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FORGET THE NATIONAL POLLS THESE ARE THE STATES YOU NEED TO WATCH

September 6, 2020

If you are like me, you probably check the latest Trump vs. Biden polls regularly. As of today, Joe Biden has an average national lead of 7.1%. At this date in 2016, Hilary Clinton average national poll lead over Donald Trump was 3%. On election day, she won the national popular vote by 2.1%.

But as we all know, Clinton lost almost all of the so-called battleground states. In fact, Trump won all but one battleground state, by an average difference of 1.23%, as the table below shows.

STATEBIDEN % LEAD2016 RESULTS %TRUMP ELECT.VOTE
FLORIDA1.8-1.229
WISCONSIN4-0.710
MICHIGAN2.6-0.316
PENNSYLVANIA3.5-0.720
MINNOSOTA5.31.5(10)*
ARIZONA5-3.511
NORTH CAROLINA 0.6-3.715
AVERAGE3.25-1.22101
NEGATIVE VALUES INDICATE TRUMP NET PERCENT *BIDEN ELECTORAL VOTE

Currently, Biden has an average poll lead in all six states of 3.3%. In 2016, Hilary Clinton lost six of these states by an average of 1.2%, giving Donald Trump 101 electoral votes of his 306 total. If you do the math, without these six states his total electoral vote would have been 205, 65 short of the required 270 votes needed for victory. A graphic representation of this difference between Biden’s poll lead and Trump’s

RED BARS ARE BIDEN’S CURRENT % POLL LEAD.
BLUE BARS ARE TRUMP”S % FINAL ELECTION RESULT.

Today, Trump is behind in every single one of these swing states, but only by an average of 3.3%!

If Trump can keep his base states (205 electoral votes), he can keep the keys to to the White House by winning Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania for a total of 70 electoral votes, some five more than he needs. He is currently behind Biden in these three states by an average of only 2.6%. And the latest Monmouth University poll now has Biden leading in Pennsylvania by 3.5%, down from his 13-point lead in July.

The point here is that this race is extremely close and the outcome dependent not on winning the popular vote but instead just winning a combination of these swing states.

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IS AMERICA LOSING CONFIDENCE IN OUR INSTITUTIONS AND OUR FELLOW CITIZENS?

September 3, 2020

Americans have a long history for of supporting their institutions, even in times of crisis. When people trust their institutions, they’re better able to solve common problems. But beginning in the 1970’s, confidence in American institutions started to evaporate.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.” Jimmy Carter, July 1979.

This was the era of Watergate and the final days of the Vietnam War. In 1975, after 10 years and thousands of American soldiers’ lives lost, America abandoned the South Vietnamese people. And Americans no longer trusted their own government.

In this post, I’m going to track Americans’ confidence in their institutions from 1974 through 2018, from education to the military via partisan differences.

Education has long been a path for advancement and success for the average American family. This is often referred to as the “American Dream,” the belief that education leads to individual success. Recent studies indicate that this dream is fading for many families.

In 1974, 49% of American voters had a “great deal” confidence American education. In 2018, this response dropped to 25%, nearly half of what it was in 1974. As you might guess the decline among Republicans was eight percent greater than Democrats.

Discipline is often cited as a major concern for public schools, as well as drug abuse and crime and a belief that schools no longer prepare the next generation for the future. The aging of America increased these perceptions, where the baby-boomer generation defined by what they thought how a real education should look like.

This evaporation of trust is not limited to education alone, but other institutions as well. In this post, I’m going show that many of these institutions are losing public confidence. The data for the following charts I have created are from the General Social Surveys (GSS) that specializes in cultural and political trends over time. In this case, survey responses are from time-series survey conducted from 1974 through 2018.

A hallmark of the United States has always been its’ free press. But confidence in America in the press has declined since 1974, as shown below.

As expected, Republicans lack of confidence in the press has outpaced that of Democrats, especially in recent years. In 2018, the gap between Republicans and Democrats had grown to 43%, as the mantra of “fake news” often permeates the White House news conferences.

One subject that both Democrats and Republicans do agree on is their lack of confidence in medicine. This data predates the pandemic, so voters’ confidence in medicine has likely changed.

As the chart shows, a great deal of confidence in medicine has declined by 42%, with all three partisan groups over the past quarter century. Why this decline is unknown, but most likely the cost of prescription drugs and health care are good candidates. This inter-party agreement does not apply, however, to organized religion, as shown below.

Interestingly, both parties agreed on this institution until 2000, when Democrats started to become more negative. That year, George W. Bush won 68% of the evangelical vote against Al Gore. By 2016, Donald Trump carried 81% of that group and the difference between the two party’s on organized religion increased to 21%. And the gap appears to be widening as the partisan divide expands.

When some evangelicals weaponized religion for political purposes, many Democrats and Independents began to lose confidence in organized religion. That doesn’t mean they reject religion. On the contrary, some 50% of liberal Democrats attend religious services at least once a week and 60% of conservative Democrats say they attend religious services once a week as well.

One of the most important institutions in the US is the military. Americans’ generally revere their men and women in uniform (except during the Vietnam war). So you would expect both party’s to have similar confidence levels. And that was the case until 2001.

After the Vietnam War, partisan confidence in the armed forces tracked each other until 2003. That was when the Bush administration began a military campaign against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. At that point, Republican confidence increased but Democrats initially lagged behind, but soon followed suit, but still significantly lower than Republicans.

Today, 50% of Democratic rank and file members say they have a “great deal of confidence” in the military and almost 80% of Republicans say that as well. In 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War, that level of confidence in the Military was less than 40% among all Americans. That war is most likely forgotten for non Vietnam veterans. Americans have never liked loosing.

This partisan loss in confidence for American institutions follows the growing divide between Republican and Democrats. Many of these changes can be directly related to the political polarization of American politics. As party differences increase, so does the confidence in our institutions.

And so does the stress people feel even when just thinking about politics today. In the July, 2020, ANES survey of voters, they asked how stressful it was for them when thinking about politics. As the table below shows, 80% of strong Republicans and 88% of strong Democrats say that it is stressful for them.

Column2Column3Column4
1. Strong Republican7. Strong Democrat
How stressful do you find thinking about politics?1. Extremely stressful %1717
 2. Very stressful %1223
 3. Moderately stressful %2630
 4. A little stressful %2518
   
 TOTAL %8088

I can’t tell you if this is unusual or not, since this question has only been asked once. In conjunction with my recent post (http://thepoliticsdr.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1868&action=edit) on how often Democrats want to slap Republicans (and vice-versa, table below), it indicates that this polarization has taken on an ugly turn.

How often do you feel like Democrats just deserve to be slapped?”

STR. REP%WEAK REP %LEAN REP%
1. Never122621
2. Some of the time183022
3. About half of the time131315
4. Most of the time281826
5. Always29815

When 52% of Republicans feel that Democrats deserve to be slapped always, it shows that the partisan division is now as deep as the Grand Canyon. The motto “United we stand, divided we fall” as Patrick Henry proclaimed, doesn’t resonate as it once did. But when both partisan groups feel this way about each other, communication and respect for different ideas dies as well. Be safe, and don’t slap anyone, even if they deserve it…

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AMERICAN PARTY IDENTITY CHANGE SINCE 1960

August 31, 2020

Political scientists generally agree that party-id on at the individual level is relatively stable. Through the socialization process, most Americans adopt most of their political beliefs from their parents (August 30, 2020http://thepoliticsdr.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1768&action=edit)

At the macro level, however, this is less clear due to generational changes and political influences. In this post, I’m going to compare two American time periods and their respective changes in the seven-point party identification measure.

The first period includes the years of 1948 through 1960, a formative period after World War II and Korea that shaped the political beliefs of the Baby Boomer generation.

The second time period covers 1980 through 2020, that follows the Ronald Reagan presidency and ends with the election of Donald Trump in 2016. These two different era’s in American history are significantly different from each other.

In the 50’s, Television was in its infancy and following the Korean War the country was at peace with a booming economy. The second period, followed the Vietnam War and the Watergate crisis. In addition, there were significant demographic racial changes as well.

Considering the political and generational upheaval during this period, you would expect significant changes in voter’s partisan beliefs.

The data for this analysis comes from the American National Election Studies (ANES), a time-series survey project supervised by the University of Michigan and Stanford University. In both time periods, this survey asked the identical questions on party identification. So wording effects should have no effect on responses.

Table below shows the 1948 through 1960 responses and a bar chart of the data.

Years
1948-1960  Party-id    Percent
1. Strong Democrat24
2. Weak Democrat25
3. Independent – Democrat7.8
4. Independent – Independent7.6
5. Independent – Republican7.03
6. Weak Republican14.9
7. Strong Republican14.2

At this point in our history, the Democrats had a significant partisan advantage over the Republicans. This was the era of Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero, and just before the 1961 election of John F. Kennedy. In 1948, Harry Truman pulled an upset win over Republican Thomas Dewey.

At this point in our history, Independents were just a small portion of the electorate. And without the persona of General Eisenhower and the Korean War, it would have likely been a total Democratic era.

Let’s now move ahead in time to the 1980 through the 2020 time period and compare how party-id evolved since the 1950’s, as shown in the table and graph below.

 1980-2020 Valid Percent% CHANGE
Party-id1. Strong Democrat20.1-3.5
2. Weak Democrat17.5-7.3
3. Independent – Democrat13.05.2
4. Independent – Independent12.34.7
5. Independent – Republican11.34.3
6. Weak Republican13.0-2
7. Strong Republican12.8-1.4

In this political era, the Democratic party’s share of the electorate shrunk by almost 11% and the Republicans lost 3.4% since 1960.

The big winners here are the Independents. Counting the leaner’s, this group increased by 14 points. Now as I have pointed out in a previous post, many of these leaner’s vote like weak Democrats and Republicans, but it shows a significant movement toward a less partisan identity.

This significant change also had an impact on our elections. In the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan won 51.7% of the electorate to politically wounded Jimmy Carter’s 41%. Independent candidates like John Anderson and Ross Perot rose to political prominence.

In the 1992 election, Ross Perot garnered some 19% of the total vote, insuring Bill Clinton’s victory. In 1996, Perot took another 8.4% of the total vote. After this point, no significant independent candidates challenged the reigning two party system.

In the 1948-1960 period, strong and weak Democrats comprised 49% of the electorate and strong and weak Republicans just 23.2%, an almost 26% difference to the Democrats favor.

In the 1980-2020 period, Republicans (weak and strong) were still at almost 26% and Democrats at nearly 38%, an advantage of almost 12%, a decline of 14% from the earlier period.

The 1948-1960 period gave the Republicans two presidential victories and the Democrats two wins. Why didn’t Democrats win all four elections? The obvious reason was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former General of the Army in WW II and in 1952, America was mired in an unpopular Korean War.

And Adlai Stevenson was no John F. Kennedy. The General won the popular vote by over 10 points. The 1956 election was just a rerun of the ’52 election, with Eisenhower defeating Stevenson this time by 14%. The Democrats partisan advantage melted in the face of General Eisenhower and the beginning of the Cold War.

The second era, 1980-2020, produced six Republican presidential victories compared to the Democrats four wins, with the 2020 election still 60 days away. It is important to consider that the popular vote was won by the Democratic candidates – Al Gore and Hilary Clinton.

Both of these period examples show that partisan attachments are just part of the story. Candidates and salient issues still are important. In addition, the Republican party in the modern era, has always been the underdog in party-id. They have compensated this fact by two major advantages: turnout and money.

But in the election for president this year, I believe that the distribution of votes between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have similar, but not identical pattern as the 2016 election.

Why? Although the Covid-19 virus still rages and should be a major reason for vote choice, the real issue is still Donald J. Trump. His supporters will still vote for him even if they’re on a ventilator.

The two tables blow are voters self-reports of how they voted in 2016 by their level of party-id strength.

20161. Strong Republican2. Weak Republican3. Lean Republican
Trump86%67%66%
Clinton1.40%8.50%7.90%


20164. Independent5. Lean Democrat6. Weak Democrat7. Strong Democrat
Trump 19%10%11.80%9.60%
Clinton19%52%53%76%

Notice that strong Republicans gave Trump 10 points more than strong Democrats gave Clinton. This pattern continues where Trump adherents consistently out vote their Democratic counterparts.

This is typical of Democratic and Republican voting patterns. In other words, Democratic defections are common and for Republicans rare.

The question is will this voting pattern continue in 2020? Will weak and independent Democrats come back for Joe Biden? We won’t know until after the final votes are counted. Don’t stay up late on November 3 for the final results. Get some sleep, you won’t miss anything. Be safe…

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Do Democrats and Republicans want to slap each other?

August 28, 2020

Some people take politics too seriously. In fact, the anger between Republicans and Democrats has now become a standard polling question in the American National Election Survey (ANES), a consortium between the University of Michigan and Stanford University that regularly conducts political surveys nationwide, has added a new question to it’s questionnaire to measure political intensity.

Democrat and Republican Duking it Out

I call it the slap test. And it’s a simple question to test partisan intensity. (I’m not making this up.) The question is clear and unambiguous, as shown below.

How often do you feel like [Republicans] [Democrats] just deserve to be slapped?

The theory, I suppose, is that physical anger is a better measure of intensity than a question like “On a scale of 1 to 10, were one means you dislike the persons political views somewhat and 10 means you want to kill the S.O.B.”

In the July, 2020 survey, this question was asked of 3,080 Democrats and Republicans. I had my doubts that people would answer this question at all, but my impression was entirely wrong. The table below reveals the Republican responses to this subtle question.

How often do you feel like Democrats just deserve to be slapped?”

STR.REP %WEAK REP %LEAN REP %
1. Never122621
2. Some of the time183022
3. About half of the time131315
4. Most of the time281826
5. Always29815

I have cross tab these responses by the Republicans party-id, strong, weak and lean. As you can see, only 12% of strong Republicans say that never occurs to them. For weak and leaning Republicans, they are less likely to slap Democrats as well.

When we move to “some of the time” strong Republicans drop to only 18%. But weak and leaning Republican pick up some the slack with 30% and 22% saying an occasional wack would likely be good for them.

With “most of the time” a good slap was deserved, we find that 28% of strong Republicans give that answer and, here is a surprise, some 26% of Republican leaner’s feel that urge as well, almost matching strong Republicans enthusiasm.

When we reach “always,” strong Republicans show their stuff, with 29% saying that feeling a need to slap a Democrat is always there. And weak Republicans drop to 8% (now we know why they are called “weak” Republicans.) But leaner’s come in with an impressive 15% having that feeling always.

Now let’s see if those girly Democrats can match these tough Republicans.

How often do you feel like Republicans just deserve to be slapped?”

STR DEM %WEAK DEM %LEAN DEM %
1. Never152415
2. Some of the time202925
3. About half of the time182024
4. Most of the time261724
5. Always221012

At first glance, it doesn’t look bad for the Donkey’s. Let’s start with their so-called strong Democrats. They surpass their competitors in three of the five categories. But when it comes to slapping Republicans most of the time or always, they come up with a combined loss of 9% to the GOP. Strong Republicans dominate this category.

So let’s look at the combined averages of all Democrat and Republican voters. When we average all the categories the Democrats are the overall winners, although it’s close. For strong Democrats, they average 20.2%, compared to the Republicans 20%. In the weak category, Democrats average 20% to the Republican’s 19%. And in the leaner category, Democrat’s have 20% to the Republican’s 19.8%.

It’s good to know that in America we all feel pretty much the same when it comes to slapping members of the opposite party.

But when it comes to intensity, the Republicans walk away with the top prize. In the coveted “always”category, Republicans’ combined average is a record 17% to the Democrats’ 14%.

I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t find it too comforting knowing that a member of the other party really wants to bitch-slap me when I talk to them about politics.

Be safe, especially when talking to someone from a different party.

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HAS THE COUNTRY BECOME MORE CONSERVATIVE or MORE LIBERAL?

August 24, 2020

One of the more contested political issues is whether America is becoming more conservative over the past three or four decades.

There is no doubt that people do become more conservative as they age. Most psychology studies blame this trend on the decline of intellectual curiosity as people age, which leads to increases in conservatism. (That’s assuming you had any intellectual curiosity to begin with.)

Whether a person considers themselves conservative or liberal does affect their views on many political and social issues. For example, the recent #Me Too Movement, which reflects peoples concerns over sexual violence, is a good example of how both conservatives and liberals see this issue differently. The graph below displays the thermometer rating of the movement by their liberal-conservative identity.

Data from the GSS 1972-2020 surveys.

Ratings above 50 indicate positive views of the movement and those below 50 indicate negative positions. As you can see, all conservative responses are negative and all liberal ones are positive.

From this we can conclude that people’s conservative/ liberal values do have a significant effect on important issues. In other words, its not like calling oneself a Floridian, but a set of values that can significantly affect social and political beliefs and sometimes, actions.

To determine whether the country is becoming more conservative or liberal, I am using the General Social Survey (GSS), which has been collecting social and political data since 1972. The below chart is based on respondents self reports if they consider themselves conservative, from 1974 through 2018.

What is remarkable about this data is how consistent voters’self-identification has been over the last 46 years. This stability suggests that being conservative is an important self-identity, like a person’s religion or ethnic group. But when we break it down by party identification, we see a completely different picture, as shown in the graph below.

Red line = Republican / Blue line = Democrat / Green = Independent

The red line, which represents Republican conservative responses, started to increase in 1974 and still continues on an upward track. Democrats (blue line) conservative responses rose initially until 1980, when it began a slow decline until 1998, when it took a sharper drop.

In 2018, 70% of Republicans said they were conservative and only 13% of Democrats said the same. From 1974 to 2018, the gap between the two parties went from 20% to 57%. And the divide is continuing to increase. Fox News and CNN represent these two America’s.

So is America becoming more conservative or liberal? The answer depends on your political identification. Republicans are becoming significantly more conservative and Democrats are increasingly more liberal. In the Chart below, I compare just the Republican and Democratic responses on whether they are liberal.

BLUE LINE = DEMOCRATS / GREY LINE = REPUBLICANS

This chart clearly delineates the increasing differences between the two parties over the past 42 years. During this time period, the liberal gap between the two parties increased from 14% to 47%.

This ideological divide is showing its ugly side during this current presidential election. America has always been divided on policies, that is why we have two parties. The difference today, however, is a growing cavern between the two parties’ beliefs, which makes compromise almost impossible to bridge. Be safe…

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THE 2020 POLITICAL DISCONNECT!

August 23, 2020

I have been conducting polls for over 30 years and I have never seen such odd survey results as I have seen in this presidential election. To this point, the results of several recent polls conducted by the Harris Research Associates for NBC/Wall Street Journal Surveys confirm this observation.

The average sample size for each of the 11 polls, was over 500 interviews conducted live from both land lines and cell phones. These are quality surveys.

In all these surveys, a question was asked how positive or negative (very, somewhat, and neutral) feelings they had for Donald Trump. In eight of these surveys, they also asked the same question for Joe Biden as well. Below are the “Very Positive” responses for each candidate.

Trump Very Positive % Biden Very Positive %

30 18
29 15
29 17
31 16
29 18
33 14
29 NA
27 12
30 NA
28 11
28 NA
Average 29.3 Average 15.1
Trump and Biden Very Positive Ratings

Trump scores an average 14% more “very positive” reviews than Biden, which would normally suggest he is the front runner. But he is not, as the table below showing the trial ballot results from the same surveys makes clear.

DATETRUMP %BIDEN %
20-Aug4150
20-Jul4051
20-Jun4249
20-Apr4249
20-Mar4352
AVERAGE41.650.2
Trump and Biden Percent of Two Party Vote.

Not only is Trump not winning the popular vote, but he is trailing Biden by almost 9%. This relationship, in my experience, is highly unusual. So what’s happening? Well the problem for Trump is that he is not only leading with the very positive views, he is also winning the “very negative” ratings as well.

TRUMP VERY NEGATIVE %BIDEN VERY NEGATIVE %
4433
4833
4526
4325
4224
AVERAGE % 44.4AVERAGE % 28.2
TRUMP AND BIDEN VERY NEGATIVE RATINGS

When you subtract Trump’s very negative scores from his very positive ones, he comes up with net positive of only 2.8%. Biden on the other hand, has net positive of 22%, a difference of 19 points in Biden’s favor.

The expression you either love him or hate him could be Donald Trump’s campaign motto.

Trump has cultivated this love / hate relationship with voters by his actions and statements that often divide the public along partisan lines or what many call polarization. And it shows. Yes, his base is solidly with him, but the final question is will it be enough on election day. Be safe…

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Are we our Parents’ Political Offspring?

August 20, 2020

I mentioned in a previous post (http://thepoliticsdr.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1610&action=edit) how our parents shape our political beliefs. This process is part of the socialization process where children learn acceptable ways to function in society. Partisan behavior is part of this process for most children. It is a predominant factor in how adults develop partisan beliefs and loyalties.

I was reviewing a dataset from the American National Election Studies (ANES), which is a time series of surveys conducted since 1948. This file contains over 48,000 interviews with hundreds of questions on political subjects and candidates. In reviewing the data I discovered that this file contains questions about the respondent’s party id and the party id of their parents.

I realized that such a large survey could shed light on the respondents’ party id with both of their parents. If the theory of partisan socialization is correct, we would expect a high correlation of party identification between the child and parents. Below is a basic table that shows the party identification of both Father and Mother, and the corresponding party id of their child.

FATHER PARTY IDFATHER PARTY IDMOTHER PARTY IDREPONDENT PARTY ID
1. Democrat55.2%53.3%52.2%
2. Independent (some years also: shifted around)7.7%8.1%12.0%
3. Republican30.3%28.9%35.8%
OTHER PARTY OR DON’T KNOW NOT INCLUDED / N = 17756\


As we can see, the party id percentages of Father, Mother and respondent (child) are very similar, which suggests that there is a correlation between parents’ and their offspring’s party id.

With over 17,000 interviews, the correlation between a father and the respondent is .480 (sig <.001)) and his or her mother is .439 (sig, <.001). These correlations are both strong and significant, but not perfect.

Regression analysis confirms this observation. Although the coefficients are significant at the <.001 level, the Rsq is only .258., which means that both mother and father party id only explains 26% of the variance.

This suggests that it does not completely describe why the respondent chose their party id alone. Simply put, the parents party choice does impact their child’s partisan choice significantly, but there are other influences as well.

This brief analysis does confirm the importance of our parents influence on our partisan beliefs, but other life experiences also play a role as well. It is perhaps better to look at it as a foundation that helps shapes our future experiences.

When my youngest children were pre-teens and riding in my car, my son, who was a couple of years older than his sister, said he had something very important to tell me that I might be upset about. At first I was concerned, but I assured him that whatever it was, he could tell me without worrying about how I might feel.

Hesitantly, he said, “Dad I think I’m a Republican….” At that point, his younger sister almost jumped over the front seat and shouted “See, I told you he was different from us….” Be safe…

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The Margin of Error and What it Really Means

August 18, 2020

Caution: Some Math Involved

The most misunderstood statistic in politics is the “Margin of Error.” As most people know, this statistic is based on the size of the survey sample and not the size of the population. It doesn’t matter, for instance, that you are polling voters only in Fort Lauderdale or the entire United States. The sampling error for each stays the same no matter the population size.

To illustrate how to understand the margin of error, let’s say Candidate A in our poll has 48% of the vote and the margin of error for this survey is +/-3%. That means the range for Candidate A’s percent of the vote is within the margin of error, when it is between 45% and 51%. What that tells us, is that if you ran that poll 100 times, the outcome for Candidate A would be within that range, with a confidence level of 95%.

But this does not tell you if a candidate’s lead over the opponent is outside the margin of error, which would indicate his lead is greater than we would expect from sampling error. (I told you that math was involved).

If we want to know if Candidate A’s lead over Candidate B is outside the margin of error (for a two person horse-race), we have to assign the same 3-point error to candidate B as well. That means the 3-percentage margin for each candidate now becomes a +/- 6-point margin of error for the difference.

We could reasonably expect their true position to lie somewhere between –1 and +11 percentage points. In other words, for a candidate’s lead to be outside the margin of error, it must be greater than 6 points. The larger margin of error is due to the fact that if the Republican share is too high by chance, it follows that the Democratic share is likely too low, and vice versa.

In this example, for Candidate A’s lead to be outside the margin of error, it must be greater than 6 points (2 x 3%). Candidate A has 48% and Candidate B has 43%, a five point lead which is not greater than 6%, so we cannot be certain that this difference is not due to sampling error. Easy, right?

Normally you would have that explained by the reporters covering the polls, but unfortunately most don’t understand it. Many just report the single candidate margin and assume it includes the candidate’s lead as well. It doesn’t.

A lead that is inside the margin of error does not necessarily mean it is not correct. It only means we can’t be sure that it is not caused by sampling error. Polling was never meant to be a precise measuring instrument. That would require interviewing every single voter. It is an estimate within certain parameters based on probability theory.

Occasionally polls predict the exact the outcome. When that happens, pollsters pat themselves on the back and tout their great survey techniques, when in most cases it’s just dumb luck (random). I know, I’ve done it… Be safe.

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Most Voters think that we have two Parties with some Independents. They are wrong!

August 16, 2020

I have been negligent not to cover this subject before because it is one the more important tenets of modern political science. The concept of party identification is one of the most important theories in American politics and still the major reason for most people’s vote choice.

But most Americans think that there are only two parties, with some independents stuck in between them. Admittedly, this a simple concept and understandable, but it is wrong.

Political Scientists have understood since the 1960’s with the development of modern polling, that partisan identification is a continuum of party identities and strengths and not a binary choice.

One the biggest misunderstanding is that independents are a homogeneous group that makes their choice absent of partisan influences. But studies show that this not the case.

From the 1960’s on, political scientists have developed methods to uncover the multiple nuances of party identification. The longest and most commonly used method is known as the Michigan scale.

With this scale, Party identification is measured by asking individuals whether they consider themselves to be a Democrat, Republican, or independent. Those indicating Democratic or Republican are then asked whether they are a strong or a weak Democrat or Republican, while those claiming to be an independent are asked whether they feel closer to one of the two political parties.

This yields a seven-fold classification: strong Democrats, weak Democrats, independents closer to the Democrats, independents not closer to either party, independents closer to the Republicans, weak Republicans, and strong Republicans.

Using data from the 2020 American National Election Survey (ANES), I can test the impact of this party id scale on candidate impressions and vote choice.

Using their thermometer ratings on Trump and Biden, where voters rate on a scale of zero to 100 degrees (positive ratings above 50 degrees), we can see how these seven different party identities rate these two candidates for President. Using the seven-point party identification, we find significant rating differences between Republicans when we separate them into different partisan strengths.

The strong Republicans rate Donald Trump with a remarkable 85 degrees. If he was arrested tomorrow, they would still vote for him. But as levels of Republican strength decline, so does his rating. There is a drop of over 20 degrees between the strong and weak Republicans. But this is still a healthy rating.

With Independents who lean Republican, his rating is, oddly, slightly higher. Remember, these are voters who initially said they were Independents. But as you can see, they act like traditional Republicans.

Pure independents drop below 50 degrees, into negative territory, but still higher than independents who lean Democratic, who put the President at the second lowest rating at 17.4 degrees.

As expected, both weak and strong Democrats have negative views of him, with strong Democrats bringing up the rear at less than 15 degrees.

Before we decide how these voters will ultimately vote, we have to see how well Joe Biden does with the categories of voters. Below is a chart of the Biden ratings using the same seven point scale.

As expected, we see the opposite of Trump ratings for Biden. What stood out me is how pure independents dislike both candidates. Trump’s independent rating is 33.4 degrees and Biden’s is 34.8 degrees. For them, this is a hold-your-nose choice.

The other major difference is the different levels of intensities between Trump and Biden ratings among their own partisans. The most important difference are among strong partisans, where strong Republican’s give Trump an 85.2 degree rating and strong Democrat’s rate Biden at 70.7 degrees, a 14.5 degree difference in Trump’s favor. The same is true, but at a lesser level, of the differences among weaker Democrats and Republicans.

Intensity of support for Trump has always been his strong point, and so far, that is still the case. How would that affect the election? In a close election, it could be deciding. Bad weather, complacency, and over-confidence could effect the Democratic vote. My opinion of Trump voters is that they would show up in a Blizzard in November for him.

Political studies show a high correlation between the seven-point identification and vote choice. In this survey, they included who they would vote for in the general election if it were between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

This survey was completed in July, so I wouldn’t put too much faith in the trial ballot, where Biden has 51.3% and Trump 48.7%. In the table below, I compare vote choice by these voters’ 7-point party id.

 STR REPWEAK    REPIND-LEAN REP  INDEPIND-LEAN DEM  WEAK DEMSTR DEM
TRUMP96.6%84.3%87.2%46.4%11.9%14.4%9.8%
BIDEN3.4%15.7%12.8%53.6%88.1%85.6%90.2%

As you can see, Trump’s percent of the vote starting with strong Republicans shows they choose him over Biden with 96.6% of their vote. Weak Republicans drop down to 84.3% and independents who lean Republicans at 87.2%.

In other words, voters who said they were independents initially, but when probed said they leaned Republican, chose Trump almost 3% more than traditional Republicans.

The same is true for Independents who said they leaned Democratic. They gave Biden 88% of their vote compared to traditional Democrats 85.6%. Both Republican and Democratic leaner’s are more partisan that traditional rank and file partisans.

These results are confirmed by previous studies showing that many so-called independents are more partisan than weaker party voters.

The other take away is that Republican voters give more support to their candidates than Democrats. And pure Independents favor Democrats slightly more than Republicans.

I want to emphasize that these results don’t predict who will be victorious in November. But the thermometer ratings at this point in time, suggest a closer race than current polls now indicate.

This analysis confirms what political scientists have known for sometime. First, a person’s party id is the primary cause for vote choice even in presidential campaigns where voters are far more informed on the candidate’s positions on important issues than in state or local elections. In low information elections, party id is often the only reason.

The long held belief that independents are neutral is basically a myth. As I show, some types of independents are more partisan than many Democrats and Republicans.

The only problem for poll watchers is that practically no public pollsters use this scale. It is almost exclusively an academic survey question.

That’s unfortunate, because in combination with the trial ballot question, it reveals more information about a voter’s likely choice than any other traditional question. Do a political junkie, like myself a favor, call your Congressman and demand that public pollsters insert this in every political questionnaire! Be safe…

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Through the Eyes of Super Trump Voters

August 12, 2020

Recently, I received the latest survey data set from the American National Election Studies (ANES), a consortium of Stanford University and The University of Michigan. It is a national online survey of 3080 adults (but contains Party designation) completed in July. As typical of academic surveys, it is a massive file containing hundreds of questions.

This particular study is called an Exploratory Testing Survey, which means that most of the questions are unique and provided by academic members of the ANES.

It provides an opportunity to look at how voters feel about issues not usually included in polls. My interest is how Trump voters actually feel about Donald Trump and his particular style of governing. In other words, questions that go beyond the usual job approval ratings.

I used the headline “Super Trump Voters,” to describe voters who would still vote for him even if he shot Mike Pence on Fifth Avenue. Like almost all academic political surveys, instead of a favorable rating, they use the Thermometer rating which ranges from 0 degrees to 100 degrees, where 0 to 49 degrees are in the cold range and those 51 and above are warmer.

I personally use the this scale in most of my surveys because it not only tells how voters like or dislike a candidate, but also the intensity of their feelings. I will admit that it is rare to see a 100 degree rating for a politician.

But in the case of Trump, that wasn’t the case. Some 345 voters gave him a 100 degree rating or almost 12% of the sample. My assumption is that any voter who rates Donald Trump a 100, is more than just a Trump voter but a “super” Trump voter. It does not represent all people who support Donald Trump, but only those who see him like a famous rock star.

The survey included questions on what I would call character assessments, such as leadership and that he cares about people. In the first table below, we see if Trump voters’ see him as empathizing with them.

TABLE 1
Really cares about people like you. - How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump...					
 		             Frequency	Percent             	
	1. Extremely well	263	76.2		
	2. Very well	53	15.4	15.4	
	3. Moderately well	19	5.5		
	4. Slightly well	4	1.2		
	5. Not well at all	6	1.7		
	Total	               345	100.0		

With Trump supporters, 91.6% say the statement fits the President either extremely well or very well. This question was designed to measure empathy and most politicians would kill for this rating.

Table 2 Dignified. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
 FrequencyPercent
1.Extremely well20860.3
2. Very well8424.3
3. Moderately well3911.3
4. Slightly well82.3
5. Not well at all61.7
Total345100.0 

We expect our President, of course, to be dignified and it relates to his ability represent the United States to the world. It is a trait that his favorite President Andrew Jackson did not have. His inauguration party at the White House attracted some 20,000 supporters who drank every bottle of liquor they could find and it took three weeks to clean the house up.

Table 3 Honest. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
 FrequencyPercent 
1. Extremely well24370.4 
2. Very well6819.7 
3. Moderately well247.0 
4. Slightly well72.0 
5. Not well at all3.9 
Total345100.0 

And, of course, we expect our President to be honest, just like Honest Abe Lincoln, who’s likeness is carved into Mount Rushmore and where there is still room for another president.

In Table 4 below, some 82% say the statement he is “Authentic” fits him extremely extremely well.

Table 4 Authentic. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
FrequencyPercent  
1. Extremely well28382.0  
2. Very well4011.6  
3. Moderately well113.2  
4. Slightly well51.4  
5. Not well at all51.4  
99. Missing1.3  
Total345100.0  

I know some might disagree with this statement, but I would have to say that having spent half a day with him when he was renovating Mar-A-Largo, he maybe not authentic but he was certainly different.

Table 5 Divisive. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
 FrequencyPercent  
1. Extremely well14441.7  
2. Very well5816.8  
3. Moderately well329.3  
4. Slightly well267.5  
5. Not well at all8524.6  
Total345100.0  

I was somewhat surprised that as many as 42% Trump supporters called him “divisive.” Divisive is not a superlative people normally use for someone they respect or admire. That said, it is in my opinion it is accurate and indicates that his base likes this aspect of him.

Table 6 Knowledgeable. – How well do each of the following traits describe Donald Trump?
 FrequencyPercent  
1. Extremely well26576.8  
2. Very well5816.8  
3. Moderately well144.1  
4. Slightly well51.4  
5. Not well at all3.9  
Total345100.0  

Here is where I disagree with his avid supporters’ opinion. Donald Trump is not a reader and history is not his strong point. In fact, he has made fact checking a full time profession.

Very few studies so far have looked into the opinions of Trump’s loyalist base. The current social psychological evaluations suggest that some Trump supporters lean toward authoritarianism. But if nothing else, this data paints a picture of Americans who see a decisive leader that can on occasion be divisive.

I have to admit that my short time with him in the late 1990’s, revealed a man dead certain about his opinions. I could tell I was irritating him by suggesting that more study of the subject was needed. As I was about to leave, he stood up and pointed his finger at me and said “if I do it they will come…” When he ran for President he was right. They came and voted for him. Be safe…