Saturday, June 19, 2010

2010 Utah GOP State Convention Delegates

Because of the failure of the main stream media to accurately report in any kind of scientific way about the caucus process and the selection of delegates to the state nominating conventions, I am offerng this post to clear up the persistent claims (and I believe they are false claims) about the makeup of the 2010 Utah GOP State Nominating Convention delegates. 

The prevailing claims we have been reading in the press locally and nationally can be summarized this way:  The 3500 elected delegates were, 1) rabid, wild-eyed conservative nut jobs; 2) they were not representative of the larger electorate; and 3) were political activists seen as "hired guns" motivated by extremist groups outside Utah to bring down Senator Bennett.

One of the "perks" (if you can view it as such) of being a state delegate this year has been participation in all the collected polling data.  As a sidebar footnote, the most intelligent questions I was asked in this pre-convention season came from a surprising source -- students at Riverton High School, whose Social Studies teacher crafted a series of questions and then had his students make the calls to the elected delegates.  I was impressed more with that poll than any of the others in which I participated with the possible exception of what follows, clearly the most accurate and scientific.

Because few if any of the general public would ever know about what BYU professor, J. Quin Monson, Ph.D., Associate Director Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, actually does for a living, I am sharing the results of his pre and post-convention delegate surveys that were provided to me as a participant.

About the Survey

The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) conducts an ongoing Internet survey of Utah voters entitled the Utah Voter Poll (UVP).  In May of 2010, CSED conducted a special edition of the UVP by surveying Republican state convention delegates with a pre and post-convention survey.  The pre-convention survey was in the field between May 3rd and May 7th. The post-convention survey was open between May 12th and May 19th.

Pre-Convention Survey Methodology

CSED used a list of delegates, their mailing addresses, and their email addresses to invite individuals to participate in the online survey. 

CSED faculty collaborated on the design of the online survey instrument.  On May 3rd, email invitations containing a link to the survey were sent to the 2,625 state delegates whose email addresses were available.  Two-hundred and twenty-one emails were returned as undeliverable.  Forty-one of the returned emails contained obvious errors in the email address that were corrected and placed back in the sample.  Invitation emails were sent to the corrected email addresses on May 4th.  On May 5th, a reminder email was sent to encourage delegates to complete the survey.  A total of 2,445 state delegates were an email invitation prior to the convention.  (The reminder email was mistakenly sent to all delegates instead of only to those who had not yet completed the survey.  CSED researchers used a duplicate case function in SPSS software to identify and remove the duplicates.)

To reach state delegates who did not make their email address available, CSED sent 845 survey invitation letters by first-class mail on May 3, 2010.  Each letter contained a unique survey ID number to be used to gain access to the survey.  As of May 24th, 17 letters were returned to CSED after failing to reach delegates.  A total of 828 delegates received invitations to take the survey before the convention. Delegates who participated in the survey after receiving an invitation in the mail were invited to participate in a follow-up post-convention survey and then asked to provide their email addresses.

Data were collected as respondents accessed the online survey from May 3rd at 4:00 P.M. to May 7th at midnight.

Pre-Convention Response Rate and Margin of Error

The response rate for the pre-convention Utah Republican State Delegate Survey was 40.7%.  The delegates who received email invitations to take the survey responded at a significantly higher rate (47.2%) than those who received the mail invitation (21.3%).

Response rate calculation:

Total mail and email addresses provided: 3,470
Total valid email addresses that received survey invitations: 2,445
Total valid mail addresses that received survey invitations: 828
Total accessed surveys from email invitations: 1155
Total accessed surveys from mail invitations: 176
Response rate from email invitations: 1,155/2,445 = 47.2%
Response rate from mail invitations: 176/828 = 21.3%
Overall response rate: 1,331/3,273 = 40.7%
The margin of error for a sample of 1,331 of a population of 3,470 is about ± 2.11%.

Post-Convention Survey Methodology

CSED researchers also collaborated on the design of the post-convention survey.  Comments from the delegates received on the pre-convention survey were informative in this process.

On May 12, 2010, a post-convention survey invitation was sent via email to 1,298 delegates who completed the pre-convention survey.  Not all pre-convention survey participants were invited to participate in the post-convention survey because email invitations were sent only to respondents whose email addresses were on the first list or to those who provided them directly to CSED during the pre-convention survey.  Mail invitations to participate in the post-convention survey were not sent.

A total of 1,096 delegates accessed the survey, and 1,079 delegates completed it between 5:30 P.M. on May 12th and 1:00 A.M. on May 20, 2010.

Post-Convention Response Rate and Margin of Error

Only delegates who responded to the pre-convention survey were invited to complete the postconvention survey.  The post-convention survey cooperation rate was 84.4% (1,096/1,298).  The response rate based on the original population is 33.5% (1,096/3,273).  The margin of error for a sample of 1,096 of a population of 3,273 is about ± 2.45%.


The convention was really a race between four viable candidates:  Bob Bennett, Tim Bridgewater, Cherilyn Eagar, and Mike Lee.  Going into the convention Lee held a commanding lead among the delegates:

Lee -- 38.9%
Bennett -- 22.7%
Bridgewater -- 22.7%
Eagar -- 11.8%

After the first vote at the convention, the actual results were:

Lee -- 28.8%
Bridgewater -- 26.8%
Bennett -- 25.9%
Eagar -- 15.8%

The post-convention survey questions included an option for those who did not cast a ballot.  The percentages have been adjusted here to reflect only the responses of survey participants who reported casting a ballot:

Lee -- 30.7%
Bridgewater -- 27.0%
Bennett -- 25.4%
Eagar -- 14.1%

Myth Busting

Most media reports about the caucuses and nominating convention would have us believe the caucus system is somehow "broken" because it was skewed in favor of first-timers who "took over" the caucus meetings and "bullied" their way into being elected.  The facts say otherwise:

Only 23% of the delegates elected were first-time caucus participants.

Not surprising to me, 33.4% of elected state delegates had attended more than six neighborhood caucuses in the past.

Interestingly, 662 of the delegates (50.7% of the respondents to the survey) were elected as state delegates for the first time.  What that tells me is that "passive" caucus participants in the past became more motivated this year.  I've been a state delegate many times before in the past in a different precinct, but this year I was certainly more motivated than ever before.  948 (72.5%) went with the sole intention of being elected as a state delegate.  I was one in that number.

It was widely reported by the media that so-called straw polls were being conducted in the caucus meetings to ascertain the "sense of the caucus" about who favored which candidates, but the respondents in the survey clearly refuted that false claim -- 82% said there were no straw polls.  66% said they did not believe they were obligated one way or the other to vote for a particular candidate, again refuting the widespread media reports that the caucuses were requiring litmus tests to oust Bennett.

The vote was split in the survey about whether or not they told their caucus who they intended to vote for.  50.6% said they declared their support for a candidate at the caucus, 48.1% said they did not.

Over 90% of the delegates surveyed strongly opposed three hot-button issues:  Economic stimulus bills, Obamacare, and "cap-and-trade" designed to limit greenhouse gases and address climate change.  98% said things in the country have gotten "pretty seriously" off track.

The "favorable rating" data are interesting.  Going into the convention the delegates stacked up their preferences this way:

Mike Lee -- 73.11%
Tim Bridgewater -- 72.81%
Cherilyn Eagar -- 61.56%
Bob Bennett -- 42.11%

With less than 50% favorable, Bennett was in deep trouble.

Bennett thought he was "done hard by" those favoring the Tea Party movement.  But Tea Party advocates were only 42%, those not advocating Tea Party positions balanced off their influence at 42%, with 15% having no opinion one way or the other, again busting the myth that the Tea Party advocates dominated the "dump Bennett" sentiment.  75% of delegates reported they had given no money to the Tea Party or any of its organizations.  62% felt it's more important to have policies that adhere to Constitutional principles rather than crafting policies to solve pressing national issues.  74% wanted to see less government intervention in our lives.

95% use the Internet more than once a day.  75% were males.  64% were over age 45.  Only 62% considered themselves as "strong Republicans," with the others leaning more moderate or independent.  63% considered themselves as "strongly conservative," while 35% said they were "moderately conservative."  36% were college graduates and 39% held post-graduate degrees.  90% of the delegates were Mormons.  88.8% considered themselves "very active" Mormons.  95% were White/Caucasian.  92% were married.  79% made more than $55,000 a year.

Bob Bennett can only conclude he was "eaten" by his own kin when you drill down on these data points.

Post-convention Results

86% reported they were "satisfied" or "very satisified" with their convention experience.  73% liked the outcome of the final voting in the U.S. Senate race.  70% said the caucus system should not be changed.  71% believe the present system allows candidates with little or no financial backing to compete fairly against more well-heeled candidates.  95% wanted to be re-elected as delegates in the future.

50% of the delegates saw the controversial "who represents Utah values" flyer before the convention.  35% assumed it came from Lee's camp (it did not).  75% thought it was offensive.

If you would like to see the whole study, click here.

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