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Zogby/Lear Center Poll: Meet the Purples!

Decoding the DNA of the swing voter

UTICA, New York and LOS ANGELES, California - After two presidential election cycles during which the American electorate was split right down the middle like two bitter, warring factions, polling over time by Zogby International has shown that the middle of the political spectrum has made a comeback.

And with the resurgence of the political center comes a pitched battle between the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain to win them over, with both investing tens of millions of dollars. So who are these people who are the targets of such lavish political spending?

These "Purples" - some independent, some moderate - are distinctly different than the "Reds" or "Blues" who are tuned into what is going on in the political world and who mostly have made up their minds about the race. Purples require a unique approach, as shown in a new, extensive national interactive survey by Zogby and the USC Annenberg School's Norman Lear Center.

Here is a look at how those much-coveted Purple voters can be reached by political campaigns and what they want to hear (For profiles of Reds, Blues and Purples, look at the end of this release):

Connecting With the Purple People:

  • All politics is still local. Purples trust and rely on their local newspapers for news. Fifty-eight percent prefer their hometown paper, five times more than any national or major city daily. So in addition to making a local stop, push local surrogates to deliver your message.
  • Stick with 30-second spots. TV was tops when Purples were asked what they like to do in their free time.
  • NBC is still king. Purples most trust old pro Tom Brokaw, followed by Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.
  • Don't preach to the choir if you are McCain. Few Purples tune in to Fox News.
  • Top TV shows to buy ad time on: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, 60 Minutes, CSI, Sunday Night Football, House, Two and a Half Men, Law & Order and Criminal Minds.
  • Avoid reality shows. More than a 25% never watch them, and American Idol is the only one to reach double figures (11%.)
  • Letterman and Leno give you the best bang for the buck on late night, but 25% of Purples are already asleep by then.
  • The news/talk radio format is a good buy, as 41% of Purples listen in.
  • Rock and roll will never die. Classic rock and oldies stations will reach 30% of Purples. Pop stations are up there at 28%.
  • Over half of Purples either don't listen to national political talk radio or don't have a favorite talking head. Of those who do, 18% listen to Paul Harvey and 13% to Rush Limbaugh.
  • All sports, all the time. You can reach more than 10% of Purples with just about any sports on TV. Of course football is number one (54%), followed by baseball and basketball.
  • Google them because 69% of Purples say that is their favorite site. Yahoo is at 51% and MSN at 39%.
  • Get viral. YouTube is a favorite for 27% of Purples.
  • They're surfing for news - 72% say that is the information they look for online. Purples are also more likely to go online to find out about TV shows, movies, games, music, fashion, shopping, books and sports. But don't waste your time with blogs - Purples don't really care about them.
  • Celebrities won't help, as 87% of Purples say that their endorsements are a turn off or have no impact.
  • The Oprah exception. Twenty-nine percent say Ms.Winfrey is well-informed about the candidate she endorsed (Obama), and George Clooney clocked in at a respectable 26%.
  • Be happy because they are. Eighty-three percent of Purples say they are very or somewhat happy about their personal life.

What to Say to Purples:

  • Forget about wedge issues. Purples are worried about the economy. Forty-nine percent cite it as most important, compared to 3% who chose morality and values.
  • The Iraq War isn't working. Seventy percent of Purples say it has not been worth the loss of American lives and 53% don't agree that it can be won.
  • Go green. Four of five Purples say more resources are needed to protect the environment rather than saying government has gone too far.
  • Promise that you will throw the bums out of Washington. Seventy percent of Purples blame leaders of the political parties for the worsened state of politics. Eighty percent say this country's on the wrong track.
  • Corporate America is not their friend. A whopping 90% say corporations don't generally act in society's best interests. Also, 57% say government regulation of business is important.
  • Praise the working mother. Eighty-seven percent of Purples said men and women should share household duties equally.
  • Privatize education at your peril. Eighty percent of Purples say that investing in public schools is better than supporting private education.
  • Don't demonize immigrants. Two-thirds of Purples say they are here for work, not a handout.
  • Walk a tightrope on trade. Purples are closely split on whether workers need trade protections.
  • Be tech savvy. Three quarters of Purples say new technology and the social and economic changes it brings are a good thing.
  • Civil liberties and equality take a back seat to security and freedom. We found that 57% of Purples say security is more important than liberties, and 74% say freedom is to be more valued than equality.
  • However, don't believe that Purples want us to shoot first and ask questions later. When asked to choose between using force or improving anti-American sentiment to combat terror, 85% of Purples choose the latter.
  • Compassion is popular. It is our duty to help the less fortunate, say 81% of Purples.
  • Be very careful talking about religion's role. Purples are evenly split as to whether religion should have a greater role, or be left out of public life.
  • Don't talk about guns. Purples are again evenly split on whether it is appropriate to regulate gun ownership.
  • Cutting taxes is always a good thing for everybody. So say 66% of Purples.
  • Are they listening? Over half of Purples say they're paying more attention to politics than four years ago.

The survey, which examined the political beliefs and entertainment preferences of 3,167 likely voters, provides us with a fascinating view of this slice of the American electorate.  Using statistical clustering analysis, Zogby and the Lear Center created a political typology based on how respondents evaluated 42 statements about political values. The typology revealed three significant clusters of respondents: "Reds" made up 41% of the national sample, and "Blues" comprised 34%.  The "Purples," a full 24% of those surveyed, did not align with the political beliefs and values of Reds, who could be considered "conservative," or Blues, who could be labeled "liberal." The same respondents were asked about their preferred leisure-time activities and their favorite radio and TV shows, Web sites, movies, games and sports. This Zogby/Lear Center survey is the second in a series.

Profiling Reds, Blues & Purples 

Here are brief summaries of the three political typology groups, including their demographics and their entertainment, leisure and lifestyle preferences:


Reds are the largest ideological group in the U.S. They tend to live close to other family members and they're much more satisfied with their spiritual, family and personal lifethan the rest of the nation. They love going to sports events, watching football on TV and playing Madden. They also enjoy golf and auto racing more than other people. They use the Web to find news and sports coverage, but they're less likely to go to social networking sites. Reds tend to get their news from cable TV and radio, and they much prefer Leno to any other late-night programming. Compared to the rest of the country, they are less open to foreign entertainment and any entertainment that reflects values other than their own. Monopoly is their favorite game. They blame the news media for the worsened state of politics in this country, but only a minority believes that celebrity involvement in politics has a negative effect. They are more likely than other Americans to think that Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, Tom Selleck and Pat Boone are well-informed celebrities on the campaign trail. Like other voters, most Reds say that they learn about politics from fictional movies and TV, and a majority says they have taken action based on issues depicted in scripted TV and movies. Their favorite fictional TV shows are House and CSI; their favorite summer movies were Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight. In their spare time, they like to read and spend time with family and friends. They drink more soda than cocktails, and they prefer seafood and salads to burgers and beer.

Reds are the oldest group and the wealthiest, although a majority never graduated from college. They are the most likely to be married and to live in rural areas - most live in the South and the Center/Great Lakes region. Almost one in three say they are "very conservative," and most describe themselves as "born again." Seventy-two percent identify as Republican, 23% as Independent and 5% as Democrat. Reds are the least racially diverse group, and it's the only group where men outnumber women.


Blues are the second largest ideological group in the country. Almost all of them think the U.S. is on the wrong track, and they are far more likely than the rest of the country to be unsatisfied with their personal, family, business and social life. They are more tolerant of the media than other Americans, but they are more likely to get their news from comedy shows than from any of the network TV newscasts. More than any other group, they get their news online, and they use Wikipedia. In fact, their favorite leisure-time activity is surfing the Web, where they like reading blogs and socializing (they prefer Facebook to MySpace). They tend to get their TV news from NBC and MSNBC, and they are fans of Keith Olbermann. Blues love playing Trivial Pursuit, and their favorite video games are Wii Sports, Zelda, Guitar Hero and Super Mario Kart. They like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, and their favorite TV show is 60 Minutes. Many Blues dislike reality programming - more than Reds and Purples. For late-night, they prefer The Daily Show. Blues enjoy going to music concerts and to the theater, and they often enjoy entertainment from other countries. Like the rest of the country, most Blues don't think that celebrity endorsements have an effect on them. Few Blues believe that celebrities are well-informed about the candidates they endorse, except for Oprah. Blues are more likely to enjoy sushi and vegetarian meals; they are also the biggest drinkers of wine and beer.

Blues are the youngest group and the most educated. They are more likely to live in urban areas and they are the most racially and religiously diverse. Seventy-nine percent identify as Democrats (even more than Reds identify as Republican), but they are as likely to describe themselves as "moderate" as they would call themselves either "liberal" or "progressive." Eighteen percent identify as Independent, and 3% as Republican. A majority of Blues is female, and compared to other groups, Blues are more likely to be single or in a civil union. Most live in the Center/Great Lakes region, followed by the South, the West and the East.


Purples are the smallest ideological group, and in many ways they fall between the Red and Blue camps. Like Blues, they think the country is on the wrong track, and they are less satisfied with their personal, business and social life than Reds. Most Purples say they are paying more attention to politics now than four years ago, and a large majority says they learn about political issues from fictional TV shows and film. Like Blues, most get their news from the Web, but they are more likely than any other group to use the Web to find information about celebrity gossip, TV shows, movies, games, music, fashion, shopping, books, relationships and sports. Purples are more likely than Reds or Blues to say that playing games and listening to music are the most enjoyable things to do online. Unlike Blues, Purples prefer MySpace to Facebook (it's a tie for Reds). Tom Brokaw is popular among Purples, and they believe he's the most influential news personality. Purples say watching TV is their favorite leisure-time activity, and their top three shows are Law & Order: SVU, 60 Minutes and CSI. Purples like reality programming more than any other group, and American Idol is their favorite. They prefer Letterman and Leno over all the other late-night programs. Like Reds, they say they are not big fans of foreign entertainment products, but they give high marks to the Wii, Super Mario Kart and Dance Dance Revolution. Scrabble is their favorite game. Purples are the biggest cocktail drinkers, and they like a good surf n' turf.

Most Purples haven't graduated from college, and half identify as "born again." They are the most likely to be divorced, widowed or separated, and a large majority of Purples is female. Most live in a large city or in the suburbs, and a higher proportion live in the East, compared to Reds and Blues. Most Purples are middle-aged and middle-class, but they are far more likely than other groups to make less than $35K. A majority voted for Kerry in 2004. Forty-five percent of purples identify themselves as Democrats; 24% as Republicans; 31% as Independents.

Data was collected from August 19-21, 2008. A sampling of Zogby International's online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the US, was invited to participate. Slight weights were added for region, party, age, race, religion and gender to more accurately reflect the population. The respondents were asked to evaluate 42 political statements which Zogby and the Lear Center developed in 2007 as a tool to more accurately describe a person's political profile. A statistical analysis of the data revealed three very different ideological groups, which were labeled "Red," "Blue," and "Purple." The same respondents were asked about their preferred leisure-time activities and their favorite radio and TV shows, Web sites, movies, games and sports. This survey is the second in a series.


Based at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, the Norman Lear Center is a multidisciplinary research and public policy center exploring implications of the convergence of entertainment, commerce, and society. On campus, the Lear Center builds bridges between eleven schools whose faculty study aspects of entertainment, media and culture. Beyond campus, it bridges the gap between the entertainment industry and academia, and between them and the public. For more information, please visit

About Zogby International 

Zogby International is a public opinion, research, and business solutions firm with experience working in more than 70 countries around the globe. Founded and led by John Zogby since 1984, Zogby International ranks as one of the industry's leaders thanks to its reputation for superior accuracy and reliability. Zogby specializes in telephone, Internet, and face-to-face survey research and analysis for political, corporate, non-profit, and governmental clients. The firm is headquartered in Utica, New York, with offices in Washington D.C., and Miami.

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