North Star Blog

Jon McHenry, October 21

Jon McHenry’s comments regarding Florida as a must-win state for President Trump:

Come election night, Mr McHenry said how Florida votes could be indicative of the final result. The actual result will not be confirmed on Nov 3, but much later when all votes are counted.

“The cheat sheet is if President Trump hasn’t won Florida, while it might not be time to go to bed, it’s certainly time to brush your teeth and put on some pyjamas because it is very tough for him to win re-election if he doesn’t win in Florida,” he said.

To read the full article, explaining battleground states to an overseas audience, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 20

Whit Ayres’ comments to McCatchy News Services regarding reelection campaigns as referenda on incumbents:

“The president’s best scenario for re-election was making the election a choice between the incumbent and an unacceptable alternative,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “But both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have done a good job making the election a referendum on Donald Trump rather than a choice.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 22

Whit Ayres’ comments to Reuters regarding Republicans defending the Senate majority:

But not all is doom and gloom for Republicans, who believe they can still eke out a 51-seat majority by capturing Democratic seats in Alabama and Michigan and denying Democrats victory in North Carolina, Iowa and other states with strong Republican constituencies.

“We’ve got eight to ten races that are margin-of-error races. There’s no way in the world you could suggest that those are somehow over,” said Whit Ayres, a leading Republican pollster. “They’re far from out of reach.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, October 16

Dan Judy’s comments to The Hill regarding President Trump’s campaigning in the election’s home stretch:

The president’s tendency to return to the topic of Clinton’s emails — he raised the subject during a friendly interview with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh last week — is especially perplexing, even to Republicans.

“He is not running against Hillary Clinton, which is unfortunate for him because she was massively unpopular,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy. “He is doing what he did in 2016, and it worked, but I just don’t see it getting him any extra votes.”

Trump does have more fertile areas to plow. He consistently performs better on the economy than on any other issue. There is a widespread belief, in and beyond Republican circles, that a reelection campaign fought on that territory would give him the strongest chance of success.

The problem, of course, is that even many conservatives don’t believe Trump has the desire or self-discipline to stick with such a message.

“When there is a conspiracy theory about the death of Osama bin Laden you can tweet, why talk about the economy?” Dan Judy asked wryly. “He is not doing himself any favors.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 19

Whit Ayres’ comments to CNN on Republican Senate candidates running ahead of the President in their state:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, recently told CNN that Barrett is “an extraordinarily impressive woman who, if she has any political impact, will help Republicans in close races.” 

“We know it’s entirely possible for Republican senators running for reelection to run ahead of the President,” said Ayres. “The question is, ‘how far ahead of the President can they run?'”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 12

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign:

“At the end of the 2016 campaign, the president apparently cut back on his Twitter messages and became somewhat less visible at the time the Comey letter was becoming more and more prominent,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, referring to a letter that the director of the F.B.I. at the time, James B. Comey, sent to Congress after discovering a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s emails on a laptop used by Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of one of her top aides.

That letter is widely seen as affecting voter sentiment about Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee that year, late in the campaign, and no similar event has so far hurt Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has told aides he wants to be on the campaign trail every day and he has continued with his slashing, acerbic tweets.

“It’s not clear that seeing more of the president is necessarily a help to his campaign,” Mr. Ayres said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Outlook for 2020 Elections

Whit Ayres, September 16

Whit Ayres’ comments in the New Statesman about changing demographics and their electoral impact in Arizona and Texas:

“The narrative [that the states will swing this year] persists because of the constantly changing demographics of the Sun Belt,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster at North Star Opinion Research. In particular, as Ben Walker wrote elsewhere in the New Statesman, Hispanic voters are growing in number, especially in Arizona and Texas.

Arizona and Texas are “at different stages of their evolution”, Ayres said. Arizona is much further along than Texas. In Arizona, Democrats could pick up another Senate seat (one Arizona Senate seat is already held by a Democrat) and “maybe even [carry] the state at the presidential level”.

Texas, he said, is a cycle or two away from going Democratic, “but given the massive uncertainty created by the pandemic, nothing would surprise me in electoral outcomes” in the state.

“The fact that we are even talking about Arizona, Texas… possibly going Democratic really demonstrates the impact of demographic change,” Ayres added, “and increases exponentially the importance for Republicans of reaching out aggressively to new non-white voters.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 15

Jon McHenry’s comments to STAT News regarding President Trump’s proposal regarding prescription drug pricing:

“It’s a very savvy political move,” said Jon McHenry, the vice president of North Star Opinion Strategies, a Republican-aligned polling firm. “What you see is voters saying: ‘OK, he’s actually trying to do something on drug prices.’ That’s something that the Obama administration didn’t do, that’s something that Congress hasn’t taken on. So he probably does get some credit for following up on something that he said he would do during the [2016] election — without anyone getting to judge, ultimately, whether it’s good policy.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 9

Jon McHenry’s comments to STAT News regarding health care and the Kansas Senate race:

“Barbara Bollier could be in the right position for Kansas on surprise billing, but it’s likely to get drowned out by her abortion position,” said Jon McHenry, a pollster for the GOP-aligned group North Star Opinion Research. “Similarly, ACA repeal may not be decisive here if the conversation skews to other issues.”

Despite voters’ broad coronavirus anxiety, Bollier could still face difficulty incorporating the country’s pandemic struggles into her broader health care message, given Republicans’ large advantage in voter registration.

“Often 80% or more of Democrats will say they are very concerned about the effect of the pandemic, but that will drop to 50% to 60% among independents, and maybe 25% to 45% among Republicans,” said McHenry, the Republican-aligned pollster. “For some Republicans and independents, it’s more of a government control and economic issue than a ‘health care issue.’”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 9

Jon McHenry’s comments in POLITICO regarding a vote to legalize marijuana at the federal level:

But some pollsters say the House vote could muddle the party’s message with just weeks to go before Election Day, especially considering that Biden isn’t on board with blanket marijuana legalization.

“You’re harming your ability to defeat Donald Trump,” argued Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “He and his Republican allies get to say, ‘See, Joe Biden’s not going to be in control. Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez are in control.’”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, September 5

Whit Ayres’ comments to NBC News regarding President Trump’s judicial appointments:

“What’s more important is that he produce a list similar to what he produced in 2016. That’s far more important than the timing,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “The list of judges that Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society helped put together and then-candidate Trump announced was a critical component of his 2016 victory.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, August 27

Jon McHenry joined Episode Four of ITV’s “Will Trump Win?” podcast to talk about the election (and just a little about Liverpool):

https://www.itv.com/news/2020-08-06/will-trump-win-podcast-join-us-every-week-for-insight-and-exclusive-interviews-on-donald-trumps-battle-with-joe-biden

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/episode-4-shock-method-in-rnc-madness-how-coronavirus/id1525264693?i=1000489210294

Whit Ayres, August 24

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico comparing the 2020 and 1980 elections:

“This election feels to me a lot like 1980,” said Whit Ayres, one of the country’s best Republican pollsters. “We had the Iranian hostage crisis, double digit inflation and unemployment. It just felt like events were spinning out of control and the president had little ability to effect positive outcomes.”

Ayres added, “There were doubts about whether Reagan was a credible alternative. They had one debate and Reagan came across as credible—and the dam broke. There are similar doubts about Joe Biden now; not his experience, but his ability to do the job. Can he persuade voters that he is up to the challenge?”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Philadelphia Inquirer regarding campaigning with significant mail-in balloting:

Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who has worked on many races in Florida, where mail voting is prevalent, said it “complicates life enormously” for campaigns, “because you need to start advertising earlier, start getting out the vote earlier, but then you need to extend those efforts all the way up through Election Day.”


But other Republicans worry that Trump’s diatribes could hamper GOP turnout.

“It’s a concern that trashing the idea of mail voting is going to suppress Republican votes,” Ayres said. “Republicans could be leaving a whole lot of votes on the table if they discourage their own supporters from voting by mail.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding politics and the pandemic:

“The pandemic obviously changes the way politics will be conducted in a dramatic fashion. But beyond that, the pandemic heightens the importance of the election,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “In many ways, the pandemic has proven to the country that politics really matters and who gets elected really matters in ways that few other events of our lifetimes have done.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 8

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Hill on legislation to address the coronavirus:

But strategists warn that taking too tough a line in the negotiations could backfire for both sides.

“The most important thing is to get a package passed — period. That’s far more important than the details of what’s in it for most voters,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

“Who knows how much more time we have with this virus? But if you look at the 1918 flu pandemic as an example, we may not even be halfway through it at this point,” he added. “In an emergency, you spend what you need to try to address the problem and then figure out how to pay for it later.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 17

Whit Ayres’ comments to National Public Radio regarding Republicans and demographic changes:

The party is indeed in danger of losing power as a consequence of not having followed the autopsy’s recommendations, according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

“For the most part, the Republican Party has done the opposite of what was recommended in the 2013 autopsy,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why so many rapidly changing demographic states are now in play for the Democrats that used to be solidly Republican — states like Arizona and Texas and Georgia and North Carolina.”

Trump found short-term success, he says, but at a cost, as America’s electorate grows more diverse with every passing year.

“For the Republican Party to be successful in the long run. It’s going to have to adapt to a changing America, not react against it,” he added.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 15

Whit Ayres’ comments in USA Today about the Trump campaign’s television buying strategy:

Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who has worked for Sens. Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander and Lindsey Graham, said the Trump campaign’s decision to make early television pushes in Georgia, Iowa and Ohio was “smart” and reflects that more states are up for grabs than 2016.

“We have a lot more states that are in play today because Republicans have become significantly weaker in suburban areas at the same time they’ve become stronger in rural areas. And because of demographic changes that are occurring throughout the Sun Belt that have been ongoing for some years,” Ayres said, referring to Georgia and Texas.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 10

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding tone and the 2020 election:

Yet this week, in interview after interview, suburbanites described Mr. Trump as a polarizing and deeply flawed messenger on the most searing issue of the day. “College-educated suburban women do not want to support someone who is perceived to be intolerant on racial issues,” said Whit Ayres, the veteran Republican pollster. “That has been true for many years, and is particularly true now, after the George Floyd killing.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, July 9

Jon McHenry’s comments to National Public Radio on the likelihood of Republican defections in this year’s presidential contest:

Polling has shown that the vast majority of Republicans intend to vote for Trump’s reelection. Conservative opposition appears to be a sliver of the overall electorate.

“It’s very small,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research who’s skeptical that these GOP-for-Biden groups will influence Republicans. “You’re not gonna knock President Trump from say 95% of Republicans down to 85% of Republicans on the basis of some ads from former staffers in a previous administration.”

McHenry added: “It would be probably more persuasive to Republicans if it were current officeholders that were taking this stand.”

In other words, [Julie] Azari said, the reason Trump appears so popular with the GOP is because some would-be Republicans no longer identify as Republican. In the past half-century, no Democratic presidential candidate has won white voters with a college degree; those voters have comprised a loyal GOP voting bloc. But in the past few years, they’ve begun moving away from the party.

“There’s a decent chunk of those white college-educated voters who support [GOP] policies, they support the tax cuts, but you know, they wouldn’t be crazy about President Trump demanding an apology from Bubba Wallace this week,” said McHenry, referring to the Black NASCAR driver Trump singled out on Twitter.

McHenry said if the presidential campaign eventually shifts into more policy debates, those white college-educated voters will be forced to make a choice between policy and tone. And it’s possible policy will win out.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 4

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding growing the Republican coalition:

“The president’s base is locked in. They love him, they’re going to turn out and they’re going to vote for him,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “The problem is that the base is not enough to win. You can make a case that protecting Confederate monuments is very popular among at least a portion of his base, but it does nothing to expand the coalition, and that’s the imperative at the moment and will be going forward if the party hopes to govern.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, June 30

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding the Republican Party, President Trump, and race:

Another Republican strategist, Dan Judy, noted that there were real implications for Trump, and to some extent the broader GOP, with key voting blocs.

Racially charged rhetoric from the president, Judy said, “hurts [the GOP] among key constituencies that it desperately needs: suburban voters — and white suburban women, to be very specific. It also energizes nonwhite voters against the president. So it is potentially a double whammy at the presidential level.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Financial Times regarding Senator Tim Scott’s leadership in the U.S. Senate:

Whit Ayres, president of North Star Opinion Research, a Republican pollster, agreed, describing Mr Scott as a “conservative who understands the importance of making pragmatic arguments to advance his cause”.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic on increasing electoral challenges for Republicans in the once solid South:

Even the Republicans relatively confident that Trump’s grip on rural voters will allow him to hold most, if not all, of these states recognize the implications of a trend that has them losing ground in the communities that are preponderantly driving economic and population growth.

“The trends of 2016, ’17, ’18 are continuing apace, with continuing weakness of the Republican brand in suburban areas that had traditionally voted Republican, coupled with strengthening of the Republican brand in rural areas that had traditionally voted Democrat,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who has long specialized in southern suburbs, told me. “The problem, of course, is that the Republicans are trading larger, faster-growing areas for smaller, slower-growing areas, and the math does not work out in the long run with that sort of trade.”

The core political question in the large Sun Belt metro areas may be whether residents are grateful that their governors have given them more freedom to resume daily activities or resentful that they have put them at greater risk by reopening so widely. Ayres said the answer is likely some of both. “I really think there’s a limit to how long you can enforce a rigid lockdown in a country where freedom and liberty are core values,” he told me. “That said, it is now impossible to dismiss this pandemic as a hoax or just the flu or any of the other dismissive appellations that have been applied to it.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 23

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding coronavirus and health care policy:

“It certainly increases the pressure for some sort of minimal health care coverage that everyone can count on,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding racial justice, protests, and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s killing:

“Most Americans are fair-minded people who want justice to be done in situations where wrong has occurred,” the Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “But they also believe that you shouldn’t go out destroying innocent people’s property and threatening people’s lives as a means of doing so.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 4

Whit Ayres’ comments on political credibility in Sahara Reporters:

There are “three keys to credibility,” says Whit Ayres, a Republican political consultant. “One, never defend the indefensible. Two, never deny the undeniable. And no 3 is: Never lie.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 3

Whit Ayres’ comments to Bloomberg News regarding re-opening the economy during the coronavirus pandemic:

“You’re balancing competing values: the importance of the economy and the food chain and the importance of public health,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “You’re making judgment calls with no obvious answers.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Health Data Privacy

In January, our firm conducted a national online survey of voters for the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, focusing on voter attitudes toward health care generally and privacy of health care data specifically. In some ways, January was a lifetime ago. For that very reason, however, the results set a baseline of attitudes regarding health care data.

First, the results show that, even before most voters had heard of coronavirus or thought about a global pandemic, health care was the top issue tested despite the survey being conducted the week of missiles being fired in the Middle East. Overall 80 percent of voters said health care cost and access was the single most important (28 percent) or a very important (52 percent) issue, surpassing jobs and the economy (79 percent, including 23 percent single most important) and national security (76 percent, including 24 percent single most important).

At that time, voters were not particularly focused on privacy, with just 58 percent saying they remembered signing a HIPAA form at a doctor’s office. Among that subgroup, just 22 percent said they paid a great deal of attention to the form, while 43 percent paid some attention, 24 percent paid not much attention, and 12 percent paid no attention at all. Voters did care about access to their personal health information through a smartphone or computer, with 33 percent saying it was very important and 40 percent saying it was somewhat important; that was particularly important for voters 18 to 34 (44 percent very important and 39 percent somewhat important).

Voters in January were notably more concerned about their financial information being stolen (40 percent very concerned) or their purchase history and credit card information from an online retailer (37 percent) than about their health records (27 percent), which was on a par with personal data and posts on social media (28 percent).

Particularly relevant now, in Particularly relevant now, in light of Apple and Google’s joint announcement that they would develop software to help trace the spread of the coronavirus, is that 81 percent of voters said technology companies should not have access to personal health care information. In fact, a majority of voters (58 percent) said medical researchers should not have that access, putting these responses potentially in conflict with the efforts to combat a global pandemic. How the medical community, governments, and tech companies address this tension will go a long way toward charting a course to conquering coronavirus.