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In made-for-TV Trump focus groups, I don’t trust

In made-for-TV Trump focus groups, I don’t trust

Frank Luntz Trump focus groups achieve desired result.

This past Wednesday night, GOP consultant Frank Luntz discussed the results of his “focus group” with Donald Trump supporters, concluding that their enthusiasm for the candidate is unshakeable.

From the Washington Post to National Review and FOX News, much is being made of the focus group participants’ unwavering support for Trump even when presented with negative ads and statements from the candidate, including Kasich’s ad comparing Trump to Hitler.

The wearying theatrics of Frank-Luntz “focus groups” are one of the speed bumps we viewers have to navigate during the election season. I am resigned to the fact that producers think someone still marvels at the “dials” and the Price Is Right aspect to it all.

Why we shouldn’t pay any attention to this focus group:

  1. The research question,”Is there any way to make you stop supporting Trump?” is poorly constructed and yields no meaningful responses.
  2. The methodology is flawed — the focus groups are televised, the sample size is far too large, the moderator is a performer, and focus groups themselves rarely yield rich insight.
  3. The conclusions are obvious and uninteresting.

1) Selecting a research question such as “is there any way to make you stop supporting Trump” shows exactly where Luntz’s prejudices lie.

If I were conducting market research to understand the mind of a Trump supporter, something I do for my day job, I would begin a much different way: “what draws you to him?” This is the appropriate question to ask of a strong supporter.

Let’s suppose — and Luntz has given us the ammunition to make such a supposition — that Luntz, or his bosses, detest Trump and truly wants to weaken this foe of the GOP establishment.

Strategically, it makes no sense to go after the high-intensity supporters to see what changes their mind (probably very little, especially in this highly charged atmosphere). Rather, they ought to go to the “default Trump” supporters — the undecideds in the GOP — or those picking candidates considered more conservative than the GOP picks, but not Trump (Carson, Cruz). These would be the appropriate subjects to subject to a focus group.

2) Of course, focus groups are themselves inadequate at deriving truly useful insight.

A Luntz performance, woefully inadequate. I have moderated many focus groups and the fact that participants influence each other while in the room, even with a skillful moderator to cultivate the quiet ones and quell the loudmouths, makes the insights quite unreliable.

Does Luntz realize the deficiency of the research question and his methodology (televised, ever-growing sample sizes, moderator-as-performer)? I would assume he does.

3) When he expresses supreme surprise at the result, is he truly surprised?

I would hope not — I would not expect to find a different result if we collected Hillary-Clinton brand champions in a room and asked them to react to ads attacking her about Benghazi. These are Trump’s strongest supporters. Nor, as I discussed earlier, would this be a thoughtful strategy or methodology to utilize to understand how to weaken support for Hillary Clinton among her strongest supporters.

“You actually ran the negative ads and they were laughing at them,” Hannity said to Luntz on his show Wednesday night.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Luntz responds.

I’ve never seen anything like the relentless intractability of the GOP Establishment in their desire to belittle a majority of those whom they are meant to represent. Who are sending them quite the message, loud and clear, no focus group required to interpret.

Ask not “how can we get these Trumpkins to stop supporting him” and rather, “what is it that drives their support?” “What are we missing that might help us understand our base better?” And don’t televise it.


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Luntz is a tool, plain and simple!

ScottTheEngineer | December 11, 2015 at 9:17 pm

I found your article slightly insulting as I imagine was its intent.
Luntz’s focus group questions are absolutely in line with the current topic of discussion and I wouldn’t seek to belittle people for their opinions. Most of the people I work with are Trump supporters, I’d say 90%. the remaining 10% like Cruz or Carson, mostly Cruz. They have no idea who the others are and Hate Jeb almost as much as Hillary. The Comparison on that one is like comparing the size of the U.S. Military at #1 to Saddams Iraq Military at #3 but the sentiment is there. If The GOP chooses Jeb to be the nominee and Trump/Carson run independant, Hillary, Bernie or Feauxcahontas will win.
Trumps fans don’t have the same idolatry of Ron Pauls people but they’re damn close.

I’m puzzled by Scott’s take; I thought the author played it straight. I agree with her about Luntz, and about the GOP Establishment.

I’m a Trump supporter, and my support is not idolatry. It’s a cold, hard calculation about who I believe will be the best President.

Trump is not nearly conservative enough for my taste, but we can only vote for the candidates who run.

Like the polling data, all these so called focus groups are preselected.

Anybody else notice that the Texas Secession movement failed?

Secession is very popular in Texas, because Texans have the right to do it, all the way up until it gets serious. Then it stops dead.

Nobody has had to actually vote for any GOP candidate, yet. Not even in a primary.

    Milhouse in reply to Valerie. | December 13, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Texans have exactly the same right to secede that the people of any other state have, no more. The idea that Texas has some special status in this regard has no basis in fact.

Luntz has been and still is a major putz. He was dancing around spreading superlatives like pixie dust after the first debate telling us Trump was dead and buried. Here is a man who is a True Believer in his own propaganda. The fact that many in the GOP actually pay for it says more about their gullibility than anything else.

Nice takedown, Sorock.

    Gunstar1 in reply to DaMav. | December 11, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Yes, Luntz is an idiot. Once he did the focus group with Trump supporters and said “my legs were shaking”.

    Really? Frankly only a republican with their head up their butt wouldn’t know that conservatives are pissed off at the establishment.

    Take all of an hour and read the comments from some conservative blogs. Everyone is tired of the broken promises, but it comes as a shock to Luntz.

Luntz represents FNC so completely that I am astonished. Back when it was Romney FNC was all about the RNC and the Republican ideals but now that their boy, Rubio or Jeb are no where to be seen it is attack Trump 24/7. It is unbelievable that every single one of their one hour segments with totally different people say the same things about Trump. I have lost so much respect for the individuals there and that is a first for me. About the only people left there that don’t go after him daily are Lou Dobbs and Greta, although she does have Trump haters on her show a lot. Hannity seems to be ok with him but I am not sure. The opinion pages of the
WSJ are the same way. I’ve read them for years and they always seemed to be real conservative but still practical. Now it’s full steam ahead against Trump with their boy Jeb waiting in the wings. I’m fed up with the dishonesty of them all.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to inspectorudy. | December 12, 2015 at 2:07 am

    You’re hallucinating if you think Fox is out to get Trump. Except Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier, they fall all over themselves for the fraudulent, lying, conniving SOB.

    Luntz is shocked that when he runs a focus group that he has not rigged in advance, it shows a result that frightens him and his employer.

Free. Trump remains popular. And, Drudge gets to show this off in his headlines. There is no other GOP “contendah.” Just the usual garbage you get from DC.

Meanwhile, you think there’s any enthusiasm at all for Hillary? Again, Drudge just slaps pictures of her eyeballs up in his headline space. And, both parties are STUCK! No one things highly of any politician.

Surprised? That’s what has been happening all year. Trump does something; everybody condems him; his numbers go higher.

Rigged or not what Luntz sees is what has been happening.

Luntz has been behind the curve for elections since before obama got elected. The people he snags to participate are mostly ill-informed and pathetic. The problem is that the public has grown to be disgusted with both parties. Neither works for the public’s best interest or follows the Constitution and that’s why the public is suffering and won’t take political nonsense anymore.

Frank Luntz is a sock puppet for the GOPe. F’ him.

“I’ve never seen anything like the relentless intractability of the GOP Establishment in their desire to belittle a majority of those whom they are meant to represent. Who are sending them quite the message, loud and clear, no focus group required to interpret.

Ask not ‘how can we get these Trumpkins to stop supporting him’ and rather, ‘what is it that drives their support?’ ‘What are we missing that might help us understand our base better?’ And don’t televise it.”

Which has been pointed out again and again since this interminable election season began. My personal choice for the question the GOPe should ask, however, is: Why do they hate us so?

He should have just read a paper on the ‘backfire effect’. Contradictory facts only make stongly held beliefs stronger.