November 10, 2019 đź“Š The 2020 election will be close (until it's not)

Plus, should we take Michael Bloomberg's (likely) entry into the Democratic primary seriously? What happened in KY last Tuesday? And what do swing voters want?

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, data journalist for The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! This is my weekly email where I write about politics using data and share links to what I’ve been reading and writing. Thoughts? Drop me a line (or just respond to this email). Like what you’re reading? Tap the ❤️ below the title and share with your friends!

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Dear Reader,

This week’s main read: It is a year out from the 2020 election, so take this with a grain of salt, but new polling shows Trump and several Democrats tied in hypothetical matchups in the swing states. Biden is up 3 in Wisconsin. Sanders is up 1 in Pennsylvania. Warren is down 6 in Michigan. All within the margin of error—and while all are up ~7-10 nationally? Let me try to make sense of this for you.

Plus, I’ve got links to some data on urban-rural polarization in last week’s state-wide elections in Kentucky (and elsewhere), swing voters in swing states and Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run.

Thanks all for reading my weekly email. Please consider sharing online and/or forwarding to a friend. The more readers, the merrier! If you’re shy, the best way you can support my newsletter is to press the heart button below the title (this makes it rank higher in Substack’s curation). If you’d like to read more of my blogging I publish subscriber-only content 1-3x a week on this platform. Click the button below to learn more!

—Elliott


This Week's Main Read

The 2020 election will be close (until it's not)

A variety of data suggest a large split between the national popular vote and outcomes in the key swing states

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OK, I’m going to go over a lot of data in a short amount of time, so strap in…

The New York Times released new polling last Monday that showed the leading Democratic candidates for 2020 essentially tied with President Trump in the swing states. Here’s the main graphic from their piece:

The NYT polls show Joe Biden running even with Trump in Michigan and beating him—albeit within the margin of error—in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona. Bernie Sanders fares slightly worse, polling ahead of Trump in 3 of the 6 swing states, and Warren is down everywhere except Arizona (again, within the margin of error)

But I have something to note and then I’ll jump into commentary.

I think the differences between vote shares for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are notable, if not statistically significant. But I’m worried that Elizabeth Warren is not known enough to make these comparisons all that useful. In a poll from The Economist and YouGov last week, 16% of Democrats said they “don’t know” their opinion about Warren. Only 7% of Democrats said that about Sanders and 11%said so about Biden. These differences sound trivial, but if we’re removing ~10-15% more votes from the pool when comparing Warren and Trump versus Biden and Trump, suddenly the 3 percentage point gap in their support in Wisconsin seems more volatile. For this reason I think the Sanders versus Biden numbers are more stable than the Warren ones. This is not an argument to ignore the data, however—just to read with caution.

So here’s what I’m stuck on right now: The 2020 presidential election looks close y’all. And it’s not just state-level polling that suggest this is the case. National polls suggest an election in which the Democrats probably only have ~4 points to spare in Wisconsin (my #1 draft pick for the tipping-point state). The “fundamental” economic and political predictors of national presidential election point to a close race, too.

Let’s talk polls first.

Here are the latest averages of 2020 general election polls from RealClearPolitics for each of a Biden, Sanders and Warren v Trump matchup:

Although the most optimistic scenario for Democrats right now (a Biden versus Trump general election) gives them a ten percentage point advantage in the national popular vote, that likely doesn’t translate to a 100%-likely electoral college victory. Given that Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan lean 4 points to the right of the nation, these massive national leads only translate to ~5-or-so-point margins for Joe Biden in the swing states. And such leads in the polls would not predict a certain win for Biden, as we saw in the disconnect between state-level polls and results last time around. Sanders and Warren would face an even tighter battle there.

Importantly, this math is only valid if the relationship between national and state level outcomes next year matches the link between them last time around. In other words, Democrats’ large popular vote margins in the polls could be distorting the picture of the electoral college even more than we think if they have gained more voters elsewhere. Maybe, for example, in large population centers and, I don’t know, Texas? Point being, national polls largely suggest that 2020 will be close (though maybe not quite as close as the NYT/Siena polls suggest).

And then there’s forecasts. Oh, the forecasts…

Though I’ve talked on here before about how the “fundamentals” predictors for US presidential elections might not generate as reliable of forecasts today as they used to, they are nevertheless a useful benchmark. (Maybe they shouldn’t make up 100% of your final prediction, but even juicing 10% predictive power out of them would be handy.) Nathan Kalmoe, a professor at LSU, posted some data showing how GDP growth and Trump’s approval ratings today point to a razor-thin 2020 general election:

According to Kalmoe’s figures, Trump polling at -13 on job approval means predicted two-party vote share of 49% (with some uncertainty around the projection). As far as the economy goes, GDP growth of 2% suggests Trump would win 51% of the popular vote (again, with some uncertainty around the projection). I wouldn’t take either side of that bet if I were you…

Other forecasts also point to a close election (if you look at them the right way). One of such forecasts is the one generated by Rachel Bitecofer, a professor at Christopher Newport University. If you take her state-level predictions and simulate uncertainty around them, they only show that the Democratic candidate is favored to win the contest 64-75% of the time. This slide is from a presentation I gave at George Washington University last month:

The election is no sure thing. In many ways, it actually looks exactly like 2016—at least for now.

Maybe this is the new normal

As Wu-Tang-Clan said in their 1994 hit “C.R.E.A.M”, “Partisanship rules everything around me”. (OK fine, they didn’t actually say that, they were talking about money, but I’m saying the partisanship thing now so simmer down.) In an age where most Americans’ vote choices are locked-in by the party label that a candidate choses, it shouldn’t be surprising to us that opinion about the president has been relatively stable over the past 3 years. One’s partisan identity is now becoming one of their most influential social characteristics—on par with education or race and age. The near-immutability of that partisanship will come to force election outcomes closer to the partisan equilibrium of the country. Landslide elections—which result from voters (in key states) shirking off their partisan (again, social) identities and voting for the candidate on the other side of the aisle—might thus be a thing of the past.


And here are some selected links to the work I read and wrote last week:


Posts for subscribers:

  • November 8: Bloomberg schmoomberg. The former Republican mayor of NYC starts late and behind in the Democratic primary. Can he make up the ground?


Political Data

Nate Cohn (The Upshot): “A Sliver of the Electorate Could Decide 2020. Here’s What These Voters Want.”

Today’s America is so deeply polarized that it can be hard to imagine there are people who are really not sure whether they want to vote for President Trump or his Democratic rival.

But these “mythic,” “quasi-talismanic,” “unicorn” swing voters are very real, and there are enough of them to decide the next presidential election.

They are similar in holding ideologically inconsistent views, but they otherwise span all walks of life, based on an analysis of 569 respondents to recent New York Times Upshot/Siena College surveys in the six closest states carried by the president in the 2016 presidential election.

These voters represent 15 percent of the electorate in the battleground states, and they say there’s a chance they’ll vote for either Mr. Trump or the Democrat.

Nathaniel Rakich (FiveThirtyEight): “How Seriously Should We Take Michael Bloomberg’s Potential 2020 Run?”

In a field this crowded, entering the race in the high single digits wouldn’t even necessarily be a bad thing, but the problem is that it might be harder for Bloomberg to build on that support than it would be for other candidates. In an average of polls from January and early February, I found that 62 percent of Democrats knew enough about Bloomberg to form an opinion (which was pretty high), but his net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) was only +11 (which was pretty low). As you can see in the chart below, Bloomberg was a real outlier — for as well known as he is, we would have expected him to be much better-liked, with a net favorability of about +35, not +11.

And history suggests Bloomberg’s low favorability ratings would be a major obstacle to winning the nomination. Our past research indicates that people who win presidential primaries tend to either be (a) already well known and well liked or (b) relative unknowns to start off the campaign. Only one nominee since at least 1980 has been in Bloomberg’s position (well known but not well liked), and that’s Trump himself.

Note: a recent survey from Morning Consult showed that a quarter of Democratic primary voters have an unfavorable view of Michael Bloomberg, the worst rating of any of the 15 current contenders that they polled.

Yphtach Lelkes on Twitter: The relationship between density and vote share has doubled in Kentucky since 2015:


Other Data

Noah Buhayar and Christopher Cannon (Bloomberg): “How California Became America’s Housing Market Nightmare”

This piece is filled with great reporting and even better graphics


Political Science, Survey Research, and Other Nerdy Things

Bradley Jones (Pew Research Center): “Democrats far more likely than Republicans to see discrimination against blacks, not whites”

Overall, the survey finds little change in attitudes about discrimination against most groups since March. Large majorities continue to say that Muslims (83%), gays and lesbians (79%), blacks and Hispanics (77% each), women (68%) and Jews (66%) face a lot or some discrimination in the U.S.

As in the past, there are wide partisan divides in perceptions of discrimination against most of the groups included in the survey. Republicans are less likely than Democrats to say there is a lot of or some discrimination against Muslims, gays and lesbians, blacks, Hispanics, women and Jews.

Democrats are less likely than Republicans to say there is at least some discrimination against evangelical Christians, whites and men.


What I'm Reading and Working On

I’m writing next week on politics and musical preferences, the education divide in American politics, Andrew Yang, and impeachment… It’s going to be a busy week. I’m reading a bunch of nerdy papers on variational bayesian methods (oooooh) and getting a bunch of data/programming stuff ready for the upcoming election in the UK.


Something Fun

This is a fun interactive on what people google about their pets.


Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back in your inbox next Sunday. In the meantime, follow me online or reach out via email. I’d love to hear from you!

If you want more content, I publish subscribers-only posts on Substack 1-3 times each week. Sign up today for $5/month (or $50/year) by clicking on the following button. Even if you don't want the extra posts, the funds go toward supporting the time spent writing this free, weekly letter. Your support makes this all possible!

November 3, 2019 đź“Š Where are the swing voters?

Plus, who's the most electable Democrat? And (the pitfalls of) some early 2020 prediction models.

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, data journalist for The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! This is my weekly email where I write about politics using data and share links to what I’ve been reading and writing. Thoughts? Drop me a line (or just respond to this email). Like what you’re reading? Share with your friends and tap the ❤️ below the title! It helps my newsletter rank higher in Substack’s curation.

Share


Dear Reader,

This week’s main read: The key puzzle for 2020 will be whether the swing states have swung back toward Democrats since Trump’s surprise victories there in 2016. I check in with some survey data to suggest an answer to the question. There are more swing voters than you think.

Plus, I’ve got links to a study about the most “electable” 2020 Democratic candidate and a look at some early 2020 predictions based on electoral “fundamentals” (and a note on why they might not be reliable).

Thanks all for reading my weekly email. Please consider sharing online and/or forwarding to a friend. The more readers, the merrier! If you’re shy, the best way you can support my newsletter is to press the heart button below the title (this makes it rank higher in Substack’s curation). If you’d like to read more of my blogging I publish subscriber-only content 1-3x a week on this platform. Click the button below to learn more!

—Elliott


This Week's Main Read

Where are the swing voters?

Everywhere (except there’s not many in Alabama)

In the latest data from the Fox News Poll, Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2020 general election by 12 points. This is roughly where he has been for the past 4 months. Also of note: Donald Trump is held to ~40% of the voting public in matchups against all major 2020 Democrats (though I don’t know exactly why they included Hillary Clinton in the poll), something I’ve pointed out in this newsletter before. I noted as much on Twitter:

If these numbers hold until next November, voters will deliver a remarkable defeat to the president. But that’s a BIG “if”. Polls at this point in the election cycle (precisely 365 days out today!) tend to have little predictive power, though they have gotten better in recent years.

But here’s what I really want to know: If voters prefer Biden to Trump by 10 percentage points more than they preferred Clinton to Trump in 2016 (she won by 2 points, he’s up by 12), where are all the swing votes? More importantly, are they in the states that Democrats need to win the electoral college in 2020?

I booted up fresh downloads of the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey (a survey of Americans’ demographics), the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (a massive 60,000-person survey of Americans) and the Census Bureau’s 2018 Current Population Survey (which asks more than 100,000 people whether they voted) to find an answer to these questions..

My analysis was relatively straightforward, but bear please forgive me as I delve into a basic summary of the technical details. You can read this document for a similar explainer if you want more hand-holding.

First, I used the ACS to estimate how many people of each demographic group (white, black, female, college-educated or not, etc, and all the interactions in between) lived in each state. Then I used the CPS to estimate how likely Americans in each of those demographic groups are to be registered to vote. I did so using a statistical technique called multi-level regression and post-stratification. (Again, you can read about that here.) Essentially, for each “type” of demographic—white, female, age 18-30, living in Iowa without a college degree, etc—we know how likely they are to vote.

Then, using the CCES, I counted any voter who (a) voted for Donald Trump and disapproves of him now and (b) any voter who DID NOT vote for Trump but approves of him now as swing voters. Anyone else who reported voted in 2016 but has consistent opinions was counted as a non-swing voter—in other words, it’s assumed they’ll vote for/against Trump if the approve/disapprove of him. This might not be an entirely correct assumption, but it’s as close as we’re going to get. I used MRP to know how many voters in each demographic group were likely to be these so-called “swing” voters.

Then, I just counted up (a) the number of voters and (b) the number of swing voters in each state. Dividing this the total number of projected voters, per the CPS, we get the percentage of all voters that are “swing” voters for every state.

That ends up looking like this:

But please note that there are confidence intervals around the estimates. They look like this:

I think this analysis is interesting, but honestly, the takeaways are kind of a mess. First, it’s clear that enough voters are “up for grabs” to make the electoral college competitive for 2020. Six percent of registered voters in Iowa have changed their mind about approving/disapprove of the president. So have 5 % of voters in Michigan, 4% in Wisconsin and 4% in Pennsylvania. Thats more than enough to tip the electoral college next year, presuming those changing their minds have gone to Democrats (which isn’t a sure bet). We perhaps already knew this given Biden’s 12-point lead in Fox’s polling.

What I see instead of proof of President Trump’s imminent demise are some interesting states to cherry-pick. First, I don’t think the North Dakota and Idaho estimates are that great (see: their confidence intervals), so I’m not really paying attention to them. The relatively swingy voters in Arizona and Iowa are notable in their possible status as swing states next year. The Deep South is also interesting and notable for its inelasticity, which we should expect given the high population of African Americans and non-college-educated whites, two groups noted for their devotion to Democrats and Republicans, respectively. But this cuts both ways, as the estimates for GA and VA surprise me.

I haven’t yet decided whether I’m done playing around with this analysis. There could be some things to fine-tune. But let this serve as a rough guide: there are plenty of swing voters in the electorate, and they could absolutely decide 2020.


And here are some selected links to the work I read and wrote last week:


Posts for subscribers:


Political Data

Cory McCartan (The Monkey Cage): “Who’s the most electable Democrat? It might be Warren or Buttigieg, not Biden.”

In the figure below, you can see how each candidate’s popular vote would translate into electoral votes, according to the model. Candidates with an electoral college advantage win more electoral votes for the same national popular vote totals, because the demographic groups that dominate key swing states prefer that candidate. You can see which candidate gets more electoral college bang for each vote by whose lines are highest for each popular vote percentage.

Every Democratic candidate would need to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote to win the electoral college. But exactly how much varies by candidate: Warren makes it to 270 electoral votes first, with about 50.7 percent of the popular vote, followed by Buttigieg, then Kamala D. Harris, and finally Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. These estimates are not perfect; though Warren wins first most of the time, she isn’t guaranteed to do so.

Nathan Kalmoe: According to the fundamentals, “2020 looks like a tossup election”:

For what it’s worth, the lack of a correlation between the economy and presidential vote share in elections since 2008 suggests to me that we should pay attention to the left panel of the graph Nathan posted. It shows that Trump is basically in the same place as he was in 2016 as far as predicted national vote share goes.

Perry Bacon Jr. (FiveThirtyEight): “What We Learned From The First House Vote On Impeachment”

Simply put, it’s a good bet that not much will change no matter what happens in the hearings. That’s both because Americans’ views on the president are very partisan (basically Republicans almost universally support him but a majority of country does not), and because many of the most damning details about President Trump and his administration’s dealings with Ukraine have probably already come out in the last month. The resolution on Thursday passed 232-196, with two Democrats and no Republicans breaking ranks, and it’s just hard to imagine many members switching sides.

All in all, I think Thursday’s vote is a pretty good representation of what we can expect from the House impeachment process: Party unity on both sides resulting in Trump’s impeachment.

David Byler (The Washington Post): “Baghdadi’s death won’t save Trump from his political problems”

In the months leading up to bin Laden’s death in early May 2011, Obama’s approval rating was hovering in the mid-to-high 40 percent range. As news of bin Laden’s death broke, Obama’s approval rating jumped into the 50s, stayed there for about a month and then returned to normal as the story faded from public consciousness. Bin Laden’s death was a net positive for Obama in the long run, in that it gave him a big foreign policy achievement to point to in his upcoming reelection campaign. But the bounce didn’t last.

Some voters may price Trump’s record on the Islamic State into their overall estimation of his competency, but this won’t be a game changer for him. After the dust settles, he’ll still be stuck with his same set of problems — including, and most importantly, himself.

Robert Gebeloff (The New York Times): “The Border Between Red and Blue America”

If 2016 is an indication, the battle lines are clear for 2020. Hillary Clinton dominated the inner-ring suburbs, and Donald J. Trump was dominant in the outer ring.

This is as true within states that are deep red or deep blue as for the nation as a whole. In Alabama, for example, Mrs. Clinton dominated in densely populated neighborhoods. But only one-quarter of the state’s voters live in such neighborhoods, and Mr. Trump won the state easily.

In true battleground states like Michigan, the pattern held, though the voting population was more evenly distributed by neighborhood density. Yet the fact that about one-fifth of Michigan votes came from rural tracts helped Mr. Trump pull off his upset victory.

In the end, the most important takeaway from this work is that the suburbs can’t be depicted with a broad brush, and that when we analyze them for demographic or political purposes, we should be aware of the polarization within.


Other Data

From me for The Economist: “An NBA controversy sparks social-media manipulation”

Nearly a quarter of the accounts tweeting about the NBA in the days after the incident had a higher than 50% chance of being bots or trolls. Many of these “suspect” accounts were created soon after Mr Morey’s tweet. Indeed, in the following week, the number of new suspect accounts increased by 400% over the previous seven days. In that earlier week, about 47% of the newly-created accounts in our sample were suspected of malicious activity by the machine-learning algorithm. After the tweet, this proportion rose to 60%.


Political Science, Survey Research, and Other Nerdy Things

Erika Franklin Fowler et. al.: “Political Advertising Online and Offline”

This graph shows that candidates for political office still spend way, way, way more money on TV than they do on Facebook.


Jamie L. Carson et. al.: “Nationalization and the Incumbency Advantage”

Legislative scholars have investigated both the growth in the incumbency advantage since the early 1970s and its decline in recent decades, but there are several unanswered questions about this phenomenon. In this paper, we examine the incumbency advantage across a much wider swath of history to better understand its connection with changing levels of electoral nationalization. Based on an analysis of U.S. House elections extending back to the antebellum era, we find that the incumbency advantage fluctuates in predictable ways over time with changes in nationalization, which can be a product of both institutional and political conditions. We also demonstrate that the increased influence of local forces in congressional elections may not be strictly necessary nor sufficient for the existence of an incumbency advantage.


What I'm Reading and Working On

As you could infer from the main piece in this week’s newsletter, I’m working on some analyses using MRP to smooth out national polling and distill estimates to the state and demographic level. I can’t say more right now, but get excited. This will be great. I’ve been too busy and too sick to want to pick up a book.


Something Fun

I have had a hard time staying away from candy this halloween season. I’ve done a pretty good job, except that several of y’all roasted me on Twitter for admitting my love for Almond Joys. So I enjoyed this article in the Post on Halloween, candy and adulthood.


Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back in your inbox next Sunday. In the meantime, follow me online or reach out via email. I’d love to hear from you!

If you want more content, I publish subscribers-only posts on Substack 1-3 times each week. Sign up today for $5/month (or $50/year) by clicking on the following button. Even if you don't want the extra posts, the funds go toward supporting the time spent writing this free, weekly letter. Your support makes this all possible!

October 27, 2019 📊The puzzle of Joe Biden’s lead

Plus, partisanship and impeachment polling; the numbers behind Warren’s rise; and a history of American lynching

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, data journalist for The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! This is my weekly email where I write about politics using data and share links to what I’ve been reading and writing. Thoughts? Drop me a line (or just respond to this email). Like what you’re reading? Tap the ❤️ below the title and share with your friends!

Share


Dear Reader,

This week’s main read: Some people are writing about Joe Biden’s waning prospects in the Democratic primary. The thing is, Biden’s position hasn’t changed much—nationally. But in key states he is struggling as other candidate surge. I dive in to Biden’s relative weakness in key states and with key demographics.

Plus, I’ve got links to my work on Elizabeth Warren’s rise and how partisanship shapes impeachment polling, work from the Pew Research Center on how to interpret polling and data on lynching.

Thanks all for reading my weekly email. Please consider sharing online and/or forwarding to a friend. The more readers, the merrier! If you’re shy, the best way you can support my newsletter is to press the heart button below the title (this makes it rank higher in Substack’s curation). If you’d like to read more of my blogging I publish subscriber-only content 1-3x a week on this platform. Click the button below to learn more!

—Elliott


PS! I’m giving away free trials to the paid content in my newsletter from now until November 1st. I’d love if you shared it with your friends. Click the button below or follow this link: https://thecrosstab.substack.com/subfriends

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This Week's Main Read

The puzzle of Joe Biden’s lead

The former vice-president is relying on big wins in the south to offset early losses in whiter states. But can he last that long?

Joe Biden is in roughly the same position in national political polls as he has been for the past 3 months of the 2020 Democratic primary. According to The Economist’s polling aggregate, 25% of voters support Biden today, versus 27% in early August.

That Joe Biden has a relatively steady base of 25-30% of Democrats nationally has spawned some contrarian takes about his strength. Whereas Olivia Nuzzi writes for New York Magazine today that it looks “unmistakably” like the nomination is going to “slip through [Joe Biden’s] fingers” again, Nate Silver has said that there “hasn’t been much sign of a decline in Biden’s numbers”. Nuzzi points out that Biden’s polling lead has fallen from a high point of 33% in the RealClearPolitics average in May to 5.4% now, and Silver implies both RCP’s average is too noisy and that Biden is up 0.6 percentage points since his average of polls taken before September 23rd. So which one is it? Is Biden in trouble or doing fine?

This hemming and hawing over national polling obscures Joe Biden’s real vulnerability: his standing in the early states. Although the vice-president is leading handily in South Carolina—the RealClearPolitics average has him up twenty points over his nearest competitor, Elizabeth Warren—Biden is currently polling below Warren in Iowa and New Hampshire and up just 4 points in Nevada. The Super Tuesday states such as California, Texas and Massachusetts are also a mixed bag for the VP.

The big question for Biden is whether he can survive the media/reputational/electability blows he’ll suffer from losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. I’m unsure about his chances of doing so. In 2008, Hillary Clinton could not pull off a similar strategy, largely because black voters—who had favored her 60-30 for the nomination in December—flipped to supporting Barack Obama—by a 55-40 margin—by February. And if he fails in early states, voters may never come back to the idea that he’s the default choice. In 2016, Bernie Sanders’s insurgent victory in New Hampshire suggested that someone other than Clinton could win the nomination, giving way to a primary challenge that would last until the convention.

Joe Biden also has a connected demographics puzzle to sort out. Although his strength with non-whites presents a cushion if he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, their disproportionate numbers in southern states presents a big problem if he starts losing ground among them. And white voters haven’t shown a willingness to bail him out; they currently favor Warren over Biden 31 to 21 percent.

Maybe we can put it this way: Joe Biden has been treading water in the 2020 primary since he entered. Do we think that treading water is enough to win?


And here are some selected links to the work I read and wrote last week:


Posts for subscribers:


Political Data

From me for The Economist: “How being second choice could put Elizabeth Warren on top”

Ms Warren generates enthusiasm among her followers. But her popularity among supporters of her rivals in the Democratic field is even more impressive. A large proportion of Democrats who favour the other leading contenders would consider voting for Ms Warren, including 41% of Mr Biden’s supporters and 40% of Mr Sanders’ boosters. A whopping 52% of those who favour Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would consider Ms Warren, too. Among the leading candidates, only supporters of Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur from New York, do not rank Ms Warren as their second choice.

Also from me for The Economist: “Americans’ views on impeachment mirror the president’s approval ratings”

The Economist’s analysis of political polls reveals that in early September, before news broke that Mr Trump had asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate a political rival in return for military aid, roughly 45% of Americans opposed impeaching Mr Trump and 42% approved of his job as president. That gap closed the following month when Democrats announced they would begin an impeachment inquiry. On October 23rd, 41 % of Americans approved of Mr Trump’s job performance and the same share opposed impeaching him. The share of those Americans who wanted to impeach him grew. In September, 54% of adults disapproved of Mr Trump and 45% supported impeaching him. By late October, the president’s disapproval rating was the same but 50% wanted him out of office.

Nate Cohn (The Upshot): “What Our Poll Shows About Impeachment Views in 6 Swing States”

In the six closest states carried by the president in 2016, registered voters support the impeachment inquiry by a five-point margin, 50 percent to 45 percent. The same voters oppose impeaching Mr. Trump and removing him from office, 53 percent to 43 percent.

The survey depicts a deeply divided electorate in battleground states a year from the election, with the president’s core supporters and opponents exceptionally energized and unified. Yet at the same time, a crucial sliver of relatively moderate voters — just 7 percent of the electorate — support the inquiry without backing Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.

Kabir Khanna (CBS News): “Analysis: Which voters are changing their minds in fluid Democratic primary race”

About two in ten of Warren's July supporters changed their minds at some point (the lowest rate for any of the leading candidates). While 13% of her July supporters switched away from her and stuck with different candidates, 7% of them ended up switching back to her in October. So her net loss between July and October was really just 13%.

Sanders and Biden have lost a respective 18% of 23% of their July supporters, but Biden had more switch back to him in October, mitigating his losses (7% vs. 3% for Sanders). A sizeable 35% of Buttigieg's July supporters switched away from him, but another 11% switched back.

Harris has lost the biggest chunk of her July supporters: 65% switched away, while only 7% switched back to her. These voters changing their minds have driven her decline in the polls since the summer, with the plurality of them now backing Warren.

John Gramlich (Pew Research Center): “5 tips for writing about polls”

  1. Always be clear about who was surveyed

  2. Let your readers know when the survey was conducted

  3. Stay faithful to the way survey questions were worded

  4. Pay attention to margins of error

  5. It’s good to provide context, but it’s dangerous to ascribe causality


Other Data

Danny Lewis (National Geographic): “This Map Shows Over a Century of Documented Lynchings in the United States”

It’s unlikely historians will ever know just how many lynchings happened throughout the history of the U.S., as many likely went unreported, or were not classified as lynchings in documentation at the time. However, the sheer number of those that are on the books is staggering—according to the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) 2015 report, Lynching in America, more than 4,000 black people were publicly murdered in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. Tools like this site serves as an important endeavor to help mark these dark parts of American history and make it more visible and accessible for all.


Political Science, Survey Research, and Other Nerdy Things

Not exactly a research paper or even explicitly scientific, but this newsletter from the NYT on how social media is making protests more common while polarization weakens their effects is spot-on.


What I'm Reading and Working On

This week I’ll have some exciting and innovative work on Chinese Twitter bot networks and the NBA. I’m also working out some math on impeachment and the Senate. Stay tuned. I’m reading a lot of books right now, but the one I’m particularly enjoying is a collection of short stories from Hemingway titled “In Our Time”.


Something Fun

I am not a huge football fan, but I do enjoy data and Texas, so this piece from FiveThirtyEight was fun and revealing. “How Widespread if Your College Football Fan Base?”


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