MMITM Ep 31 - Polling, Politics, And Predictions with Patrick Murray, founding director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute

 

00:00:00
Automated: From CurtCo Media.
( Singing)

 

00:00:07
Bill Curtis: We've  all  heard,  seen  and  read  a  thousand  times  about  how  this  or  that  politician  or  candidate  is  polling,  pre- debate,  post- debate,  about  this  issue,  that  issue,  and  we  watch  incessantly  while  news  announcers  give  us  their  organization's  reflection  of,  well,  our  collective  opinion,  or  at  least  today's  collective  opinion.  It  seems  that  our  society's  opinions  change  about  as  often  as  my  socks  do.  Yes,  Mike,  I  mean  daily.  But,  where  do  these  statistics  come  from?  How  are  they  sourced,  counted,  kept  honest?  Today  we're  going  to  deep  dive  into  our  own  opinions  with  the  help  of  one  of  the  most  respected  pollsters  in  the  country.  I  can't  think  of  a  more  appropriate  subject  for  this  episode  of  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.

 

 I'm  Bill  Curtis.  Our  panel.  Firstly,  our  cohost,  Pulitzer  prize- winning  historian,  best- selling  author,  worldwide  lecturer,  and  the  widely  quoted  socially  distant  and  zoomed- in  authority  of  everything  historical  and  constitutional,  Professor  Ed  Larson.  How're  you  doing,  Ed?

 

00:01:07
Ed Larson: Glad  to  be  back  with  you  and  glad  to  be  with  Jane  and  Patrick  Murray.  What  a  treat.

 

00:01:13
Bill Curtis: Also  zooming  in,  Jane  Albrecht.  She's  an  international  trade  attorney  who  represented  US  interests  all  over  the  world.  She  has  worked  with  high- level  government  officials  in  many  countries,  and  she's  been  involved  in  several  US  presidential  campaigns.  Hey,  Jane,  nice  to  remotely  see  you,  too.

 

00:01:29
Jane Albrecht: It's  always  delightful  to  be  here  and  honored  to  be  here  with  Patrick  Murray  as  well.

 

00:01:34
Bill Curtis: So,  as  you've  heard,  Monmouth  University  is  one  of  the  most  respected  polling  institutes  in  the  country.  We're  fortunate  that  Monmouth's  founding  director,  Patrick  Murray,  is  here  with  us  in  the  middle  today.  You'll  recognize  his  voice,  of  course,  because  you've  heard  him  so  many  times  doing  exit  poll  analysis  and  commentary  on  CNN,  MSNBC,  Fox  News,  PBS, NPR,  and  all  the  major  networks.  And  since  2005  he  has  focused  Monmouth's  polling  on  everything  you  can  imagine  from  presidential  state  and  local  elections  to  business  studies,  nonprofits,  TV,  viewer  segmentation,  even  something  close  to  my  heart,  magazine  reader  surveys.  Hopefully  podcast  next.  He's  a  commentator  on  politics  and  public  opinions  and  that's  where  we'll  be  focusing  our  discussions  here  on  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.  So,  Ed,  is  polling  a  new  thing  or  did  our  founders  take  voters'  temperature  back  in  the  formation  of  America?

 

00:02:30
Ed Larson: Good  politicians  have  always  had  a  knack  for  knowing  what  the  voters  think  and  what  they  want.  Aaron  Burr  was  a  master  of  it,  but  formal  polling  is  really  relatively  new,  at  least  within  the  last  century.  It  started  with  the  growth  of  the  modern  newspapers.  It  was  only  in  the  1930s  that  Elmo  Roper  and  George  Gallup  tried  to  develop  a  scientific  method  of  polling  where  you'd  try  to  get  a  representative  sample  of  people.  Now,  those  representative  samples  weren't  very  good.  Blacks  were  almost  entirely  excluded.  You  can  look  back  now  and  it's  almost  comical  how  bad  their  collections  were  and  how  biased  they  were.  Now  there  are  literally  hundreds  of  organizations  taking  thousands  of  polls  with  every  election  cycle,  and  with  having  Patrick  Murray  on,  we've  got  one  of  the  best.

 

00:03:22
Bill Curtis: Well,  speaking  about one of the best,  Patrick, how did  you  get  started  in  this  racket?

 

00:03:26
Patrick Murray: Well,  the  story  that  my  grandmother  tells  is  that  I  started  when  I  was  about  four- years- old,  riding  a  bus  into  Philadelphia.  I  sat  at  the  front  of  the  bus  and  I  asked  everybody  who  got  on  the  bus  if  they  liked  the  bus.  But  I  learned  my  first  lesson  about  how  you  bias  a  poll  by  following  up  that  question  before  they  answered  with  saying, " I  like  the  bus."  So  I'm  telegraphing  to  them  what  the  correct  answer  is.  So,  automatically  from  the  age  of  four  I  was  learning  how  to  ask  questions  and  how  not  to  ask  questions.  But  seriously,  a  most  formative  experience  that  I  had,  which  was,  I  was  doing  a  semester  in  Washington,  D. C.  as  an  undergraduate,  then  I  saw  this  ad  in  the  city  paper  there  and  walked  in  and  it  was  a  pollster.  Peter  Hart  was  the  Democratic  pollster.

 

 I  didn't  know  whether  Democrat,  Republican,  I  had  no  idea.  What  I  did  know  was  that  I  was  calling  and  talking  to  voters  in  Hawaii  and  Michigan  and  Wisconsin  and  Arkansas,  and  a  whole  post  of  interesting  places  and  asking  them  questions.  And  I  realized  I  was  pretty  good  at  that.  And  I  went  to  Rutgers  University  where  they  had  one  of  the  foremost  state  level  polls  at  the  time,  the  Eagleton  poll,  which  started  in  1971.  And  I  walked  over  there  one  day  and  just  said, " I'm  interested  in  practical  politics.  I'm  interested  in  this  stuff  when  I  read  it  in  the  academic  literature.  You  got  anything  for  me  to  do?"  And  they  said, " Yeah, we've  got  this  little  project  we  just  need  some  help  with,  if  you  want to  do  it."

 

 And  that  was  it.  From  that  point  on,  I  was  not  going  to  be  a  political  science  professor,  I  was  going  to  be  a  pollster.  What  happened  was,  as  I  progressed  as  a  pollster,  that  experience  that  I  had  as  an  interviewer,  talking  to  people  and  understanding  the  interaction  that  you  have  when  you're  trying  to  get  people  to  tell  you  their  honest  opinion,  informed  me  much  more  than  any  of  the  academic  work  in  many  ways  that  I  did  along  the  way.

 

00:05:15
Bill Curtis: How  could  you  tell  at  the  time,  Patrick,  that  you  were  getting  an  honest  opinion  as  opposed  to  the  opinion  they  thought  they  should  give  you?  How  do  you  create  a  control  for  people  that  are  not  actually  giving  you  honest  answers  when  you  realize  that  you're  getting  kind  of  a  load  from  someone  because  they're  telling  you  what  they  think  you  should  be  hearing  rather  than  what  they're  thinking?

 

00:05:32
Patrick Murray: That  social  desirability  bias  is  important.  That's  one  of  the  things that  I  said  you  really  need  to  develop  an  ear  to  understand  that  a  question  that  you  ask  may  not  be  as  innocuous  as  you  think.  I'm  going  to  give  you  an  example  from a  poll  that  we  just  released,  which  is,  before  COVID  hit,  were  you  planning  to  take  a  trip  for  summer  vacation?  It  seems  innocuous,  right?  A  yes  or  no  answer.  So  we  got  a  number,  63%  that  was  in  line  with  numbers  that we  had  gotten  from  past  years.  And  of  course  when  we  ask  follow- up  questions  we  find  that  fewer  people  are  actually  going  to  take  that  vacation.  That  was  the  purpose  we were asking them.
 When  we  actually  looked  at  how  the  responses  were  given  by  party,  Democrats  were  significantly  more  likely,  76%  or  so  of  Democrats  said  that  they  were  planning  a  vacation,  which  was  more  than  we'd  seen  for  Democrats  in  the  past.  But  by  the  same  token,  only  47%  of  Republicans  said they  were  planning  a  vacation,  which  would  mean  before  COVID  hit,  2020  was  going  to  be  the  lowest  year  for  Republicans  taking  a  vacation  in  a  year  in  history.  Now,  there's  no  way  that  that's  true.

 

 What  happened  was,  we  were  asking  that  question  within  a  series  of  other  questions,  asking  about  the  impact  of  COVID.  This  is  a  huge  problem  that  we've  been  facing  and  has  been  growing  over  the  past  decade,  is  that  almost  everything  now  is  viewed  through  a  partisan  lens  so  that  when  you  get  a  question  you  first  are  thinking  about, " Well,  what  does  this  say  about  my  belief  system?"  Rather  than  simply, " Am  I  going  to  do  this  or  not  going  to  do  this?"  And  so,  Republicans  who  want  to  defend  President  Trump  want  to  say, " Hey,  I  wasn't  planning  a  vacation  because,  you  know,  to  let  you  know  that  COVID  hasn't  changed  my  plans.  I  had...  COVID,  there's  not  been  a  big  impact,"  where  Democrats  are  saying, " I  did  plan  a  vacation  and  COVID  and  the  response  of  the  Republicans  and  President  Trump  are  what  caused  me  not  to  be  able  to  take  this  vacation."
 Now,  when  we  actually  drilled  down,  we  had  a  bunch  of  follow- up  questions.  By  the  time  we  got  to  the  follow- up  questions  about  what  you  actually  are  going  to  do,  that  partisanship  disappeared  because  we  were  now  anchoring  it  in  real  behaviors  that  they  said  they  were  going  to  do  tomorrow.

 

00:07:34
Bill Curtis: Interesting.

 

00:07:35
Patrick Murray: One  of  the  things  I  think  distinguishes  me  from  other  pollsters  is  that  I  go  out  there  and  I  actually  talk  to  people.  I  listen  in  on  conversations.  This  is  like  how  you  understand  how  people  talk  about  things,  not  by  imposing  your  academic  view  on  how  the  world  should  work,  but  on  actually  how  people  talk  about  them,  the  vernacular  used.  And  I  found  that  when  I  go  out  to  places  like  Iowa,  New  Hampshire  in  the  throes  of  these  presidential  primaries,  I  am  able  to  get  people  to  come  out  of  their  shell  because  they  don't  know  what  I  think.

 

 I'm  able  to  present  in  a  way  that,  whatever  you're  about  to  tell  me,  I  don't  have  a  judgment  on.  Or  maybe  you  even  think  that  I  probably  will  agree  with  you.  I  found  people  saying  things  to  me  in  those  situations  that  they  probably  would  not  say  if  I  had  walked  up  with  a  TV  camera  where  they  were  automatically  going  to  say, " Well,  I  have  to  defend  President  Trump,"  or, " I  have  to  knock  President  Trump  and  defend  the  Democrats,"  whatever  it  happened  to  be.

 

00:08:27
Bill Curtis: So,  let's  dive  into  a  polling  situation  that  we  all  remember.  What  lessons  did  we  learn  from  the  2016  Clinton/ Trump  election?

 

00:08:38
Patrick Murray: Well,  one  of  the  things  that  I  learned  is  that  the  media  doesn't  really  understand  the  error  associated  with  polling.  And  one  of  the things  that  I  looked  at  is  the  total  error,  particularly  in  the  states  that  were  competitive.  And  so,  let's  say  we  have  15  states  that  are  the  most  competitive  states.  Well,  the  error  in  2016  across  those  states  was  no  different  than  the  error  was  in  2012.  And  overall  the  error  in  2016  at  the  state  level  was  only  slightly  higher  than it  had  been  on  average.

 

 What  happened  was,  the  error  was  off  enough  in  a  few  states  that  it  changed  the  Electoral  vote  outcome,  whereas  in  2012  it  did  not  do  that.  So  the  errors  that  are  inherent  in  the  polling  did  not  change  what  our  expectations  were  going  into  the  election.  That  was  the  key,  that  the  same  amount  of  error  was  there,  it  was  just  our  expectations  were  held  up  even  with  the  error  in  2012,  but  expectations  were  not  met  in  2016.

 

00:09:35
Bill Curtis: When  you  polled  for  2016,  did  you  poll  based  on  the  Electoral  College  or  did  you  poll  based  on  popular  vote?

 

00:09:44
Patrick Murray: We  polled  based  on  popular  vote.  If  you're  going  to  do  Electoral  College  you  do  a  50  state  poll,  which  means  you  have  to  have  a  large  enough  sample  size  in  all  50  states.  So  you're  focused  on  those  15  states,  but  what  happens  is  that  those  15  states  that  are  most  competitive  are  close,  then  the  potential  errors  are  going  to  be  exacerbated.  And  that  was  the  problem  that  we  found.  The  public  had  shifted  in  terms  of  how  they  voted  based  on  their  educational  level.  In  the  past  the  difference  between  voters  with  a  college  degree  and  voters  without  a  college  degree  didn't  matter  all  that  much.  Now,  starting  in  2016,  it  mattered,  and  because  we  didn't  have  a  proper  way  in  our  voter  list  to  weigh  education,  a  lot  of  pollsters  didn't  weigh  by  education,  but  that  only  accounted  for  about  one  or  two  points  of  the  total  error.
 We're  talking  about  a  four  point  error  overall.  We  found  that  more  of  our  likely  voters  who  said  they  were  going  to  vote  for  Hillary  Clinton  decided  to  stay  home  than  Trump  voters  and  that  accounted  for  a  point  or  two.  These  are  things  that  you  can't  predict  in  a  poll,  and  that  was  my  big  problem  with  the  polling  error  in  2016  was  not  so  much  about  the  polling,  it  was  about  the  number  of  articles  out  there  that  used  the  word  predict.  Polls  don't  predict  anything.  Polls  tell  you  what  things  are  at  the  time  you  take  the  poll.  Now,  the  fact  that  polls  are  fairly  accurate  in  terms  of  elections  is  because  very  little  usually  changes  between  the  time  a  poll  was  taken  and  the  election,  if  you're  talking  about  a  poll  that's  taken  within  a  week  of  the  election,  that  pretty  much  the  die  is  cast.

 

 And  that's  why  polls  are  accurate.  Not  because  they're  predicting  what  will  happen, it's  because  what  was  the  lay  of  the  land  on  the  day  the  poll  was  taken  didn't  change  by  the  time  we  got  to  the  election.  And  that's  why  polls  aren't  in  and  themself  predictive,  it  is  they  just  tell  you  what  is  at  the  time,  and  as  long  as  things  aren't  volatile  in  the  last  few  days,  and  that  certainly  was  not  the  case  in  2016,  then  you're  not  going  to  get  changes.  And  what  happened  is,  we  had  a  volatile  election,  we  had  enough  people  moving  around,  and  we  had  a  number  of  polls  that  had  the  race  in  these  key  states  within  five  points,  and  all  that  said  was, " Well,  this  is  going  to  be  a  close  race  and  it  looks  like  Hillary  Clinton's  ahead,  but  you  shouldn't  put  all  your  money  on  that  because  we  know  that  things  are  going  to  be  changing  between  now,  the  time  we  took  the  poll,  and  election  day."

 

00:11:58
Bill Curtis: Is  it  possible  that  in  2016  people  weren't  really  willing  to  admit  out  loud  that  they  were  thinking  of  voting  for  Trump?

 

00:12:06
Patrick Murray: There  were  some  of  those  people and  I  had  looked  at  my  poll,  particularly  in  Pennsylvania.  What  we  discovered  was,  in  urban  areas  and  suburban  areas,  which  made  up  about  two  thirds  of  Pennsylvania,  we  had  the  results  dead  on.  When  we  compared  our  results  in  those  counties  versus  what  we  had  in  the  poll,  they  were  dead  on.  Where  we  were  off  was  in  the  rural  part  of  Pennsylvania.  What  we  found  is  not...  People  weren't  lying  to  us  about  how  they  were  going  to  vote.  That  the  Democrats  who  are  going  to  vote  for  Trump or  the  lean  Democrats  who were  going  to  vote  for  Trump,  weren't  talking  about  it.  So  they  were  less  likely  to  answer  a  poll  than  they  had  been  in  the  past.

 

 And  what  we  found  from  doing  our  follow- up  work  was,  it  wasn't  just  about  answering  poll  questions.  They  actually  weren't  talking  to  their  family  members  about  how  they're  going  to  vote.  They  didn't  want  to  hear  it.  We  already  are  seeing  there's  some  of  that  still  exists  today.  We  have  to  factor  that  in.  But  as  I  said,  that's  only  1%.  Now,  if  we're  talking  about  a  couple  of  different  factors  that  are  one  or  two  percent  and  they  add  up  to  four  or  five  percent  but  you  don't  know  which  ones  are  at  play  at  which  particular  time,  the  key  thing  that  we  need  to  do  is  to  get  the  media  to  start  saying,  when  a  four  or  five  point  poll  or  a  bunch  of  four  or  five  point  polls  come  in,  is  that  saying,  there's  still  error  around  this.  While  it  looks  like  it's  leaning  towards  Biden  or  leading  towards  Trump,  there  still  is  enough  error  around  this  that  we  can  only  characterize  this  as  a  close  election.

 

 There  is  unknowns.  There's  error  and  unknowables  inherent  in  polling,  and  we  need  to  be  more  cognizant  about  that  and  talk  about  that  a  little  bit  more.  Look,  if  we  see  Joe  Biden  is  ahead  by  10  points  in  every  poll  in  Michigan,  then  yes,  Joe  Biden  is  ahead.  And  if  he  loses  that,  the  polls  were  definitely  wrong.  But  if  we  see  Joe  Biden  ahead  by  four  points  on  average,  and  Donald  Trump  ends  up  being  able  to  squeak  out  a  win  by 10, 15, 000  votes  in  Michigan,  then  the  polls  were  not  necessarily  wrong.  It's  only  the  depiction  of  the  polls.  The  media  were  saying, " Joe  Biden's  definitely  going  to  win  this,"  based  on  a  bunch  of  polls  that  only  had  him  up  by  three  or  four  points.

 

00:14:06
Bill Curtis: We're  going  to  take  a  quick  break  and  when  we  return,  I'd  like  to  talk  to  you  about  that  particular  subject  and  how  you're  dealing  with  2020  when  the  people  who  actually  vote  are  going  to  be  a  little  up  in  the  air.  We'll  be  right  back.

 

00:14:28
Speaker 6: On  medicine  we're  still  practicing.  Join  Dr.  Steven  Tabak  and  Bill  Curtis  for  real  conversations  with  the  medical  professionals  who  have  their  finger  on  the  pulse  of  healthcare  in  the  modern  world.  Available  on  all  your  favorite  podcasting  platforms.  Produced  by  Kerko- Media.
( singing)

 

00:14:50
Bill Curtis: We're  back  with  Patrick  Murray,  Monmouth  University  Polling  Institute,  and  Ed  Larson  and  Jane  Albrecht.  So,  Patrick,  we  were  talking  about  what  happened  in  2016.  And  now  as  we  get  to  2020,  there  are  a  lot  of  interesting  factors  that  you've  probably  not  been  dealing  with  before,  like  the  pandemic,  how  it's  going  to  affect  people  actually  leaving  their  homes  and  voting,  where  you  can  have  a  mail- in  ballot  and  where  the  mail- in  ballots  might  not  happen.  How  are  you  controlling  for  that?

 

00:15:20
Patrick Murray: We  don't  know  yet  because,  I'll  be  honest  with  you,  we  stopped  our  state- level  polling  as  the  pandemic  hit.  We  were  polling  in  the  Democratic  primary.  We  polled  Michigan  in  early  March  and  then  Arizona,  and  in  Michigan  our  poll  was  great.  But  Arizona,  what  happened  was,  between  the  time  we  polled  and  the  time  the  election  happened,  which  was  only  a  couple  of  days  between  them,  is  that  there was  a  huge  shift  in  people  not  showing  up  to  vote  on  person  because  of  the  unrolling  pandemic.

 

 And  more  people  voted  by  mail  or  by  drop- off  than  had  voted  ever  before.  But  the  people  that  we  had  in  our  poll,  many  of  them  who were  going  to  vote  in  person,  just  simply  did  not  vote.  And  so  we  dropped  our  polling  at  the  state  level  because  of  that.  So  the  larger  question  is, " Okay,  so  what  are  you going to  do  about  this?" And I said, " Part  of  it  was,  we  don't  know  yet  because  the  states  haven't  told  us  exactly  how  they're  going  to  run  the  election  in  November."  Because  we  already  know  from  our  past  polling  in  March  that  this  is  going  to  be  a  big  issue.

 

00:16:20
Bill Curtis: So,  over  the  weekend  I  think  you  tweeted, " Rarely  does  a  poll  result  surprise  me  because  I  am  open  to  whatever  the  data  will  reveal.  Change  is  usually  either  incremental  or  momentary,  but  there's  something  fundamentally  different  in  these  results."  And  you  were  reflecting  upon  results  where  almost  60%  of  the  people  that  you  polled  said  that  police  officers  facing  a  difficult  or  dangerous  situation  would  be  more  likely  to  use  excessive  force  if  the  culprit  is  black  compared  to  the  one  third  who  say  that  police  are  just  as  likely  to  use  excessive  force  against  a  black  or  white  culprit.  You  were  pretty  surprised  by  that.

 

00:16:59
Patrick Murray: Yes,  I  was  because  it  was  a  significant  sea  change  just  four  years  ago.  Only  about  a  third  of  the  public  said  that.  They  are now  close  to six and  10  who  say  that.  That's  a  big  shift.  And  I have  been  asking  that  question  for  a  couple  of  years,  and  there  are  other  incidents.  Eric  Garner  and  so,  or  they  didn't  change  opinion  all  that  much.  It  was  incremental.  And  opinions are  changing  among the  white.  And  to  me  as  somebody  who's  been  measuring  public  (inaudible)   for  25  years,  there  are  certain  things  that  stand  out  to  you that you  say, " Well,  this  is  different  than  I've  ever  seen  in  a  poll  before  in  terms  of  a  shift."  And  that  was  one  of  them.  And  that's  where  your  understanding  of  sociology  and  psychology  comes  into  play.

 

00:17:41
Bill Curtis: So  what  are  some  of the  other  ways  that  Monmouth  University  Polling  is  trying  to  understand  the  Black  Lives  Matter  movement,  its  resilience  or  lack  thereof?

 

00:17:49
Patrick Murray: We  were  doing  that  polling  just  as  the  protests  were  starting  with  the  George  Floyd  murder.  And  what  we're  finding  was  that  the  initial  violence,  people  were  saying, " Oh,  I  don't  like  the  violence."  And  we've  gotten  that  all  along.  And  usually  what  will  happen  is,  particularly  among  white  respondents,  they'll  see  the  violence  and  say, " Well,  that  undercuts  the  validity  of  the  cause."  And what  we're  finding  in  our  questions  was,  if  you  ask  a  separate  question,  they said, " Well,  we  don't  like  the  violence,  but  we  fully  understand  where  that  anger  is  coming  from."  And  that's  a  key  difference,  that one I never  saw  before.

 

00:18:24
Bill Curtis: With  the  Black  Lives  Matter  movement,  have  we  actually  gotten  to  the  point  where  we're  going  to  take  it  seriously  and  it'll  live  long- term,  or  could  it  qualify  for  that  momentary  concept?

 

00:18:33
Patrick Murray: I  put  it  this  way  because,  as  I  said,  I've  seen  something  different  in  this  polling  number,  something  that is  a  harder  change,  a  more  permanent  change.  But  because  I  see  it  as  a  permanent  change  now  doesn't  mean  it  will  remain  permanent.  What  I  can  say  is,  I've  seen  a  window  open  to  a  discussion  about  race  and  systemic  racism  that  we  haven't  seen  in  the  past.  And  so  the  question  is,  does  that  window  stay  open?  And  it  depends  on  how  the  conversation  develops,  but  the  potential  for  that  staying  open,  that  conversation  continuing,  is  at  a  level  that  it's  never  been  at  before.

 

00:19:10
Bill Curtis: What  can  we  learn  from  the  polls?  How  can  we  use  what  you  learn  as  a  way  to  change  our  actions  so  that  we  can  make  sure  that  this  is  more  of  a  long- term  change  rather  than  this  week's  fad?

 

00:19:24
Patrick Murray: Well, what  we  do  know  about  how  people  behave  is  that  they  close  off  their  willingness  to  engage  in  new  discussions  when  fear  is  involved.  And  that  has  been  the  case  in  every  past  situation  is,  yes,  this  is  a  problem,  but  I  need  to  protect  myself.  Well,  the  president's  rhetoric  plays  on  that  fear.  It  has  had  actually  had  the  opposite  effect  because  he  hasn't  done  what  other  past  politicians  have  done,  which  is  acknowledge  that  there's  some  sort  of  ephemeral  problem  out  there,  and  we're  going  to  do  something  unnamed  to  address  it.  But,  the  violence  that  these  people  are  using  to  express  their  point  of  view  will  undermine  your  safety  and  security  in  the  neighborhoods  where  you  live.

 

 What  Trump  is  just  saying  is, " Their behavior  is  bad  and  everybody's  behavior  who's  supporting  them  is  bad,"  so  they're  putting  all  these  white  people  in  the  same  boat  with  the  black  people  who  are  protesting  and  other  people  of  color  who  are  protesting,  and  so  white  people  are  now  saying, " Wait,  he's  calling  me  the  enemy."  So  he's  not  having  the  effect  of  promoting  fear  among  them.  He's  actually  pushing  them  into  solidarity.
 Ironically,  probably  one  of  the  things  that  can  happen  here  is  for  Trump  to  continue  what  he's  doing  in  his  rhetoric,  because  it's  pushing  those  people  who  have  said  that  they're  willing  to  engage  in  this  conversation  to  continue  to  engage  in  this  conversation.  Now  the  thing  that  you  don't  want  to  do  is  you  don't  want  to  divert  attention.  As  I  mentioned,  you  don't  want  to  divert  attention  and  dilute  what  this  is  all  about.  I  mean,  this  is  about  systemic  racism  which  has  been  a  scourge  for  our  country  since  slavery.  And  so  you  want  to  make  sure  that  you  continue  to  concentrate  on  that.

 

00:21:07
Jane Albrecht: Going  back  to  what  you  just  talked  about,  Patrick,  the  fact  that  what's  happened  has  opened  a  window  to  discussion  in  a  way  that  hadn't  been  opened  before,  but  people  tend  to  close  off  such  discussions  when  fear  is  involved.  Do  you  have  any  sense  yet  for  how  the  moniker  Defund  The  Police  could  feed  into  that?  It's  not  just  Trump  playing  on  the  fear  of  the  violence  of  the  protest.  I  don't  think  that  will  get  that  far,  but  because  Defund  The  Police,  if  you  know  what's  behind  it,  it's  really  about  deep  reform  of  policing.  But  the  moniker  they  chose  is  radical  and  seems  extreme,  and  I  could  see  people  saying, " Hey,  I  really  think  we  should  address  this  situation  of  systemic  racism  and  police  brutality,  but  I  don't  know  if  I  want  to  trust  the  Democrats  to  do  this  because  they  would  defund  the  police."  So,  how  is  that  going to  play  into  this  ability  to  move  forward?

 

00:22:01
Patrick Murray: Jane,  you've  read  my  mind  because  that's  the  key.  That's  what  I'm  talking  about  in  terms  of  keeping  this  conversation  open.  It's  not  whether  the  public  fully  understands  what  Defund  The  Police  means.  It's  what  their  perceptions  are.  People  act  based  on  their  perceptions  of  reality,  not  what  reality  is.  And  that's  something  that  polling  can  measure.  We  can't  measure  in- depth  analysis  of  people  thinking  about  solutions  for  racism.  What  we  can  measure  is  the  things  that  are  going  on  out  there  in  the  world.
 How  are  they  reacting  to  them?  And  is  that  going  to  potentially  have  an  impact  on,  not  only  their  attitudes,  but  their  behaviors.  Is  Defund  The  Police,  is  that  something  that  can  stoke  fear  or  has  the  conversation  moved  enough  that  people  feel, " Oh,  I  know  what  that  really  means."  Even  if  they  don't  know  exactly  what  that  really  means,  their  perception  is  that, " Yeah,  I  know  it  doesn't  mean  fully  that."  So  that,  then,  do  we  get  a  tipping  point  where  that  pushes  that  too  far?  We  don't  know  and  that's  why  you  need  polling.

 

00:23:02
Bill Curtis: Can  you  tell  us  how  your  polls  have  gauged  the  effect  of  the  pandemic  on  the  next  elections?  And  have  you  been  able  to  test  that  at  all?

 

00:23:10
Patrick Murray: Less  about  predicting  what's  going  to  happen  in  an  election  versus  what  we  actually  saw  in  terms  of  moving  the  needle.  Trump  got  an  initial  bump  in  his  approval  rating  in  March  because  there's  this  rally  effect.  People  want  to  be  able  to  rally  around  their  leader.  Again,  this  goes  back  to  fear.  When  there's  an  attack  on  us,  and  then  this  pandemic  is  an  attack  on  our  security and  our  safety,  and  you  want  a  strong  leader  to  be  able  to  do  that.

 

 What's  interesting  was  why  he  got  a  bump.  He  got  nowhere  near  the  bump  that  our  state  governor's  got,  that  other  foreign  leaders  got  in  their  own  countries,  because  the  opinion  about  Trump  is  baked  in.  So  what  we  found  is  there  was  a  lot  of  polling  out  there  that  said, " Oh,  older  people  who  are  more  susceptible  to  the  virus  are  turning  against  Trump  because  of  his  response  to  COVID."  When  I  looked  at  the polls,  I  said, " Well,  no.  These  differences  existed  before  COVID."  What  they're  only  doing  is  reinforcing  what  people  already  thought  about  President  Trump.  Whether  you  like  him  or  dislike  him,  it  had  a  reinforcing  effect.

 

00:24:13
Bill Curtis: Let's  talk  about  some  of  the  more  detail  aspects  of  pandemic  and  see  if  you've  polled  for  it.  For  example,  the  opening  of  the  economy  versus  the  health  risks  and  the  potential  for  a  bump  and  hospitals  having  more  issues.  Have  you  tested  those  points?

 

00:24:28
Patrick Murray: Yeah,  we  get  by  about  two- to- one  margin.  People  are  more  concerned  about  opening  too  quickly  because  of  the  health  impact  than  they  are  concerned  about  opening  too  slowly  because of  the  economic  impact.  And  that's  been  pretty  stable  throughout  this.

 

00:24:40
Bill Curtis: Well,  that's interesting. Is that  nationwide  or  is  that  state  by  state?

 

00:24:43
Patrick Murray: That's  nationwide.

 

00:24:45
Bill Curtis: The  impression  I  think  a  lot  of  us  have  is  that  funding  can  affect  a  poll's  outcome.  Does  it  matter  who's  paying  for  the  poll?

 

00:24:55
Patrick Murray: I  guess  it  does.  I  mean,  we  don't  do  paid  polls,  so  it's  not  so  much  that  they  bias the  polls  when  they  do  that,  but  when  you're  dealing  with  a  client,  it  actually  comes  out  in  the  questions  that  you  ask  and  the  questions  that  you  choose  not  to  ask.  That  is  where  I  tend  to  see  the  bias. It's  not  in  the  results  themselves,  but  in,  let's  avoid  this  part  of  the  issue,  seems  to  be  the  bigger  bias.

 

00:25:19
Bill Curtis: That's  interesting  that  you  said  you  don't  charge  for  your  polling.  So  how  does  Monmouth  University  get  its  funding  for  this?

 

00:25:28
Patrick Murray: So,  Monmouth  University  is  doing  this  as  a  public  service.  This  is  one  of  the  areas,  we  have  a  number  of  other  research  institutes,  something  called  the  Urban  Coast  Institute,  for  example,  that  does  research  on  the  urban  environment,  the intersection  of  public  policy  and  science.  And  we  do  that  in  order  to  take  the  expertise  that  we  have  inside  the  university  and  share  it  outside  the  university.  So  this  is  one  of  the  things  that  Monmouth  does.  Now  obviously  it  also  helps  to  give  Monmouth  publicity  and  people  hear  the  Monmouth  name,  and  that's  always  good  because  every  college  spends  money  on  marketing  and  communications.  So  this  is  one  of  the  ways  that  we  do  some  of  that  as  well.

 

00:26:05
Bill Curtis: Interesting.  So  being  that  we've  only  got  a  few  minutes  left,  I  can't  help  but  ask  you  if  right  now  you  had  to  lay  down  a  bet  based  on  the  polls  that  you've  put  out  there and  the  trends  you've  watched  over  the  last  two  decades,  can  you  call  our  next  election?

 

00:26:18
Patrick Murray: No, absolutely not.

 

00:26:18
Bill Curtis: Presidential election?

 

00:26:21
Patrick Murray: Absolutely-

 

00:26:22
Bill Curtis: You're  not  even  going  to  take a stab at  it.

 

00:26:24
Patrick Murray: ...  no question,  no  way in hell. And  in  fact,  and  don't  take  this  personally,  Bill,  but  I'm  offended  by  that  question  because  this  is  my  bugaboo,  is  that  polls  do  not  predict.  I  don't  predict.  I  don't  have  a  crystal  ball.  I  don't  know  what's  going  to  happen.  I  get  these  questions  from  reporters  all  the  time. " Well,  does  what  happened  yesterday  mean  for  four  months  down  the  line?"  I  have  absolutely  no  clue  because  if  I  did,  I'd  be  using  that  money  to  go  bet  on  the  horses  or  play  the  lottery,  not  to  do  polling.

 

00:27:00
Jane Albrecht: Patrick,  can  you  explain  a  little  bit  of  the  difference  between  what  Monmouth  does  and  the  pollsters  that  the  presidential  campaigns  employ?  My  understanding  is  that  at  this  stage,  the  presidential  campaigns  will  have  very  capable  pollsters  and  they  will  be  polling  down  to  the  district.  But  if  you  can  explain  the  difference  between  what  you  do  and  what  someone,  even  a  top  pollster  working  for  a  presidential  campaign,  would  do  these  days.

 

00:27:27
Patrick Murray: Right.  I've  said  that  our  polling  industry  is  pretty  open  in  terms  of  sharing  information  with  us.  One  area  that's  not  as  open  are  the  campaign  pollsters.  They  play  everything  close  to  the  vest  because  what  they're  doing  at  this  particular  stage  of  the  race  is  they're  testing  messages.  They  say, "Oh,  I  have  this  information  about  my  opponent  and  I  have  16  different  negative  pieces  of  information  about  my  opponent.  Which  one  do  I  think  is  going  to  be  most  effective,  and  with  which  group  of  voters?"  Because  you're  only  going  to  target  that  group  of  voters  with  online  ads  or  TV  ads  or  whatever  it  is,  these  messages.  So  which  message  is  going  to  be  most  effective  to  do  that?  That's  called  message  testing.  So  that's  what  these  pollsters  are  doing.

 

 The  other  thing  that  they're  doing  is  then  looking  at  these  different  groups  and  saying, " Okay,  if  we  can  move  this  group  over  here  and  we  can  move  X  percentage  of  them,  how  does  that  impact  our  likelihood  to  win  that  state?"  And  that's  what  those...  We're  not  doing  that  because  that's  not  our  mission.  Our  mission  is  to  simply  say, " This  is  what  was  on  the  minds  of  the  voters.  This  is  what  they  think  is  the  lay  of  the  land  today.  This  is  what  they care  about."  Their  mission  is  to  say, " How  do  I  help  win  the  next  election  for  my  client?  And  I  do  that  by  figuring  out  what  messages  are  going  to  work  best  for  them,  where  do  they  spend  the  resources?  And  also  where  do  they  spend  the  resources  getting  out  the  vote,"  in  the  hopes  that  this  will  push  them  over  the  top  and  close  elections.

 

00:28:50
Bill Curtis: Patrick,  do  you  mind  if  we  do  just  a  rapid- fire  asking  your  opinion  of  the  following  subjects.  I'd  like  you  to  rank  them  one  to 10,  10  being  highest,  whether  or  not  your  polls  have  revealed  that  these  issues  may  or  may  not  affect  state  or  federal  elections.

 

00:29:08
Patrick Murray: I'll  try.

 

00:29:09
Bill Curtis: Race,  Black  Lives  Matter.

 

00:29:11
Patrick Murray: I  think  that's  about  an  eight  right  now.

 

00:29:14
Bill Curtis: Handling  of  COVID- 19.

 

00:29:15
Patrick Murray: It's  either  a  five  or a  10,  depending  on  how  you  look  at  it.  People  won't  react  to  it  specifically,  but  it's  the  undercurrent  of  what  they  think  is  going  on  in  the  world.

 

00:29:26
Bill Curtis: Supreme  Court.

 

00:29:28
Patrick Murray: Two,  except  in  Maine.  In  the  Maine  Senate  race  I  think  the  Supreme  Court  could  play  out  with  Susan  Collins.  Other  than  that,  it's  going  to  be  a  two.

 

00:29:37
Bill Curtis: How  about  women's  rights  to  choose?

 

00:29:39
Patrick Murray: Again,  one  or  two  specific  Senate  races,  Maine  being  one  of them.  Other  than  that,  not  an  overarching  issue.  Not  an  issue  that's going to  change  minds.  So I would say  a  three  or  four.

 

00:29:50
Bill Curtis: When  you say it's going to be  an  issue,  and  it  could  be  an  issue  in  Maine,  the  Supreme  Court,  would  it  help  Susan  Collins  or  hurt  her?  Which  way  does  it  cut?

 

00:29:57
Patrick Murray: Hurt  her  now  because  of  her  response  and  her  dealing  with  the  Kavanaugh  appointment.  That's  going  to  hurt  her  because  even  though  she  personally  is  pro- choice,  the  steps  that  she's  taken  along  the  way  and  her  explanation,  her  very  weak  explanation  for  what  she  did  in  the  Kavanaugh  hearing,  keeps  undermining  itself.  So,  for  example,  Kavanaugh  was  one  of  the  dissenting  votes  on  the  LGBT  ruling  of  the  Supreme  Court,  right?  So  that's  going  to  all  just  feed  into  Susan  Collins's...  Not  that  Susan  Collins  is  anti- gay,  but  that  Susan  Collins  are  anti  anti- abortion,  either  one  of  those,  but  that  Susan  Collins  really  is  not  effective  and  is  being  played.

 

00:30:38
Bill Curtis: Which  leads  us  to  the  next  one,  LGBT.

 

00:30:42
Patrick Murray: Again,  I  take  this  from  the  40, 000  foot  view  above,  for  many  individuals,  that is  a  very  important  issue.  In  terms  of  affecting  this  election  and  changing  this  election,  it's  a  two  or  a  three.

 

00:30:57
Bill Curtis: Okay.  Lies.

 

00:31:00
Patrick Murray: Hmm.  A  two,  because  you  believe  what you're  going  to  believe.

 

00:31:05
Bill Curtis: History  of  womanizing.  Abuse.  Me  Too.

 

00:31:08
Patrick Murray: That's  going  to be  a  two  or  a  three,  in  terms  of  changing  the  outcome.

 

00:31:13
Bill Curtis: International  relations,  China  and  Mexico?

 

00:31:16
Patrick Murray: Two  or  a  three,  barring  something  happening.

 

00:31:20
Bill Curtis: Pro  business  at  all  costs,  oil  and  so  on.

 

00:31:23
Patrick Murray: That  could  be  a  six  or  a  seven.

 

00:31:25
Bill Curtis: Environment  at  all  costs.

 

00:31:27
Patrick Murray: I  think  before  the  events  of  the  past  couple  of  weeks,  that  could've  been  a  six  or  a  seven.  I  think  it's  down  to  a  four  or  five  now.

 

00:31:36
Bill Curtis: Economy  versus  economy  because  of  a  pandemic.

 

00:31:41
Patrick Murray: The  economy  is  going  to  be  a  nine  or  a  10,  but  not  necessarily  in  the  way  that  you  might  think.

 

00:31:48
Bill Curtis: Oh,  well,  then  you  got to give me  a  little  color.

 

00:31:50
Patrick Murray: Okay.  All  right.  So  a  lot  of  people  are  looking  at  the  economic  issues  in  terms  of  overall  employment  rates  or  GDP  or  stock  market,  and  those  don't  matter  as  much.  Again,  as  perceptions  of  how  people  feel  that  they  are  doing  relative  to  everybody  else,  and  right  now  people  are  feeling  that  relative  to  everybody  else,  they're  doing  okay  even  if  they're  suffering  from  short- term  layoffs  and  so  forth,  because  they  believe  those  layoffs  are  going  to  be  short- term.  If  those  layoffs  become  long- term  in  November,  then  that's  going  to  shift  the  equation.

 

00:32:23
Bill Curtis: Interesting.  Healthcare  for  all.

 

00:32:27
Patrick Murray: As  of  right  now,  it  doesn't  look  like  it's  going  to  be  as  much  of  an  issue  as it would have  been  a  month  ago.  So  maybe  I'll  say  a  seven  or  an  eight.

 

00:32:34
Bill Curtis: Okay.  How  about  presence?  Ability  to  appear  presidential?

 

00:32:39
Patrick Murray: 10.  And  it's  not  that  it's  changing  anybody's  mind,  but  that's  why  people  think  what  they  do  about  Donald  Trump  right  now.  And  as  long  as  Joe  Biden  doesn't  show  himself  to  be  unpresidential,  I  think  he's  going  to  hold  on  to  that  as  well.  But  that  is  going  to  be  extremely  important.

 

00:32:57
Bill Curtis: Interesting.  Patrick,  this  has  been  a  pleasure  and  enlightening  for  me.  I  hope  you'll  come  back  and  join  us  a  few  times  before  the  election,  because  I  got  through  about  a  third  of  my  questions.  You've  been  a  good  sport.  Thank  you.

 

00:33:13
Patrick Murray: Oh,  my  pleasure.  Anytime.  Take  care.

 

00:33:16
Bill Curtis: Jane  Albrecht,  thank  you  very  much,  and  Ed  Larson.  This  is  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.  Come  back  and  see  us  again.

 

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00:34:01
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