Friday, October 25, 2019

What's wrong with them?

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

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How many Democrats?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Education, redistribution, and markets

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

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

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

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

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

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, October 3, 2019

I had some dreams

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

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


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

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

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

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]