Politico Reports “An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter”

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Jaybird

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s the part that will excite half the board: “And today her model tells her the Democrats are a near lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate. If she’s right, we are now in a post-economy, post-incumbency, post record-while-in-office era of politics. Her analysis, as Bitecofer puts it with characteristic immodesty, amounts to nothing less than “flipping giant paradigms of electoral theory upside down.””Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain
      Ignored
      says:

      How’d she do on the Senate races in 2018? AZ and NV in particular.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        From the article:

        Bitecofer hasn’t exactly been clairvoyant: Her original Senate prediction was off in 2018. She didn’t anticipate the surge in GOP turnout that would match the surge in Democratic turnout in places where the demographics still favored Republicans. She thought Democrats would win Florida, and maybe even Texas, and that the Georgia governor’s race was winnable. What she didn’t count on at the time was that negative partisanship can work both ways, even when there is one party in power, and that no one knows how to fire up the fear factor in his coalition quite like Donald Trump. He did just that, and Blue Dog Democrats in Missouri and Indiana and South Dakota were done for.

        So if you want to say “doesn’t that falsify it?”, I’d look at the House numbers again and say “maybe it only works on the House and the Electoral College?”

        We’ll see in 2020, I guess.Report

        • Avatar Mr. Joe
          Ignored
          says:

          Looks like she updated her models, both mental and mathematical, based on new information. That is a good sign.

          As she points out, it is a bad idea to work from data generated by “just asking some people.” However, I can’t seem to think of a single person I have discussed the election with that is “undecided”. To a person, they are already nearly certain how they will vote: red, blue, other, or not at all. Maybe some of the not at alls can be pulled off the sidelines. This would be consistent with her theories though.Report

  2. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    The article notes that, in a broad sense her theory is widely accepted by most forecasters, just maybe not to the degree she asserts.

    I think one explanation is that the Republican Party has moved away from issue-oriented politics to identity politics, which by definition refuses any possibility of a “swing voter”. You can’t decide to join the White Ethnic Culture Party unless you agree to its terms.

    So even if someone isn’t wild about socialism or progressive taxes those issue pale beside the prospect of being a 3/5ths American.

    Which would make it easy to predict who has what attitude towards the parties. But as the article notes, predicting turnout itself is near impossible.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I just like that the theory is testable. If it works, that means that it’s got a decent shot of working until 2024.

      Well, assuming Goodhart’s Law hasn’t kicked in by then…Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        In what way is it testable?
        How does it predict the level of turnout?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          Well, if she says “the dems will win in 2020 according to this formula that I have not changed” before we know whether the nominee will be Biden or Bloomberg or Bernie, and the dems win, then *I* would say that she called this back in 2016. Or, at least, her theory has not yet been falsified, if you want to go Popperian on this stuff.

          As for how it predicts the level of turnout, it doesn’t seem to?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            The entire theory as I understand it is that since there are no (statistically significant number of) swing voters, then the election is decided by turnout.

            That theory may be true regardless of who wins.Report

    • Avatar Ozzzy!
      Ignored
      says:

      Chip, I love your drum, but white people will be around for a very long time, and will be the single largest race-based block in the voter universe of the US for the foreseeable future.

      They are splintered from an ideology and voting team perspective, but if your goal is to get ‘them’ to side with you, saying they can’t even be part of ‘identity politics’ seems, well, like a dumb point coming from an intersectional view.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        Why do white people need to be part of identity politics?Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter
          Ignored
          says:

          Because it’s weird if you’re going to say “skin color is very, very important and what you need to pay attention to… unless you’re white.”Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            I don’t think that “resist appeals to racism” is the same as “skin color is very very important”.

            And I really, really, don’t think that “resist appeals to racism” is the same as “Vote For Your Racial Identity”.

            It is possible to acknowledge racism, and also forge interracial alliances.

            I mean, tens of millions of Americans do this effortlessly, every day.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter
              Ignored
              says:

              Are we trying to make the government race neutral or aren’t we? If we are then affirmative action should be viewed as a problem, and keeping Asians down because they’re more successful than they “should” be is very much a problem.

              If we’re not trying to make the gov race neutral then appeals to black/white/whatever are simply different types of the same coin.

              As far as I can tell, “having a black identity” is good solid identity politics but “having a white one” (or even simply not caring) is “appeals to racism”.

              If you’re trying to convince the Obama/Trump voters that they’re racists for not wanting to vote for Sanders/Warren/Biden/whoever, then maybe the entire line of reasoning should be rethought.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Why do people have no problem acknowledging our Irish, Italian, German ethnic identity, and at the same time that we are all equal citizens?

                Yet asking people to do the same with African ancestry somehow leaves them pretending to be flummoxed and confused?

                The Trumpist appeal is explicitly to racism and a call for cultural supremacy. They don’t bother trying to hide it any more.

                Which leaves the more squeamish followers uncomfortable and desperately searching for fig leaves.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Nobody’s saying that there ought to be reduced academic standards or required minimum quotas for Irishmen in college.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                American conservatism, illustrated.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David
                Ignored
                says:

                And some wonder how racism jumped the shark.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Why do people have no problem acknowledging our Irish, Italian, German ethnic identity, and at the same time that we are all equal citizens?

                Because no one suggests shaping gov policy around these identities. And btw “all equal as citizens” implies a neutral government.

                Yet asking people to do the same with African ancestry somehow leaves them pretending to be flummoxed and confused?

                The amount of government effort which we do to treat German-Americans differently is zero. I am perfectly fine with “doing the same” with race.

                Which leaves the more squeamish followers uncomfortable and desperately searching for fig leaves.

                The large political parties in America are vast coalitions. Insisting that being a member of the other group auto-magically makes you a member of every faction is absurd and un-useful virtue signalling. Every Democrat isn’t cool with selling pardons or with prioritizing (teacher) union jobs over inner city education. Being Black doesn’t automatically mean you’re Pro-Choice even though both “groups” tend to be Democrat.

                The Trumpist appeal is explicitly to racism and a call for cultural supremacy.

                Yes, Identity politics is ugly. If you consider this to be a bad thing, then keep in mind he’s doing the same for the whites that the Left strives to do for the non-whites… and that every time the Left encourages one faction they’re encouraging everyone else to do the same.

                This brings us back to the question of whether you think the government should be neutral? I think it should, mostly for the reasons I’ve already outlined. Every time we us the gov as a magic wand to “help” group “X” because they’re politically deserving, we’re encouraging all groups to do the same.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                The entire political structure in America since 1619 has been identity politics.

                Ethnicity, gender, religion were the driving factors in how the law treated all persons until very very recently.
                And it is the laws which overturned identity politics which the conservatives are most fervent about repealing.

                The core of Trumpism is the unearned grievance of white male victimhood.

                All the stuff of “not being able to say Merry Christmas”, the “persecution of Christians” and so forth is just agit-prop designed to play the victim and justify their own attempts at intolerance.

                Notice how even the acknowledgement of racism drives them to yelps of outrage and threats to double down on it (“you’re forcing me to become a racist by calling me a racist”) which is as childish as it is absurd.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Ethnicity, gender, religion were the driving factors in how the law treated all persons until very very recently.

                Yes, and they were bad ideas then, and they’re bad ideas now, and it’s VERY easy to go back to them. However claiming it’s fine to encourage everyone but the whites to do this is nonsense.

                The core of Trumpism is the unearned grievance of white male victimhood.

                He’s far too popular for that to be his only attraction.

                just agit-prop designed to play the victim and justify their own attempts at intolerance.

                If we’re going to talk about “intolerance”, then branding half the country as racists because they wouldn’t vote for HRC/Sanders/etc seems like a good example.

                On a side note, Buttigieg’s victory seems a vote for sanity for team Blue. Seriously encouraging.Report

              • Avatar George Turner
                Ignored
                says:

                Ethnicity, gender, religion were the driving factors in how the law treated all persons until very very recently.

                I don’t recall reading a statute that treats people differently by ethnicity or religion. Perhaps you can cite a state or federal statute that distinguishes French from Italians, or Baptists from Methodists, or even Presbyterians from Sikhs. It would help such a law was recent and wasn’t passed by Social Justice Warriors in the usual states where liberals seeks to divide people up by ethnicity and religion.

                And it is the laws which overturned identity politics which the conservatives are most fervent about repealing.

                First, you need to point to laws that enshrined identity politics. Second, if such laws exist, you need to show that they weren’t passed by progressive legislatures. Third, as this conservative is obviously unaware of any such laws, and doesn’t know any conservative who are, how the heck could I, or any other conservative, be adamantly focused on repealing them?

                What conservatives are focused on is not letting Democrats pass a bunch of laws to enshrine identity politics into law, which they seem dead set on doing, because for them, all people are completely defined by race, ethnicity, and religion, and should be treated differently under law, just like many folks thought from the 1600’s through the 1800’s, or for progressive Democrats, to this very day.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I assume “very very recently” means “the last 50 years”.

                Move past that and we’re into Jim Crow or even slavery territory.Report

        • Avatar Ozzzy!
          Ignored
          says:

          Honestly chip, it’s so self obvious I’ll just let this one lie.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Is this a new theory? I thought people have been arguing it is all about exicting the base and getting out the vote as much as possible? This happened in 2018 when Republicans were engaged but Democrats were more engaged.

    The other theory I heard over the past few months is that the United States has a “thermostatic” electorate. This might largely be the same thing or with small differences. This is to explain why it goes from Democratic to Republican and vice-versa seemingly every two years or so. Give or take.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s an old theory. The problem is that in 2016, she was dismissed because real people understood that Sam Wang was right.

      Now that her theory is telling the people who thought Sam Wang was right in 2016 what they want to hear, people are pointing out that she’s insightful again.

      I’d say that her theory is an interesting one and immanently testable. At this moment in time, I’d say that Trump strikes me as likely to be re-elected against anybody but Biden and there are huge clouds of uncertainty around Bernie. But if the Dems get the white house in November, she called that right now using a formula that worked in 2016.

      Which, if you ask me, means that it’s a theory worth coming back to in December.

      Either to say “Holy crap, she was right! She was right back in 2016!!!” or to say “Man, that was another person who got lucky once.” (Holds up finger like Joe Piscopo.) “Once.”Report

    • Avatar Ozzzy!
      Ignored
      says:

      I’d go back to the old tried and true – ‘it’s the economy stupid’. It’s not trumps doing and Obama built the foundation, but voter turn out seems to inversely follow economic booms pretty well.Report

  4. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I read that article, don’t buy it. It’s too simple, frankly, to work in my opinion. It feels just like political common knowledge rebranded and gussied up.Report

  5. Avatar CJColucci
    Ignored
    says:

    This looks perfectly sensible, almost obvious, to me. I’ve never been impressed by districts that swung red or blue. I always want to know who in those districts came out. To be sure, there are individual voters who swing red or blue, but I’ve never seen any evidence that this is a large group. And, to operationalize things, nobody knows what to do with them anyway. No one who could swing from Obama to Trump has any coherent sort of “politics” that most of us — who lean whatever way we lean largely based on policy preferences that we think we’ve thought about — here understand beyond the impulse to look at how their lives are going, throw whichever bastard is in out, and then throw that new bastard out when he doesn’t deliver whatever it is they think they want. (Often, of course, because he can’t and neither can anyone else. But try telling these voters that.) There is simply no systematic or issue-based way of appealing to them. If you have mad campaign skills and charisma, or are simply willing and able to tell outrageous but comforting lies without visible shame, you might peel some off of this mindless cycle, but you can’t game that out by issue stances and the like.Report

  6. Avatar George Turner
    Ignored
    says:

    I have some problems with her theory, from top to bottom. For one, she says that it doesn’t matter who the Democrat nominee is, I suppose because the turnout is supposed to be based on opposition to Trump. But for her theory to be consistent, it also shouldn’t matter if Trump was running – because nominees don’t matter.

    She says that the important thing is how many of the people are Republican, how many are Democrat, and how many of each turn out. Well, I would simplify things further and say the outcome is determined by how many people pull the ‘R’ lever and how many pull the ‘D’ lever. Now some of those might be really into pulling a particular lever, and some might be using a coin toss. But that just circles back to a question I think she’s overlooking. Why are X number of people ‘R’ pullers and Y number of people ‘D’ pullers? Why is a particular district heavily Republican and another heavily Democrat? Was it always that way, or was it different in the past? If so, why did people shift, or why did newcomers and newer generations vote differently from the people who’d been there longer?

    For example, not long ago West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky were Democrat strongholds. Now they’re Republican strongholds. I’m pretty sure the people who lived there in 2000 didn’t move to Montana and get replaced by tourists and refugees, so obviously a whole lot of people switched loyalties. Her theory doesn’t seem to account for why that happens, it seems merely to note that at time T, there are M Republicans and N Democrats, with expected turnout X and Y, and that will determine the outcome. To me, that’s not much deeper or useful than noting that the final tallies will be the sum of all the votes.

    Each person who goes into the voting both makes a choice. For some the choice is easy, and for some the choice is hard. A good analysis should do a good job of explaining most of those individual choices. Bill Clinton unexpected lost re-election as Governor of Arkansas, and as it turned out, it was because everybody was pissed off that the all got a shock when they went to get their license plates renewed and a big new tax slapped them in the face. The tax wasn’t very much, but it was unexpected and it hit almost every voter. A theory has to account for things like that.

    Or take a look at Kentucky’s recent governors race. Under her theory, Matt Bevin should have cruised to victory because all the other Republicans won handily, with huge margins. The ratio of Republicans to Democrats was constant for all the races, as was the turnout, yet the outcome for that one race was startlingly different – because Republicans hated or mistrusted Governor Matt Bevin and preferred the other devil. From what I can tell, things like that couldn’t happen in her model.

    And I think we all know a writer in Louisville who seems to be that non-existent or unimportant swing voter. I’m pretty sure they exist, and in reasonably significant numbers. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Internet is full of people who’ve switched parties, many of whom won’t shut up about why they switched.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel
      Ignored
      says:

      OK, she’s got me agreeing with George for once. 😉

      This model is way too simple. And is based on kinda sorta predicting a grand total of …. one election. Political scientists have been talking about these models for years, saying candidates don’t matter. And those models predicted Trump would 2016 by 5 or 6 points. That didn’t exactly work out.

      Frankly, this crosses as the sort of smug academia-speak that’s gotten the Democrats into such trouble in the first place.Report

      • Avatar George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks! This might be like a case of two rival sets of sports fans, who’ve for decades have sat in a bar arguing offensive tactics and Raiders vs 49’s. Then a newbie who has watched all of two games, but correctly predicted both, pipes up with “Touchdowns down’t matter, only yardage matters!” And suddenly the rivals in the bar agree on one thing: The newbie isn’t quite up to speed on how football works.Report

  7. Avatar LTL FTC
    Ignored
    says:

    The important thing is that there’s a huge pool of non-voters out there who will vote for our candidate and these voters can be brought to the polls only if you take my exact preferred policy stances.Report

  8. Avatar Fish
    Ignored
    says:

    Color me intrigued. Some of her analysis calls me out directly and jives with a portion of things I suspect/believe about people in general, and Americans specifically.

    If nothing else, she’s got me following her on the twitters now.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    She is the Voros McCracken of political science.Report

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