Opinion Polls: Finding the Answers

Right Direction/Wrong Track

Right Direction/Wrong Track

In election year polling news, polls reveal that Americans uniformly believe the country is on the “wrong track.”

The number has grown since May, with 80% now answering “wrong track” and only 20% responding with “right direction” consistently.

A question arose between two pollsters, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies and Matt Hogan of Anzalone Liszt Research, as to whether the “wrong track/right direction” question adds any clarity to the view of America minds when the number becomes so heavily one-sided.

Hogan: We’ve actually stopped asking right direction/wrong track in our polls. You’re getting about 80 percent wrong track. At this point it’s not even useful anymore.

 Bolger: I think you’re wrong. It’s very useful. You look at the times right direction has been below 25 percent—1980, 1992, 2006 and 2008. This is the fifth time and it’s the most sustained negative mood in modern American history. Look at 2000 and 2004—you had 45-50 right direction/wrong track. Those were 50-50 elections.

Polling-wise, the point here is that even consistently one-sided response numbers can be extremely useful to candidates, consultants, and issue campaigns.

However, the pollster must break down the respondents into sub-groups and attempt to determine, through polling questions, why the respondent sees “wrong direction.”

There are vastly differing reasons for the sub-groups’ viewpoints as to why the country is heading in the wrong or right direction.  When fashioning campaign themes, targeting voters, fundraising, researching how to approach voting groups, etc., this data can be extremely valuable.

Breaking down and analyzing sub-groups’ motivating factors for right direction/wrong direction responses through your polling questions and data analysis is the key to useful right direction/wrong direction polling

Taking this next step illuminates the minds of respondents when viewed in light of history and long-term polling data.