Monday, December 31, 2018

The seventh day of Christmas

My last post talked about the declining optimism about the future of today's youth among Republicans during Obama's time in office.  I was looking at the last survey for which individual-level data were available (December 2012) to see if I could find anything that shed light on it.  That survey had a number of questions about expectations for the next year, some of which go back a long way.  One of them was whether you thought the coming year would be "a year when America will increase its power in the world, a year when American power will decline."  Ultimately, it would be interesting to look at a breakdown by party, but here are the overall numbers:

Expectations in 2012 (ie expectations of 2013) were almost the most pessimistic ever, trailing only 1973.  Expectations in 2017 (ie expectations of 2018) were more optimistic, but still evenly split (49% to 49%).   As far as you can tell given the missing years, we seem to be in the most sustained low since the data began.   I was surprised to see that expectations bounced back strongly in the late 1970s--in 1979, 58% expected American influence to grow in 1980, only 30% to decline.  

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The sixth day of Christmas

Last April, I had a post about a question on the chance that "today's youth will have a better life than their parents."  At that time, the last time the question had been asked was June 2016 and the last time for which a breakdown by party was available was December 2012, and I wanted to see if there were any updates.  I found that it was asked again in March 2018, and that the Gallup Poll gives breakdowns by party for all surveys since 2008.    Here is a graph of the percent saying very or somewhat likely from 2008-18:

Republican (red) opinions became more optimistic between 2016 and 2018, and Democratic (blue) opinions became more pessimistic, but the change among Republicans was more than twice as big as the change among Democrats (+29 vs. -13).  In fact, opinions among Democrats didn't change much over the whole period, but opinions among Republicans did.  And as I noted in last year's post, opinions among Republicans kept getting more pessimistic after economic conditions started improving--they were more negative in June 2016 (4.9% unemployment) than they had been in January 2010 (9.8% unemployment). 

Adding the earlier years for which I can get breakdowns by party:

Up through 2008, the biggest gap between  the views of Democrats and Republicans was 12 points.  Under Obama, it grew to 23 points in 2011, then 30 in 2012 and 2013, and 27 in 2016.  Why did opinions diverge so much in those years?  It seems clear that the answer must involve Republicans, since they are the ones whose opinions changed the most.  I think it has to do with the nature of the criticism of Obama from Republican opinion leaders--not just the usual claims that Democratic policies would cost a lot and be ineffective, but that they were part of something larger and more sinister and that we were running out of time to stop it. 

I think this sheds light on why Donald Trump was able to easily defeat what people had thought was a strong field of Republican candidates.  All kinds of prominent Republicans had been saying that the policies of the Obama administration were going to destroy America and had to be stopped.  So Republican voters went for someone who seemed like he was ready to do whatever it took, rather than for people who'd said something had to be done and then been unable to do it. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The fifth day of Christmas

"In general, do you think the criminal justice system in the United States is biased in favor of blacks, or is it biased against blacks, or does it generally give blacks fair treatment?"

                Favor   Against   Fair
July 1994        6%    25%       56%
June 1995        5%    32%       53%
Sept 1995       10%    38%       41%
Oct  1995        6%    33%       52%
Feb  2000        2%    43%       43%
Jan  2007        2%    37%       49%
Aug  2013        5%    35%       43%
July 2015        5%    49%       40%
Sept 2017        8%    47%       36%

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, December 28, 2018

The fourth day of Christmas

                         Same       Not well       Badly
July 1963            61%         23%            3%
Feb 1964             52%         24%           5%
Apr 1965             65%         18%           2%
June 1967            73%         18%           2%
July 1967             72%         15%           2%
May 1968            70%         17%           3%
July 1978             65%         18%           4%
May 1980            65%          19%          4%
Dec 1980             63%          20%          5%
Jan 1987              61%          24%          4%
June 1990            63%          20%          3%
Jan 1997              72%          18%          3%
Sept 1999            69%          23%          3%
March 2001         64%          24%          3%
Feb 2018              53%         38%          8%

Not much change until the one in 2018.  That had a different kind of sample: "interviews were conducted among participants in AmeriSpeak, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the national US adult population."  Hopefully there are some questions on which the AmeriSpeak panel can be compared to conventional surveys, because if it's real, the 2001 to 2018 change seems important.  By the way, the question was asked of both blacks and whites.  Black responses were broken out in a couple of cases, and were about 40% "same as whites", 40% "not very well," and 10%-15% "badly."

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The third day of Christmas

"Do you think that global warming will pose a threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime?"

                       Yes             No
Nov 1997       25%           69%
Mar 2001       31%           66%
Mar 2002       33%           65%
Jun  2005       33%           66%
Mar 2006       35%           62%
Mar 2008       40%           58%
Mar 2009       38%           60%
Mar 2010       32%           67%
Mar 2012       38%           61%
Mar 2013       34%           64%
Mar 2014       36%           64%
Mar 2015       37%           62%
Mar 2016       41%           57%
Mar 2017       42%           57%
Mar 2018       45%           54%

or as a figure:

[data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The second day of Christmas

"Do you think most companies try to pay higher wages as they prosper, or do you think they have to be forced to pay higher wages?}

                             Try to pay              Forced
April 1948             36%                          55%
Jan 1951                36%                          55%
Jan 1953                36%                          54%
Nov 1953              38%                          52%
Jan 1955                38%                         50%
Nov 1958              31%                          56%
Feb 1960               37%                          45%
Dec 1961              36%                          47%
Feb 1964              36%                           52%
Nov 1965             36%                           52%

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The first day of Christmas

I have a number of ideas for posts or bits of information that seem worth preserving, so I'm going to post one a day.  I'm not sure if there are enough for all twelve days of Christmas, but I should get through at least six or so.  Some of them will just be data with little or no comment, but I'll do a longer one for the first day.

A number of people have said that religion and politics are substitutes--when people lose faith in religion, they turn to politics for a sense of meaning.  More specifically, they turn to extremist politics.  I was reminded of that this morning when David Brooks gave his list of the best essays of the year, which included one by Andrew Sullivan that appeared a few weeks ago.  He says that religious faith is declining in America, and as a result:

". . . what happens is illiberal politics. The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. . . like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world."

"Now look at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left . . . . They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided."

The logic of the idea that a decline of religious faith leads to an increase in political fanaticism doesn't seem convincing to me.  But I'll focus on something where you can get data--does Trump have an unusually enthusiastic "base"?  Since the early 1950s, the Gallup Poll has asked people to rate various people and things on a scale of -5 to 5 (with no zero).  The question initially talked about "like very much" and "dislike very much," but during the 1980s and 1990s switched to "very favorable opinion" and "very unfavorable opinion."  (I didn't compare systematically, but it didn't seem like the change in question wording affected ratings).   They have asked it about the major party presidential candidates shortly before every election starting in 1956, except 1996 and 2000.  In 2016, Donald Trump set a record for the largest number of unfavorable ratings, and Hillary Clinton also broke the previous record, which was held by Barry Goldwater in 1964.  The figure shows the percent favorable minus unfavorable ratings.  There was a downward trend from 1956 to 2012, and then a substantial drop in 2016.

But what about the intensity of Trump's support?  11 percent gave him a plus five.  That was the same as Hillary Clinton, and worse than Mitt Romney in 2012 (15%).  In fact, it was the lowest ever except for Goldwater (10%).  Maybe Trump has a larger core of truly fanatical supporters than previous candidates, but they are not a large share of the people who voted for him.

There is also a change that doesn't show up in the figures above, which can be seen by considering the 2008 election.  Barack Obama had 62% favorable and 35% unfavorable, just about the same as Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Obama had more +5 ratings than Reagan (23% to 14%) but also more -5 (18% to 13%).   McCain had 12 percent +5 and 16% -5, which were exactly the same as what George McGovern got in 1972, even though McGovern was considerably worse in terms of the overall balance of positive and negative ratings. 

The point is that the number of +5 ratings has been declining and the number of -5 ratings has been increasing even more than you would expect from the balance of positives and negatives.  Obama's 23% of +5 ratings was the highest since Reagan in 1984--but well below what most candidates got into the 1970s--even Adlai Stevenson got a +5 rating from 23%.  And in 2012, 20% gave Obama a -5, almost equal to Barry Goldwater in 1964 (21%). 

So what is rising is not enthusiastic support for one's own side, but strong dislike or fear of the other side. 

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Friday, December 21, 2018

Why is there no populism in the United States?

There have been a lot of stories saying that the "yellow vest" movement, Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump are all examples of populism.  For example, Ross Douthat says "the populists theoretically hold the White House, under a president who promised to be a traitor to his class. . . [but] his administration’s policy agenda has been steered by the Republican Party’s business elite rather than by the voters who elected him."  Actually, the voters who elected Trump were pretty much the same people who voted for Mitt Romney, and they got the policies that they presumably wanted--tax cuts and less regulation of business.   I've had several posts pointing out that people didn't see Trump as different from other Republicans in terms of caring about the middle class or "people like you," but here is one more:

Who do you think would do more to advance the interests of ......

                                                 2012                    2016
D                                                24%                    25%
R                                                65%                    65%
Both/Neither, DK                      11%                     10%

Middle Class

D                                                51%                    50%
R                                                42%                    40%
Both/Neither, DK                        7%                     11%

Working Class

D                                                                            51%
R                                                                            41%
Both/Neither, DK                                                     8%

That is, in class terms people saw the Clinton/Trump choice as just like the Obama/Romney choice:  by a large margin, they thought that the Republican candidate would do more for wealthy people, and by a smaller margin they thought the Democrat would do more for the middle class (they didn't ask about the working class in 2012, but Clinton had the edge in advancing the interests of the working class in 2016).  Trump did better among less educated voters than Romney had, but there is no sign that it's because they expected him to pay particular attention to the working and middle classes. 

In most European nations, there is a strong consensus among political elites--left of center on social issues right of center on economics, and in favor of the European Union (including the "ever-closer union" goal).  More exactly, the economic consensus involves concern about budget deficits, reducing labor market regulation, and limiting the growth of "entitlements."  These principles get support from the mainstream parties of both the left and the right, but they are not all that popular with the public.  Populist movements arise in opposition to this consensus, but they suffer from a lack of capable leadership, so they haven't been effective. 

In the United States, there is not a consensus among political elites:  it makes a difference which party wins.  As a result, you don't get populist movements of general opposition to the elite--political energy is channeled into partisan conflict.   This is related to my previous post, which was about the tax-limitation movement of the 1970s.   At that time, there was more of an elite consensus--this was the time of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's "professionalization of reform."  Some of the reforms were popular (like environmental protection) but some weren't (the stronger forms of affirmative action), and the increase in taxes needed to pay for new programs definitely wasn't.   The result was movements like Proposition 13 and the anti-busing movement.  The Republicans absorbed their influence and shifted to the right, so the ideological gap between the parties increased.  So the underlying difference is that American parties have been more open to "permeation" than European ones have been. 

Ironically, in one sense the results have been similar.  European political elites have lost support because they have resisted the influence of popular opinion.  American political elites have lost support because of political conflict. 

PS:  Fareed Zakaria had a column today in which he offered what he regarded as reasons for optimism about developments in Europe.  I would summarize it by saying he thinks that European political elites have ignored popular opinion in the past and will be able to do it again.  A few quotes:  "[Macron] has a five-year term, his party controls the legislature, and most analysts agree that his reforms are inevitable if France is to compete for investment and generate growth. . . . In Italy, the new coalition government had introduced a populist budget that promised a universal basic income and early retirement, only to meet the steely opposition of the E.U. And it was the populists who blinked. . . [in Britain] the basic story is that every time the country comes close to actual Brexit, it pulls back, appalled by the costs."

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Fifty million Frenchmen

Fareed Zakaria has a column on the "yellow vest" protests in France.  He suggests that they involve two divisions:  the left and right against the center, and rural areas versus cities.  He links to a report from the French survey firm IFOP which finds that "nearly 90 percent of people who back the major far-left and far-right parties view the movement favorably, compared with only 23 percent of people in President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party."   That's true, but he doesn't mention that 76% of people who identify with the traditional mainstream left party, the Socialists, and 72% of people who identify with the traditional mainstream conservative party, the Republicans, have favorable views.  72% of the people who don't identify with any party also have favorable views.   Macron's party was founded in 2016 as a vehicle for his Presidential bid, so supporters of his party are essentially equivalent to people who support him, and they aren't very numerous now.  It's not surprising that they don't have favorable views of the movement, and when you set them aside the striking thing support is uniformly high.  The IFOP report also distinguishes between the Paris metropolitan area, urban areas in the provinces, and rural areas:  the percentages with favorable views are 66, 71, and 78.   Although support is higher in rural areas, I would not call that a big difference.  It also gives a breakdown by occupation:  at least 65% of every occupational group has favorable views, except for professionals and managers, who are at 57%. 

So there doesn't appear to be a "fissure between relatively better-educated urbanites and less-educated rural populations."  The differences among groups are not that large, and support is high among all parts of the population.   Rather than Trump or Brexit, a better parallel might be the movement for tax limitation (Proposition 13) in California 40 years ago.  That cut taxes without specifying spending cuts, and most of its supporters didn't seem to think that it would result in reductions in government services--the idea was that the government would find the money somewhere or be forced to be more efficient (see this post, and Sears and Citrin, Tax Revolt:  Something for Nothing in California for more detailed discussion).  Business, labor, and leading politicians of both parties opposed it as unrealistic and irresponsible, but it won with over 60% of the vote).  According to Sears and Citrin, the victory was broadly based--it won among almost all major population groups. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Partisanship and perception

In early 2017, I had a post on perceptions of economic conditions, which noted that they were related to party identification--if your party was in office, your assessment was more positive--and that this relation seemed to be getting stronger.  I suggested that this put a floor under the ratings, and pointed out that they were never as bad during the 2008-9 recession as they were in the late 1970s or early 1990s.  I went on to say that partisanship should also work the other way:  "ratings will never get all that favorable, because supporters of the other party would be slow to acknowledge that the economy was doing well.  However, in order to test that, we'd need to have a real economic boom, which hasn't happened in this century and is unlikely to happen in the near future."  The question I was discussing involved perceived change in economic conditions, and in that sense there hasn't been a boom--economic growth is good by recent standards, but not that unusual by historical standards. 

However, the Gallup Poll has asked a question which goes back to 1992--"How would you rate economic conditions in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair or poor?"--and the unemployment rate at the lowest level it's ever been in that whole time.   In principle, I think that this question is easier to interpret than the one about change, because it simply asks about current conditions, and doesn't require people to compare with what they remember about the past.  I had jut used the change question because it goes back farther.  If we look at the average rating of current conditions (excellent=4, good=3, fair=2, poor=1): 

Even though the unemployment rate is lower than it was in the late 1990s, average ratings are less favorable than they were then.  They are also more polarized--more "excellent" ratings and more "poor."  Both of these are what would be expected from a bigger partisan split--people are less likely to accept that the economy is good if the "wrong" party is in power.  Also, although I've said this before, it's worth saying again:  perceptions were not especially negative at the time of the 2016 election.  The vertical lines indicate elections, and the 2016 rating was about what it was in 2004, and only a little lower than 1996.  It was considerably higher than in 2008 (no surprise), but also than in 1992. 

A natural follow-up question is whether the partisanship effect is about the same for both parties, or is stronger for one than the other.  The breakdowns aren't available for all of the surveys (or at least I haven't seen them) but I may investigate sometime in the future. 

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 occupation 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]