Posted in Behind the News

Stepping back from the horse race

, by Paul Colford

Five years after the launch of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the organization has been shining a bright light on why the presidential campaign has defied initial predictions.

A poll released this week found that reducing income inequality, a message championed by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, resonates deeply with Democrats. More than three-quarters of them said narrowing the gap between rich and poor is very or extremely important for the next president to address.

Another recent survey found more than 6 in 10 respondents expressed only slight confidence — or none at all — that the federal government can make progress on the problems facing the nation in 2016.

Many of the survey’s breakdowns reflect the debate among Republican presidential hopefuls. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz characterize the Obama administration as an irresponsible manager of taxpayer resources that’s unable to ensure national security and protect U.S. interests amid international threats and strife.

AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said: “Our goal with AP-NORC surveys in a presidential election year is to dive deeply into the issues that Americans care about — the issues that drive their votes, their attitudes, their feelings — rather than just the horse race of whom they plan to vote for at any given moment in time. We feel that’s ultimately much richer, more illuminating and more compelling to our readers and viewers.”

“The horse race will change all the way up until the moment voters cast their ballots,” U.S. Political Editor David Scott said. “What we’re after is how voters get to that moment. We want to know what Americans value and how that shapes the choices they make about the country’s leadership.”

AP-NORC Center Director Trevor Tompson said: “One mission of the center is to use polling to really give a voice to Americans in the political process. Our work focuses on the most important issues that are facing the nation and the world. It asks what issues people want their government and their leaders to focus on, and what should be done to address those problems.”

Tompson added: “So while we are not really changing our strategy for the election, it is especially important in an election year for us to do this work to help inform candidates, policy makers, journalists and the public about what issues the people want addressed in the campaign, and what the people think about the key issues that are facing the country.”

Here are some of the AP-NORC Center’s other recent studies:

Americans’ views on money in politics

Americans evaluate the balance between security and civil liberties

The importance of economic issues

You can follow the AP-NORC Center on Twitter at @APNORC.