Sunday, January 20, 2019

How Did Kyrsten Sinema Win in Arizona?

One particularly good result for the Democrats' very good 2018 election was capturing a Senate seat in Arizona. Sinema won by 2.4 points in a state that Hillary Clinton lost by 3. 5 points in 2016, raising the possibility that Democrats might be able to carry the state in the 2020 Presidential election.
So how'd Sinema do it when Clinton couldn't? Once again the folks at Catalist Analytics have released some detailed data that help us answer that question. Their data for Arizona, built up from survey data, voter files and actual election returns, indicate relatively strong nonwhite turnout (the Catalist data do not break out nonwhites by black, Hispanic, etc) which helped keep the Arizona midterm electorate closer to the Presidential than is normally the case.
That was helpful for Sinema's cause but by far the biggest factor was strong shifts toward the Democrats in the white vote (75 percent of Arizona voters in 2018). Compared to 2016, Arizona whites shifted toward the Democrats by 11 margin points. That included a pro-Democratic shift of 13 points among white college voters (Sinema came close to breaking even with these voters) and an also-impressive shift of 10 points among noncollege whites. There were also big shifts among whites by age groups, with actually carrying all whites under 45.
The spatial dimension is also interesting. Sinema cleaned up in urban areas but also managed to narrowly carry suburban areas where two-thirds of Arizona voters reside (think especially Maricopa county). This was driven primarily by whites in suburban areas swinging a solid 11 points toward the Democrats.
Based on these patterns, Arizona should definitely be in play in 2020. For more information, consult the Catalist writeup below which, while murky, does contain a lot of nice tables.
About this website
Note: this post is part of a series of analyses detailing the 2018 election using the Catalist voter registration database, survey data…

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Is Florida Lost to the Democrats?

Probably not. But it is true recent Florida results have not been good for the Democrats. And, of course, we have the obligatory breathless New York Times article pronouncing the state "a swing state drifting away". The article quotes Alex Sink, a former Democratic Presidential candidate, saying:
“We just live in a red state here...I think it’s just tilted toward the Republicans now, and I hate to say that.”
Perhaps Ms. Sink is giving up too easily. Cook Political Report's electoral college ratings have Florida rated a dead tossup for 2020. And here are the results (D-R) of the last 3 Presidential elections in the state: -1.2, .8, 2.8. And here are results of 2018's Senatorial and gubernatorial elections, respectively: -.1, -.4.
I dunno. Looks pretty close to me. Consider also how close the two 2018 statewide races were. Historical patterns indicate that white vote share should decline by quite a bit between 2018 and 2020--possibly down to the low 60's--as demographic change and Presidential turnout patterns combine to push up the minority vote. Given voting patterns in the 2018 election, that would probably be enough by itself to flip tiny Republican margins in 20118 to tiny Democratic margins in 2020. Looked at another way, Gillum and Nelson might well have squeaked out victories had they had the advantage of the turnout patterns we're likely to see in 2020.
So it seems way too early to put Florida in the red state category. It will not be easy to win in Florida in 2020 but not prohibitively difficult either. It's still a tossup state. Here's my formula for victory in Florida:
The formula starts with Democrats carrying blacks overwhelmingly while solidly carrying Latinos, with strong turnout on both fronts. (The state’s large, relatively conservative Cuban American population means Democrats can’t feasibly generate the 2-to-1 Latino advantage they typically enjoy elsewhere--that said, 2018 performance among these voters was relatively weak.). Then the Democrats need to be competitive among white college-educated voters in Florida, where they have been making real progress, while avoiding deficits among white non-college-educated voters that reach into the 30s. Indeed, if they could push the white noncollege deficit down to the high 20's, they would be in quite good shape.
So there you have it. Easy, no. Doable, yes. They call 'em tossups for a reason.
About this website
No state stunned Democrats more than Florida, where Republicans thwarted the forces that are lifting Democrats elsewhere. The battleground state is tilting more to the right.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

100% Renewable Energy Vs. All-of-the-Above Clean Energy

The debate about a Green New Deal (GND) has been launched. It's great that it's getting a lot of attention, but there's a lot of potential for pointless internecine left scuffles about what precisely a GND should consist of.
The most idiotic of these arguments is likely to be over whether the goal should be 100 percent renewable energy or not. This is the stated goal of Ocasio-Cortez's version of the idea and, just recently, of a letter sent to Congress by 626 left-leaning environmental groups. The environmental groups' letter specifically says "any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies"--in other words, none of that stuff could be included in the energy portfolio they envision.
This seems, to use a technical term, batshit crazy. The goal is to decarbonize right? To replace dirty energy with clean energy and do it fast. It makes sense to entertain any and every way of making that swap--all-of-the-above clean energy, not just renewable energy. Why limit yourself?
Bizarrely this insistence on 100 percent renewables and nothing else tends to come from the very same people who seem to be most panicked about going over the 1.5-2 degrees C global temperature rise limit recommended by the IPCC. If you're so worried about it, shouldn't you be pulling out all the stops to make it happen?
Talk about letting the best be the enemy of the good. The wall of hostility in sectors of the left to nuclear energy makes particularly little sense. The safety problems of nuclear are vastly exaggerated (as David Roberts puts it in the article below "Fears about nuclear power’s safety are generally overblown (I’d live inside a nuclear plant before I’d live next to a coal plant)") The real issues are economics and scalability, but those issues too may have solutions (see the other article linked to below).
Or maybe they don't. In which case, fine, we won't do it. But it would be foolish to rule out a potentially huge source of clean energy simply because environmental groups prefer using renewable energy. Same for all the other methods of producing clean energy the environmental groups want to rule out a priori.
In short, the goal should be de-carbonization, not renewability per se, in which case all-of-the-above clear energy is clearly the right approach. That is, if the goal is truly to stop global warming as quickly as possible.
About this website
The smart political move is leaving the question of what counts as clean energy as open as possible.

Here Comes Gen Z

I've written a fair amount about generational replacement and how important that is likely to be. One thing we've lacked is good data on the views of the Millennials' successor generation--called Gen Z in Pew's new report, though I have been referring to them simply as the Post-Millennials.
Millennials are notoriously left-leaning on both social and economic issues and have been voting heavily Democratic, a trend particularly noticeable in the last election. But will Gen Z (which Pew dates from the 1997 birth year) be different--less liberal, less pro-Democratic--than the Millennials? The answer to this question will tell us a lot about the magnitude of future generational effects on American politics.
So far, my sense of limited data has been that, in fact, Gen Z is quite similar to the Millennials in social and economic inclinations. This view is corroborated by Pew's new report, where they survey youth down to age 13 to get a good chunk of Gen Z, not just the folks already in the electorate. They find Gen Z to be very similar indeed to Millennials on issues from attitudes toward race and diversity to views on the role of government. And both generations detest Trump.
To see how important this harmony of views could be going forward, consider the evolving structure of the electorate. The Baby Boomers – a generation that has constituted a larger share of the electorate than any other for more than 30 years – are now being eclipsed by these younger and more diverse generations. By 2020, Millennials and Gen Z will represent 37 percent of eligible voters — far larger than the vaunted Boomers. In fact, if these generations are combined with the younger half of Generation X—whose social and political attitudes are also very similar to Millennials— they will constitute about half of the 2020 electorate. By 2032, these groups will constitute more than two-thirds of the electorate.
The times they are a-changin'.
As Gen Z moves toward adulthood, their views mirror those of Millennials on a range of issues, from Trump’s presidency to the role of government to racial equality. Among Republicans, Gen Z stands out on some key issues.

Trump's Falling Approval Ratings

At this point, there's not much doubt that Trump's approval ratings are falling, not precipitously, but steadily. On trend, he will shortly be below 40 percent in the 538 composite poll tracker, where he hasn't been in quite some time.
Of course, this doesn't mean he's doomed in 2020 or anything like that. Still a long way to go. Bur it's hardly a point in his favor either. Nate Silver's rundown of the data on 538 does a good job of summarizing the various ways in which this trend might play out.
I think Silver has the right of it that the biggest potential bad implication of this trend for Trump isn't so much the rating itself but rather what the current political dynamic may indicate about Trump's strategy for 2020.
"The lesson of the midterms, in my view, was fairly clear: Trump’s base isn’t enough. The 2018 midterms weren’t unique in the scale of Republican losses: losing 40 or 41 House seats is bad, but the president’s party usually does poorly at the midterms. Rather, it’s that these losses came on exceptionally high turnout of about 119 million voters, which is considerably closer to 2016’s presidential year turnout (139 million) than to the previous midterm in 2014 (83 million). Republicans did turn out in huge numbers for the midterms, but the Democratic base — which is larger than the Republican one — turned out also, and independent voters strongly backed Democratic candidates for the House.
Plenty of presidents, including Obama, Clinton and Reagan, recovered from poor midterms to get re-elected. But those presidents typically sought to pivot or “triangulate” toward the center; we don’t know if the political rebound occurs if the pivot doesn’t. Instead, Trump has moved in the opposite direction. Despite some initial attempts at reaching out to the center, such as in passing a criminal justice bill in December and issuing trial balloons about an infrastructure package, Trump’s strategy of shutting down the government to insist on a border wall was aimed at placating his critics on the right, such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Maybe Trump took some of the wrong lessons from 2016. Trump may mythologize 2016 as an election in which he was brought into the White House on the strength of his base, but that isn’t necessarily why he won. And even if it was, trying to duplicate the strategy might not work again...
[P]erhaps 2018 is a better model for 2020 than 2016. In the midterms, voting closely tracked Trump’s approval ratings, and he paid the price for his unpopularity. According to the exit poll, midterm voters disapproved of Trump’s performance by a net of 9 percentage points. Not coincidentally, Republicans also lost the popular vote for the House by 9 percentage points.
There’s plenty of time for Trump’s numbers to improve, but for now, they’re getting worse. So while the shutdown’s consequences may not last into 2020, it has been another step in the wrong direction at a moment when presidents have usually pivoted to the center."
Of course, I guess it's possible that the current dynamic may change and Trump will start getting credit for standing firm on the wall. But the latest data suggest this is very unlikely indeed. Check out the data below from the latest Pew poll and how few people both support the wall and would not want to see the government re-opened with getting one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Maybe Trump Will Finally Get Tired of Winning!

The latest CNN poll finds him tanking among white noncollege voters, the very folks who tend to be his staunchest supporters and who--in Trump's theory, if we can dignify his bizarre mix of gut instinct and reality show street smarts by the word "theory"--were supposed to be utterly delighted to have him shut down the government to get the border wall.
It doesn't seem to be working:
"During the longest government shutdown in US history, President Donald Trump has been losing support among those who may be his strongest supporters -- white Americans who don't have college degrees.
Among this group, only 45% said they approved of the job Trump is doing as President, according to a recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That is the lowest level of support among this subgroup by 1 percentage point in CNN's surveys and a dip from a poll conducted in early December, before the partial shutdown, when 54% of whites without college degrees approved of his job as President and 39% disapproved.
The dip is notable since among whites who hold college degrees, Trump's ratings are largely unchanged in the last month and remain sharply negative -- 64% disapprove and 32% approve."
As always, I'd like to see more data on this trend but these are certainly very interesting--and potentially important--findings.
About this website
During the longest government shutdown in US history, President Donald Trump has been losing support among those who may be his strongest supporters -- white Americans who don't have college degrees.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Pinker Vs. Critics Vs. Pinker

Steven Pinker put out a book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, about a year ago that caused a bit of a stir. His data-based case for tremendous progress in the human condition and the relation of that progress to enlightenment values of reason, science, knowledge, universalism and so on is one I'm broadly in sympathy with.
But not everyone is. Pinker received quite a bit of pushback from various quarters and he has taken the opportunity to respond to the most frequent criticisms in a long essay on Quillette. I recommend it. Pinker is a fine polemicist and he does a good job responding in a reasonable, fact-based way to the litany of criticisms.
He also notes at one point that his is not alone in making the case for an improving world. Other folks have looked at the same data and come to the same conclusions including, well, yours truly:
"It’s not just me. In the year since EN went to press, five other books have drawn similar conclusions about the state of the world: Gregg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than It Looks, Bobby Duffy’s The Perils of Perception, Hans and Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund’s Factfulness, Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko’s Clear and Present Safety, and Ruy Teixeira’s The Optimistic Leftist (so much for that conservative/neoliberal/right-wing conspiracy)."
Here are the criticisms he responds to; read the essay for his detailed responses.
* You got the Enlightenment wrong. There were many Enlightenments, not just one. The Enlightenment thinkers were not all scientific humanists: some were men of faith, and some were racists. Wasn’t Rousseau a part of the Enlightenment? Shouldn’t Marx be counted as an Enlightenment thinker?
* The Enlightenment is not worthy of celebration. It gave the world racism, slavery, imperialism, and genocide.
* How can you say that we should stop worrying and that everything will turn out okay? What about plastics in the ocean? What about opioids? What about school shootings? What about incarceration? What about social media? What about Donald Trump?
* All those numbers showing that the world has been getting better must have been cherry-picked.
* Looking at numbers on human well-being is amoral and callous and insensitive. What do you say to those people who are suffering?
* How do you explain Donald Trump? And Brexit? And authoritarian populism? Don’t they spell the end of the Enlightenment and the reversal of progress?
* How do you explain the growing epidemic of despair, depression, loneliness, mental illness, and suicide in the most advanced liberal societies?
* The Enlightenment will be killed off by its own creations, artificial intelligence and social media.
* Why were you so mean to Nietzsche?
You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get. But in the words of a colleague, “You’ve made people’s heads explode!” Many people who have written to me abo...