Democrats’ Apathy About Candidates Could Hurt Voter Turnout

Gallup: “In November, and again in January and February, we asked Americans, just after they told us what they consider to be the most important problem facing the nation, whether they think any of the presidential candidates have come up with good ideas for solving that problem or not.”

“A little more than half of Americans — 52% — said yes in February. That’s up slightly from January and November. Forty percent say ‘no,’ and the rest say they don’t know.”

“These views vary quite a bit by partisanship, and this becomes a significant finding. Republicans are more positive than Democrats. To be specific, 65% of Republicans say a candidate has come up with good ideas for solving the most important problem facing the nation, compared with 45% of independents and 49% of Democrats.”

160301_Candidates_2

“Bottom line: This lack of conviction among Democrats that candidates have answers, along with other indicators of lower enthusiasm about the election, could portend poorly for Democratic turnout next November, providing a distinct advantage for Republicans.”

February Warmest Month on Record

Eco Watch: “February ​shattered the global ​satellite temperature records to become the warmest ​above average month in recorded history. While not yet confirmed by official datasets, this new finding is particularly notable as it comes from one of the two satellite datasets frequently referenced by climate deniers.”

635925138280004957-FEBRUARY-2016-map2.jpg

“Last month was likely somewhere between 1.15°C and 1.4°C warmer than average, marking the fifth straight month that global average temperatures were more than 1°C above average.”

Could Florida Decide the Election Again?

Ian Millhiser in Think Progress: “Elections are not simply fought out at the polls … after legislators enact laws that could change who actually gets to cast a ballot, elections are fought in courts as well.”

“As election law expert Rick Hasen notes, there is already one early sign that Scalia’s death has moved the Court’s center of gravity in voting rights cases. After a lower federal court held that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, many experts (including Hasen) expected the Supreme Court to stay this decision. It didn’t.”

“Because the Court denied such a stay without explanation, it is impossible to know what the vote was among the justices or why the stay was not granted. Nevertheless, as Hasen explains, the Court’s decision in this North Carolina case may be a sign that the justices will no longer keep such a tight leash on lower court judges who decide voting rights cases close to elections.”

Of the ten closest states in the 2012 presidential election, half (North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Hampshire) are located in federal appellate circuits with fairly solid left-leaning majorities. Meanwhile, two states, Iowa and Ohio, are located in conservative circuits. The remaining states, Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin, are located in circuits that are evenly divided or that are close to evenly divided … The biggest wildcard, meanwhile, may be Florida.

Climate Carbon Budget Could Soon Max Out

Climate Central: “If the world hopes to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, humanity must emit less than half the carbon dioxide than previously thought in the coming years, a new study shows.”

“In order to keep global warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) — the basis for the Paris climate agreement struck last year — scientists have devised a ‘carbon budget‘ for how much carbon can be emitted before warming crosses into catastrophic territory.”

“Their estimates range from about 590 gigatons (1 gigaton is 1 billion metric tons) to 2,390 gigatons … But the 2°C mark could be hit sooner as the globe warms and a more realistic budget ranges from 590 gigatons to 1,240 gigatons of carbon dioxide emission after 2015, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

“’At current rates, the carbon budget would thus be exhausted in about 15 to 30 years,’ said lead author Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.”

Despite Low Unemployment, Job Security Remains Top Concern

Kaiser Family Foundation:  “With the 2016 primary election campaign in full swing, three-fourths of Americans (73 percent) report they are following news about it closely with the economy/jobs currently being the most important issue to voters in the upcoming presidential election (27 percent).  Health care ranks fourth at 8 percent, behind presidential candidates’ characteristics or positions on the issues (21 percent), and foreign policy (16 percent). Similar shares of Democratic voters (7 percent), independent voters (10 percent), and Republican voters (7 percent) say health care is a top voting issue.”

Figure 1: Economy/Jobs Is Top Voter Issue Across Parties, Health Care Ranks Lower

GOP Delegate System Favors Trump

Andrew McGill, writing in The Atlantic, comments on how the GOP’s new delegate-allocation system for the primaries has actually helped Trump.

“But another well-intentioned tenet of the GOP’s reform—a strong preference for proportional delegate selection—has also come into question. Through a series of baffling rules that defy flowcharting, states like Texas and Alabama have effectively unhooked a candidate’s popular vote from the number of convention delegates they receive, the real currency of the election. Because of these rules, a candidate could get 30 percent of the vote in several Super Tuesday states and walk away with only a quarter of its delegates—or, conversely, more than half.”

“This system could seriously skew results. The congressional-district delegates would seem to introduce geographic variability, punishing candidates who don’t enjoy widespread support.  And cutoffs—especially ones that consider how the surrounding field performs—could lock contenders out of a supposedly ‘proportional’ race.”

“To test this, I built a quick computer simulation focusing on Texas.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.41.42 PM

“I was surprised by the sheer spread of possibilities. If Texas was truly a proportional state, a candidate with 33 percent of the vote could expect 51 delegates. According to the simulation, the probabilities actually stretch from the low 50s to above 100.”

“Texas is not alone in this; Alabama has virtually identical rules, and states like Georgia have clauses that switch the election into a winner-take-all contest if one candidate reaches a certain percentage.”

Hillary Clinton Regains Popularity Vote

Gallup: “Hillary Clinton has reclaimed her position as the best-liked presidential candidate among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, a sign that her candidacy is recovering a key advantage she recently surrendered to rival Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s net favorable score stands at +55 for the week of Feb. 18-24, 2016, a 10-percentage-point increase from her low point recorded over Jan. 27-Feb.10. This latter time period overlapped with her landslide loss to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. Sanders’ net favorable over the past week, by contrast, stands at +44, well below Clinton’s score and a steep fall from the +57 he boasted in late January/early February.”

Net Favorable Ratings of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Among Democrats/Leaners

Is the Unemployment Rate an Accurate Measure of the Economy?

Ben Casselman in Five Thirty Eight asks: “Is the unemployment rate, now at 4.9 percent, an accurate reflection of the health of the economy?”

The latest annual Economic Report of the President, released Monday, President Obama’s top economic advisers “said that the people who gave up looking for work during the recession have by now largely returned to the labor force.”

casselman-irt-0226

“The White House, of course, has an incentive to make the economy look as good as possible. So as a check on their number, I built my own simple model (an updated version of the one I used in this story a few years ago) to estimate how many people are still missing from the official unemployment rate … My model estimates there are as many as 1.5 million people who should be included in the unemployment rate. That’s triple the White House’s estimate, but it still implies the ‘real’ unemployment rate is down to 5.8 percent.”

“If there are really hundreds of thousands or even millions of willing workers just waiting to get back into the labor market, that means there is room for job growth to continue without driving up inflation. The participation rate has edged up in recent months, suggesting that the stronger economy is drawing workers off the sidelines. Next week’s jobs report will give the latest sign of whether that trend is continuing.”

Trump Politics is American Politics

David Brooks: “People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.”

“Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign … Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.”

“This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements.”

Americans Want to Improve, Not Repeal, Obamacare

The Kaiser Family Foundation 2/25/16 Newsletter reports on the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, which finds the “public as divided as the remaining presidential candidates over their vision for the future of the nation’s health care system.”

“When asked to choose among four broad approaches for changing the health care system currently being discussed, the largest share (36%) say lawmakers should build on the Affordable Care Act to improve affordability and access to care, while fewer choose establishing guaranteed coverage through a single government plan (24%), repealing the ACA and not replacing it (16%), or repealing the law and replacing it with a Republican alternative (13%).”

Figure 2: Views of the Future of the U.S. Health Care System

“The survey also finds that the words to describe such a plan clearly affect how people view it … When asked directly about “guaranteed health insurance coverage in which all Americans would get their insurance through a single government health plan,” the poll finds half (50%) in favor and 43 percent opposed. Majorities of Democrats (70%) and independents (54%) support the concept, while few Republicans (20%) do.”

“The poll also finds the public’s view of the ACA largely stable so far this year, with 46 percent holding an unfavorable view of the law and 41 percent holding a favorable view.”

Republican Lawmakers Receive Failing Grades on Environmental Report Card

Think Progress: “Congress’ annual environmental scorecard is out, and it doesn’t look good for Republican lawmakers and some presidential candidates.”

“The League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard gave House Republicans an average score of 3 percent, while Senate Republicans got just 5 percent. Republican Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) both got scores of zero, as they issued what the report calls the “anti-environment vote” every time throughout 2015.”

“The 2015 scorecard describes a Republican-led Congress that the report calls ‘the most anti-environmental Congress in our nation’s history.’”

 

senate map

What Happened to Moderate Voters?

Philip Bump: “We’ve noted previously that Sanders’s party is more likely to refer to itself as liberal than it used to be, according to polling from Gallup. The Democrats still have more space under their umbrella for moderates, but they’re getting crowded out.”

“The Republicans, on the other hand, have been consistently and heavily conservative for some time.”

“That Democrats identify themselves as moving to the left across the board may help explain why Hillary Clinton is running further to the left than she did in 2008 — which helps explain why she’s been successful. (No data for Nevada in 2004 was available.)”

“The question is the extent to which this will be a long-term trend. Will the Democrats keep moving left, further polarizing the electorate? Or could a moderate candidate do well on other side and reshape who turns out?”