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Battleground Surveys
Senate Battleground: The Path to Retaking the Senate
Thursday, November 05 2015
Download this file (Dcorps_WVWV_BG Senate_executive summary_ 11.9 2015_final.pdf)Memo[ ]307 Kb62 Downloads
Download this file (Dcorps_WV_BG_11.9.15_final.pdf)Presentation[ ]1554 Kb74 Downloads

A major new survey in four U.S. Senate battleground states shows that Democrats are within striking distance of the majority in 2016.  Democratic candidates are 6 points up in Colorado (Democratic hold), 5 points ahead of a Republican incumbent in Wisconsin (a Democratic pick up) and knotted in Ohio and Florida (both Democratic pick up states).  The Republican brand continues to sour with the numbers for Senate leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican Congress, and the leading Republican presidential candidates all underwater. Demographically, the progressive Rising American Electorate (RAE) voters—unmarried women, people of color, and millennials—now claim a majority or near-majority of the vote share in each of these states.  And most important, a Democratic middle class reform money and government message and agenda like the one tested in this poll shifts the vote in Colorado and significantly increases the turnout of unmarried women and white working class women.[1]

Democrats’ ability to convert this opportunity into a Democratic majority is predicated, however, on candidates in these states accomplishing a number of key political goals over the next year.

Fix the enthusiasm gap, particularly among unmarried women and millennials.  This is a long-standing problem, reflected in Democracy Corps’ research and other surveys.  Voters within the RAE are significantly less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than non-RAE voters. This survey shows how to raise engagement with unmarried women.  

Fix the margin among Democratic base voters, particularly unmarried women. There is still room to grow support among RAE voters, and the underperformance of unmarried women in these Republican-held Senate seats could not be more dramatic. To cite one example, Obama won 63 percent of unmarried women in 2012 in Florida, but the Democrats’ Senate candidate reaches just 48 percent in this survey.

Fix the margin with unmarried women voters and improve the margin with white working class women. Unmarried women are holding back the Democratic Senate candidates across these key states and more progress can be made with white working class women who are increasingly open to voting for Democrats. The Democratic message and agenda tested in this poll—particularly protecting Social Security from benefit cuts, policies to help working families like equal pay, and reforming government so it works for the middle class—get their attention.

Brand a tarnished Republican Party that is too partisan for these times.

Run unambiguously on a middle class agenda that includes economic policies for working families and fundamentally reforms money and politics and reforms government for the middle class.  It is important to recognize how addressing the first two of these issues is predicated on effectively addressing the last.  In this survey, we field tested the money and government reform policies that WVWVAF and the Voter Participation Center developed this year.  The result?   Democratic candidates make major gains among unmarried women and help equalize the enthusiasm gap for unmarried women and white working class women.

Read Executive Summary

[1] This survey took place October 24-28. Respondents who voted in the 2012 election or registered since were selected from the national voter file.  Likely voters were determined based on stated intention of voting in 2016. Data shown in this deck is among all 2016 likely voters unless otherwise noted. Margin of error for the full sample= +/-3.2 percentage points at 95% confidence.  Margin of error will be higher among subgroups. Respondents were divided equally among states (n=400) of Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. Margin of error for each state sample= +/-4.9 percentage points at 95% confidence.  Margin of error will be higher among subgroups. Forty percent of respondents were reached by cell phone, in order to account for ever-changing demographics and accurately sample the full American electorate. Although the field is not settled in all of these states, we used republican Scott Tipton against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennett in Colorado, Democrat Patrick Murphy against Republican David Jolly in Florida, Democrat Ted Strickland against Republican incumbent Rob Portman in Ohio, and Democrat Russ Feingold against Republican incumbent Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.

Child and College-Tuition Credits Equally Important to Voters, the Progressive Base & White Working Class
Monday, December 01 2014
Download this file (Tax Extenders Memo_12.1.14.pdf)Memo[ ]261 Kb67 Downloads
With the 113th Congress returning to D.C. for its final weeks of this session, it is important for the public to weigh in on the “tax extenders” – the obscure set of policy choices that have an immense impact on family incomes, the economy and the deficit – which will be considered.  The pundits and elites have rallied around the bi-partisan support for R & D tax credits and the media report a deal that includes making those and the college-tuition tax credits permanent; not slated for permanence in this deal are the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Congressional leaders considering this deal should know that they are threatening to walk away from the tax credits that have the most support with the public.
Democracy Corps conducted surveys in the Senate and House battlegrounds during the last two months before the 2014 election with the off-year electorate.  In those surveys, we tested the different tax extenders that would be before the Congress.[1]
The two tax credits that are the most popular choices for permanence and earn the most intense support among voters are the Child Tax Credit for lower income and middle class working families with children and the $4,000 a year tax credit for college-tuition and fees. 
  • House battleground: 88 percent favor making the college-tuition credit permanent, 59 percent strongly; 85 percent favor making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 58 percent strongly.
  • Senate battleground: 83 percent favor making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 59 percent strongly; 82 percent favor making the college-tuition credit permanent, 57 percent strongly.
Some have described the college-tuition credit as a "middle class" policy offer and the Child Tax Credit as targeted to lower income families, but that analysis misses the extent to which working and middle class voters are struggling in this economy with jobs that don't pay enough. They are looking for help making college affordable and want help lessening the burden of children on working families.  Making these credits permanent has broad support and listening to the voters in these contested House districts and Senate states is key to lawmakers being relevant when it comes to the new economy as well as to getting people to view politics as relevant for them.
The Rising American Electorate of minority, Millennial, and unmarried women voters respond to both credits with great intensity.  Remember, they will constitute one-half of the electorate in 2016. 
  • House battleground: 87 percent of the RAE support making the college-tuition credit permanent, 63 percent strongly; 84 percent support making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 59 percent strongly.
  • Senate battleground: 86 percent of the RAE support making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 66 percent strongly; 87 percent support making the college-tuition credit permanent, 61 percent strongly.
But as Democrats begin the broader discussion of how to appeal to the white working class, note that white non-college educated voters also put the child tax credit at the top of their list.  Both are clearly central to the Democrats as they move forward.
  • House battleground: 87 percent of white non-college voters favor making the college-tuition credit permanent, 61 percent strongly; 87 percent favor making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 56 percent strongly.
  • Senate battleground: 84 percent of white non-college voters favor making the Child Tax Credit permanent, 61 percent strongly; 83 percent favor making the college-tuition credit permanent, 54 percent strongly.
There is broad support for extending R & D tax credits, but note it does not have the intensity and breadth of support that the public gives to the college-tuition and Child Tax Credits.
  • House battleground: 83 percent favor making the R & D credits permanent, 48 percent strongly.
  • Senate battleground: 80 percent support favor the R & D credits permanent, 50 percent strongly.

[1]House Battleground survey of 1,100 likely 2014 voters in the 66 most competitive House districts, Oct. 4-9, 2014; Senate Battleground survey of 1,000 likely 2014 voters in the 12 most competitive Senate states, Sept. 20-24, 2014.
Millennials Demand Action on Climate, Will Punish "Ignorant" Politicians Who Deny Climate Change
Friday, October 31 2014
Download this file (103014_NextGen Climate_FQ_WEB.pdf)Frequency Questionnaire[ ]101 Kb82 Downloads
Download this file (NextGen DCOR memo 103014 FINAL.pdf)Memo[ ]184 Kb295 Downloads

A new survey[1] of presidential-year millennial voters in four critical battleground states, conducted for NextGen Climate and Democracy Corps by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, shows that a strong majority of these voters across all four states view climate change as a significant threat that demands federal action – including those who are likely to vote next week.  Perhaps more important, they have no time for politicians who would deny science by claiming that climate change is not caused by humans.  In an open-ended response, a large majority of millennials describe such politicians as “ignorant,” “stupid,” “out of touch” or something similar.  One important finding is that independent millennial voters are much closer to Democratic millennials than they are to Republican millennials, on nearly every measure tested, again showing overwhelming support for climate action.  Only the 11 percent of millennials who identify as conservative Republicans show solid backing for climate change deniers.


Meanwhile, an overwhelming margin of millennial voters – including Republicans – say climate change denial would make them less likely to support a candidate – with more than 41 percent saying it would disqualify that candidate regardless of their other positions.  With such strong sentiments, it is not surprising that millennial voters prefer a candidate who backs climate action over one who denies climate science by nearly 50 points. 


[1] The following memo is based on a survey of 1,000 voters in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida (250 per state) age 18 – 34 who either voted in 2012 or were too young to do so conducted October 21-28.  The survey was conducted via cell phone (2/3 of the sample) and Internet (1/3 of the sample), with a small additional landline sample in New Hampshire.  The margin of error for the entire sample is 3.1 percent.  For each state it is 6.2 percent.  Roughly half of the sample are likely 2014 voters, as defined by a combination of past vote history from the voter file, where available, stated past vote history, where not, and stated 2014 vote intention.  Also referenced are results among non-millennials from a national survey of 950 2012 voters conducted October 16-21.

Louisiana Attacks
Monday, October 20 2014
Download this file (dcor LA stw graphs for release.pdf)Graphs[ ]1433 Kb65 Downloads
Download this file (DCorps Louisiana Release 101414 FQ.pdf)Frequency Questionnaire[ ]226 Kb54 Downloads

Democracy Corps' recent poll of white persuadable voters in Louisiana shows that it is possible to shift white voters late in the race and in a run-off election. Bill Cassidy’s support is not very strong, and surprisingly, these voters still listen to arguments about the choice in this election and still respond to new information.

In some ways, the strongest new attack is the attack on Cassidy for his support of the Supreme Court decision that allowed wealthy special interests and big corporations to spend unlimited secret money to buy the election and for protecting CEOs from higher taxes while working men and women struggle.  This picks up on the massive spending and TV advertising flooding Louisiana.


This statement shifts the kind of voters that Cassidy needs to win away from him.  This statement is very focused on how billionaires use their money to make sure government works for them, while hurting working people.  It does not get into the Koch brothers argument — which looks more political and partisan and gets caught up with attacks on the oil industry — which is not needed.  

Impacting the White Electorate in Louisiana
Thursday, October 16 2014
Download this file (dcor LA stw graphs for release.pdf)Graphs[ ]1433 Kb64 Downloads
Download this file (DCorps Louisiana Release 101414 FQ.pdf)Frequency Questionnaire[ ]226 Kb78 Downloads

A new Democracy Corps survey of likely white voters in Louisiana shows that while Mary Landrieu is in a difficult position and most likely trailing slightly, the race can be moved and Landrieu has a path to achieving the level of white support that is required to win a runoff in Louisiana. 

As veterans of Louisiana politics know, white voters in Louisiana are a difficult block for Democrats.  The general rule of thumb for a winning Democrat is the “30-30 rule:” a Democrat can win the state if they earn 30 percent of the white vote and African Americans make up 30 percent of the electorate.  In an off-year electorate like this one, African Americans usually make up slightly under 30 percent of the electorate, meaning Landrieu will probably need to slightly exceed 30 percent of the white vote to win. 

This survey shows that while Landrieu is not yet where she needs to be on this front, with the right messaging she can get to where she needs to be.  Cassidy is relatively weak with this Republican-leaning electorate, and his support is very soft, leaving plenty of voters out there to add to Landrieu’s current 27 percent. 

And over the course of the survey, this is exactly what she does.  After a balanced simulated campaign in which voters hear a series of attacks on Landrieu and a set of comparative statements on her behalf, she gains 10 points among persuadable voters and 5 points overall, bringing her to 32 percent (with 6 percent still undecided) – a winning position. 


Key Findings. 

  • White electorate overwhelmingly Republican-leaning.  White likely voters in the state tilt toward the Republicans by 36 points on partisan self-identification and prefer a generic Democrat to a generic Republican by a 23 to 68 percent margin.  Not surprisingly, President Obama is quite unpopular with these voters.


  • Landrieu’s personal standing is aligned with partisanship but she overperforms a generic Democrat.  Cassidy’s support is very soft.  Landrieu is currently at 27 percent of the white vote in a runoff matchup with Cassidy, 4 points higher than a generic Democrat.  This would likely not be good enough to win were an election today.  However it is not far off, and Cassidy’s support is very soft, as almost half of his 69 percent of the vote are only weakly committed to him.


  • Cassidy strongly underperforming partisanship on favorability. Cassidy has slightly positive ratings, at +10, but considering these voters prefer a generic Republican by 45 points, those are soft numbers for a Republican. 


o   Landrieu’s standing more related to vote than Cassidy’s.  Regression analysis shows that Landrieu’s favorability ratings are far more correlated with the vote than Cassidy’s, suggesting that while negative communication against Cassidy can help Landrieu, boosting her own standing would have a greater impact. 


  • In a balanced simulated campaign matching attacks on Landrieu with comparatives in her favor, Landrieu gains 5 points, and moves to 32 percent.  In a split sample experiment, we matched a series of critiques on Landrieu with either a similar set of attacks on Cassidy or a set of comparative messages on Landrieu’s behalf.  Though Landrieu gained in both exercises, her gains in the comparative exercise were extremely strong.  She gained 10 points on her vote (and cut Cassidy’s margin by 23 points) among persuadable voters. This translates into a 5-point gain overall, bringing her final vote to 32 percent, which would be enough to win, even if she did not pick up any of the remaining 6 percent who are undecided. [1]


  • Strongest comparative is on women’s issues.  The strongest comparative between Landrieu and Cassidy centers on women’s issues – Landrieu’s support for equal pay, ending insurance discrimination and making college affordable versus Cassidy’s votes against equal pay, the Violence Against Women Act and preventative health care for women.


  • Strongest straight critiques of Cassidy are on veterans and secret money.  Though the comparative messages moved the vote further in Landrieu’s direction than the straight attacks on Cassidy, these were not without power either.  The strongest of these hit Cassidy for voting to cut veterans’ health care and a pay increase for the troops while pocketing pay raises for himself, as well as his support for the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporate special interests to buy the election in return for politicians like Cassidy protecting their tax breaks. 

[1] Note, the messaging and revote in this survey was only asked of the 46 percent of the sample who were “persuadable” or not “absolutely certain” to vote for one of the two candidates in the two-way runoff vote.  

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