He Talks, We Listen

Shawn Hanks
April 15, 2011

Shawn Hanks

CEO

The following is a profile article that NJ Savvy Magazine did on Scott Rasmussen.

From his perch in Asbury Park, pollster Scott Rasmussen keeps a sharp eye on the nation. From economics and politics to Bruce Springsteen and Snooki, he tracks trends, compiling and analyzing data daily.

Before elections, we all want to know how our candidates are faring, but do we really need to know what people think the rest of the time, about anything, from what car we’ll buy next and our vacation plans to Obama Care and Governor Christie’s efforts to get a handle on the state’s financial woes?

The answer is a resounding yes. Just for starters, polls are tied to the most intriguing headlines of the day, and frequently they create headlines of their own. As such, they are capable of inspiring legislation, changing policies, making or breaking political careers, and influencing investments and business strategies.

The Asbury Park firm’s “Rasmussen Reports” is free and on line, and it has become the most trafficked opinion site in the country. Millions visit it every day, plus hundreds of thousands subscribe to the firm’s Platinum Service featuring more elaborate daily reports and analysis.

Rasmussen claims the reports are successful because his firm goes way beyond polling.

“To be sure, we conduct more public opinion polls than any other firm and in a variety of ways,” says Rasmussen. “But we aren’t just pollsters. We’re actually an active news organization, staffed with an editorial team that generates a daily cycle of reports based on our survey results. ‘If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls’ goes our slogan, but it’s more than that. It’s the way we do business. Our coverage, posted on our website, tracks not only the political world, but also current events, consumer confidence, business and lifestyle topics. We also list the president’s job approval ratings daily.”

Analytical Accuracy

So is Scott Rasmussen always right? “No, of course, not,” he says modestly. He did wrongly predict that Sharron Angle would beat Harry Reid in the recent mid-term elections. However, both the media and visitors to his website praise his accuracy to the skies. For example, they point out that in 2008, “Rasmussen Reports” was the first to show Barrack Obama gaining on Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters, the first to show John McCain on top among Republicans and the first to show the widespread unpopularity of the bailouts of banks and auto companies.

In 2009, most polling companies showed New Jersey Governor John Corzine with a modest lead in his reelection bid, but Rasmussen consistently showed challenger Chris Christie ahead and eventually matched his margin of victory. That New Jersey race, combined with the firm’s earlier track record, led liberal columnist Mickey Kaus to declare: “If you have a choice between Rasmussen, and, say, the ‘New York Times,’ go with Rasmussen.”

Last year, “Rasmussen Reports” was the first to show Republican Scott Brown had a chance to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the special Massachusetts Senate race to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat. Just after Brown’s upset win, the influential Washington publication “The Politico” said of “Rasmussen Reports”: “The overwhelming wisdom in both parties was that Martha Coakley was a lock. It’s hard to think of a single poll changing the mood of a race that dramatically.” A study by Boston University and the Pew Research Center concluded that the Rasmussen poll, perhaps more than anything else, signaled an upset was brewing.

The Methods

So how does Rasmussen do it? There’s more involved than just calling a certain number of people and asking them a bunch of questions. A lot more. 

Automated technology is an important ingredient. Unlike boiler rooms and phone banks, it ensures that every respondent hears exactly the same question, from the exact same voice, asked with the exact same inflection, every single time.

Calls are placed to randomly selected phone numbers via a process that guarantees appropriate geographical representation. Typically, calls are placed from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, while Saturday calls are made from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday calls from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The raw data taken from the calls is analyzed to make sure the sample reflects the overall population in terms of age, race, gender and other factors. This step is important because different segments answer their phones in different ways. For example, women answer the phone more often than men, older people are home more and answer the phone more often than younger people, and rural residents typically answer the phone more frequently than urbanites.

Composing the poll questions is tricky, for a single word can affect the answer. For instance, a CBS/New York Times poll found that 70 percent of us favor gay men and lesbians serving in the military, but the same poll found that just 59 percent favor homosexuals in the military.

Loving New Jersey

Rasmussen is a devoted New Jerseyan. He lives in Ocean Grove, which he calls his favorite place on earth. 

“It has been my idea of paradise longer than I can remember,” he says. “As a kid, I spent all my summers here on the beach, living with my grandparents, and I got my first job here at the shore. That was in 1970. I was an umbrella boy and made $15 a week plus tips. I played a lot of volleyball, rode a lot of waves and spent a lot of nights on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. During those days, school was simply the intolerable nine-month period of time between summers in Ocean Grove. That was one reason my favorite song was Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out.’

“What’s so terrific about New Jersey is you have the option of living in a small town like Ocean Grove and yet be so close to the city that you can visit often,” he continues. “What’s the best thing that could happen for the state? Definitely that the Yankees win the World Series and the Giants win the Super Bowl in the same year. The last time that happened was the year I was born, and it wasn’t even called the Super Bowl back then.”

Local Analysis

Considering his devotion to his home state, it’s not surprising some strictly New Jersey issues creep into his polls.

On the lighter side, there’s his poll on the popularity of a fellow New Jerseyan, Bruce Springsteen. Fifty-eight percent of likely New Jersey voters view the Boss favorably, but Rasmussen found that when a survey question identified the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer as a Democrat, his favorables declined.

“It was an interesting study of the way political perceptions color poll responses,” says Rasmussen.

Another lighthearted poll tested state residents’ opinion of “Jersey Shore,” the MTV show that follows eight hard-partying young people’s antics. Seventy percent felt it impacts the state’s image negatively.

On a more serious note, “Rasmussen Reports” closely follows Governor Christie. So far, the governor is doing well, he says. A majority of likely New Jersey voters approve of the job he’s doing, and considering the state is known to be overwhelmingly Democratic, that’s no mean feat. The governor earns solid support for his handling of the state’s contentious budget situation.

Author, Author

All the insight Scott Rasmussen has gained via polling has led him to write two books: “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Re-making Our Two-Party System” and “In Search of Self-Governance.” He is sought after on the national speakers’ circuit and is getting ready to write a third book, again inspired by his polling results.

“They often surprise me,” he admits, ”but the biggest surprise of my polling life has been the passion with which people argue about politics and numbers. For me, polls are to learn from and understand what your friends and neighbors think. In today’s world, they’re often used to replace reasoned argument and uttered in a tone that suggests this one single, solitary number is enough to end all discussion on the topic. I especially chuckle when I hear our polls quoted out of context or incorrectly. I used to get really upset about it, but I have gotten over that.”

Rasmussen, who describes himself as “happily married for 27 years,” has two college-age sons. They don’t share his passion for polls and are following their own career paths.

People always ask him about the differences between Republicans and Democrats and between young and old, but he’s more interested in what unites us.

“There’s lots of common ground that unites the American people today,” he says.

 

For information on how to book Scott Rasmussen for your next event, visit PremiereSpeakers.com/scott_rasmussen.

Keep Reading
Premiere Speakers Bureau acquires National Speakers Bureau
Shawn Hanks
Shawn Hanks
July 03, 2018
Effective today, National Speakers Bureau, Inc (Chicago, IL) becomes a division of Premiere ...
Col. Nicole Malachowski, first woman Thunderbird pilot, available for fall keynotes
Nicole Malachowski
Nicole Malachowski
May 30, 2018
A 21-year veteran of the United State Air Force, ...
Event Success | The Inbox Never Lies
Shawn Hanks
Shawn Hanks
March 15, 2016
If anyone knows anything about having to consistently one-up themselves on a job well done, it's event planners. ...
Premiere Speakers Bureau acquires National Speakers Bureau
Effective today, National Speakers Bureau, Inc (Chicago, IL) becomes a division of Premiere Speakers Bureau (Nashville, TN). National will continue to schedule events through their brand for the foreseeable future, while all back-end operations are integrated. National agents will remain based in Chicago, while accounting, and marketing will be ...
Read More
Col. Nicole Malachowski, first woman Thunderbird pilot, available for fall keynotes
A 21-year veteran of the United State Air Force, Nicole became the first woman pilot for the ThunderbirdsAir Demonstration Squadron.Nicoleflew with five other aircraft at over 400 mph and 300 feet off the ground - separated by as little as 36 inches. Wow! Along with her career accomplishments, Nicole faced another enormous challenge - learnin...
Read More
Event Success | The Inbox Never Lies
If anyone knows anything about having to consistently one-up themselves on a job well done, it's event planners. 'Event planner' was recently ranked as the fifth most stressful job by CareerCast (with the military, firefighters, pilots and police officers coming before it). As an event planner, your job is to see the entire event through from th...
Read More
This water is tepid - not room temperature.
This Top 5 list image caught my attention this morning. (Thanks for sharing,Vince.) I immediately nodded "yes" knowing the stress levels of our event partners. Planning and executing events demands a wide skill-set. Can you organize a huge volume of information?(Here are 17 hotel options each with different services. Decision by 3 PM today.) ...
Read More
Meetings & Conventions | Three of the Best Speakers You'll Hear This Year
As we start off this exciting new year, we can't help but reflect over what a huge year 2015 was for the meeting and events industry. On a more personal level, 2015 was one of our biggest years and this next year looks even brighter. We kicked 2016 off with a record-breaking January which was also the most successful month in the history of ...
Read More
'Do Over' | New York Times Best Seller!
We are excited to announce that Jon Acuff's newest work 'Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck' has secured a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list! Jon is a wonderful speaker and a stellar writer with a fantastic sense of humor. He truly has a gift for human connection which extends way beyond his large "tribe....
Read More
Thank You for the Best October in PSB History!
Thanks, Thank You, Gracias…. We need more words to say "thanks"; to you for the month of October. Premiere recorded another record in October - the best October in our almost 20 year history. Each event represents a relationship with one of you, our event partners. And, we created new benchmarks in every area we measure. To everyone ...
Read More
Premiere Speakers Bureau Announces Halloween Costume Winner
In celebration of Halloween, we at Premiere would like to honor the winner of our first annual Halloween Costume contest. With such contenders like the Tin Man, Siri and Walter White, it was a Ryan Giffen's [pictured right] uncanny portrayal of our beloved CIO, Chris Yount [pictured left] that took the win. Happy Halloween everybody!
Read More
Michael Reagan visits crew for the USS Ronald Reagan
Michael Reagan recently had the privilege of joining the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan for the day. Michael was on-hand to meet the new crew members of the ship that carries his father's name. And, Michael continued the work of the Reagan Legacy Foundation which provides scholarships to the men and women stationed on the USS Reagan. The Rea...
Read More
Clint Hill Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination
From the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960 until after the election of Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Clint Hill was the Secret Service agent assigned to guard the glamorous and intensely private Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. During those four years, he went from being a reluctant guardian to a fiercely loyal watchdog and, in many wa...
Read More