Tag Archives: polling

Those Young Voters….

Anyone who has ever taught has recognized that the students who pay attention in class perform better than those who didn’t. (Those of you who just read that sentence can now say “duh”…)

As obvious as that point may be–i.e., people who pay attention know more– a lot of people fail to apply it in other contexts. A reader of this blog recently sent me a letter or column (I’m not sure which)  that had appeared in a Boston newspaper, decrying the fact that a recent poll had found roughly half of American respondents under 30 less sympathetic to  Ukraine than older Americans. The author linked that result to distrust of media, which has led to distrust of other social institutions.

The polling in question was fielded by the Economist and YouGov, both highly reputable pollsters. According to the report on its findings published by the Economist,

Ninety-two per cent of American respondents over the age of 64 said they sympathised more with Ukraine than with Russia. Yet just 56% of those aged 18-29 answered the same—a difference of 36 percentage points. In Europe the pattern looks similar. There was a 17-point difference between the shares of older and younger people in Britain who said they sympathise more with Ukraine, and a gap of 14 points in France. Young Americans were the most likely to say they sympathised more with Russia (10%), compared with 6% in France and just 1% in Britain.

One explanation for the difference was the fact that younger people tend to be less engaged in and knowledgable about politics.

Across all three countries, younger people who said that they were interested in politics were more sympathetic to Ukraine than their less-engaged peers. In Britain the gap between those aged under 30 and over 64 narrowed when factoring in that difference: from 17 points to 12.

In other words, those who were paying attention were more likely to sympathize with Ukraine.

Another likely reason for the difference between age cohorts, according to the Economist, was life experience.

 The gap between well-informed older Americans and well-informed younger Americans is still wide, at 28 percentage points. Russophobic sentiment among older adults may be more important. Those aged 65 and older came of age in the midst of the cold war. By comparison, those aged under 30 were born after 1992, a year after the fall of the Soviet Union. As Russia returns to battle, echoes of the cold war might ring louder for older generations. 

Although the Economist didn’t cite it (the letter to the newspaper did), I would attribute much of the gap to America’s very diminished levels of social trust overall. Skepticism of media and political and governmental institutions is a prominent feature of today’s America, and is understandably more prevalent among young people than among those who grew up in times when that trust–and arguably, official trustworthiness– was far greater.

A study by Pippa Norris, a noted scholar, suggests another difference between young and old: contrary to the thesis of youth apathy, Norris finds that young people are much more likely than their parents and grandparents to engage in cause-oriented political action, including humanitarian and environmental activism, rather than more traditional political activities.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that young activists who care about the environment, for example, have encountered ample reasons to distrust both business and government.

We are clearly in a time of major social change and upheaval, and how all this will shake out is anyone’s guess, but before we old folks engage in the time-honored  “dissing” of young people, I suggest we look at the numbers. Fifty-six percent of the youngest cohort sympathized with Ukraine, another 24% responded that they were “unsure.” Only ten percent sympathized with Russia. That is certainly a troubling number, but it’s fewer than the twenty-two percent of Americans (including 79% of Republicans) who have embraced “the Big Lie.”

Survey researchers will confirm that people who respond to polls will often say they are “unsure” when they really don’t have sufficient knowledge to form an opinion.(Admitting ignorance is embarrassing; suggesting uncertainty is less so.) When we look at the possible reasons for the age gap on sympathy for Ukraine, I’d be willing to wager that lack of engagement–leading to lack of knowledge–is by far the largest factor.

And when you think about it, it is also the most troubling. Not paying attention–in class or in life–is never a good sign.

 

 

A Sanity Backlash?

In a recent column for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin suggests that Texas Republicans may be doing something Democrats have been unable to do: they may be turning the Lone Star State blue.

Rubin says the GOP has alienated so many voters outside its hardcore base, it has  put the state in play in 2022, when the state will elect a governor in addition to the usual congressional  and local contests.

A new Quinnipiac poll suggests Republicans’ radicalism has put them at odds with a majority of Texas voters. In the wake of the Texas law offering bounties to “turn in” those seeking an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest, the poll reports that 77 percent of state residents say abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, including 66 percent of Republicans. Some 72 percent of Texans do not want the law enforced, and 60 percent want to keep Roe v. Wade in place.

Even on a quintessentially Texan issue such as guns, voters are not in sync with MAGA politicians. The pollsters found: “Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of voters, including 58 percent of gun owners, say allowing anyone 21 years of age or older to carry handguns without a license or training makes Texas less safe, while 26 percent say it makes Texas safer. Half of voters (50 percent) say it’s too easy to carry a handgun in Texas, while 44 percent say it’s about right, and 4 percent say it’s too difficult.”

When it comes to the GOP’s incomprehensible posturing on the pandemic, the results are equally negative for Abbott and his hard-core supporters in the state legislature: polling shows that Texas voters are much closer to the positions taken by President Biden than to Abbott. Texans opine  47 – 38 percent that Abbott is hurting rather than helping efforts to slow the spread of COVID–and majorities support vaccine mandates.

Those numbers evidently persuaded Matthew Dowd, who was a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, to run for lieutenant governor–as a Democrat.

Dowd is betting that Texans want something other than pandering to the MAGA base. “The Texas Republican politicians are completely out of step with Texas values like integrity and community and no longer govern with common sense, common decency or for the common good,” he told me on Saturday. “They put their ‘me’ over our ‘we.’ ”

If Rubin is right–if Democrats can win Texas despite the frantic gerrymandering and the  various efforts to make it harder for urban and suburban voters to cast a ballot, we may finally be seeing the results of a political strategy that has always seemed short-sighted to me: relying almost entirely on turning out the GOP base.

In order to “motivate” that increasingly rabid base, the GOP has increased its appeals to racism, conspiracy theories and general fear-mongering. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who claim the Republican label continues to shrink. Earlier this year, Gallup reported that–even when they included independents who “lean toward the GOP,” they could come up with only 40%, compared with 49% of Democrats and independents leaning  Democratic.

It’s worth noting, too, that not all of those Republicans and Republican “leaners” are part of the base. I personally know a number of people who still claim the label, but report being repelled by the current  iteration of a party that is anything but the adult, conservative political party they originally joined.

The problem with relying on a shrinking base is similar to the problem faced by drug addicts: you need bigger “hits” to produce the same high. But the crazier and meaner the party gets, the greater  the number of voters it turns off.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but there does seem to be evidence that we’ve rounded a corner–that the GOP’s manifest preference for acting out over governing has finally gone too far for the majority of citizens who will find their way to the polls in upcoming elections.

Whatever their policy differences, Democrats, Independents and the few remaining sane Republicans can all come together under that well-worn slogan: It’s time for a change.

The Math of Politics

Life in the U.S. these days is dispelling a number of previously accepted “truths”–and not just the widespread belief in American “can-do” spirit and competence.

Those of us who have spent a significant portion of our adult lives in politics, for example, have generally accepted the “math” of politics–the belief that political success is an exercise in addition. Successful campaigns are those that add supporters to whatever base the campaign started with.

One of the reasons so many of us were stunned by Trump’s victory (even recognizing that it was an Electoral College squeaker, and a significant loss in the popular vote) was that his entire strategy was based upon subtraction and division. That first surreal trip down the golden elevator (you really can’t make this shit up) was followed by a speech calculated to repel Latino voters.

His subsequent behaviors were similarly offensive exercises in subtraction. I doubt that disabled folks were charmed by his cruel and demeaning imitation of a disabled reporter. His declaration that there were “good people on both sides” of the racist and anti-Semitic riot in Charlottesville reminded  black and Jewish voters, among others, why David Duke and the Neo-Nazis had endorsed Trump.

It has been three-and-a-half years of constant subtraction.

Political pundits are fond of pointing out that Trump’s popularity has never been good–he has been “underwater,” with negatives larger than positives throughout both the campaign and his dismal presidency. I’ve been appalled by the number who do continue to support him, but it’s true that his base has never been close to a majority. (The lesson here is the importance of turnout, and the need to fight voter suppression–it doesn’t matter that a majority hates you if enough of them don’t vote.)

Thanks largely to his pathetic performance during the pandemic, there are emerging signs that his internal polling is tanking, posing a real dilemma to the down-ballot sycophants running in 2020.

Dozens of media outlets are reporting that US intelligence agencies held more than a dozen classified briefings beginning in January, warning Trump about the emerging threat of the coronavirus. Trump ignored them (as, evidently, he ignores everything in those briefings…). Voters who cared only that their 401Ks were growing–who dismissed the obvious corruption and incompetence and international embarrassment because the only indicator they found meaningful was the one on the bottom line–are suddenly less forgiving.

Speaking of numbers and math–Trump’s pursuit of political victory has always rested on his belief in division. Dividing immigrants from citizens, blacks from whites, Muslims and Jews and mainstream Protestants from Evangelicals, rich from poor, rural from urban residents and  more recently, Red States from Blue.

The concept of “American” seems entirely foreign to him. Playing on fears and resentments  has been his “go to” instinct, and in 2016 that (barely) worked for him.

There’s plenty to fear about a pandemic, but very few people are looking to the “bully pulpit” for direction; a “pulpit” from which we get only rambling diatribes, seething animosities and evidence of Dear Leader’s monumental stupidity. (True, some people are actually asking health authorities if it’s okay to drink bleach…Those people are beyond help.)

Right now, Americans need reassurance that our government is in the hands of competent people who will see to it that we’ll eventually be all right.

We need empathy–expressions of concern and human-kindness and connection.

We need to believe that we have a President who is more concerned with our health and wellbeing than with himself. (Amazingly, the braggart-in-chief– a consummate liar–somehow can’t manage to lie about that.)

Above all, we need a President who knows how to add–and stops dividing.

 

RIP GOP?

I keep encountering people who share with me their (agonized) conviction that Trump will be re-elected. Admittedly, it’s a fear that keeps me up at night–despite my life-long belief that most Americans are good, sensible people, and despite consistent polling that shows a majority of citizens disapprove of him.

It isn’t an entirely unreasonable fear; thanks to the Electoral College, gerrymandering, vote suppression, Russian bots and the various electoral games at which the GOP excels, it can happen. The strength of turnout in November by voters determined to “vote blue no matter who” will tell us whether today’s optimism or pessimism is justified.

That said, I recently became aware of some polling that should cheer us up.

Stan Greenberg is a longtime Democratic pollster, and he predicts both massive turnout and a massive defeat for Trump and for the GOP generally. A column in the Los Angeles Times reports the basis for his optimism.

The columnist begins by conceding the possibilities for defeat: maybe the Democrats will self-destruct at their convention, for example.

Maybe vote suppression by Republicans will succeed. Maybe Tulsi Gabbard will run as a third-party candidate and draw enough votes in a few key states to give the election to Trump. Maybe Trump will lose the popular vote by millions — again — but squeak through in the electoral college by a few thousand.

Despite those possibilities, the column notes that Trump has done nothing to expand his base–and cites Greenberg and others for data showing that the GOP’s base is considerably smaller than that of the Democrats.

Almost half of registered voters (48%) say they are certain they will vote against Trump, while only a third (34%) say they are certain they will vote for him.

The Democratic strategist and pollster Stan Greenberg has a whole book about why Trump will lose (with the great title R.I.P. G.O.P.). He asked voters in a 2016 election day poll whether they could handle an unexpected expense of $500. A majority of unmarried women said they could not. They are unlikely to agree with Trump’s claims about his tax cut benefiting everybody, and unmarried women make up a quarter of the potential electorate.

On many of the issues Americans care most about, Trump is consistently on the wrong side. An increasing majority of people, as Greenberg points out, believe “immigration benefits our country,” up from 50% in 2016 to 65% today. An increasing majority — now more than 60% — believe that the government should play a bigger role in addressing our problems, especially in healthcare. Free college tuition and a wealth tax have widespread support.

But what about the Electoral College? Hillary Clinton was ahead in all the national polls, and won nationally by nearly three million votes. What about Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin?

Of course 2016 showed that we need to look beyond the national polls, and focus on the swing states. But there, too, the news is encouraging. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, since Trump took office, his net approval ratings, which started out on the plus side, have fallen — disastrously. In Pennsylvania they decreased by 17 points, in Wisconsin by 20 points, in Michigan by 22 points. In the midterm voting, those three swing states all elected Democrats in 2018. Wisconsin elected a Democratic governor to replace a Republican, and reelected a Democratic senator; Pennsylvania reelected a Democratic governor and Democrats there took three House seats away from Republican incumbents. In Michigan, which the Democrats lost to Trump by 11,000 votes, the Democrats had a huge victory in 2018, sweeping the elections for governor and senator and flipping two House seats. Voters also banned gerrymandering and created automatic voter registration, which together will bear fruit in 2020. All this explains why I’m quite certain we’ll be free at last from Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2021.

A lot can happen between now and November. We can’t afford to rely on this or any other analysis– we can’t let our guard down. We have to keep working hard and do everything in our power to get the vote out.

But these are good numbers and good omens. Fingers crossed…

 

Just Get Them To The Polls…

These days, good news is rare, so a recent article in The Atlantic-one of my favorite publications–brightened my entire week.

It appears that Trump has “reshaped” American public opinion, but not in the way I  feared he would.

Recent polling shows that Donald Trump has managed to reshape American attitudes to a remarkable extent on a trio of his key issues—race, immigration, and trade.

There’s just one catch: The public is turning against Trump’s views.

The article noted Trump’s increasingly obvious racism, characterizing it as a strategic effort to firm up his base. (I’m less inclined to apply the word “strategy” to anything Trump does–I think as he gets more and more out of his depth, he becomes more unhinged and his true “character” emerges…) Whatever the impetus, however, instinctive or strategic, it isn’t working.

Quite the opposite, if survey research is to be believed.

The Reuters analysis also found that Americans were less likely to express feelings of racial anxiety this year, and they were more likely to empathize with African Americans. This was also true for white Americans and whites without a college degree, who largely backed Trump in 2016.

Among the details, the number of whites who say “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage” has sunk nine points since last August. The percentages of whites, and white Republicans, who strongly agree that “white people are currently under attack in this country” have each dropped by roughly 25 points from the same time two years ago.

The article reports that there has been a 10 percent drop in the number of Americans who espouse white identity politics since Trump entered office, and that Trump’s increasingly explicit racist rhetoric turns off voters who may express some degree of racial anxiety, but who aren’t classical bigots.

The article also notes that Trump has radicalized Democrats, especially white Democrats. By several measures, they have become more liberal on race –on some measures, more liberal than Democrats of color.

Reuters found that more Democrats say blacks are treated unfairly at work and by the police than in 2016—remarkable given how coverage of police violence toward African Americans has dropped in the past few years—while Republican attitudes have remained unchanged.

When it comes to immigration, which the article calls “Trump’s signature issue” (and which is clearly race-based),

Reuters found that white Americans are 19 percent more supportive of a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants than they were four years ago, and slightly less supportive of increased deportations. Other polls find related results. A record-high number of Americans—75 percent—said in 2018 that immigration is good for the United States. Although the Trump administration took steps last week to limit even legal immigration, the Trump presidency has seen an increase in the number of Americans who support more legal immigration—not just among Democrats, but even slightly among Republicans.

Ironically, as the article reports, although Trump has managed to force a national conversation around the issue of immigration, rather than bringing more people to his anti-immigrant views, he has convinced them he’s wrong.

And it isn’t simply his bigotry. His obvious ignorance on issues of economics and trade has also moved public opinion.

One big problem for Trump is that voters have now gotten a chance to see him implement ideas that seemed novel or at least worth a shot during the campaign, and they don’t like what they’re seeing in practice. A trade war with China might have seemed worthwhile in summer 2016, but now that there’s actually one being fought, the public is having second thoughts, and fears of a recession are growing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that 64 percent of Americans think free trade is good, up from 57 in 2017, 55 in 2016, and 51 in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage who say free trade is bad has dropped 10 points since 2017.

As reassuring as these results are, they won’t mean diddly-squat unless the people who hold anti-Trump opinions go to the polls in 2020. As I have insisted ad nauseam, the name of the electoral game is turnout, and in 2020 that is truer than ever.

Fortunately, the Atlantic article even had some encouragement on that score.

Raw polling can, admittedly, be somewhat misleading on its own. Progressives have for years lamented the gap between the fairly liberal policies that the public says it favors and those that its elected representatives actually pursue. One reason for that is not everyone votes, and those who don’t vote tend toward the left.

But the Reuters poll offers reason to believe that the shifts it documents are directly relevant to the coming election. The poll found that “people who rejected racial stereotypes were more interested in voting in the 2020 general election than those who expressed stronger levels of anti-black or anti-Hispanic biases.” That wasn’t the case in 2016, when Americans who held strong antiblack views were more politically engaged.

Again, I repeat: we shouldn’t waste time talking to voters in Trump’s base. Anyone who still supports him is clearly beyond reason. Instead, we need to get every non-racist, non-crazy person who cares about this country–especially those who took a pass in 2016– to the polls!

America’s future depends on turnout.