We set out with a goal to better understand what voters were thinking about the 2016 election. We wanted to have a conversation and not just look at survey data or analyze trending hashtags. So that’s exactly what we did. On the night of the January 17th democratic debate, we used Remesh to have a conversation with ~50 likely voters. The results were fascinating.
The ~50 participants were comprised of mostly Democrats (68%) and Independents (27%) with just a few Republicans (5%). Candidate preferences for the democratic primary were split between Hillary Clinton (41%), Bernie Sanders (29%) and Undecideds (35%). A full breakdown of participants demographics can be seen here:
Demographic breakdown of conversation participants
How do you interpret the results?
While there is a stack of machine learning algorithms running under <remesh’s hood, understanding the results are easy. For every question we asked during the conversation, <remesh gave us a list of possible answers ranked by how popular they are with the participants. Beyond the popularity score, we also got a consensus score which tells us how much the group agrees on the popularity score. Both scores are on a scale from zero (low) to 100 (high).
Note: If you imagined the distribution of the participants’ opinions as a bell curve, then popularity is like the mean and consensus is like the standard deviation.
To start, here are a few high-level results, where the top answer did a good job of representing the entire group (popularity>75, consensus >50).
Q: What do you think about the deal with Iran?
A: Diplomacy is better than war
Q: Which candidate has the best plan for the American healthcare system?
A: Although Obamacare is a start. I think Sanders is correct we need universal care
Q: What has the Obama administration done ‘right’ in regards to our national security interests in the last 8 years?
A: Killed Osama Bin Laden. Used drones effectively to keep American troops out of danger.
Demographic filtering lets us take a single question and look at which answers are most popular for different segments of participants — such as Bernie supporters vs Hillary supports.
Q: What do you think should be the top priority for the next president?
In these answers we found that voters main priorities are the economy, healthcare, and infrastructure. However, filtering the data based on who people plan on voting for surfaced further insights.
Most popular responses for Hillary supporters in response to: What do you think should be the top priority for the next president?
For those who planned on voting for Hillary in the primaries the top priorities were infrastructure — including cyber security — and the economy.
Most popular responses for Bernie supporters in response to: What do you think should be the top priority for the next president?
In contrast to Hillary supporters, those who plan on voting for Bernie reported affordable healthcare and the environment as top priorities. Infrastructure was a shared theme between these two groups.
Most popular responses for undecided voters in response to: What do you think should be the top priority for the next president?
Most interestingly, those who were undecided had the economy as their top priority with extremely high consensus. This indicates that nearly all undecided voters agreed that the economy was the highest priority.
Q: What steps should be taken to move us towards a more racially tolerant country?
Overall, there was a theme of finding ways to move towards economic and social equality. But digging deeper revealed a stark contrast between what Caucasian and African-American participants thought.
Most popular responses for Caucasian voters in response to: What steps should be taken to move us towards a more racially tolerant country?
The top responses from Caucasian voters involved making changes to the media and criminal justice system. This implies that Caucasian voters think the system needs to change in order to end racism.
Most popular responses for African-American voters in response to: What steps should be taken to move us towards a more racially tolerant country?
In contrast, African-American voters top responses involved changing what we talk about, and what we teach our kids. This implies African-American voters think that personal behaviors need to change in order to end racism.
Q: How should America deal with terrorism?
There was a wide range of answers and opinions about how America should deal with terrorism ranging from withdrawing from the Middle East to tackling economic issues. Strong differences of opinion were found among participants from different age groups.
Most popular responses from voters age 18–24 in response to: How should America deal with terrorism?
The most popular responses among the youngest participants, age 18–24, implied they believe using diplomacy and withdrawing from the Middle East while maintaining military strength were the keys to dealing with terrorism.
Most popular responses from voters age 25–34 in response to: How should America deal with terrorism?
Young adults, age 25–34, instead sawpoverty and economic disparity as the root cause of terrorism. However, the second most popular response — collaboration with other countries is needed — shows a desire for diplomatic solutions.
Most popular responses from voters age 35–49 in response to: How should America deal with terrorism?
Top responses from adults, age 35–49, indicate a belief that fast and decisive decisions which make use of our intelligence were the key to tackling terrorism. Perhaps, suggesting a desire for strong executive leadership.
Senior adults, age 50+, shared the view with young voters that diplomacy and military strength are key to tackling terrorism, though differed in their prioritizing of decisiveness, and the use of intelligence.