I suspect we will see a spate of new polls fielding after Labor Day. I am hoping they ask some questions beyond the horse race that tell us more about what voters are thinking around the Democratic presidential contest. Here are some suggestions (in no particular order):
Here are some qualities people might look for in the candidate they ultimately support for President. On a scale of 1 to 7, please tell me how important each one is to you, with a 1 meaning not important at all and a 7 meaning it is the most important quality. (READ AND RANDOMIZE)
- Can beat Trump in November
- Shows compassion for people
- Knows what they want to do as President
- Would bring the country together
- Would make significant policy changes
- Has a new approach to governing
- Will protect individual rights and freedoms
- Will promote economic opportunity
- Has the wisdom of experience
- Will advance equality and anti-racism
Which of these qualities – or some other quality – is most important to you of all?
We know voters care about whether a candidate can beat Trump but we don’t know what qualities make a candidate stronger in their views. How about a couple questions, like:
How important are each of these in telling you a candidate can defeat Trump in November, using a scale of 1 to 7 with a 1 meaning it is not important at all and a 7 meaning it the most important quality? (READ AND ROTATE)
Is there another quality that is important in telling you a candidate can win?
- Tough and willing to fight
- Has moderate issue positions
- Popularity with Trump voters
- Inspires young people
- Relates to diverse communities
- Leads Trump in the polls
- Likeable and appealing
Thinking about your friends and neighbors, if the Democratic candidate is a woman, will that make them more or less likely to turn out and support that candidate in November, or won’t it make any difference to them?
Thinking about your friends and neighbors, if the Democratic candidate is over age 75, will that make them more or less likely to turn out and support that candidate in November, or won’t it make any difference to them?
Thinking about your friends and neighbors who are uncomfortable with Trump, do you think they are looking more for a return to the pre-Trump years or more for new policies that will bring change?
What issues are most important to you in the 2020 election? (Open-end, multiple response)
If we elect a Democratic president in 2020, which of the following should be their top priority in their first term: (READ AND ROTATE)
- Climate change
- Affordable health care
- Access to post-secondary education
- Infrastructure like roads and bridges
- Higher wages
- Immigration reform
- Criminal justice reform
- Other (specify)
When it comes to health care, which would do more to expand access to quality affordable care – (ROTATE) a public option in which voters can choose government-administered insurance OR Medicare for all in which everyone is in a government-administered insurance program (with response options for neither as well as don’t know)?
(IF CHOICE) Would that system be much better, somewhat better, somewhat worse, or much worse than the current system?
If there is a Democratic president, how likely is it that the proposal will become law in the next five years – very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not at all likely?
The Horse Race Question
I have been concerned that asking about 20 people in phone polls flattens choices because people can only hold seven plus or minus two item in short term memory. Consider asking the horse race in groups of 5 to 7 candidates – preferably randomizing sets although it is also tempting to ask the top 7 together. Then add a question like:
You indicated candidates A, B, and C were your top choices within the groups I gave you. Which of these is your first choice among all the candidates?
Is that the candidate you would most like to see as President or the candidate you feel can best win? (Code for volunteered both)
Most public polls are asking how likely people are to vote in the primary or caucus in their state. Consider asking whether they voted in the 2016 contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and for whom they voted.
The question allows analysis of how large a primary electorate you are polling and what the standing is among those most likely of all to participate, as they have done so historically. It will also say where the support for these two candidates is going.
Basic demographics are fine, but also consider asking whether they live in a county that supported Clinton or Trump in 2016, as these voters may have different perspectives from each other.
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Questions like these would say more about what voters are looking for in the next president (other than that he or she is not Trump). Crosstabs of questions like these by candidate preference might also provide more insight as to why voters are making the initial choices they are, and how the contest may evolve.