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Exploring Voter Behavior and Political Opinions

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We provide our clients with reliable insights about their constituents. Whether we are surveying voters, consumers, influencers, or marginalized communities, we find a way to make sure their voices are heard.

Trevor Tompson, SVP
Public Affairs & Media Research

Developing a More Accurate Alternative to Exit Polls
For decades, the only way to know who voted and how was to interview voters as they left the polling place. But changes in voting behavior have made traditional exit polls less accurate.

Although many voters still vote in person, in general elections, 4 out of 10 vote early, absentee, or by mail. In response, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (AP-NORC Center) designed an innovative survey based on a decade of experimenting with new, more-precise polling methods. The result is AP VoteCast, a probability-based, state-by-state survey of registered voters combined with an online, opt-in survey of tens of thousands of Americans. The survey captures the voices of registered voters who vote and those who decide not to cast ballots.

VoteCast debuted in the 2018 midterm elections with remarkable success. By interviewing nearly 140,000 registered voters, VoteCast delivered a broader portrait of the American electorate to tell a more complete story of Election Day than any other election survey.

VoteCast correctly projected the winner in 92 percent of Senate and governor elections at 5 pm on Election Day, which is the critical time for making editorial decisions, setting a better track record than exit polls in recent years. In early 2020, VoteCast provided data in key primary elections—including the Iowa caucus and Super Tuesday voting—and got specific mention in The New York Times for the speediness and accuracy of our South Carolina results.

Promoting Civil Discourse on Divisive Issues
NORC also contributed to America in One Room, an experiment in democracy that took place over four days in Texas in September 2019. It drew praise from several media outlets and earned an entire pull-out section in a Sunday edition of The New York Times. Using the AmeriSpeak Panel, NORC selected 526 “delegates” with nationally representative ages, genders, political affiliations, geographic regions, and races. Broken into small groups, the delegates participated in nonpartisan, moderated discussions about major issues in the 2020 presidential election. They also listened to experts and several presidential candidates talk about health care, foreign policy, immigration, the environment, the economy, and taxes.

The delegates took a poll about their political opinions before arriving in Texas, and again at the end of the event. The results astonished just about everyone.

The percentage of delegates who said the system of American democracy was “working well” doubled to 60 percent from 30 percent.

Both Republicans and Democrats softened their most extreme views on a range of policies. The most polarizing ideas from the left and the right generally lost support, and several more centrist proposals gained approval. By and large, proposals further to the right lost support from Republicans and proposals further to the left lost support from Democrats.

Probing the Opinions of Particular Populations
Voter turnout among young people has been low historically, but that may be changing. As part of an ongoing partnership with MTV, in 2018 we examined the political opinions of Americans age 15 to 34. Our survey found that 62 percent of them believed that their generation is motivated to make positive changes in the United States, and two-thirds expressed excitement for a candidate who cares about the issues that affect them and their generation.

The suburbs can be competitive battlegrounds in American elections, since suburban voters are often perceived as swing voters. Yet, in January 2019, a UChicago Harris/AP-NORC Poll found that the suburbs have fewer political independents than rural and urban communities.

The suburbs have fewer political independents than urban and rural communities.

Ten Percent

Rather, they contain a mix of individuals who strongly identify with the two main political parties.