LOS ANGELES – A veteran Democratic political consultant, speech writer and director of the Center for the Political Future at University of Southern California Dornsife, Robert M. Shrum’s home is filled with mementos of a life in politics.
Shrum also assists with the USC Dornsife Los Angeles Times polls, which are a series of national and statewide opinion polls conducted at regular intervals throughout the year.
“Polls taken for candidates are designed to test arguments, personal profiles, to figure out not what position to take, but how to argue your position in a way that's going to be most acceptable to voters,” said Shrum.
Generally based on a set of interviews from a representative sampling of the population, polls can determine where campaign money is spent, where candidates’ efforts should be concentrated, and voting behavior.
“In our April poll we asked Democrats what type of candidate they wanted, and it turned out they wanted a man, they wanted a non-minority candidate, and they wanted someone with government experience,” said Shrum. “Now this didn't mean that they're prejudiced, it means that they're cautious and prudent. They are very worried about what happened with a female candidate in 2016. So, they want to be careful, because they want it to be Trump.”
The emergence of social media has profoundly affected political campaigns. Social media impacts the way people think about issues as polling results can now be more widely and quickly disseminated.
“Social media has changed everything,” said Shrum. “People can express what they think instantly. I think it does have an impact on how other people on their social media feed feel.”
But the way in which we receive polling results can be complicated. Shrum says in 2016 some of the polling results on Donald Trump were hard to believe, even for him.
“I said that, no how, no way, not in this universe or any other can Donald Trump elected president of the United States. I didn't believe our own polling data,” Shrum said.
In the end, Shrum says all the polling data should take a backseat to the voter’s own personal beliefs.
“They should go vote for their beliefs. They should not try to wade endlessly through data. We probably have too much horse race coverage in this country,” said Shrum.
Results of the latest USC Dornsife Los Angeles Times poll can be viewed on the USC Dornsife web page.