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National Surveys
Debate dial meters show Clinton made gains & defined election choice
Friday, October 21 2016
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The final debate was a very good night for Hillary Clinton. Live dial meter focus groups conducted on behalf of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund reveal Clinton won the night 57 to 26 percent. She achieved this by her clarity of plans and self-confidence, by focus on the middle class, the economy and taxes, and appointing Supreme Court justices that would look out for everyone not just the rich, and by standing up for the rights of women.[1]

With just 19 days until the election on the night of the final debate, voters were moving toward final judgements about their presidential choice. At the end of the night, Trump’s supporters were 6 points less certain in their vote and he made almost no gain across a vast range of personal attributes. His refusal to accept the results of the election stopped the dials. Nonetheless, he did get some response from the white working class persuadables in this dial test and did get some additional vote support here.

His lowest points in the night came when Trump was given the opportunity to address the biggest doubts about him, from concerns about his fitness to serve and allegations of sexual assault to his bromance with Putin and his capacity to handle nuclear weapons. Clinton’s approach – pivoting on Trump’s liabilities to offer positive, unifying, hopeful messages about American values and a fairer future for everyone – had the opposite effect and created some of the strongest moments in the dials.

At the end of the dials, many described her as honest, for the middle class and having clear plans for the future – and said these were the best reason to support her.


Clinton provided the clearest contrast yet in the campaign and made “stand[ing] up for families against powerful interests, against corporations” so the economy works for everyone the mission and mandate for her presidency if elected. It is hard to underemphasize how much Hillary Clinton spoke about the middle class and the size of her gains on “looks out for the middle class” – up 14 points at the end of the survey. She also made dramatic 22 point gains in her margin over Trump on who would do a better job looking out for the middle class and handling the economy. She also built a 10 point advantage over Trump on not being beholden to special interests.


Her 30 year history lesson on her commitment to fighting for people, while Trump fought for himself, was successful and Trump’s rebuttal focused on assuring voters of the size of his father’s seed funding once again did him a disservice: the dials went from high highs to low lows in a matter of seconds. The result was impressive and perhaps defining shifts on honest and being trustworthy. She gained 11 points to 48 percent saying she was “honest and trustworthy.” That is why Clinton’s personal favorability rose 19 points.  It is hard to imagine Clinton’s performance does not produce a more favorable public image in the period ahead. Maybe the pundits will not be able to focus so much on the two unpopular candidates.  

The most important result may be the potential impact on down ballot contests. The Democratic Senate vote in the battleground states shifted from 46 percent to 55 percent over the course of the debate. Voters came out of the debate with a reason to vote for Clinton but perhaps for other Democrats too.





[1] Democracy Corps conducted online dial meter research among 140 likely voters nationally during the third presidential debate: 19 white millennials, 27 minority millennials, 48 white non-college persuadable voters, 28 white unmarried women, and 17 Clinton voters who were splitting their ticket in Senate races in battleground states. Surveys were administered before and after the live dial meter session. An online breakout focus group among those who shifted their vote to the Democratic candidate down-ballot was conducted after the debate. This research is qualitative in nature and involves 140 total participants. Results are not statistically projectable onto a larger population.

Dial Meters Show Clinton Wins First Debate: Win Produces Important Shifts to Clinton
Tuesday, September 27 2016
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Hillary Clinton won the first debate against Donald Trump and likely produced electoral shifts, according to participants in a live dial meter focus group organized by Democracy Corps and commissioned by Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund.[1]These participants, comprised of voter blocs critical to the outcome of this election, watched a Democratic candidate lay out a broad economic vision that spoke to their lives, show strength that reassured on security, speak to our nation’s racial divisions in a way that engaged voters and most of all, reassure them on trust and honesty. Trump’s performance, with some exceptional moments, lacked the bombast of previous efforts, but did little to reassure voters about the prospect of a Trump presidency, particularly when it comes to security. Dials showed that Trump really struggled with both his tax plan and his own taxes, his contempt for women and above all, when he talked about his favorite subject: himself. The only area where he made gains was on having the right approach to trade agreements.

View the dial meter slides.

Read the dial meter report.

Clinton produced impressive gains in the vote, squeezing the third party candidates and raising intensity of support with white unmarried women and white working class voters.[2]That alone would be a big night. But just as important, she shifted these voters’ perceptions of her as a person on such key attributes as trustworthiness, having good plans for the economy, jobs, and looking out for the middle class. There was also a huge shift in her overall favorability (+33 points).

The white working class story is almost as impressive. Their lines spiked all through the debate and their favorability towards Clinton also shifted 33 points. The 2-way vote margin shifted 16 points as the 3rd party vote got squeezed. And at the end of the debate she won her biggest gains with these working class voters on the economy, keeping America strong and having the right approach to taxes. Clinton could not have hoped for better.

Millennials also responded very positively to key parts of Clinton’s performance, though their favorability shift was not as great as other groups and Clinton lost a little ground on the vote. We will watch what happens in the real world.

Overall, this was a very good night for Hillary Clinton.

View the dial meter slides.

Read the dial meter report.

[1] Democracy Corps conducted online dial meter research among 100 likely voters nationally: 50 persuadable voters, 25 white unmarried women, and 25 millennials during the presidential debate. Surveys were administered before and after the live dial meter session. An online breakout focus group among those who changed their vote or become more certain of the vote was conducted after the debate.

[2] This research is qualitative in nature and involves 100 total participants.  Results are not statistically projectable onto a larger population.

A Guide to the Women’s Vote
Tuesday, July 26 2016
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Commentaries on the dynamics of the 2016 race have focused on Donald Trump’s strength with working class men and Hillary Clinton’s challenge with white men. White non-college men are voting for Trump 58 to 22 percent in a 3-way ballot, and 75 percent view Clinton unfavorably (67 percent very unfavorably). This explains Trump’s “Rust Belt” strategy and Clinton’s choice of Senator Tim Kaine as running mate. 

But white working class men are only 18 percent of likely 2016 voters. In a 3-way race, they would need to count for 25 percent of voters in order for Trump to be competitive with Hillary Clinton and in a 2-way race, the white working class men would need to count for 36 percent of the electorate, with all else equal.


That is why women will determine the outcome of this election. They are repulsed by Donald Trump, and 63 percent view him unfavorably, (58 percent very unfavorably). Hillary Clinton was 3 points ahead of Donald Trump in a 3-way ballot in Democracy Corps’ national likely voter survey right before the Republican Convention; that grew to 7 points ahead in a 2-way ballot. But consolidated support among key groups of women and gains with white working class women are likely to propel her further ahead in the days after the Democratic National Convention.


It is critical for Clinton to consolidate support with one of the most reliable and fastest growing Democratic voting blocs: the unmarried women who now count for one-quarter of all voters. In a 3-way ballot, Clinton leads unmarried women 59 to 26 percent, with 8 percent voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson. It is possible that unmarried women will out-perform the 66 percent vote they gave President Obama in 2012; Clinton already wins 66 to 29 percent in a 2-way ballot.

That will be achieved by appealing to the white unmarried women, where there is room for Clinton to grow: 52 percent of white unmarried women voted for Obama in 2012, but only 43 percent are voting for Clinton in a 3-way race now. As unmarried women grow, the more conservative married women become less important. Married women are only giving Clinton 39 percent of the vote in a 3-way ballot (47 Trump) but they are now just 28 percent of the electorate, compared to 33 percent of voters in 2004.

College educated women will count for 27 percent of the 2016 electorate, up from 23 percent in 2004, and they are delivering a 20 point margin for Clinton in a 3-way ballot (up from +13 for President Obama in 2012). College educated women are more economically stable, with just 38 percent giving the state of the economy an unfavorable score, are more socially liberal, and nearly half are favorable towards Clinton. They are also the group most enthusiastic about voting in 2016, with 79 percent saying this election matters tremendously, motivated by their disdain for Donald Trump (7 in 10 rate Trump unfavorably and 58 percent say there is no chance they will support him).

The white working class women, by comparison, will count for only 17 percent of the 2016 electorate and 64 percent are voting for Trump in the 3-way ballot. The 35 point margin for Trump is fairly recent and has allowed Trump to move ahead of Romney’s margin (39 Obama, 59 Romney, +20 Romney). Thus, persuadable white working class women are also an important target for progressives, as women play such a critical role in 2016.


Millennial women are a growing proportion of the electorate – 18-29 year old women counted for 6 percent of the electorate in 2004, but millennial women will count for 15 percent of 2016 voters – and they are among the most progressive. They are very socially liberal and cynical about corporate America and less likely than other groups of women to say this election matters tremendously. But their 63 percent vote for Clinton in a 2-way ballot points to huge gains for Clinton if millennial women consolidate behind her after the convention.

It is worth noting that millennial women are increasingly diverse – only 52 percent are white. While the minority vote tends to consolidate later in polling, Clinton is already meeting the +69 point margin that Obama won in 2012 with minority women (84 Obama, 15 Romney in 2012; 76 Clinton, 8 Trump in July 2016).

If consolidated, the growing numbers of key groups of women – unmarried women and college educated women, particularly the millennials – and the persuadable white working class women will elect the first woman president. 

Presidential Race Tightens, Structure of Race Remains Unchanged
Tuesday, July 19 2016
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A new national poll from Democracy Corps conducted in the days leading up to the GOP convention shows a rise in Hillary Clinton's negative image and a tightening 3-point presidential race; but this poll reveals no changes to the structure of the race which indicates Clinton can quickly raise her vote and a repudiation of Donald Trump. This national survey of likely 2016 voters was conducted July 13-18; sixty-seven percent of respondents were reached by cell phone in order to accurately sample the electorate.[1]

Three weeks ago, Democracy Corps found Clinton held an 8 point lead in a three-way presidential ballot across the 9 most competitive battleground states and her margin was even greater in our national polling. That advantage has been squeezed by a real surge in Clinton’s negative ratings. Her total unfavorability rose 5 points to 55 percent, and 46 percent now hold very unfavorable views of her. This drop was likely driven by Director Comey's testimony, though the greatest worry about Clinton concerns the perception that she is part of the political elite that has taken care of itself.  


Despite the changed favorability and vote, closer analysis of this survey reveals the structure of the race is unchanged and there are strong indications that the vote will consolidate at a much higher level behind Clinton. In a two-way ballot, Clinton’s margin grows to 7 points (50 to 43 percent); Clinton also has twice as many “winnable” voters as Trump (10 to 5 percent). This race is still shaped by Trump's high negatives – his unfavorability remains stuck at 60 percent – as well as a Republican Party this is viewed negatively by 51 percent of voters. Half of voters now say they absolutely will not vote for Trump, compared to 43 percent who say that of Clinton, and Trump's very unfavorable ratings are 7 points higher than Clinton's. Finally, Trump's vote in the 3-way ballot is stuck at around 40 percent. Nothing has changed that as the two parties enter their conventions.




[1] National likely voter survey conducted by Democracy Corps, June 13-18, 2016. Respondents who voted in the 2012 election, 2014 election, or registered since the 2014 election were selected from the national voter file.  Likely voters were determined based on stated intention of voting in 2016. Margin of error for the full sample = +/-3.27 percentage points at 95% confidence.  Sixty-seven percent of respondents were reached by cell phone, in order to account for ever-changing demographics and accurately sample the full electorate.

On Trade & TPP, Public Anger About Corporate Power Dominant Factor in Views
Wednesday, July 13 2016
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New polling for Public Citizen provides powerful new insights about the public’s views on the trade issue generally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership specifically, and one of TPP’s central components – Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This unique survey of likely voters identifies key targets in the trade debate among Democrats, independents and Republicans and demonstrates how they can be moved to engage in the battle against TPP.[1]

The public begins the debate over TPP from a mostly disengaged and uncommitted position, bordering on neutrality. The public rates past trade agreements more positively than not, though many are unsure and few hold strong opinions. Like with many other issues, partisans of each party look different: Republicans are very negative and Democrats much more positive. That is likely exacerbated by the visible role of President Obama and demographic changes in both parties.  And despite vocal opposition of major presidential candidates in both party primaries and the expectations of trade activists, the public begins almost evenly divided on the TPP, with many reporting they do not know enough to have an opinion and many still very unsure what to make of it.

In this period, the public is very focused on and hostile to corporations and CEOs of big companies who take home huge pay packages, while failing to invest in their own companies or America. When trade arguments are married to the public’s anger with corporations and big money influence over government and politicians who no longer work for ordinary citizens, voters shift dramatically to oppose past trade pacts and the TPP.

The public’s aversion to corporate control over government turns to revulsion towards TPP when they learn that corporate advisors shaped this agreement in secret negotiations so it includes expanded rights for foreign corporations to sue the American government for damages in front of three unaccountable corporate lawyers at the taxpayers’ expense. ISDS concretizes corporate influence at the expense of the people. To be sure, the public is very concerned that TPP exposes Americans to other threats from corporations – from allowing more imports of unsafe food from foreign providers to the greater incentives for American companies to offshore jobs and reduce wages. But those arguments gain power within a message framework that condemns the backroom-dealing and new powers for corporations under ISDS.

When voters hear this message, they become far more critical of past trade agreements, shift dramatically from support to opposition on TPP, and become intent on holding political leaders accountable should they vote to pass the new trade agreement. This big shift occurs after voters are exposed to a balanced contest of messages and arguments from both sides of the TPP debate. The opposition message and arguments are just much stronger.

This poll also finds a clear winning message for members of Congress faced with a vote on TPP in the “lame duck” session after the election. Voters want to hear their member voice respect for President Obama’s intentions, but they also want them to join the presidential candidates, economists and colleagues on both sides of the aisle and stand up for the middle class by refusing to support this agreement.


[1]   Democracy Corps conducted a poll of 900 likely voters across the nation from June 23rd – 28th.  Sixty-six percent of the surveys were completed among cell phone respondents. The margin of error is +/- 3.27 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.  Margin of error is higher among subgroups.

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