Emma White Research, LLC.

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About Us

Based in Ann Arbor, Emma White Research (EWR) is a national destination for high-quality, public policy-oriented opinion and market research. We help clients measure and understand their audiences’ awareness, perceptions, or opinions. Then we use strategic analysis to help craft messaging, reach key audiences, and get results.

Our Capabilities

Qualitative Research

In-person focus groups or smaller group interviews

One-on-one qualitative interviews

Online focus groups and message boards

Quantitative Research

Telephone surveys

Mail and online surveys

Strategic Consulting

Targeted message and campaign development

Message workshops

The Team

EWR is led by firm principal Emma White, a public opinion researcher with over 15 years of experience conducting high quality research and helping clients turn findings into action

Emma White, Principal | Emma White Research

Emma White

Founder & Principal

Prior to founding EWR in 2014, Emma spent 8 years at Belden Russonello Strategists, a boutique DC-based public opinion research firm, ending her tenure at BRS in the role of Senior Director. Emma has a Masters of Science from the University of Michigan’s Program in Survey Methodology and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College. She is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and serves as the Vice President of the board of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

Ethan Santangelo, Research Analyst | Emma White Research

Ethan Santangelo

Research Analyst

Ethan Santangelo manages data processing and analysis for all our quantitative research as well as assisting with research design and analysis. Ethan has an MA in Political Science from Michigan State University with a minor in research methods, and a BA in History and World Politics, also from MSU. He has also served as a research assistant for the Program on Extremism, and a community outreach associate for the American Red Cross.

Chris Campbell, Research Analyst | Emma White Research

Chris Campbell

Research Analyst

Chris helps design research proposals and reports as well and plays a key role in data processing, analysis, and interpretation. He is also fluent in Spanish and assists with bilingual research. Chris has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA and a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. A Southern California native, he previously served as a Legislative Analyst for the Los Angeles City Council, and was most recently involved with Washtenaw County's Prosecutor Transparency Project.

Griffin Johnson, Research Assistant | Emma White Research

Griffin Johnson

Research Assistant

Griffin supports the design and analysis of our research projects from beginning to end. Griffin has a BA in Political Science from Michigan State University, with a focus in Public Policy, Law and Justice. Prior to joining the team, he worked with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights in their political field program, as well as organizing and collaborating with multiple campaigns across the state of Michigan in 2020.

Select Clients

California Teachers Association
Voters Not Politicians
ACLU Michigan
CollegeBoard
Healing Our Waters
Indiana State Teachers Association
Launch
Minnesota Association of Professional Employees
MI Prop 1
National Wildlife Federation
ODEA
Region 9
Ruth Ellis Center
Regional Transit Authority
Safe & Just MI
Washtenaw County MI

Case Studies

EWR goes beyond the data to provide strategic guidance based on research. Take a look at some examples of how we have helped our clients to achieve their objectives.

Securing Revenue for Michigan's Parks and Natural Areas

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Building an Authentic Brand That Tells the Story of an Evolving Community Center

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Measuring Educators’ Job Satisfaction to Drive Policy Change

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Growing Union Membership in Minnesota

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Securing Revenue for Michigan's Parks and Natural Areas

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Building an Authentic Brand That Tells the Story of an Evolving Community Center

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Measuring Educators’ Job Satisfaction to Drive Policy Change

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Growing Union Membership in Minnesota

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Insights

May 3, 2021

The Biden Presidency Begins Strong

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November 3, 2020

What to Watch for in Election Results

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June 2, 2020

Understanding Public Reaction to The Murder of George Floyd

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March 17, 2020

Initial Reactions to COVID Pandemic

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Contact Us

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Emma White Research
Next Case Study

Securing Revenue for Michigan's Parks and Natural Areas

How could we simplify a complex ballot measure and secure voter support?

In 2020, Michigan voters were asked to decide on a constitutional change that would commit revenue from oil and natural gas development to land conservation and recreation in perpetuity. The mechanics of this change involved two state funds (the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund) and various limits on how the funds could be used. It had the potential to be confusing and technical in a way that risked leading voters to say “no” unless we could find a way to make the positive impacts of the proposal clear.

Research

Through our surveys of voters, we developed clear language to describe the proposal’s benefits—including the fact that it would not raise taxes—and identified the audiences who were open to persuasion on the measure. The campaign used our recommendations to engage with the Board of Canvassers about the ballot language and to inform campaign message and strategy, including earned and paid media.

Results

Ultimately the measure passed with 84% of the vote statewide.

View the Website
Next Case Study

Building an Authentic Brand That Tells the Story of an Evolving Community Center

How could Ruth Ellis Center better communicate the power of its work?

In 2019 Ruth Ellis Center’s leaders identified a need for a rebranding process that would bring communications materials in line with the organization’s evolving mission, vision, programs and services. The organization, in Highland Park, had established a national reputation for quality and innovation in providing trauma-informed services for lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth, and young adults, but leaders felt the organization was not fully communicating this excellence to external audiences.

Research

EWR conducted qualitative research, including one-on-one interviews and focus groups among key internal and external stakeholders, to understand what drives connection to the organization.

Results

Building on our research, we developed a brand persona and positioning statements to communicate the brand to key audiences. This work informed Zoyes Creative’s development of a new logo, website, and brand assets for the organization. Our guidance also helped the organization shape its storytelling and messaging to better communicate its dynamic personality and the creativity and determination it puts toward achieving its vision and mission.

Before
After
View the Website
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Measuring Educators’ Job Satisfaction to Drive Policy Change

How are educators feeling about their work and what do they hope will change?

Launch Michigan, a diverse coalition of business, education, labor, parents, and philanthropic and civic leaders, asked EWR to measure attitudes among educators in Michigan to inform the development of a shared policy agenda.

Research

The survey we conducted among nearly 17,000 educators statewide found that while generally satisfied with their own jobs, educators’ concerns about the state of the field are serious enough that only a quarter would recommend education as a career for young people they know. On every measure we compared, educators in Michigan are less content than their counterparts in Tennessee, a state which has served as a model for education reform efforts. In particular:

  • Educators say they are worn down by heavy workloads and what they see as lack of support or respect, and sometimes active hindrance, from political leaders.
  • They are divided on whether the current teacher evaluation system is fair, but few see it leading to better student learning.
  • Most say opportunities for professional learning are inadequate.
  • Educators are open to a number of approaches to improve schools and educational outcomes. They prioritize smaller class sizes and expanding access to Pre-K and are generally supportive of ideas ranging from distributing funding based on need to adding literacy coaches.

Results

Launch Michigan is using this data in its development of a policy agenda for improving public schools in Michigan.

View the Report
Next Case Study

Growing Union Membership in Minnesota

What would persuade members to stay in their union if they could get union benefits without paying dues?

In 2015, observers thought it very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court would use Friedrichs v. CTA to overturn “fair share” fees for public employee unions. Such a decision could have been an existential threat. Allowing individuals to opt out of membership without paying fair share fees to cover the cost of representation could start a downward spiral of shrinking membership, leaving unions without the necessary resources to represent their workers. The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), which represents about 14,000 state and local government employees in Minnesota, asked EWR to help it develop strategies for maintaining and growing membership if the Court acted as expected.

Research

From a series of online and in-person focus groups and a mixed-mode survey of members, we developed an engagement strategy that included messages highlighting the importance of union membership and targets for outreach. We were able to tell MAPE:

  • what work of the union is valued most by the employees it represents; and
  • how to frame that work in a way that is most persuasive at encouraging membership.

Results

MAPE embarked on a relational organizing campaign, using our messages, that has successfully increased membership in the union, substantially reducing the portion of members paying the fair share fee over one year’s time. Due to MAPE’s outreach, the organization actually continued to grow its membership in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to end agency fees.


Research Design notes

Combining the Benefits of Telephone and Online Surveys in a Mixed Mode Design

Given a limited budget, how can we get the most from our research?

MAPE has typically surveyed the employees it represents by e-mailing a link to an online survey. This approach allows the organization to affordably collect a large number of responses. However, because this relies on individuals affirmatively opting in to the survey, there is a risk that those members and fee-payers who are already more involved in the union are more likely to respond, and that their views may be different from those who are less involved – a type of error known as non-response bias.

Research

To minimize this bias, while still capitalizing on the economies of online research, we fielded a small number of telephone interviews among those who did not respond to the e-mailed invitation. Telephone surveys are subject to non-response bias as well, but a live interviewer has a chance to encourage participation among those who may be reluctant. And indeed, our data showed that the populations responding online and on the phone differed significantly in their attention to and participation in the union.

Results

This study provided an important check on the results we gathered from the online portion of the results, giving MAPE more confidence that the data we collected was an accurate measure of their entire population.

Next insight

The Biden Presidency Begins Strong

May 3, 2021

In Biden’s first 100+ days, the country is still sharply divided but slants toward the Democrats. Biden is maximizing that narrow advantage by 1) focusing his energy on the public’s priorities and 2) avoiding the trap of one-sided bipartisanship that gives Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans all the negotiating power.

Biden has so far sustained approval from a narrow majority of the country – far better than Trump but lower than earlier presidents. Since inauguration day, somewhere between 52% and 55% in most surveys say they approve of the job President Biden is doing. In contrast, Trump never saw sustained majority approval. And at 100 days into his presidency, Trump had already fallen several points from his limited “honeymoon” to about 42% approval. Many earlier presidents, however, started with higher approval ratings. Obama, for example, spent his first 100 days with approval ratings in the 60s, and George W. Bush in the high 50s. (For the interested, Gallup tracks its own presidential approval polling back to Eisenhower here).

The partisan polarization of the current moment probably creates a ceiling for Biden’s approval. The last decades have found Democrats and Republicans increasingly disagreeing on partisan lines about matters of public policy and viewing members of the other party more and more negatively. The upshot, of course, is fewer voters willing to give a new president of the other party a chance to earn their approval.

Given these circumstances – and the narrow control Democrats have over the Senate – Biden is acting in ways to maximize his success. I’m not the first to make this point, but Biden’s approach to partisan conflict and a narrow Democratic majority is so far much more successful than Obama’s. Instead of trying to find bipartisan support in the Senate, Biden has focused on acting where he can do so with executive authority or with only Democratic votes, and on communicating with the American people about priorities that enjoy strong (and bipartisan) public support. This has played out to his benefit:

  • Biden’s management of the pandemic and vaccine access has earned him strong marks in an area of high importance to the public. As an example of this strength, while the most recent NBC News poll has his overall approval at 53%, his handling of COVID is at 69%.
  • Biden’s economic agenda is also highly popular. The American Rescue Plan – which passed with zero Republican votes in the Senate – found high levels of public support. A large majority supports the infrastructure investments in the American Jobs Plan. And the administration’s focus on these popular priorities is paying off in how the public rates the President’s performance on the economy (52% approve in the recent NBC poll).

The next months and years will get harder. The administration will need to address issues that don’t have a clear bipartisan consensus, including issues of racial equity that Trump and other Republicans have been able to use to divide the public to their advantage.

But he’s on the right path. The Biden team’s approach of emphasizing results over process conveys strength and authority and avoids handing the reins to Republican officeholders who will define success by Biden’s failure. And the public sees it. An Ipsos poll out today shows Biden gets much more credit for the right level of compromise than Republicans in Congress do:

Emma White Research

This is a signal that the Biden team has learned the lessons of the Obama presidency and a promising indication for the rest of his term.

Next insight

What to Watch for in Election Results

November 3, 2020

We thought it would be useful to summarize where the polling stands immediately pre-election and what to watch for in election returns.

1. Early vs. election day voting: The most important context for election night tonight is the enormous split in *how* Democrats and Republicans have voted, with the early and mail-in vote heavily Democratic and the election day vote almost certain to be heavily Republican. Based on what we're seeing in polling, this gap may be even more stark than estimates based on modeled partisanship. It’s also important to know that some states (FL, North Carolina) report early vote first -- so their totals will get more Republican as the night goes on. Other states (MI, PA, WI) will mostly report election day votes before absentee votes are fully counted, which may take a couple of days, so their totals will get more Democratic as time goes on.

2. The presidential race: Anyone paying attention knows the polls have Biden well ahead in the national popular vote. His lead is bigger than the lead Clinton had in 2016. And there are several other differences from 2016, including pollsters making better adjustments for educational attainment, fewer undecided voters (who broke late for Trump in 2016), and the fact that people have a favorable view of Biden rather than disliking both candidates. Biden will win the popular vote, likely by a large margin.

Of course the electoral college means the popular vote winner might not win. Biden's most likely path to the presidency runs through the states Clinton won, plus Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Polling has him up in all of those states to the extent that a 2016-size error would still leave him ahead. But those are the states where the Democratic vote is likely to be counted later so we might not know the final outcome right away. If Biden wins any of the southern states (FL, NC, GA), however, he makes it more or less impossible for Trump to win overall, and we might have a pretty good idea tonight of the outcome. The Upshot has a good tracker for when results come in and how to interpret them.

3. The U.S. Senate: Democrats have a real chance to take control. If they do, it will most likely go through Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Maine – or maybe Iowa, Montana, Georgia, or South Carolina. Republicans are likely to pick up Doug Jones' seat in Alabama, and would like to (but probably won't) win Peters' seat in Michigan.

4. Here in Michigan: I know this isn't all of you, but here are the things I'll be tracking in-state:

  • MI-3 and MI-6: Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, covering Grand Rapids, is an open seat that has become one of the most competitive races in the country. The 6th, in Southwest MI, is a bit more of a long-shot for Democrats. Republicans have targeted first-term Democrats Haley Stevens (MI-11) and Elissa Slotkin (MI-8), hoping to flip these seats.
  • MI State House: If Democrats gain four seats, they will control the chamber. They're looking to pick up three districts in Oakland County (38, 39, 45), and one in Kalamazoo County (61) with 104 (Traverse City), 79 (Berrien County), and two seats in Kent County (72, 73) as somewhat longer shots. Republicans are hoping to hold Democrats off by flipping the 96th (Bay County), 19th (Livonia), or on a good night for them the 23rd (Downriver) or 48th (Genesee County). Again, expect early returns to favor Republicans, and wait for all the AV results to know where we are.
  • MI Supreme Court: Elizabeth Welch, Mary Kelly, and Brock Swartzle are fighting for an open seat on the state supreme court. Welch was endorsed by the Democratic party while the other two are Republican endorsed, so we should expect election day returns to favor the Republican candidates, and AV returns to favor Welch. If Welch wins, it gives the Democrats a majority on the Supreme Court.
  • MI Proposal 1: Will commit oil and gas revenues to conservation and recreation in perpetuity by lifting the cap on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Next insight

Understanding Public Reaction to The Murder of George Floyd

June 2, 2020

The first national data has started to come out on how people are reacting to the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, and Trump's reaction. There is some encouraging information in here, though obviously this is another quickly-evolving situation and people's opinions may change as circumstances change.

1. The public pretty clearly thinks the police officer was in the wrong in Floyd's death. Yahoo News finds 62% “strongly approve” of the firing of Chauvin and the three other Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death, and 77% say Chauvin was "obviously guilty and, if anything, the authorities were too slow to arrest him." Morning Consult finds 77% “strongly support” the firing of the officers involved in Floyd’s death, and 80% percent strongly support Chauvin’s arrest.

2. Views are a little more mixed on the protests, and it depends what questions are asked. The Morning Consult survey finds 54% of U.S. adults support the ongoing protests in response to the death of George Floyd and other black Americans. At the same time, Yahoo finds 51% say the protests in Minneapolis are "mostly violent riots" and only 10% say they are "mostly peaceful protests," and 25% say they are both about equally.

3. The initial reaction to President Trump's response is negative. CBS News finds 32% approve Trump's handling of the protests and events in Minneapolis and 49% disapprove.

4. Voters offer an acknowledgment of the racial injustice at work. Yahoo News finds 61% of Americans say race was a "major factor" in the death of George Floyd. In the CBS survey, 57% say "police in most communities treat white people better than black people." In the Morning Consult survey, 58% agree said they agreed that racial discrimination against black people is one of the biggest problems facing America today.

5. Almost all of this shows large differences by party and race, with Black Americans (and to a lesser extent White Democrats) feeling even more strongly in favor of the protests and Republicans aligned more on the side of the police.

6. This may be one more turning-point in a long-term shift on race in the U.S. It can be helpful sometimes to remember how far we have come, as illustrated in the chart below showing the long-term increase for support for interracial marriage. We certainly still have a long way to go, but just because we're not there yet doesn't mean we won't get there.

Next insight

Initial Reactions to COVID Pandemic

March 17, 2020

Data regarding the emergence of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. show the public is very attentive to the emerging threat and concerns are high. At the same time, views of the seriousness of the threat vary sharply by party, as do views of how the President is handling it. Of course, the Unites States is still in the early stages of dealing with this outbreak and we anticipate that circumstances on the ground, and public opinion, may change rapidly over the next weeks.

1. Americans are paying a great deal of attention to coronavirus. This topic is swamping other issues. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll¹ conducted from March 11-13 finds that 99% of Americans have seen, read or heard news coverage about the spread of the coronavirus – and 89% have heard a lot, up from 60% in their survey conducted 10 days earlier. Similarly, Navigator² finds that as of last week, 98% had heard about an outbreak of coronavirus, and 83% had heard a lot – far more than any other issue in the news such as the Democratic primary (49% heard a lot) or the stock market (43% a lot).

2. Many are concerned about the impact of the outbreak nationally, but there are large differences by party. Navigator finds 72% very or some concerned about a coronavirus outbreak becoming more widespread in the U.S. – but while 80% of Democrats are concerned, independents (58%) and Republicans (67%) are less so. Democrats (43%) are nearly twice as likely to call the outbreak a “major crisis” as Republicans (23%).

3. Voters are less concerned about getting the virus themselves – and there are partisan differences here too. NBC/WSJ finds just over half very (15%) or somewhat worried (38%) that they or their families will catch the virus – but that’s 68% of Democrats very/somewhat worried and just 40% among Republicans.

4. Large numbers of Americans are changing their behavior – and again, the pattern is partisan. NBC/WSJ shows:

  • 47% have or plan to stop attending large public gatherings – but that includes 61% of Democrats and only 30% of Republicans.
  • 36% have or plan to cancel travel – but that’s 47% of Democrats and 23% of Republicans
  • 26% have or plan to stop eating at restaurants – 36% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans

5. Views of the economy are down only slightly despite the stock market downturn, but Americans do express concern about potential economic impacts in the future. NBC/WSJ finds 47% of voters describe the economy as excellent or good – a drop of 6 points since December. Navigator finds 43% expect the economy to be better a year from now and 27% expect it to be worse, essentially unchanged from their expectations in January 2020 (42% better, 24% worse). However, at the same time, 72% say they are very or somewhat worried about a coronavirus outbreak causing a major economic downturn.

6. Approval of Trump’s handling of the virus matches his overall approval. NBC/WSJ finds 45% approve and 51% disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus – compared to 46% job approval/51% disapproval overall. Others find similar results, including ABC/Ipsos³ (43% approve, 54% disapprove of his response to coronavirus) and Quinnipiac⁴ (43% approve, 49% disapprove handling of coronavirus)

7. When presented with criticisms of the Trump administration response, however, voters say the criticisms are fair and concerning. Navigator tested five criticisms of the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak. Each finds a majority describing them as fair criticisms and each finds a majority saying they raise serious concerns. The two most broadly persuasive criticisms are:

  • Trump made it harder to fight coronavirus by gutting American preparedness to respond to outbreaks like this. The administration eliminated the U.S. Pandemic Response team, tried to cut the Center for Disease Control budget just last month, and gutted a health security initiative, firing staff and shutting down 39 of 49 pandemic centers created to combat the spread of dangerous viruses (64% serious concerns, 60% among independents); and
  • Trump's approach to health care has made Americans more vulnerable if they get sick with coronavirus. Trump has tried to cut health care and Medicare for three years - raising health care costs and limiting access. He gave insurance companies power to sell junk plans that don't cover the costs of treatment from coronavirus. Now Americans are getting hit with massive bills for testing and quarantines (63% serious concerns, 60% among independents).

1Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, N=900 registered voters nationwide, conducted by landline and cell phone March 11-13, 2020

2GSG and GBAO, N=1000 registered voters nationwide, conducted March 6-8,2020

3ABC News/Ipsos, N=502 registered voters nationwide, conducted via KnowledgePanel (a probability-based online panel) March 11-12

4Quinnipiac Poll, N=1,262 registered voters nationwide, conducted by landline and cell phone March 5-8