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The Hidden Group that Won the Election for Trump: Exit Poll Analysis from Edison Research

By: Larry Rosin

“I don’t think there’s ever been two more unlikeable candidates,’ said Michael Che during the Weekend Update sketch on Saturday Night Live this week.  “Not one time in this election have I heard anyone say: ‘You know what? I like them both.'”

The data from the Exit Polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool show Mr. Che to be correct – an extremely small portion of the voting public (only 2%) told our exit pollsters they had a favorable view of both.  While most voters did have a favorable view of one of the two major candidates – an astonishing 18% of the electorate told us they had an unfavorable opinion of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  And this is the group that won the election for Trump.

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The fact that nearly one-in-five voters who didn’t like either major candidate still came out to vote is pretty remarkable.  This number is double what we saw four years ago (9% were unfavorable to both in 2012) and nearly four times what we saw in the Bush-Kerry match-up of 2004 (favorability ratings were not asked in the 2008 exit polls).

As you might expect, if you had a favorable impression of one candidate and not the other, in virtually every case you voted for that one candidate.  So had those with a negative view of both candidates split evenly, Clinton would have won rather easily.  However, as the graph below shows, this “Neithers” group broke strongly to Trump 49% to 29%.

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The story gets even more pronounced when we look at the states that swung the election to Trump.  In each of the cases in the table below, the votes gained by people who said: “I don’t like Trump but I’m going to vote for him anyhow” is greater than his total margin in these states.  In other words – it was the “Neithers” who pushed Trump over the top in these states and ultimately won him the election.

State % “Neithers” Trump Clinton
Wisconsin 22% 60% 23%
Pennsylvania 17% 56% 31%
Michigan 20% 50% 29%
Florida 14% 61% 24%
North Carolina 15% 63% 28%

The “Neithers” are more likely to be men (61%) and are more likely to be age 30-44 than in the younger or older age groups.  They are 78% white, as compared to the total electorate which is 70%.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the “Neithers” is that a significant portion of those who were unfavorable to both Clinton and Trump were favorable to President Obama.  Nearly half of those who didn’t like either of this year’s two major candidates do have a favorable impression of President Obama – and a significant portion of this group voted for Trump.

The 2016 election was unique in so many ways.  One distinguishing characteristic is just how many people had an unfavorable impression of both of the major party candidates.  To be sure, some of these people decided not to vote for either – Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined for 18% of the vote among the “Neithers.”  However in the end, far more people who liked neither candidate chose Donald Trump and that provided him with his margin of victory in the battleground states.

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Behind the Numbers: The 2016 National Election Exit Poll

By Gage - 2012 Electoral College map, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

By Gage – 2016 Electoral College map, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

On November 8, 2016, Edison Research engaged in the largest single-day research project in the world: Exit Polling the nation on behalf of the National Election Pool (NEP). A staff of over 3,000 exit poll interviewers, precinct vote return reporters, call center workers, and analysts all across the country helped us provide the sole record of who voted, and why. We collected, processed, and analyzed over 100,000 interviews in a 17-hour period to not only create that record, but also to provide the NEP with the guidance to make the right projections for their viewers and readers.

Whether you saw our name or not, over 71 million Americans watched the fruits of our labor on ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC–and millions more have seen visualizations of our data in newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USAToday. Indeed, the entire world was watching: Edison’s exit poll clients also included major international news networks.

This election was extraordinary in both the level of interest and the level of scrutiny on the changing nature of the pre-election polls. Many pre-election forecasts showed a high probability of a Clinton win, only to reverse those projections as the night went on. Because of the exit polls, our clients knew something was up – something possibly very significant – the moment they looked at their screens, and were able to plan their coverage accordingly.

Any kind of survey research involves making estimates of a population–the exit polls are no different–and reconciling those estimates with historical data, statistical models, and of course the “received wisdom” of the professional pollster. Throughout the day, we were able to analyze millions of fields of data in real time to spot potential “surprises” and provide insights to our network clients that allowed them to make accurate projections all night long. For instance, we were able to recognize early in the day that many states that were not presumed to be close would in fact be nail-biters until the end.

While the Presidential Election naturally received the most attention, Edison’s exit polls covered a total of 103 races–everthing from hotly contested Senate races, to consequential gubernatorial battles, to the legalization of marijuana in several states. Today you can see the results of our work all over the Internet: where there is credible data on who voted for these races, how they voted, and why, it came from Edison.

The humble profession of “pollster” has undergone a lot of criticism over the past several weeks. Some pundits argue that polls are no longer effective. We at Edison are proud of the fact that our work covered scores of races and initiatives on Election Day, and our clients did not make one mistake, issue one retraction, or make one incorrect projection. Our exit polls have proven once again to be the single most reliable source of information on who voted and why those voters made their decisions.

In fact, since we began serving the NEP in this role in 2003, Edison and its network clients have never made an incorrect projection based upon exit poll data. We are very proud of this, and of our role in our great democratic process.

Links to our work:

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/election-2016-national-exit-poll-results-analysis/story?id=43368675

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls

NBC: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/election-polls-nbc-news-analysis-2016-votes-voters-n680466

FOX News: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elections/2016/exit-polls

New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/11/10/exit-polling-popular-vote-have-democrats-challenging-the-trump-mandate/

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Sharing the Road: A Share of Ear® Report Presented at RAIN Summit Europe

On November 2, 2016 at the RAIN Summit Europe in London, Edison’s Director of Research Megan Lazovick presented findings from Edison’s Share of Ear® study that focused on in-car listening and how technology in newer vehicles is changing the platforms riders use.

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Share of Ear®: % Who Listen to Platform in a Primary Vehicle (Base: Listen to audio in a car/truck)

Click here to view the presentation.

Share of Ear® results are from a nationally representative sample of 8,721 Americans ages 13+ who completed a 24-hour audio listening diary between September 2015 and May 2016.

For more information about the Share of Ear® study visit: http://www.edisonresearch.com/edison-research-conducts-first-ever-share-of-ear-measurement-for-all-forms-of-online-and-offline-audio/

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What Makes an Exit Poll Legitimate?

We here at Edison are proud to be the sole providers of exit polling data for the National Election Pool this Election Day. It’s a responsibility that we take very, very seriously indeed, because we know that our work will be studied and scrutinized for years to come. On election night, it will be our exit polling data that you will see when you watch the election night returns on television, and that work is the product of decades of expertise, care, and the unfailing commitment to excellence of my Edison colleagues.

For this election, we have been seeing a number of reports on social media and other outlets that various entities are considering doing their own exit polls on November 8th. While we certainly believe in fair and open elections, we also think it’s important to be able to ascertain the motives and methods of any exit polling effort.

If you vote on Election Day, you might be asked to take an exit poll. If it’s from us, you’ll see our logo, as well as the logos of all of the major U.S. news networks clearly identified on the materials being used by our pollsters. But if you don’t see this, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the exit poll isn’t legitimate. In Utah, for instance, the Utah Colleges exit poll has been administered by student volunteers from BYU and other universities since 1982, and has been a valuable resource both for academic study and for understanding the Utah electorate.

Other efforts, however, may not be quite so transparent. With that in mind, I asked Joe Lenski, Edison’s guru of all things exit polling, to come up with this list of how to tell if an exit poll is legit.

  • First and foremost, a legitimate exit poll should use proper sampling techniques – both to identify sample precincts and to identify sample voters within each precinct.
  • The exit poll interviewers should be rigorously trained and non-partisan.
  • The questionnaire should not have any biased or leading questions.
  • A hallmark of a legitimate exit poll is a guarantee of the respondents’ privacy, confidentiality and anonymity–an exit poll should be every bit as secret a ballot as the actual vote, and the pollster should not know the voters’ responses. No exit poll should require the respondent to publicly state their choices.
  • A properly executed exit poll accounts for absentee and early voters who will not be voting at election day voting locations, a practice that is becoming increasingly common and requires a great deal of care on the pollster’s part to properly model.
  • The methodology should also adjust for non-response bias by demographics that can be observed by the interviewer, such as age, race and gender. If a voter sampled for interviewing is missed for any reason (they refuse, for example) their demographic information is still captured observationally and these data are factored into the final weighting of the results.
  • Exit Poll interviewing should take place during almost the entire time the polls are open, in order to account for any time of day effects. Certain demographic groups might vote before or after work, for instance, while others might vote in the middle of the day–and it is important that any biases observed during those times be mitigated by coverage throughout the day.
  • Finally, any legitimate exit polling effort should be fully transparent about its methodology, questionnaire instrument and who is sponsoring or paying for the exit poll.

Now, chances are you won’t be asked to take an exit poll on Election Day. But if you are–keep the points above in mind as you participate in the voting process. And whether or not you take an exit poll, make sure you take the most important poll of all: vote on November 8th.

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Moms on the Future

As a nation, we are quickly approaching Election Day and therefore thinking about change.  With thoughts of change come questions about the future and what it will bring, especially for our children.  With recent current events and a particularly harsh political cycle, we are reminded of the turbulent and scary world we live in. However, despite the negative headlines moms’ outlook for the future is surprisingly bright.

According to “Moms on the Future,” a new study from The Research Moms at Edison Research, 77% of moms have a positive outlook about the future world their children will live in. They don’t view the world as harshly as one would expect. In fact, moms are optimists, believing that good things are to come. Most moms surveyed, 60%, believe their children will have a better adult life than they have themselves.  Furthermore, more than 4 in 5 moms believe their children will have a fair opportunity to achieve the life they hope for.

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Not only do they see their children as having the opportunity, but moms also believe their children will be prepared to make a mark on the world.  The education, skills and experience needed for success will be with their children, according to almost all moms surveyed.

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While moms show their optimistic side, believing in promise and opportunity, they do not have their heads in the clouds.  Moms are futurists and because they have to, they are always thinking about what’s coming next.  They watch and predict where their children will succeed and where they may stumble.  Moms see the future realistically and they acknowledge that life will continue to be challenging, especially when addressing the economics of education.

A college education for their children is highly valued.  The vast majority, 83% of moms said it is important that their children pursue a college education.  Among the moms in the sample who had a college education themselves, the value is even greater, with 90% saying it is important.

As important as it is to them, the cost of higher education does not go unnoticed by moms.  Not only do 82% of moms fear not having enough money to afford college for their children, nearly 40% said they fear this a lot.  The big price tag is daunting for moms and many have already begun saving.  Just under 60% of moms have money specifically saved for their children’s college education.

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Moms are usually their children’s biggest fan but when it comes to taking care of herself, mom is not quite the same cheerleader.  Raising children is not an easy job and they have many needs that take precedence over a mom’s.   As altruists, moms put the needs of their loved ones before their own.  This is evidenced in how moms actually plan for their own future. Fewer than 2 in 5 moms have a last will and testament, while about only half have a guardianship plan in place.  Looking at it from the reverse, that means half of moms don’t have a plan in place for someone to care for their children if they are no longer able.

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Less than one-third of moms surveyed are on pace to retire as they hope.  Moms who are 45-64 years old index even lower, with only 24% of them saying they are on pace.  A number of factors could contribute to this, such as having college age kids, which means more savings for college and less for retirement.  It could also be that this age group is closer to the actual age of retirement and they are more conscious of being behind pace.  No matter the reason, it isn’t surprising that most moms don’t feel on pace to retire because of the high costs of raising a family.

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The fact that they aren’t on pace for retirement is on the radar for moms, with 86% of moms saying they fear not having enough money saved for retirement.  Digging deeper we see 41% of moms actually fear this a lot.  This illustrates a classic example of having the want and the need but not necessarily the means.  Moms want to be able to save as much as they can but with so many other expenses, the retirement fund gets pushed to the back burner.

Looking closely at how moms view the future for themselves and their children, the themes of optimism, futurism and altruism are apparent.  Mom the optimist is the believer in her children, the biggest fan who sees promise.  Mom the futurist is watching her children for any missteps yet all the while preparing for future greatness.  Mom the altruist is at every practice and competition sacrificing her own time and needs.

Messages to moms should appeal to their optimistic side and let them believe in the good that is to come instead of pointing out the everyday chaos that they are all too aware of.  To play to moms’ futurist role, acknowledge the work efforts that are put in for their children’s future:  the planning, the saving and the encouragement.  Finally, for mom as the altruist, give tools and reminders to allow her to prioritize her health, retirement and happiness.

Click here for the full Moms on the Future report (PDF).

Click here to view the full animated presentation in CustomShow.

About the study:

The Research Moms conducted a national online survey of 520 mothers who were age 18-64 and had children age 21 or younger.

About the Research Moms

The Research Moms are Edison Research’s team of experienced researchers who also happen to be moms.  Combining a solid platform of market research with real life insight, they are a unique resource for analyzing habits, behaviors and trends among moms.