Despite the supernatural appearance of more and more ballots in two Florida counties, Cygnal’s poll from the week prior to the election has proven to be spot on. In the governor’s race we were just 0.1% off from the actual margin and only 2.2% off in the senate race, both well within the margin of error.
In a past life I was a political consultant, and I know first-hand the importance of examining an election well beyond the actual raw vote counts. Because we were so close, I thought it was important to take a deeper look at what our Florida numbers suggest about our current political climate and the insights we can gain for future election cycles.
Voters are energized
Being a pivotal state, Floridians always turn out in presidential election years, but they tend to vote at a lower rate in midterms. It appears that the 2018 turnout is about 55%, the best since 2002, which was also 55%.
Our poll conducted October 27-29 showed that on a Likert scale, 84% of voters were extremely enthusiastic to vote. This enthusiasm clearly led to an increase in voters casting ballots, which could be attributed to several factors (but especially the president – more on that below).
The question now is does enthusiasm decline with the installation of new legislators and a divided government, or will it remain high as we move (already!) toward 2020? Political consultants will need to track enthusiasm through 2019 and begin planning their approaches accordingly – now.
President Trump matters to voters
Voters pick candidates for lots of reasons, but one of those reasons was very clear – Donald Trump. Though his name was not on the ballot, voters on both sides of the political divide cast their votes with the president in mind. Of early voters, 78% said they were either voting to support the president or to send him a message. Of high-enthusiasm voters, 70% were moved by their feelings toward the president, while 68% of men and 66% of women had the president in mind when voting.
Of particular note is the fact that voters who support Trump are more likely to vote for republicans as a sign of support than his detractors are likely to vote against republicans as a sign of protest. For example, 81% of those who supported Scott and 81% of DeSantis voters were voting to support the president, while only 48% of Gillum supporters and 50% of Nelson supporters wanted to send a message to the president via their vote. If it holds, this trend could portend good things for the president heading into 2020.
Early voting continues to grow in importance
Over three-million Florida voters chose to vote early. As early voting continues to grow in popularity, it will continually become more important for campaigns and consultants to pay attention to who is voting early and why.
We found that 41% of those Floridians surveyed had already voted near the end of October. Of those voters, 80% identified their party preference as either Democrat or Independent. Though enthusiastic voters were not any more likely to vote early as they were to vote on election day, 44% of voters who vote regularly (in both presidential and midterm elections) voted early. Liberals outpaced conservatives in early voting 48% to 40%.
In total, these numbers suggest that campaigns are going to have to be certain that their messaging is tested and voters are being reached as early as possible, as nearly half of all voters will be voting before election day. This trend will change how voters are contacted and when.
The ideology gap based on age is real
As politics becomes increasingly polarized, a voter’s age is playing a factor in who they support. Those over 50 in Florida preferred a generic Republican over a generic Democrat 49%-48%, while those under 50 preferred Democrats 58%-40%. This suggests that not only does age effect support, but it also effects the intensity of support – the younger someone is, the more likely they are not only to vote for Democrats, but to do so enthusiastically and in larger numbers. Younger people are more likely to be partisan than older voters who are more likely to be switch voters.
Young voters are much more likely to support Democrats than older voters are to support Republicans. With the large numbers of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) eligible to vote, future elections could easily be decided by young people. This truth will not only play a role in the policies advocated by politicians, but will also dictate the advertising used to reach voters. A new generation of voters will necessarily bring about a new generation of campaigning.
In order for Republicans to continue to be viable they must attract younger voters. Republicans need to communicate their values in ways which not only resonate with younger voters, but which actually reach them. To win in the future conservatives must change both their message and the avenues through which those messages are delivered.
Cell phones matter
When conducting surveys, we ensure that the number of people surveyed via cellphones and land lines, respectively, reflect the information in the voter file. In Florida, that meant that 45% of our respondents were contacted on their cell – that’s nearly half the sample. As our society becomes even more connected and dependent on digital communication, that number is likely to go up. Of those under 50, 77% completed the survey on their cell while 69% of those over 50 were contacted on a landline.
To put it bluntly, any survey that does not contact voters via cellphones is highly suspect. This truth has necessitated us to not only emphasize the importance of live-caller surveys, but to also pioneer new survey collection methods including via text message. As voters change, the way we contact and survey them must also change.
Data, when collected using the right methodology, can give us lots of valuable insight. In calling the races in Florida correctly, Cygnal has proven that not only can a survey tell us who is likely to win a race, but also a whole lot more.
Want even more insight? Check out the Florida results yourself.