March 12, 2017


Comey Letter Swung Election For Trump, Consumer Survey Suggests : Emotion and peer influence play much bigger roles in influencing behavior than previously understood. (Brad Fay, 3/11/17, Engagement Labs)

My firm has been tracking face-to-face consumer conversations about brands for more than a decade. Our methodology is to conduct a daily online survey among consumers to ask them about the product categories and brands they have been talking about in the last 24 hours. Thus we are using a survey to measure behavior rather than opinion data. Third party statistical modelers have validated this methodology by showing that when combined with social media data it can predict between 5% and 25% of a brand's sales, depending on the category.

Although it is not our main line of business, every four years since 2008, we have added a few special questions to pick up the daily conversation about presidential candidates during the General Election campaign. Only after Election Day last year did we go back to see what the data showed, and it was startling.

The first thing to know is that people were talking very negatively about both Trump and Clinton, in contrast to the mostly positive conversations we see for products and brands. Between Labor Day and Election Day, 53% of all the Trump conversations were negative about him, and 20% were "mixed" positive and negative, while only 26% were purely positive. If you subtract the negative and mixed from the positive, you get a "net sentiment" of -47. For Clinton, it was 43% negative and 21% "mixed" compared to 33% positive, producing a "net sentiment" of -30. That both candidates were so deeply into negative territory tells us something about politics generally, and also about these two candidates, who performed worse than Obama, Romney, and McCain in the last two elections.

More important than the absolute results for each candidate were their relative performances, as well as the trends over time. While both candidates were always firmly in negative territory, Clinton nevertheless enjoyed a persistent lead over Trump that opened up after the first debate. Both candidates experienced significant drops in the immediate aftermath of the infamous audio recording of Billy Bush and Donald Trump, although Clinton still had the advantage.

Most decisively, there was a sudden change in the net sentiment results that followed immediately after FBI Director James Comey released his Oct. 28 letter to Congress about a renewed investigation of Clinton emails. Immediately afterwards, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump. At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth "standings." The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.

Posted by at March 12, 2017 1:52 PM