As the political season heats up we'll begin to see more polls and surveys of political attitudes. Both parties use survey data to shape and continuously refine their positions on key issues and the messages their candidates provide. In this sense, political research is akin to consumer or B2B marketing research.
Recently I participated in a survey that was used as a screener for a series of political focus groups. They presented an interesting slate of questions, not only measuring political attitudes, but using proxy questions as well such as preference for shopping (Walmart, Target or Kmart). In our questionnaire design we can use the two-step approach to get to candidate preference and the level or strength of conviction for that candidate. For example:
If the election were held today which candidate would you vote for?
John T. Republican
Respondents who selected a candidate are presented a sub-question asking how strong their beliefs are about their chosen candidate. For example:
How likely are you to vote for your candidate?
Combined, these two questions allow political strategists to refine their marketing efforts. In a sense they form a market segmentation scheme. When this research is conducted across a broad geography the parties can use this insight to reallocate advertising dollars, volunteer efforts, and tailor their party’s and candidate’s primary messages.