Saturday, October 22, 2016

Predecessing the Unprecedented

In many ways, Donald Trump is unique in American politics, but as I've mentioned before, I think he has some parallels with Ross Perot.  Below the presidential level, I wondered about Jesse Ventura, who was elected governor of Minnestota as an independent in 1998.  Ventura had more political experience than Trump--he'd served one term as mayor of a city of about 85,000.  He also apparently had libertarian leanings, while Trump has mostly been a standard conservative since being nominated.  Still, it seems that for both of them, a basic part of their image was that they were outsiders who would apply toughness and common sense.

Minnesota has a state poll, sponsored by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that goes back many years.  I combined results from two asked in the second half of October 1998 to get breakdowns by education and gender:

High school or less                 30%
Some College                         34%
College Graduate                    20%

Men                                         31%
Women                                    16%

The differences by education and gender are similar to those found with Trump today.

 Some contemporary analyses hold that the big difference by education in support for Trump and Clinton reflects long-term economic change--less educated people, especially men, are losing out from globalization.   I don't know about Minnesota in particular, but the economic situation in the late 1990s was generally regarded as good, so the example of Ventura counts against this analysis.  An alternative is that less educated people (maybe especially less educated men) are more attracted to tough-talking outsiders and less likely to be bothered by "gaffes" or outrageous statements.  That would suggest that large educational and gender gaps are specific to this election rather than a sign of things to come.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Now that's what I call a gender gap

The gender breakdowns in responses to two recent survey questions:
Question 1:
        Yes      No
Men      37%     62%
Women    20%     80%

Question 2:

         Yes     No
Men      51%     46%
Women    36%     63%

The gender gaps are about equal to, or maybe somewhat bigger than, those found in the latest surveys of voting intentions in the Trump-Clinton race.  So what were these questions?

1.  Do you think the penny should be eliminated, or not?
2.  Do you think the penny is a useful coin, or should the government do away with it? ["do away with"="yes" in the table above.]

I'm not surprised that men gave more support to abolishing the penny--if I'd been asked before, looking at the results, I think I would have given odds of 3:1 or 4:1 that the difference would be in that direction--but why would the gap be so large?

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What (probably) never was

I wasn't planning to post again this soon, but this morning I read a review of The Populist Explosion (John P. Judis) in the NY Times Book Review.  The reviewer (Jonathan Alter) said "In 1968, Wallace, running as a third-party candidate, led the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, in the polls until October...."  I was surprised to read that, so I checked the Roper Center's iPOLL database for all surveys asking about choice among Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace in 1968.  The results:

 Wallace was always behind Humphrey.  The smallest gap was in a poll taken at the end of September and beginning of October, when Humphrey had 26% and Wallace 19%, with Nixon at 41%.  The iPOLL database is not completely comprehensive, so maybe there were surveys in which Wallace led.  But I doubt it, given the substantial margin and general stability of the figures (which were from two different polling firms, Gallup and Harris).  Maybe Alter was thinking of 1992, when I think Perot did actually lead in some polls?

     I hadn't realized that Humphrey was generally leading in the polls until August.  The Republican convention took place at the beginning of that month and the Democratic convention took place at the end.  That connects to another issue that I was going to write about, so I might as well do it now.  Back in the primaries, I was thinking about the question of whether nominating an "extreme" candidate would make a difference.  People who say that an extreme candidate will lose votes always include George McGovern as a leading example.  McGovern definitely had a liberal voting record in the senate, but so did some more successful Democratic nominees (John Kerry and Barack Obama).
That led me to wonder if the relevant issue might be a divided convention, rather than "extremism."  The two things tend to go together, because the reason for a divided convention is often an ideological challenge where one or both sides feel strongly enough to fight on until the end.  By divided, I mean one in which there was open conflict that was visible to the TV audience.    I think that the following conventions are generally agreed to meet that standard:  Republicans in 1964 and 1976 (and now 2016), and the Democrats in 1968, 1972, and 1980.  You could argue that the whole idea of a divided vs. united convention doesn't apply before the TV era--the action took place behind the scenes, and multiple ballots were common.  However, the Democratic convention of 1924, which took over 100 ballots and involved a giant rally by the KKK after a motion to condemn them had been narrowly defeated, might deserve to be included.

I added a variable for a divided convention to Fair's model and got the following results:

        Model                               estimate    std err
1.    Fair plus divided (1968-80 only)        -2.36     (1.45)
2.    Fair plus divided (including 1924)      -2.51     (1.37)
3.    Modified plus divided                   -3.41     (1.59)

The third model modifies Fair's variables in two ways:  Gerald Ford is counted as an incumbent president, and the Democrats are counted as getting 34.8% of the two-party vote in 1924, which is what they actually got.  Fair does not count Ford as an incumbent on the grounds that he was not elected to either the presidency or the vice-presidency, which doesn't make sense to me.  There was an important third-party candidate (Robert LaFollette) in 1924, and Fair estimates that most of his voters would have gone to the Democrats if he had not been in the race.  That could be true, but it's not possible to be sure, and if you were adjusting totals it seems that a better case could be made for 1968, when surveys indicated that most of Wallace's voters would have gone to Nixon as a second choice.  

The figures mean that a divided Democratic convention is estimated to cost the Democrats about 2.4% and a divided Republican convention to help them by 2.4% (in model 1).  There's a good deal of uncertainty about the size of the effect, and it's not statistically significant at the 5% level in the first two models.  Still, I'd say that there's evidence that a divided convention hurts a party.

Friday, October 7, 2016

What might have been

Suppose that the major-party nominees for president had been nondescript, people like Mike Pence or Tim Kaine.  In that case, it seems that the outcome would depend on "how things are going"--if they're going well, keep a Democrat in office; if not, turn to the Republican. There have been a number of efforts to figure out exactly which "things" matter and how much difference they make.  One of the best-known ones was proposed by Ray Fair in 1978 and has been modified and updated since then.  In Fair's formula, support for the incumbent party depends (positively) on the rate of growth of per-capita GDP in the first three quarters of the election year and the number of quarters of rapid growth over the president's term and (negatively) on the rate of change in prices over president's term.  Of course, we don't know what those will be yet (currently the GDP data only goes through the first quarter of 2016), but if you put in his predictions of what those will be, the equation predicts the Republican would get 56% of the two-party vote.  Even if you assume very strong (4%) growth in the second and third quarters, that only brings the Republican share down to 52.7%.

So according to his formula, the objective conditions put the Democrats at a big disadvantage.  Why?  Part of the reason is that there have been few quarters of rapid GDP growth over the last term--as many people have pointed out, the economic recovery has been slow.  But that was also true in 2012, when the formula predicted that Barack Obama would win the popular vote.  The main reason for the difference is that the formula also includes variables for incumbency and for the duration of time the party has been in power.  Incumbency is estimated to increase vote share by 3.0%, and being in power eight years rather than four is estimated to reduce it by 3.8%.  Putting those together, the Democratic candidate in 2016 starts off 6.8% worse than Barack Obama did in 2012, and 7.6% worse than Obama did in 2008 (when duration was counting against the Republicans), before accounting for economic conditions.  These are big differences, both in absolute and relative terms (bigger than the difference that would result from a -5% rate of growth compared to a +5%).

When I checked earlier today, the Republican share of the two-party vote in the latest polls was about 47.5.  If that holds up, it will be the largest prediction error in the period covered by the estimates--the current record is 1992, when George HW Bush was predicted to get 53.6% of the two-party vote, but actually received only 48.3%.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Two roads diverged

I'm taking a break from contemporary affairs in order to follow up on an obscure post from the early days of this blog.  In 1951, a Gallup poll asked "Which of these two jobs would you personally prefer a son of yours to take--assuming he is equally qualified:  a skilled laborer's job at $100 a week or a white-collar desk job at $75 a week?"  and a parallel question about preference between "a college professor's job at $4,000 a year or a factory foreman's job at $6,000 a year?" 66% chose the laborer's job over the white-collar deck job, and 56% chose a foreman over the professor.

What factors influenced the choice?  Two obvious possibilities are education and one's own job.  People might like their sons (or hypothetical sons) to do what they had done, so more educated people would tend to favor the jobs that required more education, and people would tend to prefer jobs that were similar to their own.  Both of those turned out to be true.  Here is a comparison by occupation, showing the percentage favoring the white-collar job for each pair.

                       Desk Job     Professor
Professional            45%           63%
Farmer                  23%           30%
Business                38%           39%
White Collar            47%           58%
Blue Collar             26%           36%
Service                 28%           32%

Another obvious possibility is income, although I'm not sure about what to expect, but Gallup didn't ask about it then.  There were no clear differences by race or gender, but there was a difference by the size of the community:  the larger the town, the more likely people were to prefer the white collar job.

                       Desk Job       Professor
under 2,500              26%            34%
2,500-10,000             28%            44%
10,000-100,000           35%            42%
100,000-500,000          34%            42%
over 500,000             39%            51% 

The difference by size of town remained statistically significant even after controlling for education and income.  As for why, my thought is that people who lived in larger places might have wider frames of reference--they would be aware of a wider range of careers and occupations--and would tend to think about prospects for advancement rather than just the immediate pay difference.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More on police shootings

Over the summer, a paper by Roland Fryer got a lot of attention.  He summarized his findings:  "there are racial differences--sometimes quite large--in police use of force, even after accounting for a large set of controls ... Yet, on the most extreme use of force--offi cer-involved shootings--we are unable to detect any racial di fferences...."  You could restate this by saying that there is more anti-black bias in non-lethal force than in lethal force, and it's not clear if there is any bias (in either direction) in the use of lethal force.  The difference between lethal and non-lethal force was surprising to me--I figured that if there was bias, it would be more pronounced for the more extreme use of force.  I thought his paper was convincing on that point, partly because of the evidence he presented and partly because of a simple comparison to the data on fatal shootings by police that I've written about before.   Blacks comprise 27% of those fatally shot by the police.  This is considerably higher than their share of the total population, but not relative to other forms of negative involvement with the criminal justice system.  For example, blacks make up 39% of those arrested for violent crime.

The difficulty is in figuring out whether 27% is more, less, or about the same as what it would be if police shootings took place without regard to race--that is, if a white person and a black person in the same situation faced the same risk of being shot--which is why Fryer said "we are unable to detect any" racial differences rather than "there are no" or even "there appear to be no."

Although the data Fryer used has a lot more detail, the data I used also has some advantages:  it covers the whole nation and has more cases.  It includes a variable for whether the person who was killed was attacking a police officer, "other," or "unknown" and one for what kind of weapon, if any, they had.  I combined those into a new variable with three values:  people who were not attacking ("other" or "unknown") and unarmed (or "undetermined"), people who were armed but not attacking, and people who were attacking.  I'll call them low, medium, and high levels of apparent threat.  The breakdown of people killed by apparent threat:

            Black   Hispanic   White
low          35%      22%       39%
medium       26%      20%       48%
high         26%      16%       55%

There are statistically significant racial differences--the share of blacks and Hispanics is highest for the lowest threat level. You could also put it in terms of the chance that a person will be killed by the police when they are unarmed and not attacking:  blacks have about six times the risk of non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics have about three times the risk.

The limitation of this comparison (and the ones Fryer did) is that we don't know the number of people who were in a comparable situation but were not fatally shot.  So it's possible that blacks and Hispanics were just less likely to be in the low-threat relative to the high threat situations.  That doesn't seem likely to me--the low-threat situations can include a wide variety of circumstances (e. g., bystanders who were killed by accident), so it seems the racial distribution of people in them in them should be closer to that in the general population.  It's also possible that police are unbiased in low-threat situations but less likely to kill blacks and Hispanics in high-threat situations.  However, the most plausible interpretation seems to be that there is some anti-black bias in fatal police shootings.

PS:  There were a total of 1,499 fatal shootings in the 18 months covered by the data: 133 low threat, 418 medium, and 948 high.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cui bono?

In August 2008, a Gallup/USA Today poll asked "If _____ is elected president, who do you think his policies would benefit the most – the wealthy, the middle class, or the poor, or all about equally?" for John McCain and Barack Obama.  In late June and early July of this year, a survey sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and Los Angeles times asked the same question about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  The results:

                    McCain    Trump            Obama    Clinton
Wealthy              53%       54%               16%      36%
Middle Class         19%       15%               33%      19%
Poor                  1%        2%               22%      12%
All equally          25%       20%               25%      25%

The distribution of answers is almost the same for Trump as it was for McCain, but the distribution for Clinton is quite a bit different from what it had been for Obama--fewer saying the poor or middle class, and more saying the wealthy.  The 2008 survey also asked about voting intention (the 2016 survey did not).  As you might guess, people who thought a candidate would benefit the middle class or everyone about equally were a lot more likely to support him than those who thought he would benefit the rich.  Things were more complicated with the poor--the few people who thought McCain's policies would benefit the poor were overwhelmingly in favor of him (88%, although it was only eight people); the larger number who thought Obama's policies would benefit the poor were strongly against him (26%).

If you combine the 2008 estimates with the 2012 opinions, perceptions of who benefits from Clinton's policies are costing her about 7 percentage points compared to Obama.  Although I wouldn't take the exact number very seriously, it seems safe to say that she's not getting as much benefit as he was.

Why would Clinton be viewed so much differently than Obama was?  One possibility is that it's a fixed part of her image--maybe people are thinking of the well-compensated speeches she's made to Wall Street firms.  Another possibility is that the contrast with Bernie Sanders made people think of her as more favorable to rich, and that as people start focusing on the contrast with Trump perceptions will change (or maybe already have changed).  The fact that Trump is not seen as much different from McCain is interesting, since claims that he would help the working and middle classes have been a big part of his campaign.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]