressional ballot after supporting Trump and Republicans in past years.
  • Republicans are not supporting Trump or their candidates with the same level of intensity and 20 percent of RAE+ Trump voters think he is out of touch with working with people.

Critically, battling against health care with the strongest arguments and for an economy that works for the middle class, with clarity about our values, widens the gap on intention to vote and intensity of support between those voting for the Democrat and those voting for the Republican.



[1] This is the first in a series of three waves of l,000 national registered voter phone surveys with accompanying 4,000 registered voter web-surveys among a panel of minorities, millennials, unmarried women and white non-college educated women (the RAE+).The national phone survey of 1,000 voter-file matched registered voters with 65 percent of respondents reached on cell phones was conducted May 21-June 5, 2017. The voter-file matched RAE+ panel of 4,000 registered voters was conducted online May 31-June 13, 2017.  

Three pieces of advice for taking on the GOP health care bill
Friday, June 23 2017

New Democracy Corps surveys on behalf of Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund show a country deeply opposed to the health care plan passed by the House and now mirrored in the version under discussion in the US Senate.[1]  Opposition to the GOP health care bill outpaces support two-to-one with registered and likely 2018 voters and independents nationally, with almost half of the country opposing it “strongly.” But with the right information and lines of attack, Democrats can broaden and deepen opposition to the GOP replacement plan bill even further. What do voters dislike about the proposed replacement and what lines of attack have the greatest potential impact? For that, we tested the reactions of a 4,000 registered voter sample of African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women, millennials and white working class women.  These are voters who have disappointed Democrats to varying degrees in terms of turnout and vote, particularly in off-years but also in 2016 when some of them gave a plurality of their votes to Trump. Here are our three pieces of advice for building a backlash against the GOP health care bill.


The unheard winning economic agenda: report from Roosevelt Institute election night poll
Tuesday, November 15 2016
Download this file (Dcorps_PE_RTR_Presentation_for release.pdf)Presentation[ ]1054 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_PE_RTR_Ealert_11.15.2016_for release.pdf)Memo[ ]831 Kb
Download this file (Democracy Corps Post Elect_RTR_110916 FQ.pdf)Toplines[ ]262 Kb

Last week, the American people were determined to vote for change – change that would crash the dominance of special interests over government and bring bold economic policies so the economy would work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That narrative underlines why Donald Trump received an audience and why he is now the president-elect.[1]

It does not explain, however, why Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency on November 8th. The Comey letter re-opened the vote decision for some people and critically impacted the race, but the Clinton campaign moved from running on change to running on continuity. She fully articulated an economic change message throughout the three debates and offered her plans for change, but after the Comey F.B.I. letter, the campaign no longer spoke of change, the economy and her bold plans for the future. In the final weeks, the Clinton campaign conceded the economy and change to Trump, while seeking to make him personally unacceptable. Frustratingly, it closed the campaign appealing for unity, promising to promote opportunity and to “build on the progress” of the Obama presidency. That is why key groups of voters moved to Trump in the Rust Belt and why the turnout of many base groups was so disappointing in the end.

Understanding what really happened allows one to see how ready voters were to vote for a “rewrite the rules” economic message, how white working class women stuck with Clinton until she abandoned that message, and how much the new Rising American Electorate – from millennials to unmarried women to minority voters – required an economic change offer, not identity politics, to stay fulling engaged.

And thus it should not be surprising that the electorate that put Donald Trump in the White House today wants bold, not incremental change. This is a country that still wants deep and long-term investments in America’s infrastructure and is ready to invest in our under-served communities. It wants to limit corporate power that reduces competition and innovation and reform trade, starting with a dramatic ability to prosecute and enforce trade laws.




[1] This survey took place Monday, November 7 – Wednesday November 9, 2016 among 1,300 voters or (on Monday only) those with a high stated intention of voting in 2016.  In addition to a 900 voter base sample, oversamples of 200 Rising American Electorate voters (unmarried women, minorities and millennials) and 200 battleground state voters (AZ, FL, OH, IA, NC, NV, NH, PA, VA, WI) were included. Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.27 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.  Of the 1,300 respondents, 65 percent were interviewed via cell phone in order to accurately sample the American electorate.

The Roosevelt Institute is a non-partisan organization. In 2015, the Institute released a report with a bold economic argument and agenda titled, Rewriting the Rules of the American EconomyRewriting the Rules was promoted widely, including to all presidential candidates of both major parties. The Institute has also released a stream of opinion research -- to that same audience and beyond -- to demonstrate popular support for this kind of agenda. This final post-election survey was designed to test how the message was utilized or ultimately performed.

Why Trump Won: Part 1
Friday, November 11 2016
Download this file (Dcorps_PE_WV Initial Release_11.11.2016_for web.pdf)Presentation[ ]1365 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_PE_WV_Ealert_11.11.2016_for release.pdf)Memo[ ]227 Kb

We are entering a period too awful to contemplate, and James and I thought it important to share our first take on what happened and why. Thankfully, Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund and the Roosevelt Institute supported this election night survey and critical research on the changing electorate and the economy throughout this cycle that allows us to offer unique perspective.[1] There are extensive findings that we are only just beginning to fully explore and will continue to release to add texture to this complicated outcome. This note focuses on why people voted the way they did and what happened across this very diverse and divided electorate.

First, we believe Hillary Clinton and Democrats could have won this election if Democratic base voters turned out at higher numbers and appealed to enough white working class voters, particularly women, to win the Rust Belt.

Second, it should not be ignored that some of the reason for Trump’s upset is malicious interference by the Russian Federation and their allies at WikiLeaks, as well as reckless politics by the F.B.I. in the post-debate period. Battling back against this media coverage forced Clinton to take her foot off the pedal. She was unable to end the campaign turning out her voters by talking about the change they were demanding.

Democracy Corps’ research for WVWVAF and Roosevelt has consistently shown the importance of putting forward a progressive economic agenda and message of change to motivate a changing electorate, reach out to persuadable voters, and consolidate the Democratic base. In our polling we found that Hillary Clinton gains her biggest leads when she is calling for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected, and puts forward bold policies to end trickle-down economics. Debate dial-meter testing for WVWVAF found voters became more enthusiastic about Clinton and viewed her more positively when she went after Trump for proposing massive tax-breaks for himself and failing to release his own tax returns.

Instead, the campaign closed by attacking Trump and few voters remembered her bold economic plans and the change she was promising. The result was an election where the “New American Majority” did not turnout in anywhere near the numbers expected.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump was on message running on cleaning-up the political system, attacking Clinton as a tool of big business and Wall Street, and offering a reprieve from bad trade deals that cost American jobs and greater public investment. For those who voted for – or considered – Trump, his vow to repeal Obamacare and keep liberals off the Supreme Court were the most important reasons to cast their ballots. But nearly as important were his economic plans and how his business success prepared him to create jobs. 


Trump’s hardline immigration stance ranked fifth and may be an overstated factor in the outcome of the election. Even a plurality of Republicans say that “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.

The arguments for Clinton that won her support were her experience, her temperament and suitability to serve as Commander in Chief, her capacity to govern for Americans of all backgrounds and her support for women on equal pay, the right to choose and funding Planned Parenthood. As we saw, that was her closing argument. Her plans to grow the economy by taxing the rich and investing in the middle class were overshadowed and only rank fifth in voter attention.


The attacks on Trump that registered among those who voted for Clinton and considered her concerned the hateful things he has said about vulnerable minority groups, his disrespect for women, and his inability to handle the nuclear codes given his thin-skin.  His plans to cut taxes on the rich, likely himself, and his refusal to release his tax returns scored even lower, and were not elevated enough to make an impression on voters.

Because the Clinton campaign ended up running on her experience, suitability to govern and openness to America's diversity and women, but not on the economy and change, it is not surprising that the Democrats ended up best on uniting the country and reviving the middle class. Because they did not run on the economy and change, Republicans have a 6-point lead on handling the economy. And while voters questioned Trump’s capacity to serve as Commander in Chief, the GOP has a 10-point lead on keeping the country safe.


On Election Day, millennials and Hispanics – two of the groups that form the Rising American Electorate – were among the least engaged voting blocs, with obvious consequences (only 72 percent of Hispanics and 68 percent of millennials gave the highest rating of significance of this election on a 10-point scale).

Despite all that, the Rising American Electorate did become the majority of the vote for the first time. The groups of minorities, unmarried women and millennials who twice elected President Obama now formed 55 percent of voters, pushed up by the growth of millennials and Hispanics. African American voters held their share of the vote at 12 percent, while unmarried women still fell just short of being one-quarter of the voters. They helped Clinton win the popular vote.


White working class voters played a big part in the very late swing to Trump, particularly in the battleground states. This came in part from further consolidation of white working class male voters and elevated turnout, particularly in the rural areas and small towns in the Rust Belt. We always had Trump performing well here: he held a 36-point lead before the conventions, and in the end, won by 49-points with 72 percent of their vote.

Just as important was the late switch of white working class women. Hillary had been competitive among white non-college women after the debates, pushing Trump's margin with white working class women to 7 points.  But the disrupted close to the campaign saw those women move dramatically away, with Trump winning by 26 points, 7-points better than Romney.

These voters thought Trump was raising legitimate working class issues, and with the Clinton campaign mobilizing its diverse base and no longer talking about change, the white working class women moved to the Republicans in many states.

Obviously, we are only beginning to understand this new moment and what it means for progressives. We look forward to sharing the rest of our findings in the coming week.

[1] This survey took place Monday, November 7 – Wednesday November 9, 2016 among 1,300 voters or (on Monday only) those with a high stated intention of voting in 2016.  In addition to a 900 voter base sample, oversamples of 200 Rising American Electorate voters (unmarried women, minorities and millennials) and 200 battleground state voters (AZ, FL, OH, IA, NC, NV, NH, PA, VA, WI) were included. Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.27 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.  Of the 1,300 respondents, 65 percent were interviewed via cell phone in order to accurately sample the American electorate.

Opposition to trade and TPP grows over course of campaign
Friday, November 04 2016
Download this file (Dcorps_PC_Oct National_10.27.2016_final.pdf)Presentation[ ]819 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_Public Citizen_October National_Memo_11.4.2016_final.pdf)Memo[ ]244 Kb
Download this file (Democracy Corps National 102416 FQ Public Citizen.pdf)Toplines[ ]291 Kb

Democracy Corps and GQR conducted a national survey for Public Citizen on attitudes towards trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the multi-nation trade agreement that President Obama may be sent to Congress for consideration immediately after the election.[1]

The results are challenging for the proponents of the agreement, as the opposition of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the general election campaign has raised awareness and increased opposition. The scale of change starts with Democrats, speeds up with independents and becomes a torrent with Republicans. 

The proponents are losing the public debate. We tested the administration's argument as well as the opponents’ argument against, and the results are dramatic across the board. The more the issue is debated, the more opinion moves against.

After hearing a simulated trade debate, 68 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to support a Member of Congress voting for TPP, 34 percent with intensity. This changes the ball game long-term for Republicans. While this sentiment is strongest among Republicans, it spans the political spectrum. Overall six out of 10 voters are ready to punish a “yes” vote on TPP, saying they are less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes to pass the TPP, and 28 percent saying they are much less likely to vote for that Member.  That includes a plurality of Democrats who view TPP as a potential stain on President Obama's legacy and want their member to vote no in the lame duck.


Presidential campaign shifts views on trade

The attention on trade and TPP during the general election campaign has increased negativity about trade in principle and views of TPP. This spring, voters said that in general, free trade agreements had been a good thing for the United States by a 15-point margin; today, a plurality of voters say past trade deals have been a bad thing for the United States (45 percent) and there is growing intensity as well.

When it comes to their family’s financial situation, voters say trade agreements have been more harmful than helpful by a 7-point margin (38 percent harmful, 31 percent helpful). More impressively, there is agreement across class, race and party lines that trade deals cost American jobs. A 53 percent majority say free trade agreements lead to job losses and only 14 percent say they create American jobs.


There has also been a significant shift against TPP, both in terms of overall feeling and support. As knowledge of TPP has risen 10 points, unfavorable views of TPP have also risen 10 points to 37 percent (24 percent don’t know, 20 percent remain neutral, and 20 percent support). Accordingly, the advantage for opponents of TPP has risen from 3-points to 15-points since June, with one-quarter strongly opposed. The shift is evident across the electorate, particularly with Republicans, but also independents and even Democrats – their margin of support has been cut in half.



Growing and intensifying opposition among Republican voters

While the growing negativity about  trade agreements in principle and the TPP specifically is bipartisan, the biggest story is what is happening within the voting base of the Republican Party.

This spring, Republicans were already those most opposed to past trade agreements in principle and NAFTA and TPP in specific – but their opposition has moved to a new level. Almost two-thirds of Republicans say past trade agreements have been a bad thing, up from 48 percent in June, and negative views of NAFTA have risen sharply from 47 percent unfavorable to 58 percent unfavorable (47 percent strongly). Only 21 percent of Republicans are unsure about TPP, down from 32 percent this spring, and as their awareness has grown so has their opposition has deepened to 61 percent, 40 percent strongly, from 50 percent in June.

This is not a casual alignment with Trump, like on other issues. This reflects pre-Trump long-term trends in the GOP base starting back in 2006. The opposition within the GOP base has reached an intensity that would be hard to match on many issues.


Republicans are now ready to punish leaders who push new trade deals like TPP . After hearing a simulated trade debate, 68 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to support a Member of Congress voting for TPP, 34 percent with intensity. This changes the ball game long-term for Republicans.


TPP proponents losing the trade debate

We read voters the strongest  arguments put forward by TPP proponents and opponents, and the results were dramatic. Just as we have seen over the course of the general election, the more voters hear about the proposed new trade agreement, the more they side with the opposition. The arguments were of the same duration and the pro-TPP argument was provided first.

To reflect the intensifying shift in the proponents’ case towards foreign policy arguments,  the pro-TPP case uses the forceful language put forward in recent months by the administration that warns of the threat to America’s global standing and security if we fail to pass this agreement. It also includes the often repeated language about the TPP eliminating tariffs and expanding markets for U.S. goods, creating more U.S. jobs, while establishing new labor and environmental standards. Even though this argument is attributed to President Obama (who has a 56 percent approval rating in this survey), the argument from opponents is much more powerful: two-thirds find the opposition argument convincing compared to just half who say so of the proponents’ position.


In part, the public reaction to the opposition position is about undue corporate influence over government and U.S. laws through the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system and negotiation process. Opponents’ arguments focus on how the TPP was negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisors and that the TPP gives them new rights to sue the U.S. government in front of a panel of three corporate lawyers for unlimited sums paid by American taxpayers. In our earlier research on behalf of Public Citizen, introducing Investor State Dispute Settlement shifted an economic debate to one about corporate influence over government at the expense of ordinary Americans.

After hearing these arguments, opposition to TPP grows to 55 percent and one-third are intensely opposed. The biggest shifts come from the Republicans (+44 oppose to +55 oppose) and independents (+24 oppose to +35 oppose), white working class men (+40 oppose to +52 oppose), white working class women (+31 oppose to +42 oppose) and college educated women (+4 support to +7 oppose).


Voters ready to punish congress for lame duck vote for TPP

After voters hear arguments from the president and congressional leaders in favor of TPP and from congressional leaders who oppose it, the results are not pretty for a Member of Congress casting a vote for the deal in the lame duck. The argument in favor says that passing this agreement is critical to our economic future, our national security and our nation’s standing in the world and failing to pass TPP will threaten America’s position as a global leader . The argument from congressional opponents from both sides of the aisle says TPP will rig the rules against Americans – and Democrats specifically argue it will tarnish Obama’s legacy and note that Hillary Clinton also opposes the TPP.

In the lame duck context, voters are ready to punish a “yes” vote on TPP, with 6-in-10 saying they are less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes to pass it and 28 percent saying they are much less likely to vote for that Member.


This is an especially challenging result for the Republican leadership if they do go through with their plan to bring a vote on TPP during the lame duck session: two-thirds of Republican voters say they will punish such a Member of Congress and one-third say so with intensity. A TPP vote is sure to further isolate the GOP leadership from its base after a divisive presidential election. Paul Ryan’s speakership, should Republicans keep the House, may be the first casualty.

Democrats are also sending a signal to any lame-duck TPP supporter. After witnessing the first black president face years of unprecedented political opposition, many Democratic Members may feel conflicted about opposing him in the twilight of his presidency. But Democratic voters are sending a clear signal that passing the TPP would in fact undermine Obama’s  legacy because it will undo the progress he has made on the economy.  By a 15-point margin, a near majority of Democrats say they are less likely to vote for a candidate casting a pro-TPP vote.


Across the partisan divide, the message is clear to a Member of Congress considering voting for TPP after the election.

[1] This national survey took place October 21-24, 2016.  Respondents who voted in the 2012 election or registered since were selected from the national voter file.  Likely voters were determined based on stated intention of voting next month.  Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.27 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.  Of the 900 respondents, 65 percent were interviewed via cell phone to accurately sample the American electorate.

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