View this email in your browser

Online Focus Groups Part 1: Comfort, Reach and Private Opinions

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of new work patterns and remote technologies by five to ten years. Work-at-home Zoom meetings have made central offices less important. We see this in our industry’s approach to focus groups, as it adopts new online methods that CERC has implemented.

A recent industry study shows more than half of researchers are using traditional focus groups less often and 25% completely abandoning them as a result of the pandemic. In their place, 75% are employing online groups to conduct qualitative research.

Our clients naturally have lots of questions about online focus groups. This is the first of a 3-part mini-series spotlighting the key advantages CERC has identified. In the next issue we’ll focus on disadvantages and the finale will discuss what various platforms provide and how they overcome the challenges.
Safety and Comfort. It’s important that participants feel safe within the environment in which their opinions are solicited. We want the people in the group to be focused on the topic, not the possibility of catching COVID. Online focus groups nullify the possibility of small-group transmission while allowing participants to feel comfortable in their home environments.
Geographic Reach. Online focus groups are a cost-effective option for statewide or multistate research projects. Not having to hop on a plane benefits moderators and clients alike. Important opinions can range from one community to the next due to factors best unearthed via interactive qualitative research, and online focus groups can be an efficient way to explore them.
Tech. This is the diciest advantage because the tech driving online groups is emerging and constantly changing. But as the tech gets more robust, there are more things moderators and their participants can do. Working together on a collage or highlighting exercise is a piece of cake (depending on the platform). We’ve used platforms which run conjoint functions to serve up real-time group stats. And on the backend, there’s no more coding by hand for written exercises and AI-powered transcriptions are faster and cheaper.
If you’ve been considering qualitative research, don’t hesitate to reach out to and he’d be happy to share more about CERC’s success with online focus groups.

Edgy Interview: Public Affairs Strategist Tony Manolatos 

Tony Manolatos and his family
Tony Manolatos is a gentleman with a big heart for his family and and strong sense of how political currents run. As a former Union-Tribune reporter and Communications Director for then-Councilman Kevin Faulconer, Tony is a City Hall vet who just opened Manolatos Public Affairs this month. In this wide-ranging Edgy Interview, this Michigan native shares his love of song lyrics, his family, attending concerts with his mother and San Diego's tragic lack of good Greek food.
Read the Edgy Interview

Client Spotlight: CERC Creates Community Emergency Preparedness Index for the American Red Cross of San Diego

With this year's fire season in full swing, we've been reflecting on CERC’s community involvement, and wanted to share how proud we are to have served the American Red Cross. In the furtherance of their mission to prevent and relieve suffering, CERC has been the research partner of the San Diego Chapter of the Red Cross since 2010. That was the year we created the Personal Emergency Preparedness Index (PEPI) to help our friends there better assess individual preparedness levels and compare them across geographic regions and demographic segments.

Last year, the American Red Cross of Southern California came back to CERC with a challenge: could we expand the work we did with the PEPI into an assessment of community emergency preparedness. This led us to create a broader Community Emergency Preparedness Index (CEPI) that now helps the Red Cross target its efforts at cities, towns and communities that are preparedness deficient. This ultimately helps the Red Cross make resource allocation decisions as well as determine what programs to pursue to best help them fulfill their mission.

Hats off to the American Red Cross of Southern California for the work they do. If your mission-driven organization could use data collection and analysis to drive better decisions, please don't hesitate to reach out to CERC at!
Competitive Edge Research & Communication

Know what to do

 Political Campaigns » Public Affairs » Government & Public Agencies »
Consumer Research 

Survey Research » Data Collection » Analytics » Focus Groups

Phone | (619) 702-2372
Email |
Web |

Ask the Guru: How Is Presidential Polling Different Today Than It Was in 2016?

Q: What steps are pollsters taking so they don’t repeat the mistakes of 2016?

A: Let’s clarify that “the pollsters” were by-and-large accurate in their national predictions back in 2016. The national pollster the Guru follows is ABC News’ Gary Langer and his final poll had Clinton up by 3% and she won the popular vote by 2%. No problem there. The problem was with the state polls in three fiercely contested upper mid-western battleground states. These are typically conducted by colleges who want to make a name for themselves – think Gonzaga’s basketball program – who use students as interviewers and don’t have big polling budgets. What could go wrong, right? 

A 2016 post-mortem was conducted and two points were advanced: conduct more polls in battleground states closer to the election, and include more lower- education voters in the sample. On the first point, where’s the money for that coming from? Pollsters are paid by schools and media outlets and don’t control how many polls are conducted. As for better sampling of less educated voters, the Guru thinks that’s a legitimate area for quality improvement.

But why stop with education? Just because high school-educated whites surged in 2016 doesn’t mean they’ll do so again. Specifically oversampling them would then lead to overcorrection. The better solution is to do everything better and that means a whole host of things from better questionnaire design, to better sampling, to a multi-mode data collection approach, to better training, to better weighting of the sample and, finally, better analysis of the data.
And here’s the punchline: CERC’s 2016 polls on the presidential contest were right on. That’s because we do the things that lead to greater accuracy, even though they cost a bit more. We don’t cut corners and we take our jobs seriously. Ultimately, America needs serious pollsters.
Have a friend who would enjoy News from the Edge?


CERC President John Nienstedt Shares Polling Knowledge with SDGE

The 2020 election season has arrived with fury here in Southern California, and many have been wondering how the polling profession operates within our local landscape. CERC President John Nienstedt was happy to share his 33 years of knowledge of the industry with 70 online participants at SDG&E, where he discussed the nature of the polling profession, what to expect in local races and what's in store for the coming years.

If your organization would benefit from an introduction to public opinion research and polling, please reach out to

As our research and analytics business continues to grow in the realms of politics, public affairs, trade associations, utilities, nonprofits, and media, we are looking for an experienced mid-level business development representative to develop new clients and verticals. Territory would include California and the nation. Please refer anyone in your network who you think might fit the bill! Just have them send a cover letter and resume to and we'll follow up.
Copyright © 2020 Competitive Edge Research & Communication, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list