Indecisive GOP Voters Helped Cruz and Rubio

Philip Bump and Scott Clement: “Fully 45 percent of Republican caucus-goers report making their final decision in the week before the caucuses, and the entrance poll shows Rubio performed strongly with. Nearly 3 in 10 of final-week deciders supported Rubio; he garnered about as much support among those deciding in January, but only about 1 in 10 of those who decided earlier than that backed Rubio.”

“Equally stark was Trump’s weakness among late-deciding voters. Just 14 percent of Republicans who decided in the final week supported Trump, compared with 23 percent of those who decided earlier in January and 40 percent who made their decision in December or earlier.”

Are Conservatives a Dying Breed?

Gallup: “Americans’ political ideology remained essentially stable in the past year, with conservatives retaining the barest of advantages over moderates in Americans’ self-identified political views, 37% vs. 35%. Liberals held firm at 24%.”

Americans' Self-Identified Political Ideology -- 1992-2015

“The ideological bent of U.S. adults changed little in 2015, although Democrats continued to inch to the left. This continues a significant long-term trend, with a slight increase in Americans favoring the liberal label, mostly at the expense of conservatives. While conservatives still outnumber liberals by a healthy margin in the U.S. population, the gap is narrower than at any point in Gallup’s 23-year trend. It is also possible that after several years of heightened conservatism among Republicans and independents, this is moderating somewhat, but it is too early to say for sure.”

Conservative States Rely Most on Federal Aid

Washington Post: “They staunchly oppose federal meddling, but conservative states are among the most reliant on federal funding for revenues.”

“Mississippi and Louisiana are the two neediest states, with federal aid accounting for 43 percent and 42 percent of their respective overall revenues in fiscal 2013, according to an analysis published Wednesday by the Tax Foundation, which advocates for policies that lower taxes and broaden the tax base.”

“Both Southern states also rank among the most conservative, according to Gallup’s latest ranking: Mississippi was first, and Louisiana ranked third.”

“The South is home to five of the 10 most reliant states. The West and Midwest are each home to two, and the Northeast is home to one. The most reliant states tend to collect less revenue on their own and house larger poor populations, the Tax Foundation notes.”


70 Percent Believe in Climate Change

The Hill: “A new survey finds that 70 percent of Americans believe the climate is changing.”

“The poll from Monmouth University, released Tuesday, found a stark partisan divide on most issues surrounding climate change, including whether it is happening, how serious it is and what should be done about it.”

“The research, conducted mostly before nearly 200 nations voted last month in Paris on an international climate accord, found that Democrats (63 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (18 percent) to see climate change as a very serious issue.”

“Pollsters found that only 27 percent of respondents agree with the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is the main cause of climate change.”

What’s Driving the New Low for Congress? Republican Dissatisfaction.

Gallup: “Americans’ current 11% job approval rating of Congress is its worst rating so far this year. It is also barely better than the all-time low of 9% from November 2013, after the last major government shutdown.”

Congressional Job Approval

“The 86% of Americans who disapprove of Congress in the Nov. 4-8 poll ties the high disapproval figure in Gallup’s 41-year trend, found in the November 2013 poll and two others.”

“Frustration with the party leadership may explain why Republicans (8%) are slightly less likely to approve of the job Congress is doing than either independents (13%) or Democrats (11%), even though Republicans have majority control of both houses. Usually, Congress’ approval ratings are significantly higher among supporters of the majority party.”

Majority of Republicans View Medicaid Expansion Favorably

Drew Altman: Thirty states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act since the Supreme Court made it a state option in 2012 … You would think expanding Medicaid is a political black mark in the eyes of all Republicans … But the limited polling the Kaiser Family Foundation has done on the issue has found that most Republicans do not oppose Medicaid expansion. In fact, they favor it.

“In a December 2014 poll, 52% of Republicans said they had a favorable view of Medicaid expansion, 44% had an unfavorable view, and 3% did not voice an opinion. In the same poll, as the chart above shows, 56% of Republicans in states that had not expanded Medicaid had a very favorable (23%) or somewhat favorable (33%) view of expansion. This survey was conducted too far in advance of the 2016 primary elections to poll likely Republican voters. Views were also different in two strongly anti-expansion states in polling Kaiser did with the New York Times in 2014. A majority of Republicans in Louisiana (66%) and North Carolina (53%) preferred that their state keep Medicaid as is.”

Where is There Room to Grow in America?

Jed Kolko in The Washington Post: “You might think the most room is out West … But that’s not quite the right way to look at the question. Most of us aren’t aiming to maximize the amount of land we own. We want some space, but space within commuting distance of jobs, stores and schools. Looking only among metropolitan areas, it turns out that the roomiest ones are not in the West. They’re in the South.”

“To see how much room there is, look at the density — measured in households per square mile, of the typical household’s neighborhood in each major metro area in the United States. In other words, in each metro, how crowded is the neighborhood where the typical household lives?

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“In general, metro areas with more people tend to have higher densities. But there are striking exceptions.”

“Atlanta, the ninth largest metro area by population, ranks only 132nd for density. The typical household in Atlanta lives in a neighborhood with just 931 households per square mile — or 1.5 households per acre. This is less than one-fourth the density of the typical household in Los Angeles or Chicago.”

“Other Southern cities have plenty of room, too. Among metro areas with populations of at least two million people, Charlotte, N.C., has the lowest density, followed by Atlanta. Among those with one to two million people, Birmingham, Ala., is the least dense, followed by Nashville and Raleigh, N.C.”

Gun Owners Add to Their Stockpile

Christopher Ingraham: “There are nearly twice as many guns in the average gun-owning household today as there were 20 years ago, according to new Wonkblog estimates based data from surveys and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2013, there were an estimated 8.1 firearms in the typical gun-owning household, according to these data. In 1994, the average gun-owning household owned 4.2 guns.”

“For many owners guns are like tools, and you need different tools for different jobs: a rifle for hunting deer. A shotgun for hunting duck. A pistol for self-defense. An AR-15 for fun. Etc.”

“But in recent years, it seems many gun owners have seen fit to expand their toolboxes. There are probably a number of factors driving this: fear-stoking by some gun rights groups in the wake of mass shootings can lead to surges in gun-buying from existing owners concerned the government could take  their guns away. The rising popularity of ‘prepper’ groups, who stock up on food and firearms in preparation for a variety of coming apocalypses, may also be playing a role.”


The More Americans Know About Congress, the More They Hate it

Gallup: “Americans who are knowledgeable about Congress — based on a five-question quiz — have more negative views of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress compared with those who are less knowledgeable.”

Ratings of Republicans in Congress

“The fundamental finding is that Americans who know the most about how Congress operates are not only the most negative about Congress in general, but also about the Republicans and Democrats in Congress specifically. This reinforces the general conclusion that criticisms of Congress — and the partisan leaders in Congress — are based on a realistic assessment of what these entities are doing rather than a lack of awareness of or interest in what they are doing.”

Americans Don’t Want Pope Speaking Out on Climate Change

Washington Post: “Basically, more people are comfortable with the church bashing free-market capitalism than with it bashing people who doubt that climate change is caused by humans. You have to figure that some not-small part of this derives from the vagueness of the capitalism question and the specificity of the one about climate change, and you have to figure that some part of it is rooted in the hyper-partisanship of climate change politics in the United States. It reinforces, though, that the pope’s efforts to convince the heaviest greenhouse-gas polluters per capita in the world (that is, Americans) of their folly probably won’t succeed.”

Who Spends the Most on Booze and Smokes?

Washington Post: Which metropolitan areas lead the country where people spend a disproportionate amount of their salary on alcohol, smoking and eating out?

Surprisingly, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area “leads the nation in percent of household expenditure spent on eating out and alcoholic beverage. Here, residents spend 6.10 percent of their total spending on eating out, and 1.21 percent on alcohol … Boston, meanwhile, takes the lead on spending on tobacco, as residents spend 0.65 percent on smokes, compared to an average of 0.44 percent.”

“Geographically, Western metropolitan areas overspend on eating out and alcohol, while overspending on tobacco products is prevalent in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. In Chicago, cigarettes are taxed at the city, county and state level, coming up to $6.16 a pack, the highest rate in the country.”

“The following map looks at places where spending exceeds the average among cities.”

Americans Are Finally Eating Less

“After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better,” the New York Times reports.

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“Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent. The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.”

Key finding: “In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.”


Businesses Feel Steamrolled on Minimum Wage

Washington Post: “That’s a feeling common among businesses nationwide, as minimum wage increases steamroller their way through cities and states. Emboldened by their victories, minimum wage backers are planning a slew of new bills and ballot initiatives in the coming election cycle. The private sector is used to being a powerful force in politics. So how has it been so impotent on the issue of the minimum wage?”

Said venture capitalist Nick Hanauer: “The reason that business has not been able to stop these minimum wage hikes is that they have completely lost the public argument about how the economy works and where growth comes from. The key to winning this was to create a new kind of argument about how capitalism works that’s both true and beneficial to 99 percent of the people who participate in the economy. So literally, when we took [the issue of] growth away from the business community, they went dark, they were silent.”

“Well, not quite. Business-backed groups still protest that while the economic research suggests that minimum wage hikes haven’t historically led to job loss, there aren’t any studies yet on what happens when the floor goes all the way up to $15. As that happens, they predict that businesses in the fast food industry especially will find ways to cut jobs through automation.”

Krugman: Obamacare Survives and ‘It’s a Beautiful Thing’

Paul Krugman: “Now, you might wonder why a law that works so well and does so much good is the object of so much political venom — venom that is, by the way, on full display in Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion, with its rants against ‘interpretive jiggery-pokery.’ But what conservatives have always feared about health reform is the possibility that it might succeed, and in so doing remind voters that sometimes government action can improve ordinary Americans’ lives.”

“That’s why the right went all out to destroy the Clinton health plan in 1993, and tried to do the same to the Affordable Care Act. But Obamacare has survived, it’s here, and it’s working. The great conservative nightmare has come true. And it’s a beautiful thing.”