Political scientist Alexander Agadjanian conducted an interesting survey experiment recently, whose results he reported in the New York Times. Here’s the description:
“The experiment’s procedure was simple. A random half of participants read a news snippet illustrating the leftward shift, while the other half read about unrelated topics, such as the schedule of election dates. The news item was a few sentences that included policies discussed by the candidates: decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings; expanding undocumented immigrants’ access to government services; replacing private health insurance with a government-run system; and establishing free public college for all children from working-class families. The content was drawn directly from real news coverage.
Both sets of respondents then indicated how they planned to vote in 2020 (whether for President Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee), how strongly they were considering voting Democratic, and how motivated they felt to turn out and vote for or against the Democratic nominee. Because of the random assignment — with some reading about the policy positions and others reading innocuous, unrelated information — the difference in responses between the groups can be attributed to the effect of reading about the leftward shift.
When deciding between Mr. Trump and the Democratic nominee, voters in the middle — the independents who could ultimately tilt things in Mr. Trump’s favor — became six percentage points less likely to vote Democratic after reading about the leftward turn compared with the independents who had read the innocuous content.”
Note the overlap between the items Agadjanian tested and my earlier piece on “The Four Don’ts of the 2020 Democratic Campaign”. Nice of him to test them for me!
Of course, defenders of these dubious policies can always come up with arguments about how these positions won’t actually the hurt the eventual nominee. This is wishful thinking I believe and, if the Democrats nominee wins in November 2020, it will be in spite of, not because of, these unpopular policies. As Agadjanian remarks:
“The question is, are Democrats giving Republicans a head start and making themselves a juicier target? This experiment suggests the answer might be yes.”