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Managers and GCs are going to have more numbers to crunch this cycle.
To avoid a repeat of recent polling misses, some survey researchers are now giving their clients numbers from multiple turnout models.
“Instead of a assuming something, we’re going to say, ‘here’s what happens under a higher Democratic turnout scenario,’” said Jefrey Pollock, a Democratic pollster with the Global Strategy Group.
A wave of Democratic turnout is something that many practitioners on the left are anticipating, but at the same time fretting over whether they’ll have the resources to make it materialize in November.
Knowing the fickleness of their voters in the midterms, Democratic pollsters want to brace their clients for different possibilities — even if it’s not something they want to hear.
“The reality is that the campaign wants one set of numbers,” said Pollock. “You give them two sets of numbers, that’s not that fun for them. They have to deal with the challenge of, ‘Is it this one or that one?’ But that’s what we need to do.”
There’s agreement from other pollsters that this is a new best practice. Stefan Hankin, a Democratic pollster and founder of Lincoln Park Strategies, said he presents clients not with two sets of numbers, but briefs them on how results can change based on turnout.
“We have a turnout in mind, but just because we think it is going to look like that way does not guarantee that we are correct,” he said. “With that in mind, you always want to understand what shifts in the electorate will mean, and how you should adjust.”
Justin Wallin, a GOP pollster based in California, said getting turnout right comes down to including low propensity or new registrants in at least one of the polling models.
“These have often [been] excluded historically by pollsters as they model to the tightest likely universe scenario,” he said.
Including them in models in the current environment, is “a good approach.”
Wallin added: “The timing of registration matters in this analysis as well as which elections the low propensity voters may have decided to play in.”
Now, presenting different scenarios may give campaigns a reason to adjust their tactics. For instance, some candidates might see themselves winning big and coast through the summer. That’s something Pollock is cautioning against.
“My advice to all of my congressional candidates has been exactly the same, whether it’s in New York or West Virginia. We all feel a wave coming. The best thing you can do is run the best campaign you can humanly run between now and September,” he said.
“It means raise as much money as an individual as you possibly can and not fuck up.
“By Labor Day, if you’ve done both of those things, you’ve put yourself in a position to win. Let’s not worry about the micro message. The best ones are going to use survey research to figure out what those individual messages are and break themselves out.”