Donald Trump was an unprecedented Republican Presidential nominee – he was not a politician having never even run for office, he eschewed traditional scripted speeches in favor of off the cuff and sometimes politically incorrect remarks, and he was heavily underwater on his favorability. Mr. Trump was the clear leader in the heated Republican Primary battle but had just lost the Wisconsin primary badly to Senator Cruz. FLA was asked to develop a plan to help the campaign finish off the nomination fight and later to develop a strategic plan to win the Presidency against a better organized and better funded opponent in Hillary Clinton.
The team at FLA first determined what states offered up the best opportunities for Mr. Trump to win and reach the ultimate goal of 270 electoral votes. Using cutting-edge online research survey methods, FLA highlighted five states that had not voted Republican since at least the 1980’s which Mr. Trump had a reasonable chance of stealing from the Democrats. Furthermore, vulnerable states that had been won by Mitt Romney were also pinned down as needing to be protected and every one of those ended up staying in the GOP column.
Once pathways to 270 had been determined, the Polling and Research team under the leadership of Fabrizio Lee set about employing numerous methods of public opinion research to guide the campaign to victory. Traditional phone surveys kept accurate and real-time measurements of the key states. Online testing was key in developing the strongest messaging to support Mr. Trump’s campaign as well contrast it to that of Hillary Clinton. In-person and online focus groups were used for deep dives into how undecided and persuadable voters felt about the candidates, and what could lead them to supporting Mr. Trump. One key finding was that contrasting the two candidates’ positions was more impactful than only attacking Hillary Clinton.
Ultimately, the team at FLA kept coming back to one thing they were seeing in every aspect of their research – voters were desperate for Change and a shakeup of the DC political establishment. In many cases, this went beyond even a voter’s traditional ideological beliefs. With this knowledge, FLA was able to identify with precision the voters who wanted change but were not supporting Mr. Trump. Knowing their beliefs, what messages most strongly resonated with them, and their media consumption habits, FLA advised the leadership teams in each key state how best to reach this hugely important cohort of voters.
Clinton massively outspent Mr. Trump, attacking him constantly over the airwaves. As Election Day arrived, no one gave Mr. Trump a chance. However, Trump’s message of Change hit its mark and the Democratic “Blue Wall” crumbled, as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin turned Red. Those victories, along with Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa, pushed Mr. Trump past 300 electoral votes and he was elected the 45th President of the United States of America.