Buy Clean Reduces Emissions, Empowers Unions and is Popular

The Green New Deal aims to leverage the full resources of the United States economy—public and private—to take on twin crises of climate and inequality. While taxation, regulation and investment (and the occasional cow fart and mythical train to Hawaii) have featured prominently in most debates about the Green New Deal, commentators and wonks have largely overlooked one of the less sexy but more impactful policy levers: government purchasing power. We at Data for Progress believe that a key part of any Green New Deal—and one that we could begin implementing in many states right now—is the “Buy Clean” standard.

Buy Clean is a procurement policy that would require the government to take climate pollution and labor protection into account when determining which corporations win government contracts. The federal government is the world’s single largest customer—and the dollars it spends are yours as a taxpayer. We can leverage the billions of dollars spent every year on federal contracts to incentivize clean and green investments while empowering the unions and workers that brought us the weekend and the welfare state. And while the legislative path to a Green New Deal runs through a tough senate map and 60-vote filibuster, we can start pushing for Buy Clean through a federal infrastructure package and state level legislation right now.

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Retaliatory Tariffs and Trump’s Base

Donald Trump’s recent decision to escalate the ongoing trade war with China resulted in an additional $60 billion in retaliatory tariffs being levied against the United States. While these new tariffs will affect a wide variety of goods that American consumers purchase, the decision further aggravates the plight of American farmers, who have traditionally sold China an enormous amount of soybeans. The trade war has already cost some $9 billion in net farm income since 2018, and crop futures are looking even bleaker after this new round of retaliatory tariffs were announced.

For an industry that has seen record-numbers of bankruptcies that rival the peak of the Great Recession, this development is not good. From Vox, to Newsweek, to CBS, to CNN, to local public radio, to even Fox News, almost anyone in the business of popular commentary is arguing that these tariffs are going to have nasty impacts. In fact, the situation is so severe that even the Heritage Foundation is raising alarm.

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Fuck Gerry(mandering)

Many Democrats already focused on the 2020 presidential race but there are important 2019 elections that deserve attention. Republicans hold a one vote majority in both chambers of Virginia’s legislature, but elections this November have the potential to change that. The entire legislature is up for reelection, and Republicans majorities are precarious. A few districts that could flip if Democrats give it all we’ve got.

Virginia could be the first state of the former Confederacy where mainstream, progressive Democrats take full control of state government, but that only happens if the Democratic base is engaged. Here at Data for Progress, we’ve identified ten races where your money is most needed. In all ten of these districts, only one Democrat filed to run, so there is no primary. Every penny you give will be used to beat a Republican and take back Virginia for the people.

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Electability Is Whatever You Want It To Be

In this post, we investigate an open-ended text response to the seemingly simple question of what electability means. On our latest survey, we asked respondents,

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about whether candidates for office are "electable" or not. When you hear this being talked about, what do you think people mean by "electability"?

In short, we find that electability is what you want it to be. Voters define “electability” in a highly tautological fashion -- basically, as “the ability to get votes.” The only consistent concept expressed across subgroups includes the ability for a candidate to appeal to “a broad set of voters,” but little beyond that. The term simply does not appear to have much meaning.

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Homes for All

Housing is the largest single expense for the average American, costing one third to one half of pay for millions of Americans. Twenty-one million American families – over a sixth of the United States – are considered cost-burdened and at elevated risk of homelessness. Millions are taking on extra jobs or cutting back on healthcare or food to stay housed. At least 553,000 homeless Americans are living on the street.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “85% of Americans believe ensuring everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live should be a ‘top national priority.’”

Americans need more affordable homes, and progressive politicians need a plan to give it to them.

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Republicans Delivered the Democratic Primary Election to Dan Lipinski

Illinois 3rd is solid blue district; there is virtually no chance of a Republican winning a general election there. However, Democratic incumbent Dan Lipinksi is probably the last person one would expect to represent a district that Hillary Clinton won by over 15 points. Lipinski has been in Congress since 2005, where he has a garbage record as an anti-choice homophobe who fought and voted against the Affordable Care Act. Lipinksi was gifted the seat by his party boss father and since has largely flown under the radar, rarely drawing primary challenges during his career. In 2018 however, he faced a strong primary challenger in Marie Newman. Lipinksi won his election by a razor-thin margin, just 2,200 votes. Our analysis shows that Lipinksi owes his victory to Republicans who were using the Illinois open primary system to vote strategically.

There's no party registration in Illinois, meaning that primaries are open to any registered voter. This often leads to strategic voting, where Republican partisans vote in Democratic primaries and vice versa. Despite having no party registration, we can still get a good sense of whether someone is a Republican based on their primary voting history.

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Ranking the 2020 Democratic Field

As straightforward as it may seem, simply asking voters who of the more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates they plan on supporting in the upcoming primaries is not a great way to identify which candidate is in the best position to win.

With over 20 candidates and a handful of potential candidates in the field, it is increasingly difficult to identify support for candidates. If surveyors use a traditional vote choice question, then the only information identified is who is the number one candidate. This is obviously important, but as candidates drop out it isn’t clear how votes will move around. Another option is asking which candidates a voter is considering supporting. This provides more detail about the potential support for a candidate, but does not necessarily indicate preferences between different candidates. Ideally, we would like know the degree of support each candidate has that includes both its intensity and its breadth.

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A Call to Action for a Climate Conservation Corps

It is time to face an urgent crisis with the spirit of public service that is deeply embedded in our American tradition. That is why today I am calling for creation of a Community Conservation and Climate Corps that will help mobilize the American people to rise to the defining challenge of our time: defeating climate change.

America rose to the challenge of the Great Depression under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in April 1933 that put Americans to work to “conserve our precious natural resources.” President Roosevelt correctly predicted that the CCC “will pay dividends to the present and future generations.” In proposing the creation of the Peace Corps, in 1960, President John F. Kennedy recognized that America held an “immense reservoir of such men and women – anxious to sacrifice their energies and time and toil to the cause of world peace and human progress.”

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Inferring Vote Choice Without a Survey

Interpreting election results is tricky because there is no way to know for sure exactly which voters voted for which candidates. Exit polls and other types of surveys are useful, but come with disadvantages and often are only available for a few high profile race. Another option is to analyze aggregate data such a precinct level results, where precinct characteristics are used in regressions on the aggregate vote share of a candidate. This also has problems, primarily from the fact that it is often misleading to attempt to draw conclusions about individual behavior from aggregated information.

This post outlines another option, where an individual-level model for candidate choice is fit to precinct level voting data. This is made possible by a voter file, which contains records of who voted in each election along with various characteristics about them -- including which precinct they live in. The nice thing about this method is that a survey isn’t needed (although a survey could be incorporated if one is available), and the model is constructed at the individual-level as opposed to the aggregate-level. This partially alleviates some of the problems that arise from working with aggregated data, although we are still stuck with aggregated vote choice data. Ideally, we would like to use survey data in conjunction with election returns to understand the electorate, as other organizations have done. However, we contend that our method is substantially better than analyzing aggregated data for instances where surveys are not available.

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Black Lives Matter Protests Reduced Whites’ Racial Prejudice and Boosted Democratic Party Vote Share

These days protests seem like the new normal. One particular set of protests that has caught the public’s attention is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which seeks to dismantle institutional racism and state violence against people of color.

Did BLM protests lead to more racial liberalization in the United States or did it lead to a backlash against African Americans?

Using the release of the 2018 round of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) combined with data on locations of BLM protests in the wake of the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown--both unarmed, black civilians--I show that BLM protests did meaningfully reduce whites’ racial prejudice against African Americans.

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