Friday, November 15, 2019

Hard work

In 1992, a survey asked people to choose which statement came closer to the way they felt:  "A--Most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard. Or, B--Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people."  Since then, the question has been repeated in a number of surveys, mostly by the Pew Research Center.  The percent choosing statement A:

There seems to be an increase from 1992 until about 1999, although there are only a few surveys, and there is clearly a decline since then.  I've had a number of posts saying that people aren't especially discontented today (this is one), but they were about people's own lives.  These results suggest that people have less confidence in "the system."

What difference do these feelings make for politics?  I compared the surveys from August 2000 and August 2016.  The August 2000 survey asked people how they would vote "if the election were held today."  The 2016 survey didn't ask that, but asked people if they "would consider voting for" or "would definitely not vote for" Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I combined those questions, with consider voting for A and definitely not vote for B taken as equivalent to saying that you would vote for A if the election were held today.  The results:

                                     2000                                    2016
                            D                R                            D                R
Can get ahead     39%           44%                      41%              38%
no guarantee       52%           26%                      44%              33%

In both years, the people who took the "optimistic" position were more likely to vote Republican, but the gap was considerably smaller in 2016.  That is, Trump appealed more to people who thought "the system was rigged" than GW Bush had (or Hillary Clinton appealed less than Al Gore had, although general knowledge of the two campaigns suggests that more of the difference was on the Republican side). 

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Liking what they saw

I was looking for polls on Trump's popularity early in his campaign, and found several by the Monmouth Poll that reported the figures for Republicans separately (including leaners).  The figure shows the percent favorable minus the percent unfavorable:

The first two (blue dots) were before his official announcement; the next two (red) after his announcement but before the debates; the last three (green) after the first debate.  I didn't expect to see much change:  I thought he had come into the race with a pretty strong base of support and maintained it.  But in fact, opinions were mostly negative before he announced (20 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable on June 14, 2015), and then became favorable (59 favorable and 29 unfavorable by September 2). 

What led to the change?  The timing suggests that the very early days of his campaign were the decisive period.  I don't have time for a detailed examination, but I looked at the text of his announcement speech.  Some points that struck me:
1.  There was very little discussion of "culture war" issues:  nothing about abortion, same-sex marriage, political correctness, the mistreatment of Christians, the condescension of cultural elites......  The only thing I noticed was a call to "Protect the Second Amendment."
2.  There was nothing that seemed to be an appeal to "white nationalism," even in the broad sense of declining relative numbers and power.  Of course, there was the passage that is most remembered today, about how immigrants from Mexico are "bringing drugs.  They're bringing crime.  They're rapists."  But this was framed as a criticism of foreign governments--"when Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best." 
3.  There was a lot about economics, mostly standard stuff about the dangers of deficits and the evils of Obamacare.  There was a promise of rebuilding infrastructure, but the implication was that it could be done without more taxes or spending, because he was a businessman who could do things efficiently. 
4.  The idea that America was being "beaten" in competition with other nations was a big theme.  "When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.
When did we beat Japan at anything? ...  They beat us all the time. When do we beat Mexico at the border?  They laugh at us all the time, at our stupidity.  And now they are beating us economically. The U. S. has become a dumping ground for everyone else's problems. [This was followed by the passage about the people Mexico was "sending"]." As this passage suggests, his major explanation for this state of affairs was the "stupidity" of American leaders.  A secondary one was that the leaders were beholden to donors, and he wouldn't be, because he was rich and didn't need their money.  

So I would say #3 reassured Republicans, and  #4 added a new thing that other candidates weren't emphasizing, but fit with a view that is popular among the public, especially Republicans. 

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, November 1, 2019

Trump and tolerance

Since the 1930s, the Gallup poll has asked people if they would vote for certain kinds of people for president:  specifically, "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [type], would you vote for that person?"  In June 2015 and April 2019, they asked about hypothetical candidates who were black, Catholic, Jewish, a Muslim, gay or lesbian, a woman, an evangelical Christian, and a socialist.  The table below shows the change in the percent of Democrats, Republicans, and independents who say they would vote for the candidate.

                    Rep  Ind  Dem
Evangelical  8       6       5
Jewish         -1       5       2
Catholic       4        2       1
Hispanic      1        9       3
Black           4        7       3
Woman       -1        5       0
Gay              0        9      -2

Atheist        -3        5       7
Muslim       -7      15      13
Socialist      -7       0       15

For the first group (evangelical, Jewish, Catholic, Hispanic, Black, woman, gay), there is no clear evidence of partisan difference in the changes (of course, there is sampling error, especially for independents, who are the smallest group).  By and large, tolerance has increased--a total of 16 positive changes, three negative, and two no change.

For the other three, there has been polarization--Democrats are more likely to say they would vote for the person, Republicans less likely.  Socialist is different from the others in principle--it's a political position, not an ethnic or religious group.  Presumably the difference is because socialism has become more prominent after the strong showing of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and the high profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In the contemporary United States there is a pretty strong norm of saying that you don't pay attention to race, color, or creed.  Even Donald Trump has made some effort to appeal to (or at least say he doesn't have any animosity towards) groups like blacks, Latinos, and gays and lesbians.  However, there is always an implicit restriction to groups that are inside a circle of those that are accepted as parts of American society.  I think the partisan divergence for atheists and Muslims shows that they haven't made it in that circle.  In contrast, although you might expect that the support given to Trump by many prominent evangelical leaders might cause a reaction among Democrats, willingness to support an evangelical Christian has increased among Democrats as well as Republicans (and Independents).

However, for atheists and Muslims, the increase among Democrats is larger than the decline among Republicans (and the increases among Independents are about as large among Democrats).  You could say that the reaction against intolerance among Democrats and Independents is stronger than the increase among Republicans.  So ironically, Trump may be contributing to the growth in tolerance. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

What's wrong with them?

A few weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released a survey about views of the parties and partisanship (I got the reference from a piece by Philip Bump in the Washington Post).  The survey contained questions asking them to rate members of the other party against other Americans on the following traits:  open-minded/closed-minded, patriotic/unpatriotic, moral/immoral,  hard-working/lazy, and intelligent/unintelligent.  Democrats were somewhat more likely to see Republicans as closed-minded than vice-versa; Republicans were substantially more likely to see Democrats as unpatriotic and somewhat more likely to see them as immoral.  In the sample, Democrats were slightly more likely to see Republicans as unintelligent, although the differences are probably not statistically significant.  This all fits with what seem to be the general images of the parties. 

The more surprising thing is that there is a big difference in hard-working/lazy.  46% of Republicans see Democrats as lazier than other Americans, while only 20% of Democrats see Republicans as lazier than other Americans.  This is the biggest gap except for "patriotic."  I would have expected that relatively few people would rate the other party as "lazy"--it seems like admitting that your opponents are just as hard-working as everyone else is an easy concession to make.  That may be the case for Democrats, but apparently not for Republicans.  I've had a few posts suggesting that conservatives are more likely to rate hard work as a more important factor in getting ahead, and maybe this is part of the answer--Republicans tend to think that Democrats want the government to help them with problems that they could solve themselves if they tried. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How many Democrats?

A Fox News poll last week found that 51% of the respondents said that Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office and another 4% said he should be impeached but not removed.  On Sunday, Donald Trump tweeted "The Fox Impeachment poll has turned out to be incorrect. This was announced on Friday. Despite this, the Corrupt New York Times used this poll in one of its stories, no mention...of the correction which they knew about full well!"

He cited a story in the New York Post with the title  “Fox News Pollster Braun Research Misrepresented Impeachment Poll: Analysis”  The problem, according to the Post, was that 48% of the Fox sample said they were Democrats, "but the actual breakdown of party affiliation is 31% Democrat, 29% Republican and 38% independent, according to Gallup."  If you weighted by the "actual" distribution of party affiliation, support for impeachment was only about 45%. 

So how many Democrats are there?  The figure the Post gives is from the question, "In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?"  However, most survey organizations follow up on the initial question by asking people who don't choose Democrat or Republican whether they lean towards one of the parties, and when they report the opinions of Democrats or Republicans they include the "leaners".  That was what the Fox News poll did.  Their first round got 40% Democrats, 33% Republicans, 27% independents.  On the follow up, 8% of the total sample said they leaned to the Democrats, 7% to the Republicans.  

The 40/33/27 distribution in the first round of the Fox poll is still pretty different from the 31/29/38 in Gallup.  Unfortunately Fox didn't report the party question they used, but in the most recent Fox News survey in the Roper Center, it was "When you think about politics, do you think of yourself as a Democrat or a Republican?"  That is, it didn't offer "independent" as an option--people had to volunteer it.  It makes sense that the number of reported independents would be lower with that question.

So the NY Post "analysis" just reflected ignorance about how surveys measure party affiliation.   The ratio of Democrats to Republicans is somewhat different in the Fox and Gallup polls, but the difference is small enough to easily be the result of chance in a sample of the usual size.  Gallup's most recent estimate, based on averages of surveys in July-Sept 2019, is 47% Democrats and 42% Republicans (including "leaners"), not much different from the 48% and 40% in the Fox poll. Gallup reports that "the current Democratic advantage is among the larger ones for the party over the past two decades."

So 48% Democrats, and by implication, 51% support for impeaching and removing Trump from office sound about right. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Education, redistribution, and markets

I have had several posts (this, this, and this) about change in the effect of education on opinions about redistribution and government obligation to help the poor:  after controlling for income, education used to go opposition to redistribution, but now it makes little difference. But education still seems to make a difference in general attitudes about markets.  Educated people are more likely to support free trade rather than the protection of domestic industry.  More generally, they are less sympathetic to at least some kinds of direct regulation. 

In July 2008, a Gallup/USA Today poll asked "Thinking now about some of the solutions offered to address the energy situation in the United States, please say whether you would be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who supported...establishing price controls on gasoline?"   "More likely" got 75% among people with no college, 55% among those with some college, 50 percent among those with a college degree, and 43% among those with graduate education.  Education still made a difference after controlling for income, and in fact made more difference than income, if you go by the standardized regression coefficients.  The same survey asked about a number of other possible actions--the education effect for this item was the strongest of all. 

Why would more educated people be less in favor of price controls?  One possibility is the direct influence of what they studied.  However, my guess is that most college graduates didn't take a course in economics, and most don't recall many specific points from their courses.  So I think it's more likely to reflect a general way of thinking--more educated people are less likely to believe that simply forbidding people to do something will be effective. 

So even if more and less educated people are now similar in their general support for redistribution, there are some differences in the types of policies they support to achieve it, and that difference may create problems for parties of the left. 

Since it's been a relatively long gap between posts, I'll add a bonus to this one.  In most surveys, the highest income category is something like $100,000 and up,  so you can't make fine distinctions at the high end.  But this one included more detailed categories, of which the highest was $500,000+.  When asked about who they thought they would vote for in November 2008, people in the top group went for McCain by 9-2. The income groups below that were pretty evenly split.  The difference could have been just the result of chance (the p-value for the hypothesis of no difference among the highest income groups was something like .07), but it is intriguing.  If other Gallup/USA Today surveys from the same time used the same income groups, you could combined them to see if it holds up.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, October 3, 2019

I had some dreams

Many analyses of the 2016 election hold that Trump voters, at least the working class ones, were motivated by dissatisfaction with their lives stemming from declining standards of living, the disdain of coastal elites, or some combination.   On the other hand, a traditional view is that general dissatisfaction leads people to support the left, since conservatism is associated with the status quo and liberalism with change. 

This issue was brought to mind by an essay entitled "The spiritual crisis of the modern economy", which was published in December 2016, but which I just saw today.  When reading it, I recalled that there was a survey question asked in 1999:    "Think about what you expected for the future when you were of high school age. Generally, have you accomplished more than you expected to by now, less than you expected, or about as much as you expected?"  41% said more, 24% less, and 34% about as much.    Here are some associations:


Gender--no clear difference
Ethnicity--blacks less satisfied, Latinos and whites about the same
Age--older people substantially more satisfied
Education--little or no difference through college degree; grad degrees maybe a little more satisfied
Income--higher income people more satisfied
Marital status--married and widowed people more satisfied; never married least satisfied
Urban vs. rural--little or no difference

Self-rated ideology:  conservatives more satisfied
Vote:  Dole voters more satisfied than Clinton voters, Perot voters in the middle; non-voters substantially less satisfied

I find it interesting that education doesn't make much difference (and to the extent it does, it's just because it leads to higher income).  Critiques of "meritocracy," like the one I mentioned above, often suggest that a focus on education makes people without a college degree (or in some accounts, people without an "elite" college degree) feel like failures.  Of course, things can change over 20 years, but as of 1999 that apparently wasn't the case.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]