News Clips

Reporters and analysts rely on the expertise and comments of team members at North Star Opinion Research to give their stories depth and strategic perspective.  Read clips from recent articles on pressing political news.


Whit Ayres, January 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding the future of the Republican party:

“January 6 is the opening battle in the war for the soul of the Republican Party,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “The party is now split between the governing wing and the populist wing even more sharply than it was during the tea party period.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, January 12

Dan Judy’s comments to Talking Points Memo regarding calls for unity after the attack on the Capitol:

Dan Judy, Vice President of North Star Opinion Research, a consultancy for Republican candidates, told TPM that the “unity” pushers can be put in two categories. The first, Republicans who opposed Trump’s rhetoric on election fraud and voted to uphold the Electoral College certification, have at least a “credible and morally consistent argument” when they say that an impeachment would further rip apart the country, he said. 

Not so for the other Republicans, those that fed into and amplified Trump’s conspiracy theories, he added. 

“Calls for unity from them with no acknowledgement of the President’s part in this simply have no credibility beyond the hardest-core Trump base,” he said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 6

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic regarding electoral changes in Georgia:

The historical context is that in Georgia, as in most southern states that voted reliably Democratic for the first century after the Civil War, Republicans established their initial beachheads in what were then “white flight” suburbs around Atlanta. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who once lived and worked in Georgia, notes that when the GOP started seriously competing with Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s, Gwinnett and Cobb were the party’s first strongholds. “As Republicans, we used to get 60-plus percent in Cobb and Gwinnett,” Ayres told me. By contrast, both Warnock and Ossoff won almost exactly 60 percent of the vote in Gwinnett, and between 56 and 57 percent of the vote in Cobb.

Instead, Perdue and (especially) Loeffler tried to reinvent themselves as born-again Trump-style populists. Both supported the president unreservedly—to the point of denouncing the state’s Republican election officials and backing challenges to the November vote that would invalidate the results, and disenfranchise the voters, in their own state. The apex—or nadir—of their reinvention came on Monday night, the day before the election, when Loeffler (in person) and Perdue (via video) shared a stage in rural northwest Georgia with Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican representative who has openly embraced the corrosive QAnon conspiracy. To see “two corporate executives standing on the same stage with [the] QAnon congresswoman creates a head-snapping picture,” Ayres told me.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 5

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Los Angeles Times regarding splits in the Republican Party:

“The divisions we’re seeing now reflect those in the period of 2010 to 2016 between tea party conservatives and governing conservatives,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “Donald Trump tapped into the populist elements of the Tea Party movement and expanded and exacerbated the division.”

It’s a split that has been hard for any Republican leader to straddle, Ayres said, because the populist wing doesn’t necessarily want a specific policy agenda so much as it wants a party that visibly fights perceived enemies.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 8

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on voting patterns in the Atlanta suburbs:

Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster in Georgia, said Republican erosion in the inner suburbs — and to a lesser degree the conservative exurbs — has blunted the advantage Republicans have enjoyed in runoff elections in the past. While white evangelicals and religious conservatives remain a core of the Republican base, and make up a portion of the suburban electorate, some Republicans worry such issue-driven voters may be put off by the Senators’ willingness to dip into Trump-induced conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Mr. Ayres said both sides have hurdles to overcome before January. Republicans have a president who is sowing discord within their party and Democrats need to mobilize communities that have typically sat out nonpresidential elections. They can’t, he said, count on the same coalition that turned out in November.

“Are these now permanent Democratic voters? No, not at all,” he said. “They’re in transition, and they were put off in large part by the conduct and behavior of the President.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 17

Whit Ayres’ comments to The New Statesman regarding ticket splitting:

That leads into the second possibility, which is that Republicans did as well as they did in Congress because they wanted a check on Biden and the more progressive wing of the Democrats. “There were a number of voters who apparently voted for Joe Biden at the top of the ticket, but Republican candidates for House and Senate seats,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster at North Star Opinion Research, in the “hope that Republicans would be a moderating force on Biden”.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 19

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Washington Post regarding the two U.S. Senate runoff contests in Georgia:

Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who has worked on many campaigns in Georgia, expressed skepticism that Democrats could improve their performance over the general election, which drew historic turnout because of the strong feelings about Trump.

“If they didn’t participate in one of the most intense elections in our lifetime, it strikes me as a tall order to get someone who didn’t care enough to vote in this election to come back to vote in a runoff in January,” Ayres said.

Republicans will be hyper-focused on convincing the voters that cast ballots for Loeffler and Perdue the first time around to return to the polls, Ayres said. But some of those voters may be turned off by the two Republican senators’ support for allegations of fraud in the 2020 election in Georgia, he added.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 9

Dan Judy’s comments to The Hill on perceptions of the presidential contest:

Biden’s victory did not come with coattails. Republicans will hold their Senate majority unless Democrats can win two runoff elections in Georgia in January. The GOP has gained seats in the House.

“I have to say I was surprised by how well he did,” Republican strategist Dan Judy said of Trump. “He got more votes — not just in raw votes but in percentage terms — than he did four years ago. Given that he has been a historically unpopular president, that is pretty surprising.”

At the same time, Judy cautioned against giving too much credit to Trump’s performance. 

He noted the scale of his popular vote defeat and emphasized, as did other sources, how public perception of the election’s message might have been very different had the exact same results been delivered more quickly.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 5

Dan Judy’s comments to Talking Points Memo regarding the Georgia runoff contests:

Another factor adding uncertainty to the runoffs is the lack of a top of the ticket. Whichever way the presidential election goes, neither Biden nor Trump will be providing any coattails in January. 

A potential Biden victory would give an edge to the GOP, according to Dan Judy, Vice President of North Star Opinion Research, a consultancy for Republican candidates. Republicans who don’t like Trump will be freed up to vote for a Republican candidate without him on the ballot or in the White House, Judy posited. 

“I’d say that both Democratic candidates certainly have a chance in the runoffs, but the Republicans will be favored,” Judy said. “Partisans on both sides will be very fired up, but I believe the prospect of divided government will be very attractive to a lot of independents in the state.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 4

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Financial Times regarding the key moment of the 2020 presidential contest:

Mr Clyburn’s endorsement of Mr Biden was “probably the single most important moment in the history of this presidential election,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist. “If that hadn’t happened, Bernie Sanders would likely have won the nomination.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 30

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Hill regarding “shy Trump voters” and “propriety” polling methods:

“[Trafalgar] doesn’t disclose their ‘proprietary digital methods’ so I can’t really evaluate what they’re doing,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “They’re far enough out on a limb that a year from now, we’ll all remember if they were very right or very wrong.”

McHenry said he does not think there are many “shy” Trump supporters who would lie about their intentions.

Rather, there is concern about a “skewed response rate pattern,” whereby Trump voters would be less likely to participate in a survey or answer the phone when a pollster calls.

Still, McHenry noted that this wouldn’t be an automatic benefit for Trump. In Pennsylvania, for instance, he found Democrats were less likely to answer the phone than their registration would suggest.

“I can’t definitively say there is no response bias, but I’m skeptical of it, and it certainly wouldn’t be enough to explain the national deficits we’re seeing,” he said.

To read the fully article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 27

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Wall Street Journal regarding immigration as a salient election issue:

“Immigration was a significant issue primarily for Republicans in 2016 and 2018 because of the president’s promotion of the issue,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “Given how much the pandemic has overwhelmed our country and disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that immigration and other issues would fade into the background.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding changing demographics and political contribution patterns:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who studies demographic trends, said “the donations mirror voting patterns,” as white voters with college degrees have swung sharply toward the Democrats in the last decade, with the trend expected to accelerate further in 2020 with Mr. Trump on the ticket.

“It makes perfect sense,” Mr. Ayres said of the donation data. “Basically, Republicans have traded larger, more upscale, fast-growing suburban counties for smaller, down-scale, slower-growing rural counties. That’s not a promising trend for future victories.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

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.