Category Archives: Elections

Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote

Source: Diana C. Mutz (PNAS), published ahead of print April 23, 2018

From the abstract:
This study evaluates evidence pertaining to popular narratives explaining the American public’s support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. First, using unique representative probability samples of the American public, tracking the same individuals from 2012 to 2016, I examine the “left behind” thesis (that is, the theory that those who lost jobs or experienced stagnant wages due to the loss of manufacturing jobs punished the incumbent party for their economic misfortunes). Second, I consider the possibility that status threat felt by the dwindling proportion of traditionally high-status Americans (i.e., whites, Christians, and men) as well as by those who perceive America’s global dominance as threatened combined to increase support for the candidate who emphasized reestablishing status hierarchies of the past. Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.

Significance:
Support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election was widely attributed to citizens who were “left behind” economically. These claims were based on the strong cross-sectional relationship between Trump support and lacking a college education. Using a representative panel from 2012 to 2016, I find that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status. Results highlight the importance of looking beyond theories emphasizing changes in issue salience to better understand the meaning of election outcomes when public preferences and candidates’ positions are changing.

Campaign Finance Law Database

Source: Campaign Finance Institute, 2018

From the press release:
The Campaign Finance Institute is pleased to release a groundbreaking new tool, “CFI’s Historical Database of State Campaign Finance Laws”. The database covers all of the states’ campaign finance laws every two years since 1996. It is designed for everything from interactive and visualized lookups to downloadable datasets.

Anyone with a serious interest in politics is bound to have made, heard, or wondered about claims to the effect that the laws governing money in politics “make a difference”. These claims may be about who runs for office, how they campaign, who wins, how they govern, or what policies come out in the end. But until now it has been impossible to evaluate most of these claims properly. You cannot really understand a law’s effects unless you can compare jurisdictions with different laws to themselves and each other over time.

CFI’s new tool opens the door to let everyone make those comparisons. It covers every state since 1996 and is structured to handle queries from the simplest to the most complex. Because not everyone will want to use the tool in the same way, the material comes in two formats.

One is a remarkably compact and attractive visualization that will let users look up the answers to what we expect will be their most common questions. For example:
– What are the laws in my state? When did they change?
– Which states disclose what kinds of information about independent spending?
– Which ones changed their contribution limits after Citizens United?
– Which states offer public financing or political contribution tax credits? In rank order, which states had higher and lower disclosure thresholds (or contribution limits, etc.) in any given year?

All of these kinds of questions can be answered through the visualization tool. But the tool is based on only a fraction of what the data can offer. The full database has literally hundreds of pieces of information for each state and year. The visualization only covers about 10% of these. The full set can be downloaded in whole, or part. It then can be manipulated or merged with other data sets at the user’s pleasure. Downloading is the first step for answering “what difference” questions. For example:
– What difference does it make to have higher or lower limits?
– Is the law really responsible for a particular effect – whether positive or negative?

America’s Electoral Future: Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition

Source: Rob Griffin, Ruy Teixeira, and William H. Frey, Center for American Progress, April 14, 2018

From the introduction:
The recent elections of Donald Trump and Barack Obama were influenced in no small measure by shifts in the nation’s underlying demographic structure—the rise of communities of color, the increase in the number of older Americans, the sharpening of education divisions—and the distinctive voting behavior of these demographic groups. This 2018 report of the States of Change project, the fourth in an annual series, examines an array of future presidential election outcome scenarios—from 2020 through 2036—that could arise as the demography of the nation and its 50 states changes over the next 18 years.

These scenarios, developed by the authors, include outcomes that favor both Republican and Democratic candidates. They are not intended as predictions but are simulations based on assumptions about different demographic groups’ future voting patterns. Each of the alternative scenarios assumes the same projections for the nation’s underlying demographic structure of eligible voters (EVs) with respect to race, age, and education attainment. As such, the scenarios provide for a more in-depth understanding than national or state polling trends can supply about how emerging voting patterns may interact with changes in the demography of the nation’s electorate to affect future popular vote and Electoral College outcomes…..

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45160, April 12, 2018

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.

FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of this writing, the FEC is operating with four commissioners instead of six. Others reportedly are considering leaving the agency. One nomination to the FEC has been resubmitted during the 115th Congress; no committee or floor action has been taken on it to date.

It is entirely possible that the FEC will retain at least four commissioners and that the agency will remain able to carry out all its duties. If, however, the FEC loses its policymaking quorum—as happened for six months in 2008—the agency will be unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA would preclude if the commission lost its policymaking quorum.

This report will be updated in the event of significant changes in the agency’s policymaking quorum or the status of agency nominations….

Company Men: The 200-year legal struggle that led to Citizens United and gave corporations the rights of people

Source: Kim Phillips-Fein, New Republic, Vol. 249, no. 4, April 2018

More than 100 years ago, at the height of the last Gilded Age, Congress passed its first law prohibiting corporations from spending money to influence election campaigns. From the start, the wealthy chafed against this limit, and some sought to test it in court. Alcohol manufacturers—terrified of high taxes and Prohibition—might not have seemed the ideal candidates to take on this fight. But they were nonetheless the first to challenge the law, contributing cash to candidates in state and federal races and then arguing that any effort to keep money out of politics was no less than an unconstitutional limitation on free speech.

At that time, state and federal courts rejected these arguments out of hand. To the Michigan Supreme Court, for example, it was self-evident that a local brewery had no “right to participate” in elections. The company, wrote the chief justice in a 1914 decision, was created not to engage in politics, but “for the purpose of manufacturing beer.” In a different case involving the Brewers Association, a federal court ruled that corporations “are not citizens of the United States,” and that as far as the franchise went, they must “at all times be held subservient to the government and the citizenship of which it is composed.”

Yet the beermakers finally had their day in 2010, when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United. In a reversal of last century’s common sense, the Court found that corporations did have free speech rights after all and that campaign finance laws placed an intolerable restriction on those rights….

Institute of Politics Spring 2018 Youth Poll

Source: Harvard Kennedy School, Institute of Politics, Spring 2018

Spring 2018 marks the 35th National Youth Poll conducted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School examining the political opinions and civic engagement of young Americans ages 18 to 29. Since its conception by two Harvard undergraduate students in 2000, the Harvard Public Opinion Project has provided the most comprehensive look at the political opinions, voting trends, and views on public service held by young Americans. Beginning on April 10th, 2018 and continuing through the month of April, the IOP will release results from specific portions of the poll.

A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds that nearly two-thirds (64%) of young Americans have more fear than hope about the future of democracy in America.  

For the first time, the Harvard Public Opinion Project asked a series of questions about how responsible 18- to 29-year-olds believed different groups were for the existing problems in American politics and society today. Politicians were viewed as very or somewhat responsible by at least 7-in-10 young Americans, regardless of political affiliation. Money in politics and the media were mentioned by at least 6-in-10 Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

– Young Democrats under 30 blamed politicians (77% responsible), Donald Trump (77% responsible), money in politics (75% responsible), structural racism (69% responsible) and lack of access to higher education (66% responsible) as the most significant factors responsible for the state of politics and society today.

– The top five factors Republicans believe are responsible are: the media (72%), politicians (70% responsible), political correctness (64% responsible), money in politics (63% responsible), with other Americans (45%), a distant fifth.

Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterm

Source: Laura Royden, Michael Li, Yurij Rudensky, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, March 2018

From the summary:
Many Democrats are optimistic about their chances of winning a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. But in a new report, we measured how much harder partisan gerrymandering will make it for Democrats to win seats — and found that even a blue wave election akin to 2006 would be far from enough. Maps drawn after the 2010 tea-party wave to favor Republicans, particularly in big swing states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio, mean Democrats would need to win the national popular vote in 2018 by the biggest margin in a midterm since 1982.

Learning from Fannie Lou Hamer

Source: Matthew Miles Goodrich, Dissent, October 6, 2017

…. October 6th marks the centennial of Hamer’s birth. She is remembered for her outspoken moral courage (“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” has traveled from epitaph on her gravestone to epigraph of working-class exasperation), her magnanimity, and, whenever morale waned, her impassioned renditions of the spirituals “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine.” But her own charisma might overshadow her deeper contributions to the movement. Her commitment to voter registration and her personal philanthropy as an anti-poverty worker in Mississippi later in life are well known. But by taking advantage of the crumbling political order to win enfranchisement of African-Americans within the Democratic Party, Hamer proved to be one of the most brilliant strategists of the civil rights movement. On the 100th anniversary of her birth, it’s worth examining how today’s left can learn from this overlooked part of her legacy. ….

…. Bayard Rustin described the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as the civil rights movement’s most innovative arm. Hamer and her delegates made “a conscious bid for political power” (emphasis his), jockeying for influence within the broad tent of the Democratic coalition. A strategic left today would continue the effort Hamer started. We need fewer nonprofits and more insurrections that beat down the doors of the Democratic coalition, while maintaining Hamer’s unflinching commitment to racial justice.

Though the Republican Party in 2017 holds more legislative seats than ever, its coalition is too broad and too weak to sustain. Realignment is inevitable. A left that profits from it is not. …

The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering

Source: Issie Lapowsky, Wired, February 20, 2018

…..Districts like Pennsylvania’s seventh don’t get drawn that way by accident. They’re designed by dint of the centuries-old practice of gerrymandering, in which the party in power carves up the electoral map to their favor. The playbook is simple: Concentrate as many of your opponents’ votes into a handful of districts as you can, a tactic known as “packing.” Then spread the remainder of those votes thinly across a whole lot of districts, known as “cracking.” If it works as intended, the opposition will win a few districts by a landslide, but never have enough votes in the rest to win the majority of seats. The age of computer-generated data splicing has made this strategy easier than ever.

Until recently, courts have only moved to stop gerrymandering based on race. But now, the law is taking a closer look at partisan gerrymandering, too. On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a brand new congressional map to replace the one Kennedy testified about. The new map follows a landmark decision last month, in which the three Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices overruled a lower-court decision and found that Pennsylvania’s 2011 map did in fact violate the state constitution’s guarantee of “free and equal elections.” ….

…. According to Jacobson, given the Supreme Court of the United States already declined to stay the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, it’s unlikely they’ll take up the case. It’s already agreed to hear four other gerrymandering cases this term, which may well re-write the rules on this twisted system nationwide. ….