Monday, May 20, 2019

Is Biden Winning Back Obama-Trump Voters?

The short answer to this is "yes" if by that we mean some of these voters are willing to express a preference for Biden over Trump in 2020 trial heats. It's difficult to interpret Biden's significant leads over Trump in states like Michigan, ,Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in any other way.
As Martin Longman notes in a piece on the Political Animal blog, it makes more sense to reason from these polls--which apparently now include polls conducted by the Trump campaign itself--than from articles that quote non-randomly selected working class Trump voters saying how much they still love the President. The latter of course prove nothing other than that such voters exist and the reporter found some.
That said, if by winning we mean in the stronger sense that Obama-Trump-Biden [trial heat] voters are for sure going to vote for Biden over Trump on election day, 2020 if that's the matchup, then of course we can't really say. But it seems promising that at this stage, some of these voters are at least open to going back to the Democrats. As Longman rightly expresses it:
"Ultimately, we cannot know if Biden will be the nominee, nor whether he can win back an appreciable number of Obama/Trump voters, but those aren’t the questions we need to answer right now. First, we need to understand which states are winnable for a Democrat if he or she doesn’t make inroads with white working class voters. Then we need to figure out if there’s an Electoral College path to victory in that scenario. If there is not, or if it looks like a very long shot, finding a challenger for Trump who has “strong support” in these communities will then be vitally important."
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WASHINGTONMONTHLY.COM
Some reports say Biden is beating Trump in the Rust Belt, while others say Trump is holding onto his base.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Trump Approval in the States and Trump Vulnerability

Nathaniel Rakich has an interesting post up on 538 where he compares Trump's net approval in a state to the partisan lean of a state. He then computes a score showing how much better or worse Trump's net approval is than would be expected from the partisan lean of the state (i.e., if the partisan lean of a state is R+5 you would expect Trump's net approval in the state to also be +5.)
Ignoring Rakich's cute name for the metric (Popularity Above Replacement President or PARP), the interesting thing here is what the metric tells us about swing states and how they may be vulnerable for Trump in 2020.
Unsurprisingly,, the Rustbelt three (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) all look quite accessible for the Democrats. Less so, but still intriguing are Iowa and Ohio. In the southern tier of swingish states, Arizona clearly stands out in Trump vulnerability, followed by Florida and North Carolina and then Georgia and Texas as more of a stretch.
Interesting stuff. It underscores the top three things the Democratic nominee must do in the 2020 general election.
1. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes.
2. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes.
3. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes.
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FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM
In recent months, President Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings have been unimpressive, stubbornly stuck around 42 percent and 53 percent, respectively, ac…

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Biden in Pennsylvania

A new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania voters has Biden looking very, very good, with an impressive 11 lead over Trump in a general election trial heat. On the demographics of his support, I call your attention to not just Biden's huge lead over Trump among white college voters but his comparatively small deficit (-18) among white noncollege voters. Our States of Change data have Clinton losing white noncollege voters in PA in 2016 by 29 points, which accounted for about three quarters of the roughly 6 point swing against her relative to Obama's showing in 2012. If Biden could hold the white noncollege deficit to 18 points in PA in the general election, that would actually be somewhat better than Obama did in 2012 and should be enough to take the state easily.
So a good showing for Biden. He's also the choice of Democratic primary voters by 39-13 over his nearest competitor (Sanders) to be nominee and by 61-6 over his nearest competitor (again Sanders) as the most likely to be able to defeat Trump.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Will the Real Democrats Please Stand Up?

Jonathan Chait attempts to unlock the riddle of why Joe Biden seems to be doing so well, even if he doesn't seem to represent the leftward shift of the Democratic party. Chait points out that the general leftward shift of the party is frequently confused with the viewpoint of its leftmost adherents, which does't really make sense. The whole party can be shifting to the left--I believe that it is--but the median Democrat, even if more left than they once were, can still be pretty different from the aggressively left activists who seem to get most of the attention. Maybe that's why Biden is doing so well, much to the dismay of the Twitterati and the puzzlement of political observers who pay attention to that world. The median Democrat simply wants to beat Trump and a generally left program, even if falls short, of the current AOC-approved laundry list, will be just fine with them.
Of course, that's not what you'll see on Twitter. But, as Chait rightly observes:
"The most important ingredient in the delusion [of a left takeover of the Democratic party] was Twitter. It is hard to exaggerate the degree to which the platform shapes the minds of professional political observers. Part of Twitter’s allure to insiders is that it creates a simulacrum of the real world, complete with candidates, activists, and pundits all responding to events in real time. Because Twitter superficially resembles the outside world’s political debate — it does, after all, contain the full left-to-right spectrum — it is easy to mistake it for the real thing.
But the ersatz polity of Twitter doesn’t represent the real world. Democrats on Twitter skew young and college educated. A study last month found that the Twitter-using portion of the Democratic electorate harbors far more progressive views on everything than the party’s voting base.
One striking example of the disconnect took place earlier this year in Virginia. An old medical-school yearbook showed Ralph Northam, the state’s Democratic governor, in a picture featuring a blackface costume and Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. If you followed the debate on Twitter, as nearly all political reporters did, Northam’s resignation was simply a given. The debate turned to when he would step down, who would replace him, and what other prominent people would have career-ending blackface yearbook photographs.
Virginians, however, were split in ways the political elite would never have guessed. Whites and Republicans favored his resignation, while African-American voters believed, by a 20-point margin, that Northam should not resign."
So don't believe what you see or hear on Twitter. Biden doesn't and that appears to be serving him very well. Other candidates should take note.
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NYMAG.COM
His apparent resurrection from relic to front-runner has illustrated a chasm between perception and reality about the party’s leftward shift.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

How Vulnerable Is Biden on the Green New Deal?

Biden is already taking a lot of incoming from his Democratic rivals and GND partisans on the inadequacy of his climate plan, despite few details being currently available. What little we know, as summarized in a Reuters report:
"Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump...carving out a middle ground approach...
The backbone of the policy will likely include the United States re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to undo...[T]he policy could also be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology, which limit emissions from coal plants and other industrial facilities."
Despite all the heavy breathing from his opponents and miscellaneous advocates, this doesn't sound so terrible to me as an opening bid. Of course, we'll see what the details of the plan are but I am not too worried that Biden is not unabashedly endorsing a huge Green New Deal of the AOC-Markey variety.
In fact, it's probably a good idea not to do that. Polling indicates that voters are very supportive of clean energy and are open to some kind of Green New Deal, but the details of such a plan are clearly going to matter a lot to its saleability in a general election campaign, not to mention actual feasibility as policy. So it's fine the Biden is apparently leaving himself a lot of room to maneuver in this area.
In the end, I suspect that will not only be good for Biden and Democratic prospects in 2020, but also for actual progress on a program that can combat climate change, even if winds up under a different name. As the spectacularly effective leader Deng Xiaoping put it, "Who cares if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice?"
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NYTIMES.COM
A report that Mr. Biden is seeking a “middle ground” on climate change has sparked attacks from progressive Democratic candidates.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Demographics of Biden's Support

This is a very nice table released by ALG Research showing Biden's support by Democratic subgroups. His support is strongest among older voters, noncollege grads, moderate/conservative Democrats and, interestingly, voters of color and women. The only group where he doesn't have a lead is very liberal Democrats--maybe a fifth of Democratic voters.
And of course he's just far ahead of the other Democratic candidates period. That includes in the three early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina..He also leads Trump nationally by 7 points, by 13 points in Michigan, and is the only Democrat who leads Trump in Arizona or Nevada.
The data say Biden looks pretty strong. But he can he bring the party together in an effective way to defeat Trump and move the Democratic agenda forward? As Paul Starr puts it: "The Democratic Party today is both a coalition and a movement, and the presidential nominee has to lead the movement while holding the coalition together." Can Joe do it? Starr has some ideas about how he can in his latest American Prospect column. I recommend it.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

How Far Left Is Too Far Left?

Public opinion and recent electoral results suggest American voters are ready for significant change in a leftward direction. Consequently, the Democratic nominee in 2020 is likely to offer a strongly progressive program to the electorate.
Common sense suggests, however, that there are limits to how far left this program should go. Programs that lack public support should be avoided and programs preferred that generate strong support among not just among the base Democratic constituencies like blacks and Latinos but also among white college graduates and ideally have significant purchase among white noncollege voters as well.
The latest Quinnipiac poll provides some insight along these lines. The Democratic policy ideas tested in the poll included several that did not garner majority public support, including making all public colleges free to attend (45 percent), a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on income over $10 million (36 percent) and allowing current prisoners to vote (31 percent).
But there were a couple of ideas that got strong support. One was forgiving up to $50 thousand in student debt for households making under $250 thousand a year. Overall 57 percent support included very high support from blacks and Latinos but also solid support from college and noncollege whites.
Support was even stronger for an annual wealth tax of 2 percent on those with over $50 million. Three-fifths of voters supported this with blacks, Latinos and college whites all strongly in favor and even noncollege whites favoring the proposal by 15 points.
Also worth mentioning here is the latest Kaiser poll which showed Medicare for All getting only 37 percent support if it eliminated private insurance, but Medicare for all who want it, while retaining the private insurance option, drawing lopsided support from not only blacks and Latinos but college and noncollege whites as well.
So there is left and then there is too far left. Democrats who want the best chance of beating Trump and the most robust possible political coalition would be wise to choose the former not the latter.
POLL.QU.EDU
Biden Surging Among Democrats In Presidential Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; U.S. Voters Support Wealth Tax, Oppose Free College

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Biden and White Noncollege Voters

Biden's spike in the polls is well-documented. His current popularity with black voters is striking as has been noted. Less has been written about how he's doing with white noncollege voters, but the results here are also of significance. Harry Enten notes in his latest CNN column:
"Whites without a college degree still make up a substantial portion of the Democratic Party. Despite much noise about how whites with a degree are the future for Democrats, each group is about 30% of the party. Nonwhites, both with and without college degrees, are about 40% in total. [Note: these figures agree with my own States of Change data.]....
Our latest CNN national poll shows Biden is strong with non-college educated whites, as well [as with nonwhite voters). Biden jumps from the low 20s among whites with a college degree to the mid 30s among whites without a college degree. Comparably, his lead over Sanders increases from only 5 points over Sanders among whites with a college degree to about 20 points among whites without a college degree. Sanders polls in the mid 10s with each group....
Biden's ability to breakthrough with non-college whites marks perhaps the biggest difference between the 2016 and 2020 primaries. In 2016, Clinton actually lost white voters without a college degree in the primary. Sanders beat her by 7 points among this group in the median Democratic nomination contest with an entrance or exit poll, even though she won college educated whites by 7 points in these same contests."
This pattern clearly could help Biden secure the Democratic nomination. But does this mean Biden is the most "electable" nominee against Trump?
Not necessarily and for two reasons, which are frequently confused. One is that superior appeal to one group of voters does not mean that more voters may not be lost by inferior appeal among another group. Using Biden as an example, perhaps whatever he gains among white noncollege voters relative to other potential candidates will be more than counterbalanced by losses from unenthusiastic support and turnout among young voters and possibly some other Democratic constituencies.
Therefore, electability is always and inevitably about trade-offs. No candidate will be without them so people should be asking: who has the highest net, given potential gains and losses, and therefore the best chance of beating Trump overall and in the states that are likely to count the most. This is always hard to do given data limitations but that is really the argument we should be having.
The second reason to be cautious about Biden's electability is that, even if one is taking proper cognizance of the various factors that may increase or decrease a candidate's appeal, it is hard to make these judgments and harder still this far in advance of the actual general election campaign, when data are sparse and less reliable. Put more bluntly, a lot of early judgments about electability, by voters and pundits alike, turn out to be wrong.
Does that mean we shouldn't care about electability and, since no one knows anything (as they say in Hollywood), just roll out who we like the best and hope they win? I don't think so, especially given the 2020 stakes. But we do need to think about it in a sophisticated and, to the extent possible, in a data-driven way.
That's it for my plea for rationality. Back to the usual heated and intemperate debate who's the best candidate!
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CNN.COM
Since officially jumping into the 2020 race less than two weeks ago, former Vice President Joe Biden has reshaped the Democratic primary. His polling numbers have risen from the high 20s to the low 40s since declaring his candidacy two weeks ago. In doing so, Biden has, for the moment, left the rest...

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

2018 Turnout Data-palooza

My friend and frequent co-author Bill Frey has issued a nice report on the Brookings site on 2018 turnout. In the report, he mines the recently released Census Current Population Survey voter supplement data to provide detailed findings on turnout and vote share in 2018 by key demographics.
By and large, the general patterns found in the Census data agree with those found in other data sources like Catalist (previously posted), even if specific levels may differ (white noncollege share, for example, is significantly lower than Cataist in the Census data).
"[T]he new data shows groups that voted Democratic last November also displayed some of the biggest increases in voter turnout. Young adults ages 18 to 29—the age group that voted most strongly Democratic—saw a rise in their turnout rate by 16 percent from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018. Of course, older voters, ages 65 and above, continued to display the highest voter turnout levels at 66 percent; but the bigger 2014 to 2018 increase among young adults served to narrow the young/old turnout gap.
All major racial/ethnic groups turned up at the polls in higher numbers, but the biggest gains accrued to Democratic-leaning Hispanics and Asian Americans—up 13 percent since 2014. And while white citizens, overall, exhibited higher turnout rates than other groups, both the turnout level and recent rise were highest for white college graduates—a group that, nationally, supported Democratic House of Representatives candidates in November’s election."
Frey also provides detailed tables that include turnout rates by race for every state, comparing 2014 and 2018, as well as vote share by race and white college/noncollege for every state. These tables alone are worth the price of admission!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Five Don'ts of the 2020 Democratic Campaign (Updated)

Recently Bernie Sanders called for giving the right to vote to all prisoners. This is--how can I put this delicately?--not very popular. As Nathaniel Rakich notes on 538:
"[T]he idea of allowing all felons to vote does not have much public support. In a March 2018 poll for HuffPost, YouGov found that 24 percent of U.S. adults supported restoring felons’ voting rights while they are in prison and 58 percent opposed it, including 41 percent who were “strongly” opposed. And a Quinnipiac poll conducted just last week found that only 31 percent of registered voters support allowing prisoners to vote — 65 percent were opposed."
So, in Bernie's honor, I am revising my "Four Don't of the 2020 Democratic Campaign" to include five don'ts. As I said earlier, whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be in 2020, that nominee has to avoid unforced errors to maximize their chances of beating Trump. Advocating giving the vote to all prisoners would be another one of these errors.
Here's the current list of five (and counting!):
1. Reparations for the descendants of slaves. Preferred: social programs that disproportionately benefit blacks because of their income, education or geographic attributes.
2. Abolish ICE. Preferred: Reforming ICE + a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants + an actual immigration policy that includes border security and policies about future immigration levels.
3. Medicare for All that eliminates private insurance. Preferred: Medicare for Anyone or Medicare for All (Who Want It). Currently embodied in the DeLauro-Schakowsky Medicare for America bill.
4. A Green New Deal that commits to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. Preferred: A Green New Deal that focuses on jobs, infrastructure, research and promoting clean energy in all forms.
5. Giving the vote to all prisoners. Preferred: Restoring voting rights to all felons who have completed their sentences, as in Florida's Amendment 4, which passed easily.
I still haven't up my mind about Biden but one of his great virtues is that he has a perfect record on the five don'ts. Of course, he still needs a strong positive case, but his avoidance of these pitfalls is a real strength. Democratic voters--and Biden's Democratic rivals--should take note.
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FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM
Last month, during a CNN town hall featuring several Democratic candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders helped reignite a national conversation when he said people in p…

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Why the Democrats Need Biden (or Someone Who Can Do the Same Things Biden Is Supposed To Be Able To Do)

Two new articles highlight two ways in which Biden might maximize the Democrats' chances of beating Trump. I emphasize the "might"--it is possible Biden is not the best Democratic candidate to do these two things. But it seems to me unarguable that the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, must do very well in both of these areas.
1. The White Working Class Vote. The subtitle of Ron Brownstein's new article is "Joe Biden’s candidacy is a proxy for the larger question of how the party can best rebuild a successful presidential majority." As, Brownstein puts it:
"No choice in 2020 divides Democratic activists more than the question of whether the party needs a nominee best suited to winning back these white voters, who have been drifting away from the party for decades, or one best positioned to mobilize the party’s new alliance of minorities, young people, and white-collar whites, especially women."
After noting the ongoing decline of the white working class share of voters, as underscored by recently-released Census data, Brownstein makes the following indisputable observation:
"The long-term erosion of blue-collar whites as a share of the national vote is unmistakable and irreversible. That trend has ominous long-term implications for a GOP that is relying more heavily than ever on squeezing greater advantage from that shrinking group. But those white voters are disproportionately represented in the pivotal Rust Belt battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin (as well as in Ohio and Iowa, which have trended further away from Democrats). Democrats wouldn’t need to focus as obsessively on those states, and on courting their large working-class white populations, if they could tip some of the diverse and growing Sun Belt states where those whites are a smaller share of the vote, such as North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, much less Texas. (Arizona, probably the top new Sun Belt target for Democrats in 2020, actually houses an elevated number of non-college-educated whites because it attracts so many white retirees.) But until Democrats can reliably flip some of those Sun Belt states, they can’t downplay the Rust Belt in presidential contests."
To bring this point into focus, projections indicate the voting electorates in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2020 will probably be, respectively, 56 percent, 52 percent and 49 percent white noncollege. If turnout patterns are particularly favorable to the Democrats, you might knock another point off these levels. But that's still a lot of voters. Biden says he can reach these voters better than Clinton did in 2016. Maybe he's right. Maybe he's wrong. But his Democratic rivals need to make the case that they'd be as good or better than Biden among these voters. Otherwise, they're asking Democratic voters to draw to an inside straight.
2. The Union Vote. Nate Silver has a good item in his most recent "Silver Bulletpoints" column. Silver cites CCES data showing:
"Trump’s union support [was not] merely a matter of white men shifting en masse to Trump. While white women and nonwhite men in unions mostly voted for Clinton, her margins with those groups were considerably narrower than Barack Obama’s in 2012.
In fact, the shift among union voters was enough to swing the election to Trump. According to the CCES, Obama won union voters by 34.4 percentage points in 2012, but Clinton did so by only 16.7 points in 2016. That roughly 18-point swing was worth a net of 1.2 percentage points for Trump in Pennsylvania, 1.1 points in Wisconsin and 1.7 points in Michigan based on their rates of union membership — and those totals were larger than his margins of victory in those states."
Again, Biden can make the case that he's the best candidate to appeal to these voters. That doesn't mean he's right but it does mean that other candidates need to show how and why they'd be better than him at reaching union voters. And at the moment I'm not hearing any candidate besides Biden saying things like: “I make no apologies. I am a union man (or woman). Period.”
So Biden--love him or hate him, he's got a real case. I'm ready to hear a better one, but so far I'm not overwhelmed.
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THEATLANTIC.COM
Joe Biden’s candidacy is a proxy for the larger question of how the party can best rebuild a successful presidential majority.