Friday, December 2, 2016

Going downhill

Since the 1970s, the Gallup Poll has asked "I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society.  Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one--a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?"  The list has changed, but there is at least twenty years of data for the following:  the church or organized religion, the military, the US Supreme Court, banks, the public schools, newspapers, Congress, television news, organized labor, the presidency, the police, the medical system, the criminal justice system, and big business.  Tables giving the data are available at the Gallup website.  I converted them to figures in order to get a clearer sense of changes--the y-axis gives the percent saying they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence.

I don't think anyone will be surprised to see that confidence in all three branches of government has declined, with Congress taking the biggest loss:


Or confidence in the media:


Confidence in big business and labor was never high, but it's declined for both.  Confidence in banks had ups and downs, but was generally pretty high until the onset of the 2007-8 recession, when it suffered a fall from which it hasn't bounced back:


Confidence in medicine, the public schools,and organized religion also declined.


So far, confidence in everything has declined.  You could offer specific explanations for each one, but the fact that it's so widespread suggests that the declines reflect a general mood of dissatisfaction.  I think the decline for public schools is particularly telling, since if you go by the numbers academic performance has improved since the 1970s.

But the decline in confidence isn't universal:


Confidence in police and the criminal justice system has stayed about the same since the early 1990s, and confidence in the military has clearly increased since the 1970s.

Today, confidence in the military is substantially higher than confidence in any of the other institutions; in the 1970s, the military was behind religion and the medical system, and essentially tied with the public schools (also behind banks, but the poll asked about them only once in the 1970s).

It's not possible to say what the "right" degree of confidence in any institution is.  Still, a situation in which confidence is highest in the military and the police doesn't seem healthy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Public opinion on immigration, 1965-

In June 1965, the Gallup Poll asked "Should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?" (this was when the Hart-Celler Act was under consideration by Congress).  The same question was asked once in the 1970s, once in the 1980s, and pretty frequently since 1993.  There have been some variations in the way it was introduced (e. g., sometimes it is "In your view, should...") but they don't seem to make any difference.  The figure shows average opinion, counting increased as +1, decreased as -1, and present level as zero, for people who expressed an opinion.



My initial impression was just that there were always more people in favor of a decrease than an increase, but when I graphed the data I realized that there was a definite pattern:  more support for a decrease until the mid-1990s, and then increasing support for immigration after that time.  There are some ups and downs, notably a drop in support for increased immigration after 9/11, but the trend after the mid-1990s is clear.

This figure shows the percent favoring an increase:


Before the 1990s, almost all of the change in the average involved a shift from staying the same to decreased--after that time, much of it involved a rise in the number of people saying it should be increased.

As a Thanksgiving bonus, here are some pre-1965 questions on immigration:

Roper/Fortune Survey [November, 1947]

Would you vote yes or no on a bill in Congress to let 100,000 selected European refugees come to this country in each of the next four years, in addition to the 150,000 immigrants now permitted to enter every year under our present quotas?

18% Yes
72% No
5% Depends
5% Don't know

------------------------------------------------------------
Foreign Affairs Survey [April, 1955]

In general, do you think the United States is letting too many immigrants come into this country, or not enough?

39% Too many
37% About right (vol.)
13% Not enough
11% Don't know


------------------------------------------------------------
Hopes And Fears [September, 1964]

Do you think the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. each year should be increased somewhat, decreased somewhat, or kept at about the present level?

6% Increased
38% Decreased
46% Kept at present level
10% Don't Know


------------------------------------------------------------
Harris Survey [May, 1965]

President (Lyndon) Johnson has proposed that the immigration laws of this country be changed to allow more people into the United States as immigrants. From what you know or have heard, do you favor or oppose letting more people come to the United States as immigrants?

24% Favor
58% Oppose
18% Not sure

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mistakes were made, part 2

Before asking how Donald Trump won the election, it's necessary to ask how he even stayed close. There were numerous occasions when it seemed that he'd gone too far, and done or said something that would finish him off.  The answer to that question can be found in some of the classics of early public opinion research:
1.  Most people don't pay much attention to politics (Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes, The American Voter).
2.  When they do, they usually confirm their prior inclinations (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee, Voting). 

So a lot of people voted for Trump because he was a Republican and Hillary Clinton was a Democrat. Others voted for him because they felt like the Democrats had had a chance and now it was time for a change.  Although this point is not very exciting, it's important.  Many discussions of Trump voters treat them as exotic--out there in West Virginia or Ohio, in towns devastated by the loss of an industry like steel or coal.  But a lot of Trump voters can be found closer to the media centers, in nice, well-kept houses with Trump signs out front.  For example, Connecticut is a "blue state," and Clinton won easily--but Trump still got 41.7% of the vote and carried about half of the towns.  In fact, Trump got more votes in Connecticut than in West Virginia.  

But there were some differences between who supported Trump and who had supported Romney, McCain, Bush, etc.  Probably the most important one was education.  Exit polls showed that 67% of whites without a college degree, and only 49% of those without a college degree voted for Trump.  The figure shows the gap in Republican support in elections since 1980.  


There was not much change between 1980 and 2012--sometimes the Republicans did a little better among people with a college degree, sometimes a little worse (the two in red are 1992 and 1996, when Ross Perot was a candidate).  Suddenly the gap became much larger in 2016.  Compared to 2012, Republican support among whites with a college degree dropped from 56% to 49%, while support among those without a college degree rose from 61% to 67%.  That change suggests that something about Trump appealed to people without a college degree and repelled people with a college degree.  

Early public opinion research also helps to explain why Trump repelled more educated people:  they give more support to civil liberties and have more awareness of and concern with the norms of democratic government.  For example, sophisticated observers were shocked when Trump told Hillary Clinton that she would be in jail if he were president (even Charles Krauthammer said that was going too far)--in a democracy, you don't put political opponents in jail.  But for someone who didn't know much about the history or theory of democracy, it wouldn't seem like a big deal--if she was guilty of a crime, shouldn't she be in jail?  And if there was even a chance she was guilty--and lots of people were saying that she was--why not appoint a special prosecutor to find out?  

What about his positive appeal?  This is something I've written about several times over the last year or two (see the list at the end of this post):  Trump is an economic nationalist, opposed to immigration, free trade, saying he'd punish companies that move jobs overseas.  These are all popular positions, and especially popular among less educated people.  They also haven't had many advocates among major American politicians, so Clinton and the Democrats didn't have much practice in countering them.  

This raises the question of whether other people will be inspired by his success to appeal to the same sentiments, so that the educational split will remain.  I'll discuss that in a later post.    

Related posts:




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mistakes were made

Going into the election, Hillary Clinton had a lead of 3.3% in the polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average.  In the popular vote, she had a lead of 0.2%, as of this writing.  Was this a "failure of polling," as a New York Times story says?  The Gallup poll gives a list of its last poll before each election since 1936 and the actual election results which I summarize below as the difference between Democratic lead in the two-party vote in the poll and the election.  A positive sign means that the Democrats did better in the election than in the last poll; a negative sign that they did worse.

Year   Error
2016 -3.1
2012 +5
2008 -4
2004 -2.4
2000 +2.5
1996 -3.1
1992 -6.4
1988  5.1
1984  0.4
1980 -6.8
1976 +3
1972 +0.4
1968 +0.4
1964 -5.4
1960 -0.8
1956  3.4
1952 -7.8
1948  9.4
1944  4.6
1940  6
1936 13.6


The error has two parts--one is from sampling, and the other is from everything else--for example, supporters of the different candidates might differ in their willingness to respond, or the formulas for calculating turnout might be be wrong in ways that favored one party over the other.  The size of sampling error can be calculated from statistical theory--the other part can't, and has to be estimated from experience.  

The combined sample for the RCP average is so large that sampling error is trivial, on the order of 0.1%.  The samples for the individual Gallup polls are smaller, so sampling error is a factor.  However, it's not nearly big enough to account for the discrepancies.  A rough calculation is that the non-sampling error has a standard deviation of about 5.  Until 1948, the Gallup poll used quota samples.  That period included two big errors--the notorious 1948 election, and the 1936 election, when the poll showed a Democratic lead of +12 (56%-44%), but the actual lead was +25 (62.5%-37.5%).  If you confine it to the 1952-2012 period, the non-sampling error has a standard deviation of about 3--that is, candidate leading by three in the polls would lose about one time in six if the errors are normally distributed.  Most of the prediction sites seemed to give Clinton about an 85% chance of winning, which was just about right according to this analysis. Someone just going by the polls would have been a little surprised by the outcome, but not shocked.

Ironically, the problem may have been that journalists (and other observers, including me) paid too much attention to other "information" beyond the polls.  Similarly, in the Brexit referendum, the perception of the result as a shock wasn't based on the polls, which showed a close contest, but on a general reading of the public mood.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Landon maintains lead

As part of an effort to avoid thinking too much about tomorrow's election, I'll return to a 1936 "straw poll" of college students that I wrote about in June.  I had found results for a number of colleges, but I knew that there were more, so I kept looking.  It turns out that the New York Times reported some additional results, mostly in a story of October 30, 1936.  It may seem strange that the Times ran a story on this, but before polls had developed, there was a lot of interest in anything that could provide hints about the outcome of the election.

Here are the additional colleges and universities, ranked from biggest Roosevelt lead on down:

                        Dem    Rep    Soc    Comm
CCNY                     62      4     12      23
New Rochelle             69 29     1       0
Manhattan                66 30      1       0
Rider                    53 43      1       1

Carnegie                 46 49      2       2
Delaware                 47 51      2 0
Drexel                   45 50      3 0
Franklin & Marshall      39 47     13 0
Upsala                   45 53      1 0
Swarthmore               37 48     13 1
Stevens                  38 52      7 2
Wash & Jefferson         25 47     26 1
Bucknell                 35 58      3 2
Penn State               37 60      2 0
Rhode Island             37 61      2 0
Rutgers                  37 62      1 0
Tufts                    32 59      4 4
MIT                      34 60      3 3
Sweetbriar               36 62      2 0
Conn Coll                30 67      2 1
Susquehanna              29 67      3 0
Gettysburg               30 69      2 0
Skidmore                 24 72      4 0
Temple                   20 67      4 9
Mass.                    22 72      5 0
Elmira                   24 73      2 0
Lehigh                   17 77      2 2

Mean                     38     55      4       2

The Vassar list was limited to elite universities, while the New York Times covered a wider range.  Despite this difference, the means were almost the same--today, I think that Republican support would be lower in elite universities than in others.  I wouldn't necessarily put much faith in the results for any particular one--it looked like turnout was generally high at the small colleges, but pretty low at the larger ones, but given the consistency it seems safe to say that college students leaned strongly Republican in the 1930s.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Not that complicated

A few days ago, an article in the New York Times by Amanda Taub said that working-class support for Donald Trump reflected a "crisis of white identity."  Today, Ross Douthat said that it reflected the "thinning out of families."  The basic idea in both was that "working class" (ie less educated people's) opposition to immigration is a symptom of anxiety about something else.

In September 1957, the days of the baby boom and the "affluent society," when unions were strong and no one was talking about a crisis of white identity or masculinity, the Gallup Poll asked "UNDER THE PRESENT IMMIGRATION LAWS, THE HUNGARIAN REFUGEES WHO CAME TO THIS COUNTRY AFTER THE REVOLTS LAST YEAR HAVE NO PERMANENT RESIDENCE AND CAN BE DEPORTED AT ANY TIME. DO YOU THINK THE LAW SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED SO THAT THESE REFUGEES CAN STAY HERE PERMANENTLY?"
42% said yes, and 43% said no.

In July 1958, another Gallup Poll asked "IN EUROPE THERE ARE STILL ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY THOUSAND REFUGEES WHO LEFT HUNGARY TO ESCAPE THE COMMUNISTS. IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED THAT THE U.S. PERMIT SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND OF THESE PEOPLE TO COME TO THIS COUNTRY. WOULD YOU APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE OF THIS PLAN?"
33% approved and 55% disapproved

With both questions, education made a difference for opinions.  For example, in 1958, 55% of the people with a college degree favored letting the refugees come to the United States, compared to 31% of those without college degrees.  The only other demographic factor that made a clear difference was that Jews were more likely to favor letting the refugees stay.

The 1957 survey also had a question about the Brown vs. Board of Education decision against school segregation--people who approved were more likely to favor letting the refugees stay.  The 1958 survey had a series of questions about whether you would vote for various religious or racial minorities for president--people who were more tolerant were more likely to favor letting the refugees come to the United States.

The Hungarian refugees were white, Christian, and could be seen as part of a clear story of oppression vs. resistance.  Despite this, most people, especially less educated people, were not in favor of letting them stay in the United States.  So the contemporary opposition to immigration, and the tendency for it to be stronger among less educated people, are not a reflection of something specific to today, but continue a long-standing pattern.  Of course, an increase in the number of immigrants today presumably makes the issue more important.  But the basic pattern is not new.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, October 27, 2016

College professors and capitalism in the 1950s

In 1955, the Opinion Research Corporation ran a survey they called "Free Market versus Socialist Thinking," which was about basic economic issues.  I've written about it before, but until recently I hadn't noticed that it included special samples of a number of occupations:  Catholic clergy, Protestant clergy, college professors, high school teachers, business executives, other teachers, and manufacturing foremen.  They didn't give any details on how those samples were selected, but for what it's worth, here is the distribution of party identification for each group:

                              Rep    Dem   Other/None
Catholic clergy*     13%    52%     35%
Protestant clergy*  36%   37%     27%
Professors              31%    47%    22%
HS Teachers          40%   49%    11%
Executives*           62%   22%    16%
Other teachers       38%   50%     12%
Foremen                31%   47%     21%
Public                    37%   45%     18%              

The differences from the general pubic are statistically significant for the three groups marked with asterisks.

Today, college professors are far to the left of the general public.  I'm interested in figuring out how long this tendency has existed, so here are comparisons between the professor sample and the general sample on some other questions.

DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR THE COUNTRY IF THE GOVERNMENT PUT A TOP LIMIT ON THE SALARY ANY MAN COULD MAKE?
   
                       Yes       No
Professors        9%     86%
Public             18%     78%

DO YOU THINK IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT TO SEE THAT EVERYONE WHO IS WILLING AND ABLE TO
WORK HAS A JOB?

                      Yes       No
Professors       43%     48%
Public             45%     48%

DO YOU THINK THE FEDERAL INCOME TAX SHOULD BE CHANGED TO
MAKE THE RATE STIFFER ON PEOPLE WITH BIG INCOMES, OR NOT
SO STIFF?

                           Stiffer   Less     As Is    
Professors           23%    22%       48%
Public                 43%    15%       36%

Professors were to the right of the general public on economic issues, although they may have been more likely to identify as Democrats.  I suspect they were to left on "social issues" like opposition to McCarthyism and racial segregation, although the survey didn't contain any questions on them.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]