POLITICAL - Senate races

James Lankford Super PAC (Oklahoma Senate)

Oklahoma was home to a very competitive primary to fill the retiring Senator Tom Coburn’s open U.S. Senate seat.  American Viewpoint served as the pollster to a Super PAC supporting Congressman James Lankford.  Lankford faced another rising star in the party, T.W. Shannon.

Our benchmark survey identified that Lankford was extremely strong in his Congressional district and the Oklahoma City media market as a whole, allowing the group to focus early efforts on defining Lankford in the Tulsa media market.  This survey also gave a messaging roadmap in terms of the positive messaging that best moved voters as well as defended against potential attacks from his opponent and outside groups.

As the primary approached, our brushfire data helped determine that the attacks on Lankford from outside groups were having little or no impact in his geographic base and our focus could be to continue with positive messaging there in an effort to boost turnout.  In addition, the final brushfire indicated that he could potentially avoid a runoff, which no other data to our knowledge was showing.  This helped the Super PAC decide not to reserve too many resources for the runoff and instead spending it to win in the primary.  Lankford won the 7 candidate primary with over 57% of the vote and avoided the runoff.

Roy Blunt for Senate

Senator Kit Bond announced his retirement in January 2009.  Former Minority Whip Roy Blunt announced his decision to seek the seat in February 2009.  Secretary of State Robin Carnahan also announced at this time and the race between two renowned Missouri political dynasties was fully engaged. 

In May 2009, American Viewpoint polling showed President Obama with a job approval rating of 58%-39% among Missouri likely voters – in a state he lost by 4000 votes.  His approval rating would only decline during the course of the campaign.  Obama’s job approval was 42%-54% in the last week of tracking. 

With the Republican Party clearly in the minority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and the newly emergent Democratic Party at its ascendancy, fundraising for GOP candidates got off to a slow start in the first half of 2009.  Allies of Robin Carnahan took this opportunity to go on the air early with an Independent Expenditure campaign that directly targeted Roy Blunt personally, with the goal of driving up his unfavorable ratings very early on before the campaign would logically consider going on air. 

The first buy from League of Conservation Voters (LCV) hit in the Springfield Media Market, the heart of the Blunt base, then moved to Kansas City and St. Louis.  Ultimately LCV would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in linking Blunt to “Big Oil.”  Both the Carnahan campaign and LCV had a common denominator throughout all of their advertising efforts – to go after Blunt personally as a tool of special interests and a Washington insider to drive up his unfavorable ratings to unsustainable levels.  The Blunt campaign showed remarkable discipline in not engaging in an early response that would have depleted money necessary at the end of the campaign. 

In May 2009, after the first LCV attack was aired, Roy Blunt’s favorable:unfavorable ratio was 41:31 in comparison to 53:27 for Robin Carnahan.  Carnahan held a ballot advantage of 41%-49%, but was unable to surpass the 50% barrier.  Blunt also trailed with the critical Independent voter bloc, down 34%-43% on the ballot.  Most disturbing, his favorable:unfavorable ratio with Independents was 33:34 in comparison to Carnahan’s strong 57:21 favorable:unfavorable ratio.  The same trend was apparent with women 60+ and white suburban women, where Blunt trailed on the ballot test with Carnahan holding a vastly superior favorable:unfavorable ratio. 

Fast forward to February 2010, during the height of the debate on Obama’s health care plan, with Robin Carnahan tepidly supporting the bill.  Blunt had worked aggressively in visiting the entire state and all 114 counties, building a strong grass roots organization, cranking out new media hits on Carnahan, asking voters where Carnahan was and what her position was on the key issues of the day. 

Along with LCV, additional Carnahan allies spent significant resources attacking Roy Blunt, with total outside money topping $1 million by early 2010.  Carnahan’s outside allies understood early on that the ground was shifting against the Democratic Party and its candidates and was making every attempt to drive up Blunt’s unfavorable ratings with Independents.  However, American Viewpoint polling in February 2010 showed Blunt had forged into a narrow ballot advantage of 47%-41%.  More importantly, his favorable:unfavorable ratio, while weak was still positive at 42:39 with Carnahan’s rating declining to 46:33. 

Blunt had reversed a 39%-54% ballot deficit with women 60+ and now led 46%-43%.  The same trend was apparent with Independent women, with Blunt trailing 29%-39% in May 2009, but leading 44%-40% inFebruary 2010.  

From the beginning, Blunt strategists recognized that for the campaign to be successful, Blunt had to be positioned as the agent of change and strive to tie Carnahan to the party in power in Washington.  A key metric to measure the achievement of this goal was the vote share Blunt held with wrong track voters.  In May 2010, Blunt was leading with wrong track voters 67%-24%.  Clearly, Carnahan’s strategy was not working as Blunt was winning handily with those voters angered by the direction President Obama was taking the country. 

July 8th, 2010, the game changer occurred.  President Obama and his entourage flew to Kansas City for a fundraiser for Robin Carnahan.  The President clearly pleaded with his supporters to give him the support he needed in Washington – another vote by Robin Carnahan to support his policies.  Thus, Rubber Stamp Robin was born.  Obama’s job approval rating was 41%-55% in the August 2010 survey. 

The last 3 day roll of tracking (Oct. 26-28) had Blunt leading with wrong track voters (70%-16%) and was pulling 80% of Obama disapprovers (80%-7%).  At the same time, Blunt was highly competitive with those voters stating that jobs and the economy was their most important issue determinant (down only 36%-53%).  Blunt was competitive on both the compassion dimension (leading slightly 42%-41%) and on the change dimension (42%-37%). 

The Carnahan attacks were relentlessly negative down the final stretch while the Blunt campaign talked about jobs, presented a jobs plan, discussed the consequences of Obama’s health care bill and its ramifications for seniors on Medicare, and presented a clear contrast in vision on the size and scope of government. 

The fact that the Carnahan family benefited personally from the Obama stimulus package (her brother, Tom, owning a wind farm and getting federal stimulus funds) was helpful in demonstrating a degree of hypocrisy on her part and highlighting the Carnahan’s as the ultimate political insiders sharing in federal largess. 

The campaign ran up huge margins with men, leading among men by 19% in the last 3 day roll with the contest being tied with women.  The Blunt campaign’s success in targeting senior women, suburban women and Independent women helped to drive the Blunt margin to an overall 54% vote share on Election Day.

Johnny Isakson for Senate (GA)

Johnny Isakson has been an American Viewpoint client since he first ran for Governor of Georgia in 1990. Two other Republican candidates ran against Isakson; a long time Congressman and member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee (Mac Collins), and a multi-millionaire former Fortune 500 CEO (Herman Cain).

Georgia state law requires that a candidate receive 50% of the vote on Election Day, or a runoff election is held. While Isakson was the early favorite, with three strong GOP candidates in the race it would be very difficult to avoid a primary, with his two primary opponents only needing to garner 25% of the vote respectively. However, the campaign’s goal from Day 1 was to avoid a runoff.

Early focus groups were conducted to identify strengths and weaknesses of all three candidates and a benchmark survey was conducted to measure which of Congressman Isakson’s accomplishments were strongest in relaying his conservative bona-fides to GOP primary voters.

American Viewpoint worked closely with the mail consultant in monitoring the success of the mail program throughout the campaign by including mail tracks as part of the regional breaks in the data rather than looking just at media markets and other more traditional geographic areas.

Before the Isakson advertising began, American Viewpoint conducted dial tests of potential advertisements to identify the strongest spots to run as well as to give the media consultant guidance on fine tuning the ads. Respondents in these groups emphasized the importance of experience, leadership and values, all of which became central themes in the advertising.

American Viewpoint’s research identified that Isakson was very well defined in the expensive Atlanta media market, but was lesser known in the smaller, more rural markets. This information led to a decision to go on air earlier in the less expensive South Georgia media markets, where Isakson was able to be the only one on air for more than a month, locking in much of the vote before either of the opponents even began their ad campaigns.

Johnny Isakson began the race with a substantial lead and continued to hold a lead throughout tracking even while being attacked on television and radio by both opponents and an outside group simultaneously. The tracking data signaled that Isakson’s lead was strong enough that he did not have to respond to these attack ads through paid media, nor did he have to air contrast ads against either opponent.

Isakson won the primary with 53.3% of the vote, avoiding a runoff and saving resources for the general election. Isakson went on to win the general election with 57.9% of the vote, the largest vote total any non-Presidential GOP candidate has ever received in Georgia.

Jim Talent for Senate (MO)

"American Viewpoint’s ability to go beyond the numbers helped my campaign build coalitions not only with core Republican voters, but with swing voters essential to winning an election in a battleground state like Missouri." (Senator Jim Talent, R-MO)

After difficult close losses for offices on Missouri’s statewide ticket in 2000, the 2002 Missouri US Senate race was the quintessential "battleground" race. Following the death of Mel Carnahan, Jean Carnahan was appointed to the Senate. In 2002, an election would be held to decide who would serve the remaining four years of the term.

Jim Talent had lost an extremely close race for Governor in 2000, losing by just over 21,000 votes. Talent decided early in 2001 to run for Senate and hired American Viewpoint to serve as pollsters and senior strategists to the campaign. What followed was anything but a "typical" Republican campaign.

Early polling in October 2001 showed the race to be extremely polarized by party affiliation, with only about 10% of the electorate undecided. With such a small pool of available voters over a year out from the election, messaging focusing on these swing groups would be essential.

By utilizing early focus groups to examine potential campaign themes and by conducting dial tests of mock-up advertising during the development stages, the Talent team was able to specifically tailor advertising to the key swing groups of moderates, women and seniors. In these early focus groups, it was apparent that the "sympathy factor" would still impact the votes of many of these voters, but that there was also an underlying resentment among some voters with the way Carnahan got into office.

In early 2002, American Viewpoint conducted an extensive benchmark survey that examined key accomplishments of Jim Talent, opposition research on Jean Carnahan and the potential damage of attacks on Talent. The conclusions from this benchmark helped the campaign decide to embark on a two-pronged message campaign, one for suburban St. Louis and Kansas City, and one for out-state Missouri. For example, while Carnahan’s vote against the confirmation of John Ashcroft for Attorney General was a strong vote motivator in the Springfield media market, data showed this issue cross-pressured support with suburban swing voters.

Throughout the campaign, monthly brushfires were conducted to track the progress. With these brushfires the Talent campaign was armed with current data to identify any potential problems developing with key voting blocs. In these brushfires, we were also able to test paired statements that measured voters’ perceptions of both Talent’s and Carnahan’s positions on hotly debated issues such as homeland security, ANWR and a prescription drug plan.

The Talent campaign budgeted for a five-week tracking program that later proved invaluable. Two significant campaign decisions were made from the tracking data. The first was decided after measuring how powerful attacks were from Carnahan and Democrat allies. It was clear in the data that attacks on Talent’s support of modernizing Social Security were cutting into his vote share, while attacks on various education stances were not. Armed with this information, the Talent campaign was able to decide to respond strongly to the Social Security accusations in paid media, while not devoting valuable campaign resources to the education hits.

Another turning point during tracking occurred about two weeks before Election Day. Both the Talent and Carnahan campaigns, along with both state parties and countless third party interest groups, were engaged in heavy contrast ads. In the tracking verbatim comments, voters were becoming disenchanted with both Talent and Carnahan due to what they thought was too negative of campaigning. This was also causing Talent’s unfavorable numbers to rapidly increase. While it is typical for this to be seen in the course of the campaign, it was rare to see this level of disenchantment. Moreover, we saw this perception of negativity among Talent’s GOP base. To ensure the heavy contrast would not suppress GOP voters, the Talent campaign made the difficult decision to run only positive ads for a 5 day period. We immediately saw Talent’s favorable ratings rise after this decision.

Senator Talent defeated Jean Carnahan 50% to 48%. "Talent’s win meant they (Republicans) didn’t have just the state; they had the Senate" (Time Magazine, November 18, 2002). There were a few key factors that led to his victory. Foremost, while Talent lost among women in his 2000 gubernatorial race by 14-points (43%-57%), he only had a 5-point deficit in 2002 (47%-52%). Secondly, in 2000 Talent garnered 56% of the vote in the Springfield media market, but improved his vote share to 60% in 2002. Also, improved turnout efforts from both the state and national parties help boost turnout out-state to help offset strong union efforts in St. Louis City and Kansas City.

Defeating an incumbent is never an easy task, especially when it is one of the closest watched races in the country. American Viewpoint is honored to have played a part in Senator Talent’s historic win.

POLITICAL - congressional RACES

Elise Stefanik (New York CD 21)

On paper, NY CD-21 should be a solid Republican seat. But party infighting and poor candidates had led Democrats to win this seat in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Even though Republicans had a +17 advantage on party registration in the district in 2012 (47% GOP – 30% Dem), President Obama carried the district (52% to 46%).  Elise Stefanik was a young, 29 year old first time candidate whose aggressive grassroots campaign helped push the incumbent Democrat to retire and went from trailing -36 in the primary, to winning by +22.

After winning the primary, there were still wounds to be healed within the Republican Party. Elise’s primary opponent was still on the Independence line and there were concerns about Republican defection caused by a weak candidate at the top-of-the-ticket in the Governor’s race. Both Elise and her Democratic opponent shared similar vulnerabilities on residency and property taxes, but her opponent could tie her to Washington through her past work for Paul Ryan and the RNC platform committee. Rather than run away from her youth or policy background, the survey research was able to turn those vulnerabilities into positives. It showed that voters wanted a fresh face and new generation of leadership, and there was a path to victory by showing how her policy positions can help North Country families as a contrast to the Democrat candidate’s lack of specifics. Additionally, in a sprawling rural district covering four media markets, the survey data was able to identify local issues like fracking, Common Core and state gun regulations that were used to pick off key constituencies in targeted mail and digital efforts.

As Elise consolidated Republicans, she began to pull away on the ballot, which meant the Democrat attacks on her became harsher. Because the survey research identified the potency an attack on cutting Social Security could have because of her ties to Paul Ryan, it helped the campaign prepare with a response ad showcasing her on camera saying she would never cut Social Security for seniors. Instead of panicking in response to the attacks, the brushfires showed that outside groups were effective in driving up the Democrat’s unfavorables. This allowed the campaign to keep Elise on camera to respond to the attacks and drive an issue-based contrast. Elise finished the race with a significant perceptual advantage (a net +10 image for her vs. -7 image for her opponent) and helped turn a competitive race into a 24 point rout.

Vicky Hartzler (MO CD 4)

It’s never easy to defeat an incumbent, let alone a 34-year committee chair of the powerful Armed Services Committee.  With two large military bases in the district, Ike Skelton had made a career out of securing funding for these bases and the military in general.  In a district where about 1/3 of voters are from military or veteran households, Skelton had built up a great deal of good will with a large portion of the electorate and it was clear from the beginning that this would be his central issue in the 2010 campaign. 

To face Ike Skelton in the general election, Vicky Hartzler first had to defeat a well known and well respected State Senator in the primary.  Missouri’s primary isn’t until the first Tuesday in August, so even after a convincing win in the primary, Hartzler’s resources were depleted and it looked to be extremely difficult to knock off Skelton even in a favorable environment.  The difficulty was compounded by the fact that the district included three major media markets (Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia/Jefferson City) where ads had to run in order to win. 

The initial benchmark survey indicated several imperatives: 

1.    This race would be won by tying Ike Skelton to wrong track sentiment, specifically in terms of a lack of job growth and his support of outrageous spending. 

2.    Tone would be extremely important.  Ike Skelton had some of the strongest favorable ratings of any Member of Congress in the country and Vicky would need to get the vote of a large number of voters on Election Day who would still have a favorable impression of Skelton. 

From the moment Hartzler was the nominee, the Skelton campaign attacked her on an obscure vote from her time in the legislature regarding the National Guard, framing it as if she did not support veterans.  This was their primary message for nearly four months.   

Conversely, the Hartzler campaign made their central focus on fixing what’s wrong in Congress and that “there’s a better way ahead.”  In the face of relentless attacks on the National Guard vote, the campaign maintained its focus on tying Skelton to the wrong track and showing how he has changed in his 34 years.  Brushfire surveys throughout the campaign confirmed that while the attack was hurting Hartzler’s favorable ratings, she was still closing in on Skelton.  The only response to the military funding attacks were on targeted cable and radio, along with earned media.

Once the race reached the margin of error, the tipping point of this campaign was likely an ad that showed Ike Skelton on the floor of the House blurting an obscenity and tying this to him changing over the past 34 years, now supporting the Obama-Pelosi job-killing and debt-raising agenda.  The closing ad consisted of former Skelton supporters telling how they are now supporting Vicky, with one senior man stating it best:  “I didn’t leave Ike Skelton, Ike Skelton left me.”

Hartzler ultimately won this election 50.4% to 45.1% and this race is a testament to the importance of testing a messaging plan through survey research and then staying on message and controlling the issue agenda.

Luetkemeyer for Congress (MO CD 9)

Congressman Kenny Hulshof’s decision to run for Governor in 2008 created an open seat in Missouri’s 9th Congressional District.  Blaine Luetkemeyer, a farmer, small businessman, former legislator and former State Tourism Director was involved in a crowded five-way primary against several former legislators and a former star University of Missouri football player. 

Most of the candidates began the campaign with similar name ID, each with unique geographical bases in this sprawling district.  With about a month to go before the primary, the Club for Growth spent substantial resources attacking Luetkemeyer on television, radio and through the mail.  However, Luetkemeyer’s campaign was able to effectively frame his background in business and his commitment to reducing energy costs early on to show his fiscal bona fides in order to withstand these attacks.  Ultimately Luetkemeyer won the five-way primary receiving nearly 40% of the vote.

In the general election Luetkemeyer faced well-known State Representative Judy Baker.  At this point the DCCC made this one of their top “Red to Blue” targets, which meant significant funding for Baker.  Baker’s liberal background on social issues would typically be a significant vulnerability in this relatively conservative district.  However, the onslaught of the economic crisis completely changed the dynamics of the general election.  At that point, the campaign became focused completely on the economy and jobs, also tying the issue to taxes. 

Complicating matters for Luetkemeyer was the fact that the University of Missouri is in the district and Barack Obama was energizing students more than any candidate had in the past.  Baker, the DCCC and other Democratic allies heavily attacked Luetkemeyer for the final month of the campaign.  However, the Luetkemeyer campaign chose instead to do comparisons focusing on his jobs plan versus Baker’s support of higher taxes.  Luetkemeyer was able to overcome a very difficult political environment to win with just under 50% of the vote, compared to 47.5% for Baker and 2.5% for a Libertarian candidate.

Austin Scott (GA CD 8)

Since first being elected in 2002, Congressman Jim Marshall was one of the top Democratic targets in the country and was the primary target of a mid-Census redistricting effort by the Republican legislature in 2005.  However, in both 2006 and 2008 he was able to defeat very well-funded Republican opponents, including a former Member of Congress. 

Marshall is far from a typical Democrat and for the most part, ideologically falls in line with the voters in the district as he is pro-life and pro-gun.  The district also has a large military presence, a constituency Marshall frequently targeted with both his veteran status and his position on the Armed Services Committee. 

However, 2010 was not 2008 or 2006 and Republicans nominated a very strong candidate in Austin Scott, a former member of the state house.  Early polling indicated that Marshall was very well liked by voters and while Congress’ approval ratings were terrible, his were strong.  Similarly, Nancy Pelosi’s unfavorables were sky high as was wrong track sentiment.  Based on this data, the primary focus of the campaign after defining Austin was to tie Marshall to Pelosi and the Democratic Congress’ failed policies. 

To Marshall’s credit, he understood early on that this would be a difficult election cycle for Democrats and rather than run a traditional accomplishments-focused ad to start the campaign, his first ad was an attack ad on Austin Scott and a vote Austin made in the legislature regarding immigration.  While out of context, when framed in a 30 second ad this would have been a powerful attack in most other election cycles.  However, in the benchmark survey only 5% of voters cited illegal immigration as the most important issue in deciding their vote, compared to 42% citing jobs and the economy and 16% citing spending and the national debt.

Based on this data, the decision was made to briefly respond to the immigration attack, but to focus the most attention on Marshall’s inability to bring jobs back to Georgia and his support of the Obama-Pelosi stimulus package.  This immediately put the incumbent on the defensive and he was never again able to get his footing.  In fact, in early October when he was already trailing the challenger, Marshall became one of the first Democratic Members of Congress to renounce Nancy Pelosi and did an ad saying he would not vote for her for Speaker again.  Unfortunately for him, he had already cast that vote and more importantly, voted for the Pelosi agenda.

While the issues were clearly in Austin Scott’s favor, he wasn’t very well known by voters.  As a result, rather than doing traditional attack ads with a voiceover, most of the campaign’s ads had Austin talking directly to voters about the differences between himself and Jim Marshall.  This allowed the campaign to simultaneously build Austin’s favorable ratings while driving up Marshall’s unfavorable ratings. 

After a very well orchestrated campaign, Austin Scott defeated Jim Marshall by a relatively comfortable margin of 53% to 47%.


Matt Blunt for Governor (MO)

When Matt Blunt first decided to run for Governor in early 2003, he was planning on running against Bob Holden, a very unpopular incumbent whose job approval was under 30%.

Early in the process American Viewpoint developed a vote model for the campaign that included vote goals for each region of the state. This model was used to track where the campaign was under-performing throughout tracking and helped decisions on resource allocations.

American Viewpoint worked closely with the campaign to put together a benchmark survey that tested Matt’s background, issue positions and experiences, as well as past positions taken by the unpopular incumbent Governor. With this the campaign was armed with the information needed to layout their message strategy for the next year and a half.

However, in the summer of 2004 it became apparent that Governor Holden was facing a very difficult primary challenge from the Missouri State Auditor, Claire McCaskill. Ultimately McCaskill upset Governor Holden in the primary, greatly affecting the Blunt campaign plan.

The plan was originally built on a thematic of change--and specifically a change from the unpopular incumbent. However, Auditor McCaskill’s primary victory brought about that change prematurely forcing the Blunt campaign to refocus its efforts.

The day after the primary the Missouri press focused on McCaskill as a giant killer and the new front-runner in the race for Governor. The premise of Matt Blunt’s vision for Missouri did not change, but the comparison of his background to McCaskill’s did. Through a post-primary benchmark and dial testing of potential advertising, several things became apparent:     

  1. Matt Blunt’s background as a naval officer was a strong selling point and demonstrated the leadership necessary to be Governor.

  2. Claire McCaskill was very vulnerable on issues dealing with past personal tax issues as well as dealing with her husband’s nursing homes.

  3. While Matt Blunt’s values matched closely with out-state Missourians, Claire McCaskill’s did not.

  4. The three key swing groups were women, suburban voters and seniors. American Viewpoint conducted extensive sub-group analyses of the voting blocs to identify key issues that would move them to the Blunt side.

Nightly tracking was conducted from late September through the last weekend of the campaign and helped drive advertising and mail traffic as well as the campaign’s paid media messages. American Viewpoint was an instrumental member of the Blunt strategy team in all aspects of the campaign, from mail and television to get out the vote calls two days before the election.

Ultimately Matt Blunt was elected Governor in the battleground state of Missouri by over 81,000 votes, the first time a Republican was elected Governor in Missouri since John Ashcroft in 1988.

Illinois House Republican Organization

As has been well documented, 2006 was an extremely difficult election cycle nationally for Republicans. To complicate matters in Illinois, the IL GOP had faced several scandals the previous cycle and was left without a viable statewide contender in 2004 at the top of the ticket. At the top of the ticket in 2006, there was an unpopular Democratic Governor, but he outspent his opponent by more than three to one. While the GOP candidate for Governor never had the opportunity to fully capitalize on Governor Blagojevich’s unpopularity, many state house candidates did.

The caucus commissioned American Viewpoint to conduct polling in the targeted 12 districts. Rather than taking a "cookie-cutter" approach to these races, benchmarks were conducted in each of the districts with different issues tested depending on the makeup of each race.

While each district had its own unique issues, a common theme was seen throughout - voters were unhappy with the leadership of the Governor and the direction the state was headed. Much of the messaging was focused on tying Democratic incumbents to the Governor and "Chicago political bosses." This strategy put the Democrats on the defense, forcing them to spend resources in what were thought to be relatively safe seats, rather than aggressively competing against potentially vulnerable GOP incumbents.

Weekly brushfire surveys were conducted in the key districts during the final month of the campaign where most of the key pickup opportunities tightened for the Republicans. These brushfires allowed the caucus leadership to adjust messaging and reallocate resources where it was needed most.

In a year when Republicans lost 325 legislative seats nationally and Democrats enjoyed success on other levels in the state, Republicans only lost one seat and nearly knocked off several Democratic incumbents, including one who only won by 114 votes.

Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee

In mid-October 2004, the Campaign Committee contacted American Viewpoint with a request to field 11 surveys within 24 hours.  American Viewpoint completed all 11 surveys and provided topline data, crosstabs and analysis within 24 hours of the completion of the fieldwork.  The Campaign Committee then contacted American Viewpoint with a request that we field an additional 12 surveys the final week of the election cycle.  Again, American Viewpoint fielded the surveys and provided topline data, crosstabs and analysis within 24 hours of completion of the fieldwork. 

As a result of their experience in 2004, Indiana House Republicans asked American Viewpoint to take over their entire survey research operation in 2006. Between June and October 2006 American Viewpoint conducted over 100 surveys.  For each survey, American Viewpoint provided questionnaire design, fielding, data processing, topline data, crosstabs and complete analysis. All within a very short time frame. In the final month of the campaign, American Viewpoint fielded over 20 surveys at one time with data and analysis all to the committee with 12 hours of the completion of data collection.

In 2008, American Viewpoint again provided research and strategic advice to the Committee.  Over 75 surveys were conducted to help the Committee identify target districts, recruit candidates, make media and mail decisions in the final weeks and allocate resources to the most competitive districts.  At times in the final weeks of the campaign, 15 surveys were in the field at one time.

In 2010, opportunities for Indiana Republicans were plentiful.  American Viewpoint helped the House Campaign Committee determine which districts were most competitive and which were so overwhelmingly Republican they could be considered safe.  We conducted over 80 surveys during the course of the campaign, resulting in a gain of 12 seats and the majority.

Senate Majority Fund (Missouri State Senate Caucus)

"American Viewpoint played a invaluable role in everything from message strategy, funding allocation, mail targeting and advertising development. Their numbers were right on and were vital in helping us increase our majority in both of the past two cycles." (Former Senate President Pro Tem and Current Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, Missouri State Senate)

Before a special election held in 2001, Missouri Republicans had not held the majority in the Senate in nearly 60 years. With such a slim majority going into the 2002 and 2004 cycles, the caucus dedicated extensive resources to both protect incumbents and build on the majority they had fought so hard to win.

Through a series of benchmarks, American Viewpoint helped the caucus’ team of media and mail consultants and campaign managers develop specific campaign themes and messaging for each race. During the brushfire phase, American Viewpoint was able to measure the progress of each campaign as well as the impact of advertising and mailings.

Missouri Republicans were successful in building on their slim majority and won five of the six targeted districts in 2002, greatly improving the chance of maintaining the majority in elections to come.  In 2004 the Senate Majority Fund won six of eight targeted races, increasing their majority by an astounding additional 3 seats.  Even in the difficult year of 2008, Senate Republicans were one of the only caucuses in the country to expand their majority and after the 2010 elections they now have a veto-proof majority.

The Senate Majority Fund’s use of polling should serve as a model for other legislative caucuses to follow.

Health Insurance Qualitative Research

American Viewpoint’s strategic research has guided many health insurance initiatives – enhancing both public and elite communications efforts and providing strategic direction for senior management.

We have successfully conducted hundreds of focus groups around the country since 1995 relating to benefit design, member satisfaction, program evaluation, new product development, member communications and other issues.   

Select focus group and dial test topics have included:

  • Social Engagement

  • Opinion Leaders

  • Spokesperson Testing

  • Small Business Insurance Issues

  • Government Relations/Issue Advocacy

  • Individual Market

  • Rates and Reserves

  • The Uninsured

  • Program Migration

  • Care Management

  • Medicare Coordination

  • Brand Assessment

  • Healthcare Reform

  • Member Satisfaction

  • State Health Exchanges

  • Provider Satisfaction

  • Concept Testing

  • Benefit Development

  • External positioning/Communications

  • New Product Development

  • Advertising Testing

  • Shopping Behavior

Helping Clients Navigate the Health Reform Environment

Over the course of the past few years, American Viewpoint has conducted numerous studies designed to help our clients navigate the difficult political environment surrounding healthcare reform and position themselves for success in the post-reform environment.  Our strategic research has helped our clients to:

  • Understand the aspirations and concerns Americans have about healthcare reform;

  • Evaluate both government and stakeholder proposals;

  • See how stakeholders are viewed by the public;Imagine the post-reform environment and develop sustainable positions;

  • Examine views toward state exchanges;

  • Test initiatives that comply with Affordable Care Act Requirements;

  • Position themselves as leaders in the post-reform environment.

Our studies have assessed the brand and reputation of clients and competitors and helped our clients enhance their image and capitalize on their competitive advantages.  Other research has tested new payment systems and explored views toward outcomes-based medicine, patient safety initiatives, provider incentives for quality results and a wide variety of cost-control efforts.  Still other studies have gone in-depth on external communications strategies to understand which approaches have the greatest connection and impact with target audiences.

We have tested new delivery systems including Accountable Care Organizations, Integrated Systems models, and vertical integration offerings for hospital systems.  We have also assessed support for new models of care such as community-based outpatient care centers.  This research has touched on a wide range of topics including facility design, multi-specialty provider centers, health and wellness programs, on-site diagnostic services and complementary care in helping our clients fine-tune their product and service offerings.

Much of our healthcare research involves building communications strategies for outreach to consumers, opinion leaders and government officials.  Our broad experience with healthcare reform, industry stakeholders and political leaders can help your organization meet its strategic objectives in the post-reform environment.

Congressional Debate on Medicare Drug Benefits

In the early stages of debate over the prescription drug benefits bill, the Federation of American Hospitals decided to take an active role in helping Congress develop benefits and turned to American Viewpoint to assist in these efforts. Through a series of focus groups and surveys, American Viewpoint examined what seniors and pre-seniors wanted in a prescription drug benefit, what they would not accept and what was missing from proposed plans. Moreover, American Viewpoint examined the salience of the issue and explored different approaches to a benefit with the general voting population.

American Viewpoint's research indicated that the most important aspect of a plan was for seniors to have the option to keep the coverage they currently have, and not have to change to a private provider system. Survey research helped determine specific levels to narrow the so-called "donut hole" and helped the House and Senate leadership come to a compromise on the eventual bill specifications.

FAH used this data to lobby congressional and administration officials to pass this bill, and these data were used to urge those more hesitant to support the legislation to support it due to its resonance with voters. Our credibility and reputation with both the White House and congressional leadership proved valuable when presenting this data because the data were trusted and explained from both a political and policy perspective.

Dow Corning Case Study

Situation: Dow Corning was faced with the task of developing a settlement package in its multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit regarding silicone breast implants, and securing passage by at least 90% of claimants.

Response: American Viewpoint began this project by conducting focus groups and Perception Analyzer groups to assess the perceptions and values generally held with regard to silicone breast implants. The next step was to conduct national surveys and surveys of the claimant population to help formulate the precise settlement language to be used. In conjunction with Claritas-aided analysis, we were able to define the characteristics of varying tiers of the claimant pool in order to best target the messages used to help facilitate passage. A comprehensive tracking program was also employed in the final days before the settlement cut-off.

Result: The settlement package passed with more than 90%.

Energy Research

American Viewpoint has been one of the leaders in energy research for more than 15 years.  In that time, we have conducted dozens of focus groups and surveys around the country for various energy companies testing issues such as nuclear power safety, regulation and expansion; reliability for both home and business; storm recovery; energy production; renewable energy sources as well as traditional energy sources and energy efficiency programs.

We have also conducted research to measure the public’s satisfaction with their electric supplier in terms of pricing; whether they are providing energy conservation tips and energy efficiency programs; their environmental impact; and to measure their corporate and social activity and responsibility programs.

With rising energy costs, a greater focus on nuclear power and its safety as a result of the earthquake in Japan and the overall need for more energy, it’s time for you to find out what your customers and community think of your company.

Federal Employee Health Benefits Program Research

We have conducted extensive research for a key participant in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Projects have included:

  • -Member Satisfaction Research

  • - approximately 24,000 interviews per year as well as qualitative focus groups and audience response dial testing;

  • -Benefit Development research - surveys, focus groups and dial testing;

  • -New product development, classification and positioning; -Program migration research;

  • -Explanation of Benefits redesign;

  • -Satisfaction assessments of several programs including vision, vitamin, pharmacy, Information Center, and advice nurse dial-in programs. These projects have consisted of quantitative research, qualitative research, and audience response dial testing.

This experience has provided us with an in-depth understanding of federal health issues and processes as well as those involving the Office of Personnel Management. We have also developed a keen understanding and appreciation for issues relating to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program population. This experience is invaluable in designing and implementing health-related questionnaires, sample plans, and interviewing methodologies.  With the FEHB serving as a model for new health plans under the Affordable Care Act, our experience in this area is particularly useful in evaluating state exchange plans.

Hospital Image Improvement and Expansion

In 2006 a community hospital in a relatively rural area of the Midwest came to American Viewpoint with an image problem.  This image problem had developed over several decades in the community and had spanned over numerous management administrations.

Unlike the traditional patient satisfaction research that was already being done, American Viewpoint focused the research on the community as a whole with a goal of significantly enhancing the hospital’s image.  Through this research, American Viewpoint was able to identify the main problem areas in terms of public perception, key targets in the community who were most likely to have an unfavorable impression of the hospital and what information about this hospital was most effective in persuading these residents.

Similar surveys are still conducted three times a year to gauge progress, identify any threats to their reputation that have developed, test additional messaging for advertising and test new product offerings.

Numerous sets of focus groups have also been conducted in recent years looking at ways that the hospital can better serve the community as well as to examine mock-up advertising. 

When this hospital decided to expand into other areas of the state, they called on American Viewpoint to help them with this process.  Through surveys and focus groups American Viewpoint was able to examine the viability of the location, identify key competitors and target patients, and tailor the hospital’s messaging to this new and different community.

As part of this expansion, this hospital is going through a re-branding process.  American Viewpoint has helped develop the rationale for the re-branding, tested numerous brand names and has worked with the hospital’s ad agency to fine tune their advertising.

Since American Viewpoint has started working with this hospital, we have helped them achieve more than a net 30% positive perceptual gain, with two-thirds of the community now having a favorable impression of the hospital.


Situation: A growing movement in a number of states sought to limit the cost of prescription drugs by either allowing bulk purchases or instituting price limitations, or to expand the number of persons covered.  However, these programs all required either the government restricting or eliminating access to some of the newest and best drugs, spending more tax dollars and/or reducing funding for research and development.

Response and Result: The arguments tested showed that people highly value access to the best drugs and drug / plan choice, and that a government mandated program would unacceptably hurt R&D. In Massachusetts and Vermont, our survey research proved critical in slowing the momentum among legislators for these flawed initiatives, and in Vermont the impact of the data may have contributed to killing the bill outright. In Wisconsin, we provided powerful, particularized data to the legislative leadership that guided both the campaign efforts of their colleagues and their messages in negotiating a compromise bill.

Product Development and Positioning Research

American Viewpoint has expertise in product development research including product design, positioning and naming research. 

When a major insurer called upon us to do the product development research for the roll-out of a new health plan, our work helped them to design a product ideal for its target population and provided a thorough strategic understanding of the factors that would lead to enrollment. 

We conducted an extensive project – including 18 dial tests in multiple markets across the country – designed to test every aspect of the plan. We identified the key elements for a successful launch by evaluating core decision drivers, product elements, plan comparisons and likelihood of enrollment. 

Dial testing sessions provided discrete readings on various program elements as well as the probability of enrollment/disenrollment.  Focus groups probed more subjective subjects surrounding product selection.  The research assessed decision-making parameters and a variety of product components including:

  • Pharmaceutical coverage tiers

  • In-network and out-of-network coverage options

  • Side-by-side comparisons with competing plans

  • Likelihood of enrolling

  • Plan design elements

  • Referral requirements

  • Co-payment and coinsurance levels

  • Discount programs and alternative medicine

This research led to a highly successful product launch and accurately predicted initial enrollment dynamics.

Gateway Arch

Looking back over the past nine years, the crusade to revitalize and restore the St. Louis Arch grounds is a remarkable story about the persistence of local civic leaders and the judicious use of public opinion polling to further good public policy.

For decades civic leaders in the St. Louis area had been looking for ways to rejuvenate and improve the St. Louis Gateway Arch area grounds.  Over time the area had become increasingly isolated, run down and crime ridden and some would argue that the symbol of the St. Louis area had become an embarrassment. 

In 2005 The Danforth Foundation, one of the largest non-profit foundations in the region decided to get involved.  They began by commissioning American Viewpoint to conduct a fairly novel survey of the Greater St. Louis area.   The survey was somewhat unusual in that we interviewed all residents and not just registered voters.  The survey was also novel in that it not only looked at the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County in Missouri, but also at Madison County and St. Clair County in Illinois making it perhaps the first truly regional survey of its kind in the area. 

Rather than focus specifically on the Gateway Arch area, the survey took a broad look at the region and tried to get an idea of how the Gateway Arch area fit into the community as a whole.  It asked area residents how they felt about the quality of life in the area and asked them to rate the availability and quality of things that contribute to the quality of life such as cultural institutions, entertainment and nightlife, family oriented recreation, passive recreation and active recreation.   In short, we asked what they thought was good, what they thought was bad and what they thought was missing.

The survey was also somewhat unique in its scope.  Naturally, it asked specific question about the Arch grounds such as how frequently they visited the Arch and probed their feelings about the current conditions of the Arch grounds.  It also asked in very broad terms what types of changes they would like to see surrounding the Arch grounds – family activities, nightlife, passive recreation, active recreation.  Then we went on to test an incredibly wide array of specific ideas to improve the Arch grounds including, but not limited to helicopter rides, pet daycare facilities and “manmade islands in the river that are accessible from the riverfront by floating walkways”.

Armed with our detailed analysis of the findings and graphics presentation, the Danforth Foundation approached local political and civic leaders in an effort to build support for a unified effort to revitalize the Gateway Arch grounds.  In doing so, they encountered a number of unanticipated problems and resistance to change.  To overcome these problems, the Danforth Foundation commissioned American Viewpoint to conduct another Greater St. Louis Regional survey in 2007.  The new survey took the old findings and refined them into a more specific proposal to revitalize the Gateway Arch grounds which we tested.  More importantly, the 2007 survey tested many of the arguments for and against making major changes to the area.  For instance, many were arguing that the Gateway Arch grounds are hallowed ground and should remain just as they are.  We found that residents from every region strongly disagreed with this notion.  Conversely, we found that over 80% agreed that with proper planning, the grounds of the Arch could be developed in such a way that they would complement the magnificence of the Arch, making the area even more remarkable than it is already.  In short, the 2007 survey served to further define the optimal plan for revitalizing the Arch area, showed widespread support for these changes and overcame many of the objections to making major changes in the area.

While the 2007 survey debunked the arguments against Arch grounds redevelopment and demonstrated widespread support for major changes, the funding problems remained unresolved.  By 2011 the Danforth Foundation had gone out of existence and the crusade to renovate the Arch area had been taken over by a new foundation, CityArchRiver 2015. This foundation came to American Viewpoint in 2011 for a survey to test voter support for a local sales tax increase to fund the project.  After testing several tax increase levels and arguments for and against the tax increase, we determined that there was a sufficient of support for a 1/10 of one cent sales tax increase in Missouri, but not in the two counties in Illinois.

Based on our findings, CityArchRiver 2015 went to the State Legislature to obtain authority to place a sales tax increase proposal on the fall 2012 ballot.     Much to their dismay, the Legislature gave them the green light to proceed, provided that they place the proposal in the April 2013 election.  While our polling indicated wide support in a high turnout fall election, it had also shown that support was significantly lower among low turnout spring voters.  After much soul searching and debate the decision was made to go back in the field with a totally redesigned proposal.  The new proposal reduced the amount of the tax increase from 1/10 cent to just 1/16 cent and expanded the uses for the funds to include local and regional parks and trails in order to broaden support. 

The new survey, based on spring voters showed that support was fairly high in the City of St. Louis, but just above 50% in St. Louis County and passage in both jurisdictions was needed in order for the proposal to go into effect.  Given the low turnout in spring elections the decision was made to make targeted mailings, voter ID and GOTV the center pieces of the campaign.  Guided by the messages and themes of the last survey, the campaign was able to drive support in the City of St. Louis to over 60% and even in St. Louis County the final vote was 53% in favor.

And so after nine long years of struggle the crusade to renovate and rejuvenate the Gateway Arch area is over.  Thanks to years of research, the political and financial hurdles have been overcome, the planning is complete and the improvements have not only begun, but are due to be finished by the fall of 2015 when the St. Louis area will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the completion of the original Gateway Arch.