The New Progressive Agenda Project: Part 2
Many campaigns and most incumbents do not perform regular issue polling at the state or congressional district level, meaning that they typically have to guesstimate whether a given issue will be popular among their specific electorates based on national support. Simply put, there isn't district-by-district evidence regarding the electoral viability of an expansive progressive agenda. Until now.
For our New Progressive Agenda Project, Data for Progress (@DataProgress) enlisted Civis Analytics (@CivisAnalytics), a leading data science firm, to poll a dozen progressive policies. Our goal is to give policymakers the most reliable numbers to date on support for a new and vibrant progressive agenda. For each policy, we asked a leading politician or expert to explain why it’s necessary. But in addition, we tested it with the public. These policies have durable support and can stand up to predictable right-wing counterarguments. We have good reason to believe that even when they become politicized, they’ll remain popular with persuadable voters and the base in many geographies.
The New Progressive Agenda Project gives policymakers and advocates reliable congressional district and state-level polling data that would normally be out of reach for even the best-funded campaign. In the coming weeks, we’ll be periodically releasing new data on progressive proposals that are message-tested and ready to be introduced in the 116th Congress. Using the state-of-the-art modeling techniques employed by leading campaign professionals, we are confident that these policies will remain popular in the electorate at large while also engaging the progressive base. They have been carefully vetted by veteran campaigners from Civis Analytics, which was formed by the data scientists who oversaw Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Civis’s political data science arm is one of the most reputable in the business. These numbers are the gold standard -- they are actionable by candidates and campaigns.
It’s time for unabashed progressive policies that can win.
Today, we roll out our second set of policies:
House candidate Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) makes the case for lead paint removal.
Civis Analytics fielded support for four progressive policies to determine their levels of public support. Full question wording is available below, but here it is important to note that questions included a revenue pay-for where needed, as well as both partisan cues and counterframes throughout. In other words, respondents were told that these policies were being proposed by Democrats, and were given reasons why Republicans say they should oppose them. The sample for medical innovation prizes was 12,154, for automatic voter registration (8,357), for lead removal (12,166) and for bail reform (10,851)and these surveys were fielded between July 10th 2018 through September 30th 2018. Using modern machine learning techniques, Civis generated estimates for Clinton voters, Trump voters, Independent voters, drop-off voters (who voted in 2016 but not 2014) and the overall electorate. Because our goal is to provide information that can be immediately relevant to politicians, the overall number reflects a likely 2018 voters, not national adults. Sub-national opinion is presented in terms of two-way support (that is, excluding respondents who did not register an opinion one way or the other). Please direct methodological questions to Michael Sadowsky: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our second round of polling, we analyzed four policies:
Medical innovation prizes: We asked respondents whether they would support having the government fund a prize fund that would reward the creation of drugs and vaccines that improve health outcomes, with medication developed through this program sold cheaply to the American public without a patent. Forty-six percent of likely 2018 voters supported this policy, with 32 percent opposed.
Automatic voter registration: We asked respondents whether they would support having voter registration records automatically update when citizens interact with the DMV and other state agencies, unless they opt out. Forty-seven percent of likely 2018 voters supported this policy, with 36 percent opposed.
Lead removal: We asked respondents whether they would support a ten year program in which taxes on high-income earners would be raised to fund lead removal in houses with dangerous levels of lead paint. Forty-six percent of likely 2018 voters supported this policy, with 36 percent opposed.
Bail reform: We asked respondents if they would support shifting from the current cash bail-only system to one that allows judges to release some defendants, under the court's supervision, if they are not considered a threat to society. Forty-two percent of likely 2018 voters supported this policy, with 39 percent opposed.
Polling The New Progressive Agenda
First, we show a broad overview of the results, showing levels of support and opposition to each policy overall and then broken down by gender, age, race, and education.
Women are more supportive of all the progressive policies except for bail reform, where net support is slightly higher among men.
As we have found consistently in our research, young people are far more supportive of the progressive agenda than older voters, particularly on issues of racial justice.
Unsurprisingly, whites were least supportive of progressive policies, and on net, white likely voters opposed bail reform.
College-educated voters tend to be more supportive of the progressive agenda, though there is strong non-college support for medical innovation prizes and lead removal, and modest net support for AVR.
In the interactive charts below, you can play with our data yourself. The first map is for states, the second is for congressional districts. In each one, you can toggle by policy to see its support at various geographic levels. For the congressional district map, you can also select specific states to zoom in on.
The Case For The New Progressive Agenda
Here, we feature the policy case for each proposal we tested — presented by leading politicians and activists in each area — followed the by political case for each proposal based on patterns of public support.
The candidates quoted here do not necessarily endorse the policies they do not directly speak to, nor is Civis Analytics endorsing the politicians and ideas presented here.
The Political Case for Medical Innovation Prizes from Data for Progress
Medical innovation prizes have net support in 48 states, including DC, and 374 (or 86 percent) of 435 congressional districts. At the individual level, 46 percent of likely 2018 voters support the policy, with 32 percent opposed, for a net support of 14 percentage points. The policy has net support among every race, gender, income, and age group. This policy is also particularly popular among likely 2018 voters between the ages of 18 and 34, who support the policy by a 51-24 margin. College-educated likely voters are more likely to support the policy than those without a college degree (51 percent of the former support the policy, compared with 42 percent of the latter) but the two groups have similar rates of opposition (33 and 32 percent, respectively) -- so the lower net support among non-college likely voters is driven by a greater share declining to take a position one way or the other. There is also a gender gap in support for this policy, which has net support of 7 percentage points among men and 19 among women. This gap is driven in large part by white likely 2018 voters; white men in this group favor the policy by four points on net, while white women in support the proposal by a 46-30 (+16) margin.
While this policy is polarizing, with clear majorities of Democrats in favor and clear majorities of Republicans opposed, these divides are less stark than they are for automatic voter registration. And again, Democrats favor the policy by wider margins than Republicans oppose it. Clinton voters who were likely to vote in 2018 support medical innovation prizes by a stronger margin (68-15 in favor) than their Trump-voting counterparts (53-27 opposed).
The question wording for this policy included an explicit pay-for of a 5 percent income tax increase on high-income earners. It also included partisan counterframes, with respondents being told that Democrats claim that policy will incentivize development of new medication -- the intellectual property of which would be owned by the public -- while Republicans claim that the policy is a waste of taxpayer money to fund what could be more efficiently accomplished by the private sector.
The Policy Case for Medical Innovation Prizes from Senator Bernie Sanders
One of the great moral issues of our day is that there are people in our country suffering and in some cases dying because they are not able to afford a medicine that can be produced for pennies per treatment. In other words, it is one thing - and tragic -when someone suffers and dies because we have not yet developed a treatment or cure for their disease. But it is another thing entirely when we have cure or treatment and it can be manufactured and delivered to them for a couple of dollars, and yet they suffer and die because the price is set so high that they cannot afford it.
The Prize Fund would address this issue by making cash awards to developers of medicines, based primarily upon the added therapeutic value a new treatment offers and the number of people it benefits. Products could have generic competition immediately after FDA approval - that is, the bill would eliminate today's high-priced marketing monopolies as the reward for patented medical innovations.
The bottom line is that the goal of our laws and policies for medicines must be to develop drugs as quickly as possible, drugs that are the most effective we can find for the diseases people are facing, and to get them out to every person who needs them as soon as possible. We should reward innovators for developing these new medicines in a way that does not force any of those who need the drug to wait, suffer and in some cases die due to outrageous drug prices.
The Political Case for Automatic Voter Registration from Data for Progress
Automatic voter registration has net support in 37 states, including DC, and 315 (or 72 percent) of 435 congressional districts. At the individual level, AVR is supported by 47 percent of likely 2018 voters, with 36 percent opposed, for a net support of 11 percentage points. The policy has net support among every race, gender, income, and age group except for those over the age of 65 (where it is opposed by a narrow three point margin). The policy is particularly popular among likely 2018 voters between the ages of 18 and 34, who support the policy by a 54-26 margin, as well as black and Asian likely voters, who support the policy by 61-14 and 51-26 margins, respectively. In a similar pattern as was observed with medical innovation prizes, college-educated likely voters are more likely to support the policy than those without a college degree (55 percent of the former support the policy, compared with 42 percent of the latter) but the two groups have similar rates of opposition (35 percent of the former, compared with 37 percent of the latter) such that the difference in net support is driven by differential rates of “don’t know” responses.
To be clear, the policy is polarizing, with overall net support being driven by wider margins of support on the left than margins of opposition on the right. Clinton voters who were likely to vote in 2018 support AVR by a stronger margin (72-14 in favor) than their Trump-voting counterparts (62-25 opposed). Similarly, the policy carries net support of +56 and +44 among Democrats and those who lean toward Democrats, respectively, compared to -38 and -34 among Republicans and those who lean toward Republicans (those who don’t lean toward either major party support the policy by a five point margin).
In addition, there are important regional variations in support for automatic voter registration that reflect previous patterns of ideological battles over voting rights: net support is lowest in the South (where the policy still holds net support by a 45-38 margin) and is highest in the Northeast (51-34); among white respondents, the South is the only region where AVR is underwater (with a slim 43-42 plurality opposed). There are also interesting patterns in income by racial group with this policy: while people of color were generally in favor of automatic voter registration, middle-income whites were essentially split on the policy. However, whites at the low and high ends of the income spectrum were in favor of policy on net (+7 for those who make less than $25,000 per year; roughly +20 for those who make more than $100,000).
The question wording for this policy included partisan counterframes: respondents were told that Democrats claim the policy will reduce barriers to voter participation and increase turnout, while Republicans claim that the policy could lead to voter fraud and would compromise the privacy of those who don’t want to be registered.
The Policy Case for Automatic Voter Registration from Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, Co-Founders of Indivisible
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen activists rise up all over the country and demonstrate their power. By organizing locally, focusing on their Members of Congress, and using tactics that actually work, thousands of Indivisible groups have formed and solidified themselves as powerhouses in the movement to resist the Trump agenda. They’ve now taken their activism to the ballot, fighting to elect progressive candidates into all levels of office.
But this kind of activism depends upon an honest, accessible, transparent, fair, and responsive democracy in order to succeed. Without a government that is accountable to its people, political and economic elites will continue to rig the system in order to perpetuate and further consolidate their wealth and power.
The right to vote - and to have every vote counted - is fundamental to a successful democracy. Yet, millions of Americans do not vote. One in two eligible voters didn’t participate in the 2016 elections, and nearly two-thirds didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms.
A key reason is that our restrictive voter registration apparatus poses a significant barrier that keeps eligible Americans from participating in our democracy. It shouldn’t be overly burdensome to exercise the right to vote, yet millions of Americans don’t realize they aren’t registered, don’t understand how to register, or are otherwise excluded from the process. The obstacles to registration disproportionately disenfranchise low-income voters and people of color.
There is a single pro-democracy reform that could transform access to the ballot in the United States and increase electoral participation, better centering power in the hands of the people: automatic voter registration.
Automatic voter registration, or AVR, would do exactly what it sounds like it would do. When an eligible voter shares their information with the government through other public channels (perhaps getting a driver’s license, taking classes at a public university, or applying for benefits like Social Security), they would be automatically registered to vote unless they opted out.
This is a common-sense solution that has already produced dramatic results in the thirteen states (and D.C.!) that have enacted AVR. For example, 66% of new voters registered in Oregon in 2016 were registered through their newly implemented AVR program. Vermont’s voter registration jumped up by 62% in the first six months of implementing AVR. In the first months of implementation in California, nearly 800,000 people were newly registered, re-registered, or had their addresses updated through its AVR program. If implemented across the entire country, millions of eligible citizens would be efficiently and effectively added to the electorate. This would further enable voter participation and expand inclusion in the democratic process.
Ultimately, automatic voter registration would strengthen the simple idea upon which our movement rests: the principle that lawmakers are elected by, and thus are responsive and accountable to, the people.
The Political Case for Lead Removal from Data for Progress
Lead removal has net support in 38 states, including DC, and 296 (or 68 percent) of 435 congressional districts. At the individual level, the policy carries net support among likely 2018 voters in every race, gender, income, and age group except for those over the age of 65 (who oppose the policy by 42-40 margin). Support is strongest among likely 2018 voters under the age of 34 (52-28 support), people of color (63-16 support among black likely voters and 52-26 support among Latino/a likely voters), likely voters at the low end of the income spectrum (47-28 support among those making less than $25,000 per year), and women (49-31 support).
Lead removal is polarizing, but unites those on the left in support more than it unites those on the right in opposition. Clinton voters support the policy by a 50 point margin (67-17 in favor), while Trump voters oppose the policy by a 33 point margin (58-26 opposed -- gap here isn’t 33 due to rounding) -- non-voters support the policy by a 10 point margin (36-26). Similarly, Democrats and those who lean toward Democrats support the policy by 49 and 41 point margins, respectively, while Republicans and those who lean toward Republicans oppose the policy by 30 and 34 point margins, respectively (those who don’t lean toward either party support the policy by a 31-28 margin). In demographic terms, the proposal is most popular among black (+48), low-income (+18), female (+17) likely 2018 voters. Black women in particular (+59) were extremely supportive of lead removal.
Question wording for this policy proposal included an explicit revenue pay-for, and respondents were told it was a Democratic proposal. Respondents were also exposed to partisan counterframes: Democrats were said to support the policy because it is essential to ensure that children grow up healthy, while Republicans were said to oppose the policy because it is a waste of taxpayer money that would fund lead removal even for homeowners who could pay for it themselves.
The Policy Case for Lead Removal from Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)
Today, roughly 4 million US children live in households with high levels of lead exposure and an estimated half a million children under the age of five test positive for lead poisoning each year. That this public health crisis still impacts the most vulnerable among us is a mark of absent leadership and failed priorities.
From the crisis in Flint Michigan, to the persistent inequities in lead exposure prevention in my home of Massachusetts, after a generation of awareness about the damage of lead poisoning, we must find the political courage and resources to tackle this national challenge.
Childhood lead exposure has a myriad of negative effects, including diminished IQ, hearing and speech problems, shortened attention spans, and other learning disabilities. Even at low levels, lead poisoning can lead to lower academic abilities and increased rates of neurological disorders. Higher levels of lead exposure are even worse, often resulting in anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.1 Like many such crises, there are stark racial and socioeconomic disparities among groups most impacted by this enduring epidemic. In fact, low-income children of color have the highest exposures to lead, largely due to older homes, chipped paint and dust particles, and poor water sources. There is perhaps no clearer example of this than the tragedy unfolding in Flint, Michigan where hundreds of thousands of children have been (and continue to be) exposed to lead in their drinking water. Excessive levels of lead in our water and homes is quite literally making our children sick.
To say that government has failed these children and their families is an understatement. We have failed because we aren’t focused on fixing the real problem. As policymakers, we have the ability to make common sense investments in our local infrastructure -- to change the impact that these environmental challenges have to the lifelong health of future generations. Research has shown that detoxifying efforts can yield substantial cost savings and have a range of social benefits, which is why I have proposed as part of my Equity Agenda to leverage and expand CHIP funding to help finance de-leading initiatives and repairs to urban housing units and infrastructure.
There is no doubt that the eradication of lead poisoning will require political will and proactive legislating. But as a nation we have had tackled significant public health challenges before. From smoking to HIV, we have made significant strides in reducing the harm of these persistent public health issues because we focused on prevention. We should target the root cause of the disease by identifying and removing lead from infested households rather than simply treat the problem in kids who have been infected. Ultimately, it may take millions more dollars to finally eradicate lead poisoning, but by choosing a prevention first strategy we will prove to families that our government not only values the lives of our most vulnerable but takes seriously the widening disparities and impact that this crisis has on our society. It may be that increased national attention on issues like rising inequality and affordable housing will serve as the catalyst we need to finally adopt a comprehensive program to eradicate lead poisoning once and for all. But it will require leadership and an affirmation of our values to ensure that American families everywhere remain healthy and safe.
The Political Case for Ending Cash Bail from Data for Progress
Data for Progress previously polled ending cash bail in our Polling the Left Agenda project. Both that poll as well as the New Progressive Agenda project poll show that cash bail garners strong support among Clinton voters. The New Progressive Agenda Project found much stronger opposition to bail reform among Trump voters than our previous poll, which is likely the result of the counterframing used here. In particular respondents were told that Republicans oppose bail reform because it would be an infringement on state’s rights (a dog-whistle term that will be inevitably employed by opponents of bail reform), which according to open ended responses appears to have been convincing. Given these partisan counterframes, ending cash bail had net support in 23 states, including DC, and 217 (or just under 50 percent) of 435 congressional districts.
Democrats win by building big-tent coalitions, and putting together policy platforms that address the needs of diverse coalitions can be challenging. Bail reform is an excellent example of a policy that has broad appeal across the entire Democratic coalition even though its direct effects are primarily felt by a smaller segment of the coalition. For example, people of color are disproportionately subjected to incarceration, but bail reform has strong support among people of color and white Democrats alike. Similarly, while bail reform would have the largest direct effects on working class individuals, it is supported by both working and middle class Democrats.
Bail reform is highly polarized by age, with likely voters aged 18-34 supporting reform by +20%, and likely voters 65 and over opposing by -13%. While young people turn out at lower rates, they are becoming increasingly supportive of criminal justice reform, and are demanding concrete structural changes instead of platitudes. The policy is also highly polarized by race, carrying net +40 support among black likely 2018 voters compared to net -3 among whites (white men were evenly split, with white women at net -6). Among whites, the policy is also polarized by education, with non-college whites opposing the proposal by 12 points on net and college-educated whites supporting it by 9 points.
The Policy Case for Ending Cash Bail from Senator Kamala Harris
Our justice system was designed around a simple ideal: equal justice under the law. Yet for many of the 450,000 Americans sitting in jail today awaiting trial, that promise has been broken. In the United States today, a working mother accused of shoplifting can sit in jail for weeks, months, or even years—not because she’s a flight risk or a threat to public safety, but simply because she does not have the money to pay bail. She could potentially lose her job and maybe even her kids. In some cases—as with the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who hanged himself after he was wrongfully accused of stealing a backpack and detained for three years—the inability to pay bail can cost a defendant his or her life. Meanwhile, a wealthy person accused of the same crime can cut a big check and go home. And if you’re a Black or Latino defendant, studies show you’re more likely than a white defendant to be detained before trial and less likely to be able to post bail. That’s not equal treatment. It’s not smart. And it’s wrong.
This is about fairness in our criminal justice system—and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. That’s why last year I partnered with Senator Rand Paul to introduce the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, which incentivizes states to reform and replace money bail systems. It would empower states to build on best practices, such as phone or text reminders to ensure that defendants show up for court or individualized assessments to determine whether there’s a risk to releasing the defendant. And would provide for better data collection so that reforms yield better outcomes—for defendants, families, and taxpayers. The Pretrial Justice Institute estimates that bail reform could save American taxpayers roughly $78 billion a year.
It is long past time we end the injustice of our money bail system. The American people deserve a criminal justice system that treats everyone equally—no matter who they are or how much money they have.
The Policy Case for Ending Cash Bail from Speaker of New York City Council Corey Johnson
In New York City, people charged with crimes who can’t afford bail are sent to Rikers Island or four other city jails before facing trial. Those facing charges who do have the money almost always take advantage of bail and can remain free before seeing a judge. Both groups of people are presumed innocent before the law, but each experiences the criminal justice system in profoundly different ways.
This gulf, this huge disparity in the options rich and poor have, is fundamentally unfair and un-American. That one group of people – the haves – can enjoy freedom, while another group – the have-nots – must sit in jail, sometimes for longer than a year and at great detriment to their professional and personal lives, not to mention their mental health, is profoundly wrong.
We’re fighting to keep conditions in jail humane in New York City. Thanks to legislation passed by the City Council, people being held in city jails will no longer have to pay exorbitant fees to make phone calls. We plan to shutter Rikers once and for all within the next ten years. And we continue to support the city’s bail fund, which uses charitable contributions to make bail payments for people facing misdemeanor charges who can’t afford to pay.
But we all need to work together toward broader criminal justice reform – on the local, state and federal levels. New York State is no exception. It has the authority to end the broken system of cash bail requirements. And it should. Punishing someone who’s presumed innocent with jail time simply because they cannot afford bail is deeply flawed public policy. It’s flawed not only because it’s morally wrong, it is also costly to imprison people still presumed innocent. It is long past time that we changed this and end cash bail – because it’s the right thing to do and because it makes fiscal sense.
Medical innovation prizes
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a bill that would fund large scale research and development of new prescription drugs and vaccines through medical innovation prizes. The bill would create a prize fund that would reward the creation of drugs and vaccines that improve health outcomes. Any medication developed through this program could be sold cheaply to the American public without a patent. This would be paid for by a 5% income tax increase on those making over $200,000 per year.
Democrats say this would incentivize the development of valuable new medication and, because the drugs would be without patent, the benefits would go to the American people. Republicans say this is just a waste of taxpayer money to fund what the private sector would accomplish more efficiently.
Do you support or oppose this proposed policy?
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a policy where all eligible US citizens would be automatically registered to vote (unless they opt out) when applying for licenses and other IDs at DMVs, Medicaid offices, healthcare exchanges and other public agencies. Democrats say this will reduce barriers to voter participation and increase voter turnout. Republicans say this could lead to voter fraud and would compromise the privacy of those who don't want to be registered.
Do you support or oppose this policy?
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a program of lead paint removal over the next 10 years. The program would remove lead from homes with dangerous levels of lead, paid for by a temporary 2% income tax increase on households making over 200,000 dollars per year for the next 10 years. Democrats say removing dangerous levels of lead is essential so that children in America grow up healthy. Republicans say this is a waste of taxpayer money, funding lead removal for even well to do homeowners who can pay for it themselves.
Do you support or oppose this proposal?
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a bill which would shift from the current cash bail-only system to one that allows judges to release some defendants, under the court's supervision, if they are not considered a threat to society.
Democrats say that this will prevent low-level, non-violent offenders who can't afford to pay bail from being stuck in jail. Republicans say that this will allow criminals to be released with no incentive to show up for trial, and the federal government shouldn’t infringe on states rights by changing this.
Do you support or oppose this proposal?