The National Republican Congressional Committee is the first GOP entity to take specific steps to try to rectify the party’s widely acknowledged polling debacle. Republican strategists confirmed after the end of the 2012 race that a huge slice of their survey data was based on flawed assumptions, and failed to anticipate the diversity and scale of turnout on the Democratic side.
The Republicans’ 17-seat House majority is their last bulwark against full Democratic control of the federal government, and senior party officials say they don’t intend to lose that firewall thanks to shoddy polling.
With that in mind, the NRCC has gathered its top pollsters for a series of meetings and conference calls in the first months of 2013, bringing together prominent commercial rivals for conversations about how to right an embattled political industry.
The cornerstone of their effort, officials say, is a large-scale NRCC project to model the electorate in the several dozen districts that will determine control of the House. The committee has formed a new Strategy Department tasked with projecting district-by-district population changes and mapping best- and worst-case turnout scenarios for campaigns to use in guiding their surveys.
The new division is organized under John Rogers, a former regional political director, and will work closely with the NRCC’s polling vendors in its modeling project.
The NRCC-organized talks between pollsters have also produced a set of standards and practices that campaigns will be urged to follow for 2014. Pollsters will be expected to have at least 30 percent of their samples made up of cell phone users, if not more – an attempt to capture more of the Democratic-leaning young voters who eluded GOP survey-gatherers last year.
In districts with significant Hispanic populations, party officials will urge campaigns to spring for Spanish-language call centers in order to survey less-assimilated Hispanic respondents who may not answer a poll in English.