Why do political organizations need marketing research


Research Design at LSPMA

Lake, Snell, Perry, Mermin & Associates, Inc. (LSPMA), is a national public opinion and political strategy research firm. Its expertise is conducting objective opinion polls to assess the attitudes and behaviors of important target groups that are the concern of its clients. The Washington, D.C.-based firm has become nationally recognized for its knowledge of women's, youth's, children's, and environmental political issues. Among the company's clients are the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor's Association (DGA), the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Emily's List, and the Kaiser Foundation. LSPMA also conducts regular polls for U.S. News & World Report, and with the Terrance Group, the Battleground Poll surveys the year's political landscape and draws attention to critical issues that Washington insiders can't afford to ignore.

In 2005, LPSMA acquired the Washington, D.C.- and San Diego-based polling firm Decision Research, giving it even greater capacity to conduct research for both business and political clients. LPSMA's primary goal is to discover what the public thinks for people who want to know. It is among the Democratic Party's leading strategists, serving as tacticians and senior advisors to dozens of political incumbents and challengers at all levels of the electoral process, as well as to a wide range of advocacy organizations, nonprofit organizations, and foundations. Its client base is split evenly among three groups: political candidates such as senators and governors; progressive-issue organizations that want research on social issues such as poverty, education, health care, and teen pregnancy; and foundations or major institutions such as the American Cancer Society.

Through research techniques, including reconnaissance and espionage, LSPMA's job is to present hard data regarding what specific segments of the public think about certain issues or candidates. LSPMA's work helps clients to identify potential problems or opportunities and to determine what strategies and messages would best help them achieve their goals and reach their target audiences. It is important to know what different segments of the population think, feel, and need so that advertising then can be targeted at the people that organizations want to target. LSPMA uses a variety of different methods, including telephone interviews, online polls, and focus groups, to create portraits of groups of people, such as "soccer moms," "waitress moms," or "NASCAR dads," so that its clients can understand those segments and what they think of and recognize as important trends.

Research allows LSMPA's clients to know what Americans are thinking and helps them to determine how to target those segments of the population who are likely to think their firm has the right product or the right candidate. It allows clients to understand where they are most vulnerable and where they have the greatest opportunities to gain more support. By knowing which people feel strongly, which are sitting on the fence, and which changed their opinion when given certain pieces of information about certain issues or characteristics, it is possible to segment people depending on what they think and how they act and behave. Once organizations know whom to target and which issues are most important to those they wish to target, they can narrow their approach down to the least expensive to accomplish their goals.

There are many reasons to segment the public; the primary one is simply because people are different. Segmentation enables marketers and pollsters to cluster like-minded people together and really trying to understand who they are. It is then possible to craft a message that precisely targets a particular audience. Markets can be segmented by age, gender, education, region of the country, income, or race to create new ways of looking at a group that tends to behave similarly. There are pitfalls to segmentation, however. It sometimes can make people seem more diverse than they actually are. For example, women agree on 80 percent of things and have views that are similar.

Segmentation can only help an individual or organization so much; the rest depends on the hottest new trends. Few groups are static or truly homogeneous, which means that continuous research is necessary to remain up to date with changes in attitudes and behaviors and to ensure that messages still reach their target audience. Like all marketing research firms, LSPMA has a plan that details the questions that will be asked, of whom, where, and the time frame and cost. It enables the firm to know what it has to do and how to do it. All research firms are creating information for more informed understanding and decisions regardless of the client.45

Questions for Discussion
1. Why do political organizations need marketing research conducted by LSPMA?

2. What is the relationship between marketing research conducted by LSPMA and identifying the needs and wants of specific market segments?

3. Why would a business rely on a marketing research firm that is heavily into political polling?

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