Episode 83

2022 Midterms: Inflation, Polling, and Changing Demographics

with Jim Hobart and Jay Campbell

October 27, 2022

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Jim Hobart and Jay Campbell

Jay Campbell is a partner at Hart Research Associates. He has been quoted on politics and public opinion in national publications and has appeared on National Public Radio, MSNBC, CNBC, and C-SPAN discussing politics and polling. Jay graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a degree in political science.


Jim Hobart is a Partner at Public Opinion Strategies. He regularly appears on NPR, CNN, HillTV, and the BBC to offer political analysis. In 2013, he received the prestigious Rising Star Award from Campaign and Elections Magazine. Jim received a bachelor’s from Wake Forest University.


The prescription drug piece is exceedingly popular, really across the political spectrum. - Jay Campbell

Jim Hobart and Jay Campbell Tweet



[00:00:00] Jarret Lewis: Welcome to the Gary Bisby Show. Delighted today to have two very distinguished political operatives, consultants and pollsters. Joining me are Jay Campbell, a partner at Heart Research Associates, and Jim Hobart, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. Hey guys, thanks so much for doing this.

[00:00:20] Jim Hobart: Thank you.

[00:00:22] Jay Campbell: Hey, Jared, how are.

[00:00:23] Jarret Lewis: Great. Let’s talk about the midterms. Jim, I’ll stay with you or start with you. But for both of you just share a little bit your thoughts on the current state of the political environment as we close in on the midterm election. Where are we, what are voters thinking? And how would you describe the state of the current political environment? Jim I’ll start with you and then go to,

[00:00:42] Jim Hobart: Yeah, I think the current reality is what we have seen in midterm elections for. Are a number of years now. It’s. They tend to favor the party that’s out of power. Right now the Democratic Party is in power, so this means that it is very likely just historically, that this midterm is going to favor the Republicans and we are certainly seeing that begin to play out. It looked like that was definitely was gonna happen six months ago. About six weeks ago, things trended a little bit towards Democrats and now as we are getting. Closer to election day, it looks like things are trending back towards Republicans, really up and down about governors races, senate races and house races as well. Again. Now some of that is driven by some poor economic indicators and things like that.

[00:01:28] Jarret Lewis: Jay, your perspective.

[00:01:31] Jay Campbell: I, by and large agree with Jim. It’s challenging and. From the democratic perspective, it’s challenging. And that’s probably a measured way of saying it. In addition to the sort of historic, historical headwinds that, that Jim alluded to for the party in power, we have inflation is up we have interest rates up and we have the market down. This is not a great combination of things for the party and power to be dealing. 20 days before an election.

[00:01:59] Jarret Lewis: So Jay, you talked about, the economic issues, cost of living, interest rates in the market. What other issues, Are there other things that are at play that you’re seeing in different races and across the country that voters are really thinking about? The election.

[00:02:12] Jay Campbell: Yeah, for sure. Inflation really does Trump all in the CNBC poll, I think 44% shows it as one of the, one of their top two most important issues. , everything else was upwards of 13 to 14 points lower than that. So it really is the top thing that people have in mind for independents, who, as we all know are the The white whale that each of our parties are chasing. It is by far the top issue and nothing else even comes close to it. Beyond that, Democrats are obviously focused a lot on abortion and post Supreme Court decision in the Bo Dobbs case. Climate Change and Threats to Democracy. In our recent poll, the threats to democracy was actually the number one issue for Democrats. Small. Democracy, obviously. And then republicans are really as focused as they have been in recent years on border security and immigration. It is I think the number one issue for the Republicans in the poll, and maybe to a slightly lesser degree on crime. . But that’s still very much on, on the minds of Republican voters as well. But the economy really is, I I, I told my wife I was gonna be talking to you guys and she said showing her own age also it’s just what James Carville said. It’s the economy again, stupid.

[00:03:24] Jarret Lewis: Jim, how about from your perspective?

[00:03:26] Jim Hobart: Yeah. No, and I totally agree with Jay. I think the economy still trumps all and then obviously there’s been a lot of focus from Republicans, especially in some specific races. When you look at like the Pennsylvania Senate race and the Wisconsin Senate race used two examples on crime. You’re seeing that some gov races too, so I think that’s right there too. I think again the reality is, and the challenge when you’re facing one of these one of these tough political environments is that you the party that’s facing the tough environment, you typically have one good punch to throw, right? And then you throw that punch. And I think we saw that in, in, late August, early September, the abortion attacks on Republicans were very, there’s no doubt about that, that was a problem, but that punch is thrown and now it’s kinda like, okay, where can Democrats go next? They can’t go to the economy. There’s some pretty effective messaging on Republicans on crime. And so you, you see all these democratic operatives saying Oh they need to change the subject. And it’s like, but where do they.

[00:04:24] Jarret Lewis: Jay it’s November 9th, and Democrats have picked up one or two seats in the Senate significantly outperformed expectations in the house. Maybe it’s holding the house, maybe it’s only, losing, five to eight seats. And they’ve outperformed at the state level. Walk me through how Democrats are, were successful in getting.

[00:04:43] Jay Campbell: I think in terms of three things. Number one, rank and file Democrats, particularly Democratic women. Are sufficiently incensed about abortion and threats to democracy or the rhetoric they hear are related to what they interpret to be threats to democracy from some Republican candidates that they show out in force. We all saw. Early in this year when motivation of democratic voters in our polling was noticeably lower than that of Republicans which gave the people on my side a heck of a lot of heartburn. As we’ve gotten closer to the election, that has evened out much more as you would expect it to anyway. But I think that a lot of these issues we’ve been discussing have added to. Secondly, the reinvigorated efforts of Democrat of the Democratic Party to reach out to Latino voters will have shown Some positive feedback and that will have worked. If that is the case. That’s gonna add a lot to the, to our efforts in Arizona and Nevada in particular, or maybe Florida, maybe Texas a little bit. And the one that I’m least sure about honestly, is younger voters. They’ve been just beaten down over the past two and a half years with the pandemic. Really negative views on just about everything and politics is probably very much up there with where those negative views are. If they can get past their concerns and they do it ultimately show up to vote, I think that will be a an important step. As well. And then honestly, I have a fourth also ran idea, which is, let’s not forget the candidates matter. What we all do is a lot focused on this national environment and where the political winds are blowing. But on a race by race basis, some of this is gonna be really important and candidate quality matters. And there I would say particularly on the Republican side, some question. Candidates or candidates of questionable quality, who at the end of the day, voters may reject. And and one or two of those going one way can make a big difference.

[00:06:45] Jarret Lewis: Jim, same question. The outcome is reversed. Republicans have won control of the Senate 25 plus seats in the house and netted a couple of governorships. What drove Republican electoral.

[00:06:58] Jim Hobart: Yeah, I think the biggest thing will be winning independence by a double digit margin. I think to Jay’s point in in the spring, we maybe saw Hey, we’re gonna see a disinterested democratic base and a fired up Republican base. Similar to what we saw in 2010 and 2014, I don’t think we’re gonna see that anymore. think we are gonna have historically high turnout. I think we’ll be turnout in 2022 will be higher than it was in 2018, both nationally and in lot of these competitive races. And because of that means for the most part, voters aren’t, both sides are gonna show up. And so for republicans to have a great year, They’re going to need to win independence by, a healthy margin. And when you look at the results of wave elections especially midterm elections, that tends to be what happens in 2010 and 2014, Republicans won independents in, in 2018, Democrats did. And right now when you look at the numbers among independents, Jay mentioned that what a top concern inflation is for them. They’re not big fans of the president. And when you see those two things, that tends to mean that independence. The Republican way. And the other thing is in a lot of races, republicans are gonna have to hope that the environment overcomes. Without speaking about the candidates individually, I think look, in almost every single Senate race Republicans will be outspent on the candidate side. So that, those are the two things. Winning independence and then overcoming some spending disadvantage.

[00:08:26] Jarret Lewis: Jim, I’ll stay with you for a second. you talked about high turnout levels. It seems that elections are increasingly about turn. Out the base, the persuadable voters still exist the way they used to. And how do you energize the base while trying to capture the persuadable voters that are out?

[00:08:44] Jim Hobart: I’m of the perspective that persuasion is still very important and I hope I write cuz persuasion is a lot more interesting than just being like, Oh, we gotta turn out the base. then pulling becomes less important. It’s more just about knocking on a bunch of doors. So I, I think that persuasion remain. And I, Another thing is, Sometimes I think we conflate the two. To, to Jay’s point, you could, if you’re a base Democrat who only votes in presidential elections, then trying to get them to come out in 2022, you’re trying to persuade them to vote. You’re not trying to persuade them to vote between two candidates. But that’s persuasion too. We battled that a lot in 2018. He’s Trump only types that we needed to get out to vote. That’s just as much persuasion as it’s turnout the way I think about things.

[00:09:24] Jarret Lewis: That’s fair. Jay, let me ask you this. How do you how do you run that dual track of ma making sure you’re energizing the base, but also trying to appeal to persuadable voters?

[00:09:34] Jay Campbell: it’s a fine needle to thread for. Sure. I’d be curious to know if the two of you agree with this. You figure, while it differs by district, it differs by state, obviously, that the persuadable universe is maybe six to 10% of the electorate, give or take. And they’re, part of the reason they are persuadable is, or undecided is they’re much less engaged in in the political world. They’re, they pay less attention. For either cuz they care less or because they just don’t have the time. Partisans pay a lot more attention and are a lot easier to reach. So getting to the persuadables is trick number one. And then you just gotta find your hook with them. And, unfortunately the hook for those who are largely disengaged very often is a negative point or two about your opponent. . And you know this, look, it’s unfortunate it doesn’t elevate the discourse, certainly, but at the end of the day, it’s our job to win an election. And so we do what we gotta do.

[00:10:38] Jarret Lewis: Final election 2022. Question and then I’ll pivot to some other areas. We’re a couple of weeks out. We’re really in the final stretches of this midterm election. Jay, I’ll start with you. What are you watching for over the final couple of weeks as we approach election?

[00:10:54] Jay Campbell: If 2000 was Florida. Florida 2022 is Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania. For me anyway, I, I can’t speak for youth, but. We have two premier races here. The Senate race is a perfect microcosm, I think of the of the entire political debate right now in many ways. And so as that goes, I think a lot of other races will probably go and then the governor’s race, which Jim mentioned at one point for Josh Shapiro. It will be interesting. I think there’s the conventional wisdom is that Shapira doesn’t have a lot of threat of losing to Doug Massiano. That said I think the margin in that race is gonna be really important. If Massiano has a better than expected showing, that’s gonna be a pretty good that’s gonna aug, I think fairly well for Republicans across the country.

[00:11:45] Jim Hobart: One thing that’s always helpful to look at is spending decisions. You’re gonna have, especially the house aligned groups. Look the center races are all gonna be fully funded, but by monitoring what the DRI is doing, what NCC is doing, what CLF and h and P are doing in terms of where they’re spending. Where they’re cutting spending, that’ll give you a good idea of where the winds are blowing too. And I do think that to Jay’s point, one thing that’s gonna be interesting is you are likely to have some Democrats who lose in Biden plus 10 plus eight type seats. But I think you’re gonna have some Democrats who win in Biden plus one, plus two, plus three type seats. And it’s because they’re just better candidates and they’ve run better.

[00:12:25] Jarret Lewis: I wanna change topics and talk about healthcare for a minute. This is a very big healthcare contingent of folks who watch this. Guys, where does healthcare rank as an issue to voters right now?

[00:12:35] Jim Hobart: When you look, it’s pretty low. Quite frankly, it’s in in, in 2018 it was, I believe, the top issue, if I’m remembering correctly, And you’re just not seeing too many healthcare focused ads. Some Ds are running some ads on prescription drugs and what they were able to do with that, and I believe it was the inflation rion. But this election is economy crime. You can also look, abortion is a healthcare issue, there’s no doubt about that. But in, in terms of like healthcare pricing and things like that it is not the midterm issue that we’ve seen it be in previous midterm elections.

[00:13:06] Jay Campbell: I completely agree. It’s even put it in the second tier right now would be a little generous, I think, And which to be honest. A little, from my perspective is a little bit of a shame cuz it’s one of the issues where krats do still maintain an advantage over Republicans at the macro level. To see it coming down further is not something I enjoy saying, but I believe its to be the believe its the case as well.

[00:13:29] Jarret Lewis: Jay the Jim just mentioned the inflation reduction Act. It had some pieces some healthcare components into it. In it. How are voters reacting to that the healthcare components of the, that legislation?

[00:13:40] Jay Campbell: Jim mentioned the prescription drug piece that. Ex exceedingly popular. Really across across the political spectrum. Donald Trump recognized this he took his eye off the ball as Donald Trump was want to do. But he recognized the popularity of prescription drugs and bringing prices down, Joe Biden and the, the Democratics members of Congress were able to get that done. And I. Ultimately that’s gonna be a feather in the Democrat’s cap if not in 20 days, then in in 2024. I’m very strongly believe that to be the case.

[00:14:11] Jarret Lewis: While we’re on the topic of healthcare, what role, if any, does Covid 19 have in this election?

[00:14:17] Jay Campbell: Conversation has gone past Covid. Jim I don’t know if you feel like it maybe. Some role in some Republican primaries, possibly. But I think now in late October it’s pretty minimal.

[00:14:28] Jim Hobart: I was looking at Georgia the other day that it’s, when you compare 2018 to 2022 the early vote results are basically double in terms of the number of people are doing it. And one reason for that is they got used to doing it in 2020. So I think from that standpoint, maybe a little bit, but no know what I mean. I can’t remember the last time I saw an open end where someone mentioned Covid is.

[00:14:46] Jarret Lewis: Change topics again. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a little bit of a shift in realignment between the two parties. Thinking, look back to 2000 election. George W. Bush won white college educated voters by 15 points in 2020. Joe Biden won that same group of people by 16 points. 2000 George W. Bush won non-college educated white voters by six points, and Donald Trump won that same group by 36 points. So some, dramatic swings in terms of the composition of the parties. You’ve got Hispanic men that I think are breaking to the right in some ways. Talk to me from a campaign elections polling standpoint what that might mean for future elections, kind this sort of realignment in some ways of the two political parties.

[00:15:31] Jim Hobart: I think one thing that you’ve seen it do is it’s in, in some ways it’s shifted the battlefield, right? The reason that Georgia and Arizona have come on the board. As really real swing states is because they have a higher population of white college grads now they also both have pretty sizable minority populations, which makes a difference there too. But I think that’s one way that has done things in your scene states. We used to call them the big blue wall, the Wisconsin’s, the Michigans and the Pennsylvania has become much more competitive, and that’s one of the primary reasons for that. Just from a polling standpoint. It makes our job a little bit harder because for two reasons. One, white non-college men are the hardest people to get on the phone. And then the other thing is white, not non-college men tends to live in places where we just aren’t going to get as many interviews because of the way we choose to do surveys. Republicans win or lose in a lot of ways these days based on how high the margins are able to run up with these white non-college graduates and the toughest group to.

[00:16:34] Jay Campbell: I, I completely agree. And I, You did Jared mention Hispanic men. They’re a particularly interesting group these days as well. My colleague Eileen Cardona has done a lot on the Latino electorate. And she and I have conversations periodically about Latino men in particular and just trying to understand that population of voters is, it’s interesting and it’s challenging and to, there was this. Demo. Demography is destiny strain of thought in the Democratic Party, which proved to be wishful thinking to a certain degree. And part and parcel of that is the assumption for a long time that a Latino voter is a Latino voter, is a Latino voter, and it’s, it couldn’t be further from the truth. We would, we don’t consider all white voters to be the same. We don’t consider all black voters to be the same. Why would we do this for Latino?

[00:17:27] Jim Hobart: Yeah and just to piggyback on something else you brought up Jared, with Hispanics, we’re starting to see that same, Yeah, there’s some difference by gender, but there’s also that break depend on whether they have a college degree or not. Just like we’re seeing with white voters, we’re starting to see some. Real differences between Hispanics with college degrees and Hispanics without,

[00:17:44] Jay Campbell: And religion. The both of our firms just did a poll for Telemundo. And Eileen in my shop was working on that and she was telling us how there’s a significant religious split between Catholic Latinos and Evangelical Latinos, just as there are among Catholic and Latino, Catholic and evangelical whites. Imagine, People have different attitudes based on these.

[00:18:06] Jarret Lewis: Jim, you mentioned closing on the end here, but I want to ask one thing. As I know it’s on the minds of folks watching. You talked, touched on the issue with some, a little bit of the issues with polling. Obviously your respective firms poll. For a lot of members of US Congress or US House, a lot of members of the US Senate, a lot of governors. So you clearly have strong track records as firms. What changes have you looked at or are employing with respect to polling as we are going into these 2022 midterm elections coming off of 2020?

[00:18:38] Jim Hobart: Yeah. One thing that we are doing well I’ll start with phones. We are doing partially on our own volition and partially at the encouragement of our phone centers. We are doing far more cell phone interviewing than we ever have before. In a lot of states we are between 70 to 80% cell phone interviews. Part of that is because people just do not pick up their landline anymore. They’re actually more likely to pick up their cell. Part of that is people don’t have lands anymore. And so we, we have shifted to that. We are doing this cycle more text to web than we ever have. So that’s reaching people via text message and asking them to click on a link and fill out a survey. So it’s really still on online survey, but it’s a little bit more representative cuz you’re working off a list of phone numbers rather than a list of or an online panel. Six to 10% of voters who are persuadable. But what that means is that races are just going to be much, much closer.

[00:19:31] Jay Campbell: And then the other thing that we are doing is being more aggressive about how we weight our surveys. When. When we get the raw data back it’s never been the case that the raw data is absolutely picture perfect for what the population should look like. And so there’s always been a certain amount of waiting to adjust for that giving. If you don’t have enough black respondents giving a little bit more weight to each black respondent’s answers it until it’s balanced to what the population should look like. The tricky thing that we’ve all learned much to our own chagrin over the past four years. Is this sort of issue of the fancy term for it is systemic non-response bias where it used to be that if you didn’t get on the phone, your prime respondent in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who is a white male, In his mid forties with a college degree. Then if you found another white male with a college degree, the next town over, there’s a good chance there was gonna be a lot of similarities between them and therefore you haven’t hurt your, the accuracy of your sample. And so we are trying to come up with ways to fix that. And look, if someone’s not gonna talk to you, you can’t make them do it. That’s un that’s the unfortunate part of our job. So you gotta figure out some other way to account for their attitudes.

[00:20:46] Jarret Lewis: Final question guys. This has been terrific. Want to close on hopefully a bit of an uplifting question. You and your two firms our two firms have worked together on a lot of bipartisan issues over the years for various organizations. In and in around dc in and around the country. And I want to get your take from each of you, what’s one reason that you’re encouraged about the future of our politics in terms of bipartisanship and what’s one thing that gives you some hope or some optimism looking down the.

[00:21:17] Jim Hobart: Look, regardless of your, the political party that you’re in, I think that you can see that the country has real challenges ahead of it. We could name plenty of them. And my hope is that, Will eventually start to say, Hey, let’s at least try to hammer out some type of common ground and and get these things done. Honestly, some of my favorite work that I do these days is when I am partnering with either a democratic firm or center right type of think tanked on policy issues. That type of stuff is is a lot of fun because you can develop these unique coalitions and try to get things done. So much. Campaign work, especially federal campaign work now is okay, let’s get 95% of Republicans, they’re gonna get 95% of Democrats, and let’s see if we can win independence. If it’s a good year for us, we will. If it’s a bad year for us, we won’t, them’s the break, so to speak. So yeah I’m certainly optimistic that or try to be optimistic that some real policy solutions can be.

[00:22:13] Jay Campbell: It’s the hope that politics won’t get in the way of good policy. The work we’ve done together Jim and I did work together last year around clean energy. That is an area where we can find agreement among pe presence of different colors. To that there needs to be a path forward in the for clean energy. I do a lot of work with Republicans a former colleague of yours in particular on children’s issues and early childhood education. Everybody needs childcare, whether you’re a Republican, every parenting, childcare, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, and everybody wants a good childcare. And so the idea of making childcare. It’s a place where those on opposite ends of the partisan spectrum can come together and actually do something for the American people. Everyone does wanna bring the cost of prescription drugs down, including Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Imagine now can you see the two of them working together to do it? No, that’s the problem. That’s where politics gets in the way.

[00:23:10] Jarret Lewis: Hey guys, this has been absolutely terrific. Really appreciate your time. I know you’re in the middle of a very intense period and appreciate you taking some time. And yeah, thank you both so much.

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