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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Biden and White Noncollege Voters (II)

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Yesterday, I noted that Biden’s strong primary performance owed a lot to how well his did with white noncollege voters. But that’s the primary; what about the general election? How does Biden fare against Trump among this demographic relative to how well (which was very poorly) Clinton did against Trump in 2016?

Here I compare States of Change data from our analysis of the 2016 election with data from the UCLA/Lucid/Democracy Fund Voter Study Group survey. The survey interviews 6,000 respondents a week; I pool the date from the beginning of the year (almost 60,000 registered voters to date). What the data show overall is that Biden is delivering as advertised in terms of performance among white noncollege voters.

Data below show first the 2016 States of Change white noncollege margin for a given state, then the 2020 Nationscape margin among that demographic in that state and finally Biden’s relative white noncollege performance compared to Clinton’s in 2016.

National: -=31 Clinton 2016, -16 Biden 2020, +15 Biden difference

Arizona: -27 Clinton, -20 Biden, +7 Biden
Florida: -30 Clinton, -20 Biden, +10 Biden
Michigan -21 Clinton, -7 Biden, +14 Biden
Minnesota, -21 Clinton, -5 Biden, +16 Biden
North Carolina: -51 Clinton, -39 Biden, +12 Biden
Ohio: -32 Clinton, -16 Biden, +16 Biden
Pennsylvania: -29 Clinton, -17 Biden, +12 Biden
Wisconsin: -19 Clinton, –5 Biden, +14 Biden

It’s always important to remember that, while there were many deficiencies to Clinton’s performance in 2016 relative to Obama in 2012, by far the biggest and most consequential was the massive shift away from Democrats among white noncollege voters, particularly in the Midwest. While it’s a long way to November, these data tell an encouraging story about Biden’s ability to repair a lot of the damage among this demographic in 2020. That will take him far in his bid to unseat Trump in 2020–and probably help the Democratic ticket all over the country.

Teixeira: Biden and White Noncollege Voters (I)

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

One quite obvious pattern from the primaries as the race narrowed to Biden vs. Sanders was how well Biden was doing among white noncollege voters–a group Sanders had hoped to make his own. Geoffrey Skelley on 538 has an excellent breakdown of the primary voting results that highlights this striking development. Below are some excerpts from Skelley’s article. Tomorrow, I will use the Nationscape data to take a look at whether Biden’s good performance among white noncollege voters holds in state general election trial heats.

“Biden held onto much of the turf that Clinton won in 2016, but he also captured a lot of territory that Sanders carried four years ago. We found that much of Biden’s success can be explained by his dominance in areas with larger shares of white voters without a college degree….

The difference between Biden and Clinton’s performance is most obvious in areas with sizable shares of white voters who don’t have a college degree… the larger the share of a county’s population that is white without a college degree, the better Biden tended to perform compared to Clinton, even when Biden’s vote share in that particular county was smaller than Clinton’s.

Exit polls also underscore this trend, especially if we look at the race once the candidate field had winnowed after the February contests. In the 10 states that voted in March for which we have both 2016 and 2020 exit poll data,5 Sanders edged out Clinton among white voters without a college degree in 2016, 54 percent to 44 percent. But in 2020, Biden beat Sanders, 40 percent to 33 percent in those same states.

Even though we don’t have complete exit poll data from Michigan, the result there may best capture just how much ground Biden made up with white voters without a college degree, compared to Clinton’s performance with this group in 2016. Four years ago, Sanders won the state by about 1 point in a huge upset. He carried 73 of 83 counties while winning 57 percent of white voters without a college degree, per the 2016 exit poll. But in 2020, Biden won every county in Michigan en route to beating Sanders by nearly 17 points. The partial Michigan exit poll also found the former vice president won a majority of white voters without a college degree.”

Galston: Public Supports Robust Government Response to COVID-19

At Brookings, William A. Galston reports that “Polling shows Americans see COVID-19 as a crisis, don’t think US is overreacting.” As Galston writes:

As soon as the novel coronavirus began spreading across the country, some pundits—and on occasion President Trump—alleged that health experts and the media were exaggerating the problem and that policy makers were responding with measures that the American people would not tolerate. The high-quality survey research published in recent days makes it clear that the people don’t agree. They believe that we face a national emergency and that all the steps taken during the past few weeks are reasonable and proportionate. As of now, moreover, there is no evidence—none—that these measures have pushed the people past their breaking-point into non-compliance or revolt.

Galston provides “a summary of the key findings from three wide-ranging surveys conducted by Economist/YouGov, the Pew Research Center, and the Washington Post,” and notes:

Eighty-one percent of the people say that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a “national emergency” (Economist/YouGov). Sixty-six percent believe that it is a “major threat” to the health of the U.S. population, 88% say that it is a major threat to the economy (Pew), and 57% say that the country is “at war” with the coronavirus (Economist/YouGov). Only 3 in 10 say that the threat has been exaggerated for political reasons (Economist/YouGov).

About three-quarters of Americans are concerned about an outbreak in their communities (Economist/YouGov). Nearly 7 in 10 express the fear that they or a member of their family will catch the disease, and about two-thirds say that the disease will push the U.S. into a recession or that we are already in one. One-third of all households have already experienced layoffs or pay cuts, and the impact has been even higher for lower-income and less-educated individuals (Pew).

Galston notes further that “The surveys find a remarkably high degree of support for the measures public officials have mandated in response to Covid-19, even the measures that have massively disrupted daily life.” He adds that, “40% or more of Americans believe that we are underreacting to the Covid-19 threat, compared to 25-30% who believe that we are overreacting and about one-quarter who think that our reaction has been about right (Pew, Economist/YouGov). The country is split down the middle on the effectiveness of our efforts to contain the coronavirus, with 47% saying that the battle is going well and 46% that it is going badly. Only 4 in 10 Americans think that we were adequately prepared for this crisis, while 6 in 10 say that we were not (Economist/YouGov).”

For those who are wondering how the crisis affects public views about the role of federal, state and local governments in addressing the crisis, Galston notes, “On the one hand, a plurality of Americans (43%) say that the federal government should be in charge, compared to 27% for the states and just 9% for localities (Economist/YouGov). On the other hand, they express more confidence in state and local officials than they do in the federal government.”

Galston cites the likelihood that “sustained public support for tough public health measures will increase” if the CARES Act keeps most people employed and busines bankruptsies are limited. He concludes that “the American people are backing an increasingly robust response to the COVID-19 epidemic, even when it limits their customary liberties, they expect this restrictive regime to continue for at least another few months, and they seem prepared to tolerate it—for how long, nobody really knows.”

Teixeira: The Dog That Didn’t Bark: The Case of Trump’s Approval Ratings

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

It should not surprise people that Trump’s approval ratings have risen some. Rally effects in times of national crisis are very common. What should surprise people is how little they’ve gone up. Since February 29, when the first US coronavirus death was reported and the first travel restrictions were announced, his aggregated approval rating on 538 has risen 2.5 points, from 43.3 to 45.8. If you date it somewhat later, closer to mid-March and the national emergency declaration, the rise is a bit over 3 points.

By historical standards, this is a very small rally effect. Presumably this reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of Trump disapprovers are set in their judgments and perhaps a sense that some aspects of his response to the crisis have been far from optimal (as polling data suggest). Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Poll, does a good job of putting Trump’s “surge” in context:

“Fact 1: Donald Trump’s job rating is at an all-time high.

Fact 2: Donald Trump has not received the same approval “bump” as past presidents in a crisis.

Recent shifts in the president’s job approval have been met with “either alarms or fist pumps,” as one reporter put it to me. But we really have to keep this in context. We have become so accustomed to the fact that Trump’s numbers never move all that much, that we accept that as the norm. The current crisis is just an exceptionally stark example of that.

To put this in perspective, if this were any other president, we would expect job ratings to have swung almost instantaneously by at least 10 points. George W. Bush got a nearly 30 point bump after 9/11. John F. Kennedy saw a double-digit hike in his already high ratings during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even Jimmy Carter got a 25 point bump in 1979 when Americans were taken hostage in Iran.”

It’s worth noting that all of the spikes alluded to by Murray featured the US against some other country in the world in a national security context. Despite Trump’s attempt to cast himself as a “wartime” president, it is obvious that the virus crisis has a different character–it’s a disaster, not a matter of national security.

Murray concludes:

“There’s a body of literature about the psychological need to rally around a leader in times of crisis, which is why the bigger research question for a student of public opinion is why that effect isn’t bigger right now rather than finding explanations for the few people who have become more positive toward the president.

Part of the explanation is certainly down to Trump’s inability to project a more inclusive, non-partisan persona as well as a steady hand on how his administration is tackling this situation. Part of the explanation is the failure of opposition leaders to signal to their followers that they should get behind the president (which admittedly is difficult for them to do as Trump’s rhetoric continues to lambast those who don’t show due deference to him).

Basically, the current times are blowing away a lot of the political theories about what typically happens in a time of crisis. And that, to me, is the more important public opinion story right now.”

It’s also worth noting the Trump’s small bump doesn’t seem to be having much impact on Trump-Biden trial heat measurements. The just-released Fox News Poll has Biden ahead of Trump, 49-40. This includes a shockingly low advantage for Trump among noncollege whites–a mere 13 points.

Finally, the Navigator survey has been running a tracking poll on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. They now find him underwater on this measure (down 13 margin points in a week; graphic below).

These measures all suggest the unusually modest nature of Trump’s gains in public perception. We shall see if recent measures taken (such as the CARES Act) yield larger benefits for him. But so far, the change in Trump”s approval rating is more “the dog that didn’t bark” than much of a game-changer.

Teixeira: The Turnout Tale of the 2020 Primaries

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a terrific deep dive on turnout patterns in the 2020 primaries with lots of nice maps. His summary points:

“–With very few exceptions, statewide turnout in the 2020 Democratic primary has been higher than 2016.

— Suburban areas have seen some of the sharpest turnout increases — though these areas tend to have higher population growth, they’ve also trended blue in general elections, perhaps a positive indicator for Democrats looking to the fall.

— Meanwhile, some rural areas that have been trending away from Democrats in places like North Carolina and Oklahoma saw turnout lag behind 2016.

— While Bernie Sanders seems to have a stronger opponent in Joe Biden than he did with Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ prospects may have been hurt by partisan realignment since 2016.”

His conclusion on political implications, which I think is very reasonable.

“One clear pattern…is that the geographic trends in the Democratic primary are lining up with the contours of recent general elections. Greater turnout in suburbs has buoyed Joe Biden’s prospects and given us an idea of what the Democratic coalition may look like in November — the bigger question will be if that coalition is good for 270 electoral votes, particularly if Democrats continue to lose ground in areas outside major metro areas. That Biden did significantly better than Hillary Clinton in outstate areas in many states may also be an encouraging sign for the fall, but — again — primaries are not general elections, and the overall movement away from Democrats in these kinds of places showed up in the turnout patterns in some states as well.”

That is indeed the dynamic that will decide the 2020 election.

Teixeira: Trump’s Net Approval Rate, Economic Decline Spells Trouble for GOP

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Is Trump Now an Underdog for Re-Election?

Probably. He wasn’t in great shape to begin with and the coronavirus, especially its economic effects, will hurt his chances even more. Plus the Democrats now are almost certain to nominate a candidate who, while far from perfect, can appeal to persuadable voters and will present a far more difficult target for the GOP attack machine.

Here’s a solid quantitative take from Alan Abramowitz, based on his updated “Time for a Change” Presidential election model. Of course, any model like this should be viewed cautiously, but the logic of Abramowitz’ model is sound and has a pretty good track record. Here’s his description of the model and analysis:

“With major sectors of the economy grinding to a near-standstill due to the pandemic, many economic forecasters are now predicting that the U.S. will experience a major downturn in economic growth in the current quarter that could continue for at least the next two quarters. Some forecasters are predicting a major recession with the economy shrinking by 5% or more in the second quarter of 2020. That’s significant because, in many election forecasting models, including my own “time for change” model, economic growth in the second quarter is a key predictor of the election results. Models like mine use second quarter GDP growth to measure the state of the economy because GDP is a broad measure of economic activity and the performance of the economy in the second quarter seems to shape opinions of the economy in the fall. So it’s possible that even if the economy recovers later in the year, the most electorally-salient perceptions will nonetheless be formed in the spring and summer.

For the 2020 election, I have modified my time for change model by focusing entirely on elections with a running incumbent. That is because, in these elections, both the incumbent’s approval rating in late June and the growth rate of the economy in the second quarter have much stronger effects than in elections without a running incumbent. I have also modified the model to make the electoral vote, rather than the popular vote, the dependent variable because it is the electoral vote that decides the winner. I unveiled this version of the model last April in the Crystal Ball……

Table 2 presents the conditional forecasts of the electoral vote for President Trump depending on his net approval rating in late June and the growth rate of the U.S. economy during the second quarter. It takes 270 electoral votes to win a presidential election. The results indicate that, despite the huge boost that Trump is predicted to receive as a first-term incumbent, an economic downturn in the second quarter, combined with a net approval rating in negative territory, would very likely doom Trump’s chances of winning a second term. The only scenario here in which Trump would be favored to win a second term would be modest economic growth combined with a small improvement in his net approval rating, which has been stuck in the vicinity of -10 for many months according to the FiveThirtyEight average. The model suggests that a major recession would likely result in an Electoral College landslide for Trump’s Democratic challenger, especially if it is accompanied by a further decline in the president’s approval rating.

Based on the results of presidential elections since World War II with running incumbents, a president with an upside-down approval rating and an economy in recession would have little chance of winning a second term in the White House. If President Trump’s net approval rating remains where it is now or declines further, and if the recession is severe, with real GDP shrinking by three points or more in the second quarter, the result could well be a defeat of landslide proportions.”

It is important to emphasize here that Abramowitz’ model suggests that Trump is a poor bet for re-election, given second quarter economic contraction, even if his net approval rating does not decline. Thus, even if partisan polarization manages to keep his generally poor approval rating from declining further, he will still be in very bad shape. And if his approval rating does decline significantly–well, he may be out of bullets.

Teixeira: What Trump Vs. Biden Looks Like Today

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

The folks at Decision Desk HQ are pretty level-headed and are generally cautious about assessing trend. But they are currently quite bearish on Trump and the GOP.

“With Sunday’s release of a Wall Street Journal/NBC National poll, we now have a third data point this week showing Joe Biden with a big lead. From a 9 point lead in WSJ/NBC to CNN’s Biden +10 to Quinnipiac’s even more bullish +11, there’s a clear trend line. The LeanTossup average, which includes all polling of the Biden versus Donald Trump race, not just those three, has the race at Biden +8.2% currently, and no matter what electoral college advantage Donald Trump has – as he did in 2016 – he would lose if that popular vote result were to come through. Entering the (incredibly likely, although, not technically guaranteed) general election matchup, the Democrats have to be favored.

If the Democrats were to win by the average’s 8.2%, that would represent a 6.1% swing since the 2016 Presidential Election, enough to swing 7 states, and the election – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona – on a uniform swing. The Democrats need three of those under most constructions of the Electoral College, and such a wide popular vote lead would result in a rebuke to Trump and the GOP.

Now, none of this is to say that Biden can’t blow this lead and lose the election…but to sugarcoat this is a disservice to people – Donald Trump is an underdog to be re-elected.

The state polls don’t show a much different picture – while not as strong for the Democratic challenger, Biden currently leads by 4.8% in Michigan, 3.8% in Pennsylvania, 3.4% in North Carolina, and 5% in Arizona, per Real Clear Politics averages. In addition to those four states – which would be enough for a reasonably robust victory, Trump is only down 0.5% in Florida and tied in Wisconsin – and leading in 3 of the five most recent Wisconsin polls. Even in Texas, where the GOP won the Presidency by 9% last time, is close, with Trump only up 2.6%, and with a CNN poll of the state showing Biden winning by 1%. Even if Texas doesn’t flip – and that appears to be likelier than not, as of today – the GOP having to play defense in the Lone Star State is a disaster – a load of money, effort, and visits that now don’t get to go to Michigan or Florida or other more traditional backgrounds….

For the Republicans, the warning lights are going off – Trump’s in trouble at the top of the ticket, their defensive Senate map is widening, and the Democrats are nominating the moderate option.”

Some just-released state polls underscore this assessment. First, two new NBC/Marist polls of Arizona and Ohio.

“In [Arizona], Biden leads Trump by 1 point among registered voters, 47 percent to 46 percent — which is in within the poll’s margin of error.

The president, however, is ahead of Sanders by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent…..

And Biden leads the president by 4 points in the Buckeye State, 49 percent to 45 percent, while Sanders is ahead by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent.”

In addition, Monmouth has a new poll of Arizona out, with Biden up 3 points over Trump. While Hispanic support looks about the same as Clinton’s in 2016, white college is significantly better (+3 vs. -2) and white noncollege is way better (-11 vs. -27).

These are very good numbers. On to November!

Teixeira: Biden, the White Working Class and Michigan

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

John Cassidy of The New Yorker uses some of my data to make the case that Trump has a great deal to be worried about in Michigan and similar states. I think Cassidy is correct. Remember: almost any erosion in Trump’s margin of support among white noncollege voters in November puts his re-election in extreme danger.

“When Joe Biden entered the Democratic Presidential primary, last spring, he put forward a straightforward case for why he would be the best choice for the Party. In addition to gaining the support of the Democratic Party base, which consists of minority voters and highly educated whites, Biden argued that he could win over some white working-class Americans, particularly in the industrial Midwest, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Appearing before a crowd of Teamsters and firefighters in Pittsburgh, Biden said, “If I’m going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here.”…

[Y]ou can’t directly translate the results of a Democratic primary to a general election, where the voting pool is much bigger and more conservative. In 2016, about 4.8 million people voted in the general election in Michigan, compared to 1.2 million who voted in the Democratic primary. But you can’t ignore the results of primary elections, either. “You have to be careful about the signal-to-noise ratio, but there is certainly some signal there,” Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an expert on electoral demographics, told me on Wednesday. “It seems to fit the proposition that Biden is putting forward. If I was part of the Trump campaign, I’d be a little concerned.”

That might be an understatement. In a recent analysis of what it will take to win the Presidency in 2020, Teixeira and a colleague, John Halpin, pointed out that in November, 2016, whites without college degrees made up about forty-four per cent of the electorate, making them the largest single group, and Trump carried them by more than twenty points. In 2020, Trump is once more basing his campaign on appealing to these voters and getting more of them to turn out. The good news for the Democrats—and the worrying thing for the President—is that they don’t need to eliminate Trump’s advantage with white working-class voters, which would be a huge task. Given the Democrats’ advantage in other demographics, merely restricting Trump’s advantage with that group to more manageable levels could be sufficient to carry Biden to the White House.

Take Michigan again. In 2016, Trump’s extremely narrow victory there relied on a margin of twenty-one points among whites without college degrees. (He got fifty-seven per cent, and Clinton got thirty-six per cent.) In their analysis, Teixeira and Halpin show that, if Biden can replicate Barack Obama’s performance in 2012, and reduce this margin to ten points, it would help boost his over-all vote in the state by five percentage points. That would virtually guarantee Biden sixteen votes in the electoral college.

“The same analysis applies, with different levels of difficulty, to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” Teixeira told me. In Pennsylvania, which Trump won by forty-four thousand votes in 2016, white non-college voters made up fifty-one per cent of the electorate, and Trump carried them by thirty points. According to Teixeira and Halpin’s study, if Biden could reduce this margin by even five points, it “would give the Democrats a several-point cushion in the state.” In Wisconsin, which Trump won by twenty-three thousand votes, whites without college degrees formed an even bigger share of the November, 2016, electorate—fifty-eight per cent—and Trump’s margin was eighteen points.”

Keep your fingers and toes crossed but we are starting to get The Orange One right where we want him.

Teixeira: Biden, the White Working Class and Michigan (II)

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his Facebook page:

Nice chart from The Economist. It shows that the more white noncollege a county was, the sharper the decline in Sanders’ vote share. Ditto for rurality/population density: Sanders’ sharpest losses were in the least dense, rural counties.

Teixeira: Biden’s Convincing Win in Michigan

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Well, That About Does It

Stick a fork in him and all that. Sanders is done. Let me call your attention to a few exit poll results that caught my eye from Michigan.

First, as noted in this space a little earlier, the white working class was not enthusiastic about Bernie this year and they showed it. Sanders lost both white noncollege (43-50) and college (41-56) voters to Biden in Michigan. (Table below)

Looking forward to the general election, Biden is showing important strength in Michigan among the white noncollege demographic. In a recent Michigan Biden-Trump matchup where Biden leads Trump by 7 points (Monmouth poll), Biden does about as well among white college graduates today as Clinton did in 2016 in a comparison with States of Change data. But among white noncollege voters, he runs 9 points better (-12 vs. -21).

Second, note how well Biden especially did among white noncollege women who, as I have argued, could be they key to the 2020 election for the Democrats. Biden carried white noncollege women 55-42 over Sanders in Michigan. (Table below)

Finally, note that, as in other states, while Sanders got overwhelming support of young voters (actually slightly less than in 2016), he failed to get exceptionally high turnout from these voters. In 2016, 18-29 year olds were 19 percent of primary voters in Michigan in 2016; this year they were just 16 percent.

And so it goes. Pretty much every weakness Sanders displayed in Super Tuesday voting was on display again tonight. And of course he got crushed in the black vote.

There is no longer a viable Sanders theory of the case. Time to pack ’em up, Bernard brothers and sisters.