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New Online Voter Panel for Political Polling?

Research Now Group Inc, headquartered in Plano, TX, just launched a new voter panel. This panel allows political pollsters and new tool  to measure American voters’ perception about various issues. It provides insight on voters’  opinions of candidates, voter turnout, key campaign issues, and insights into the perceptions of millennials.

This panel gives researchers access to more than 600,000 deeply profiled, verified voters from every state. Researchers can pick constituents based on party affiliation, historical election turnout, and congressional district among other variables. Panelists can participate in surveys via varying platforms (mobile, tablet, or PC), so all voter populations will be represented.

Research Now has identified hundreds of thousands of voters who are historically hard-to-reach. This includes 70,000 millennials and other voters with no publicly available phone numbers.  This panel is the largest of its kind and marks a new step forward in polling. In recent years, polls have faced a lot of challenges. This is largely due to changes in phone use, caller ID, etc.. Many voters, especially millennials, do not use land-line telephones, so it is difficult to get accurate data. This new panel from Research Now provides a way to access this hard-to-reach population.

While this new panel is a step forward in polling, it is not necessarily the end point for polling improvement. In a previous blog post, I stated that the future of public opinion research lies in a variety of new methods. Social media analysis is one way to gain access to millennials and see their voting preferences, but it is also complicated and not always reliable. Biometrics technology can better understand voters’ tendencies and opinions. A combination of methods while using panels like the new Research Now panel will be key parts of the toolkit for public opinion researchers and it will be interesting to see what other technology emerges as the 2016 race for president continues.    

The Coming Divorce Boom

During a recession, consumers typically build up their savings and hold off on purchases due to uncertainty about the economy. Following a recession, we often see a burst of economic activity thanks to an increase in consumer confidence and spending.

Pent-up demand can cover everything from auto sales to home purchases to travel. It can also lead to a surge of activity in areas outside of consumer products or services.

One such area is divorce.

As you can see from this chart, divorce rates typically fall as unemployment rates rise.

US Unemployment and Divorce Rates 2000 to 2009

As we begin to see improvement in the economy, we will probably see increased rates of divorce as consumers become more confident in the stability of their incomes, the outlook for the economy, and their ability to form a separate household.

The relationship between labor force participation and divorce has been studied by economists for many years. The prevailing wisdom among most economists (explained in more detail in this 2004 AEJ paper) theorizes that female labor force participation increases income, financial independence, and consequently, the probability of divorce. Financial independence is generally regarded as the strongest of these factors.

As we see continued improvement in the economy over the next couple of years, we should see a pickup in home sales, rentals and probably household formations as current single households become two households.

This has implications for many industries outside of divorce attorneys. We should see an uptick in home sales, cosmetic surgery as newly singled couples prepare for finding new mates, and stronger traffic for dating websites. This also impacts fashions and apparel styles since singles and divorcees tend to be more fashion conscious than married couples with children. Apparel sales should benefit from the coming boom as well.

This also has implications on voting and elections.

Ending a marriage is a stressful process that frequently disrupts familiar routines, including voting. Married adults are more likely to vote than those who have never been married; in turn, previously married people are the lightest voters.

Because voting requires two considered routine actions (registration and turnout), divorce negatively impacts voting. Married partners have help with household tasks and also most of the chores associated with voting: not only registration, but also locating polling places or obtaining absentee ballots.

After the 2012 elections where turnout should be relatively strong for a myriad of reasons, we should start to see decreasing levels of voter turnout over the following few cycles as the economy continues to recover from the great recession, and unfortunately, due to an increasing number of dissolving households.