With campaign season ramping up for the presidential nominees, media outlets are displaying new polling results on a daily basis. The public’s perception of candidates changes from state to state. Gaining a true indicator of what US citizens are thinking is rather challenging thru the use of polling surveys alone. Focus groups, often associated with market research for products and services, provide a cost-effective and unfiltered outlet for the general public to provide their insights and opinions with regards to political campaigns.
As Brad Bannon put it, “In political research, polling and focus groups should go together like a horse and carriage. But, often the only kind of research that campaigns conduct is a poll. Polls serve an important need in politics but they are rigid, structured and formal….Focus groups are in depth discussions with ten to twelve voters for a period of one and a half to two hours that deal with candidates, issues and verbiage. They are meetings with voters selected at random by phone within defined demographic parameters that offer in-depth information that mold the campaign into a being.”
Focus groups offer an opportunity for political campaign leaders to gain insights from voters that polling surveys are not designed to capture. Campaign messaging stands to gain substantially from focus group feedback in the form of improved verbiage and tone. If the voters fail to grasp the message, it won’t resonate in an effective manner. Giving voters a voice early in the process can yield valuable information and help shape the foundation of campaign messaging in a manner that is more likely produce the desired outcomes.
Bannon went on to explain his stance with regards to which should come first, the focus groups or the surveys. ”The best reason to do focus groups first is that the information from the groups may provide valuable insight into the construction of the baseline questionnaire. The people in the campaign will have strong ideas about the questionnaire based on their knowledge of the area. The researcher will also have firm ideas about the content of the questionnaire on the basis of his or her polls in other areas.”
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