chapter  6
12 Pages

Taking the Pulse of the Electorate

Professionally-run campaigns at all levels rely on public opinion research to inform them of what is on the minds of the voting public. As Daniel S. Greenberg has observed, “politics without polling has become as unthinkable as aviation without radar.”1 Since the 1970s, political pollsters, their research tools, and analyses have become central to the operation of election campaigns. A well-fi nanced statewide campaign will employ a variety of survey instruments throughout the election cycle: (a) a benchmark survey that gives a detailed fi rst look at the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate, the political party, and the mood of the electorate; (b) focus group sessions, during which a small number of participants can explore questions and issues in greater depth; (c) trend surveys, which are taken throughout the campaign to gauge movement or change; (d) dial meter analysis, which is often used to test market commercials; (e) mall testing, which is used to gauge public reaction in a supposedly neutral setting, the shopping mall; and (f) tracking polls, which determine movement and trends in usually the last weeks of a campaign.2