To the delight of the chattering classes of Washington, Andy Kohut’s fine folks at the Pew Research Center have released a new Political Typology study. It purports to divide the electorate into nine categories, with three each for Democrats, Republicans and “the middle,” though it turns out Bush won “middle” voters handily in 2004. Now you have to understand that political junkies love typologies like drunks love cheap whiskey. Why? Well, to be cynical about it, typologies make it easy to sound sophisticated about the deeper currents of political behavior, and the subtle but real differences between voters who in any given election may vote for the same candidate or identify with the same party. Moreover, typologies are often used to identify some hot new “swing” voter category that one party or the other is supposed to pursue or cherish: thus, the famous “soccer moms” of the 1990s and the “NASCAR dads” of more recent vintage.But there’s another feature of the new Pew study that’s creating some buzz: right there on the site you can answer 25 questions and find out which of the nine categories you supposedly fit into. And that’s where I began to lose a lot of confidence in Pew’s understanding of the electorate.Question after question, the survey lays out a long series of false choices that you are required to make: military force versus diplomacy; environmental protection versus economic growth; gay people and immigrants and corporations and regulations G-O-O-D or B-A-A-D. Other than agreeing with a proposition mildly rather than strongly, there’s no way to register dismay over the boneheaded nature of these choices. For the record, the Typology Test identified me as a “liberal,” probably because the only question on which I registered any strong feeling was about the need to treat homosexuality as an acceptable way of life. But I absolutely reject the idea that this test captures much at all of how I actually think about domestic and foreign policy issues, and several people I tend to agree with wound up being tossed into some other category. To be fair, the Typology Test does not include all the questions Pew used in the actual surveys on which the typology depends; the full questionnaire does at least get into more nuanced issues like the budget and tax policy, Iraq, Social Security and so forth. But still, it made me a lot less excited about the prospect of slogging through 119 pages of analysis of “Disadvantaged Democrats,” or “Enterprisers” or “Upbeats.”So all of you out there in political junkieland, do yourself a favor: before you start enthusing about the strategic implications of the Pew typology, take the test yourself and see if you think it helps identify types, or just stereotypes.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
With all the attention being placed on the battle for the House in 2022, realistic analysis of the battle for the Senate has been lacking, so I tried to provide some at New York:
Political handicappers looking to the 2022 midterms have focused on House races because the very predictable pattern of midterm House losses by the president’s party makes continuation of a Democratic House a real long shot (and probably a prohibitive long shot unless Joe Biden’s job-approval rating shows significant improvement soon). The loss of either chamber, of course, means the governing trifecta that has made enactment of part of Biden’s legislative agenda possible will be gone, probably for a good while (at least until 2026, by my reckoning). But there is some independent value in continued Democratic control of the Senate thanks to that chamber’s role in confirming Biden’s executive branch and judicial nominees along with the ability to control committee and floor action in a way that gives Democrats significant leverage and opportunities for conveying their message.
Because only one-third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years, there is not the sort of predictable relationship between Senate outcomes and the general political climate. In other words, a bad year for either party in presidential, House, or gubernatorial contests doesn’t mean a bad year in Senate races if the landscape is positive. We saw that most recently in 2018, when Republicans lost 41 net House seats and seven net governorships yet picked up two net Senate seats because the landscape (with 26 Democratic Senate seats and only nine Republican Senate seats at stake) was very positive for the GOP.
The Senate landscape is modestly positive in 2022 for Democrats, who have to defend only 14 seats as compared with 20 seats for Republicans. Moreover, as Amy Walter points out, none of the 14 Democratic seats are in a state carried by Donald Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, Republicans are defending two seats in states carried by Biden in 2020, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
But at the same time, Democrats are defending three Senate seats (in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada) in states Biden carried very narrowly (he won by 0.30 percent in Arizona, 0.24 percent in Georgia, and a relatively luxurious 2.39 percent in Nevada). Republicans in the two nominally blue states whose Senate seats they control don’t have much ground to make up, either (Biden won Pennsylvania by 1.17 percent and Wisconsin by 0.63 percent). They also control an open seat in North Carolina, a state Trump won by only 1.3 percent.
To give you an idea of how much “swing” Republicans might rationally expect in a midterm, consider that Republicans won the national House popular vote by 1.1 percent in 2016 and Democrats won it by 8.6 percent in 2018. That’s a lot of movement against the party controlling the White House. Anything remotely like that in 2022 — again, controlling for state aberrations despite the trend toward straight-ticket voting in recent years — and Republicans could pretty easily sweep the six contests mentioned above, all rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, and take control of the Senate by a 53-to-47 margin, assuming neither party breaks serve by winning in a less competitive state.
What may give Democrats better Senate odds is the current nature of Republican intrastate and intraparty dynamics. There are potentially fractious GOP Senate primaries in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania that could produce nominees with real weaknesses. Moreover, in these states and others (notably Ohio, a “red” state that recently reelected a progressive Democratic senator), Trump’s insistence on turning GOP primaries into referenda on loyalty to his ludicrous 2020 election claims could interfere with the expected pro-Republican midterm trend.
Potential Trump-generated problems affecting Senate races aren’t limited to his involvement in just those races. Georgia is a classic example. Freshman Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who along with Jon Ossoff won by an eyelash in 2021’s unique dual general-election Senate runoff in what has become the ultimate battleground state, ought to be a sitting duck in 2022 with even a minimal midterm swing. But Trump enormously complicated Georgia politics by pushing the man Ossoff beat a year ago, David Perdue, into a primary challenge to the incumbent governor, Brian Kemp, as part of a purge effort aimed at those who didn’t support the 45th president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The Perdue-Kemp primary is sure to be an extremely expensive and divisive affair. It could weaken the ultimate winner in a general election against Stacey Abrams and might spill over into the Senate race, where Republican front-runner and Trump favorite Herschel Walker hasn’t shaken questions about his background and temperament (or rid himself of primary opposition).
Divisive Republican gubernatorial primaries seem likely in Arizona and Pennsylvania, as well, and could extend to Wisconsin, where incumbent GOP Senator Ron Johnson is struggling with low favorability numbers.
Republicans should be considered the slight favorites to flip the Senate (and much stronger favorites to flip the House) in 2022, assuming Biden’s popularity doesn’t seriously improve by November. But Mitch McConnell should not be making big plans for 2023. His party’s lord and master, Trump, could screw things up yet, and you never know entirely what will happen in a wide array of competitive Senate races.