9 February 2016

Introduction to Portrait of America


Do Americans want more government? Or less?

Is the influence of religion in US life growing or diminishing?

Can people of every background can get to top of politics and business or is there a sense that the “American dream” is dying?

Who would benefit and who might suffer if drugs were decriminalised?

What are Americans’ favourite sports, movies, holiday destinations and music groups?

Why do some Americans vote Democratic and others vote Republican? And why do so many millions never vote at all?

Over the next few weeks and months we will be trying to answer these and many other questions about the United States of America. Over time we hope the Portrait of America website will become a fascinating account of what Americans think and believe in 2016, a vital election year. On an almost daily basis we’ll be covering religion, politics, sport, entertainment, education, family life, crime, race and a lot about the subjects most dear to CapX – especially what Americans think about private enterprise, big business, tax, free trade and philanthropy.

Oh, and we’ll be also asking a lot of questions about breaking news stories and the presidential race. We will be in a position to sometimes publish polls within sixty minutes of big stories developing.

The results are from a YouGov survey that is being called “First Verdict”.

YouGov has recruited a sample for daily polling on a smartphone app. Around 5,000 people each day receive a notification on their phones and can click through to take a three-question survey. The results are weighted instantly within the app by three variables: age, gender and political leaning. This gives a result that is close to, but not precisely the same as, a regular poll. We are now working on a larger sample and multi-variable weightings to achieve something still closer to our regular polls. We call this resource ‘First Verdict’ as it allows us to measure public opinion very quickly – results become stable in less than an hour. We accept that face-to-face ‘probability samples’ come closer to achieving representivity, but are also imperfect and introduce interview effects; furthermore they take many weeks to complete and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single survey, and therefore can never become a living part of the democratic process. ‘First Verdict’ will integrate good quality feedback into the public debate and facilitate a greater range of experimentation. We will update this note as we further develop the methodology.

We have a little team that puts together three questions on a daily basis but if you have a question that you’d like answering please send your idea to [email protected]. Thank you.

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

For the complete Portrait of America catalog, click here.

Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America