What Attributes Do Democratic Primary Voters Value?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been following the Democratic primary far more closely than most of the country—and even most of the people who will eventually vote in the primary. With still over two hundred days until the Iowa caucuses, most voters have not decided who they will support. And it could be the case that many voters will eventually support a candidate who they aren’t even considering right now.

This being the case, we wanted to get a sense of what attributes Democratic primary voters care about when selecting a nominee, independent from candidates’ personal identities. Understanding what people are looking for in a candidate may help us to better understand how the dynamics of the nomination race may play out once voters start paying more attention and making up their minds. To do this, we included a conjoint experiment in Data for Progress’s most recent survey of likely Democratic primary voters. The survey was conducted online by YouGov Blue and included interviews with nearly 2,924 people likely to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus in 2020; roughly half of the sample was surveyed immediately before the first Democratic debates on June 26-27, and the other half was surveyed afterward.

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New Polling on Impeachment Shows One Way Forward for Democrats

With seventy-nine-and-counting House Democrats on board despite pushback from leadership, the goal of removing Donald Trump from office becomes less fantastical as the prospect of a formal impeachment inquiry gains momentum. Long a goal of the party’s grassroots base, the reluctance of top House Democrats has not stopped the onslaught of calls for impeachment since the party regained its majority in the chamber this January. The prospect of removing a figure as polarizing as Trump from office is naturally a highly contentious topic, but backlash against the President’s recent erratic behavior has only furthered the case for impeachment. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to publicly spar with impeachment advocates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, powerful actors within the Democratic establishment such as Rep. Adam Schiff appear to be inching towards lending their support to the cause, and Pelosi may end up succumbing to pressure from her left on this issue in an attempt to save her position.

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Perceptions of Candidate Ideology

As discussed in a previous post, ideology is a tricky concept. There are no clear measures of ideology as there are deep and important disagreements over how issues fit together into a cohesive world view. One way to avoid these tricky issues is to instead rely on voter’s perceptions of ideology. Perceptions of candidate ideology are likely just as important as any measure from objective candidate positions, as voters will vote (and donors will donate) based on which candidates they perceive as being close to them. Using the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), It is possible to measure these perceptions of ideology for a large set of candidates that held Congressional or Gubernatorial office in 2018.

In the 2018 CCES, 60,000 respondents were asked to provide an assessment of the ideology of Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Supreme Court, and the incumbent and challenger in their local races for Senator, Governor, and House of Representatives. Respondents placed each of these politicians on a 7 point scale from Very Liberal to Very Conservative. The responses by themselves are potentially problematic as conservative voters will see everyone to the left of them as liberal while conservatives are moderate. However, a statistical technique known as Aldrich-Mckelvey scaling (named for the political scientists who developed it) accounts for this bias by assuming that each voter’s response for a candidate is a function of the candidate’s true ideology, and the voter's ability to perceive ideology (a slope parameter) and a bias that pushes voters perceptions to the left or right (an intercept). The parameters can be estimated as long as there are multiple overlapping ratings from each voter. Since every voter scored Trump, both parties and the Supreme Court, we can estimate their slope and intercept and use it to generate estimates of other candidates’ ideologies. Because of the large number of parameters and field, I use Stan’s Variational Bayes algorithm to estimate the parameters (meaning that these are more approximate than most estimates).

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Here Is The State Of The Democratic Field Before The Debates

In the immediate run-up to the debate, Data for Progress and YouGov Blue began fielding a massive survey of Democratic primary voters across the US. A second wave of this survey will be fielded starting immediately after tonight’s debate. We surveyed 1,402 Democratic primary voters and asked them to consider several versions of the same fundamental question: Who should the Democratic nominee be? Here, we present the results of those items so far.

As in a previous round of our Presidential surveys, we asked voters to select all of the candidates they were considering voting for. Even though this item allows for a wide range of support levels, there has only been a little overall movement on this item over the past few weeks. On that item, our results match others showing a strong surge for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren: In our data, she is being considered by fully 57 percent of Democratic primary voters, statistically tied with but narrowly ahead of Vice President Joe Biden.

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What Do the Voters Know?

A Democratic primary field of over twenty candidates presents challenges not just to intrepid pollsters, but also to voters. With so many candidates, is it possible for voters to actually know each candidate’s platform? This is especially important given the rate at which Democratic contenders have been taking positions on issues and unveiling new proposals. For example, the Green New Deal was on no one’s radar a year ago, but now most candidates support it in some form. 

In our most recent survey, we tried to see the extent to which candidates’ stances are being perceived by the electorate. To do so, we asked respondents which policies they thought various Democratic candidates supported. We found that voters do a decent job at identifying which candidates support which policies, but that they also clearly use some heuristics to guess. 

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The Climate And Community Protection Act Is The Future Of Climate Policy

This week, New York passed a historic climate legislation (for details, see my previous piece on the CCPA). The legislation shows the political coalition that can make a Green New Deal style legislation viable: it is the product of four years of coalition building by the NY Renews Coalition, across labor, environmental justice groups, community-based organizations, political organizations, green groups, and more. This is the coalition that the GND seeks to mobilize in favor of climate action, and the success of CCPA (which was renamed the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” during final passage) is proof that this coalition is viable.

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Who Else Are The Major Candidates' Supporters Considering?

The first Democratic debates are coming up this Wednesday and Thursday. Last week, Data for Progress fielded a survey allowing voters to rank their preferred candidate for the Democratic Presidential primary. In addition to selecting as many candidates as they wanted, respondents would then rank those favorites, up to a maximum of five. Here, we report on the results among 463 likely Democratic primary voters, which includes voters who said they were “definitely” or “probably” going to vote in their state’s upcoming Democratic primary or caucus. In our previous write-up of the survey (the questionnaire and raw data are also available!) we mentioned that we have 476 such voters in our overall sample of 1,030 but, amazingly, 13 likely Democratic primary voters were not happy with any of the candidates, having selected “None of these” in our primary choice item. Go figure!

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F*ck Gerry(mandering) Post-Primary Changes

The Virginia primaries were held a couple weeks ago, and congratulations to all the winners. We didn’t want to step in any intra-party contests, so Round 1 of FuckGerry(mandering) was dedicated to races where Democrats already had their nominee. Now that the Democrats in every district have decided who’s carrying their torch, it’s time to adjust who’s included in the FuckGerry(mandering) roster, and expand the playing field a bit. We’re adding in four Senate races, while in the House, we’re adding in three while taking another three away, where Democrats look like they’re in much better shape than last time we checked in.

So far, Fuck Gerrymandering has raised $60,000 from 1,200 donors,

As of the last campaign finance filing, the fourteen candidates we’ve chosen to support in Round 2 have a combined $869,000 of campaign funds on hand. Their Republican opponents have a combined $2,197,000. That’s over two and a half times as much money, and a raw gap of $1,328,000. Over the next five months, let’s close it.

Support Fuck-Gerrymandering

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Major Rent Law Passes In New York, But The Fight For Affordable Housing Is Just Starting

The national fight for rent control scored a major victory in New York last week. Finally acknowledging the depths of the affordable housing crisis across the state, both houses passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 that represents nearly everything in the Universal Rent Control platform that the state-wide tenant campaign Housing Justice for All has fought for over the last two years. The final version is a dramatic swing in political fortunes in favor of tenants and against the worst speculators within the real estate industry. This was confirmed when Governor Cuomo quickly and quietly signed the bill into law over the loud protestations of the powerful developers who have funded his campaigns for years.

Across the media landscape, big corporate landlords and developers are crying out that this law will single-handedly kill the state’s real estate industry and make the housing crisis worse. That is just absurd alarmism. On the other hand, for many tenants, this bill won’t impact them either way - yet. Let’s dig into the details to see what this bill actually does and doesn’t do and how this sets up the bigger battles to come.

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AOC and Bernie Have a Plan to Take on Loan Sharks. It's a Game Changer for Young People.

In a March 2019 clip that only garnered widespread attention months after the fact, finance guru Suze Orman insisted that the financial hardships of the millennial generation could be traced to their purportedly irresponsible coffee-consumption habits. While the well-deserved mockery she received tended to point out glaring truths about generational inequality, very little coverage of her comments identified a more amusing irony of Orman's backstory: She derives her legitimacy as a self-help guru from her struggles during her upbringing, but was privileged enough to have received a loan of $50,000 from friends, interest-free. The problem for millennials is not their individual choices but the structural policies holding them back. Therefore, the solution is policy, not pedantic life advice. The recent Loan Shark Prevention Act introduced by AOC and Bernie Sanders is a crucial and popular first step towards a solution.

The average millennial, financially precarious and victimized by usury, couldn't conceive of such a proposition. A 2018 survey by CNBC found that 51% of millennials have at least considered taking payday loans to make ends meet, despite the enormous APR associated with so-called "cash advances." While abstaining from coffee might put a couple bucks back in the pockets of young people, it is  laughable that the record one trillion dollars of credit-card debt that the millennial generation accumulated would be meaningfully reduced by altered caffeine habits.

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