NBC Poll: Change More Important than Honesty in Presidential Election

A NBC/Survey monkey poll was published today.  I don’t profess to be a statistician, but there are some interesting insights about what voters actually care about (as opposed to what certain politicians are hammering on) that might surprise you.  The bottom line is this: Americans care more about the economy, jobs, and economic inequality.  They care less about religious freedom and ISIS and Iran and Planned Parenthood and Citizens United.  People want change in Washington DC, and they care more that the next President can deliver that, and less about whether the President is trustworthy or has the “appropriate” experience.

So here’s the detailed breakdown:

The most important issue in choosing the next President is jobs and the economy (28%). Taxes and government spending comes in second (16%), and economic inequality third (10%).  Healthcare got 8% of the poll, religious freedom, terrorism, foreign policy and education polled at 5-6%, and climate change and campaign finance were the least important issues (3% and 1% respectively).  For context, the sample skewed slightly conservative.** This is interesting, because Republican candidates have been hammering on religious freedom (Huckabee on Kim Davis, Trump and Carson on Muslims and Obama) but maybe folks care less than they think.  Healthcare, if it can be broadly construed to contain both Obamacare and funding for Planned Parenthood is maybe not the hot issue that both sides think it is.

Nearly a third of respondents said that the quality that matters most in selecting a President is the ability to bring about needed change (32%).  It’s interesting that the desire for change was more important that a candidate’s honest or trustworthiness (20%) or strength of leadership (16%).  Polling very low was “experience” (4%), and we’re seeing all of this reflected in the popularity of “outsiders” (real, imagined, or branded…) in both party races.  Respondents also seem to care very little that the President would be like them or care specifically about them or people like them (12%).  This might explain why Trump and Fiorina, one-percenters who don’t have rags to riches stories, and who have made cutthroat decisions as CEOs, are appealing to voters. Republicans are hammering Hilary Clinton on her lack of trustworthiness, but this poll shows that people don’t care about that as much as Republicans might like.

*First, full disclaimer, the poll was taken on the Survey Monkey site, meaning that people self-selected to answer the questions.  This means that the poll is a “non-probability” (not a true random sample) poll.  The sample size is 5,113 adults 18 years + who are pretty well split between Republican, Democrat and Independent.  The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points.  I think it’s important to be healthily skeptical of tiny, non-probability polls because they aren’t very robust statistically and I think they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

**The sample had about the same amount of people who identified as Republican or Democrat (29%, 31%), with 37% identifying as independent.  However, their views skewed conservative (35% saying they were “conservative or very conservative,” 37% saying they were “moderate,” and 24% saying they were “liberal” or “very liberal.”).


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