The Crosstab Weekly Newsletter 📊 October 14, 2018

It's (Not) The Economy, Stupid. + More forecasts, tips for reading polls, and (gasp!) a look at 2020.

Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, data journalist at The Economistand blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! Here’s my weekly newsletter with links to what I’ve been reading and writing that puts the news in context with public opinion polls, political science, other data (some “big,” some small) and looks briefly at the week ahead. Let’s jump right in! Feedback? Drop me a line or just respond to this email. 

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This Week's Big Question

What are the midterms even about?

Trump is not literally on the ballot in 2018, but his tenure in office is certainly occupying voters’ minds. But if voters do care about Trump, what do the not care about? The issues getting put on the back burner are perhaps even more important than those that aren’t.

Let’s talk about the economy. With 1990s slogans like “It’s the economy, stupid” percolating political discourse even today, it would be an understatement to say that the state of the economy is an important political topic. Except it’s not 1990 anymore, it’s 2018, and the election is not about the economy. Holding other demographics and attitudes constant, voters who feel warmer to the economy are no more likely to vote for Republicans than those who think it’s getting worse. 

But maybe voter attitudes aren’t what matters, but that a healthy economy generates other factors that cause voters to cast ballots for for the party in power. The data say no. Rather, Trump is underperforming predictions of presidential job approval based on the state of the economy. In other words, neither positive attitudes toward or the actually healthy state of the economy are being factored into voters’ decisions this November. At least, we can’t pick anything up that indicates otherwise.

The only variable that does remain significant in my model — which is by no means comprehensive — is whether or not a voter disapproved of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the supreme court. Still, that only made someone 2% more likely to vote for the Republicans in the coming midterms. A technically significant effect, but not a very significant one.

I suggest checking out this new data from the Pew Research Center about issues in the midterms, which are suffering from extreme partisan polarization. When the parties are so sorted on which policies voters ought to support, it’s not perplexing when they don’t make big differences in who Americans voice support for.

Politics and Election Data

Seven ways misinformation spread during the 2016 election

How did misinformation spread during the 2016 presidential election and has anything changed since? A new study of more than 10 million tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts that linked to more than 600 misinformation and conspiracy news outlets answers this question.  •  Share

Little Partisan Agreement on the Pressing Problems Facing the U.S.

With less than four weeks until the midterm elections, Republican and Democratic voters differ widely in views of the seriousness of numerous problems facing the United States, including the fairness of the criminal justice system, climate change, economic inequality and illegal immigration.  •  Share

Who’s Behaving Like A 2020 Presidential Candidate

Sen. Cory Booker went to Iowa. Michael Bloomberg re-registered as a Democrat after years as an independent. Former Secretary of State John Kerry would not rule out another presidential run, even though it’s very unlikely he will actually pull the trigger.  •  Share

Predictions of the 2018 election results

Yet another forecast of a ~30 seat gain for Democrats  •  Share

Trump vs. Obama: The midterm rallies edition

President Trump has done 33 #MAGA campaign rallies in 17 states, including last night in Kentucky. In addition, he attended rallies for two GOP candidates (in Alabama and South Carolina), according to a tally by Mark Knoller of CBS News.  •  Share

Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape

A revealing typology of American voters  •  Share

Other Data and Cool Work

'megaregions' in the US, as defined by commutes

This map identifies the new ‘megaregions’ of the US (clusters of densely interconnected cities) by mapping millions of daily commutes of 50 miles or less. Source: National Geographic  https://news.nationalgeographic.  •  Share

Political Science & Survey Research

The Anatomy of Voting on the Long Ballot

Down ballot, voters are more purple than we think  •  Share

Comparing Survey Sampling Strategies: Random-Digit Dial vs. Voter Files

A new telephone survey experiment finds that, despite major structural differences, an opinion poll drawn from a commercial voter file can produce results similar to those from a sample based on random-digit-dialing (RDD).  •  Share

What I'm Reading and Working On

I’m still finishing Kornacki’s new The Red and The Blue, but also picked up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S Grant as I missed the heavy bouts of US history reading from university. This week, I’m writing about 


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

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