Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Are Democratic Candidates Coming to Their Senses?

Well, maybe (except for Bernie). Chelsea Janes and Michael Scherer report in the Post:
"The idea of Medicare-for-all — a unified government health program that would take over the basic function of private insurance — became a liberal litmus test at the outset of the presidential campaign, distinguishing Democratic contenders who cast themselves as bold visionaries from more moderate pragmatists.
But in recent months, amid polling that shows concern among voters about ending private insurance, several of the Democratic hopefuls have shifted their positions or their tone, moderating full-throated endorsement of Medicare-for-all and adopting ideas for allowing private insurance in some form.....
This unmistakable, if sometimes subtle, shift in tone stems in part from Democrats’ fear of giving away a newfound advantage over Republicans on health care."
Sensible! This gets the coveted Common Sense Democrat seal of approval. It's not like the data on this has exactly been a state secret, as detailed in the article.
"A Washington Post-ABC News poll in July found that 52 percent of Americans overall, and 77 percent of Democrats, prefer a universal health program to the current system. But support dropped to 43 percent and 66 percent, respectively, when respondents were told that it would mean eliminating private insurance.
Other surveys have found less support. About 8 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in a Pew poll in July said the federal government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage, but less than half said it should be through a single government plan.
And in a July poll of Iowa voters by CBS News/YouGov, two-thirds of Democrats said they preferred a government health program that competed with private insurance, compared with 34 percent who favored one that replaced private insurance entirely."
I encourage the candidates to keep on paying attention to the actually-existing views of the actually-existing American people. It works wonders.
About this website
Kamala Harris’s switch on health care highlights a broader move by Democrats to soften their initial enthusiasm for a sweeping government health plan.

Good News from Arizona!

A new Arizona poll from OH Predictive Insights has Mark Kelly ahead of Martha McSally 46-41 in a 2020 Senate trial head matchup. Notably, as shown in the graphic below, Kelly is ahead in Maricopa county (Phoenix metro) by 9 points and in Pima county (Tuscon metro) by 10 points.
This is huge because these two counties together totally dominate the Arizona vote--over three-quarters of voters between them and over 60 percent in Maricopa alone. Note that these patterns are similar to those we saw in 2018 when Kyrsten Sinema won her Senate seat over McSally.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Fearless Forecasting Department: Interview with Rachel Bitecofer

Paul Rosenberg has an interesting and somewhat reverential interview on Salon with Rachel Bitecofer, a Christoper Newport University political scientist. Bitecofer, as some of you may recall, was out early with a very accurate and detailed model-based House prediction for 2018.
To which I'd say: good for her but it doesn't mean that everything she now says and predicts is correct. Unfortunately, she now seems a bit more confident in her judgments and predictions that she probably should be.
The negative partisanship stuff she alludes to in the interview is real and she is right to take is seriously. But her methodology doesn't really show some of the things she thinks it shows. This is particularly true of her pronouncements on the overwhelming role of turnout in the 2018 election. The best, most careful and sophisticated analysis of 2016-2018 changes, using individual level vote data, is not consistent with her pronouncements. This is the Catalist analysis which shockingly she does not even mention. That analysis showed that 90 percent of the Democrats' margin advantage in 2018 was due to people who voted for Trump in 2016 but Democratic in 2018. Whatever that is, it's not turnout.
That's the trouble with believing your own press clippings--you tend to overstate your case. I would take her view on the centrality of base mobilization and the alleged efficacy of turning up the "progressive" dial to maximum in 2020 with an entire cellarful of salt.

About this website
Rachel Bitecofer predicted last year's midterms with incredible accuracy. Her 2020 forecast is ... not too bad

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Working Class Vs. The "Woke-eoisie": Which Way Will Elizabeth Warren Go?

Elizabeth Warren could win the Democratic nomination and even win the general election. But to do so, she's got to make some changes. As Jeff Greenfield notes in Politico
"The strategic premises of her campaign are to claim the progressive mantle from Bernie Sanders, stake the “alternative to Biden” ground, and then engage in a one-on-one battle for the nomination....There are significant challenges to this strategy, not the least of which is winning over a reasonable share of the African American vote, where Biden dominates.....
In polls, Warren trails Biden in South Carolina by dozens of points. What’s more, about half of the state’s black Democrats say they support Biden, while Warren is practically tied for the lead among the state’s white Democrats.
And African American Democrats are, as Tom Edsall pointed out in a much-discussed column in the New York Times, on average, more centrist than white Democrats. The party’s “more moderate wing, which is pressing bread-and-butter concerns like jobs, taxes and a less totalizing vision of health care reform, is majority nonwhite, with almost half of its support coming from African-American and Hispanic voters,” he wrote.
So it would make sense for Warren to draw some distinctions between herself and her party’s most liberal voters, in order to make her candidacy more appealing—or at least acceptable—to the elements of her party that do not fully embrace the canon. And there’s a long history of winning presidential candidates doing this without alienating their most loyal supporters."
This shouldn't be so hard. Most of her economic positions are fine in the context of today's Democratic party and can be sold to a wider electorate in a general election. Voters really do oppose crony capitalism and really do want a reformed system that isn't dominated by the rich and Wall Street and is focused on the welfare of the middle class and poor. That plugs right into the concerns of the moderate voters, particularly nonwhite and working class voters, mentioned by Edsall.
But Warren has gone too far in some areas, competing to seem the most "woke" on issues like decriminalizing the border and reparations and endorsing Medicare for All instead of Medicare for All Who Want It. This is not necessary. Her strong economic program has great appeal but so far Warren's support is heavily dominated by educated whites, with very little noncollege or nonwhite support, as shown by the graphic below.
That needs to change and the way to do it is to take positions that appeal to the working class, not the "woke-eoisie", and ditch the ones that don't. My guess is she'd retain most of her educated white support anyway but start gaining in places where she's currently weak. If she wants to win, that may be a bet she'll have to make.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Did Third Parties Sink Hillary Clinton in 2016?

People are asking this question--or flat out claiming third parties did sink her--because they are worried about how such parties might affect the Democrats' chances of defeating Trump in 2020. As one example, Josh Marshall recently stated:
"[I]t’s really the unusually high 5.7% of the vote going to three third party candidates — Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin — that made it possible for Trump to win as a minority candidate."
Thinking about the 2020 election, there are certainly scenarios where third parties, depending on their type and the distribution of their vote, could hurt the Democrats.
But, to set the record straight, 2016 does not appear to have been one of those times. In a States of Change report we performed the exercise of re-allocating the "extra" third party vote to see how the election outcome might have been affected if those third party voters had voted for the Democrats or Republicans. As we explained in the report:
"One of the unique features of the 2016 election was the relatively high third-party vote. Nationally, third-party candidates in 2016 collectively garnered about 4 points more than they did in 2012—5.7 percent versus 1.7 percent. While it is possible that similarly high levels of support will appear in future elections, the historical trend would suggest that a decline is more likely after a spike. Given that trend, the authors developed a separate 2016 baseline where third-party vote share is returned to its lower 2012 levels and the rest of the third-party vote share is reallocated based on underlying partisan preferences."
The result: Trump still wins the electoral vote, only by a larger margin, 309-229. This is because he still carries the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while also carrying New Hampshire by a narrow margin. This makes sense when one considers the actual distribution of the third part vote in these states: Michigan, 3.6 percent Johnson, 1.1 percent Stein; New Hampshire, Johnson 4.9/Stein .9; Pennsylvania, Johnson 2.4, Stein .8; Wisconsin, Johnson 3.6, Stein 1.
So the third party effect is not necessarily anti-Democratic. And Hillary Clinton did not lose the 2016 election because of it. As for 2020, we should wait until we have more information before we make a judgment on who it will help and who it will hurt.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Warren Munching Happily on Sanders' Support

This trend has been apparent for awhile but the new Fox News poll throws this into high relief. (To repeat from an earlier post: the Fox poll is a very good poll, rated "A" by 538). As shown in the graphic below, since March Biden is flatlined at 31 percent, while Warren is up 16 points to 20 percent and Sanders is down 13 points to 10 percent. This is consistent with the RCP running poll average.
Warren still struggles among black voters, receiving just 8 percent support to 37 percent for Biden. She also does relatively poorly among white noncollege voters, with 15 percent support to 34 percent for Biden. However, she edges Biden 33-29 among white college voters.
The poll also includes trial heats testing the four top-polling potential Democratic nominees against Trump. They all beat him by margins ranging from 6-12 points. The strongest candidate, as has been typical for months, is Biden at 50-38 against Trump.
The internals of the trial heats are interesting because they provide indications of what a winning Democratic coalition might look like. Looking at the Biden-Trump matchup, the most favorable for Democrats at this time, the key here is not the 11 point advantage among white college voters, which we might expect, but rather the unusually modest deficit among white noncollege voters--a mere 12 points. For Democrats these days, that would be a standout performance among this demographic.
Further, Biden in this trial heat only runs 4 points (!) behind Trump among white noncollege women. This group, as numerous recent analyses have suggested, is the soft underbelly of Trump's coalition. This poll reminds us of the rich dividends Democrats could reap by capitalizing on that vulnerability.
There are also a number of interesting questions on mass shootings and gun safety that are well worth looking at.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

America the Liberal

Yes, yes, I know, Trump and all that. But facts, gentlemen and women, are stubborn things and the facts are that Americans are in a pretty liberal mood these days. How do I know?--because James Stimson's public policy mood measure tells me so. Gregory Koger's post on the Mischiefs of Faction site has the details:
"Stimson’s updated measure of public policy mood....revealed that Americans' support for government action is at its highest point since the index began in 1952....
As explained in (among other places) Public Opinion In America and Tides of Consent, public policy mood combines polling responses across a wide range of policy issues to measure the American public’s collective appetite for more or less government, liberal or conservative policies. Even if we think citizens are not fully informed about stock market regulation, health care insurance, and the dozens of other specific policies pollsters ask them about, Stimson’s mood measures their underlying preference for government activism.
The mood index helps us understand previous shifts in American politics. Before 2018, the mood index peaked in the 1960s, coinciding with landmark civil rights laws, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society social welfare policies, and the expansion of civil liberties by Supreme Court decisions. During this period there was a dramatic increase in the number of issues addressed by government actors. Public appetite for more government reached a nadir around 1980, inspiring the Republican Party to embrace a starkly conservative presidential candidate and a range of policies that would have seemed unthinkable a decade earlier.
The updated mood index shows public policy mood is at its peak. This manifests itself in public support for more government action across a range of issues: gun control, health care (e.g. a public option), college tuition, paid parental leave, minimum wage policy, etc. NPR/Marist, for example, polled on a range of Democratic proposals (plus Obamacare repeal) last month. While there are some unpopular items, Democrats have broad support for many of the policies approved by the House or advocated by Democratic presidential candidates."
Of course, this liberal mood won't last forever and much depends on how well Democrats play offence and how well Republicans play defense in this pro-activism period. As Koger notes:
"The history of public mood and American politics suggests the stage is set for progressive policy change after the 2020 election, but this is not guaranteed. It is not clear how well parties will take advantage (Democrats) or deflect (Republicans) public support for more active government. Nor is it clear how well our electoral system—from its campaign financing system to the small-state bias of the Senate and Electoral College—will translate public opinion into government action...If the Democrats gain unified control of the federal government in 2021, the real question is how well they use their window of opportunity to create durable policy programs and systemic political change."
Yes, that's the real question. The public is clearly moving in a liberal direction--but can Democrats get their act together and take maximum advantage? I'd say that's not yet clear.
A summary measure of policy-related polls shows Americans' support for government action is at its highest point since the index began in 1952.