Archive for the ‘current events’ Category
Remember when everybody said that the polls completely got the 2016 presidential election wrong? Now we have final numbers on the popular vote count, and guess what? The national polls were on target:
- In the Real Clear Politics rolling average, the final estimate was HRC up by 3.3%. In the final popular vote count, the Cook Report found that the final difference was 2.1%. Being 1.2% off on the margin is pretty flipping good.
- In terms of the percent per candidate, the polls did worse because people over reported support for 3rd parties. Stein and Johnson together got 3% more in the polls than the results. This is evidence for the “parking lot theory of third parties.”
However, the state polls sucked. Not too hard, but they did suck a little bit, except Wisconsin and Minnesota, which totally sucked:
- Wisconsin – off by over 7%.
- Michigan – off by 3.4%
- Ohio – off by 4.6%
- Pennsylvania – off by 2.6%, which is not bad. HRC losing Pennsylvania was definitely within the margin of error here.
- Minnesota – off by 4.7% (My average, 6.2% vs. 1.5% final)
This is consistent with conventional wisdom about state polls, which is that they are less reliable because it is hard to pinpoint people in states, hard to identify likely voters, and have smaller electorates that can fluctuate (e.g., voter registration laws or bad weather).
Still, in retrospect, looking at state polls did suggest that a popular vote/electoral vote split was possible. A Trump victory was within the margin of error of the polling average in a number of states such as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. This observation about state polls is also consistent with the finding that the HRC lead was due to urban centers.
Bottom line: The conventional social science about polls held up. National polls do decently, states polls a bit worse and in some cases badly. However, they was plenty of evidence that Trump might get an electoral college victory, but you had to really read the state polls carefully.
Over at Pacific Standard, Seth Masket expresses surprise at the fact that many in the Republican party have abandoned traditional GOP policy goals and ideological beliefs:
Most recently, this has been apparent in Trump’s responses to reports by American intelligence agencies that Russia and WikiLeaks hacked Democratic National Committee servers and worked to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign… Most recently, this has been apparent in Trump’s responses to reports by American intelligence agencies that Russia and WikiLeaks hacked Democratic National Committee servers and worked to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
And it doesn’t stop with the GOP’s new Russophilia:
Another core tenet of modern Republicanism, of course, is free-market capitalism. The best economic system, the party maintains, is one in which businesses can operate with minimal regulation and thus produce wealth and innovation that benefit everyone. Trump’s approach has literally been the opposite of that. To use the tax code and other tools to selectively bully and punish companies that exhibit undesirable but legal behavior, such as building plants in other countries, is many things, but it’s not free-market capitalism. But many Republican leaders have nonetheless enthusiastically backed Trump’s approach.
I have a different view. My opinion is that GOP talking points are cheap talk and did not express true ideological commitment. For example, Republicans talk free trade, but they feel free to restrict labor through migration restrictions, they were always willing to give breaks to specific firms, and hand out subsidies to specific groups (remember the faith based initiatives?). A strict libertarian approach to trade in the GOP has really been a minority view. In other words, “free trade” is fun to say but in practice, they don’t follow it. It’s yet another example of “libertarian chic” among conservatives.
So what’s my theory? Like all parties, the GOP is a pragmatic coalition. Ideology is secondary in most cases. It’s about getting a sufficiently large block of people together so you can win elections. If you believe this theory of political parties, ideology is really not that important and, in most cases, it can be dropped at any time. In American history, for example, the Democrats and Republican parties switched positions on Black rights as part of an attempt to win the South.
This theory – that ideology is only as good as its ability to maintain a coalition – best explains the GOP policy points that Trump has rigidly stuck to: anti-immigration and abortion. And it makes sense, the two most steadfast groups in the GOP are social conservatives/evangelicals and working class whites in the South and Midwest. These groups don’t care much about foreign relations or free trade. What Trump has shown is that populism will melt away every thing except your most cherished beliefs.
There have been a few responses to Donald Trump’s surprise victory last month. On the left, many immediately jump to the conclusion that he’s a new sort of Hitler. On the right, there’s been a sort of sigh of relief. The dreaded Clinton machine is now banished. I am not happy with Trump, but on the other hand I was not happy with Obama either.
For example, on a lot of issues, Trump will simply continue the policies of Obama, and Bush, that I thought were bad. The main example is immigration. Obama has now deported more people than any other president. Another example is war and conflict. The Obama administration has been involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Even though Trump said that Iraq was a mistake, he’s appointing a lot of hawks. I expect Trump and Obama to have similar policies.
At the same time, I do not pretend that Trump and Obama are identical or that Trump is a typical Republican. Trump acts like an authoritarian. He demonizes out groups, he threatens harm, and openly flouts norms concerning conflicts of interest. My sense is that a Trump administration will combine two things: Latin American style populism and 1910/1920s style social relations. The first claim is straight forward: the Tea Party, and Trump, are populists and admittedly so.
The second claim needs more explanation. In the 1910s and 1920s, you had a period when race relations were horrible. I am not claiming that the US will bring back massive racial violence, but Trump’s win makes it possible for various branches of the state, such as local police or the federal immigration bureaucracy or the NSA, to become harsher and to focus on certain groups with more intensity. My conjecture is that Trump will be similar to Woodrow Wilson, who used the Federal Government to harass opponents and enforce sergegation.
Trump will not resegregate America. But he will make it even easier for various groups to “tighten the screws” in their domain. This might happen by stopping all immigration from majority Islamic nations, or by having the FBI suspend all enforcement of civil rights in police abuse cases, or by making it a little easier to put immigrants in prisons.
People have been having meltdowns over polls, but I’m a bit more optimistic. When you look at what social science has to say about elections, it did ok last week. I am going to avoid poll aggregators like Nate Silver because they don’t fully disclose what they do and they appear to insert ad hoc adjustments. Not horrible, but I’ll focus on what I can see:
- Nominations: The Party Decides model is the standard. Basically, the idea is that party elites choose the nominee, who is then confirmed by the voters. It got the Democratic nomination right but completely flubbed the GOP nomination. Grade: C+.
- The “fundamentals” of the two party vote: This old and trusty model is a regression between two party vote share and recent economic conditions. Most versions of this model predicted a slim victory for the incumbent party. The figure above is from Seth Masket, who showed that Clinton 2 got almost exactly what the model predicted. Grade: A
- Polling: Averaged out, the poll averages before the election showed Clinton 2 getting +3.3 more points than Trump. She is probably getting about %.6 more than Trump. So the polls were off by about 2.7%. That’s within the margin of error for most polls. I’d say that’s a win. The polls, though, inflated the Johnson vote. Grade: B+.
- Campaigns don’t matter theory: Clinton 2 outspent, out organized, and out advertised Trump (except in the upper midwest) and got the same result as a “fundamentals” model would predict. This supports the view that campaigning has a marginal effect in high information races. Grade: A.
But what about the Electoral College? Contrary to what some folks may think, this is a lot harder to predict because state level polls produce worse results in general. This is why poll aggregators have to tweak the models a lot to get Electoral College forecasts and why they are often off. Also, the Electoral College is designed to magnify small shifts in opinion. A tiny shift in, say, Florida could move your Electoral College total by about 5%. Very unstable. That’s why a lot of academic steer clear of predicting state level results. All I’ll say is that you should take these with a grain of salt.
Originally, I was going to write a detailed post about how Clinton 2’s campaign created the Rust Belt Bungle. The Washington Post has done the job for me, with a detailed analysis of the campaign’s missteps. But before I drop the discussion of the Clinton 2 campaign, I also want to concur with critics of the party who note that nominating Clinton 2 was taking a large risk. While partisans liked to push the narrative that Clinton 2 was a master politician, the record says otherwise. When something big is on the line, Clinton 2 has often fumbled. Whether it be losing healthcare in a fight with a Democratic congress in 1994, voting for the Iraq War in 2002, or losing a big lead to a no-name Senator from Illinois in 2008, Clinton 2 has not been a master of the political game. Thatcher or Merkel she is not. Future biographers can assess why, but I think Colin Powell summed it up best when he wrote that her hubris “screws up everything.”
Instead, I want to talk about a bigger issue – the progressive explosion in the Democratic party. During the primary, I wrote that there were signs that establishment Democrats were slowly losing their grip and we’d see a Tea Party style blow up. It happened – and sooner than I thought. The party has been decapitated and now the progressive base is out for total control. From The Hill:
Liberals interviewed by The Hill want to see establishment Democrats targeted in primaries, and the “Clinton-corporate wing” of the party rooted out for good.
The fight will begin over picking a new leader for the Democratic National Committee.
Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top.
And there is talk among some progressives, like Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, about splitting from the Democratic Party entirely if they don’t get the changes they seek.
Other media have reported that Sanders has endorsed a DNC chair candidate and that liberals are preparing for an all out war for control. Given that there is no leadership right now, it could be a messy, but healthy, process. Except for 2004, the party has been dominated by one faction for almost thirty years.
Honestly, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe there is a post-Clinton restoration of some type in the wings. Or perhaps the party will move hard left. But what I do know is that the Tea Party president is here and that is what they’ll have to deal with.
We now have a lot more detail about Tuesday’s vote. Let’s start basic facts:
- Clinton 2 is ahead of Trump in the popular vote. Once the absentee ballots are counted, she’ll likely have a slim victory of about 200,000 votes or so.
- The electoral college was determined by very narrow margins in Midwest states: WI (27k votes, <1%), MI (12k, <<1%), and PA (68k, <1%). Ohio was a Trump blowout by 8%.
- The total popular vote will probably be at 2012 levels or less. Clinton 2, the winner of the popular vote, will barely match the total that the loser of 2012 got. Data: Clinton 2 will get about 59 million votes, Romney got almost 61 million votes.
- It’s not the economy: With 8% unemployment, Obama pulled out a comfortable victory in all the Midwest states Clinton 2 lost. With 5% unemployment, Clinton did much worse. See the stats here.
- Outside the Midwest, things were very predictable: Trump won the South and the Mountain States/Great Plains. Clinton 2 won the West Coast and the Northeast.
- Polls got Clinton 2’s tally correct, over-reported Johnson and under-reported Trump. Exit polls show that Clinton 2 lost Whites by even bigger margins and barely won union voters (!!) but the pattern is actually typical otherwise. But with low turnout and a split electorate, this relatively modest shift matters.
- In the last weeks of the campaign, Trump focused on Wisconsin and Michigan while Clinton 2 tried to steal Arizona before returning to the Midwest.
Taken together, this suggests a very straightforward story of the 2016 general election.
- Each party got roughly what you would expect. There is no massive rejection or endorsement of either party. The polarized electorate is the same as it was before.
- The electoral college split from the popular vote mainly because of (a) modest increase in White votes for Trump and (b) bad urban turnout for the Dems in the Rust belt, stretching from rural Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.
- This does not suggest that HRC was damaged at all by email scandals or any other of the very many Clinton scandals. Her national polling in 2008 and 2016 was pretty much the same Rather, it suggests that the campaign systematically failed to gather votes in one specific area of the country – the rust belt.In a close race, that’s enough.
For next week, I’ll focus on Clinton 2’s long history of poor campaign management and piece together a possible theory of how the Rust Belt Bungle might have happened.