2020 Democratic Electorate Shows Broad Agreement on Priorities

As part of our ongoing analysis of the 2020 Democratic primary, we asked a large sample of Democrats to allocate 100 points to different characteristics they want to see in the Democratic nominee. Giving respondents a fixed amount of points to allocate reveals priorities not easy to capture with standard polling questions or even ranking. Last fall, we wrote a series of posts using this method, which revealed that Democratic voters’ priorities are surprisingly uniform, despite the fact that the party has a demographically and ideologically diverse base.

The characteristics that respondents ranked included personal characteristics like past experience in politics, candidate demographics, policy positions like taxing the wealthy and climate action, and characteristics related to the candidate’s perceived electability.

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One Reason We Haven't Passed Gun Reform: The Senate

The lack of action to stem gun violence is one of the most tragic consequences of the dysfunction in our political system, and over the last several weeks there has been another string of mass shootings connected to white supremacist and misogynist ideologies. Much of the lack of action can be explained by the simple fact that Republican leadership has no interest whatsoever in protecting the public’s health or safety. That’s not the whole story however, and like most issues, American’s views on gun control are fairly complex. 

We explore this using a survey of 2,000 adults conducted by Pew Research in August 2016, which contained a battery of questions on various gun control proposals. Pew makes a lot of their survey microdata available to the public (which you can get from their website), and we used this to model opinions in each state using a method called multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP). The state-level estimates of support for each issue are shown in the interactive map above. 

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Putting Ecological Inference to the Test, Part 2

In the last post in this series of simulation studies, we focused on parameter identification with the ecological regression. Essentially, when we know exactly what model was used to generate the data, can an ecological regression find the values used to generate the data. Unfortunately, the real world is rarely this simple. Usually, we won’t know what the “true model” that was used to generate the data was. This is especially acute in the “ecological exit polls” case, where we have no idea what model people use to come up with their vote choice. There are other problems that may arise in using the ecological model to infer individual vote too: the relationships between demographics and vote choice are much more complex than the simple linear models used in the last post, and the distribution of voters in precincts may make it difficult or impossible to model vote choice. 

So we want a more “realistic” test of our ecological exit polls approach. Using the demographic information from the voter file and precinct-level vote counts we have the data to train an ecological model to infer individual vote choice, but without knowing how individuals actually voted, we cannot validate the model! But we don’t have that data; in fact, if we did know how individuals voted, we wouldn’t need the ecological model in the first place.

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Workers Deserve Paid Personal Time… and Requiring It Is Wildly Popular 

If you work hard and you don't get a break, it’s bad for your physical well-being. It’s bad for your mental health. It’s not fair for you or your family. It means having to choose between a paycheck and a parent–teacher conference. It means not having the time to help an elderly parent to a nursing home, to attend a wedding, to celebrate a religious holiday or cherished festival, to mourn the death of a loved one, or to take a much-needed vacation. 

Yet, working without a break is all too common in this nation. In New York City alone, almost one million people cannot take a single day of paid personal time. That’s why Mayor Bill de Blasio has set New York City on course to be the first municipality in the United States to guarantee paid time off for workers, and I have news for anyone who thinks this will be controversial: we have the people on our side. 

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Data for Progress's Twitter Tracker

With respect to the mass public, Twitter is not “real life.” However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. The site is used regularly by the vast majority of people professionally involved in politics, while the President uses it daily to discuss and promote policy (and go on racist tirades against congresswomen who criticize him). Other prominent members of Congress, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have developed large audiences that allow them share their message with millions of people in real time. Recognizing the importance of tracking the shifting media landscape, Axios produced an interesting graphic at the beginning of this year, tracking the number of interactions important U.S. political accounts generated over the preceding month. 

This inspired us, at Data for Progress, to begin tracking similar metrics. Below, we have recreated and updated the Axios graphic using the same accounts (@realDonaldTrump, @AOC, @KamalaHarris, @BarakOBama, @CNN, @SpeakerPelosi, @SenSchumer, @thehill, @ABC, @nytimes, @MSNBC, @NBCNews, @seanhannity, @washingtonpost, @Reuters) along with Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader ) and Mitch McConell (@senatemajldr). Over the next few months we may expand the number of accounts we track, and how we track them.

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Putting Ecological Inference to the Test, Part 1

We have been developing a new methodology for the so-called ecological inference (EI) problem, which attempts to recover information about individuals from aggregated data. We’ve used this method to create “ecological exit polls” for primaries where conventional polling is not available. 

This has helped us gain some insights on who votes for progressive primary challengers and develop predictive models for field campaigns based on those findings. For example, we found that virulent homophobe and anti-choice crusader Dan Lipinski owes his narrow primary victory over Marie Newman to people who frequently vote in Republican primaries, thanks to the open primary system in Illinois. 

Since this is a new methodology, we’ve been working hard to validate its efficacy in a number of different ways. Here we’ll go through the results of a simulation study we conducted as a part of that validation process. The results are encouraging so far, and we plan to build on this work with a series of more comprehensive validations in the future.

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The 2020 Contenders Take Big Steps Towards Racial Equity in The Green New Deal

Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) and Julian NoiseCat (@jnoisecat)

This week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Kamala Harris released a new climate plan that would require racial equity impact assessments for all environmental regulations. In addition, Governor Jay Inslee proposed a new policy to require climate spending prioritize frontline communities, the low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately affected by climate change. This is the approach that has increasingly been favored by climate advocates, as one of us (NoiseCat) recently argued in The Guardian. In polling Data for Progress did to inform the New York Renews coalition, we found strong support for the frontline investments in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a central component of the law. 

As part of the polling that informed our recent Green New Deal memo, Data for Progress asked “Would you support or oppose a new policy requiring the government to invest in clean energy infrastructure in poor communities and communities of color with disproportionate levels of pollution?” We find 57 percent of registered voters in support, 22 percent opposed and 21 percent unsure. 

 
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In another poll, we asked the same question, but explicitly cued tax hikes: “Would you support or oppose a new policy requiring the government to invest in clean energy infrastructure in poor communities and communities of color with disproportionate levels of pollution? This would be paid for by raising taxes.” Even with explicit tax hikes, this policy is still favored by voters overall (43 percent is support and 36 percent opposed) and narrowly favored by Independents (37 percent in support, 36 percent opposed).

We also polled “Would you support or oppose a mandated assessment of climate, environment, racial justice, tribal sovereignty, and public health impacts for all new infrastructure projects requiring federal permits?” and found 50 percent of voters in support, 26 percent of registered voters opposed and 24 percent unsure. That wording generated results statistically indistinguishable from a previous version of the question we had tested that did not include the racial equity framing (see here), “Would you support or oppose a mandated assessment of climate, environment, and public health impacts for all new infrastructure projects requiring federal permits?” (52 percent in support, 25 percent opposed and 23 percent unsure). 

 
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In the broader context of an electorate and Democratic base that is increasingly liberal on issues of racial justice, there are many policies that address racial inequality and are still popular. A commitment to racial equity must be a part of any Green New Deal. It’s good policy and good politics.


Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) is a co-founder of Data for Progress.

Julian NoiseCat (@jnoisecat) is the Director of Green New Deal Strategy at Data for Progress.

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How Activists View the 2020 Race

The election of Donald Trump has driven a new wave of mobilization among Democrats and progressives. This new activism has led to a lot of pearl-clutching over the activist base pushing the party too far to the left. Because of this, we used the recent Data for Progress / YouGov Blue survey to see how much of a difference there was across activists/non-activists and how active Democratic voters really are. 

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Ambivalent Support: Why Do Primary Voters Say They’ll Vote for a Non-Preferred Candidate?

Voters can be strategic in who they vote for, especially in a primary election. Voters consider not only who they like best, whose political ideology adheres closest to theirs, and who has a chance to win the primary—they also consider who might be able to win in the general election. Voters, then, might make tradeoffs: While they would really prefer one candidate, they might vote for another. This post looks at when and why 2020 Democratic presidential primary voters might make such a tradeoff.

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Left Populism in the Democratic Primary

Ever since Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both launched campaigns for their respective party nominations in 2016, their appeals have invited comparisons invoking the populist style in American politics. In more recent years, such comparisons have extended to other insurgent progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However, many of these comparisons seem unclear about what exactly populism is -- many pundits seem to simply know it when they see it -- making it hard to tell how valuable such blanket comparisons actually are. What constitutes populism in general, and what separates distinct populist appeals from each other?

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