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National Surveys
New Poll: In Era of Anger, Broad Support for Small Donor-Driven Reform of Campaigns
Thursday, December 17 2015
Download this file (Dcorps_Dec National_EV_12.15.15_Final.pdf)Presentation[ ]1075 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_Dec National_FQ_EV_12.10.2015.pdf)Toplines[ ]255 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_Dec National_Memo_EveryVoice_12.15.2015_Final.pdf)Memo[ ]247 Kb

Voters are angry. They are angry at an economy that does not work for average people and a pay-to-play culture in Washington that ignores the voices of working families to lard more favors and breaks to wealthy campaign donors. And they demand systematic change.

In a nationally representative survey of 900 likely 2016 voters conducted by Democracy Corps, an impressive 72 percent support a new law that would provide qualified candidate with limited public matching funds for small contributions they raise from constituents. Nearly four in ten (39 percent) strongly support this proposal. When this and other reform measures to reduce the influence of money in politics are played out in real campaign simulations, Democrats who embrace this reform, including Hillary Clinton and down-ballot congressional candidates, find a significant electoral advantage even in the face of attack.[1]

Voters Upset about Current Campaign System

Voters are frustrated with the way election campaigns are funded today. They are most disturbed by the fact that the big campaign donors today do not represent the electorate – they are mostly rich, white, older and male in a country that is increasingly younger, more diverse and where women are a majority – and have made their fortunes in finance and oil and coal (39 percent find this most upsetting).

They are also concerned that super PACs for many presidential candidates have raised more money than candidates have raised for their own campaigns (33 percent most upsetting), and that just 158 families have contributed nearly half of all of the money given to campaign thus far (33 percent most upsetting).[2] The cluster of concerns about the role money is playing in the presidential election all score above 30 percent, underscoring an “all-of-the-above” viewpoint. In short, voters are concerned about all aspects of the problem of money in politics.[3]


Broad Support for Change

An impressive 72 percent of voters support big changes in our campaign finance system to include public financing of campaigns and a system of matching funds for small donations. Critically, this is not simply a reflection of progressive support, but reveals the will of a broad coalition of voters including Independents, Trump voters and Tea party supporters.

Support reaches 74 percent among Democrats (42 percent strongly favor), but some of the highest and most intense support is among Independent voters (76 percent favor, 47 percent strongly favor). Support also remains high among insurgent groups on the political Right including Trump voters (69 percent favor) and Tea Party supporters (66 percent favor).


Serious Electoral Impact

Money-in-politics reform carries significant electoral bite as well. In the face of a serious and largely unanswered attack, Democratic candidates who embrace this change improve their electoral position.

Nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) react positively to a message from a Democratic candidate embracing these reforms, including 61 percent of Independent voters and 81 percent of voters under age 30. While history complicates the issue to some extent for Secretary Clinton, half of voters also react favorably to her full-throated support for change.[4]


Voters also heard a series of attacks launched against both Secretary Clinton and Democratic candidates regarding the both candidate’s own fundraising, and the campaign reforms proposed.

One impressive finding is the resilience of down-ballot Democratic candidates when attacked as not credible in light of their own fundraising. Just 17 percent say they have very serious doubts about the Democratic candidate who “accept[ed] millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street and corporations,” the least concerning of the doubts raised against them. Incumbent Democrats should not be wary of running on reform because of their own fundraising.

Perhaps most important is how a strong Clinton offense on this issue mitigates against the inevitable Republican attacks on her campaign. Voters who hear Clinton’s embrace of reform first are far less likely to find credible attacks on her past fundraising. It is imperative that Secretary Clinton pre-empt these attacks by elevating her plans to reform elections and reduce the influence of money in politics.



Voters want change this cycle. They reasonably believe the system is rigged against them and that representative government of, by, and for all Americans no longer defines our democracy. As a result, they embrace systematic reforms to restore our system of government, including small donor-driven reforms, and support candidates who feel likewise.

[1]The survey among 900 likely 2016 voters was conducted from December 5-9, 2015, using a list of 2012 voters, 2014 voters, and new registrants. Unless otherwise noted, the margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.26 percent at 95 percent confidence.

[2]“Here are 120 million Monopoly pieces, roughly one for every household in the United States,” New York Times, October 10, 2015; “Which Presidential Candidates Are Winning the Money Race,” New York Times, October 16, 2015.

[3]Respondents were asked to choose their top two concerns for this question.

[4] It should be noted that we tested Clinton and not her major primary opponent Senator Bernie Sanders because Sanders has more aggressively embraced money-in-politics messaging.

Voters Reject Discrimination and Politicians Who Support Discrimination
Thursday, July 23 2015
Download this file (HRC (public memo non-discrimination) 715.pdf)Memo[ ]178 Kb
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that all of us—straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—could marry the person they love. This decision brought our nation one step closer to equality. But this journey is not over.  Even in an America where we are free to marry, other basic civil rights are lacking.  Thirty-one states lack fully inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in critical matters of employment, housing, and access to public places. That means in many states, LGBT Americans are still at risk of being denied services, being fired for getting married and wearing their wedding ring to the office the next day, or simply for being who they are. This injustice has grown increasingly intolerable to an overwhelming majority of Americans. 
Today, Democracy Corps, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Human Rights Campaign release the results from a new survey of likely 2016 voters.  This survey reinforces voters’ long-held commitment to non-discrimination, as four out five voters believe this is a basic civil right.  This survey also demonstrates voters are willing to oppose candidates for public office who oppose these basic civil rights, including groups critical to the outcome of the 2016 election.  These results are very consistent with a Human Rights Campaign survey of likely voters taken in January showing 43 percent are much less likely to support a candidate who opposes non-discrimination. 
Moreover, the issue of “faith” does not change the politics of this issue. Voters do not accept religion as an excuse to discriminate. 
This memorandum summarizes the results of a national telephone survey of 950 likely 2016 voters. In order to better reflect the changing habits and demography of the country, 60 percent of those interviewed for this survey responded using cell phones.  The survey was conducted June 13-17, 2015 and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.38. 
Key Findings 
  • Voters reject discrimination.  By an impressive 78 percent to 16 percent, voters support protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in employment.  These results are very consistent with past surveys; in 2011, voters supported this proposal by a 79 to 18 percent margin. 
  • Support for non-discrimination unites the country.  At a time when Democrats and Republicans rarely agree on anything, they agree on this.  A 64 percent majority of Republicans support protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination, as do 90 percent of Democrats.  Similarly, this legislation draws impressive majorities among college (84 percent) and non-college voters (73 percent), younger (85 percent) and older (75 per-cent), as well as observant Christians (70 percent favor). 
  • Voters will also consider this issue when voting next year.  A 59 percent majority of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the work place.  Just 27 percent are more likely and 9 percent say it would make no difference.  This is not just a progressive base issue.  A 61 percent majority of Independent voters say they are less likely to support a candidate who opposes these protections, as do 58 percent of Catholic voters, 54 percent of blue collar voters and 60 percent of married women. 
  • This could be key issue among white millennial voters.  Arguably, the most interesting group in this debate is white millennial voters (defined here as voters born between 1980 and 1997).  These younger white voters supported Obama in 2008, but voted Republican in 2010, 2012 and 2014, reflecting their frustration with the slow pace of change.  However, they are committed to equality.  A near-unanimous 86 percent majority support em-ployment protections for LGBT people.  Moreover, 65 percent are less likely to support a candidate who opposes this protection. 
  • Religion is not an excuse to discriminate.  Politicians in Indiana, Arkansas and a number of other states have raised the issue of faith in efforts to stop the advance of non-discrimination.  As we found out in Indiana voters are having none of it.  In this survey, a 56 percent majority believe small business owners should not be allowed to refuse service to someone because they are gay or lesbian, even if it violates their religious beliefs. Nearly half (46 percent), strongly oppose giving small businesses the right to discriminate, including 55 percent of white millennials.
This legislation is long overdue.  Non-discrimination legislation was first introduced to Congress in 1974 and has been reintroduced many times since.  As early as 1977, voters believed gay people should have “equal rights” in terms of job opportunities, according to Gallup. Nearly forty years later, this community is still waiting for federal legislation fully protecting their rights. This time, they carry the conviction of an impressive majority of American voters.  
A New American Agenda for a New American Majority
Monday, June 29 2015
Download this file (DCOR National 061715 FQ_WVWV.pdf)Toplines[ ]271 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_WV_June poll_short memo_6.29.15.FINALforweb.pdf)Memo[ ]498 Kb

Democrats are well positioned leading into next year’s elections if they give their base, particularly unmarried women, a reason to turn out and vote.  As this research demonstrates, the promise of an agenda that addresses the real economy of everyday Americans and—this is an equally important piece—also provides them with a more responsive and equitable government gives key blocks in the Democratic coalition a greater stake in this election.

A new survey of 950 likely 2016 voters sponsored by Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices, Woman Vote Action Fund shows Hillary Clinton with a stable and impressive lead over prominent Republican contenders (Marco Rubio and Scott Walker). The Democratic margin in a named congressional vote, up significantly from the 2014 election, inches up higher, and has moved 11 points in the Democratic direction since last November.[1]   This Democratic strength reflects the changing demographic reality of the new American electorate.  Unmarried women, people of color, millennials—voters of the Rising American Electorate (RAE)—will make up a majority of voters for the first time in 2016.  This new American majority carries with them a new American agenda.   

The dominant reason for Democratic vigor in this survey is the deep backing that Clinton and the Democrats enjoy among voters in the Rising American Electorate, where Clinton matches Obama’s 2012 vote and exceeds his showing among white unmarried women. These voters sustain Democratic margins.  

The Republicans also face a severe brand problem. They are defined, at least for now, by an increasingly unpopular Republican Congress and a Republican congressional leadership that has become a pariah among voters. Both Boehner and McConnell draw record unfavorable numbers in this survey, and the Speaker draws majority negative reviews. In addition, the Republicans have failed to adapt to the collapse in conservative culture.  As others have highlighted, and as this survey reinforces, the number of voters who describe themselves as conservative has dropped sharply; voters’ reactions to pro-life groups, marriage equality and, to a lesser degree, the NRA, further reveals this ideological shift.  The Republicans grow increasingly out of touch culturally with the country, a process likely accelerated by their nomination process. 

Democrats also face their own challenges.  Their base, specifically RAE voters and unmarried women, betray a huge disparity in interest and enthusiasm for participating in the 2016 elections compared to their more conservative counterparts.  A 67 percent majority of non-RAE voters describe their level of interest in the highest terms (a “ten” on a ten-point scale). Among RAE voters, this number drops to 48 percent.  These voters demonstrate real doubts about the ability of the government to deliver on the change they need.  The disparity in interest among Democratic base groups is a direct threat to their strategy, regardless of the outcome in 2016.

Nonetheless, this survey produces a big jump in Democratic enthusiasm after voters hear an agenda that speaks to their lives and promises a government that serves their interests, particularly among Democratic base groups such as unmarried women and drop-off voters.  

This agenda is big and progressive. It addresses an economy that still does not work for them and does not produce jobs that pay enough to sustain a family.  Changes like equal pay for women, a solution to the problems within Medicare and Social Security, and a serious and bold investment in our infrastructure find traction not just among base groups, but among blue collar voters as well.  But this agenda also confronts government that too often seems indifferent or even hostile to their interests. 

In the focus groups preceding this survey, participants described themselves as entirely disconnected from their leaders, and described a leadership class more focused on lining their pockets than helping people like them. Progressive government reform that promises to rid the system of waste and duplication, simplify the tax code, make government more “user-friendly,” and eliminate subsidies for rich corporate interests, together with serious economic changes, energizes key base groups. 

Read full report here.


[1]National survey of 950 likely 2016 voters, 60 percent cell, June 13-17, 2015. This research was a joint project of Democracy Corps, Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, and the Voter Participation Center.  This research is informed by two sets of focus groups conducted in Jacksonville and Orlando Florida on May 19 and June 4, 2015.   The Voter Participation research related to nonpartisan questions regarding policy topics.  Important methodology note: In order to account for ever-changing demographics and accurately sample the full American electorate, for the first time, 60 percent of respondents in this survey were reached by cell phone.

Opposition to Marriage Equality Verdict Costly for GOP Candidates
Friday, June 26 2015
Download this file (Dcor_HRC_June poll_6.26.15.pdf)Memo[ ]266 Kb

On the occasion of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to legalize gay marriage nationwide, Democracy Corps and the Human Rights Campaign release the results from a new survey of likely 2016 voters.  This survey reinforces a finding that has been true since 2012: a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. 


These results also demonstrate the potential risk to national candidates bent on thwarting voters’ will on this issue.  An impressive majority of voters, including key swing voters in the 2016 elections, say they are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes marriage equality and four in ten voters say they are much less likely to support such a candidate. 


This memorandum summarizes the results of a national telephone survey of 950 likely 2016 voters. In order to better reflect the changing habits and demography of the country, 60 percent of those interviewed for this survey responded using cell phones.  The survey was conducted June 13-17, 2015 and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.38.


Key Findings


Ø  A majority of American voters support marriage equality.  This finding has been consistent in national polling since 2012 and some surveys show the majority reaching 60 percent.[1]  In this survey, 57 percent support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 43 percent strongly support these unions.  Support for marriage equality reaches 60 percent among Independent voters, 49 percent among liberal moderate Republicans, 55 percent among women over age 50, 51 percent of non-college voters and 64 percent among Catholic voters.  In the South, more voters support marriage equality (47 percent), than oppose (42 percent).


Ø  Voters could also carry this issue into the ballot box.  A 55 percent majority of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry, including 40 percent who strongly oppose.  This majority includes Independents, married women and white millennials.  All of these groups voted Republican in the last congressional election.  Not surprisingly, voters who have an LGBT friend—30 percent of the American electorate—take this issue much more seriously.  Among voters who know a gay or lesbian couple who have had marriage or commitment ceremonies—nearly half (47 percent) of American voters—73 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate for president who opposes marriage equality. 





In February of this year, Republican candidate for President and Senator Ted Cruz introduced legislation protecting states aiming to ban marriage equality. This is not the first time reactionary forces invoked state’s rights to thwart progress on civil rights.  But voters have already settled this issue.  A majority support marriage equality and that majority is growing.  Voters also make plain the political price, particularly among swing voters, of defying their majority on this issue. 


Evolving Strategy for Progressives
Thursday, February 12 2015
Download this file (2016 National_deck_for web_2.12.2015.pdf)Graphs[ ]1879 Kb
Download this file (Dcorps_WVWV_Combined Report_Long Memo_for web_2.12.2015.pdf)Memo[ ]1235 Kb

This report makes recommendations based on three distinct research projects executed by Democracy Corps for WVWVAF over the last month, including a national survey of 950 likely voters, focus groups with white working class voters in Tidewater, Virginia, and dial testing and on-line focus groups conducted during the 2015 State of the Union Address.  

This multi-pronged wave of research makes very clear that the Democratic presidential majority is back. The Obama coalition arrived intact and Hillary Clinton begins this election cycle with a 6 point lead over Romney - who had not yet withdrawn and was the GOP's strongest candidate - and 12 points over Bush.

However, that presidential majority is not deep or broad enough to break the Republican hold on Congress and key states.  It is not producing wave elections. There are three inter-related reasons for the shortfall:

  • Some parts of the RAE could be giving Democrats bigger margins and turning out in bigger numbers, including unmarried women;
  • Democratic presidential candidates (including Clinton) are only getting about a third of white working class voters;
  • Those who are living with the restructured, new economy are struggling and turned off by elite (and presidential) talk about the great macro economy. 

The goal of progressives now is to get more support and engagement from the RAE, including white unmarried women and Millennials, and to broaden support with struggling white working class voters, both men and women: RAE+.

  1. Understand and identify with the economic challenges that a majority of people are experiencing – even as the elites and perhaps Democratic leaders celebrate  the macro economy.
  2. Target both parts of the Rising American Electorate, especially unmarried women but perhaps also millennials, and parts of the swing electorate, including white working class voters.  We know from this research they share a lot.
  3. The economic agenda must be led by government reform.  Target groups are disgusted with politics and government because of the role of big money, perceptions of waste and special interest spending. A reform agenda opens up these targets.
  4. Champion a middle class economic narrative that seeks rising incomes for all and opportunities  for all that make the effort. That narrative is 20 points stronger than the conservative, small government narrative. 
  5. Champion a middle class economic agenda that starts with protecting Social Security and Medicare, reforming government, long term infrastructure investment that creates jobs, help for working mothers, equal pay for women, and making college affordable
  6. Recognize that white unmarried women and non-college women and men share common feelings about what is happening and what needs to change. They want to protect the existing social safety net of Social Security and Medicare, reform government and help working families. 
  7. Recognize that specific references to helping “working women” or gender-directed issues such as pay equity do not alienate white working class men. 

Read the full memo here.

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