Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Will A Lack of Enthusiasm Among Young Voters And/or Defecting Sanders Supporters Sink Biden?

This a theory we hear a lot about these days. The idea seems to be that Biden is such an awful and uninspiring candidate to young voters and Bernie supporters (mostly young) will be so aggrieved if Sanders fails to get the nomination--defecting in very large numbers by either voting for Trump, voting for some third party candidate or just staying home--that Biden will be sunk in the fall against Trump.
I am very skeptical of this theory. The emphasis on Sanders' enthusiasm advantage among the young ignores his enthusiasm deficit among older voters. And it is my suspicion that the Sanders supporters who are most vociferous about how they could never, ever vote for Biden may indeed be representative of diehard Bernie supporters on Twitter but perhaps not of the median Bernie supporter in the great wide world of American politics.
To test these ideas, I took advantage of the ongoing UCLA/Democracy Fund Voter Study Group Nationscape survey, which polls 6,000 respondents a week. Here is what I found.
In the latest wave of the survey (March 19-26), Biden is leading Trump by 8 points, while Sanders leads Trump by 3 points. Sanders does indeed lead Trump by more (5 margin points) than Biden does among young (18-29 year old) voters. But Biden leads Trump by much more (11 margin points) than Sanders does among the 65+ age group. In fact, Sanders flat out loses to Trump among this age group by 49-42. This has been a consistent pattern in Trump trial heat questions where Sanders loses more relative to Biden among older voters than he gains among younger voters.
With the survey, we can also look directly at Sanders supporters--those who voted and would vote for him a Democratic primary-- and see what choices they make in a Trump-Biden trial heat. I find that Sanders supporters would give Biden 78 percent support, 13 percent would vote for Trump and 9 percent say they don't know--presumably they would stay home or vote third party. This is not an exceptionally high defection rate--it's slightly higher than 2016, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, but much lower than 2008 among Clinton supporters. It's also worth noting that even in a Trump-Sanders matchup, 8 percent of Sanders primary supporters say they would vote for Trump.
Most tellingly, the defection rate among Biden primary supporters--who are substantially more numerous--in a Trump-Sanders matchup is greater than for Sanders supporters in a Trump-Biden matchup. I find that 74 percent of Biden supporters would vote for Sanders, 16 percent would vote for Trump and 10 percent don't know. Thus a Sanders candidacy would clearly be a bad tradeoff for the Democrats in terms of defection problems.
Could Biden benefit from more enthusiasm among young voters?. Sure, but the situation now is far less catastrophic than many think and Sanders, in an overall political sense, is not an effective solution to the problem.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Dog That Didn't Bark: The Case of Trump's Approval Ratings

It should not surprise people that Trump's approval ratings have risen some. Rally effects in times of national crisis are very common. What should surprise people is how little they've gone up. Since February 29, when the first US coronavirus death was reported and the first travel restrictions were announced, his aggregated approval rating on 538 has risen 2.5 points, from 43.3 to 45.8. If you date it somewhat later, closer to mid-March and the national emergency declaration, the rise is a bit over 3 points.
By historical standards, this is a very small rally effect. Presumably this reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of Trump disapprovers are set in their judgments and perhaps a sense that some aspects of his response to the crisis have been far from optimal (as polling data suggest). Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Poll, does a good job of putting Trump's "surge" in context:
"Fact 1: Donald Trump’s job rating is at an all-time high.
Fact 2: Donald Trump has not received the same approval “bump” as past presidents in a crisis.
Recent shifts in the president’s job approval have been met with “either alarms or fist pumps,” as one reporter put it to me. But we really have to keep this in context. We have become so accustomed to the fact that Trump’s numbers never move all that much, that we accept that as the norm. The current crisis is just an exceptionally stark example of that.
To put this in perspective, if this were any other president, we would expect job ratings to have swung almost instantaneously by at least 10 points. George W. Bush got a nearly 30 point bump after 9/11. John F. Kennedy saw a double-digit hike in his already high ratings during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even Jimmy Carter got a 25 point bump in 1979 when Americans were taken hostage in Iran."
It's worth noting that all of the spikes alluded to by Murray featured the US against some other country in the world in a national security context. Despite Trump's attempt to cast himself as a "wartime" president, it is obvious that the virus crisis has a different character--it's a disaster, not a matter of national security.
Murray concludes:
"There’s a body of literature about the psychological need to rally around a leader in times of crisis, which is why the bigger research question for a student of public opinion is why that effect isn’t bigger right now rather than finding explanations for the few people who have become more positive toward the president.
Part of the explanation is certainly down to Trump’s inability to project a more inclusive, non-partisan persona as well as a steady hand on how his administration is tackling this situation. Part of the explanation is the failure of opposition leaders to signal to their followers that they should get behind the president (which admittedly is difficult for them to do as Trump’s rhetoric continues to lambast those who don’t show due deference to him).
Basically, the current times are blowing away a lot of the political theories about what typically happens in a time of crisis. And that, to me, is the more important public opinion story right now."
It's also worth noting the Trump's small bump doesn't seem to be having much impact on Trump-Biden trial heat measurements. The just-released Fox News Poll has Biden ahead of Trump, 49-40. This includes a shockingly low advantage for Trump among noncollege whites--a mere 13 points.
Finally, the Navigator survey has been running a tracking poll on Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis. They now find him underwater on this measure (down 13 margin points in a week; graphic below).
These measures all suggest the unusually modest nature of Trump's gains in public perception. We shall see if recent measures taken (such as the CARES Act) yield larger benefits for him. But so far, the change in Trump''s approval rating is more "the dog that didn't bark" than much of a game-changer.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Turnout Tale of the 2020 Primaries

J. Miles Coleman of Sabato's Crystal Ball has a terrific deep dive on turnout patterns in the 2020 primaries with lots of nice maps. His summary points:
"--With very few exceptions, statewide turnout in the 2020 Democratic primary has been higher than 2016.
— Suburban areas have seen some of the sharpest turnout increases — though these areas tend to have higher population growth, they’ve also trended blue in general elections, perhaps a positive indicator for Democrats looking to the fall.
— Meanwhile, some rural areas that have been trending away from Democrats in places like North Carolina and Oklahoma saw turnout lag behind 2016.
— While Bernie Sanders seems to have a stronger opponent in Joe Biden than he did with Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ prospects may have been hurt by partisan realignment since 2016."
His conclusion on political implications, which I think is very reasonable.
"One clear pattern...is that the geographic trends in the Democratic primary are lining up with the contours of recent general elections. Greater turnout in suburbs has buoyed Joe Biden’s prospects and given us an idea of what the Democratic coalition may look like in November — the bigger question will be if that coalition is good for 270 electoral votes, particularly if Democrats continue to lose ground in areas outside major metro areas. That Biden did significantly better than Hillary Clinton in outstate areas in many states may also be an encouraging sign for the fall, but — again — primaries are not general elections, and the overall movement away from Democrats in these kinds of places showed up in the turnout patterns in some states as well."
That is indeed the dynamic that will decide the 2020 election.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Could a "Rally Effect" Re-Elect Trump?

Democratic supporters are currently rending their garments because of a recent rise in Trump's approval rating, from which it is inferred that Trump is benefiting from a "rally effect" in a time of national disaster and from which it is further inferred that he might well ride such a rally effect to a second term.
Possible? Yes. Likely? No. In fact, it's a little odd that Democratic supporters are so ready to believe such a story. Stan Greenberg argues in a just-published Atlantic piece that this is because many Democrats simply don't realize how much revulsion Trump has engendered in the American electorate, revulsion that is more likely to be durable than not. He discusses various aspects of the anti-Trump dynamic but I would focus here on one particular point he makes about the general cluelessness of many observers about the sentiments percolating in working class America.
"[W]hile the revulsion that women and suburbanites show toward Trump registers with elite commentators and Democratic operatives, the role that working-class voters have played in Republicans’ recent electoral troubles mostly does not.
The white working class forms 46 percent of registered voters; most are women. Although these voters’ excitement and hopes made Trump’s 2016 victory possible, they were demonstrably disillusioned just a year into Trump’s presidency. They pulled back when the Republicans proposed big cuts in domestic spending, Medicare, and Medicaid and made health insurance more uncertain and expensive, while slashing taxes for corporations and their lobbyists. In the midterms, Democrats ran on cutting prescription-drug costs, building infrastructure, and limiting the role of big money, and a portion of the white working class joined the revolt. The 13-point shift against Trump was three times stronger than the shift in the suburbs that got everyone’s attention.
Trump won white working-class women by 27 points in 2016. But at the end of 2019, Biden was running dead even with Trump nationally. Eight months before the election, Democracy Corps—of which I am a co-founder—and the Center for Voter Information conducted a survey in the battleground states that gave Trump his Electoral College victory. (Trump won them by 1.3 points in 2016.) Our recent findings showed Biden trailing Trump with white working-class women by just eight points in a head-to-head contest. These numbers herald an earthquake, but they have not penetrated elite commentators’ calculations about whether Trump will win in 2020.
When President Barack Obama urged voters to “build on the progress” by supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, he underestimated how much working-class voters felt Democrats had pushed their concerns out of sight. Democratic presidents championed NAFTA and presided over the outsourcing of jobs; bank bailouts, lost homes and wages, and mandatory health insurance further alienated working people; and Clinton did not hide her closeness with Wall Street or her discomfort campaigning to win working-class and rural communities. So working people had lots of reasons to consider voting for Donald Trump, who said he was battling for the “forgotten Americans,” but shocked Clinton supporters could see only the race cards he played to great effect the second he got off the escalator at Trump Tower. Now the failure of political elites to see the role working people played in the Democratic victories of 2018 makes them believe that Trump is headed for reelection."
David Hopkins on his blog Honest Graft also provides a good take on the recent bump in Trump's approval ratings and why there may be less there than meets the eye.
"1. Political leaders' popularity often rises temporarily after the onset of a crisis. Political scientists call this pattern the "rally effect," and it's been documented many times over decades of history...But these popularity bumps fade with time. Either the crisis is soon resolved and citizens turn their attention to other things, or it is not, in which case they start to grow impatient with the effectiveness of their leader. The 2020 general election is still far enough away that even if Trump were to benefit from the rally effect in the short term, it wouldn't be a very reliable signal of his popularity more than seven months in the future.
2. Americans are still learning about the severity and likely duration of this crisis.....
3. Americans already have strong opinions about Trump, and most of them disliked him before the crisis...
4. 4. It's not the virus, it's the economy (stupid). The most worrying component of this crisis for the Trump administration and re-election campaign isn't the spread of COVID-19 itself and the casualties that it leaves in its wake. Instead, it's the larger impact on the economy. While the specific quantitative estimates of current forecasting models should be treated with skepticism in such an unprecedented and fast-moving environment, it seems inevitable that there will be a sudden and catastrophic economic shock that will at least temporarily push the U.S. into a recession.
Trump and his supporters will argue, with justification, that it would be unfair to blame him for the economic misery that a worldwide pandemic is poised to inflict on the nation. But voters tend to reward presidents for good economic times and punish them for bad times regardless of the incumbent's actual responsibility for either outcome."
Finally, Nate Silver has a detailed article, including some modeling, that puts recent trends in an overall context that decidedly does not favor Trump.
"President Trump’s approval rating has improved slightly amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the short-term gains, reflecting a possible rally-around-the-flag effect at the time of national emergency, may not hold. On the contrary, the strong likelihood of a potentially very deep recession triggered by coronavirus puts Trump’s reelection chances in jeopardy....
[I]n the event of a mild recession — with economic conditions tantamount to 1992 — all four models predict that Trump would lose the popular vote by a solid amount, by margins ranging from 4.0 percentage points (Model 3) to 5.7 points (Model 2). And in the event of a severe, 2008-style recession, they predict a potential landslide loss, by amounts ranging from 9.1 percentage points (Model 3) to 14.6 points (Model 2)....
Could voters give Trump a pass because coronavirus is the cause of the recession? Maybe. But even in the case of ordinary economic booms and busts, it’s never entirely clear how much credit or blame the president actually deserves — and the answer is, probably less than he typically gets from the public....
But what about Trump’s approval rating improving since the coronavirus crisis began? Indeed, Trump’s approval rating has improved in recent days so that it’s among the highest ratings of his presidency. As I mentioned, his approval rating among voters is now roughly 45 percent, which is up from 43 or 44 percent since early March, while his disapproval rating has fallen from 52 to 53 percent to 51 percent.
However, compared with typical rally-around-the-flag effects that follow national crises, these gains are fairly meager. For instance, Bush’s approval rating improved from 51 percent to 86 percent following the September 11 attacks, and Carter’s approval rating nearly doubled in 1979 in the immediate wake of the Iran hostage crisis. (Granted, both of their ratings declined sharply from there.) But Trump is also not seeing nearly as much of an approval rating bounce as other leaders in Western countries, such as Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and the UK’s Boris Johnson. So it’s not clear that a small approval rating gain is a bullish sign for Trump."
So there you have it. Trump's still in a great deal of re-election trouble, far more than is normal for an incumbent president. Remain calm, stay healthy, help your neighbors and beat this guy in November.
THEATLANTIC.COM
As Democrats fret about their own prospects, many fail to recognize the president’s fundamental weakness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Gaming Out the 2020 Electoral College

Cook Political Report's Amy Walter is out with their latest electoral college ratings. It all seems very reasonable to me; in addition, Walter makes good use of the data from my Path to 270 report, which I always like to see.
Bottom line: Biden, 232 lean/likely/solid Dem; Trump, 204 lean/likely/solid Rep. Only six toss-up states: Michigan-Pennsylvania-Wisconsin plus Arizona, Florida and North Carolina (map below). From her write-up:
"Biden starts with a slight lead in the Electoral College math. Right now, 232 electoral votes sit in Lean/Likely or Solid Democrat. On the GOP side, 204 electoral votes are in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican column. There are six states (and one congressional district) in Toss-Up: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska's 2nd district. Those add up to 102 Electoral votes.
To get to 270, Biden can't lose any of the states currently in Lean/Likely/Solid Democrat and has to win 39 percent of the electoral college votes in Toss Up. Trump needs to hold those in the Lean/Likely/Solid Republican columns, plus he needs to win more than two-thirds (66 percent) in the toss-up column. ...
[W]hat you will notice about this map that the more diverse the state, and the higher the percentage of white, college voters, the more likely it will be in a Democratic-leaning column. For example, Colorado not only has a significant Latino population, but there are almost as many white college voters in the state (40 percent) as white, non-college voters (41 percent).
The higher the percentage of white, non-college voters, the more likely that the state sits more safely in a GOP-leaning column. For example, Texas and Georgia, once considered long-shots for Democratic gains, are now in Lean Republican. These states not only have significant (and growing) non-white populations, but, as we saw in 2018, the dense suburbs in and around metro centers in these states have also become more Democratic...
Trump's path to the White House is anchored in Florida. Under our current ratings, there is only one scenario out of twelve possible for Trump to get 270 electoral votes without winning the Sunshine state....
If Trump holds Florida, the next most important states for him are in the industrial Midwest and that infamous trifecta: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump can afford to lose two of these states and still win the Electoral College (assuming he wins all the other states in Toss Up). But, he can't lose all three.
Of the three, Wisconsin looks the friendliest to Trump. Not only has polling consistently shown his job approval ratings higher here than the other two states, but demographically, this state is also the best suited to Trump. The electorate is overwhelmingly white (90 percent), and it has the highest percentage of white, non-college voters (almost 60 percent) of the three.
Demographically, Minnesota looks a lot like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. And, it was very close in 2016. Clinton won the state by less than 2 percent.
But, a fantastic analysis of the 2016 election results by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin (which I have linked to throughout this column), finds that Minnesota had a higher percentage of white college voters (36 percent) than the other three. These voters supported Clinton by 21 points. And, while Clinton lost white non-college voters here by a hefty amount (21 points), it was better than her showing in Pennsylvania where she lost among those voters by 30 points. This isn't to say that we should expect the state to perform the same here in 2020 as it did in 2016. Instead, it's important to note that states with a higher population of white, college-educated voters will be more amenable to a Biden candidacy. The higher the non-college white population, the stronger the chance that Trump carries that state.
North Carolina is a new-comer to our Toss-Up category. Trump carried the state by 3 points — an improvement from previous GOP showings here. Romney won here by 2 points in 2012, while in 2008, McCain lost the state by less than one point. According to the Teixeira and Halpin analysis, Trump won white, non-college voters in this state by a whopping 51 points — the largest margin among white, non-college voters of any other state in the Toss Up category. And, while the state has been growing and suburbanizing, it is still far behind Virginia in the percentage of white college voters (28 percent to Virginia's 33 percent).
To win here, Biden needs both a stronger showing in the suburbs than Clinton did, while also getting strong African-American turnout and making a moderate improvement over Clinton's anemic 23 percent showing with non-college white voters."
So:: what's your map? All can play!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Will Young Voters Support Joe Biden in November?

Of course they will. They might not love him but they will heavily support him against Trump. The excellent Perry Bacon Jr. explains why this is the reasonable expectation in a piece on 538. Bacon also addresses the turnout issue about which he sees more cause for concern. But even there, he reminds us that turnout of young voters is always relatively low, so the real question is whether their turnout will go down relative to other age groups. I rather doubt that myself; I expect 2020 to be a high turnout election in general and for young voter turnout to go up commensurate with trends among other age groups. That's what we saw in 2018 and it's likely what we'll see in 2020.
One of the defining features of the Democratic primary has been the age divide among voters — those 45 and over have overwhelmingly backed former Vice President Joe Biden, while those under 45 have generally supported Sen. Bernie Sanders. Now that Biden is the likely Democratic nominee, many political observers have started to wonder whether his lack of support among younger voters will be a problem for him against President Trump in the general election.
According to exit polls from recent elections and polling data from this year, the answer is, not necessarily.
First, Biden is likely to win voters under 45 by double digits against Trump. The former vice president would have two big advantages: He’s a Democrat, and he’s running against Trump. Democrats have won the under-45 vote in every recent election — even in cycles that were terrible to mediocre for the party overall, such as in 2010, 2014 and 2016.
Compared with other age groups, younger voters overall tend to hold more liberal views on social issues and the role of government. Furthermore, the cohort of Americans under 40 includes significantly more Asian, black and Latino people than the cohort over 40 — all Democratic-leaning groups. But even younger white people tend to vote for Democrats at higher rates than their older counterparts.
Hillary Clinton won the under-45 vote by 14 percentage points in the 2016 general election, according to exit polls, a margin similar to that won by then-President Barack Obama four years earlier.1 But in the 2018 midterms — essentially a referendum on Trump’s performance even though he wasn’t on the ballot — Democrats won voters under 45 by 25 points. These results in part were likely due to a backlash against Trump among younger voters, who disapprove of the president’s job performance much more so than do older voters.
This isn’t likely to change in 2020. Polls already show Biden with massive leads against Trump among younger age groups. And I would expect that margin to grow if the Democratic Party, including Sanders and his supporters, consolidates around the former vice president."

Sunday, March 22, 2020

WWKD (What Would Keynes Do?)

If only John Maynard were still here to advise us! But we can still try to imagine how he might have approached a crisis like this one.
Zachary Carter, author of a forthcoming biography of Keynes, had a very interesting take on this question in the Post's Sunday Outlook section. Carter starts by stressing that Keynes' approach was far deeper and more profound than simply pump-priming through deficit spending to jump-start a stalled economy (though of course that is an important tool).
"Keynes wasn’t just a prophet of numbers. His insights were much broader, folding psychology, ethics and even military strategy into a unique body of work that, if deployed correctly today, can do more than lift the Dow. For Keynes, economics was not a science of dollars and cents, interest rates and inflation. It was about the way people think and live. Economics is large-scale therapy to calm anxious minds — in other words, exactly what we need today....
For Keynes, action meant bolstering the confidence not only of investors but of ordinary people. He advocated direct aid to working families and called for the government to create thousands of new jobs on public-works projects. These were intended to increase gross domestic product, yes, but also to make people believe in the prospect of better times ahead. In the 1940s, he even worked as the financial architect for the plan to socialize British medicine into the National Health Service. For Keynes, this was partly a question of general welfare — but it was also about making markets work. If ordinary people didn’t have to worry about their health care disappearing in a financial crisis, the crisis itself would be less severe.
In the coronavirus crash, Keynes would advocate immediate, direct financial aid and health-care benefits to working families. He would be gladdened by exhortations from members of Congress from both parties, not to mention the White House, for cash payments from the government to Americans. He would also no doubt endorse government support for corporations. When the interwar economic crisis came to a head in Britain in 1926 with a ruinous general strike, Keynes called for government support of businesses and workers alike — through exchange rate relief and monetary policy, if no other means could be negotiated....
Today, the United States is plagued not only by a devastating virus but by decrepit infrastructure, a broken health-care system, and an obvious shortage of medical supplies and capacity for treating the coming calamity. Keynes would envision an almost militarized government response of hospital-building and health-care delivery, including refurbished roads and bridges, sanitized public transport, and all-hands-on-deck training for nurses and health-care providers, accompanied by generous pay to encourage people to sign up for what will no doubt be dangerous work.
This would all be very expensive — trillions of dollars. But Keynes insisted that governments that controlled their own currencies had far more to worry about from a collapse in confidence than a spike in debt. Take care of confidence, and the economic rebound will take care of the debt. “The idea that [a large deficit] represents a desperate risk to cure a moderate evil is the reverse of the truth,” Keynes wrote in 1929. “It is a negligible risk to cure a monstrous anomaly”....
Over the coming weeks, economists and politicians will put forward dozens of plans to boost output, salvage struggling industries and encourage consumer spending. But the most important lesson from Keynesian economics is not about money — it’s about belief. What matters now is the collective faith in a better future. There are many avenues to securing this faith, but it can be supplied only by politicians.
One of Keynes’s most famous aphorisms is his declaration that “in the long run, we are all dead.” But he also wrote that “in the long run, almost anything is possible.” That is the spirit our leaders must now harness."
Amen. I might also recommend James Crotty's new book, Keynes Against Capitalism: His Economic Case for LIberal Socialism, very nicely reviewed by Gary Mongiovi in the latest issue of Catalyst, Jacobin's theoretical journal.
And let's keep asking ourselves: WWKD?
WASHINGTONPOST.COM
John Maynard Keynes, the best proponent of deficit spending, understood that economics is about making people feel secure.