Friday, March 5, 2010

Will a Controversial RNC Presentation Bring Down Michael Steele?

Summary: An internal RNC document - mocking donors and encouraging politics of fear - finds its way on to the internet and embarrases party leaders.

On Wednesday, Politico broke one of the most interesting stories about the RNC of the entire 2010 election cycle. An internal document - a PowerPoint presentation by the RNC finance staff - mocked their donors and explained how to play to their shortcomings for fundraising purposes.

There were some other interesting things in the presentation. For example, it mentions how the RNC plans to fight the FEC over soft money, refers to a fundraiser with the firm formerly known as Blackwater, and complains about all the “regulations” the RNC must abide by - even listing the Defense Department, the Patent Office, and Postal Service of regulating them.

The USPS regulations they refer to probably have to do with the “census” fundraising mailers they’ve been doing.

But the most shocking things were how they characterized the Democrats and their own contributors.

The presentation lists two kinds of contributors: the “reactionary” small donors and “ego-driven” large donors.

The small donors, according to the slideshow, do “visceral giving” based on “fear” and “extreme negative feelings” about the Obama Administration. The large donors do “calculated giving” based on “peer-to-peer pressure”, “networking opportunities” and “access [to politicians].”

Of course, large donors are becoming skeptical of the RNC and the committee’s fundraisers have begun to rely more on small donors. Thus, the document says “What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…? Save the Country from trending toward socialism!”

Finally, one slide includes images of how RNC fundraisers should depict Democrats.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and his press staff, have been distancing him from the presentation. Steele even went on Fox News recently to defend himself and his party.

To say a few words in defense of the RNC finance staff, none of what they’re saying is technically untrue. These are well-grounded ways - on both sides of the spectrum - of effectively raising money. Furthermore, the parts of the presentation that have been getting so much attention are a relatively small part of the presentation.

Most of the presentation is pretty boring, and is of little interest to the common person (although it’s loaded with strategic details such as fundraising goals that will be quite useful for the DNC to know).

But this much is true: the RNC finance staff must have been pretty stupid to put such a cynical slant on the game in a document that could be found and posted online, especially one that admits that they’re willing to drive a radical anti-Obama message for the sake of raising money.

This is not the first time we’ve mentioned that the RNC is having problems - including fundraising difficulties - during the 2010 cycle. In fact, despite all the predicted success for the GOP this year, these internal issues are weighing down on their optimism.

I would go a step further than simply acknowledging some problems in the RNC. I would say that the committee has been completely falling apart lately. Furthermore, it all seems to have started when Michael Steele took over as chairman.

This latest scandal is just one more disaster on top of an already dismal position for the Republican National Committee. Steele has not been popular with committee members for some time now, and - depending on their internal rules, which I’ll admit I am unfamiliar with - they may impeach him or at least demand a resignation in due time.

I now have to imagine that he won’t complete his term at the RNC. So here’s the question: just how much longer can Steele last?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who Are the Millennials? (Part 3)

Summary: Wrapping up our short series on America’s youngest generation.

We hope you’ve enjoyed - and learned from - our posts this week regarding the Millennial Generation.

To wrap up this mini-series, we thought you’d be interested in seeing this PBS report on the Pew study we looked at.

And you can find out just how Millennial you are by taking this short quiz!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Are the Millennials? (Part 2)

Summary: The youngest generation of Americans is the most technologically savvy. Knowing how they communicate and obtain information is paramount to engaging them politically.

Yesterday we examined a new Pew Research Center study on the Millennial Generation to find out how they were different from older generation in terms of politics and values. While we found that there were some striking differences, they pale in comparison to the differences in terms of technology use.

From the study:

Technological change and generational change often go hand in hand. That’s certainly the story of the Millennials and their embrace of all things digital. The internet and mobile phones have been broadly adopted in America in the past 15 years, and Millennials have been leading technology enthusiasts. For them, these innovations provide more than a bottomless source of information and entertainment, and more than a new ecosystem for their social lives. They also are a badge of generational identity. Many Millennials say their use of modern technology is what distinguishes them from other generations.

WAYLA often examines trends in New Media and their impact on the political scene. But what’s interesting is that the older generations - who are more likely to vote - are typically not the most likely to use these media.

Millennials dominate in terms New Media and cell phone technology. Three out of every four Millennials use online social networking, compared with just half of Gen Xers, and less than a third of Baby Boomers.

Almost nine out of ten Millennials use their phones to text, and do so about 20 times per day. 83% of them sleep next to their cell phones, compared to 68% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers.

They also appreciate technological advancements and innovation more than the average American. While almost a third of Baby Boomers believe these new technologies have made life more complicated, a staggering 74% of Millennials say they’ve made life easier.

One reason Millennials like these new technologies, no doubt, is because they’ve made it easier and more affordable to follow the news - especially the selective news they are interested in. They’re considerably less likely than their parents or grandparents to get news from television or newspapers, and more likely to find it on the internet.

In fact, “kids these days” are considerably less likely to watch television in general than any other age group.

None of these trends are necessarily surprising though, so why do we bring them up?

Knowing your audience is always important. Thus communicating via social networking services and texting will require different messages than traditional media.

Now, one of the most important rules in politics is maintaining a consistent message. But what areas of the message you focus on will differ depending on what media you use.

Understanding that Millennials - who have different perspectives and values than older generations - are more likely to use these new media sources means that tailoring your message over these media should reflect more on their concerns.

For example, Republicans should steer clear of stressing so-called “traditional family values” on Twitter and Facebook. Democrats should feel more free to promote issues in terms of equality and less compelled to defend the role of government in the economy. And while it would never hurt to do so, neither Republicans nor Democrats really need to hype veterans’ issues.

Tomorrow we’ll visit the topic of the Millennials one last time to wrap-up some key thoughts on the generational shift we’re seeing and its impact on politics.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who Are The Millennials? (Part 1)

Summary: How to understand the youngest generation of Americans, and engage them politically.

Last year we pointed out the magnitude Americans under 30 had on public opinion. Not only were they strikingly supportive of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, but also of gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, curbing climate change, and amnesty for illegal immigrants.

A new Pew Report finds that the Millennials are still heavily Democratic, though their identification with the party has slipped about 8%.

Still, as any good political consultant understands, politics is about more than just “politics” - it is about the values that the voting public holds.

So what kind of values does this demographic hold?

First of all, their priorities compare with those of their parents, although not entirely. Whether the discrepancies are simply due to youth or if there's an actual shift is uncertain, but either way it’s something to take seriously when trying to communicate with them.

From the report summary:

In weighing their own life priorities, Millennials (like older adults) place parenthood and marriage far above career and financial success. But they aren't rushing to the altar. Just one-in-five Millennials (21%) are married now, half the share of their parents' generation at the same stage of life. About a third (34%) are parents, according to the Pew Research survey. We estimate that, in 2006, more than a third of 18 to 29 year old women who gave birth were unmarried. This is a far higher share than was the case in earlier generations.

But their shifting priorities and values aren’t meant to be part of a counter-culture. Unlike the Woodstock Generation of the Baby-Boomer years, they respect their parents - and their parents’ values - tremendously.

Looking back at their teenage years, Millennials report having had fewer spats with mom or dad than older adults say they had with their own parents when they were growing up. And now, hard times have kept a significant share of adult Millennials and their parents under the same roof. About one-in-eight older Millennials (ages 22 and older) say they've "boomeranged" back to a parent's home because of the recession.

They respect their elders. A majority say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation when it comes to moral values and work ethic. Also, more than six-in-ten say that families have a responsibility to have an elderly parent come live with them if that parent wants to. By contrast, fewer than four-in-ten adults ages 60 and older agree that this is a family responsibility.

They also bring different perspectives to the arena than older generations did.

Despite coming of age at a time when the United States has been waging two wars, relatively few Millennials -- just 2% of males -- are military veterans. At a comparable stage of their life cycle, 6% of Gen Xer men, 13% of Baby Boomer men and 24% of Silent men were veterans.

This is in part - no doubt - because of the intensity of their educational background. A record 39.6% of 18-22 year olds were enrolled in college in 2008. But just because they aren’t serving their country on the battlefield doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to serve in general. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Volunteering for an organization or helping others without being paid is one way many Americans are involved in their communities. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) Millennials say that they had volunteered in the past 12 months, which is no higher than the proportion of Gen Xers (54%) who said they had done this. About half of Baby Boomers (52%) and just 39% of those in the Silent generation say they volunteered in the past year.

Millennials also tend to be more ethnically diverse, less religious, and have higher confidence in the efficacy of government.

And then of course there are all the ways they are more technologically advanced, which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Prediction Correct: Canada Got Home-Country Boost

Summary: Canada’s Olympic performance verifies that the host country does indeed win more medals than they would without home-field advantage.

Around the time the 2010 Winter Olympics began, we did an analysis which found that in eight of the past nine Olympics, the home-country did better than they do on average in terms of both overall medals and gold medals.

Now that the games are over, we decided to review our predictions.

We said that Canada - the host nation - would win 6 or 7 more medals than would otherwise be expected, including one or two additional gold medals.

This was based off the average medal increase that host countries saw over the past nine Olympics. Keep in mind there is a lot of variation on how much better the host country does. In theory, Canada should have brought in 2.57% additional available medals than they do on average during the Winter Games, including 2.1% additional golds.

We weren’t too far off.

With 26 medals overall - 14 of which were gold - Canada secured 1.68% more medals than they have on average. In a really surprising feat, they secured 9.91% more golds than on average.

In other words, Canada earned four or five more medals than they would have had the Olympics been outside their country, and a whopping eight or nine additional golds.

Meanwhile, the United States beat Canada (and the rest of the world) in the overall count (with 37 total medals), but lost in terms of gold medals (with only 9).

We really didn’t do too bad. We actually picked up about 4% more medals overall than on average for Winter games (though we did drop 0.14% in terms of golds). Perhaps our generally sound performance was due (at least in part) to Vancouver’s close proximity to the U.S. Our fans had a relatively short trip to make to support our athletes.

Either way, these findings further solidify our argument that Americans should always support their cities for hosting the games, regardless of politics.