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Tracking the Status of Congressional Redistricting

It’s a midterm election year, and tensions are running high. A lot is riding on this election. The majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives could change hands, and there are many close races in swing districts. 

To double down on the drama, it’s a redistricting year. Congressional districts are being re-drawn using new 2020 census data. With some districts contesting in the courts we lack total clarity on what the political map will look like for the November elections. It’s a dynamic situation, and MSG is tracking it carefully.  

  • Each week we issue an updated table showing state by state status (you can download it as a spreadsheet, too)
  • Each week we update the US map to show which states have approved redistricting, which are pending, and which have been proposed

Congressional Math

Every 10 years the United States Census captures significant geo-demographic trends—which populations are up, which are down. The federal government uses decennial Census population numbers to reapportion Congressional Districts for each state. States with more population get proportionally more seats in The House of Representatives.

After reapportionment, U.S. Congressional districts must be re-drawn. Reapportionment and redistricting is a numbers game:

States That Gained House Seats 

States That Lost House Seats

You can see a pattern here. The Northeast and Midwest states are losing population, the South and West are gaining. 

It is left up to the states to draw new boundaries for each district. Some districts will become more competitive, some “safer” for the party currently holding the seat. 

Analysts at Fivethirtyeight.com reported that Republicans have power over the redrawing of 43% of congressional districts at the state level. Democrats control 17% of the districts. Independent commissions or party splits are in control of 38%. 1% of the districts won’t need to redistrict at all, and one “at large” district will cover the whole state.

With both parties potentially trying to shape Congressional districts to put themselves at an advantage, state supreme courts typically have the final say. A lot depends on population patterns—what regions are seeing the biggest population shifts. The results will no doubt have an impact on national politics for the next decade.

Stay on top of the latest developments by visiting our Genesys Redistricting Tracker.

Featured

Drawing the Boundaries of Suburban Geography

Suburbs can be amorphous and hard to grasp. Where does a city end and a suburb begin? Where does a suburb end and a rural area start? Reportedly, 52% of Americans describe their home neighborhood as suburban. Yet, the US Census does not have a definition for a suburban area. The term suburban is considered more of a colloquialism in today’s world. 

In this piece we will look at how MSG defines suburban geography and how the geo-demographic team compensates for the US Census’ shortcomings and discrepancies.

To define a suburban area properly, we must look at all underlying geographic components – in particular urban and rural. To do this, we start by looking at Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

MSA’s are defined as urban areas of at least 50,000 people with one or more adjacent counties that are socioeconomically tied to that urban center. There are over 360 MSA’s currently defined in the US and each MSA has one or more principal cities. 

Traditionally, we consider principal cities to be the core socioeconomic center with the counties surrounding it dependent on it.  

Now, let’s think about how the US Census delineates cities and urbanity. The Census defines urban as being within the principal city of an MSA and any census block outside of the principal city that meets a specific population threshold. 

The problem is that the US Census does not distinguish between suburban or rural areas. It just assumes that anything not urban is rural. In fact, no government entity defines what a suburban area is.

Here we encounter a massive disconnect. According to Pew Research, a growing share of the population in the United States is living in suburban counties of large metropolitan areas. And as we already noted, a majority of Americans say they live in the suburbs. Suburban communities, moreover, have a distinct geo-demographic identity compared to urban and rural areas, yet the government doesn’t really account for it! Compounding the problem is the slippery nature of the term “suburban.” It can mean different things in different parts of the country. 

All of this means that we have to define what suburban is ourselves. Marketing Systems Group’s geo-demographic team has developed their own definitions of suburban areas to compensate. 

Taking a simplistic approach, we take the census blocks within the principal cities of the MSA’s and keep them coded as “urban.” Any census block outside these principal cities that was classified as urban by the Census we now classify as “suburban.” On the other hand, any census block classified as rural by the Census remains “rural”.

Additionally, we can apply an urban/suburban/rural rule to any kind of geography or polygon. For example, we could take a ZIP code and classify it as urban, suburban, or rural. This is done by rolling up the underlining geography (census blocks) and determining whether the population (or land area) within a ZIP code is predominantly urban, suburban or rural. However, we could end up with a checkerboard affect with how the census blocks distributed across urban, rural, and suburban, so some care is needed.

We can also leverage our Addressed Based Sampling (ABS) frame to our advantage. Using ABS, we can identify population growth in areas in a shorter time frame instead of relying upon decennial Census data, which is only updated once every 10 years. If you are trying to define suburban areas, which can grow suddenly and dramatically, you will see how stale the data can become if you merely rely on decennial Census data. Using ABS gives you a more current, more accurate picture. 

For more insight, click here and check out Coffee Quip episode 8, Geo-demographic Methods: Suburban Geography, featuring Dennis Dalbey, Manager, Geo-demographic Services, and David Malarek, Senior Vice President, Sampling & Database Services. 

Featured

Building on Tradition: How Advanced Cellular Frame Adds Diversity to RDD

Is it possible to take traditional RDD cellular telephone sampling and make it better? The answer is yes, thanks to one of our newer products, Advanced Cellular Frame (ACF). 

Advanced Cellular Frame is built upon the traditional RDD frame. It takes all possible telephone numbers in the RDD frame and adds something more. This makes for a much more versatile sampling tool, both for doing RDD and a targeted sample. 

How is ACF Compiled? 

Think of it as one database with two components inside. First, there’s the matched component. In the old days, this was known as “Listed.”  Second, there’s “everything else”: the unmatched, unlisted, unassigned telephone numbers.

We take the original RDD frame, which includes every single thousand block that was dedicated to cellular servers. Next, we identify all the telephone numbers from a set of half a billion or so. We advance the frame by attaching as much ancillary data to the numbers as we can: names, addresses, individual demographics, household demographics, and geography. 

Let’s say you’d like to do a targeted sample. For that, we would go into the database and fish out those telephone numbers matching the specific geographic and demographic criteria that you are targeting. 

If you want to do an RDD, we go in and include everything within the geography you are sampling. All numbers have an equal probability of selection both from the listed (matched) component and the unlisted component. 

KEEPING DATA FRESH

The database is updated quarterly.  It’s true that with any database on the marketplace, there’s always going to be aging. There will be lag time between the vendor compiled data and loading it into a production environment.  We compensate for the lag by sending selected telephone numbers out for a real-time name and an address append. 

Because people tend to move over time for one reason or another, this method ensures that we are appending the most current information available in terms of names and addresses, for the sample we provide. 

ADDRESSING THE MIGRATION PROBLEM

So, what happens when for example, a person in the listed portion (name and address) was geocoded, but that person actually moved? Many of these people will have carried their existing telephone number from one geography to the new one. Will Advanced Cellular Frame RDD move that number to the new frame? 

Yes, the person will be identified based off the new address. That’s the beauty of the ACF frame. It does an excellent job at addressing migration. You can include for your target geography (like a state) all phone numbers from all area codes across the country of people who it so turns out have actually moved into that geography. 

The converse is true as well. Anyone who has moved out of state will be excluded from the frame. 

This improves your coverage and the quality of data collection and cuts down on collection costs. 

HOW ACCURATE IS ACF?

Advanced Cellular Frame pulls on new technology to try to accurately link a telephone number to a name and address. It utilizes ID authentication, the technology used to validate transactions online. That information is used to help clean up and tighten up the ACF frame, which significantly boosts the matching accuracy.

WHAT ABOUT WORKING RATE?

You would expect a 75% to 80% overall working rate in ACF. That working rate jumps up to about 95% within the listed portion because there’s so much information known about those telephone numbers that they’re actually known to be working. The result is a much higher working rate than a traditional RDD frame.  

LEARN MORE

To learn more about ACF, click here and check out the first video episode of our YouTube series “Coffee Quip” an informal series of information talks with a panel of MSG experts. In this episode, Hillary McDonough, Raj Bhai, and Greg Pizzola chat about Advanced Cellular Frame with subject matter expert David Malarek, Senior Vice President of sampling and database services. 

Follow us on YouTube here for more Coffee Quip Episodes!

MSG data fusion techniques seed new growth opportunities for fresh-foods company

What does the word Fusion mean to you? You might identify that term with nuclear power, the holy grail of carbon-free energy creation. Or you might think of Jazz fusion, the blend of traditional jazz instrumentation with electronic rock instruments. In the market research industry, fusion refers to the powerful melding of data from various sources with analytical and segmentation intelligence to account for challenges and deficiencies in survey research. 

While there is no doubt that customer surveys will always play a key role in forming business strategies, the fact of the matter is, respondents are less likely to fill out long and complex questionnaires than they used to be. We live in a world of diminishing returns.

But this is only half the picture. When it comes to ancillary data from commercial sources, the harvest of quality data about consumers is a rich and bountiful yield. Companies now have the power to augment their internal customer data with supplemental external data. 

What kinds of data do we have in mind? Think about how data such as granular geodemographics, socioeconomic characteristics, attitudinal and behavioral indicators could augment existing surveys and records. This is where the fusion concept applies. By fusing some or all of these aspects, you are likely to get a fuller, more accurate picture of your customer base. 

MSG’s data scientists work with clients to pull data from various sources, apply nuanced analytical and segmentation techniques to it, then output a robust, empirical basis for business decision making. Fusing data, then applying advanced analytics, means businesses are less in the dark than before. By reaching beyond simple statistical analysis, better inferences and more nuanced decisions can be made. 

Client Case Study

To see how this works in the real world, read this case study about one of our clients is in the fresh-fruits and vegetables delivery business. They take fresh produce that isn’t pretty enough to go on the supermarket shelves, which might otherwise go to waste, and get it into the hands of customers. The problem was the company didn’t know enough about their current customer base to be able to formulate a plausible growth plan. They knew that new market opportunities were out there, but they didn’t know where to look for them, because data items for each customer were scant. They needed better answers to questions like 

  • What are the key characteristics of profitable customers across multiple markets?
  • What characteristics differentiate loyal customers from the rest?
  • Which geo-demographic segments include higher concentrations of loyal customers?
  • How can loyal customers be located in new markets?

To tackle these questions, MSG developed a fusion plan involving an array of techniques:

  • Map creation and plotting of all current customer locations
  • Individual and household demographic variables appended to each customer.
  • Classification and regression analytics used to zero-in on key predictors. 
  • A series of spatial analyses to identify geographic clusters in new markets similar to existing markets.

Check out the full case study to see how the company achieved a much better grasp of their good recurring customers, where they were clustered geographically, what they looked like demographically, and what areas in markets of interest had the highest likelihood of potential new customers (people with similar demographics as the known customers).

Fusion of internal and external data can help your company to fill in the knowledge gaps, make more accurate inferences, and seed growth opportunities for new products, services, and markets. 

The Power of Conversation

Observers of the market research industry have been noticing a trend of late: researchers are acknowledging the limitations of large-scale surveys and are rediscovering the value of qualitative research, namely, real conversations with real people. Why?

That’s precisely the question, and also, the answer. “Why.” Quantitative research often has difficulty answering the “why?” questions. While it is true that much insight can be gained by analyzing big data, why not go directly to the source and talk to them? By interviewing and hearing people’s stories and insights, you can understand data better. Why do products sell? Why is growth not taking off? Why do preferences emerge for one brand and not another? Some answers are more readily gained by simply talking to people, then interpreting the results.

Continue reading “The Power of Conversation”

4 Surefire Ways to Increase ABS Response Rates Without Breaking the Bank

So you found the perfect sampling source with nearly 100% coverage and the ability to reach cell phone only homes with address based sample.  One can expect to get the completes needed but realistically what type of response rate will you achieve?  How can you boost it? Continue reading “4 Surefire Ways to Increase ABS Response Rates Without Breaking the Bank”

TCPA Compliance

My name is Tim Antoniewicz and I am not a lawyer.  I am not legal counsel.  I once played Clarence Darrow in a junior High School production of Inherit the Wind but what I am about to say should in no way be considered legal advice.  However it may be considered helpful in sorting out the quandary that many researchers face when conducting research with a cellular sample frame.

In light of the new FCC regulations (6/18/15) that expand the TCPA, CASRO has provided the following guidelines:

The Federal Communications Commission approved new regulations that expand the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The new FCC rules broaden restrictions on autodialed calls to cell phones without differentiation for caller intent. 

ALL calls to cell phones made using an auto-dialer are PROHIBITED.

DO:

ALL calls to cell phones should be manually dialed.

Regularly update number databases to identify numbers ported to cell phones.

Don’t:

Use a predictive dialer OR an auto-dialer to call cell phone numbers.

Assume that human proximity to, or intervention in, the placement of an autodialed call to a cell phone provides exemption from the TCPA.

Staying educated and taking proactive measures are the key to compliance with the law. Here are some high-level guidelines to follow:

  • Mitigate the risk by verifying the types of phones numbers on your list
  • Get the consent of the current wireless subscribers to a number
  • Be aware of ethical considerations including respondent safety and privacy.

Marketing Systems Group can assist you in flagging likely wireless numbers, identifying ported landline-to-wireless numbers and real-time screening of active cell phone numbers.

MSG is committed to helping you navigate the ever changing regulation landscape from the TCPA and remain in compliance while accomplishing your research goals.

For more information about TCPA compliance, see http://www.tcpacompliance.us/

MSG in a Bottle

Welcome to our brand new blog for customers and industry observers. We’re calling it MSG in a Bottle, and I know you’re going to love following it.

One of the best things about my job as president of Marketing Systems Group is the opportunity to work with an inspiring, committed team of professionals. They constitute a brain trust of talent and experience. Their collective market research expertise and dedication to quality truly makes a difference across our entire product line — GENESYS® sampling system , PRO-T-S® dialer software and ARCS® all-in-one panel manager.

Since 1987, we’ve been delivering innovative solutions to the survey research community, and our staff continues to do amazing things, year over year.

I’m proud of these professionals. They are what make our products great. We learn from each other every day.

That’s all well and good for a company president, you might be saying, but what about me?

That’s why we’ve started this blog. We want you to benefit from the collective wisdom I see in action every day at MSG. I’ve asked this talented team of pros to share their insights and expertise with you.

At the MSG in a Bottle blog you will get our expert analysis of hot industry trends, stay informed with news on the survey research industry and the latest standards updates, learn how we’re positioning our products to meet customers’ needs, and get practical advice and tips on how best to use our products. Think of it as “news you can use.” Also, we hope to have some fun along the way, too. We want you to get to know us better. And we want to hear from you too. You’ll be able to join the discussion and share your feedback and suggestions via the comments section after each blog post.

I’m excited about this new channel for reaching our customers and the survey research community, and I’m confident that our media and marketing team will keep you up-to-date on the survey research industry topics that truly matter. We hope you’ll bookmark us and stop in frequently. New pieces will appear on a bi-monthly basis. Or better yet subscribe/follow us here, and never miss a new post when it arrives.

Thanks and happy reading,

Jerry Oberkofler