Timeline of Key Events for Public Opinion Strategies

Timeline of Key Events

Since the founding of Public Opinion Strategies in 1991, the firm has conducted 10 million interviews, completed a total of 24,412 projects, and currently represents six governors, 11 Senators, and 44 Members of Congress.  Since 2004, along with its Democratic partner, the firm conducts The NBC/WSJ Poll and, since 2007, the CNBC All-America Economic Survey.  The firm now has 12 partners, is the largest political and public affairs survey research firm, and among the 50 largest research firms in the country.

We created and today manage a vibrant public affairs practice, having completed more than 7,000 public affairs projects since our founding.  The firm represents Fortune 500 companies and over 30 major trade associations and has become the premier health care research firm in the country, having completed more than 1700 focus groups and 1245 surveys on the topic of health care.  The firm’s additional areas of expertise range from crisis and brand management, to education, finance, and technology as well as establishing a large research practice focused on the utility and energy sectors.

The firm has been uniquely successful in political campaigns, we have helped elect:

  • 22 new U.S. Senators and worked with 10 other senators on their winning re-election campaign(s), polling for a total of 32 different U.S. Senators.
  • 25 new governors and, overall, worked with 34 different governors, including handling the re-election campaigns of nine incumbent governors who hired the firm after first being elected governor.
  • 117 new Members of Congress, including 50 who have defeated a Democratic incumbent or won a Democratic open-seat.  Public Opinion Strategies has helped defeat more incumbent Members of Congress than any other firm, Republican or Democrat.

Public Opinion Strategies understands the importance of Republican control of state legislative bodies and has always committed significant resources to conducting state legislative polling.  Today its clients include 10 of the most sophisticated state legislative caucus committees in the country, including caucuses in California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Ohio.

The firm is committed to its ballot measure practice and over these years has been a part of 176 winning ballot measure campaigns.

Across both political and public affairs research, as our tag line suggests, we work with our clients “Turning Questions into Answers.”

Here are some noteworthy events through the years:

 1991  Public Opinion Strategies was founded by Neil Newhouse, Bill McInturff, and Glen Bolger.  The  firm opened its doors representing one governor and 12 Members of Congress.

1992   Major Senate wins included Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John McCain’s re-elect, starting a 25-year run of handling the polling for all of McCain’s Senate races and his two races for president.

Of the ten Democratic open House seats that shifted to Republicans, four were won by POS clients.  Four of the 13 Republicans who defeated Democratic incumbents were also represented by the firm.

The firm wins its first three ballot measure campaigns of what will become 176 winning initiative campaigns through the years.

The firm conducts its first election night survey, now a tradition spanning seven presidential elections.  Major findings:  More than half of Perot’s voters made up their mind in the last few days before the election and 12% of all voters made up their mind on Election Day, the largest percentage since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980.

1994   The firm is central to Republicans winning the House for the first time in 52 years, handling the polling for 24 of the 73 newly elected Republicans in Congress, including 20 who defeated a Democratic incumbent or won a Democratic open-seat.

The firm does the message testing, focus groups, ad testing and tracking on behalf of the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) for what becomes known as the “Harry and Louise” campaign against ClintonCare, the first extensive use of national TV advertising against a piece of legislation.

After the success stopping ClintonCare from passage, the firm then does extensive polling against a single-payer initiative in California, holding it to below 30%.

This work is the beginning of what is now a major health care practice.  The firm’s health care clients now include the American Cancer Society, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Federation of American Hospitals, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and several state hospital associations.

1995   The firm buys a set of Perception Analyzers, “dials” that are used to test speeches, ad content, and advertising.  In 2010, the firm buys a new, more sophisticated set and expands the number of dials to 50 to be able to do larger groups per dial session.

1996   The firm successfully defends the Republican majority in the House representing more than half of the top 20 most vulnerable GOP Members and six of the top 10.  The only losses across the firm’s stable of over 50 Republican Members of Congress were a Republican incumbent caught in a sex scandal and an incumbent who refused to run a negative commercial.

The firm handles the polling for Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina’s winning re-election campaign, highlighting the firm’s tradition of having its feet planted in all segments of the Republican Party, from movement conservative to moderate.

We handle the polling for both chambers of the legislature in Florida, both flip to Republican, the first state in the South to have both chambers represented by Republicans since Reconstruction.   Since its founding, the firm has specialized and devoted significant resources to state legislative polling and today represents the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Kentucky Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee, Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee, the New York Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and Republican campaign committees for both chambers of the State Legislatures of California, Michigan, and Ohio.

We also did polling in the 1996 presidential campaign. We have conducted polling for the Republican nominee in six presidential election cycles.

1997   Gene Ulm becomes the firm’s fourth partner, having started with the company as a Project Director at the firm’s founding in 1991.

Steve Kinney joins the firm as partner, establishing a Public Opinion Strategies office in California, as the firm becomes bi-coastal.

Public Opinion Strategies develops a national public affairs practice, all part of a plan to double in size over six years but reaches the goal within three years.

1998   A hugely successful cycle for the firm polling for nine major statewide winners and 36 Members of Congress, including the only Republican challenger to defeat an incumbent Democrat.  Every single open-seat statewide candidate Public Opinion Strategies worked with won.

The firm does the successful polling that wins the initiative campaign to build the Denver Broncos’ new stadium.   Through the years, the firm develops a specialty in helping build public support and win initiative campaigns to build stadiums for NFL and MLB teams, including stadiums for the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

2000   The firm’s clients represent half of all gains made by Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate.

Gene Ulm helped Russia’s first democratically elected candidates defeat communist candidates to win Russia’s first free elections for the local and national Dumas.  Since our firm’s founding, we have conducted opinion research in 43 countries and conducted quantitative research in 23 countries as part of our work around the globe.

In September, we complete our first all internet survey.

2002   Another exceptionally strong night for Public Opinion Strategies clients as the firm polled for four Republican takeovers in the U.S. Senate, five new governors (nine total governors of the 21 elected) and ten new Members of the House.

Governor Jeb Bush became the first Republican to be re-elected in Florida and the firm’s work for Governor-elect Mitt Romney helped set the stage for polling for his presidential run in 2012.

The American Association of Political Consultants names Public Opinion Strategies as its pollster of the year.  Neil Newhouse and Glen Bolger go on to win this award individually two more times each, sharing the award in 2010, with Glen winning again in 2012 and Neil in 2017.

2004   The firm continued its successful efforts in the U.S. Senate, polling for four more Republican takeaways, a newly elected governor, and five new Members of Congress (as part of a total of handling the polling for 53 GOP House members).  The firm was a part of the Bush-Cheney ‘04 polling team.

2006   In a difficult cycle for the party, the firm polled for the only newly elected Republican U.S. Senator and another five new members of the House.  At the request of the White House, the firm handled the polling for Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut as he became the first independent elected to the U.S. Senate since 1976.  The scope of the firm’s work was also well represented by having polled in successful legislative campaigns in 13 states and on behalf of 22 winning ballot measures this cycle.

The firm buys a building in Old Town Alexandria, guts it, and it continues as the main office for a firm that now employs almost 40 people.

2007   The firm names Elizabeth Harrington, Patrick Lanne, and Nicole McCleskey as partners.

2008   Public Opinion Strategies was proud to serve as pollsters for John McCain’s presidential race as well as polling for six winning U.S. Senate races and six newly elected Members of Congress.

The firm’s legislative work expands to wins in 19 states, conducting the polling for all four state legislative chambers that flip to the Republican Party.

2010   “Well, that didn’t take long, did it?”   Glen Bolger handles the polling for Bob McDonald’s win in the governor’s race in Virginia in 2009 and Neil Newhouse did the polling for Scott Brown’s special election upset win in the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts.  They pen the “didn’t take long” line in a January op-ed in The Washington Post highlighting the rejuvenation of the Republican Party after the Obama sweep in 2008.

That November, as in 1994, Public Opinion Strategies was at the epicenter of successful efforts to take back the U.S. House and Senate.  Including independent expenditure efforts, the firm polled in 23 Senate and governor’s races, 96 congressional victories, including 63 seats wrestled away from the Democrats.  The firm’s own clients include 27 newly elected members of the House, including 22 who won Democratic-held seats.  After election night, the firm represents 70 Members of the House.

The firm polls for Susana Martinez’s successful gubernatorial campaign.  Susana Martinez’s victory makes her the first female governor of New Mexico and the first Hispanic female governor in the country.

2012   The firm was proud to handle the polling for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

In Michigan, the firm worked to defeat a labor union-backed amendment that would have granted public and private employees the constitutional right to collectively bargain.  Following the resounding defeat of this amendment, the Michigan legislature passed a right-to-work law in the state later that year.

2013   Robert Blizzard is named a partner.

The firm conducts its first poll comprised entirely of a panel of smartphone only respondents.

2014   Public Opinion Strategies hits a high-water mark after this cycle, representing 13 U.S. Senators, five governors, and 74 Members of the House.  Including Independent Expenditure campaigns, the firm was involved in winning 19 seats previously held by the Democrats in the House, including the firm representing nine new members of the House.

2016   The firm polled for Senate winning candidates in four of the cycle’s highest profile races, two of the three major GOP victories in gubernatorial campaigns and another five new Members of the House. Major state legislative victories included the Kentucky State House switching to a Republican majority for the first time since 1920, flipping the Minnesota State Senate to Republicans, and maintaining outright control of the New York State Senate.

2017   Jim Hobart and Micah Roberts are named partners.

The firm does the polling for the NRCC Independent Expenditure (IE) effort in the GA-6 special election.  This is the most expensive U.S. House race in history. The NRCC IE effort played a critical role in Karen Handel’s victory over Jon Ossoff.

2018   In a difficult midterm election, Public Opinion Strategies polled for winning candidates in eleven of the highest profile gubernatorial races, five major wins in the U.S. Senate and ten new Members of the House.

Major gubernatorial wins included Brian Kemp of Georgia, who came from behind in both the primary and general election races and the first female governors of Iowa (Kim Reynolds) and South Dakota (Kristi Noem).

The firm handles the research in California for the most expensive initiative campaign in history — a $115 million measure to defeat a union-backed ballot measure relating to dialysis clinics.

2019   Jarrett Lewis and George Nassar are named partners.

2020   As we enter a new decade, the firm adopts a new logo and redesigns and refreshes its website.

Innovative technology has significantly improved how we can share survey data with our clients.  As a result, Public Opinion Strategies is developing an exciting new dashboard tool to show key data and trends – just another step we are taking to make it easier for our clients to consume and digest data in a more visually appealing and easy-to-use format.  We will be rolling out this new tool for our political tracking work this Summer and Fall, and will soon be able to create custom dashboards for our many public affairs, corporate, and trade association clients.

Public Opinion Strategies