Traditional Research is Dead and it's Mark Zuckerberg's Fault

  Getty Images

 Getty Images

Ok – maybe it's not all Zuck's fault. But blame aside, the digital information era is here and has been for some time. The impact of these changes will be studied by future generations for decades to come, but we already know that there has been a paradigm shift on how we communicate, interact, and share information; fundamentally changing or solidifying our perspective on issues, stories, or people in a manner of moments.   

Trying to keep up is exhausting. And unfortunately for all of us, it also happens to be the difference between being ahead of the curve and looking brilliant or sitting behind the eight ball and trying to explain how you missed the signs to your board, clients, investors, employees, or boss.  

We have gone from a world where we digested outside information at very specific times (the morning paper, evening news, etc.) to a world where we are getting information from the moment we wake up to two minutes before we go to bed. Likely outcomes can change over a tweet, and opinions can change just as fast. Even with all these changes, research has not kept up. In fact, we would argue it still resembles a world that is well in the rear-view mirror. That is, until now. Trendency is designed to recognize the effects of outside events, capture changes in opinion and behavior, and predict likely outcomes every moment of every day. Simply stated, Trendency provides data at the speed of life.  

In the coming months, we will be taking a more intimate look at case studies, interesting data points, and crucial topics within the polling community, laying the case for Trendency in addition to providing insights and new key performance indicators for you to consider with your own company and organization. This month we are looking back at a few interesting data points from 2016 as an introduction to what Trendency can do. In the future we will be focusing on current events, and other topics of interest.  

We look forward to your thoughts and questions, as well as joining us in our mission to provide data at the speed of life, because that's the only speed that matters.  

No Surprise in Nevada

We just can't quit the 2016 Election no matter how hard we try to move on. It was a watershed moment in American politics and history regardless of whom you voted for, your political affiliation or profession. As we barrel towards the 2018 election, its worth takes a second look at a Senate election from last cycle that might also give us a preview of 2018: Nevada.  

As we headed into Election Day, traditional polls had Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto with as a razor thin margin lead over Republican Joe Heck. Trendency's average threshold, our version of top-line "horse-race", showed a similar projection Cortez-Masto up by two points. But was this race truly "too close to call"?  

If we view the world through  a binary choice, yes. But that assumes the way we view the world as static and that all sentiments of support equal. Our argument is not that it is incorrect to say that 47% support Cortez Masto or that 46% support Heck, but those are single numbers with little to no context around it.    

With Trendency we allow for respondents to answer using shades of grey as opposed to forcing them into an either-or choice. On the question of who you would support for candidate for Nevada's U.S. Senator, we ask respondents to allocate a percentage of their vote of the top two candidates. What is the chance you will  support Cortez Masto, and what is the chance you will support Heck?     

This question was then asked on a regular basis over the last few months. This longitudinal data collection, coupled with the allocation approach, permits us to not only measure what is happening at any given time but what is likely to be the end result.    

Since we are allowing for an allocation of views, we can measure how consistent a view is for an individual, and which direction that support is heading. For example, one week an individual could say 75% support for Heck and 25% support for Cortez Masto. Three weeks later, those numbers could be 55-45. In a traditional setting it is likely that this person would answer support for Heck if forced into a binary choice. For Trendency, that movement is significant and should be measured and paid attention to.     

To accomplish this, we developed a measurement scale call Threshold. The higher the score (from 0-100) the more consistent the views are and the less volatility is present. As we go further down the scale we allow more and more volatility into the equation. This allows us to understand how views change as the volatility increases  

The charts below shows the concentrations of the views held on a given position. Said in another way this shows what Cortez masto’s 47 really looks like and the same for Heck’s 46.

We see that Heck's average threshold of support is generally consistent over the last month of the election, at one point a few percentage points higher than Cortez Mastro over the same time period. Nevertheless, Trendency see that Heck support is in fact steadily weakening throughout the month while he is unable to grow the level of strong or consistent support. Looking at Cortez Masto's Trendency profile over the same time period, we observe concentration of strong support steadily increasing.    

Within Trendency this trend is further highlighted in our Commitment/Rejection Index, the support or opposition that we can take to the bank. In our final snap-shot, we see that Cortez Masto had a significant 11 point advantage of the positive side (The Commitment Index) over Heck. Our Rejection Index shows individuals that would never be expected to support Heck is above 50%. Looking at this index over time, we see while both candidates Rejection Index increase; voters that would never support their candidacy, Cortez Masto's Commitment Index increased, as Heck's remained flat.   

When we put multiple measurements together, we can develop a prediction of the most likely outcome of an event. As you can see in the chart below at the beginning of October the most likely outcome was Heck winning. By the end of the month Cortez Masto was cruising to a win. Was this a 2 point race? On paper, yes. But the outcome by the middle of October was not really in question.  

Our world is dynamic as our opinions. It is of how things are changing and how to best capture those shifts. Remember this when we see a horse race for Nevada's other senate seat again this fall. Trendency offers any organization that cares to engage their audience the ability to peel back it's the top layer to truly understand the dynamics and shifts in opinion. We don't live in a static world, we should stop asking questions like it is.