Tuesday, August 31, 2021

It's Official: Biden Is Underwater

The latest 538 average is below. Biden disapproval now is slightly higher than Biden approval.. Not good. Harry Enten has the gory details:
"Biden has been trending downward for a while. The truth is that he is losing ground on a number of key issues.
The coronavirus pandemic, for example, had been one of Biden's best issues. He was trusted more than former President Donald Trump to handle it in poll after poll during last year's election. Trump likely would have won in 2020 had people trusted him more.
Biden's approval rating on the coronavirus had consistently been in the 60s for the first six months of his presidency. That declined to the high 50s in July and has been sunk to the 50s in the month of August.
Biden's overall approval rating has declined at a similar rate to his coronavirus pandemic approval rating.
The problem for Biden is that people are reacting to what they see on the ground. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are the highest they've been since the beginning of the year, as the Delta variant has taken hold in the US. More people fear catching the coronavirus than they have since the beginning of the spring when vaccines became widely available. Most Americans think the worst of the virus is still ahead of us, which is a shift from earlier this year.
Biden's also seen his numbers on the economy drop. During August, Biden's average approval rating on the economy has been just 47%. That's down from the 51% it averaged during the month of July.
Again, this drop can be assigned to a reaction to real world events. Consumer sentiment declined greatly during the first half of August, according to the University of Michigan.
The decline of Biden's economic approval rating should be worrying to him. As I noted previously, Biden's economic approval rating has been closely tied to his overall approval rating. Right now, both of them are at 47% in the average of polls."
May be an image of text that says 'How Popular Is Joe Biden? UPDATED 6 HOURS AGO 47.5% Disapprove 47.2% Approve'

Will Census Trends Save the Democrats?

Probably not. My latest at The Liberal Patriot:
'The latest data release from the 2020 Census, which will be used to guide decennial redistricting, has been greeted rather breathlessly by the nation’s media and has been absolute catnip for commentators and observers who lean toward the Democrats. Consider some of these headlines:
“America’s White Population Shrank for the First Time”;
“Vast Stretches of America Are Shrinking. Almost All of Them Voted for Trump”.
“Census release shows America is more diverse and more multiracial than ever”
None of this is necessarily wrong, though it’s worth noting that these findings are consistent with trends of long-standing rather than something qualitatively new. What is questionable however is the political gloss that tends to put on these results. Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore called the announcement “the best day ever in US history”, which, while over the top, fairly represents the delight among most progressives that a presumably conservative white population is in precipitous decline while a presumably liberal nonwhite population keeps growing, the harbinger of a diverse, progressive future America.
At least that’s the story. But, as noted, these trends are ongoing, not new. Why should they now lead to progressive hegemony when they haven’t before? Many on the left appear to believe that, whatever the story up ‘til now, we have finally reached some sort of tipping point where the effects of underlying demographic trends can no longer be denied. Maybe. But then again maybe not.
Here are five reasons the Census trends may not be quite the bonus for Democrats so many want to believe (and others fear).
1. Whiter Than You Think. The new Census data pegs the white (white nonhispanic alone) population of the country as around 58 percent down 6 points from a level of 64 percent in 2010. The 58 percent figure was a little lower than expected based on projections (though the 6 point drop over 10 years was actually very similar to previous decadal declines). One possible reason for the unexpectedly large decline might be that the Census changed their race question from 2010 by adding a “print origins” specification after the white checkbox that respondents were instructed to fill out. This may have led to some confusion and probably was a factor in a striking increase in the reported multiracial population.
In addition, and crucially for political-analytic purposes, the proportion of whites who are actual voters is far higher than their percentage in the overall population. Averaging the three best currently available sources on the demographics of 2020 voters (Catalist, the Census Current Population Survey Voter Supplement and the Pew Validated Voter Survey), the proportion of white voters in the 2020 voting electorate looks to be a little under 72 percent. Thus, there is a vast chasm separating the proportion of whites in the overall population and the proportion who are voters, which is much higher."
Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot. And subscribe--it's free!
Will Census Trends Save the Democrats?
Will Census Trends Save the Democrats?
Five Reasons Why That Just Ain’t So

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Understanding the Distinctiveness of Hispanic Experience

The use of the term "people of color" frequently obscures more than it clarifies since it is typically used to imply a unity of experience, particularly disadvantaging experience, among all nonwhites. The inclusion of Asians already makes little sense when you compare the socioeconomic outcomes of Asians to whites, where the former are generally superior. Bur it is also the case that conflating the experiences of "black and brown", a common locution among progressives, is also misleading. In fact, one needs to understand the distinctiveness of Hispanic experience in today's America to have a prayer of understanding recent political trends among this population and what they may portend for the future.
Start with economic outcomes. Noah Smith wrote in a very interesting recent substack post:
"The boom of 2014-2019 — and it was a boom, even though we kind of ignored it — was good for everyone, but in percentage terms it was especially good for Hispanics....
In fact, despite some claims to the contrary, Hispanic upward mobility has been a fact of American life for a long time now. My favorite paper on this is Chetty, Hendren, Jones & Porter (2018), which assessed mobility across generations. They found:
"We study the sources of racial and ethnic disparities in income using de-identified longitudinal data covering nearly the entire U.S. population from 1989-2015….[T]he intergenerational persistence of disparities varies substantially across racial groups. For example, Hispanic Americans are moving up significantly in the income distribution across generations because they have relatively high rates of intergenerational income mobility…
Hispanic Americans are moving up significantly in the income distribution across generations. For example, a model of intergenerational mobility analogous to Becker and Tomes (1979) predicts that the gap will shrink from the 22 percentile difference between Hispanic and white parents observed in our sample…to 6 percentiles in steady state…
Hispanics are on an upward trajectory across generations and may close most of the gap between their incomes and those of whites…Their low levels of income at present thus appear to to be primarily due to transitory factors."
Smith goes on to note that two-thirds of Hispanics believe they are better off than their parents were at similar ages and calls attention to data showing a spike in Hispanic college attendance over the last 15 years and precipitous decline in the level of high school dropouts among this population.
Perhaps even more interesting is the experience of Hispanics with the criminal justice system. It helps elucidate why Hispanics were not so caught up in the "racial reckoning" after the police killing of George Floyd and were actively turned off by the morphing of the BLM protests into calls to defund the police.
Here is some very interesting data and analysis from a post by Keith Humphreys on Matt Yglesias' substack:
"An otherwise dull new government report on incarceration contains a startling fact: Hispanics are slightly less likely to be jailed than whites. It’s one of multiple unappreciated signs of fading disparities between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites in the criminal justice system, a phenomenon with substantial implications both for the future of reform and electoral politics....
This isn’t just about city and county jails. A Council on Criminal Justice analysis found that in 2000, the rate of being on probation was 1.6 times higher and the rate of being parole was 3.6 times higher for Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites. But by 2016, the probation disparity had disappeared and the parole disparity had shrunk by 85%. Hispanics still faced a 60% higher risk of being incarcerated in a state prison. This is an enormous and worrying disparity, but the Council noted that it decreased by 60% since 2000. African-American and white disparities in parole, probation, jail, and incarceration have also declined in this century, but dwarf those that remain between Hispanics and whites....
Parallel changes appear in who the criminal justice system employs. From 1997 to 2016, the proportion of police officers who were African-American was stable, whereas the proportion who were Hispanic increased 61%. This helps explain why a June 2021 Gallup poll found that the proportion of Hispanics expressing “a lot” or “a great deal” of trust in police was 49%, almost as high as whites (56%), and far greater than that of African-Americans (27%). Hispanic views on policing and crime may also be similar to whites because the two groups rate of being violent crime victims is almost identical (21.3 per thousand persons for Hispanics, 21.0 for whites)...
[P]oliticians and activists should not assume that anti-police rhetoric will resonate with Hispanic voters, particularly in communities with heavily Hispanic police forces. Democrats’ weak performance with Latino voters (not just Cubans) in Miami-Dade County in 2020 stopped President Biden from winning the state and knocked two Democratic Members of Congress out of office. And while Trump’s Hispanic gains in other states do not appear to have been decisive, it’s easy to imagine these trends mattering in upcoming Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, and elsewhere....
[A]ll social movements contain the seeds of their own demise because if they succeed, their members are satisfied and begin drifting away. Reduced involvement in the correctional system and rising employment by and trust in police represent progress for Hispanics and should be celebrated; yet they also may lower the willingness of some Hispanics to get engaged with the criminal justice reform movement the country needs. This is not inevitable if reformers are willing to modify their rallying cry.
Currently, many advocates, academics, journalists, and politicians invoke the putatively unified “Black and Brown” experience of the criminal justice system as a rationale and engine for reform. The power of this messaging will wane as Brown experience becomes more like white experience. A different framing that might keep Hispanics at the barricades — as well as draw in many whites — would be to emphasize how the country’s extraordinarily high level of incarceration and community supervision per se harms all racial and ethnic groups. Having over 6.3 million adults incarcerated or on probation or parole at any given time is a massive drain on American liberty, health, and finances, and is as likely to increase crime as reduce it. The message reformers can and should sell is that even if all racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system disappeared tomorrow, shrinking the correctional system to a rational size would benefit all of America’s diverse communities."
This is exactly right. Taking into account the distinctiveness of Hispanic experience leads directly to this kind of political approach. We shall see if progressives and activists are willing to adjust their current approach in this direction.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Biden's Approval Rating Heads Underwater. Why?

In today's 538 approval rating average, Biden is at just net +.2--47.2 approve/47.0 disapprove. In short order, I expect he'll be net negative. Why?
Some attrition was probably inevitable from his earlier strong and very stable approval rating. But the sharpness of the recent drop is disturbing. The most likely explanation is the coronavirus Delta surge and the roadblock that has placed to the return of normality. Obviously the shambolic Afghanistan withdrawal has not helped matters, but the main driving force behind Biden's approval rating decline is not that.
Russell Berman in the Atlantic:
"Just one-quarter of respondents approved of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan in an NBC News poll released on Sunday.
A closer look at these surveys, however, suggests that the larger—and, for Biden, potentially more worrisome—factor in his declining support remains the pandemic. The NBC poll asked respondents what they considered the most important issue facing the country; the coronavirus was the top choice, while Afghanistan didn’t even make the list. The public also still supports Biden’s decision to withdraw American forces, recent surveys show. Simon Jaworski, the president of the U.S. office of Leger, which regularly conducts polls for The Atlantic, told me that Biden’s approval rating in its surveys had fallen significantly in the month before the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.
One data point has jumped out to pollsters more than any other. From April to August, the percentage of people in the NBC poll who said that the worst of the pandemic was behind us plummeted by 24 points (from 61 percent to 37 percent). “These days, we just don’t see shifts like that in a lot of political measurements,” Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic half of the bipartisan polling team that ran the survey, told me. Leger measured a similar sentiment and saw an even more dramatic dip, from 60 percent in early July to just 32 percent about five weeks later....
Voters elected Biden in no small part to get control of the pandemic, and to provide steady leadership that could steer the country to a return to normalcy. But the rise of Delta despite a mass-vaccination campaign has shown the limits of his ability to control the virus. Much of the resurgence isn’t Biden’s fault; millions of Americans, egged on by the skepticism and disinformation of conservative elites, have refused the inoculations, and COVID-19 is spreading fastest in places where vaccination rates are lowest. But Delta is everywhere now, and cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise nationwide. Even in highly vaccinated places, the virus’s spread is wreaking havoc with schools and travel, stunting return-to-office plans, and prompting an intense debate over the question of vaccine mandates."
As I noted in a piece on The Liberal Patriot earlier this year:
Biden got 51 percent of the vote in 2020, enough to win the election, but hardly a dominant majority. And Democrats’ downballot performance was distinctly inferior, leading to disappointing performance in Senate, House and state legislative races. The Biden administration now confronts a divided country racked by twin pandemic and economic crises. In the not so far distance looms the 2022 midterm elections where an incoming Presidential administration traditionally loses ground. The last time Democrats faced this situation in 2010 they suffered massive losses.
The imperative here is expand the Biden coalition. Concretely, that means Biden’s approval rating has to be as high as possible going into 2022. That is by far the most straightforward way of insulating the Democrats from big losses and creating at least the possibility for some gains.
So, how to do this? I offer a simple formula: convert Trump disapproval into Biden approval/Democratic votes....The conversion process for turning...Trump disapprovers into Biden approvers and then hopefully Democratic voters can only run through a successful attack on the pandemic and economic crises. Really for the next period of time nothing else is important. Not immigration reform. Not criminal justice reform. Not climate change. Not child poverty. Not executive orders. Not Trump’s trial. Either solve the twin crises or prepare yourself for the wrath of voters who will, not unreasonably, think you have failed them. The Biden coalition will shrink, not expand and all the great ideas progressives have for improving the country will come to naught."
To Biden's credit he has already managed to accomplish quite a lot and the economy does appear to be on a good trajectory. And perhaps little could have been done to mitigate the current coronavirus surge. But he, his administration and the Democrats will still be judged on their success in solving the twin pandemic and economic crises. They're not there yet and that's a problem.

Are the Climate Hawks About to Say "Uncle" on Nuclear? Maybe.

In perhaps a sign of the times, there is a very open-minded op-ed in the Times today on nuclear. Spencer Bokat-Lindell, who is a staff editor, points out the following:
"Humanity’s failure to avert the crisis of a warming climate is sometimes framed as a grand technological problem: For centuries, countries relied on fossil fuels to industrialize their economies and generate wealth, and it was only in recent years that alternative ways of powering a society, like solar and wind energy, became viable.
But when it comes to electricity, at least, that story isn’t true. Today, the United States gets 60 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels and just 20 percent from renewables. The final 20 percent comes from nuclear power, a technology that has existed since the 1950s, produces no carbon dioxide and has killed far fewer people than fossil fuels.
Decarbonizing the electric grid is certainly not the only challenge climate change poses, but it is the central one. And the Biden administration has said the United States needs to meet it by 2035. Should nuclear power be playing a bigger role in the transition? Here’s what people are saying.
Its proponents often point out that nuclear power is responsible for the fastest decarbonization effort in history. In the 1970s, France embarked on a sweeping, centrally planned expansion of its nuclear power industry to break its dependence on foreign oil. Over the next decade, it managed to expand its economy even as it cut its emissions at a rate that no other country has achieved since. Today, France derives 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear power....
As Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told my colleague Ezra Klein in February, in countries where nuclear power has been phased out — such as Japan, Belgium and Germany — fossil fuels tend to pick up the slack. “That is a terrible, terrible outcome,” Stokes said.
Why shouldn’t the United States follow suit? “A rapid increase in nuclear energy would slash emissions from the power sector, as the French example makes clear,” The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer wrote in 2019. “Even today, France’s carbon density — its carbon emissions per capita — ranks well below that of Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Theoretically, the United States could try to phase out nuclear power and fossil fuels at once, as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren proposed during their presidential campaigns. But doing so before 2035 would make a monumental challenge even harder: According to one estimate, decarbonizing America’s electric grid would cost about half a trillion dollars more if nuclear power is abandoned.
Such complications explain why many climate experts decline to take a hard stance on nuclear power. “It’s absurd to be ‘pronuclear’ or ‘antinuclear’ on an ideological/identity basis,” David Roberts, an energy and climate journalist, said last year. “The world should build whatever carbon-free options are fastest and (with all costs considered) cheapest. Nuclear doesn’t currently fit that bill, but new reactor designs might change that. If so, build them; if not, don’t.”
Pretty straightforward right? And yet, the inverse correlation remains strong among climate activists--the more intense and apocalyptic the worries about climate change, the stronger the opposition to nuclear power. This makes no sense and as Matt Yglesias points our represents a fundamentally unserious approach to actually mitigating climate change:
"That the mass public does not adequately prioritize climate change is unfortunate.
But it’s perhaps understandable in light of the fact that environmental organizations themselves don’t consistently prioritize it. The Natural Resources Defense Council cheered April’s shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York, arguing that “because of New York’s landmark 2019 climate legislation and years of clean energy planning and investments by the state, New York is better positioned today than ever to achieve its ambitious climate and clean energy goals without this risky plant.”
This is just an insane analysis. There is no universe in which we are going to have so much zero-carbon electricity that we won’t regret having lost existing sources of zero-carbon electricity. After all, to meet our climate aspirations we not only need to replace 100% of existing fossil fuel electricity, but we also need to convert the entire fleet of vehicles for transporting people and cargo to electricity. That’s a lot of electricity!"
Being anti-nuclear is a luxury we can't afford if we're serious about the climate change problem. Perhaps climate hawks are in the process of realizing this. Perhaps not. We'll see.