New poll: only 3% of Trump voters regret their vote

Image credit: Penn State

Eric Plutzer, professor of political science and editor of Public Opinion Quarterly, and Michael Berkman,professor of political science and director of Penn State University’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, recently co-authored an article on The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog about the latest results from the Penn State “Mood of the Nation Poll.” Here’s an excerpt:

Eric Plutzer

“Our Feb. 23-27 poll asked a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans to report on how they cast their vote in November. The results of these reports closely align with other national polls, with Hillary Clinton voters comprising 49 percent of the sample, Trump voters 46 percent, with 3 percent and 2 percent for minor-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, respectively.

“Who would vote differently?

Michael Berkman

“On the next screen, we asked everyone, ‘Suppose you could go back in time and vote again in the November election. What would you do?’

“Respondents were presented with the same choices — Trump, Clinton, Stein, Johnson, someone else, or not vote at all. Of the 339 poll participants who originally voted for Trump, only 12 (3½ percent) said they would do something different.

“Only three individuals (fewer than 1 percent of Trump voters) said that, could they go back in time, they would cast their vote for Clinton. Seven said they would vote for one of the minor-party candidates.”

Read the full article at

New poll: Pennsylvanians have positive perceptions of government performance

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A new poll shows that most Pennsylvanians feel that their state and federal governments are doing a good job in delivering public services, but some segments of the population are less positive. According to researchers in Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs, the survey results could have implications in the upcoming elections and also highlight groups of citizens requiring more attention from policymakers and agency administrators.

The data consist of responses from 660 randomly selected adult Pennsylvania residents who were asked two versions of the same question: “Please think about the job the [federal/state] government is doing in delivering services. Examples of services include transportation, parks and recreation, responding to natural disasters, and keeping people safe. Is the [federal/state] government doing a very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad, or very bad job?” (The data was collected as part of an omnibus survey administered by telephone through the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg between Aug. 18 and Oct. 15, 2016.)

As was the case with participants in a national telephone survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015, most Pennsylvania residents in this survey had positive views about the overall performance of the federal and state government. Overall, 69.2 percent of Pennsylvanians rated somewhat good or very good the performance of the federal government in delivering public services. A slightly lower percentage, 64.7 percent, had the same perception for services provided by the Commonwealth.

“One way we can understand citizen voting behavior is by assessing their perceptions of government performance – whether citizens think government is doing a good job or not in delivering services,” said Patria de Lancer Julnes, director of the School of Public Affairs. “These perceptions are often interpreted as a reflection of trust in government and have been found to make a difference for incumbents in elections, with voters often castigating poor performance.”

Pennsylvania leaned Republican for most of the 20th century, but has voted for Democratic candidates for president since 1992. With a Democratic governor currently in office, Pennsylvania is considered a battleground state for the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic presidential vote of Pennsylvania in the last six national elections has been driven by the more urban and densely populated cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

According to Michele Tantardini, assistant professor of public administration, from a management perspective, gauging citizen satisfaction is not only an accountability tool but also a feedback mechanism that could potentially help to improve programs and policies.

In the recent survey, certain groups of respondents were not as positive as the respondents overall. Regarding federal government services, Northwestern Pennsylvanians, minorities, non-Democratic party affiliates, and those with only some college education were less positive. In evaluating state government services, 35 to 64 year olds, men, minorities, non-Democratic party affiliates, and those with graduate work were less positive than citizens overall.

“All of this information provides policymakers a glimpse of the mood of Pennsylvanians prior to the presidential elections,” Julnes said. “Although overall it is positive toward the incumbent party, some segments of the population are less satisfied with this performance. If, as suggested by prior research, positive perceptions of performance are a proxy for support for incumbents, then the Democratic Party could do well in Pennsylvania in the upcoming elections. On the other hand, prior research also suggests that those with more negative perceptions might cast their vote for opposition parties even though there may be no assurances that they would improve performance.”

For additional information, see the Nov. 1, 2016 Public Administration Research Brief.

Poll reveals three types of Independents

Michael Berkman | Director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and Professor of Political Science


Political conventions focus attention on strong partisans. But not all Americans call themselves Democrats or Republicans, or for that matter Libertarians or Greens. Many prefer to think of themselves as Independents.

Michael Berkman

Michael Berkman

With the McCourtney “Mood of the Nation Poll,” we can look at these Independents in a unique way. The poll is a scientific survey that allows ordinary citizens to tell us what is on their minds, without being restricted to a small number of predetermined answers. It also includes standard polling questions such as party identification, allowing us to see who these independents are and what are they thinking about this campaign. The most recent poll posed a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans between June 15 and June 22.

Determining who is an Independent is not straightforward. CNN, in its post-convention survey, reports that “28% described themselves as Democrats, 24% described themselves as Republicans, and 48% described themselves as independents or members of another party.” This is not far from our survey.  Our breakdown shows a greater number of Independents (35 percent) than Republicans or Democrats.

Source: McCourtney Institute for Democracy "Mood of the Nation" poll

Source: McCourtney Institute for Democracy “Mood of the Nation” poll

That’s a lot of Independents. But when we dig deeper, we find that they’re not all the same. There are actually three groups of independents: Those who lean Democratic, those who lean Republican, and what we might call “pure” Independents.

Leaners tend to vote as a partisan but do not necessarily want to call themselves one. For example, in our poll, 10 percent of the population calls itself Independent, but support Hillary Clinton at roughly the same rate as Democrats (this is before the convention), while they are even less supportive of Donald Trump then those who call themselves Democrats. The same is true among Republican-leaning Independents. They support Trump in even greater numbers than pure Republicans, and Clinton even less so.

Source: McCourtney Institute for Democracy "Mood of the Nation" poll

Source: McCourtney Institute for Democracy “Mood of the Nation” poll

Once we remove the leaners there are actually fewer than 20 percent of the population who we can call true independents. This group is still in play, and important for creating a winning majority. What do we know about them?

Based on our data we can conclude the following:

  • Relative to partisans and partisan leaners, true Independents are more likely to call themselves moderate. As the parties have polarized and sorted themselves into ideological camps, pure independents are likely uncomfortable in either party.
  • They are younger than either party. Absent a long voting history, these younger voters have not yet found a partisan identity, and perhaps never will.
  • They are less politically engaged: True Independents are less likely to be registered to vote (and therefore less likely to vote) and they acknowledge paying less attention to the news.

But our open-ended questions allow us to go deeper. In particular, we asked them what if anything made them hopeful about American politics, and what made them angry. Their answers suggest they are greatly hostile toward contemporary American politics, and they have little hope that this election will improve things.

When asked what they were angry about, pure independents were most likely to answer simply “everything.” But after that, they go through a series of responses that suggest disillusionment with politics. Close to half of them (47 percent) gave an answer that suggested anger with politicians or the system. They think the system is rigged, they consider politicians to be liars who break promises and they are angry about what they see as bickering and fighting among politicians.

These quotes were typical of the independents we surveyed:

  • A 52 year-old women and self-described “homekeeper” from Minnesota who pays little attention to politics and who is not registered to vote wrote: “Nobody really listens they say what they think you want to hear and make promises they can’t keep. They need to remember everyone has to work together to get things done and they can’t make a blanket statement to try to cover everything, they have to work ach [sic] problem out and know they are doing the best they can.”
  • A 62 year-old retired man from California who pays attention to politics “some of the time,” calls himself liberal and who is registered to vote wrote: “I hate it when they reveal each other’s dirty laundry, especially when they all are guilty of lying, and not living up to their promises.”

Given Independents hostility to politics they seem like they could be ripe for the picking by the Trump campaign. His is an “outsider” campaign that regularly disparages traditional politics, and Hillary Clinton is a long-standing practitioner. Our latest poll shows that Trump is leading in this group.

On the other hand, these pure independents hold out very little hope for American politics. Unlike partisans — who can point with some hope to their party’s candidate winning — when we asked pure independents what they were hopeful about, a whopping 61 percent said “nothing.” Given that fewer independents are registered and many do not pay attention to politics, they are far from a sure bet.

As the election proceeds, we will continue to track this group, and see whether either campaign can address their concerns about a system that is corrupt and not working, and break through their prevailing sense of hopelessness.

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