Tuesday, April 2, 2013

If you don't have empathy in 2016, don't even bother with an exploratory committee


We all know there was an empathy gap between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, but if you dig one layer deeper, you can see why it means so much for 2016.

In 2012 exit polls of eleven battleground states (see exit polls below), pollsters asked voters to choose their most important attribute in a president -- "Vision", "Shares my values", "strong leader", or "cares about people."

In three of those four categories, Romney won by double-digits among voters' picking them as the most important criteria, and 70% of all voters chose one of those three attributes as the most important in determining their votes.

But on the fourth category, "cares about people," Barack Obama, on average, beat Romney by 69% among those choosing it as their most important quality.

Even though only 21% of voters said that was their most important factor in choosing a president, Obama's win was so massive that it was able to overcome Romney's other formidable but smaller wins.

There are a few conclusions to draw from this for 2016.

1. If you don't got empathy, you don't got nothin'.

The scale of Romney's wins on other qualities was as large as a Republican candidate could ever want. In 10 of 11 battleground states, voters who valued "vision" most picked Romney, and did so by an average of 10.5%.

In 11 of 11 states, voters who valued "strong leadership" most picked Romney, by double-digits every time, and by an average of +23%.

In 9 of 11 states, voters who said it was most important to pick someone who "shared their values" picked Romney by an average of 11%.

But in 11 of 11 states, voters who said it was most important that their president care about the needs of people picked Obama. His smallest win was a beat-down in North Carolina (+55%) and largest was a jaw-dropping 82% win in Nevada.

Thus, in battleground states, Romney won, by double-digits, the qualities that 70% of voters dubbed most important, but lost so spectacularly on empathy that he only won one of those battleground states in the popular vote (North Carolina).

2. Candidates with strong empathy should rise to the top 2016.

Clearly, it's relatively meaningless to pile up large wins on three of the four most important qualities, and absolutely vital for the GOP to eat into the empathy gap.

The key note here, though, is that Democratic voters are probably more likely to pick empathy as their most important quality and, thus, it will be hard for a GOP candidate to ever actually win that category, since Republicans are probably more likely to choose "leadership" or "values" as their most important criteria.

But a Republican candidate is going to need to be competitive on empathy. Even closing the gap to 20% on the measure would be a massive improvement.

Thus, if you can get a GOP candidate to do that, you've got another elephant in the White House.

So primary voters are going to have to sort out -- NOT who they think has the strongest vision or values -- but who's most empathetic.

That can be subjective, but there some obvious winners and losers in that department, and tomorrow, I'll roll out some power rankings on empathy for the 2016 candidates. That, above all else, is what the GOP should pay attention to.

Here are the raw stats for the numbers I wrote about above. I compiled these from CNN's batch of exit polls, which I broke down by state.

On average, the most important candidate qualities for battleground state voters in the 2012 election:

1. Vision 30%
(Romney +10.5% over Obama).

2. Shares my values 27%
(Romney +11.2% over Obama).

3. Cares about people 21%
(Obama +69% over Romney).

4 Strong leader 19%
(Romney +23% over Obama).

Colorado:

1. Vision for the future 33%
(Romney +11%).

2. Shares my values 31%
(Obama +2%).

3. Cares about people 16%
(Obama +81%).

4. Strong leader 15%
(Romney +36%).


Florida:

1. Vision for the future 32%
(Romney +7%).

2. Shares my values 23%
(Romney +19%).

3. Strong leader 22%
(Romney +19%).

4. Cares about people 19%
(Obama +68%).


Iowa:

1. Vision for the future 28%
(Romney +7%).

2. Shares my values 26%
(Romney +4%).

3. Cares about people 24%
(Obama +71%).

4. Strong leader 19%
(Romney +27%).


Michigan:

1. Shares my values and vision for the future 28%
(Romney +4% and +12%, respectively).

3. Cares about people 23%
(Obama +65%).

4. Strong leader 18%
(Romney +7%).


Nevada:

1. Vision for the future 33%
(Obama +1%).

2. Shares my values 24%
(Romney +12%).

3. Strong leader 21%
(Romney +23%).

4. Cares about people 19%
(Obama +82%).


New Hampshire:

1. Vision for the future 30%
(Romney +11%).

2. Shares my values 27%
(Obama +13%).

3. Cares about people 21%
(Obama +67%).

4. Strong leader 19%
(Romney +35%).


North Carolina:

1. Vision for the future 30%
(Romney +19%).

2. Shares my values 28%
(Romney +21%).

3. Cares about people 20%
(Obama +55%).

4. Strong leader 18%
(Romney +22%).


Ohio:

1. Vision for the future & Shares My Values tied at 28%.
(Romney +9% and Romney +27%, respectively).

3. Cares about people 22%
(Obama +69%).

3. Strong leader 18%
(Romney +17%).


Pennsylvania:

1. Shares my values 29%
(Romney +13%).

2. Vision for the future 28%
(Romney +15%).

3. Strong leader and cares about people, tied, 20%
(Romney +27% and Obama +65%, respectively).


Virginia:

1. Vision for the future 30%
 (Romney +10%).

2. Shares my values 27%
(Romney +22%).

3. Cares about people 22%
(Obama +65%).

4. Strong leader 18%
(Romney +24%).


Wisconsin:

1. Vision for the future 30%
(Romney +16%).

2. Shares my values 26%
(Romney +17%).

3. Cares about people 24%
(Obama +74%).

4. Strong leader 18%
(Romney +20%).

TOMORROW: EMPATHY POWER RANKINGS!