Friday, July 3, 2020

Is Stan Greenberg Right to Say We Should Believe the Polls This Time?

I largely agree with Greenberg's analysis in this Atlantic piece. I thought it would be interesting to go through the piece and annotate his argument a bit where I have something to add.
"[T]his moment is very different. To start, during the summer and fall of 2016, Clinton never had the kind of national poll lead that Biden now has. She led by an average of four points four months before the election and the same four points just before Election Day. This year, after Biden effectively clinched the nomination, he moved into an average six-point lead over Trump, which has grown to nearly 10 points after the death of George Floyd and the weeks of protests that have followed. The lingering apprehension among Democrats fails to recognize just how much the political landscape has changed since 2016. We are looking at different polls, a different America, and different campaigns with different leaders."
This is all correct. It is now incorrect to say Clinton followed the same trajectory and still lost.
"The Clinton campaign’s worst blunder came in September 2016, when the candidate described “half of Trump’s supporters” as “deplorables” and walked right into the white working-class revolt against elites. Her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders had exposed a lack of enthusiasm for her in white working-class suburbs that Barack Obama had won. Her campaign hoped to make up for the lost votes with landslide wins among women, voters of color, and voters in big cities. White working-class voters noticed the lack of respect, and Trump ran up startling margins with them: He won these men by 48 points and women by 27, according to exit polls."
I agree with this; anyone who doesn't think Clinton committed political malpractice with how she handled white working class voters in 2016 has rocks in their head. However, note that the exit poll figures quoted by Greenberg are almost certainly too high. Better data however still show an immense swing away from the Democrats among this demographic.
"And the white working-class shift toward Trump is the biggest reason the national polls overestimated Clinton’s margin by two points and the state polls by much more. Mostly using exit polls from prior elections as their guide, pollsters—including me—had overestimated the number of four-year college graduates in the electorate. Getting that wrong mattered a lot in an election where the white working class was in revolt. Crucially, many pollsters, including me, have adjusted our assumptions about the makeup of the November 2020 electorate."
Correct. Though of course I had been pointing this out for 20 years or so prior to 2016 and no one seemed to think t was a problem worth attending to.
"So one reason to trust my polls more now than in 2016 is this change: Four years ago, those without a four-year degree made up 48 percent of my survey respondents; today they account for 60 percent. Whites without a college degree were 33 percent of my surveys; today they are 43 percent. That is a huge change—an elixir against being deceived again. The pain of Trump’s victory and disastrous presidency has concentrated the minds of campaign staff and the polling profession in ways that give me confidence that Biden’s lead in the polls is real."
Better late than never. Let's hope other pollsters have followed the same trajectory.
"Much more devastating to Trump’s prospects is waning support from women who form a majority of the white working class. Without strong support from these voters, Trump cannot win. Right now, Biden is losing them by only seven points in my same battleground poll."
This is correct and is a point I have stressed many times. It really is true that Trump cannot win with his current support levels among this demographic.
"Recently, Trump’s average approval rating has slipped a bit to about 41 percent, while his disapproval rating has jumped to about 56 percent. That looks a lot like the 14-point margin for Biden over Trump in the most recent New York Times poll."
This is consistent with the 538 running poll average on approval. The importance of such low approval cannot be overemphasized--approval numbers like this are a death sentence.
"In the next four months, many things could put Biden’s current lead at risk. On occasion, between now and November, Biden will garble his words in an interview or make some public statement that many people will struggle to understand. He will surely sound out of touch or offend one group or another. Younger voters and Sanders primary voters do not appear to be rapturously excited about Biden. Calls for defunding the police reveal genuine fractures in the Democratic Party."
I am less worried about the youth vote at this point. The defunding the police movement could be more of a genuine problem but Biden seems to be fairly deft in how he's handling it.
"Even before the pandemic, the American political landscape had changed dramatically since Trump’s election, and not in ways that favor the incumbent. Biden’s big poll lead should not make Democrats complacent, but neither should members of my party shake their heads and think, Here it comes again. Rather, the current polls should persuade Democrats to work for the greatest possible rejection of a widely distrusted U.S. president and the political party that enables him."
What he said.
These aren’t Hillary Clinton’s numbers. Biden has a wide lead because the landscape has changed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Should or Should We Not Be Worried About Backlash? (2)

Well, at this point I'm not too worried, given the dire situation in the country and how badly Trump has handled it, both in policy and political terms. Voters increasingly just want to get rid of the guy, which makes them less likely to be swayed by issues that in other circumstances would have some significant potential for backlash.
But that's no reason for complacency. Danger still lurks. And backlash remains a more significant potential problem than, say lack of support among black or young voters, which recent polls show firming up rapidly.
Indeed, the most activist-minded among these constituencies, who have been turning out for the BLM/George Floyd protests, seem likely to vote overwhelmingly for Biden. A tidbit from the most recent recent Tom Edsall coliumn:
"In an article posted June 28 at Business Insider, [Sociologist Dana] Fisher wrote that in studying the demonstrators:
Every single person surveyed at events in Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles over the past month reported that they would be supporting Joe Biden in the election. In fact, not one respondent reported that they would vote for Donald Trump."
This certainly suggests there is no reason for Biden to embrace the more radical demands coming out of the protests, such as for defunding the police and reparations. He's already got the protesters' votes and presumably those of their co-thinkers around the country.
But backlash, as I noted, has more potential to be a real problem. From the Edsall article:
"Fisher wrote that 60 to 65 percent of the demonstrators agreed with the statement “some level of violence is justified in the pursuit of political goals....
"The views of protesters concerning the legitimacy of violence stand in contrast to the views of voters taken as a whole.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 72 percent of those polled disagreed with the statement “more violent protests and unrest are an appropriate response to the killing of an unarmed man by police,” including a solid majority of Democrats.
An even larger percentage (79), including 77 percent of Democrats, agreed with the statement: “The property damage caused by some protesters undermines the original protest’s case for justice.”
The Times/Siena survey asked voters whether they support or oppose “reducing funding to police departments,” a less extreme step than the call among some demonstrators to “defund the police.”
Nearly two thirds of voters polled, 63 percent, opposed reduction of funding of police departments, including 50 percent who said they “strongly oppose” such actions.
What makes these issues even more potentially polarizing, going into the 2020 election, is that there has been an increase in violent crime, especially homicide and shooting incidents, in the weeks since George Floyd was killed, in some of the cities experiencing sustained protests and anti-police demonstrations. These cities include Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Chicago."
So continue to worry. Trump is his own worst enemy but that's no reason to hand him issues that he can--and will--try to exploit to avert his free fall.
Inevitably, the electorate’s response to the George Floyd protests has begun to run along familiar ideological fault lines.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Anatomy of an Impending Trump Political Catastrophe: Pennsylvania

In the 538 poll averages, Trump is behind in all of the three Rustbelt states key to his 2016 victory: Michigan (10.7 points), , Pennsylvania (8.0) and Wisconsin (8.1). Let's take a look at the currently closest of the three, Pennsylvania.
Rhodes Cook provides an-depth look at the state of play in PA, rounding up a ton of great data about the state's politics and recent trends. I can also benchmark current Democratic performance against targets that I set for Democrats to take the state back when I published Path to 270 in 2020 report last November.
"For the Democratic candidate, one approach would be to simply rely on the demographic changes just outlined and hope voting patterns from 2016 remain the same. If that were the case, the Democrat would carry Pennsylvania by around half a percentage point.
But this strategy would be very risky. Democrats will clearly attempt to change these voting patterns in their favor. One goal might be to increase Black turnout back to its 2012 levels. This would be helpful but would not add much to their performance, since Black turnout declined only marginally in Pennsylvania in 2016 and was actually still slightly above white turnout in that election. Returning the margin among Black voters back to levels attained by President Obama in 2012 would be more helpful but would add only a percentage point to the Democrats’ projected margin. Widening the Democrats’ margin among white college graduates by 10 points would be more effective, adding 3 points to potential Democratic 2020 performance.
But the goal with the most potential impact would be to move some white noncollege voters—particularly white noncollege women, among whom Clinton ran 25 points better than among their male counterparts—away from Trump. Shaving 10 margin points off Trump’s advantage among white noncollege voters—thereby bringing the Democratic deficit close to what it was for Obama in the state in 2012—would boost the Democrats’ projected margin by as much as 5 points. Even achieving half that goal would give the Democrats a several-point cushion in the state."
How's that looking? Well Biden isn't yet there on the PA black vote but boy is he hitting his targets in the rest of the electorate. In the Nationscape data since April 1, he is shaving not 10 but almost 20 points off of Trump's margin among white noncollege voters (from +30 to +11) and has more than doubled the Democratic margin among white college voters (from +9 to +21).
Definitely a catastrophe in the making.
States of Play: Pennsylvania By Rhodes CookIn: 2020 PresidentPosted June 29, 2020 Dear Readers: As we’ve stressed throughout this election season, the president isn’t picked by national polling or the popular vote, but rather by the individual states — successful presidential nominees must cob...

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Return of Economics: How to Make the George Floyd/BLM Moment Longer-Lasting and More Effective

Jamal Bouie had a recent column in the Times titled Beyond White Fragility, with the subhead "If you want to let freedom ring, hammer on economic injustice". It really is remarkable how little talk there has been about fundamental economic factors that are intertwined with racial justice issues. Bouie quotes Martin Luther King:
"The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes, It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws — racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced."
Bouie adds:
"In our society...the fight for equal personhood can’t help but also be a struggle for economic justice. And what we see, past and present, is how that fight against the privileges and distinctions of race can also lay the foundations for a broader assault on the privileges and distinctions of class...
To end segregation — of housing, of schools, of workplaces — is to undo one of the major ways in which labor is exploited, caste established and the ideologies of racial hierarchy sustained. And that, in turn, opens possibilities for new avenues of advancement. The old labor slogan “Negro and White, Unite and Fight!” contains more than a little truth about the necessary conditions for economic justice."
He concludes:
"[T]he predominating discourse of belief and intention in the movement] overshadows those stakes: too much concern with “white fragility” and not enough with wealth inequality. The challenge is to bridge the gap; to show new supporters that there’s far more work to do than changing the way we police; to channel their sympathy into a deeper understanding of the problem at hand."
So if endless interrogations of white fragility aren't doing much good, what would? How can the struggle for economic justice be made central to the current moment? Robert Wright in his Nonzero newsletter has some excellent suggestions on how this could be done.
"Last week the New York Times ran a piece depicting Bernie Sanders as woefully out of step with the current political moment by virtue of his tendency to see the world through the prism of economic class, not ethnic identity. Calls from the Black Lives Matter movement “to address systemic racism and police brutality,” said the Times, are resonating in a way that “Mr. Sanders’s message of economic equality did not.”
It’s true that we’re hearing very little about that favorite Sanders theme of raising taxes on high-income people and using the money to help low-income people. By and large, the George Floyd story is being seen as a story about racial injustice and not about economic injustice.
I think that’s a mistake, in two senses.
First, it’s a tactical mistake for the left. This is a moment full of activist energy, and it’s opened up new political space; there’s a chance to push for radically increased government spending on, for example, education, housing, and health care for low-income people. Such spending disproportionately helps black people, and to pass it up because it’s technically about class, not race, would be wasteful to say the least.
Second, it’s a conceptual mistake. Racial justice and economic justice are deeply connected, as has been noted by a number of people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (“What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”) If we’re going to launch a serious attack on racism, it needs to include a serious attack on economic inequality.
Or, to put it another way: If we want to help as many as possible of the George Floyds of the world, we need to see the story of George Floyd in wide angle. It’s not just the story of a black man dying at the hands of a brutally indifferent white cop. It’s the story of a black man whose circumstances of birth, like those of many black men, made it likely from the get-go that he’d have antagonistic encounters with police, and that these encounters would lead to various kinds of bad outcomes, ranging from jail to death.
Floyd was born in a poor Houston neighborhood featuring crime and drugs and bad schools. He was a good athlete and went to a Florida college on scholarship, but after two years he returned to Texas, and there he traveled a path familiar to people in his neighborhood. Like 29 percent of the black males born in the U.S., he wound up in prison....
No doubt Floyd encountered consequential racism while young, but no doubt his economic deprivation also took a toll. If he’d been a black kid born into a more affluent household, his chances of winding up in the criminal justice system would have been lower.
To put a finer point on it: On any given day, a black man between the ages of 27 and 32 is more than twice as likely to be in jail if he was born into a household in the bottom tenth of the income distribution for African-Americans than if he was born into a household with the median income for African-Americans. And that median income—for the entire household—is only $42,000....
The disadvantages facing people born into poor neighborhoods like the one Floyd was born into are many and complex, and I’m not qualified to prescribe the multidimensional government spending the problem calls for. But to mention a few obvious policy possibilities:
(1) Improve public schools in low-income areas and provide lots of financial aid for low-income students who want to attend college or vocational school. A 2010 study found that black men who don’t finish high school are ten times as likely to have been in jail by their early 30s as black men who have finished college and three times as likely as black men who have finished high school but not college.
(2) Expand the number of low-income people eligible for free health care and improve the health care low-income people get, including robust treatment for substance abuse and other mental health problems.
(3) Create a government jobs program that, ideally, would have the side effect of improving the quality of life in low-income communities by, say, upgrading and maintaining public spaces or expanding recreational programs.
I could go on—but only after doing more research. Again, this is a complicated problem, and it’s worth not just massive government expenditure but creatively and carefully designed expenditure—a kind of Apollo project of social policy.
The Black Lives Matter protests are impressive in their energy and diversity, but when it comes to policy advocacy, they haven’t been a model of clarity and tactical savvy. “Defunding the police,” advocates say, doesn’t mean what lots of people naturally take it to mean—depriving the police of all funding. (Then why do they call it… never mind.) Rather, it means taking some police services—handling domestic disputes or the homeless, say—and moving them to other agencies, along with commensurate parts of the police budget; or maybe using a chunk of the police budget to fund some new community service.
OK, but even leaving aside what a counterproductive label “defund the police” is (polls show that blacks and whites alike react negatively to it), the underlying idea is in a certain sense too modest. It sends the message, however unintended, that new community initiatives are limited by the amount of money that can be pried away from police departments. I say think bigger!
There sometimes is bigger talk in Black Lives Matter circles—in particular about reparations. But reparations, however strong the moral case for them, will almost certainly never happen—and if they did happen, they’d probably be divisive, perhaps even making the eventual arrival of another ethno-nationalist president more likely.
This suboptimal policy agenda—consisting of things that are too ambitious, not ambitious enough, and/or self-destructively labeled—seems to be rooted in the unspoken premise that almost everything about the George Floyd tragedy is attributable either to racist policing or racism more broadly. Certainly policing needs reform, and certainly racism looms large. Even the economic disadvantage Floyd was born into is largely a product of racism. Still, if you don’t address economic disadvantage directly, as a problem in its own right, you’re leaving a lot of policy tools unused, and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. As a practical political matter, we can direct way more resources toward victims of racism by deploying class-based policies than by relying on race-based policies alone.
Two days ago New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote a piece asserting that economic equality has long been an aspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s right—as you can see if you do a little digging on the website of Movement for Black Lives, an umbrella group encompassing BLM. But the fact that he had to remind us of this more than a month after George Floyd died is testament to how little airtime the issue of economic justice has gotten lately.
Bouie’s column cited a bygone labor slogan: “Black and White: Unite and Fight.” Exactly! Class-based policies, though by definition not about race per se, can in principle erode racism. The kinds of policies I’m advocating would naturally appeal to low-income whites, which means they’d give low-income whites and low-income blacks common political cause.
I’m not saying this would magically heal America’s racial divide. But it’s well-established that bigotry tends to grow when one group sees itself as having a zero-sum relationship with another group, and that the perception of a non-zero-sum relationship—like common policy goals, jointly pursued—can have the opposite effect."
If you want to let freedom ring, hammer on economic injustice.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Rustbelt Seniors to Trump: Drop Dead!

Continuing the theme from my Times op-ed, here are the quite extraordinary 65+ Biden-Trump results from the New York Times Rustbelt battleground polls:
Michigan: Biden 50-Trump 38 (Biden +12)
Pennsylvania: 55-37 (Biden +18)
Wisconsin 55-34 (Biden +21)

Hold the Line, Joe!

The most militant activists in and around the Black Lives Matter movement continue to hector Biden to adopt strenuously radical demands such as defund the police. So far, he has refused. Excellent. There is no reason for him to do so. He doesn't need the votes of these hyper-activists, since they are few in number, and as for the people these activists claim they represent, he already has strong support across the board. He doesn't need to embrace defund the police to get their votes. And most of all, he just needs to keep the support he's already built up among suburban, moderate, older and white noncollege voters to win a smashing victory. A ringing call to defund the police will only undercut, not build, the Biden coalition.
The fact of the matter is that people aren't interested in getting rid of their current police force--as defund the police implies--and somehow replacing it with a new one. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, just 14 percent supported eliminating and replacing their current police department, while 81 percent were opposed. Even among black voters, the split was only 32 percent for/61 percent against.
In the same poll, 67 percent of voters said they supported the ongoing George Floyd protests. What that means--making the reasonable assumption that all eliminate and replace voters also supported the protests--is that 4 in 5 protest supporters do not want to get rid of and replace their current police force.
So defund the police just doesn't cut it with American voters. And, no it doesn't work to explain what the slogan "really means" is providing some more money for social services and changing the mix of police activities, etc, etc. If you're explaining, you're losing.
From the Politico article on this controversy:
"During the primaries, Biden bet everything on winning overwhelming support from African American voters, who eventually reversed the near collapse of his campaign in the first three states.
Biden’s advisers were often less attentive—and sometimes downright dismissive—of certain obsessions of the social media left. Biden did not discuss white privilege the way Kirsten Gillibrand did. He didn’t endorse reparations or the legalization of marijuana when some of his chief rivals did. He stubbornly insisted that the two most important primary constituencies were political moderates and older working-class African Americans, two groups without much influence online. The Biden campaign’s unspoken primary slogan could have been, “Twitter isn’t real life.”
This cautiousness and skepticism has spilled into the general election. One way to think of the Biden campaign’s navigation of racial issues is that he and his advisers care a lot more about addressing policy demands than they do about addressing cultural issues.
“There is a conversation that’s going on on Twitter that they don’t care about,” one Democratic strategist observed. “They won the primary by ignoring all of that. The Biden campaign does not care about the critical race theory-intersectional left that has taken over places like The New York Times. You can be against chokeholds and not believe in white fragility. You can be for reforming police departments and don’t necessarily have to believe that the United States is irredeemably racist.”
Amen, you don't and Biden doesn't and that's a very good thing!

Activists want to defund the police. Biden won’t even legalize pot.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Electoral College Seems Unlikely to Save Trump This Time Around

Arguably, that is the key takeaway from the latest round of polling. See the chart below, which was commented on as follows by Geoffrey Skelley on 538:
"[One] thing to note here is that Biden is above 50 percent in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. This is significant because even though Hillary Clinton led in these states at points in 2016, she never crossed the 50 percent threshold. That speaks to just how durable Biden’s lead might be.
But perhaps what’s even more significant about this batch of recent polls is that Trump’s possible Electoral College advantage is slipping. Biden doesn’t lead by as much in most of the battleground states as he does nationally, but his leads are big enough — anywhere from 5 points in Arizona to 9 points in Nevada — that it won’t matter that many battleground states lean to the right of the country.
Take Biden’s leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those three Frost Belt states were each decided by less than 1 point in the 2016 election, yet Biden leads them all by at least 8 points. That gives him a firmer grip on the Electoral College. The race, of course, could narrow in the coming months, but as the Times/Siena surveys found, Biden also has a sizable edge in states such as Arizona and Florida, which means even if his position weakens in the Midwest — perhaps some white Republican-leaning voters come home to Trump — Biden’s strength in other parts of the country might be less affected and still give him a path to victory with 270 electoral votes."