It seems not a day (hour?) goes by without somebody releasing poll results on something in the political world, especially during this presidential election season. But for many – if not most – campaigns, paying for a poll could be a very expensive mistake.
John Nienstedt is President & CEO of Competitive Edge Research and Communications in San Diego, which has been helping center-right candidates and causes win since 1987. In fact, when John has served as chief research strategist, the candidates and ballot measures he’s worked with have won every race since 2004.
In today’s Campaign Hot Tips, John explains what candidates need to consider to avoid wasting a lot of time, effort and money by conducting a poll…which actually could cost you your race.
Until next time. Onward and rightward…
Dr. Chuck Muth, PsD
Professor of Psephology
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Why do a Poll?
By John Nienstedt
It’s a very simple question. However, if you and your consultant plow ahead without a good answer to it, the poll you conduct will likely waste your time, effort and money. Worse, the wrong poll conducted for the wrong reasons may send you in the wrong direction and cost you the race.
Before we go any further, I’ll clarify that the more appropriate question is “Why conduct voter research?” That’s more appropriate because talking only about “polling” is too limiting. Your campaign may require a set of focus groups to lay the groundwork for the poll. You may benefit from having a research firm conduct ethnographic studies. And you may very well need polls, rather than a single poll, to get you to your objective.
Once you have decided to run, there is really only one reason to poll: to help you win. If you can’t draw a solid line from the poll you are contemplating to how it will help you win, do not do it.
Look, some candidates and consultants, even experienced ones, get the idea that research acts like a magic talisman. “As long as I’ve got this poll, nothing bad will happen to me! It’s magic!” That’s a fallacy, of course, and it stems from not having thought through how the research will help the candidate win.
Another trap some candidates fall into is that they have to do a poll because, well, that’s what campaigns do. No, no, no! You are not running to win the presidency or someone else’s race. You must have a clear rationale for your campaign’s poll so that the poll you pay for is customized to your race.
Finally, some candidates just have to know how they are doing. Aye, yay, yay! Some campaign pollsters will be happy to take your hard-raised (and earned) money, but a vanity poll will not help you win.
Instead, ask a dozen of your friends who they are voting for. You’re likely to feel better with the result and you’ll save a bunch of money.
So, what do those solid lines that extend from research to a winning strategy look like? Tune in next time and we’ll start examining each of them.
Copyright 2012 John Nienstedt, all rights reserved.