Better Know a Moderate*

July 19th, 2012

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In an election year with hyper-partisan campaigning aimed at the base, the center of the electorate is often overlooked. Yet moderates have outnumbered liberals and conservatives in every Presidential election since 1976. Moderates don’t just split the difference between conservatives and liberals. They have their own beliefs and values. To better understand them, we’ve put together a quick list of poll questions that can help provide insight into how moderates think—and what makes them distinct.

The Future

Our research indicates that moderates are more worried about the financial future of both their country and their family and less about their current personal financial situation. Here are a few questions that might garner interesting responses from moderates about their biggest economic concerns:

1.    Do you believe you can meet your financial obligations and pay your bills over the next 12 months?
2.    How likely (very, somewhat, not at all) are you to do the following over the next year: Give to charity? Save for college or retirement? Take a vacation? Miss a mortgage, rent, or credit card payment? Collect unemployment? Lose your health insurance?
3.    If the global economy were the Olympics, in 10 years would the U.S.: a) win the gold, b) win the silver or bronze, or c) not be on the medal stand?
4.    Which best describes you: a) I have attained the American Dream, b) I will attain the American Dream, or c) I will never attain the American Dream?
5.    How confident are you that your kids or kids in the next generation will attain the American Dream?

The U.S. Economic System

Moderates tend not to see themselves as victims and believe the system basically works for them. Here are a few questions that might illustrate that view:

6.    Do you think America’s economic system is basically fair?
7.    Do you think America is divided into the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”? Regardless, in which category would you place yourself—“Have” or “Have Not”?
8.    Do you think that the fact that some people are rich and others poor is an acceptable part of America’s economic system?
9.    Which statement better reflects your own views: I can succeed if I work hard. Or: Hard work is no guarantee of success.
10.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If you play by the rules, you will likely succeed.

Politics and Governing

Moderates don’t approach politics in the same manner as partisans (the base of each party). Here are a few questions that might illuminate their pragmatic approach over ideological dogmatism:

11.    On a scale of 1 through 9, with 1 being liberal, 9 being conservative, and 5 being moderate, where would you put yourself? Where would you place President Obama? Mitt Romney? Democrats in Congress? Republicans in Congress?
12.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? I support political leaders who are willing to compromise.
13.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? I prefer pragmatic solutions over ideological solutions in politics.
14.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The government should take care of those who can’t take care of themselves [SPLIT sample and add to half] even if it means going deeper into debt.
15.    Which statement comes closest to your view: America needs more community. OR: America needs more personal responsibility.

Over the next few months as polling runs rampant, we hope some folks will consider including a few of these questions in their surveys, so that we can all gain a better understanding of the moderates who will decide the election in 2012.

*With apologies to Stephen Colbert.