Archive for the ‘current events’ Category
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.
In no particular order:
- The polls got HRC correct. She’ll probably get about 47% of the vote. Trump over performed and pulled independents and Johnson supporters. He’ll get about 49%.
- Strategically, there were massive blunders. HRC lost states that not Democrat has lost since 1988: New Hampshire and Pennsylvania (unless, Philly reports a last minute surge for HRC after I write this).
- Massive rural turn out, which is rare.
- Social science: Surveys did well for predicting HRC’s vote, but very poorly for Trump.
- Don’t blame the economy: Obama pulled 51% with 8% unemployment while HRC is getting 47% with 5% unemployment.
- Social science II: Do candidates matter? Answer: yes.
- The margins in Pennsylvania are so close that the winner could change by the time you read this.
Add your analysis in the comments.
trump symposium ii: the organizational basis of today’s crazy politics – a guest post by josh pacewicz
This guest post on Trump’s run for president is written by Josh Pacewicz, a political sociologist at Brown University.
In case you haven’t noticed, this has been a crazy election cycle. On both the Democratic and Republican side, a candidate who is more extreme than the typical serious presidential contender went all the way to the convention. Trump, who espouses some positions that are not recognizably Republican, is arguably even more the anomaly than Sanders. But both fared well, which suggests that the contours of America’s 20th Century party system are strained, if not cracked. How did this happen?
2016 makes sense only in the historical context of the gradual polarization of American political parties, or the tendency of politicians from the two parties to vote differently on every issue. Party polarization is distinct from other trends like a rightward drift among both Republicans and Democrats and is visible in, for instance, analyses of congressional voting, which show no Republican with a voting record left of any Democrat. A political status quo based in complete disagreement is a necessary precondition of this election, because only then do political observers expect politicians to treat their opponents as unredeemable out-there radicals, a state of affairs that creates opportunities for candidates who truly are outside the political mainstream. Because partisan polarization is a decades-long trend, explanations of 2016 that focus on factors like the recession or racial resentment over Obama’s presidency seem incomplete. Since the 1980s, party polarization has increased in good economic times and bad, during periods of war and peace, and under Democratic and Republican administrations.