North Star Blog

Whit Ayres, February 2

Whit Ayres’ comments to The New York Times regarding former President Trump’s position in the Republican presidential primary:

Mr. Ayres, the Republican pollster, said that “there’s no question there’s an opening” to run against Mr. Trump.

“In a multicandidate field, he has a lock somewhere around 28 to 30 percent, and that is a very significant portion of the party,” Mr. Ayres said. “And they are very, very committed to him. But if he doesn’t get more than that, in a narrowing field or a small field, he’s going to have a hard time winning the nomination.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Republican Presidential Primary Survey

In the wake of a disappointing Republican performance in the 2022 midterm elections, Donald Trump has slipped to his lowest point since he emerged on the political scene almost eight years ago.  He remains a formidable force, to be sure, with a lock on approximately 30 percent of likely Republican primary and caucus voters nationally.  But a majority of the GOP is ready to move on, believing either that Trump cannot win in 2024, or that he is too focused on the past rather than the future.

To read the full memo, please click here.

To read the toplines, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 27

Whit Ayres’ comments to Steven Roberts on Governor Ron DeSantis and his outlook in the 2024 presidential primaries:

DeSantis could be a far tougher foe. At 44, with a telegenic wife and three adorable young children, he highlights Biden’s age. More seriously, he shares Trump’s shrewder political instincts but lacks Trump’s fatal flaws — the narcotic narcissism, the endless grievances and the growing detachment from reality, all of which drive away moderate swing voters, who decide national elections.

“He’s Trump without the craziness,” says Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 26

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Boston Globe about the prospects of a third-party candidate:

Further, despite Perot’s surprisingly strong showing, “the key point is that 19 percent of the popular vote yielded zero Electoral College votes,” noted Republican pollster Whit Ayres. For an independent candidate to emerge as a serious Electoral College factor, “you would have to assume that states that have voted consistently for either Democratic or Republican nominees lately would not do so again.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in Time on the 2024 Donald Trump campaign:

So far, Trump’s campaign is “disjointed, haphazard, unfocused, and still focused on the past, and his grievances, rather than the future, which is what attracted a lot of Republicans to him in 2015,” says Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. Nonetheless, Trump still has a grip on a meaningful slice of his party’s base. According to polling Ayres conducted with North Star Opinion Research, about 30% to 40% of GOP voters fall into what Ayres describes as “always Trump,” people who say they will support Trump no matter what. That is a strong base from which to wage a Republican primary campaign, Ayres says.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 2

Whit Ayres’ comments about ticket splitting and voters’ decisions in Governing:

Ayres, the GOP consultant, says that citizens make different calculations when voting for the Senate — where they’re choosing someone who will primarily just cast votes — than governor, where they’re electing someone with real decision-making authority. “Governors make life and death decisions, whether it’s the final decision with the death penalty or when to evacuate the coast in a hurricane,” Ayres says. “People look at governors with common sense and good judgment in dealing with very real issues under their control, in a way they don’t with Senate candidates.”

When it comes to federal elections, Ayres suggests, people are voting strictly for their team, whether red or blue, or voting negatively to keep the other team out of power. Partisanship is practically all that matters. What may be most striking about this election, in fact, is not that the number of ticket-splitters went up, but rather the way it illustrates once again that the nation’s political map remains stable, or even static.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 19

Whit Ayres’ comments to US News and World Report regarding former President Trump’s prospects in the 2024 Republican presidential primary:

Though some of the most recent polling suggests that Trump’s support among Republicans may be falling slightly, within that general support lies a core group of 35 to 40% of “always-Trumpers,” says Whit Ayers, GOP strategist and president of North Star Opinion Research. “They believe he hung the moon, they’ll walk through a wall of flame for him, they’ll defend him until hell freezes over.”

To win the primary, a candidate needs a plurality rather than a majority. Though Trump’s core supporters would not, on their own, guarantee his victory in the primaries if it becomes a one-on-one contest with another candidate – as demonstrated by recent polls showing his loss in several states in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against DeSantis – his path could be much easier if two or more serious contenders split the vote of, what Ayers estimates, is about half of Republicans who supported Trump but are tired of his controversies and open to supporting someone else.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 19

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico on ticket-splitting and candidate quality:

“In historical terms it may be low, but [ticket-splitting] was absolutely critical in numerous races this fall,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster for more than 30 years, said in an interview. “Voters made a lot of judgments about the quality of candidates nominated, and that’s why Democrats still control the Senate.”

“Governors actually make life and death decisions,” Ayres, the Republican pollster, said. “People are looking for good sense and good judgment in governors more than senators or congressmen, where increasingly they’re just looking for someone to join the blue team or the red team.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 18

Whit Ayres comments in the Associated Press (as printed in The Washington Post) regarding the House GOP’s legislative priorities:

Whit Ayres, a GOP political consultant, said Republicans should focus on inflation, crime and border security in the majority, but fears they will overreach once again.

“If past is prologue, the small House majority will govern from the right and we’ll get engaged in these investigations and cut off Ukraine aid and try to ban abortion and do all these other things that will repel a majority of the country and put Democrats back in charge,” Ayres said during a post-election forum at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, November 16

Jon McHenry’s comments to The Boston Globe regarding Donald Trump’s effect on the midterm elections:

Now after four tumultuous years in office, three straight disappointing Republican elections, two impeachments, and one deadly insurrection, Trump is a known political entity — and one whoseems to be rapidly losing popularity among Republicans just as he announced another White House run Tuesday night.

“How much do people have to lose before they go, ‘Wait a second, it’s because this quarterback keeps throwing pick-sixes that we’re losing?’ ” said Republican pollster Jon McHenry. “How many times do you have to burn your hand before you realize the stove is hot?”

McHenry thinks Republicans might have attributed too much of their polling decline in the summer to the backlash over the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning federal abortion rights, when Trump may have also played a role because of the controversy involving the FBI’s seizure of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago was unfolding at the same time. And he thinks Trump’s decision to tease an upcoming presidential announcement in the days before the midterms might also have turned off some voters.

“When President Trump was heavily involved in the news, things didn’t go well for Republicans” in the polls, McHenry said. “When the focus was on President Biden, things were very good for Republicans. And I don’t know how many will admit it, especially on the record, but I think there’s a pretty good sentiment that [Trump] did drag us down just enough to fall short in the Senate.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 15

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding election denials and U.S. Senate results:

“It’s not difficult to imagine Chris Sununu beating Maggie Hassan without a whole lot of trouble,” Republican strategist Dan Judy said.

Judy added, in reference to Bolduc: “By the time he started to pivot his campaign to the things voters were really concerned about, it was too late. He had defined himself — and been defined by the Democrats’ campaign — as this crazy election denier.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 17

Whit Ayres’ comments to CNN regarding abortion policy and the midterm elections:

Veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres says this separation testifies to the value of allowing states to set their own rules on contentious social issues, particularly abortion. This “is exactly why allowing the states to follow their own cultural values on such an emotionally fraught issue is a wise decision in a federal political system,” Ayres says. “That’s why Roe v. Wade was so problematic as a national policy because values differ so dramatically among the states that it is impossible to adopt a national abortion policy that will be supported in each of the states.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 15

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press regarding election denialism and Republican election results:

“It turns out that trying to overturn an election is not wildly popular with the American people,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster.

That even extends to Arizona, Ayres added, where a prominent former television newscaster-turned-election-conspiracy-theorist, Kari Lake, remains in a right race for governor against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, whose campaign has been widely panned.

“The fact that it is close with a very polished, very good Republican candidate and a very weak, very unpolished Democratic candidate tells you how much of a weight election denial is on a Republican candidate,” Ayres said.

To read the full article please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 13

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post about former President Donald Trump and the future of the Republican Party:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, says the party’s electorate can be divided into three key buckets. A small group, roughly 10 percent, are “Never Trumpers,” Republicans who have long and vocally opposed Trump. A far larger group, about 40 percent, are “Always Trumpers,” his hardcore base that will never abandon him.

The remaining 50 percent or so, Ayres said, are “Maybe Tumpers” — Republicans who voted for him twice, who generally like his policies but who are now eager to escape the chaos that accompanies him.

“So they are open to supporting someone else who will do much of what they want without all of the baggage,” Ayres said. “So then the question becomes: Who?”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 10

Whit Ayres’ comments on the midterm elections in The Washington Post:

“With inflation at a 40-year high, crime out of control in many cities and our southern borders still porous, coupled with Joe Biden’s job approval in the low 40s, Republicans should have run away with this election,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It should never have been close.”

To read more, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in STAT News regarding Republican views of elites and experts:

“In many ways, doubts about expertise have fed into the whole populist movement, which essentially is … anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-expertise,” said Whit Ayres, a political consultant with North Star Opinion Research who has advised GOP candidates including DeSantis. “Populism has a real problem in presenting a positive vision for the country. It’s ‘the experts are part of the establishment, so we’re against them too.’”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 24

Jon McHenry’s comments in The New York Times regarding challenges in polling:

If there is a big miss this cycle it’s likely to be driven by voters who are less educated not participating in the polls. The people you do get on the phone, you can always weight them up … but you don’t know exactly who you’re missing. And that’s always been the kind of thing that will keep a pollster up at night.But the numbers were really good in 2018.

Are we in that sort of midterm where Trump is not on the ballot and missing those people isn’t as much of a concern?

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 19

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New Republic on the national mood and midterm elections:

“Republicans should be running away with this election. With [President] Biden’s job approval in the low 40s, with inflation at a 40-year high and not moderating, with crime a serious problem in many cities, and with the border still not under control, Republicans should be cleaning up,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “Republicans still are overwhelming favorites to take the House and have at least a 50-50 chance to take the Senate, but it’s closer than it should be because of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion energizing Democratic women and because Republicans have nominated a number of inexperienced first-time candidates. So that’s keeping it closer than it would otherwise be.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 19

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Boston Globe about school choice and parental rights:

School choice and parental rights, especially after the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, are often a reliable way for Republicans running in statewide races to talk about issues that are typically favorable to their campaigns, according to GOP pollster Jon McHenry.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 14

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic about the effects of polarization:

“The difference in policy now between the group that has 51 percent and the group that has 49 percent is so enormous because of the polarization and divergence of the two parties,” the longtime GOP pollster Whit Ayres told me. Such big change resting on such small shifts, Ayres added, “is not healthy for democracy.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 8

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Hill regarding Ben Sasse leaving the U.S. Senate:

Ben Sasse was one of the people who made the Senate work,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “And there’s a pattern of a lot people who made the Senate work who are leaving the institution, and that’s not good for the country and not good for our democracy.”

Ayres suspects that Sasse and other retiring Senate Republicans are fed up with what he called “the toxic polarization” that’s made it “difficult to do the things that led them to run for the Senate in the first place.” 

To read more, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 14

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Boston Globe regarding abortion policy and politics:

“I do think that he is trying to stake out a position that Republicans can unify behind,” said Jon McHenry, a GOP pollster and strategist. “It gives them a talking point or a position that allows them to say, ‘We believe that women do have some discretion.’ ” And, he said, it volleys the volatile issue back to the other party. “Make Democrats defend or lay out the case for why you should be able to get an abortion at, say, six months,” said McHenry.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, May 15

Dan Judy’s comments in Politico on new methodologies:

“For us, any experimentation in real time has consequences,” said Dan Judy, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “You have to be careful about what you’re doing. If you try it the old way, and the old way is dead, then you end up with 2020. But if you try something new, and the new way is also improper, maybe you get a different result — but it could also be wrong. That’s what keeps you awake at night, trying to strike that balance.”

Judy added that he feels good about polling in 2022, “because I feel like what we know works is still likely to work in this midterm. But in the next presidential, that’s when things are going to get dicey.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 23

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Los Angeles Times regarding the influence of former President Donald Trump’s endorsements:

All of which suggests Trump’s sway over Republican voters — and, by extension, the Republican Party — is diminishing the further he gets from the White House.

“A president’s endorsement is going to carry more weight than an ex-president’s endorsement,” said Q. Whitfield Ayres, a GOP strategist with extensive experience in congressional and gubernatorial races nationwide. “Especially an ex-president without access to Twitter and social media.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 3 (AP)

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press regarding Joe Biden’s approval rating:

So the president spent the evening essentially asking for a fresh start, born of the most serious conflict with Russia in a generation, and another chance to explain his domestic agenda. “He’s got his back to the wall, and he’s put his party’s back against the wall,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster.

To read the whole article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 3

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post about Joe Biden’s approach on Ukraine:

“Like President George H.W. Bush, who quietly but persistently rallied allies to support reversing Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait in 1991,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told me. “President Biden’s quiet diplomacy has been effective in rallying the West against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But Biden will probably not get the credit Bush did because American troops are not directly involved in Ukraine.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 18

Whit Ayres’ comments to NBC News regarding the effect of foreign policy decisions on elections:

“As a general rule, foreign policy events that do not involve American kids dying in a war pale in comparison to domestic issues,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “As long as Americans are not dying — as they were in Iraq in 2006 [when then-President George W. Bush’s Republican Party lost seats in both the House and the Senate] — foreign policy does not normally drive electoral outcomes.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 7

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on Dr. Anthony Fauci:

“Populism is essentially anti: anti-establishment, anti-expertise, anti-intellectual and anti-media,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist, adding that Dr. Fauci “is an establishment expert intellectual who is in the media.”

The anti-Fauci fervor has taken its toll on his personal life; he has received death threats, his family has been harassed and his home in Washington is guarded by a security detail. His standing with the public has also suffered. In a recent NBC News Poll, just 40 percent of respondents said they trusted Dr. Fauci, down from 60 percent in April 2020.

Still, Mr. Ayres said, Dr. Fauci remains for many Americans “one of the most trusted voices regarding the pandemic.” In a Gallup pollat the end of 2021, his job approval rating was 52 percent. On a list of 10 officials, including Mr. Biden and congressional leaders, only two scored higher: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Republican strategists are split on whether attacking Dr. Fauci is a smart strategy. Mr. Ayres said it could help rev up the base in a primary but backfire in a general election, especially in a swing state like Ohio. But John Feehery, another strategist, said many pandemic-weary Americans viewed Dr. Fauci as “Mr. Lockdown,” and it made sense for Republicans “to run against both Fauci and lockdowns.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 29

Whit Ayres’ comments to The New York Times regarding perceptions of Joe Biden’s presidency:

“The left is disappointed with him and the anti-Trump Republicans and independents thought they were going to get a moderate governing,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “I don’t know how resolving the pandemic is going to affect that fundamental reality that he is completely misplaying his hand.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, January 6

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding President Trump’s cancelled January 6 press conference:

GOP strategist Dan Judy, who is aligned with the more moderate wing of the party, said, “When I heard it was canceled, I was like, ‘Thank God.’ Everyone could have predicted it would have been this totally revisionist view of what happened on Jan. 6.

“That would have been repugnant on its face, and it would also have been horrible for Republican candidates in the midterms, who have the wind at their backs and do not need this kind of ‘Rah-rah, Jan. 6!’ kind of talk.”

To read the full article, please click here.