September 8, 2008

THE VALUE OF POLLS AND FOCUS GROUPS:

Doh!: Top eight gaffes of the campaign (JIM VANDEHEI & HARRY SIEGEL, 9/7/08, Politico)

2. Countless houses

There’s never a good time for such a slip, but when McCain wasn’t able to tell Politico in an interview last month how many houses he owned (“I think—I’ll have my staff get to you, I can’t tell you about that. It’s condominiums where—I’ll have them get to you,” he replied), the timing was especially bad.


It's an article of faith with some folks that this statement matters, so we'll not bother trying to disabuse them, but here's a story that might be revealing. When I worked on the '85 NJ gubernatorial, the campaign did extensive polling and focus groups to see what voters were most motivated by, angry about, etc. The candidate then ran on just three issues: lowering property taxes, lowering car insurance rates, and cleaning up NJ's 99 Superfund sites.

But there were three things that truly angered voters--they brought them up over and over without being prompted: (1) Brendan Byrne Arena being named for a still living former governor; (2) the rumor that NJ had changed to its ugly blue and yellow license plates because Byrne's dauughter liked the colors; and Governor Tom Kean's decision to live in his family home instead of the governor's mansion. People were genuinely upset that he didn't take the perk. No one ever complained that governors got mansions and they didn't nor that the
Kean family was so wealthy his own house was probably nicer than the state's official residence--they wanted him to put on airs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2008 8:14 AM
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