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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Crime Issue

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses issues such as crime.  In the 2020 congressional elections, Republicans gained seats because some prominent progressives talked about "defunding the police."

Domenico Montanaro at NPR:
Violent crime is on the rise in urban areas across the country.

Many small cities that typically have relatively few murders are seeing significant increases over last year. Killings in Albuquerque, N.M., Austin, Texas, and Pittsburgh, for example, have about doubled so far in 2021, while Portland, Ore., has had five times as many murders compared to last year, according to data compiled by Jeff Asher, a crime data analyst and co-founder of AH Datalytics.

Most cities in the United States, including each of those named above, have a Democratic mayor. After protests last year over police violence against Black Americans — notably the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis — there has been a push from the left to "defund" police departments.


Republicans are already going after Democrats with a three-pronged strategy that includes attacks on crime; the economy, particularly rising inflation and labor shortages; and border security.

In response, Democratic strategists believe Democratic candidates and the White House need to take on the issue of crime directly ... Democratic candidates are being encouraged by the party to tout accomplishments, like securing increased funding for police and schools as part of the COVID-19 relief package that Democrats passed — as well as pushing back against Republican attacks.

Emily Hoeven at CalMatters:

While Newsom’s challengers spent Wednesday in court battling over ballot designations, the governor was making his own appeal to the court of public opinion. In a likely attempt to soothe voters spooked by a 31% spike in homicides, potentially shorter prison sentences for 76,000 inmates, and viral videos of store robberies, Newsom signed into law a bill to continue classifying organized retail theft as a crime and keep task forces in place. He also appeared to chastise progressive district attorneys, such as George Gascón in Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, by encouraging prosecutors to “take seriously those re-offenses” and “be a little bit more proactive on enforcement and prosecution of those crimes.”

The press conference came a day after high-profile victim advocates — including Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was murdered in 1996 — gathered in Sacramento to denounce Newsom’s criminal justice policies.
  • Joanna Rodriguez, spokesperson for Recall Gavin Newsom Action: “Californians deserve a governor who cares about their safety and the economic impacts of increasing crime all the time — not just when facing the threat of recall.”

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Why Were the 2020 Polls Off the Mark?

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.  In both elections, however, polls tended to overstate Democratic margins. 

AAPOR report on polling problems in 2020.

 Several proposed explanations can be ruled out as primary sources of polling error in 2020. Our analyses suggest the following. 

  •  Polling error was not caused by late-deciding voters voting for Republican candidates. More voters voted prior to Election Day in 2020 than ever before and the number of undecided voters was relatively small. Only 4% of poll respondents, on average, gave a response other than “Biden” or “Trump” when asked by state-level presidential polls conducted in the final two weeks. Unlike in 2016, respondents deciding in the last week were as likely to support Biden as Trump, according to the National Election Pool exit polls.  
  • Polling error was not caused by a failure to weight by education. A suspected factor in 2016 polling error was the failure to weight by education (Kennedy et al. 2016). In the final two weeks of the 2020 election, 317 state-level presidential polls (representing 72% of all polls conducted during this period) provided information on the statistical adjustments accounting for coverage and nonresponse issues; of these 317 polls, 92% accounted for education level in the final results. 
  • Polling error was not primarily caused by incorrect assumptions about the composition of the electorate in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender, or education level. There is no evidence that polling error was caused by the underrepresentation or overrepresentation of particular demographics. Reweighting survey data to match the actual outcome reveals only minor changes to demographic-based weights. 
  • Polling error was not primarily caused by respondents’ reluctance to tell interviewers they supported Trump. 7 The overstatement of Democratic support occurred regardless of mode and the overstatement of Democratic support was larger in races that did not involve Trump (i.e., senatorial and gubernatorial contests). 
  • Polling error cannot be explained by error in estimating whether Democratic and Republican respondents voted. Trump supporters and Biden supporters were equally likely to vote after saying they would. This conclusion is based on validating the vote of registration-based samples shared with the Task Force by some AAPOR Transparency Initiative members. 
  • Polling error was not caused by the polls having too few Election Day voters or too many early voters. Among the 23 state-level presidential polls conducted in the final two weeks that reported how respondents said they would vote, the proportion of Election Day voters closely matched the percentage of certified votes cast on Election Day

The report reaches no definitive conclusions on what went wrong, but offers some plausible hypotheses:
  • At least some of the polling error in 2020 was caused by unit nonresponse. The overstatement of Democratic support could be attributed to unit nonresponse in several ways: between-party nonresponse, that is, too many Democrats and too few Republicans responding to the polls; within-party nonresponse, that is, differences in the Republicans and Democrats who did and did not respond to polls; or issues related to new voters and unaffiliated voters in terms of size (too many or too few) or representativeness (for example, were the new voters who responded to polls more likely to support Biden than new voters who did not respond to the polls?). Any of these unit nonresponse factors could have contributed to the observed polling error. Without knowing how nonrespondents compare to respondents we cannot conclusively identify the primary source of polling error.
  •  Factors that worked well in correcting for nonresponse in previous elections (including demographic composition, partisanship, or 2016 vote) did not render accurate vote estimates for the 2020 election. Poll data provided by some AAPOR Transparency Initiative members were reweighted to match the 2020 certified outcome. It was necessary to increase the percentage of Republicans (or 2016 Trump voters) and decrease the percentage of Democrats (or 2016 Clinton supporters) in the outcome-reweighted sample. In contrast, there are only slight differences between the originally weighted poll data and the outcome-reweighted data in terms of standard demographic categories.
  •  Weighting to a reasonable target for partisanship and past 2016 vote does not fully correct the polling error. Reweighting the polls to reproduce the 2020 outcome requires a much larger margin for Trump in 2016 than actually occurred among respondents who report voting in 2016. The larger 2016 margin for Trump among those who reported voting for Trump in 2016 could be caused by the following: an issue with the weighting targets, i.e., the implied vote share among 2016 voters who voted in 2020 was different from the 2016 actual outcome; or differences in opinion within groups that responded, e.g., the 2016 Trump supporters who responded to polls were more likely to vote for Democrats than those who did not. It is impossible to know which caused the larger 2016 margin.
  •  It is possible that 2020 pre-election polls were not successful in correctly accounting for new voters who participated in the 2020 election. There were many new voters in 2020 and it is unclear whether the proportion of new voters in the polls matched the proportion of actual new voters. It is also unclear whether the new voters who responded to polls had similar opinions to those who did not respond. Given the relative proportion and self-reported voting behavior of these new voters in the data available to the Task Force, this group of voters pushed the overall polling margins in the Democratic direction. Error in polling this group could have produced the observed polling error.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Supporting the Insurrection

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

Eliza Relman at Business Insider:
President Donald Trump embraced the Capitol rioters and said he and his loyalists wanted the same thing, according to an excerpt of a new book by the Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

The former president said that his supporters, more than 500 of whom have been criminally charged in connection with the riot on January 6, simply wanted to "show support" for him, according to the book. Many of these supporters also say they believe Trump's baseless claim that the election was "rigged" and "stolen" by Democrats.

"Personally, what I wanted is what they wanted," Trump told Leonnig and Rucker during a March 31 interview at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

"They showed up just to show support because I happen to believe the election was rigged at a level like nothing has ever been rigged before," he added. "There's tremendous proof. There's tremendous proof. Statistically, it wasn't even possible that [Biden] won. Things such as, if you win Florida and Ohio and Iowa, there's never been a loss."
Calvin Woodward, Colleen Long, and David Klepper at AP:
Taken together, the revisionists and their believers are “swimming in a vast sea of nonsense,” said Brendan Buck, a former top aide to onetime House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

That sea’s currents are familiar to historians who study what makes some conspiracy theories and propaganda persuasive.

Once people buy into the lies, there can be no convincing them they aren’t true, said Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of a coming book, “Creating Conspiracy Beliefs: How Our Thoughts are Shaped.”

Despite the well-documented facts about what happened on Jan. 6, believers often dismiss anyone who tries to set them straight by claiming they are either duped or part of the conspiracy, Albarracin said.

“The belief contains a device that protects it,” she said. “Nothing can invalidate the conspiracy theory. Trying to refute the theory proves the theory and signals you as a conspirator.”

DJ Peterson, an expert on authoritarianism and propaganda, is president of Longview Global Advisors, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm, and worked at the Eurasia Group and the RAND Corporation. He said that in an online world awash in information and a real world riven by polarization, “you pick and choose what you want to believe, including sticking your head in the sand.”

CBS survey: finds "among Republicans, there is some shifting sentiment as they disapprove, though not quite as strongly as they used to. This less intense disapproval, among some in the Republican base, comes perhaps on the heels of recent comments about the day from former President Trump and others


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Partisan "Nonpartisan" Races in Orange County

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and local elections.

Brooke Staggs & Alicia Robinson at the OC Register
In theory, elections for dozens of city, county and regional posts are legally nonpartisan in Orange County, with ballots that don’t include party labels next to candidates’ names.

The reasoning is — or, rather, was — that local races are about local issues. Fixing potholes and keeping clean water flowing to your house are government functions that work best when they’re not subject to the kind of partisan haggling that comes with issues like gun control and abortion rights.

And voters used to go along with that. A generation ago, it would have been unheard of for a resident of, say, Irvine, to ask a council candidate knocking at the door about their party affiliation, said Randall Avila, spokesman for the Republican Party of Orange County.

No more. As Orange County’s demographics have changed, and as Democrats have grown in power in a county once dominated by Republicans, party politics and party affiliation are becoming increasingly big factors in local races.

Arguably, lingering “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules about party affiliation in local races might have helped Republicans in recent years. Even though registered Democrats have outnumbered registered Republicans in the county since 2019, the GOP has held its long-standing majorities in most local jurisdictions. Republicans now hold nearly 55% of county and local seats while Democrats hold just over 33%.

But with party labels increasingly attached to candidates in nonpartisan races, and with county voters leaning leftward, the GOP edge is slipping. Democrats are winning more seats on city councils, school boards, and library, sanitation and other special district boards,

“At the local level last year, we took 20 seats from Republicans,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County. Those wins, she added, extended into traditionally GOP communities such as San Clemente and Fountain Valley.

Monday, July 19, 2021

California Replacement Ballot

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state elections. The biggest off-off-year election is the CA recall. 

Mackenzie Mays, Jeremy B. White & Camryn Dadey at Politico California Playbook:
Only 41 candidates appeared on the list of “replacement candidates” who faced a Friday deadline to complete paperwork to officially throw their hats in the ring to take on Gov. Gavin Newsom in September. That’s a fraction of the 135 contenders who leaped into the recall that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger beat former Gov. Gray Davis nearly 20 years ago, and it’s a smaller total than many political observers were anticipating for 2021. It amounts to only about half the number of hopefuls who filed statements of intention to run, shrinkage that likely reflects both Newsom’s stabilized political standing and a requirement that candidates share their tax returns.

THE LIST: The list of Newsom replacement hopefuls includes 21 Republicans and is notably bereft of prominent Democratic politicians after Newsom’s campaign — and his solid poll numbers — successfully deterred big names in his party from giving their voters another Democratic option, although Newsom himself won’t be designated a Democrat on ballots. Of the eight Democratic candidates, the one with the largest following is Kevin Paffrath, a YouTuber known as "Meet Kevin.”

On Saturday, there was one big surprise: Conservative talk show host Larry Elder did not appear on the list, which suggests his paperwork did not meet all of the qualifications, but he said later that "I fully expect to be on the final certified list of candidates" that will be released Wednesday. Elder has drawn some buzz and money since becoming one of the last Republicans to jump in. Former Trump administration official Richard Grenell had already revealed before last week’s deadline that he wouldn’t be running.

SHOW US THE MONEY: The Secretary of State’s office on Sunday posted a batch of tax returns — which candidates are required to share if they want to be on the ballot — offering snapshots of candidates’ respective financial situations. Some tidbits: Jenner’s adjusted gross income in 2019 was about $550,000, a sharp drop from about $2.5 million in 2016; also in 2019, Cox collected about $750,000 in rent from his properties and Faulconer gave about $6,600 to charity; and Kiley does his own taxes. We’ll keep digging through the hundreds of pages for newsworthy items. Some more details here from POLITICO California editor Kevin Yamamura , who reports more than half of the gubernatorial entrants earned less than $100,000 in adjusted gross income in 2019.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The GOP and Vaccines

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses GOP rhetoric about COVID.

In Congress, Republicans who once praised the Trump administration for its work facilitating the swift development of the vaccines now wage campaigns of vaccine misinformation, sowing doubts about safety and effectiveness from the Capitol.

And this week, Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee successfully pressured health officials to stop outreach to children for all vaccines. The guidance prohibits sending reminders about the second dose of a Covid vaccine to adolescents who had received one shot and communicating about routine inoculations, like the flu shot.

A wave of opposition to Covid vaccines has risen within the Republican Party, as conservative news outlets produce a steady diet of misinformation about vaccines and some G.O.P. lawmakers invite anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists to testify in statehouses and Congress. With very little resistance from party leaders, these Republican efforts have elevated falsehoods and doubts about vaccinations from the fringes of American life to the center of our political conversation.


Anti-vaccination sentiment isn’t new to Republican voters. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary race, a number of candidates, including Donald J. Trump, repeated debunked theories that vaccines caused autism in children. Around that time, Republican state legislators began opposing laws that would tighten vaccine requirements for children.

But over the past few months, the shift within the party has accelerated, as some supporters of Mr. Trump embrace the belief that the national effort to promote Covid vaccinations is harmful, unconstitutional or perhaps even a sign of a nefarious government plot.
“Think about what those mechanisms could be used for,” Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said of the Biden administration’s plan to go door-to-door to reach millions of unvaccinated Americans, going on to claim without evidence: “They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”

In a report this month, the Kaiser Family Foundation found a growing vaccination divide between Republican and Democratic areas, with nearly 47 percent of people in counties won by President Biden fully vaccinated, compared with 35 percent of people in Trump counties. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 47 percent of Republicans said they weren’t likely to get vaccinated, compared with just 6 percent of Democrats.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

No Widespread Fraud in Arizona

Our forthcoming book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie.

Bob Christie and Christina A. Cassidy at AP:
Arizona county election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3 million ballots cast in last year’s presidential election, further discrediting former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election as his allies continue a disputed ballot review in the state’s most populous county.

An Associated Press investigation found 182 cases where problems were clear enough that officials referred them to investigators for further review. So far, only four cases have led to charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation. No one has been convicted. No person’s vote was counted twice.

While it’s possible more cases could emerge, the numbers illustrate the implausibility of Trump’s claims that fraud and irregularities in Arizona cost him the state’s electorate votes. In final, certified and audited results, Biden won 10,400 more votes than Trump out of 3.4 million cast.