The major party campaign platforms for 2016 reflect some of the concerns of the survey, opinion and marketing research profession.

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) appealed to both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) on June 17 to focus in their 2016 presidential platforms on breaking down foreign digital trade barriers, and to modernize regulations regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, consumer data security, and consumer data privacy. MRA also led a coalition of business groups on June 27 in asking both parties to support the decennial Census and American Community Survey (ACS)

Results were mixed.

International digital trade and data privacy regulation

The Democrat platform responded to the need to combat foreign data localization laws and barriers to data flow across borders on page 9: “We will increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements.”

The Republican platform also promised to deal with international data restrictions, as well as data privacy regulation, on page 6: “We intend to advance policies that protect data privacy while fostering innovation and growth and ensuring the free flow of data across borders.”


Starting from the presumption that “evidence-based public policy” is best, the Democrat platform, on page 26, recognized “the value of data in allowing us to count and carefully consider the needs of different communities.” That is why the platform promised to “preserve and enhance the integrity and accuracy of the census and the American Community Survey (ACS). We will equip the Census Bureau with the resources needed to prepare for and conduct a cost effective, complete and accurate census, as well as improve counting segments of the population that are historically and persistently undercounted, specifically communities of color, immigrants, LGBT people, young  children, those with disabilities, and rural and low-income populations. We will also maintain the legal requirement for the public to participate and be counted.”

By contrast, the GOP platform called for the addition of citizenship questions to the decennial headcount (not unlike the policies in repeated amendments from Senator David Vitter (R-LA) that MRA has opposed), on page 16: “The Constitution gives Congress authority to conduct the decennial census “in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” In order to preserve the principle of one person, one vote, we urge our elected representatives to ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the apportionment of representatives among the states.”

Conclusion: The Good and the Bad in the 2016 Party Platforms

  1. Both the Democrat and Republican platforms included opposition to protectionist foreign data localization laws and support for the free flow of data across borders.
  2. The GOP platform included a reference to the need for reasonable consumer data privacy regulation. Unfortunately, the Democrat platform made no such nods to the issue.
  3. Neither party’s platform discussed our other biggest regulatory reform concerns: consumer data security and the TCPA restrictions on telephone research.
  4. The Democrat platform made a full-throated endorsement of our position on the decennial Census and the ACS, supporting both the integrity of the surveys and their full funding. Unfortunately, the GOP platform essentially advocated for the decennial Census questionnaire to include immigration and citizenship questions, which would ultimately make the headcount less accurate and more difficult to administer.