Thursday, December 6, 2018

Is this what you want in a President?

I have proposed that the style of the candidates was an important factor in the 2016 elections, especially in creating a large split by education.   By "the candidates," I mean especially Donald Trump, since Hillary Clinton was pretty conventional, but Trump was very different from any previous major-party nominee.  My idea was that education might influence people's ideas about what qualities were desirable or undesirable in a leader .  I had looked for questions on this topic without much success, but recently found a survey from March 2008.  This asked people to choose between alternatives, for example:  "would you prefer a president who makes decisions and then sticks with them no matter what, or a president who reconsiders decisions after making them when circumstances change?"  There was a substantial difference by education:  28% of people with high school or less and only 8% of college graduate said they preferred someone who stuck with decisions no matter what.  They also asked about someone "who gets involved in many of the details of most issues, or a president who sets broad policies and then delegates to others the implementation of these policies?"  Again, there was a substantial educational difference:  25% of people with high school or less and 52% of college graduate preferred someone who delegates.  There was also one about a choice between someone "who spends a lot of time thinking things through and deliberating before making decisions, or a president who makes decisions more quickly based on his or her gut instincts?"  There was an overwhelming preference for someone who thinks things through at all educational levels, but people with college education were a bit stronger in that direction. 

There was another question that turned out to be very relevant to the 2016 election "Which do you personally find more offensive--when people make negative comments about women in general, or when people make negative comments about African Americans in general, or don't remarks like that offend you? "  29% of people with high school or less and only 10% of college graduates said that they weren't offended by those comments.  So it seems that there is a substantial difference between what more and less educated people want in a leader, and that the Trump style was more appealing to less educated people. 

The survey also contained another question which wasn't relevant to what I was looking for, but was interesting "All other things being equal, would you rather vote for a man, rather vote for a woman, or wouldn't a candidate's gender make a difference to you?"  3% said they would rather vote for a woman, and 17% said they'd rather vote for a man.  Education made some difference, but even among college graduates 13% said they'd rather vote for a man and only 4% that they would rather vote for a woman.  Gender also made some difference, but among women it was still 16% for a man to 5% for a woman.  Age made a bigger difference, and so did region:  22% of people in the South and 8% of people in the Northeast said they would rather vote for a man.  Self-rated ideology made a big difference--conservatives said they would rather vote for a man by 30%-2%, liberals by 9%-6%. 

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, November 30, 2018

Senator, heal thyself

My last post was suggested by a column about Senator Ben Sasse's new book  “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal.”  The argument of the book is apparently (I haven't read it) that America is suffering from a loss of community, and that people try to fill their need for connection by joining political "tribes."  To quote the publisher's description "contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn't really about politics. It's that we're so lonely we can't see straight—and it bubbles out as anger.  Local communities are collapsing. . . . As traditional tribes of place evaporate, we rally against common enemies so we can feel part of a team."  In my last post, I pointed out that there is no evidence that loneliness is increasing.   In this post I will consider the other part of the argument:  that the lack of community increases political "tribalism."  This is not a new claim:  "mass society theory," which was popular in the 1950s, said essentially the same thing.

For the strength of community, I use the index of "social capital" compiled under the leadership of Sasse's colleague Mike Lee.  It is measured at the state level--Lee's home state of Utah is highest, Sasse's state of Nebraska is eighth.  I defined people who "rally against common enemies," as those who rank the Democratic or Republican party at 0-4 in the 2016 American National Election Studies "feeling thermometer."  The hypothesis is that people in places with less "social capital" will be more likely to think that one (or both) of the parties is completely bad.  This produces four groups:  neither party is completely bad, just the Republicans are, just the Democrats are, and both are.  This can be modeled with three logistic regressions:  both vs. none, Democrats vs. none, and Republicans vs. none.  I control for the overall political tendency of the state by the share of the vote won by Mitt Romney in 2012.  The results:

                                   Romney                Social Capital
Both                                -1.51                 -.232
                                       (1.18)                 (.142)

Democratic                      2.99                 -.158
                                       (0.55)                (.058)

Republican                     -1.59                  -0.73
                                       (0.52)                 (.058)

The estimated effect of social capital is statistically significant only for ratings of the Democratic party, but it's negative for all ratings, and I'm pretty sure that the differences among them would not be statistically significant.  That is, it seems that people in states with less "social capital" are more likely to really detest political opponents.  I haven't tried to control for anything else, but the results are intriguing. 

However, even if the relationship is real, it's unlikely that it explains the rise of political "tribalism."  Very low ratings of the parties stayed about the same or rose slowly between the 1970s and about 2000, and then rose sharply in the 21st century.  There's not much evidence on changes in loneliness, but there is some data on satisfaction with your local community, and it hasn't shown any trend since the 1990s (and is higher than in the 1970s). 

So maybe the conventional wisdom is right, and political polarization is about politics.  People dislike political conflict, and seem to especially dislike conflict that goes on without a clear resolution.  There has been a lot of that in recent years.  Why?  Ben Sasse helps to provide the answer, not in his book, but in his statement when announcing his candidacy for Senate in 2014.  A few selections: 

"This glorious idea of freedom and of the creative self-sufficiency of local communities and extended families is under attack – both by intentional opponents and from our lazy national neglect in recent decades.

Our current President was re-elected in a campaign that had as its centerpiece a vision of cradle-to-grave dependency. He has been selling a fundamentally different vision of America's history, and a redefined relationship between government and the people. As Obama’s vision of government wraps its tentacles around more and more aspects of American life, initiative is discouraged, achievement is disparaged, and we grow closer to a permanent dependency class.

Nowhere has this been stated this more clearly than in President Obama’s 'You didn’t build that' speech. This speech angered us, but even more, it should sadden us. . . . And the greatest single insinuation of government into every aspect of our life is his signature initiative, Obamacare. If it lives, America as we know it will die. If the idea of America is to live, it must be stopped."


"The Obamacare worldview holds that Government can successfully take over the largest sector of the economy and orchestrating it better with its allegedly 'all-knowing' central planners.

This worldview says that false promises can somehow become true if only we had even more government; or that they aren’t simply lies because they are founded on good intentions."

So why has political polarization increased?  A major reason is that the Republican party has come to be dominated by dogmatists who imagine that ordinary policy disagreements are issues of high principle on which no compromise is possible.  That was what Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein argued in 2012, and the history since that time has supported their case. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

So alone?

About six months ago, I had a post about the claim that there has been a dramatic increase in loneliness in recent years.  I concluded that (1) there was no trend in feelings of loneliness among people in general between 1963 and 2001, and no useful data on changes since 2001 (2) there was some evidence that feelings of loneliness had declined among high school and college students since the 1970s.   But yesterday Arthur Brooks had a piece in the NY Times which began: "America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness."  He cited "a recent large-scale survey from the health care provider Cigna [which] shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation."   That sounds pretty definitive, doesn't it?  But the survey he referred to is a cross-section--it was conducted only once, in February 2018.  Therefore, it can tell us about differences among people today, but it can't tell us anything about historical changes.  The report compares generations, and finds loneliness is higher in more recent ones, which could be a sign that loneliness is on the rise.  However, it could be an age effect, not a lasting difference between generations.   That is, people might get less lonely as they get older.  That seems plausible--older people are more likely to be married, have children and eventually grandchildren, and more likely to be settled in their jobs and communities.    So there is still no evidence that loneliness is on the rise. 

Brooks went on to say that loneliness is responsible for political rancor, an idea that he attributes to Senator Ben Sasse.  In order to "fill the hole of belonging in their lives," lonely people "turn to angry politics."  This doesn't mean that people who engage in "angry politics" will be lonelier than other people: someone who gets involved with the "polarized tribes forming on the left and the right in America," may make friends and find a sense of purpose.  Rather, the idea is that if they had been part of a "healthy" community, they would not have become involved.  It's hard to evaluate this idea, because it's hard to define, let alone measure, a healthy community.  However, I will make an attempt in my next post. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Odds and ends

The pollster Stanley Greenberg had a piece in the New York Times today making pretty much the same point I made in my last post:  that in the 2018 the Democrats didn't just gain among special groups (like college-educated suburban women), they gained  among almost all kinds of people.  At one point, he said that their biggest gains were in rural areas.  That reminded me, that I had wanted to include something on that, but the CNN exit polls I used didn't seem to include it.  I checked again, and discovered I just hadn't looked far enough.  Here is the Democratic share of the vote in 2016 and 2018:
                     2016       2018
Cities            61%        65%       +4%
Suburbs        45%        49%       +4%
Rural            35%        42%       +7%

Greenberg referred to another exit poll that showed an even bigger swing to the Democrats in rural areas.  So it seems that Democratic gains were at least as large in rural areas as in cities and suburbs, and maybe larger. 

That wasn't much of a post, so here is a bonus.  I had a post a few months ago about the decline of educational differences on a question about whether the government should reduce income differences between the rich and poor.  The GSS has a similar question, "Some people think that the

government in Washington is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and private business; they are at point 5 on this card. Others disagree and think that the government should do even more to solve our country's problems; they are at point 1. Where would you place yourself on this scale?"  Here is the gap between people with a college degree and those without. 

Positive numbers mean college graduates are more towards the "doing too many things" end.  The gap has pretty steadily become smaller, and in 2016 was near zero. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Coalitions and votes

Both academics and journalists often talk about elections in terms of "coalitions." A coalition is when two groups agree to work together.  In a multiparty system, you often have coalitions, where the representatives from two parties agree to vote the same way.  A party can withdraw from the coalition and switch to voting with someone else.  So the language of coalitions suggests discrete groups that can suddenly switch sides.  That leads to several tendencies that are usually mistakes:
1.  The idea that only certain groups shift from one election to the next, or at least that they move a lot more than all the others.  Usually most groups move in the same direction:  e. g., if the Democrats do 5% better than last election among men, they will also do about 5% better among women.  There are cases when two groups move differently, like people with and without college degrees  in the 2016 election, but they are unusual.
2.  A focus on groups defined by a combination of characteristics.  For example, the New York Times had a story entitled "As suburban women turn to Democrats, many suburban men stand with Trump."  It started talking about suburban men and women, but then turned to talking about college-educated men and women.  But either way the idea was that that it wasn't just men and women, but something more complex. 
3,  The idea that there is a "winning coalition"--e. g., some of Trump's supporters say that because he won with a "working-class coalition," they don't have to worry about suburban college graduates who used to vote Republican.  You can win or lose with any kind of "coalition"--what matters is how many votes you get, not which groups your votes come from.  There may be a germ of truth in the idea that some "coalitions" are better than others--people often tend to think of politics in group terms and may support or oppose a party because they associate it with particular groups--but that's a more subtle point. 

This is an introduction to a comparison that is not all that interesting:  how Democrats did among different groups in the 2016 and 2018 vote for House of Representatives, according to CNN exit polls. 

                              2016               2018         Change
Men                        43%                49%          +6%
Women                   54%                59%          +5%

White                     38%               44%           +6%
Black                      88%               90%           +2%
Latino/a                  67%               69%           +2%
Asian-Am.              65%               77%           +12%
Other                       56%               54%           -2%

White Men              33%               39%            +6%
White Women         43%               49%            +6%

W College Women 49%                59%           +10%
W non-C Women    35%                42%           +7%
W Coll Men            38%                47%           +9%
W non-C Men         27%                32%           +5

White Coll.             44%                53%             +9%
White non-C           31%                37%             +6
Non-W C                71%                77%             +6%
Non-W non-C         77%                76%             -1%

under $30,000         56%                63%             +7%
$30-49,999              55%                57%             +2%
$50-99,999              47%                52%             +5%
$100-199,999          46%                47%             +1%
$200,000+               44%                47%             +3%

Married Men           37%                48%             +11%
Married Women      48%                54%             +6%
unmarried M           49%                54%             +5%
unmarried W          63%                66%             +3%

Veterans                  36%                41%             +5%
non-Vets                  51%                56%             +5%

The Democrats did better among almost all groups, and the gains are usually similar (despite sampling error).  Note that the gains are about the same among men and women--it's easy to think of reasons why women might have swung more strongly against the Republicans than men, but apparently it didn't happen.  There was a somewhat stronger shift among college graduates than non-graduates--that is, the education gap grew.   There are a few other cases where the movements were different--married and unmarried people (maybe*), Asian-Americans and Latinos.  But basically, the story of the election was that the Democrats gained among all sorts of people. 

*The numbers don't fit:  a shift of +5 among unmarried men, +11 among married men, but +6 among men as a whole.  About 60% of men were married in both years.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The empty quarter

Last week Ross Douthat had a column proposing that "that a real center-right majority could be built on economic populism and an approach to national identity that rejects both wokeness and white nationalism."   He asks us to "imagine that [Trump] followed through on Steve Bannon’s boasts about a big infrastructure bill instead of trying for Obamacare repeal . . . tilted his tax cut more toward middle-class families . . . bullying Silicon Valley into inshoring factory jobs . . . made lower Medicare drug prices a signature issue rather than a last-minute pre-election gambit."  His terminology is misleading:  what he's talking about would not be "center-right" but left of center on economics and right of center on "social issues."  However, he raises an interesting question.   In the general public, opinions on economic and social issues are pretty much uncorrelated.  That is, you have a lot of people who are to the left on economics and to the right on social issues, or to the left on social issues and right on economics.  But electoral politics is dominated by a right/right to left/left dimension:  there are no prominent politicians who offer the combination that Douthat wants (and many ordinary people seem to want).  Why do things stay that way?  A left/right vs. right/left alignment seems just as reasonable in principle--maybe even more reasonable (because fewer people would be "cross-pressured" by education and income).

It seems that there are two possible answers.  I offered one last year--that once a pattern is established, it's safer to play to your "base" rather than trying to change things.  If Trump tried to do the things that Douthat talks about, a lot of congressional Republicans would revolt.  Maybe he would win some Democrats over, or the proposals would be so popular that reluctant Republicans would have to go along, but maybe he would fail, lose the trust of Republicans, and look weak.  That's probably more likely, since Democrats wouldn't want to help him.  So why risk it?

 Another possibility is that the left/left vs. right/right dimension has some psychological basis--that the combination of supporting both legal abortion and redistribution toward the working class (for example) is more natural than the combination of opposing legal abortion and supporting redistribution to the working class.  There have been a number of arguments along these lines, all saying that the line of division is something like sympathy for marginalized people vs. support for rules and authority (an example from a few days ago).  It might seem like these are refuted by the lack of correlation between economic and social attitudes.  But you can say that it would be present only among people who think about politics.  The problem is that people who pay attention to politics are likely to pick up the conventions:  if I'm a liberal, I'm supposed to favor legal abortion.  So in order to evaluate the idea that there is a "natural" pattern, you need to consider attitudes that aren't part of normal political debate.

The General Social Survey has a couple of possibilities.  One is "What is your opinion about a married person having sexual  relations with someone other than the marriage partner? [Always wrong, almost always, only sometimes, or not wrong at all].  This isn't a political issue in the sense of something either party proposes legislation on, and there are no obvious partisan or ideological differences in the behavior of prominent politicians.  Another one is closer to a political issue, but still not part of standard partisan debate:  "Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly
disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard, spanking?"

The correlations of opinions about extramarital sex with opinions on some standard political issues, comparing people with and without a college degree (since the GSS doesn't have a good measure of political knowledge or interest).

                                                                                                       Not Grad      Coll Grad
Redistribute from rich to poor (EQWLTH)                                      .003                    .108
Gov't help people with medical costs (HELPSICK)                        .076                    .140
Allow gay man teach in college (COLHOMO)                               .125                    .125
Prayer in schools (PRAYER)                                                           .094                    .192
Abortion if doesn't want more children (ABNOMORE)                 .200                    .297

It has substantially higher correlations among all items (except COLHOMO, where it's the same) among college graduates

The correlations of opinions about spanking with opinions on the same issues, comparing people with and without a college degree:
                                                                                                      Not Grad        Coll Grad
Redistribute from rich to poor (EQWLTH)                                     -.012                   .167
Gov't help people with medical costs (HELPSICK)                        .054                    .189
Allow gay man teach in college (COLHOMO)                               .100                    .120
Prayer in schools (PRAYER)                                                           .139                    .234
Abortion if doesn't want more children (ABNOMORE)                 .050                    .202

For all questions, it's higher among college graduates. 

Note that redistribution goes from essentially zero to comparable to the other questions in both cases.  My interpretation is that there is something to the idea of a psychological affinity among positions on economic and social issues.  Of course, a left/right or right/left combination is not logically inconsistent, but it's less likely to appeal to people who are interested in politics--that is, the people who might be leaders or advocates for a position.  

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Which working class?

I am going to have a post on a column by Ross Douthat about the possibility of "a real center-right majority" based on the working class.  However, it's a little complicated, so here's some background.

Just before the 2010 election, Barack Obama's approval rating had fallen to about 45%, only a little higher than Donald Trump's was just before the 2018 election.  Obama's rating was higher among college graduates (48%) than among non-graduates (44%).  But it was also higher among people with low incomes than among people with high incomes (50% among people who got less than $2,000 a month, 45% among 2-5,000, 45% among 5,000-7,500, and 42% among over 7,500).   Donald Trump got higher approval among people without college degrees (45% vs. 38% among college graduates), but also among people with higher incomes (31%, 40%, 50%, 48% for the income categories given above). 

So who was more popular with the "working class"?   It depends on how you define it.  (Most sociologists would prefer to define class by some combination of income and self-employed vs. works for others, but few surveys ask those questions now).  Or you could bypass the question of defining the working class and just say that Trump is more popular among people with high incomes and low education, and Obama was the other way round. 

For Obama, the gap between rating among more and less educated people grew over the course of his presidency:  when he started it was only a couple of percent, and when he ended it was 64% to 57%.  The income gap may have a little.  For Trump, the education gap has stayed about the same, and the income gap may have grown.   But in both cases, they were pretty stable--Obama's approval rating rose and fell, but when it did, it was by about the same amount among all groups.  (Trump's approval rating has been very steady among all groups). 

[Data from the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center]

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The forgotten men and women

There's been a lot of discussion of people who shifted from voting from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 and some discussion of people who switched from Romney to Clinton.  But there's another group who hasn't gotten much attention--those who switched from Romney or Obama to a minor candidate or write-in.  The share of the vote in 2012 and 2016:

                           2012           2016
Republican         47.2%         45.9%
Democrat           51.0%         47.2%

Libertarian         1.0%           3.3%
Green                 0,4%           1.1%
McMullin           0                 0.5%
Write-in             0.2%           0.8%
Others                0.3%           0.3%

I expect that most of the gain for the Libertarian (Gary Johnson in both years), Evan McMullin, and the write-ins came from people who would normally vote Republican.  Their combined total went from 1.2% in 2012 to 4.6% in 2016, for a gain of 3.4%.   It seems likely that those people are committed voters--otherwise they wouldn't have gone to the polls or would have left the Presidential race blank.  So what they do in 2018 could make a significant difference.  The question is whether they are mostly people who simply would not vote for a Democrat, or people who might vote for a Democrat but not Hillary Clinton, and I haven't seen anything that sheds any light on that.  However, my impression from other data is that negative partisanship has become a strong force.   That suggests that some Republicans who now say that they will vote Democratic this time will switch back at the last minute, and the Democratic gain will be on the smaller side of what has been predicted, giving the Democrats a majority of maybe 225-210 in the House.  But given that Trump has been so prominent in the election, that he's focused exclusively on his "base," and that the base was not that big to start with (a lower share of the vote than Mitt Romney), I'll put the probability of a Democratic majority at over 90%. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Good news or bad news?

Thomas Edsall has a piece in the New York Times in which he discusses research on the relationship between values and political views.  By "values," I don't mean things that get called "values issues," but general views of life as measured by questions that don't have any obvious connection to the political issues of the day.   Edsall talks about two measurements of values, but I will focus on the analysis by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, who compare people with "fixed" and "fluid" worldviews.  (Some people have used "authoritarian" for the same thing, but I think that "fixed" and "fluid" are better terms).  They are measured by four questions about which qualities it was more important for a child to have:  "Independence or respect for elders", "curiosity or good manners", "obedience or self-reliance", and "being considerate or well-behaved".  When the questions were first asked in the American National Election Study (1992), answers had little association with party identification, but in 2016, they had a strong association. 

What I found most interesting was that Edsall assumed that this split by values was bad news for the Democrats.  He says the work raises "a warning flag for the Democratic Party — that the rightward movement in contemporary politics is neither evanescent nor trivial."   But there is a movement towards "fluid" values.  I show the percent who chose the "fluid" side on each question in 2000 and 2016:

                               2000             2016
Indep                     22.5%           26.3%
Curious                 37.6%           35.9%
Self                       40.4%           52.6%
Considerate          63.4%           66.9%

This movement is almost certain to continue, because people with more education are more likely to choose the "fluid" side and average educational levels will continue to increase because of generational replacement.  So like a lot of other splits (ethnicity, urban/rural, education), the tide is running in favor of the Democrats.  But what about now?  Over the four issues, the average is about 40% for the "fluid" answers and 60% for the "fixed."*  Isn't it a problem to be the choice of the minority group rather than the majority group?  Not really.  Suppose we start out with a small group (20%) and a large group (80%).  At first, both are evenly split between parties A and B.  Then something happens and the small group aligns with party A while the large aligns with party B.  Here is one possible result:

                     A                          B
Small          14 (70%)               6   (30%)
Large          28 (35%)             52   (65%)
Total           42                        58

The change has been bad for party A.  Here is another: 

                    A                          B
Small          16 (80%)               4   (20%)
Large          36 (45%)             44   (55%)
Total           52                        48

The change has been good for party A.   It's possible to get a majority even when you're aligned with the minority group and the other side is aligned with the majority group.  In fact, when you think about it, that happens all the time. 

So the growing split by values helps to explain which people voted for Trump, but doesn't explain (at least not directly) why Trump did as well as he did (or as poorly, depending on how you look at it).  It also doesn't explain why he appeared in 2016, rather than at some other time.  In fact, it suggests that the potential support for someone like him is lower than it used to be. 

So why did we get Trump in 2016, rather than some other time?  I proposed an explanation in April 2016, and I still think it's about right. 

*The relative sizes may depend on the exact way the questions are asked.  For example, if the first question had given the "fixed" alternative as "respect for parents," or "respect for authority," it would have measured the same general attitude, but the numbers choosing those options might be different.  But I'll assume that "fluid" values are a minority, since the general point applies even when one group is definitely smaller than the other. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Another random observation

This is something I noticed a while ago, but didn't post on because it isn't one of my usual topics.  I was reminded of it because of discussion of the Electoral College and whether there might be another result that goes against the popular vote.  That did not happen between 1888 (Benjamin Harrison vs. Grover Cleveland) and 2000.  However, it came close to happening in 1916, when a shift of 2,000 votes in California would have given the election to Charles Evans Hughes, who got 46.1% against Woodrow Wilson's 49.2%.  The electorate was much smaller then, so in proportional terms that would be equal to about 15,000 votes today, which is still not many.  There was also the election of 1948, when Strom Thurmond ran.  He had no chance of winning--his goal was to prevent either Truman or Dewey from winning a majority, so that the election would go to the House of Representatives and the south could make the candidates renounce any civil rights proposals as the condition of a deal.   As it happened, Truman won both the popular and electoral vote by solid margins (49.6% to 46.1% and 303 to 189), but California and Ohio were very close.  A shift of 9,000 votes in California and 4,000 in Ohio would have given Dewey both states, and would have left Truman with 253 electoral votes, short of the 266 then needed to win.   That would be equal to about 36,000 votes in today's terms.

So part of the reason that the Electoral College matched the popular vote for over a century was just luck.  And as these examples (and Trump vs. Clinton) show, there is a significant chance of discrepancy even when the popular vote is not all that close.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

America first?

At one of his recent rallies, Donald Trump said that he was a nationalist:  "Really, we’re not supposed to use that word.  You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, O.K.? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist! Use that word! Use that word!"  A New York Times story said that "Mr. Trump has enthusiastically embraced words and ideas that his predecessors shied away from," also mentioning "America First," which he has used repeatedly. 

Trump clearly thinks that the terms are popular among the general public, which seems plausible, but is it true?  I looked for survey questions about "nationalist" or "nationalism" but didn't find anything useful (most of the mentions involved references to "Nationalist China").  Then I tried "America first."  I didn't find anything that asked for reactions to that as a slogan, but there was an interesting pair of questions from September 1946 (a couple of months after Trump was born).  The first was:

"Which of these statements do you think best describes what the men who have been in charge of our relations with foreign countries in the past ten years have been trying to do?...
1. They have nearly always tried to help the rest of the world even if what they did wasn't always the best thing for America.
2. They have tried to help the rest of the world and America at the same time, believing that what was the best thing for the world was the best thing for America.
3. They have looked out for America first but at the same time have tried not to do anything that hurt the rest of the world too much.
4. They have tried to look out for America first, last, and all the time, and have not cared too much what happened to the rest of the world."

The second was:  "Which of these statements best describes what you think we should try to do now and in the future," choosing from the same answers.

                                        Have tried                  Should
Help world                         20%                         4%
Both                                    35%                       33%
America first                       25%                       44%
America always                     4%                         9%
DK                                      15%                        11%

There was a pretty substantial difference between what people thought that leaders had been doing and what they thought they should have done.  Broken down by education, there was not much difference in beliefs about what had been done, but a pretty substantial difference in beliefs about what should be done.
                     World            Both            First         Always          DK
No HS            3%                21%             41%         12%             22%
HS                  4%                35%             48%           7%               6%
College           5%                47%             40%           5%               2%

The two extreme positions were not very popular among any group, and the "America first, but" position was about equally popular among all of them.  Support for "best for the world is best for America" increased substantially with education.

Although the question has never been repeated, I think it has implication for today.  The idea that the government should look after America first has a lot of popular appeal, especially among less educated people.  In 1946, a lot of people would have remembered pre-war isolationism and its "America First" slogan, and the experience of the war might have made them feel positive about international cooperation.  Nevertheless, there was more support for "America first," than "what's best for the world is best for America."

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Random observation

One of the questions in the General Social Survey is:  "If you were to get enough money to live as comfortably as you would like for the rest of your life, would you continue to work or would you stop working?"  While looking for something else in the GSS the other day, I noticed this question and wondered if there was any trend.   One thing led to another, and here are trends by educational level (college graduate or not):

The likely reason that more educated people would be less likely to stop working is that they have more satisfying jobs.   Job satisfaction has stayed about the same in both groups over the whole period, so that doesn't account for the difference in trends.  On the other side, more educated people presumably have more interests outside of work--maybe that gap has grown, although I'm not sure why it would.  Or maybe it reflects changes in the sense of moral obligation to work?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The fault is not in other democracies, but in ourselves

I had a post almost two years ago about the idea that support for democracy was declining.  That started as an example for a class I was teaching, and I'm teaching the same class now, so I was going to reuse it.  But on looking back it didn't seem very clear, so hear is a new version. 

I looked at seven well-established democracies.  The basic question is:  "Various types of political systems are described below. Please think about each choice in terms of governing this country and indicate if you think that it would be a very good, fairly good, fairly bad or very bad way of governing [your nation]:"

Here are the average ratings for "having a democratic political system"

There is no general pattern:  ratings increase in Spain and Australia, but decline in Japan and the United States.  At the beginning, Americans are third out of seven nations in their rating of democracy; at the end, we are eighth out of eight. 

Here are the average ratings for "having the army rule": 

The United States stands out here:  there has been a pretty steady increase.  In 1996, we were part of a group of three nations in the middle; in 2012, we had the most positive rating.  Having the army rule still gets a much lower rating than a democratic political system, but the gap has clearly narrowed.  This is unique to the United States--there is no clear trend in any of the other countries. 

[Data from the World Values Survey]

Friday, October 12, 2018

A new identity?

In my last post, I talked about perceptions of discrimination against blacks and whites.  I combined the two questions to get the numbers who said that there was more discrimination against whites, more against blacks, and equal amounts.   If you go back to the individual questions, which were asked in 2015:

Against blacks:

                    A lot       some    only a little   none at all
Whites             28%       45%      19%            6%
Blacks              63%      28%         7%           1%

Against whites:

Whites              9%       37%         32%       21%
Blacks              6%       27%         32%       30%

There is a big difference between blacks and whites in how much discrimination they see against blacks.  The difference in how much discrimination they see about whites is much smaller--whites see a little more, but not much.  For example, almost 80% of whites think that there is some discrimination against whites--but 70% of blacks think that there is some discrimination against whites.

The same question was asked in 2005.  At that time, the results were:

Against blacks:

                    A lot       some    only a little   none at all
Whites             22%       54%      14%            8%
Blacks              52%      34%         7%           5%

Against whites:

Whites              6%       39%         24%       27%
Blacks              7%       34%         20%       33%

The same pattern held then.  Between 2005 and 2015, perceptions changed a little.  Whites shfted from seeing "none at all" to "only a little" against themselves and and more saw "some" discrimination against blacks, with a decline in all other categories.  The number of blacks seeing "a lot" of discrimination against themselves grew from 52 to 63%.  However, nothing very dramatic.

I read a piece in the New York Times the other day (published a couple of months ago, but I missed it then), which said that there was "growing self-recognition among white people, prodded into being by demographic change and broader conversations about how racial identity works," which "could certainly lead toward self-acceptance and harmony . . . But we’re also staring at copious evidence of this self-recognition swinging in the other direction. . . . Some of us fixate on maintaining racial dominance, conjuring ethnonationalist states or a magical immigration formula that somehow imports half of Scandinavia. A majority of white Americans currently believe that their own race is discriminated against. News accounts fill with white resentment and torch-lit white-power marches. ...."  That would mean that white opinion was polarizing--there is no sign that is happening.  As I ,said last time, only a small minority of whites think there's more discrimination against whites than blacks--I haven't seen any survey results that would give an estimate of the number of "white nationalists," but I'm confident that it's even smaller.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What's the problem?

I saw a story in the New York Times the other day which reported on polls finding relatively tolerant attitudes towards immigrants and then quoted one of their reporters as saying she "had not expected voters to be quite so tolerant. . . since polls had previously found 'much higher support for people saying discrimination against whites had become as big of a problem as that against blacks and other minorities.'"  That reminded me that I had seen a number of stories mentioning that question .  The usual interpretation is summed up in this title "Why white people think they're the real victims of racism."  I had also noticed something that seemed to cast doubt on that interpretation.    In a 2012 survey, 53% of whites agreed with the statement that "today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities," but so did 27% of blacks.  So if we say that most white people think they are the real victims of racism, we have to say that 27% of blacks think so too.   That doesn't seem credible.

My interpretation is that the "yes" answers combined two kinds of people--those who think that whites are the real victims and those who think that there's a lot of discrimination against all kinds of people.  The second view could represent general cynicism or a kind of racial solidarity.  I couldn't think of any way to test the interpretations, so I looked for a survey that asked separately about discrimination against blacks and whites.  I found a recent one I had not seen before, from 2015.  The exact question was "now please tell me how much discrimination there is against each of these groups in our society today. How about ****? Would you say there is a lot of discrimination, some, only a little, or none at all?"  They asked about "African Americans" and "White Americans," so you can compare the responses to see how many people said there was more against African Americans, how many said it was equal, and how many said whites.  The results:
                     More vs. W        Equal       More vs.  AA
Whites                11%                39%           48%
Blacks                  2%                21%            72%

So not many whites think that they face more discrimination than blacks do.  There are a lot of people who think discrimination against blacks and whites is about equal--more among whites, but a significant number even among blacks.  Is that because they think that neither is discriminated against, or both are?  And does it matter?  I will discuss that in my next post.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


For a long time, going back to at least the 1950s, there seemed to be a growth in tolerance of people with unpopular opinions.  Recently there have been some claims that things are moving in the other direction.  Often these are about particular kinds of people, like liberals, millenials, or college students, but I'll start with people in general.  The General Social Survey has a series of questions going back to the 1970s about whether various kinds of people should be allowed to "make a speech in your community," "teach in a college or university," and if their books should be removed from your public library.   It asks about five types of people:  a Communist, "a man who admits that he is a homosexual," "a person who advocates doing away with elections and letting the military run the country" (or militarist for short), "a person who believes that blacks are genetically inferior" (racist),  and "a person who is against all churches and religion" (atheist).   I computed a score of tolerance for each one by adding the three items (which were all yes/no).  The means:

Support for the rights of a type of person depends on two things:  how you feel about what they say or do and how committed you are to the general principle of tolerance.  The more rapid increase for the "man who admits that he is a homosexual" can plausibly be explained by a trend towards acceptance of gays and lesbians.  On the other side, the lack of an increase for the racist can be explained by a trend toward stronger disapproval of those views.  The other three all have very similar upward trends.  Apart from the difference in trends, the year-to-year changes are very similar.  I thought there might be some distinctive movements at least for the Communist, as people might have seen it as less of a threat after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but there's no evidence of that.  The period 2004-10 saw a plateau or slight decline in tolerance, but then it started up again through 2016.  So unless you think that people happen to have become more sympathetic to Communists, militarists, and opponents of religion, it seems that there has been and still is a fairly steady growth in support for the principle of toleration.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Making a difference

I've written several times about opinion on the minimum wage.  Surveys almost always find strong support for increasing it.  For example, a poll in January 2014 asked "As you may know, the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage to $10.10?"  72% were in favor and 26% opposed.  Not many surveys have asked about the possibility of lowering it, but there was one at about the same time (December 2013):  "The federal minimum wage is now $7.25. Do you think the federal minimum wage should be raised, lowered, or should it remain the same?"  Including that option didn't make any discernible difference--71% said raised, 25% remain the same, and 2% lowered.  Some surveys have raised the possibility that an increase in the minimum wage would reduce employment, but that doesn't reduce support by much.  An example from December 2013:  "Some people say the minimum wage should be raised to help low-income workers get by. Others say raising the minimum wage will lead some businesses to cut jobs. Given these arguments, do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?"  66% were strongly or somewhat in favor, 31% strongly or somewhat opposed.

But a Fox News poll in January 2014 included another argument:  "As you may know, the federal government sets the national minimum wage--the lowest rate in dollars per hour that most workers should be paid--which is now set at seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour. Which of the following comes closest to your view on how the federal government should handle the minimum wage?...The government should raise the minimum wage because it would help lots of people pay their bills. The government should not raise the minimum wage because it would cause businesses to cut jobs. There shouldn't be a minimum wage because government shouldn't tell businesses what to pay their employees."  On this question 56% were in favor of raising it, 25% said it should stay the same, and 15% said there shouldn't be a minimum wage.  The question was repeated in September 2014 and only 49% favored an increase, with 21% saying there shouldn't be a minimum wage.  So the point about principle apparently had a lot more impact than the point about job loss.  It's also interesting that including it didn't just move people from saying it should not be increased to saying it should be abolished--it cut into the number supporting an increase.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Not sure I believe this

"How serious a problem do you think racial discrimination against blacks is in this country--a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious?":  This question was first asked in October 1995 and repeated a number of times, most recently in September 2016.  The means, with "very serious" counted as 4, "somewhat" as 3, "not too" as 2, and "not at all" as 1:

There is a decline between 1995-6 and 2008-10, but then an increase.  The lowest value was in November 2008, just about the time that Barack Obama was elected president.  As the title suggests, I'm not sure I believe that there really was a large increase between 2010 and 2015-6.  It seems that answers to this question might be influenced by context--if you ask the question after questions about various kinds of racial inequality, ratings of seriousness would be higher than if it's part of a serious of miscellaneous questions.  Perhaps the surveys were different in this respect.  However, the possibility of a shift is interesting, since most recent commentary on racial attitudes has emphasized the lack of change--for example, a column by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times today said that Obama's health care proposals "hit the wall that often confronts Democratic policymakers: race" and drew parallels to the late 1960s. 

If there was a change between 2010 and 2015, and a further change between 2015 and 2016, why did it happen?  The most obvious possibility would be the publicity given to police violence against blacks, which in many cases was supported by video evidence.  Some people argue that this led to a backlash, with whites rallying around police, but maybe it had a straightforward effect--some people were persuaded that there was a real problem.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Very dishonest people

I had posts a couple of weeks ago about views of the "honesty and ethical standards" in various occupations.  The figures for "college teachers" had an unusual pattern, rising from the 1970s until about 2000 and then declining.  Breakdowns by party ID are available for some years and shown in this graph:

The average rating from Democrats rose after 2000, while the average rating among Republicans fell.  There was only a small gap in average ratings in the 1990s, but by 2012 Democrats rated the honesty and ethical standards of college teachers substantially higher. 

I looked at two other occupations for comparison.  I didn't have time to do all years, so I just took 1990, 2000, and 2012.  For journalists:

                R         D        Diff.
1990     3.09     3.28       0.19
2000     2.66     3.15       0.49
2012     2.57     3.21       0.64

Also divergence, although it grew more in the 1990s--most of the divergence on college teachers was after 2000. 

For business executives:

               R         D
1990     3.19    3.10      -0.09
2000     3.18    3.03      -0.15
2012     3.03    2.81      -0.22

Maybe a slight divergence, but nothing dramatic.  The substantial changes are for two groups that are favorite targets for conservatives.  It's also worth noting that there are obvious reasons that the ratings of executives would have declined between 2000 and 2012, just because of the state of the economy.  However, that doesn't apply to college teachers--the economy has ups and downs, but the amount and quality of what professors do doesn't change much from year to year.  So my guess is that conservative media outlets just started running more stories about outrages on college campuses, and ratings among Republicans declined as a result.  The rise among Democrats might have been a reaction to that, but I think it's more likely to be a continuation of the previous upward trend (which I would attribute to more people having attended college).   

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, September 9, 2018


In 1992, a poll asked "In your view, are most people who receive welfare payments genuinely in need of help or are they taking advantage of the system?"  The question was asked several times over the next couple of years, and then there was a long gap before it was asked in 2012, and then in 2016 and 2017.  The figure shows percent saying "genuinely in need" minus percent saying "taking advantage."

Views are considerably more favorable in recent years--in fact, the April 2017 survey is the first one in which more than half chose "genuinely in need."  Why the change?  Several possibilities occur to me:
1.  Welfare may be less strongly associated with race in the public mind.  At one time, blacks were overrepresented in news stories on poverty and welfare.  I don't know about more recent research, but it seems possible that news organizations became more aware of this and made efforts to avoid it.  My impression is that there is more attention to small-town and rural (that is, mostly white) poverty than there used to be.  If there has been a change in media coverage, public perceptions might have followed. 
2.  Animosity to blacks is declining, so even if welfare is still associated with race, people may not be as bothered by the idea that the government is spending to help blacks.  The idea that there has been real decline in anti-black prejudice is not popular in sociology now, but there's a lot of evidence for it.
3.  It may be a result of changes in anti-poverty programs.  There's been a big growth in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which are popular, rather than AFDC/TANF, which are not.  Also, my guess is that welfare programs are administered more efficiently now--one thing that computers are good for is keeping track of people and money.

1.  See this post for a related question.
2.  I noticed a poll from 2013 which showed 30% "genuinely in need" and 56% "taking advantage"--more like the 1990s than the other surveys from the 2010s.  But on reading the fine print, I found that it was a sample of Hispanics only.  Hispanics have more negative views of welfare than non-Hispanics?  Apparently yes--I checked one of the other recent surveys and it was the case there.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Monday, September 3, 2018

Who's the problem? (part 3)

   Changes in average ratings of the "honesty and ethical standards" of more occupations.  First, some professions:

Ratings of the clergy declined over most of the period, and ratings for lawyers might have declined a little.  Engineers increased, and there was no clear change for accountants.
    Ratings for professions related to medicine rose;

Then some occupations that don't fit into any of the previous categories.  They generally increased.

Finally, a group that's of particular interest to me.  There's a unique pattern for college teachers:  an increase until about 2000 and then a decline, with a big drop between 2012 and 2016.  Data for elementary and high school teachers don't begin until about 2000, but both of them seem to have a declining trend since then. 

That's a lot of data.  What conclusions can be drawn?  Here's what I notice:

   1.   There are more upward than downward trends.  And the trends are upward for almost all of the "ordinary" occupations--ones that are not in the news or the subject of political controversy.   General trust in people has been declining since the 1970s, and you might think that this would lead to a declining trust in most occupations.  But this is not what has happened.
   2.  Almost all of them rose in 2001.  Of the 21 occupations which were included in 2000 and 2001, 19 had increased, and the two declines were very small.  This was presumably because the 9/11 attacks (the 2001 survey was taken in late November) created more general solidarity.  I thought that the increases might be larger for occupations that could be seen as closer to the center of American life, but there was no obvious pattern.
  3.  There are differences among the political occupations.  Members of Congress and Senators declined a lot after 2000, governors and state officeholders declined by a smaller amount, and local officeholders didn't decline at all.   That is, people are making distinctions, at least to some extent:  turning against congress more than against "government" or "politics" in general.
4.  The decline for all types of journalists is pretty closely.  I thought it might track views of politicians (especially Congress) more closely--that is, that journalists would be blamed when they brought bad news.  But there's not much sign of that.

I also have some thoughts about the recent decline for college teachers, which I will discuss in a future post. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Who's the problem (part 2)

Here are graphs showing changes in the average rating of the "honesty and ethical standards" in various occupations.  There were a lot of them, so I divided them into groups.  First, politics:

Until 200, there was little or no trend for any of them.  Since 2000, Senators and members of Congress have dropped substantially, governors and state officials have dropped by a more moderate amount, and local officeholders have stayed about the same. 

Then there are occupations that I classed as "related to politics":  lobbyists and several different types of journalists. 

For the journalists, it seems to be a pretty steady downward trend since the 1970s.  Lobbyists are rated much lower, and there is no change over the decade for which the question has been asked. 

Then some business occupations:

Bankers and stockbrokers declined in 2008 and have not recovered.  Business executives have a more steady downward trend.  But people in advertising, HMO managers, and nursing home operators show no change or maybe an increase.  Around 1980, stockbrokers were rated much higher than people in advertising--now they are about the same. 

Then justice and the military: 

They have only asked about judges and the military since about 2000--judges have declined a bit, while military officers have stayed about the same.  For police, there is an upward trend until about 2000 and little change since then.  Two individual years stand out--one is 2001, when a number of occupations had a jump, which was probably a consequence of 9/11 (the survey was taken in December).  The other is 2014, which was when the Michael Brown shooting and protests in Ferguson, Mo. took place. 

That's a lot of data, but there's more, so I will save the rest of it for my next post. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Who's the problem? (part 1)

Some people argue that people are unhappy with the state of American economy and society because of things like slow economic growth and rising inequality.  I have had several posts arguing against that idea--this is the most recent and this is another one.  People are not especially discontented with their economic situation, or the state of the nation, or life in general.  However, confidence in most American institutions has declined since the 1970s.  Is that because people have become more negative about elites, or certain elites, or people in general?

Since the 1970s, the Gallup Poll has asked "Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, low or very low? How about.."  The list of occupations changes--forty-three different ones have been included, some only once but others as many as 35 times.  They include some true elites (e. g., Senators), some professions that cover a wide range (e. g., lawyers, clergy), and some ordinary jobs (e. g., auto mechanics).  There's a lot of information there, so I'll break my discussion into several parts.  One of the first thing I did was to fit a time trend to each occupation.  27 were positive (that is, in the direction of higher honesty and ethics), and 10 of those were statistically significant at the 5% level.  Fourteen were negative, and ten of those were statistically significant.  (Two of them were asked just once, so no trend could be estimated).  The biggest statistically significant upward trends were:  nursing home operators, auto mechanics, funeral home operators, labor union leaders, and medical doctors.  That's a diverse group--I can't think of anything that they have in common.  The largest statistically significant declines were state governors, stockbrokers, members of Congress, TV reporters, and bankers.  Those could all be regarded as elite occupations.   

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Ideology and morality

About a week ago, Donald Trump advised people to "study the late Senator Joseph McCarthy."  It turns out that I have been thinking about Joe McCarthy, although not quite for the reasons Trump says we should.  I was looking at an essay by Daniel Bell, originally published in 1953 and reprinted in The End of Ideology (1960).  In it, he said "the tendency to convert concrete issues into ideological problems, to invest them with moral color and high emotional charge, is to invite conflicts which can only damage a society.  ... It has been one of the glories of the United States that politics has always been a pragmatic give-and-take rather than a series of wars-to-the-death."  The second sentence reflects a conventional view of American politics, but on reflection it doesn't seem convincing.  Of course, there has been a lot of pragmatic give and take, but compared to other countries Americans seem to have had a tendency to invest issues with "moral color and high emotional charge."  For example, alcohol had been widely used in American society for centuries, but was completely banned in 1920.  I don't think anything like this happened elsewhere--there was a strong temperance movement in Britain, but it never came close to achieving prohibition, even thought that would just have taken an ordinary act of parliament, while in the United States it required a constitutional amendment.  A lot of people must have felt very strongly to devote that much effort to the cause and not to be satisfied with anything less than complete prohibition. 

This example shows a problem with Bell's first sentence.  An issue can have moral and emotional charge without being part of an ideology:  that is, "an all-inclusive system of comprehensive reality" (quoting Bell again, this time "The End of Ideology in the West").  Prohibition wasn't an ideology like socialism--it was a position on one issue.  I happened to run across a 1974 article by Samuel Huntington which made this distinction, observing that "highly systematized ideologies . . . have been notably absent from the American scene.  But it is a mistake to move from this truth to the assumption that political ideals have played a less important role in the United States than in Europe. . . . American politics has been characterized by less sophisticated political theory and more intense political beliefs than most other societies."

Bell concluded his essay on McCarthy by suggesting that the conflict would pass pretty quickly.  He was right about that.  In contrast, for at least the last decade the United States has been repeating the same conflicts, like those over immigration and health care, without coming closer to a resolution.   I wonder if what has made recent conflicts so enduring is that the traditional "moral color" of American politics has come to be combined with ideology. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

It's the rich wot gets the gravy

"If ______ is elected President, do you think the policies of his/her administration will favor the rich, favor the middle class, favor the poor, or will they treat all groups the same?"

                                                   Rich          Middle         Poor      Same      DK
Aug 2007   John Edwards            30%          24%            9%         18%      19%
Mar 2008   Hillary Clinton           23%          29%          13%         28%       7%
Mar 2008   Barack Obama           13%          30%           18%        33%        6%
Mar 2008   John McCain              53%          16%           0             23%        8%
Oct  2008   McCain                       59%          11%            3%        21%         6%
Oct  2008   Obama                          8%          38%           22%       24%         8%
Jul   2012   Mitt Romney               53%          11%             2%       30%         4%
Sep  2012  Obama                          12%          26%          22%        30%       10%
Sep  2012  Romney                        53%            8%            1%        33%          6%
Sep  2012  Obama                            9%           27%          31%       26%          7%
Oct  2016   Donald Trump             57%           14%            1%       27%          1%
Oct  2016   Clinton                         37%           24%          14%       22%          3%

The figures for the Republicans--McCain, Romney, and Trump--are just about the same, with between 53 and 59 percent saying their policies would favor the rich, but there are substantial differences among the Democrats.  With Obama, between 9 and 13 percent said his policies would favor the rich; with Hillary Clinton, it was 23% in 2008 and 37% in 2016.  I had a post about a similar question that was asked in 2008 and June-July 2016, which also showed that McCain and Trump were just about the same but that Clinton was substantially different from Obama.  I said "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...."  We can rule the second one out given the results of the October 2016 survey (it was taken less than two weeks before the election).  However, it wasn't completely fixed--it was there in 2008 and stronger in 2016. 

The pattern doesn't fit the way that the different candidates have usually been depicted in the media.   In 2008, Clinton was usually presented as down-to-earth and Obama as a bit of an elitist (sometimes even "professorial".  And there have been many stories contrasting the conventional businessman Romney with the "populist" Trump, who sometimes talked about an infrastructure program or closing tax loopholes that benefited "the hedge fund guys." 

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]