Pollsters prepare for major changes after presidential election misses

“Pollsters are increasingly embracing new methods in the run-up to the 2022 midterms after notable misses in recent races. Front of mind is the looming 2024 election cycle, when former President Donald Trump — whose support among the electorate has bedeviled pollsters trying to measure it for the past seven years, including missing low on Trump’s vote before his 2016 win and underestimating the closeness of his 2020 loss — could be on the ballot for the third consecutive presidential election.”

“Increasingly, pollsters across the field favor combining multiple methods of contact in the same poll, seeking to include the hardest-to-reach Americans.”

“It’s already happening across the board. After ending their more-than-30-year partnership with NBC News after the 2020 election, the Wall Street Journal’s new poll — a cooperative effort between the pollsters for both Trump and President Joe Biden — reaches a quarter of its respondents via text message. The technique, called “text-to-web,” sends a link to an internet survey, and those interviews are added to others conducted by voice over landlines and cell phones.
Over the past year, CNN’s polling has spanned a wide range of methods. Conducted both over the phone and the internet, some polls are conducted from respondents who have joined a panel maintained by SSRS, the Pennsylvania-based company that conducts polls for CNN and other outlets. But the samples for two other CNN polls — one earlier this year and one in the summer of 2021 — were obtained by mailing solicitations to people at home and asking them to participate, either on the phone or the web.

Prior to last summer, all of CNN’s national polling had been conducted by phone.

Large media outlets have experimented with emerging methodologies before. CBS News and The New York Times did some of the first major media polling over the internet in 2014.”

“as Americans become increasingly more difficult to reach, traditional methods are becoming more untenable.

“These things are only getting harder,” said one pollster who was granted anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the state of the industry. “So if you’re just doing the same thing, it’s only going to get worse.”

The innovations are not limited to sampling and data collection. But devising new weighting parameters — ways to adjust the results to better reflect the electorate — is more difficult. That’s because one of the main culprits of the 2020 election miss appears to be people who don’t respond to polls — so-called “nonresponse bias.” Voters in that group were more likely to support Trump, which made it harder for polls to reflect the true measure of his support.”

“some of the new proposals include weighting data to some social benchmarks, like the percentage of people who know and talk to their neighbors, or who volunteer in their community. Others suggest asking whether people trust media or polling in order to determine if their sample is too establishment-friendly.

The implementation of new methods is also happening at the campaign level, though to a lesser degree. Campaign pollsters — whose jobs involve giving candidates and outside groups strategic advice more than simply measuring the horse race — are dipping their toes tentatively into less-familiar waters.

In general, Democratic firms — many of which banded together after the 2020 election to study went wrong — are more open to experimentation.”

Opinion | The French Election Is a Glimpse at the Volatile Future of Western Politics

“whether Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen is victorious, the election already offers more evidence of the challenges facing mainstream politics, with the collapse of the traditionally dominant parties and populist forces still rising across the West.”

“Whether this broad rejection of the status quo means we are headed toward a world dominated by illiberal politics or merely one of extreme and permanent volatility isn’t yet clear. And new crises, notably the consequences of climate change, may well fashion some hybrid version of our politics.
But ultimately, populism is probably a transition, not an end-state. The politics of the center are far from irrelevant, but our institutions — overwhelmed by the politics of accusation and resentment — no longer know how to provide voters with reasonable and legitimate means to address their grievances from a centrist vantage point. So populism, however destructive, may yet force Western politicians to craft new institutional paths to representation and to compromise — more in sync with what people experience in their everyday lives, and with what they value. More reactive, more local, and more flexible. But a painful and treacherous transition it is, something made quite clear in the French election.”

“Macron is no longer the exciting young maverick who stormed the Elysée, having siphoned support from a frustrated center-left and scandal-plagued center-right. He’s struggled to govern through crises like the Yellow Vests protests and pension reform strikes, while his “Jupiterian” approach and occasional sarcasm have all led to a deep resentment of his persona and some outright loathing in many quarters.

Post-pandemic, most French voters might have grudgingly agreed that Macron’s government has “done OK,” and as a result, Macron entered this election well ahead of other candidates in the polls, and slightly boosted by the Ukraine crisis. But a majority of voters are at best disillusioned and most often angry.

Meanwhile, in five short years, Le Pen has furthered her mission to appear more mainstream. Gone are the days when 80 percent of French voters thought she and her far-right party were a menace to democracy. Today, the number is barely 50 percent.

Le Pen’s strategy (since she took over the party from her Holocaust-denying father in 2011) has been to focus on lower income voters. Rather than simply woo those susceptible to a traditional populist right agenda on immigration and integration as her father had done, she made a play for working class voters who increasingly felt that the traditional left had deserted them and their interests. This story is a familiar one in advanced democracies where progressive or social democratic parties have struggled to reconcile representing the economically vulnerable while supporting inclusive visions of societies that lower income voters feel disproportionately benefit an (urban, cultural) elite. We saw this play out in the Brexit vote, but also in the Trump vote.”

“In 2017, Macron was elected by reducing the Socialists to rubble and putting the center-right on life support. This year, that trend accelerated, as the Socialists’ candidate came in below 2 percent (after holding the presidency a mere five years ago) and the leading candidate of the center-right came in under 5 percent. The result is that Macron aside, the candidates from the main institutional parties have been wiped out in this election.

Of the three candidates who came in over 20 percent, one is of the populist right (Le Pen) and one is of the populist left (Mélenchon); both advocate a distanced relationship with the EU and with the U.S., governance by popular referendum and pulling out of NATO or NATO’s integrated command. Add to this the 7 percent for extreme right Éric Zemmour and the 26 percent of voters who stayed home, and it shows the vast majority of French voters are refusing to engage with mainstream politics.”

“Part of the attraction of illiberal ideologies (sometimes imported from places such as Russia and China that have gone through more recent political and economic upheavals) is their rejection of the status quo. What is coming into focus is the fact that voters have a bone to pick not just with the choices they are being offered, but with the way they are being asked to choose.”

The presidential penalty

“The historical pattern is clear, and ominous for Joe Biden and Democrats this year: The president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.”

“Some theories focus on lower turnout among the president’s supporters. Others emphasize the public’s tendency to sour on an incumbent president. They may both be correct to some extent.
Other theories focus on why some presidents tend to do worse than others in midterms. Maybe the results are mainly about presidential approval these days. Or maybe they’re about the economy or, more specifically, real personal income growth. Some national crises, like 9/11, are associated with unexpectedly strong midterm performances for the president’s party — but others are associated with blowout defeats.

None of these signs are looking great for President Biden right now. His approval rating is the second-lowest of any president’s at this point in their presidency since modern polling came into use. The economy is booming by some metrics, but inflation is at a 40-year high and eating into voters’ spending power. The country is still in the midst of the pandemic, but Biden hasn’t unified the country around his leadership.

There’s no one weird trick that can guarantee midterm success, or one theory to perfectly explain every midterm result. But there are several that, considered together, go a long way toward helping explain why this so often happens — and what November’s midterms might herald for Biden.”

“The trend predates World War II, so it’s not about recent developments. It happens in states (the governor’s party usually loses seats in off-year legislature elections), so it’s not just about the presidency. It’s not just an American phenomenon, either. “It also occurs internationally in systems where there is a chief executive election separate from a midterm,””

The Supreme Court decides not to light the housing market on fire

“The premise of the unitary executive doctrine is that all officials who execute federal law must be accountable to the president. That means that the president typically must be able to fire agency leaders and other top government officials at will — a view that the Supreme Court upheld in 2020.”

“The Court’s previous decisions..have some language suggesting that any action taken by an agency led by a director who is unconstitutionally shielded from presidential accountability is void — and that’s certainly how the plaintiffs in Collins read those decisions. They argued that literally every action taken by the FHFA since its creation 13 years ago must be declared invalid.

Had the Supreme Court agreed with this approach, it would have meant that all of the hundreds of billions spent to prop up Fannie and Freddie were spent illegally. It’s hard to even imagine how to unravel these transactions, and the process of doing so could have sparked another housing crisis similar to the catastrophic 2008 meltdown.

In any event, when confronted with the possibility of being responsible for one of the greatest financial crises in modern American history, Justice Alito blinked, as did most of his colleagues. Collins did not lead to an apocalyptic event; instead, it will stand as a warning of what can go wrong if the Court is too cavalier about remaking our constitutional system in a conservative image.”

“Though the head of the FHFA must be removable at will by the president, Alito argues in his opinion that “there was no constitutional defect in the statutorily prescribed method of appointment to that office” — that is, an FHFA director who is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate may still exercise executive power. Their previous actions are not void.
It’s as good a reason as any not to light the nation’s economy on fire.”

American Politics Now Has Two Big Racial Divides

“In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent American presidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 42 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.”

“however …”

“Trump did 7 percentage points better among Asian American voters in 2020 compared to 2016, 4 points better among Hispanic voters and 1 point better among both white and Black voters, per the CES. Biden did 4 percentage points worse among Asian American voters and 1 points worse among Hispanic voters compared to Hillary Clinton, while doing 1 point better among Black voters and 3 points stronger among white voters compared to Clinton.

“Other surveys and precinct-level data suggest that the Trump swing among Hispanics could have been larger than CES found, with Trump gaining in the upper-single digits and winning the support of over 35 percent of Latino voters. (Ultimately, we will never know exactly how different racial and ethnic blocs voted, since people aren’t required to state their race or ethnicity when they cast ballots.) But generally, the story of 2020 is that Trump did better with Asian American and Hispanic voters than in 2016, while Biden did better than Hillary Clinton among non-Hispanic white voters.”

Rand Paul, Ron Wyden Want To End Endless National Emergencies

“just one of 34 currently active national emergencies—each coming with its own special powers that the president can use until he decides to stop. The longest-running was invoked by President Jimmy Carter in response to the Iran hostage crisis (which ended in 1981, though the “emergency” never did). Other emergencies authorized by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump are still humming along too, many with no obvious end in sight.

Congress can respond to presidential emergency declarations by disapproving of them after the fact, which it occasionally does.”

“But doing so requires a supermajority of both chambers and, generally, Congress can’t be persuaded to get off its collective duff.”

“Under a bill the two senators reintroduced..all presidential emergency declarations would expire after 72 hours unless Congress votes to allow them to continue.”

“the bill is undermined by the fact that Paul and Wyden propose to exempt some presidential powers, such as those granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which allows presidents to impose sanctions on foreign officials and businesses deemed a threat to American national security. The powers granted by the IEEPA form the basis of many of the 34 ongoing national emergencies”

Abolish the lame-duck period

“On October 19, 2015, Canadians voted to end nearly a decade of Conservative Party government and elect a new government led by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. Just over two weeks later, on November 4, Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister.

Five years earlier, a very similar series of events played out in Great Britain. On May 6, 2010, Britain held its most recent election where control of its government changed partisan hands — voters tossed out the incumbent Labour Party government and replaced it with a coalition led by the Conservative Party’s David Cameron. Just five days after the election, Cameron became prime minister.

Modern democracies, in other words, can and do transfer power very rapidly — and much faster than the two and a half months that separate President-elect Joe Biden’s election on November 3, 2020, and his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the official transition date established by the 20th Amendment. French President Emmanuel Macron won election on May 7, 2017, and was sworn in just one week later. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won his election on May 16, 2014. He became prime minister just 10 days later. Japan’s Abe Shinzo, the last Japanese politician to preside over a transition of partisan rule, also took office 10 days after his party won an election.

The dangers of a long lame-duck period have come into stark relief in the wake of last week’s storming of the US Capitol. America’s lame-duck period gave insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump two full months to plan the putsch that briefly occupied the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee in terror — and they were egged on this entire time by a president who encouraged them to stage a “wild” protest while lawmakers formally certified Biden’s victory on January 6.

Meanwhile, as the sitting president, Trump retained command and control over both federal law enforcement and US military forces that eventually helped secure the Capitol. For unclear reasons, the Pentagon was reportedly slow to approve emergency requests to send troops to regain control of the building. And, for as long as Trump is president, the nation’s capital will need to rely on the Trump administration to protect against future violence.

Even before Trump seemed to cheer on a violent attempt to overthrow Biden’s incoming government, the lame-duck president spent the post-election period doling out pardons to his cronies and handing out medals to his most sycophantic loyalists in Congress. While Trump’s abuse of the pardon power has been particularly egregious, it’s hardly unprecedented. President George H.W. Bush pardoned several former officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal more than a month after he lost his bid for reelection. President Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, as well as wealthy fugitive Marc Rich, during his final days in office.

American history is replete with examples of outgoing presidents who actively sabotaged their successor during the lame-duck period — sometimes in the middle of a historic crisis.

The United States, in other words, pays an enormous price for its long lame-duck period. There’s no good reason the US cannot join Canada, Britain, France, India, Japan, and other nations in transitioning swiftly to a new administration after a presidential election.”

The Polls Weren’t Great. But That’s Pretty Normal.

“I don’t entirely understand the polls-were-wrong storyline. This year was definitely a little weird, given that the vote share margins were often fairly far off from the polls (including in some high-profile examples such as Wisconsin and Florida). But at the same time, a high percentage of states (likely 48 out of 50) were “called” correctly, as was the overall Electoral College and popular vote winner (Biden). And that’s usually how polls are judged: Did they identify the right winner?”

“the margins by which the polls missed — underestimating President Trump by what will likely end up being 3 to 4 percentage points in national and swing state polls — is actually pretty normal by historical standards.”

“However, there are nevertheless reasons to be concerned about the polls going forward, especially if it’s hard to get a truly representative sample of people on the phone.”

“Voters and the media need to recalibrate their expectations around polls — not necessarily because anything’s changed, but because those expectations demanded an unrealistic level of precision — while simultaneously resisting the urge to “throw all the polls out.””