Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BTYFO*

Via Greg Sargent:

The 100-day mark of the Trump presidency is approaching, and his aides are worried that the media narrative will depict his historically awful lack of accomplishments with highly unflattering levels of accuracy. But don’t tell that to President Trump. He knows the real problem is that the news media won’t acknowledge how terrific the start to his presidency has actually been in comparison with his loser predecessors…

[…]

A new Gallup poll out this morning, however, strongly suggests that an increasing number of Americans just don’t believe Trump’s spin about his presidency anymore. It finds that only 45 percent of Americans think Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, an astonishing slide of 17 points…

I think Trump actually does know that he’s off to the worst start since William Henry Harrison and that’s why he’s doing all that butch stuff like dropping a huge bomb in Afghanistan and pushing the “go it alone” sabre-rattling on North Korea.  The cable TV people love that sort of stuff; they get to pull out those cool graphics and talk all military with retired generals.  They get to rattle off acronyms like MOAB and BFO and pretend they know what life is like in the trenches.

Actually, it doesn’t really matter what the polls say or whether or not the Trump voter is finally getting clued in that they elected a fraud and a bullshit artist (*’Bout Time You Found Out), and frankly I don’t care that they’re now disappointed.  The damage has already been done and whether or not Trump lasts his full term is a moot point; even if the entire GOP has an Oedipus moment — roughly translated as “Holy shit, what have I done?” — fixing the damage to our country and ourselves is going to take more than just an election cycle.

For those of us over the age of fifty, we thought we had this taken care of when our long national nightmare was over after Watergate and we all hung out at The System Works Bar and Grille and congratulated ourselves on saving America in a bipartisan fashion.  It lasted one presidential election cycle and then we were back at it again with the Moral Majority demonizing minorities, Iran-Contra, and right-wing nutsery that made Richard Nixon’s campaign of character assassination look like Candyland.

The disappointed Republicans aren’t going to vote for a Democrat.  They’re going to look around for someone else to blame (mirrors being in short supply) and they’ll be happy to settle on another huckster who can soothe their wounds.

Don’t look now, but I think the odds on Ted Cruz primarying Trump in 2020 are better than even.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Out Of Reach

Even if Trump’s poll numbers suck wind with a lot of voters, there’s one group he’s doing just fine with: his Republican base.  As far as they’re concerned, he’s the next Ronald Reagan.

So even if he doesn’t repeal Obamacare, doesn’t build the wall, doesn’t bring back jobs to the coal mines, raises their taxes and gives more breaks to the rich while piling up the deficit, and poisons the air and water around them, they’ll still support him and cheer him on.

And why not?  These folks have been voting against their own self-interest for the last fifty years.  Why stop a good thing?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nowhere To Go But Up?

Gallup is out with a poll that puts Trump’s approval rating at 36%.

Trump’s three-day reading prior to Friday’s events was 41%. His previous low point was 37%, recorded March 16-18. His highest reading was 46% in the week following his Jan. 20 inauguration, and he has averaged 42% for his term to date.

Trump’s current 36% is two percentage points below Barack Obama’s low point of 38%, recorded in 2011 and 2014. Trump has also edged below Bill Clinton’s all-time low of 37%, recorded in the summer of 1993, his first year in office, as well as Gerald Ford’s 37% low point in January and March 1975. John F. Kennedy’s lowest approval rating was 56%; Dwight Eisenhower’s was 48%.

Gallup tries to put a shine on the news by saying that most presidents get better.

An encouraging sign for Trump, perhaps, is that all presidents whose ratings fell below 36% — with the exception of Nixon — saw their ratings improve thereafter. Clinton provides a particularly relevant example. His approval rating dropped to 37% in June 1993 but recovered to 56% by September of that year.

I think the difference between Trump and the other presidents — even Nixon — is that they were not perceived by the public, regardless of party, as being as openly and flagrantly loose with the truth and their perception of it than Trump.  Even at his worst, Richard Nixon didn’t pull off the whoppers that Trump comes up with every day.

It’s not just the lying and disengagement from reality that sets him apart.  It’s the perception that his policy goals are not the same as the country’s.  The majority of Americans want good health insurance that covers more people, not fewer.  The majority of Americans are in favor of an immigration policy that does not deport 11 million people and separate families.  The majority of Americans want to know if the last election was manipulated by a foreign power whose very name used to send people into fallout shelters.  And the majority of Americans voted for someone else.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Last Visit To The Oracles

The final numbers from the predictors are in.  Take your pick.  If you’re for Trump, make it chloroform.

First, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:

Hillary Clinton has a 70 percent chance of winning the election, according to both the FiveThirtyEight polls-only and polls-plus models. That’s up from a 65 percent chance on Sunday night, so Clinton has had a good run in the polls in the final days of the campaign. Clinton’s projected margin of victory in the popular vote has increased to 3.5 percent from 2.9 percent.

fivethirtyeight-pollsonly-11-08-16Here’s Sam Wang’s call at the Princeton Election Consortium:

Here are my best estimates. The Presidential and House races are a near-replica of 2012. Four Senate races are within one percentage point. Partisans in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and North Carolina may want to lawyer up for possible recount battles.

[…]

President: Hillary Clinton (D).

Most probable single outcome (shown on map below): Clinton 323 EV, Trump 215 EV.

pec-map-11-08-16

The biggest change in the results is that both models plus the Upshot at the New York Times are calling for the Senate to be handed over to the Democrats by the slimmest of margins: 538 calling it 50-50, which means the Democrats control because Vice President Kaine breaks a tie, or 52-48 via PEC (Independents Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME) caucus with the Democrats).  That would fend off total gridlock, which is guaranteed if all the Democrats have is the White House (see Obama, Barack 2010-2016).

Now it’s your turn.

Monday, November 7, 2016

99.9% vs 66.9%

Today — the day before the election — the polling oracles of Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight are showing two very different predictions.  PEC says Hillary Clinton has a 99.9% chance of winning while 538 is saying it’s 66.9%.  Why?

pec-map-11-07-16

Princeton Election Consortium 11-07-16

Five Thirty Eight 11-07-16

Five Thirty Eight 11-07-16

At the moment 538 isn’t talking, but Sam offers an explanation.  Fair warning: it’s long, detailed, and gets into statistical interpretation that will test your wonk tolerance, but it’s worth the read to see why two different organizations without — at least on the surface — an agenda for one candidate over another can come to two very different results when they’re looking at the same data.

And for a happy medium, there’s the Upshot at the New York Times, which, with Hillary Clinton at 84%, lands exactly in the middle between PEC and 538.

Take your pick.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Not Too Tight, Please

If Nate Silver and his models are making you nervous about the possibility of waking up a week from today and seeing the smoldering ruins around you, there are other sites that can offer more insight and perspective, if not 100% reassurance that all is not lost.

Sam Wang and his group at the Princeton Election Consortium have been consistent with their predictions and still hold out Hillary Clinton as the winner with a 98% probability even as the race tightens.  This is from Monday:

Hillary Clinton’s advantage over Donald Trump has eroded somewhat since our last review of electoral forecasts on October 26th. Much of the change has been around forecasters moving states to toss-up that they had previously characterized as leaning toward Clinton.

Several forecasters followed this reclassification with Florida as it has tightened considerably in the polls. Trump has led in two of the last four polls there and only trailing by one in the other two. With its 29 electoral votes, the Sunshine State is pretty close to a must-win for the Republican nominee.

There are a lot of nuggets of numbers and graphs, and unlike FiveThirtyEight, they’re not interspersed with predictions about college football since PEC is not owned by ESPN (and Princeton hasn’t been a football powerhouse since my dad was there in the late 1940’s).  That’s not to disparage FiveThirtyEight, but just as they’re an aggregate of polls and weighted a certain way, so the the PEC.  And this morning I like this map better:

pec-map-11-02-16There is also the Upshot at the New York Times.

The Upshot’s elections model suggests that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, based on the latest state and national polls. A victory by Mr. Trump remains possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an N.F.L. kicker misses a 35-yard field goal.

(What is it with pollsters and football?)  The only problem with the Upshot is that it’s behind a paywall.

I have always thought this would be a tight race down to the finish.  I would rather it was not, but let’s not kid ourselves; the right-wing noise machine was not going to let up even if it meant supporting a misogynistic racist with delusions of tacky grandeur as their one and only.  But I don’t want it to be too tight.  Let’s get Hillary Clinton over the finish line with at least 300 electoral votes, okay?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Two Weeks Out

Is the race over?  Superstitious folk and pollsters with long memories (1936 and 1948) say never say it is, but it’s hard to imagine anything other than a giant meteor changing the trajectory of the race.

There are those who are going around saying yes it’s over; Hillary Clinton has a 93% chance of winning, according to the New York Times Upshot.  I prefer to go with the people at FiveThirtyEight who are a little less convinced (although still convincing) with an 86.3% chance.

fivethirtyeight-pollsonly-10-25-16The Oracle speaks:

As I wrote last week, Hillary Clinton is probably going to become the next president. But there’s an awful lot of room to debate what “probably” means.

FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only model puts Clinton’s chances at 85 percent, while our polls-plus model has her at 83 percent. Those odds have been pretty steady over the past week or two, although if you squint you can see the race tightening just the slightest bit, with Clinton’s popular vote lead at 6.2 percentage points as compared to 7.1 points a week earlier. Still, she wouldn’t seem to have a lot to complain about.

Other statistical models are yet more confident in Clinton, however, variously putting her chances at 92 percent to 99 percent. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big difference, since people (wrongly) tend to perceive odds above 80 percent as sure things. But flip those numbers around, and instead of Clinton’s chances, consider Donald Trump’s. The New York Times’s Upshot model gives Trump an 8 percent chance of winning the election. Our models say a Trump presidency is about twice a likely as The Upshot does, putting his chances at 15 percent (polls-only) and 17 percent (polls-plus). And our models think Trump is about four times as likely to win the presidency as the Huffington Post Pollster model, which puts his chances at 4 percent.

So let me explain why our forecast is a bit more conservative than some of the others you might be seeing — and why you shouldn’t give up if you’re a Trump supporter, or assume you have it in the bag if you’re voting for Clinton. We’ve touched on each of these points before, but it’s nice to have them in one place. I’ll also show you what probability our model would give to Trump and Clinton if we changed some of these assumptions.

TLDR: 1) A lot of voters are still undecided; 2) The model is calibrated on general elections since 1972; 3) The models are allowing for more unlikely events (giant meteor, perhaps?); 4) State outcomes are correlated with one another.

As we say frequently, the greater uncertainty in the FiveThirtyEight forecast cuts both ways. So while we show a greater likelihood of a Trump win than most other models, we’d also assign a greater possibility to a Clinton landslide, in which she wins the election by double digits. But while the campaign is almost over, the suspense isn’t quite done.

In other words, if you can’t bear the suspense, you still have the World Series (which Nate pegs the Cubs as favored to win) or the new TV season to distract you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Short Takes

President Obama says Donald Trump is “unfit for duty.”

Hillary Clinton gains in national polling.

Miami Zika virus patient count up to fifteen.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton set to retire.

Tropical Update:  TS Earl forms in the Caribbean and heads west.

The Tigers extended their winning streak to seven by beating the White Sox 11-5.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dead Cat Bounce

Most presidential candidates get a positive bounce in polling from their party convention.  For the first time in polling about conventions, Gallup found that Donald Trump’s net support dropped by a whopping 15%.

Trump Convention Bounce 08-02-16

For a few days it looked like Mr. Trump was ahead in the polls; at one point several trackers had him ahead.  It looks like that might have been the proverbial dead cat bounce.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Oracle Speaks

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is out with his first general election forecast: Donald Trump has a 20% chance of winning the presidency.

Giving Trump a 20 percent or 25 percent chance of becoming president means that Clinton has a 75 percent to 80 percent chance. That might seem generous given that, under ordinary circumstances, the background conditions of this election (no incumbent running and a mediocre economy) would seem to suggest a tossup. Are Clinton’s high odds justified on the basis of the polls? Or do they require making heroic assumptions about Trump, the same ones that got everyone, emphatically including yours truly, in trouble during the primaries?

The short answer is that 20 percent or 25 percent is a pretty reasonable estimate of Trump’s chances based on the polls and other empirical evidence. In fact, that’s quite close to where FiveThirtyEight’s statistical models, which are launching today, have the race. Our polls-only model has Trump with a 19 percent chance of beating Clinton as of early Wednesday afternoon. (The forecasts will continually update as new polls are added.) Our polls-plus model, which considers economic conditions along with the polls, is more optimistic about Trump, giving him a 26 percent chance.

Still, Trump faces longer odds and a bigger polling deficit than John McCain and Mitt Romney did at the same point in their respective races. He needs to look back to 1988 for comfort, when George H.W. Bush overcame a similar deficit against Michael Dukakis to win. Our models are built from data since 1972, so the probabilities we list account for elections such as 1980, 1988 and 1992, when the polls swung fairly wildly, along with others, such as 2004 and 2012, where the polls were quite stable.

Let’s do the numbers.

I know I say it every time I post a poll, but here it is again: take nothing for granted.  I have seen too many polls in June that sealed the deal, and we all remember going to the McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis inaugural balls, right?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

As Goes Florida…

Donald Trump may have a big house down here, but he’s not winning.  A recent poll has him getting his clock cleaned.

Clinton would wallop Trump by 49-36 percent if the election were held today and she’d best Cruz 48-39 percent, according to the poll of 604 likely Florida voters.

“In this critical swing state, it is clear to us that Republicans continue to suffer substantial brand damage amongst all segments of the ascending electorate (younger voters, Hispanics & No Major Party voters) and this presidential campaign has clearly exacerbated these attitudes,” Ryan Tyson, a Republican who serves as the group’s vice president of political operations, wrote in a memo to his members.

Because Florida is the most populous swing state in the nation, with 29 Electoral College votes, a Florida victory by Clinton would almost guarantee she wins the White House.

To make matters worse, the polling comes not from some left-wing push-poll, but from a business lobby.

Booman paints a bleak picture for the presumptive GOP nominee.

Donald Trump currently doesn’t stand a chance in Florida and it’s just as likely to get worse for him than it is to get better.

A couple of things are really working against Trump. The first is that Hillary Clinton already has net negative numbers in the Sunshine State, and yet she’s still absolutely crushing him. It’s pretty unlikely that Trump can drive her negatives a whole lot higher, so he’s got to do something first and foremost with his gonorrhea-like popularity with key Florida voting blocs.

The second thing is that she’s disciplined and he’s not. When you combine this with the comparative immutability of her approve/disapprove numbers, it’s clear that Trump is both more likely to make mistakes and more likely to pay a substantial price for them.

The numbers in Florida in recent elections pretty closely match those in the general election, so if Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump by 13 points, that has the historic value of predicting that he’s going to lose nationally.  Florida, for all its, uh, quirks — at least in terms of elections — has been a reliable predictor of how the nation will go.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Trump has turned off one of the most reliably Republican groups here: Cuban-Americans.

Donald Trump is the catalyst who could force a decisive break between Miami-Dade County’s influential Cuban-American voters and the Republican Party, a new poll has found.

Local Cuban Americans dislike Trump so much — and are increasingly so accepting of renewed U.S.-Cuba ties pushed by Democratic President Barack Obama — that Trump’s likely presidential nomination might accentuate the voters’ political shift away from the GOP, according to the survey shared with the Miami Herald and conducted by Dario Moreno, a Coral Gables pollster and a Florida International University associate politics professor.

The trend among younger Cuban-Americans in recent elections has been toward the Democrats, but this election may be the breaking point for the older generations.  Maybe that’s because Trump reminds them of the mobsters that used to back the dictators that preceded Fidel.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Unpopular Vote

Keep digging that hole, Republicans.

The Republican Party’s image, already quite negative, has slipped since last fall. Currently 33% of the public has a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 62% have an unfavorable view. Unfavorable opinions of the GOP are now as high as at any point since 1992.

In October, 37% viewed the Republican Party favorably and 58% viewed it unfavorably. The decline in favorability since then has largely come among Republicans themselves: In the current survey, 68% of Republicans view their party positively, down from 79% last fall.

By contrast, public views of the Democratic Party are unchanged since October. Currently, 45% of the public has a favorable impression of the Democratic Party, while 50% have an unfavorable opinion.

And yet there will still be Very Serious People who are sure the GOP will sweep the election in the fall and that the Democrats have a lot of work to do to catch up.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It Was Never There

The top story on NBC News’ website this morning:

Trump’s Poll Numbers Tumble as November Looms

This is being seen as a sudden shift in the national polling, but it’s not really a big surprise.  Mr. Trump is now being polled as a general election candidate rather than one running in the primaries, and while he may have done very well among the party base, he’s buzzard meat when the rest of America chimes in.

A collection of recent surveys by Real Clear Politics finds, on average, 30 percent of respondents hold a favorable view of Trump versus 63 percent who hold a negative one. Those numbers are roughly parallel to former President George W. Bush’s approval ratings during his final months in office, which set the stage for President Barack Obama’s landslide victory.

The false impression of his dominance in the race has been encouraged by the fact that certain cable networks will go live with Breaking News when Mr. Trump holds a rally in Dogpatch and scratches his ass.

On the upside, maybe that’s what’s making the general population turn against him: they see him in all his glory and find out he’s as thoroughly detestable as real life can make him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Better To Lose

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post writes that the Republican governors who want to ban Syrian refugees have the right idea, at least in terms of politics.

Over the past 24 hours, almost half of the nation’s governors — all but one of them Republicans — have said they plan to refuse to allow Syrian immigrants into their states in the wake of the Paris attacks carried out by the Islamic State (no matter that they can’t really do that). Ted Cruz, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has announced plans to introduce legislation in the Senate that would bar all Muslim Syrian refugees from entering America.

That stance has been greeted with widespread ridicule and disgust by Democrats who insist that keeping people out of the U.S. is anathema to the founding principles of the country. “That’s shameful,” President Obama said in a speech addressing the Paris attacks on Monday. “That’s not American. It’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

Think what you will, but one thing is clear: The political upside for Republican politicians pushing an immigration ban on Syrians and/or Muslims as a broader response to the threat posed by the Islamic State sure looks like a political winner.

He cites a variety of polls that show the public is with them on this, and if you are thinking strictly along those lines, he’s probably right: Americans are by and large reactionary and as I’ve noted many times before, no one ever lost an election by exploiting the greed, fear, and paranoia of the American electorate.  We also know that a large segment of the American voting population believes the world was formed 6,000 years ago, that dinosaurs co-existed with humans, and that if you pull the tag off a mattress you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones warns Democrats against mocking the Republicans for yet again appealing to the worst part of our nature.

The liberal response to this should be far more measured. We should support tight screening. Never mind that screening is already pretty tight. We should highlight the fact that we’re accepting a pretty modest number of refugees. In general, we should act like this is a legitimate thing to be concerned about and then work from there.

Mocking it is the worst thing we could do. It validates all the worst stereotypes about liberals that we put political correctness ahead of national security. It doesn’t matter if that’s right or wrong. Ordinary people see the refugees as a common sense thing to be concerned about. We shouldn’t respond by essentially calling them idiots. That way lies electoral disaster.

It’s not a matter of political correctness.  It’s a matter of both humanity and reality.  No one has yet to prove that anyone involved in the attacks in Paris was a Syrian refugee.  In fact, the attack by ISIS was because the French have been taking in refugees; are we going to give in to the blackmail and not take the people fleeing ISIS?

This may be a losing argument politically, but in the larger scheme of things, it’s better to alienate voters who would support the cowards and bed-wetters than have them on our side.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Just Checking

Polls are as changeable as the weather, but if you’re Jeb Bush or Carly Fiorina, you’re wondering what the hell happened.

A new Monmouth University poll finds Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP pack at 28%, followed by Ben Carson at 18%, Ted Cruz at 10%, Carly Fiorina at 6%, Marco Rubio at 6%, Jeb Bush at 5%, Mike Huckabee at 4%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Chris Christie at 3%.

None of the other six candidates garners more than one percent support.

We keep hearing about the “beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” but so far he’s still out in front.  The Very Serious People are beginning to think he might be a thing while the Fiornia boom lasted as long as a Columbus Day tire sale, and Jeb Bush keeps insisting on dredging up reminders of the last time we had a Bush in the White House even if he claims to be his own man.

Death Star Tweet 10-21-15A year from now Jeb Bush is going to be just another guy waiting in line at Starbucks on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables and secretly glad that someone else is out there getting his ass whipped by Hillary Clinton.  And Carly Fiorina will be the one selling him the pumpkin spice latte.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Trolling Polling

I answered the phone last night and got a pollster asking about a proposal to mandate that Florida companies with five or more employees give them paid sick leave.  (A Google search yielded no such proposal in the works.)

Pollster: Do you favor such a proposal, yes or no?

Me:  Yes.

Pollster: Is that a strong “yes” or a somewhat “yes”?

Me:  It’s a binary question: it’s either “yes” or “no;” there’s no gradations to that kind of question.

Pollster (after a pause):  I understand, but is your answer a strong “yes” or a somewhat “yes”?

Me: Yes.

Pollster: Strong or somewhat?

Me: Yes.  As I said, there are only two choices.  It’s like a light switch: it’s either on or off.  I said Yes.  Now if you had asked me “Do you favor such a law, and if so, do you favor it strongly or somewhat?” I would have been able to qualify my support.  But you asked me Yes or No.  I said Yes.

Pollster (longer pause): Okay, sir, that’s all the questions I have.  Thank you.

Me: Who’s on first?

[Click]

Hey, I don’t have either a cat or a laser pointer.  You find fun where you can.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Poll Tacks

“Fair and balanced” Fox News conducted a poll.

The world’s “going to hell in a handbasket,” according to a majority of voters in the latest Fox News poll.

And that’s draining support for President Obama’s policies.

The idea of Fox News conducting a poll with a question phrased like that surprises absolutely no one.

But “Helena Handbasket” is a great drag queen name.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Just Another Political Entity

That’s the verdict of a poll done recently about the Supreme Court.

Wide majorities disagree with the recent 5-4 party-line rulings that have upended a century of campaign finance law and tilted the rules in favor of the extremely wealthy and major corporations. The landmark Citizens United ruling was opposed by a whopping 80-18 margin. The more recent McCutcheon decision, which lifted caps on total giving, was said by a 51 percent majority to be likely to create more corruption, while 8 percent suggested it would lead to less.

By a 60-36 spread, those surveyed said that Supreme Court justices were more likely to be carrying out a personal or political agenda than working to render a fair and impartial judgment, an opinion that cut across party lines. John Roberts swore before Congress during his confirmation hearings that he had great respect for precedent. But once confirmed as chief justice, he embarked on a remarkable run of conservative judicial activism that has favored the wealthy while undermining affirmative action and protection for voting rights.

The tipping point seems to be the ruling on Bush v. Gore which handed the election of 2000 to George W. Bush with the approval of the 5-4 court majority, and it’s only gotten more noticeable since then.  Further examples are the gutting of the Voting Rights Act last year and the Michigan affirmative action case, which said that the way to cure racism was to say that there really isn’t any racism anymore so why worry about it?

Of course the conservatives can point to rulings and claim there was a liberal bias on the court: Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, school prayer, and Loving v. Virginia, thereby proving the point that it’s only judicial activism when it’s a ruling you don’t like.  But the Roberts court seems to be much more bolder about it.