Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Biden Poll-mentum

Very good news for Biden today on the poll front.
National polls show a widening margin for Biden. The most gaudy of these is a +11 margin recorded for Biden in the high quality (A+ 538 rating) Monmouth poll.
Then, state polls from high quality pollsters look very good:
Wisconsin (Fox, A- rating) +9 Biden
Arizona (Fox) +4 Biden
Ohio (Fox) +2 Biden
Texas (!) Quinnipiac, B+rating) Trump +1
In fairness, lefty pollster Change Research (C- rating) has, oddly, much more pessimistic results in battleground polls they are doing with CNBC. Go figure.
Looking across the high quality polls, what stands out a first glance is that Biden is running somewhat better among white noncollege voters than Clinton, and way better among white college voters. That's true both nationally and in the states. How can Trump win in this landscape? He can't. If Democrats can hold these patterns, he's sunk.
Of course, there's a long way to election day and the situation is, to say the least, a bit volatile. Stay tuned.
Majorities of Wisconsin voters rate the economy negatively and are concerned about coronavirus.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Should or Should We Not Be Worried About Backlash?

As protests around the George Floyd killing continue around the country, punctuated in some cities by considerable looting, property damage and arson, the question arises whether the left should be concerned about a backlash to this violence that could benefit the right.
One response is to point out that the overwhelming majority of demonstrators are peaceful and that the proper response is therefore to ignore the violence and simply talk about the issues that sparked the protests. This seems like wishful thinking. Voters all over the country are by now very, very aware of what is going on beyond peaceful protests and many are likely to be quite disturbed by it. Their concerns will not be assuaged by assertions that the protests are, by and large, peaceful. It's the part that isn't that worries them.
Another response is to say that the current situation is quite different from, say, 1968 where backlash was effectively used by Richard Nixon to gain the Presidency. These differences include:
1. Trump isn't nearly as smart as Nixon and doesn't seem interested in reaching beyond his die-hard base to moderate voters who might be sensitive to the street violence. Tear-gassing demonstrators in Lafayette Park so he could walk across the park to, bizarrely, hold a bible and have a photo-op in front of St John's church is a good example of his non-optimizing tactics.
2. Trump is the incumbent and therefore is presiding over the current chaos. This makes it more difficult for him to portray and a "change" candidate who can make things right.
3. The likelihood of a strong third party candidate this year is small, so Trump will not be able to position himself as the candidate in the middle as Nixon did in 1969.
These are all reasonable points. But they do not persuade me that the danger of backlash does not exist at all and therefore need not be considered. Chaos and violence in the streets is generally not good for the left and the cause of racial equality. It's certainly possible that this won't matter much this year, given Trump's bone-headed actions and unpopularity. But it might and that should have us all nervous and taking evasive action. Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow explains in an interview on the New Yorker website:
"I would say that nonviolent protests can be very effective if they are able to get media attention, and that there is a very strong relationship between media coverage and public concern about whatever issues those protesters are raising. But there is a conditional effect of violence, and what that means, in practice, is that groups that are the object of state violence are able to get particularly sympathetic press—and a large amount of media coverage. But that is a very hard strategy to maintain, and what we often see is that, when protesters engage in violence, often in a very understandable response to state repression, that tends to work against their cause and interests, and mobilizes or becomes fodder for the opposition to grow its coalition.
What we observe in the nineteen-sixties is that there was a nontrivial number of white moderates who were open to policies that advanced racial equality, and were also very concerned about order. The needle that civil-rights activists were trying to thread was: How do you advance racial equality, and capture the attention of often indifferent or hostile white moderates outside of the South, and at the same time grow a coalition of allies?....
When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition....
When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition....
I think there is a lot of evidence that nonviolent tactics can be effective. You saw this on the first day in Minneapolis, where the police showed up with an excess of force, and you had these images of children running away and police dressed like stormtroopers. There are a set of narrative scripts in the public mind, and I think we interpret the news through those preĆ«xisting narratives. And so a nonviolent protest where we see state excesses is a very powerful and sympathetic narrative for the cause of fighting police violence. And as soon as the tactics shift to more aggressive violent resistance—and, to be clear, as best I can tell, police were shooting rubber bullets and there was tear gas. It seemed like an excessive police response, and so in reaction protesters escalated as well. That has an unfortunate side effect of muddying the story. Instead of talking about the history of police killings in Minneapolis, we are talking about a store going up in flames, and the focus in reporting tends to shift from a justice frame to a crime frame. And that is an unfortunate thing for a protest movement. It ends up undermining the interests of the advocates....
What’s often hard for people to see is that there are these white moderates who are part of the Democratic coalition as long as they perceive there to be order, but when they perceive there to be too much disorder they shift to the party that has owned the issue of order, which is the Republican Party. For some people, the idea that there are these swing Democratic-minded voters is hard to grasp, but there is pretty strong evidence that in 2016, and in 1968, that was an important and influential niche of voters."
A reasonable question is who these movable white moderates might be in the current context. One nomination would be whites over 65. As has been widely noted, Biden has greatly benefited from the movement of seniors, around 24 percent of 2016 voters, away from Trump and into the Democratic camp. Based on States of Change and Nationscape data, this movement has been a massive shift from 2016 of 21 margin points. The great majority of this group is white, comprising 20 percent of all voters, and they have had a similarly sized shift toward the Democrats since 2016.
As a point of comparison, consider young (under 30) black voters where Biden has been underperforming relative to Clinton--by about 15 margin points according to the same data. But this group is only around 2 percent of voters.
What this means concretely is that the shift toward Biden among white seniors has added 4 margin points to his current lead. But underperformance among young black voters has only subtracted 3/10 of a percentage point from that lead. This political arithmetic needs to be considered carefully when assessing the possible effects of backlash and the historical lessons highlighted by Wasow.
A politics professor at Princeton discusses civil-rights-era protest tactics, what violent protests have meant for elections, and whether Donald Trump is a figure of disorder.

Can't Anyone Here Play This Game (Except Barack)?

I continue to be amazed at the inability of many Democratic politicians and progressive activists to put forward a balanced view of the protests and chaos sweeping the country. Protests against racism and police brutality--good! Violence, looting and burning buildings--bad! Working together for real policy and political change--good! Trump's divisive actions and rhetoric--bad! If you don't say 'em all and really mean 'em, you're not credible which hurts the very cause you're trying to support.
But Obama hits all the right notes:
"First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.
On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.
Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.....
[T]he bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."
As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the…

Saturday, May 30, 2020

On What Planet Does It Make Sense Not to Condemn Looting?

Not this one. Disappointingly, Democrats, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, have had great difficulty with this. It should not be hard to condemn policy brutality, racism and looting at the same time. Not to do so makes no moral sense. Think of the working class people who actually live in these trashed neighborhoods. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"People living in the working-class neighborhood around the epicenter of Wednesday night’s protests, police clashes and riots encountered a changed neighborhood when they ventured outside the next morning.
They saw the stores they relied on for groceries and supplies smashed and burned. They saw fires that had smoldered for hours. Onlookers clogged the streets to take pictures and help clean up the mess. Some loaded up carts with merchandise from Target, Dollar Tree and Cub Foods, which appeared devoid of workers after the Wednesday night crowds broke in.
“It’s very sudden to see how the neighborhood just changed in a period of three, four hours,” said Elizabeth Lopez, holding her 2-year-old daughter outside her home off Lake Street.
“It was a neighborhood that was building new buildings and everything, and then suddenly they were all on fire,” she said. “I don’t understand how peaceful protesting became like a nightmare for this neighborhood.”
Mohamed Abdi saw the chaos unfold from his apartment in the shopping center with Target and Cub Foods that was hit the hardest by the vandalism.
“I’m not safe, you’re not safe,” Abdi said. “I don’t know when the area will be safe again.”
Now that Cub Foods and Target are damaged, he doesn’t know where he’ll get his groceries. He vowed to keep an eye on the entrance to his apartment building for the rest of the day to try to ward off rioters.
“It’s very sad for everybody, for the residential people, the people who work in the area,” he added."
And it certainly makes no political sense. Yesterday I posted about the strong position Biden has taken in the swing states that will decide the 2020 election. But there are lots of ways this strong position can be undermined. Not condemning looting is one of them. Josh Kraushaar explains, using some of my recently published research with John Halpin:
"Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two senior fellows at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, wrote one of the most trenchant political analyses in recent months. Using data from the in-depth Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys designed to capture a nuanced portrait of the American electorate, the two scholars found that there’s a significant cohort of Trump-Biden voters emerging in this year’s election, a persuadable constituency large enough to tip the election.
While the notion of swing voters may sound alien in these partisan times, the analysis showed that nearly one-tenth of Trump voters from the last election are poised to switch sides. They’re a demographically diverse mix: Just one-third make up the popular Trumpian stereotype of working-class white voters, while one-third are white college graduates, and the remainder are nonwhite.
But the most important finding was the ideological makeup of these potential Trump defectors. They identified as economically progressive—supporting higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage, and mandated paid family leave—but held markedly conservative positions on a wide array of social and cultural issues.
A whopping 78 percent of these swing voters felt that government should promote family values in society. Nearly two-thirds oppose efforts to ban all guns. And by huge margins, they are opposed to racial reparations and believe there are only two genders. Put simply, this isn’t a politically correct bunch.
It’s worth recalling this data in the wake of the riots and violence in Minneapolis this week, which occurred after a wrenching videotaped incident of police brutality against an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd. The episode brings to the political forefront a polarizing brew of issues surrounding civil rights and law enforcement.
Polls already show most Americans support the arrest of the offending officer, who was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. While the issue has yet to be polled, I’d also expect most Americans would reject the notion that violence is the answer to injustice, and would recoil at the havoc across the country this week.
So I was surprised to see Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, fail to make even a pro forma exhortation against rioting in his heartfelt speech Friday when he called for police reforms and racial reconciliation.....
On my “Against the Grain” podcast this week, I asked Kamala Harris’s former presidential campaign spokesman Ian Sams whether Democrats risked facing a backlash for not condemning the riots. He disagreed. “The riots are obviously unfortunate, but are an outward manifestation of desperate anger that the system is failing large communities of people.....Sams approvingly cited the feedback from a Minneapolis business owner that he saw on television who said he was glad his business burned down. “He said ‘Let it burn’ because this is a point that needed to be made."
You gotta be kidding me. This is absolutely bonkers. Are these Democrats trying to lose? An honorable exception is Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who said:
"What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos,”
Bottoms for Veep? Get a grip here people. I'll close with this vignette:
"In north Minneapolis, James Clark was among the dozens who stood by as firefighters extinguished what was left of the Fade Factory, a small barbershop on W. Broadway that was fully engulfed. He is the father of Jamar Clark, the black man shot and killed during an encounter with police in 2015, whose death sparked weeks of protest and encampments outside the Fourth Precinct.
"It's not solving anything, it's not doing any good. It's just putting all these different communities in a bad position. They can't get food or prescription jobs," he said. "It don't make no sense."
Amen. And Democrats shouldn't be afraid to say so.
Most Americans are horrified by the videotaped episode of police brutality in Minneapolis. They also reject the notion that violence is the answer to injustice.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Swingin' Joe Biden!

Sabato's Crystal Ball has a very useful article up from Alan Abramowitz on how Biden is doing vs.Trump in 2016 swing states (defined as carried by either side by less than 6 points). The chart below is well worth the price of admission.
The key takeaway: "The data displayed in Table 1 show that, based on recent polling, Joe Biden is substantially outperforming both Hillary Clinton’s actual vote margin and her final polling margin in these 13 states. Biden is currently leading Trump in all 13 states by margins ranging from 0.3 points in Georgia to 17 points in Colorado. On average, Biden is running more than six points ahead of Clinton’s 2016 margin in the polls."
This suggests, as other analysts have argued, that Biden is probably running ahead of Trump by 8 points nationally, since Clinton won the popular vote by 2 points so 6 points ahead of that would be 8 points.
I thought it would be interesting to check the Abramowitz' poll of polls for these states against the Nationscape data. With 6000 cases a week, the cumulative data since the beginning of the year provides robust samples of respondents for even the small states. Here are the data for the Nationscape Biden margins in each state:
Arizona tie
Colorado +13
Florida +4
Georgia +5
Maine +3
Michigan +11
Minnesota +10
North Carolina tie
New Hampshire +9
Nevada +11
Pennsylvania +6
Virginia +16
A lot of similarity there, though Nationscape is more bullish on the Rustbelt states and less so or Arizona. And in a very pleasing fashion, the average Biden lead is 6.3 points, virtually identical with the Abramowitz' computer margin. This again suggest Biden is running 6 points ahead of Clinton in these states and probably about 8 points ahead nationally.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Biden Bolshevism Watch (2)

Is it that the left just can't take "yes" for an answer?
One has to wonder given the continued lack of enthusiasm for Biden in certain quarters. This is strange given that the left presumably stands for, well, left policies. And Biden's got 'em by the bushel, as Matt Yglesias lays out in an excellent, detailed article on Vox.
1. A big minimum wage increase
2. Free college for most
3. Enhancing the Affordable Care Act
4. Dramatic transformation of federal housing policy
5. A huge financial boost to schools with low-income students
6. A labor-friendly climate agenda
7. Major commitments on union organizing
8. Back to the future on immigration
As Yglesias points out, this adds up to a lot. And how far Biden gets with it if elected will have less to do with any lack of ambition and more to do with the Congress he has to work with. The logical course, therefore is to back Biden to the hilt, work hard to deliver him the Congress he'll need and be prepared to put pressure on him to stick with the commitments he has already made.
Or is it really the case that the left can't take "yes" for answer? Between now and November, we'll find out.
"Biden is a mainstream Democrat, and as the Democratic Party has grown broadly more progressive in recent years, he is now running on arguably the most progressive policy platform of any Democratic nominee in history.
It’s a detailed and aggressive agenda that includes doubling the minimum wage and tripling funding for schools with low-income students. He is proposing the most sweeping overhaul of immigration policy in a generation, the biggest pro-union push in three generations, and the most ambitious environmental agenda of all time.
If Democrats take back the Senate in the fall, Biden could make his agenda happen. A primary is about airing disagreements, but legislating is about building consensus. The Democratic Party largely agrees on a suite of big policy changes that would improve the lives of millions of Americans in meaningful ways. Biden has detailed, considered plans to put much of this agenda in place. But getting these plans done will be driven much more by the outcome of the congressional elections than his questioned ambition."
Not a joke, folks: He’s running on a transformative policy agenda.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

t's an Older Voter Thing, You Wouldn't Understand (2)

Rob Griffin and John Sides have a very good article up on the Monkey Cage blog where they describe in detail Biden's current relative over-performance among older voters and what a pickle this puts Trump in. They are using the Nationscape data, 6,000 interviews a week, which I have referenced many times.
As for why this is, they basically wind up saying: "Beats us!" though they are pretty sure it isn't just a reaction to the coronavirus crisis and Trump's dreadful handling thereof.
Herewith, my own analysis of the Nationscape data since the beginning of the year for the 65+ age group, nationally and for selected states, with comparisons to the States of Change data from 2016.
National: Biden +6, Clinton -15
Florida Biden -6, Clinton -20
Georgia Biden -2, Clinton -27
Iowa Biden -11, Clinton -24
Michigan Biden +20, Clinton -9
North Carolina Biden -17, Clinton -21
Ohio Biden -2, Clinton -21
Pennsylvania Biden +4, Clinton -16
Wisconsin Biden +12, Clinton -16
Biden’s appeal to seniors has “flattened” a different kind of curve.