Category Archives: 2020 election

how Trump and Biden supporters think about their identities

We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,267 Americans from May 29-June 10, 2020. Biden led by 50.5%-37%. That result is now far out of date. However, respondents answered more than 350 questions either in this survey or in surveys that they had taken previously. As a result, we are able to look at many more attributes of the electorate than in a typical political poll: matters like which chronic diseases Biden and Trump supporters have, whether they donate money to colleges, how they define their identity, and whether they have pets. (In case you’re wondering, Trump voters are 8 points more likely to have pets.) Given the remarkable stability of the race, I am confident these patterns still apply.

This new article on the Equity Research website provides a lot of detail. Here I’ll just share the portion about identity. All the statistics reported here are for likely voters: those who rated their own chances of voting in November 2020 as seven or higher on a 10-point scale.

Only 10% of whites said that race was important to their own identity (or “salient”). Among that group, Trump led by 61.5%-31%, whereas Trump’s lead among other whites was just 5 points (47%-42%–less than a majority).

More than half of African Americans (57%) said that their race was salient, and those African Americans supported Biden over Trump by 96%-3%. The margin was somewhat closer (80%-10%) among African Americans who did not report that race was salient

About one third (31%) of Latinos said that race was salient, and they favored Biden by 67%-23%. Among the majority of Latinos who said that race was not salient, Biden’s margin was somewhat narrower (60%-19%).

Biden led narrowly (48%-42%) among women who see gender as salient, but by a wide margin (52%-30%) among those who do not. Women who see gender as salient were also more likely to identify as conservative compared to women who do not see gender as important to their own identity (26% versus 18%). It appears that women who see gender as salient are more often expressing traditionalist views of gender rather than feminist views. Biden also performed better among men if they did not see gender as important to their identities.

Twenty-eight percent of voters reported that religion was important to their identity. Trump led 58%-31% among those voters, whereas Biden led by a similar margin, 58%-29.5%, among voters who did not see religion as salient.

As shown in Fig. 1, Biden led among all categories of people who felt that class was not important to their own identities, and especially among those in the lowest and highest income categories who felt that way. Trump led by substantial majorities among people who felt that class was important to their identities and were in either the low- or high-income brackets. In other words, Trump led among working-class people who identified with their class and among wealthy people who identified with their class.

More on the Equity Research website.

where youth will make the most difference

CIRCLE‘s Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) shows where young people are likely to have the most influence on the outcome of the election. The goal is to encourage investment in the youth vote, at least in those places.

CIRCLE has crunched the latest data to produce the final, revised YESI, with these changes since the last time:

  • Georgia: In our presidential rankings, several states moved up or down one or two spots and, notably, Georgia replaced Maine on the #10 slot. Georgia’s recent emergence as a battleground state also informed our Senate rankings. The state has two Senate races in 2020 and the one for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler was #8 in our earlier rankings; the updated version sees that race move up to #7 and the race for David Perdue’s seat enter the top-10 at #6. 
  • Alaska: The Alaska Senate race also makes it into our updated rankings (at #10), while Kansas and Alabama (#9 and #10, respectively, in the previous ranking), drop out of the top 10 entirely—though just barely, as they’re now ranked 11th and 12th.
  • House of Reprensetatives: In our ranking for U.S. House races, the Georgia 7th climbed from #5 to #3 and the Georgia 6th, absent from our previous ranking, is now the #10 race. The Utah 4th and the New Jersey 3rd drop out of the top 10, while the Virginia 7th enters at #8.

This map shows the Senate YESI, but click through for much more detail on the House, the Electoral College, and specific races.

party identification and ideology over time

Jeffrey Jacobs of Gallup writes, “U.S. Party Preferences Have Swung Sharply Toward Democrats.” And Gallup’s Lydia Saad reports, “Americans’ ideological bent has shifted in the first half of 2020 with fewer people self-identifying as politically conservative in May and June than at the start of the year. There has been a corresponding increase in self-described liberals while the percentage moderate has been fairly steady.”

Here is the evidence:

These reports of 2020 Gallup polls made me curious about the longer term trend. Here are Gallup results for party ID since 2004.

And here are the trends for conservatives and liberals, showing one annual result for every year until 2019, and then the three polls this year:

(By depicting the ideology data this way, I have made 2020 look uniquely volatile. I can’t find more data points before 2020, but I’m sure the lines would zig-zag more.)

A few observations:

  • Many more Americans are always comfortable calling themselves conservatives than liberals. It is not the case that many people place themselves left of liberal or identify as “progressives” instead of liberals, because almost everyone picks either conservative, liberal, or moderate. However, the content of those labels shifts. To be liberal in 2020 means different things than it meant in 1992, and that is where the left has a greater advantage.
  • The beginning of 2020 was one of the peaks for conservative identification. The level this June was typical.
  • Republican identification in June 2020 (39%) was lower than it was in 82% of Gallup’s surveys since 2004, but it was not unprecedented. Republican identification was at 36% as recently as January 2019.
  • Democrats have a longterm advantage in party ID. Republicans have been ahead in 12% of Gallup’s surveys since 2004.
  • Each party tends to get more support when the other one holds the presidency, but George W. Bush boosted Democratic identification more than Barack Obama helped Republicans. Bush also did more damage to his own party than Trump has done to his, so far. However, I think the bottom may well fall out for the GOP between now and the end of the year. They could reach the same level as in fall 2006, when they trailed the Dems. by 56%-34%, and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker.

some highlights from the new CIRCLE survey

CIRCLE’s new survey of 2,232 young citizens (ages 18-29) is out. Among the findings:

  • “83% say they believe young people have the power to change the country, 60% feel like they’re part of a movement that will vote to express its views, and 79% of young people say the COVID-19 pandemic has helped them realize that politics impact their everyday lives.”
  • They support Biden over Trump by 58%-24%, “a staggering 34-point margin. But 18% of youth say they would like to vote for another candidate. Asian youth (78%) and Black youth (73%) are the most likely to support Biden. Meanwhile, almost three quarters of youth who support Trump (72%) are White.”
  • 27% of young people (ages 18-24) say they have attended a march or demonstration, a remarkable increase from when we asked the question [of] the same age group before the 2016 and 2018 elections (5% and 16%, respectively).”
  • For all youth, the top issues are environment and climate change (13%), racism (12%) and healthcare (12%). For Black youth, the priorities are racism (22%), policing of communities of color (15%), and healthcare (11%).
  • All measured forms of political engagement are up compared to 2018 (admittedly, not a presidential year). For instance, half say that they have tried to convince someone else to vote–which is a lot of viral marketing for the election.

Much more information is on the CIRCLE page.

the significance of the progressive primary victories

Representative Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appears to have lost a primary to Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal:

This is part of a significant trend: relatively conservative incumbent Democrats in relatively safe Democratic states and districts are falling to more progressive newcomers, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.-14), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.-07), and Marie Newman (IL-3). These insurgents are more diverse and younger than the incumbents. To be sure, a majority of progressive primary challengers have lost, but the net shift is toward a larger bloc within the Democratic caucus.

We should now see assertive progressive caucuses grow in the US House and in many city councils and state legislatures–mirror-images of the House Freedom Caucus on the right. They should and will help to maintain and expand Democratic Party control of as many legislative chambers as possible, while acting as the sharp, leading edge of Democratic majorities. (Jamelle Bouie made this argument in the New York Times.)

The country is becoming more diverse, and people of color tilt heavily toward the Democratic Party. As a result, the Democrats are about to cease being a white-majority party, although many of their national leaders still are white, especially in the Senate.

In 2016, half of the voting delegates at the Democratic National Convention were people of color. These delegates were not appointed as a gesture to symbolic representation or diversity. They were elected by their own power bases. When a party that elects these delegates wins national elections, white dominance is at risk. That is potentially a shift of global significance, bookending 1492 and 1619.

But the party’s leadership must represent its own electorate better. A 58% white Democratic House caucus is a bit too white for a 54% white party, and the party is getting more diverse. The main opportunities to diversify the caucus are districts with Black or Latino majorities. (The Senate represents a bigger problem.)

If you’re not as far as left some of the progressive insurgents, I still think you should welcome their voices in government. The national deliberation is enriched by their ideas, experiences, and agendas. A legislature that excludes such perspectives lacks legitimacy.

What if you were a Bernie voter in 2020? Do a few primary victories offer a disappointing consolation prize? I think not. Electing progressive Democrats in left-leaning districts was always a more promising strategy.

I’ll acknowledge that if you are a democratic socialist, you should have voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He is, after all, a socialist. I didn’t vote for him because my political philosophy–for whatever that’s worth–does not fully align with his. At the same time, if you are a democratic socialist, you would have fundamental reasons not to expect the Sanders campaign to carry your agenda forward. You should be primarily interested in the path that AOC, Jamaal Bowman, and others represent.

Although socialist thought is vast and varied and mostly beyond my personal knowledge, I have never heard of a socialist theorist or strategist who believed that capitalists would back down in response to an individual politician who won a majority vote in a national election. Just because actual socialism would cost the ruling class trillions of dollars, they would be expected to resist it with all their power. That is why socialist strategists have often emphasized strong unions linked to a broad-based left party with internal democracy and ideological discipline (a hard pair of principles to combine), plus a left version of the mass media. Once you build that combination, you have a chance at a more-than-symbolic political campaign.

Michael Walzer writes:

Socialist politicians usually emerge from powerful social movements like the old labor movement or from political parties like the Labour Party in the United Kingdom or the Social Democrats in Germany. Sanders does not come out of, nor has he done anything to build, a significant social movement. That wouldn’t be an easy task in the United States today; in any case, it hasn’t been his task. He has, moreover, never been a member of a political party—not even of the Democratic Party whose nomination he is now seeking. He has never attempted to create a democratic socialist caucus within the party. For all the enthusiasm he has generated, he has no organized, cohesive social or political force behind his candidacy. If he were elected, it is hard to see how he could enact any part of his announced program.

One response is that Sanders is not a socialist in a significant sense, and therefore socialist theory would accept that he could have won the election. He just needed to play his cards a bit differently and receive more help from people like me (and millions of others) who resisted him.

As I once noted, Sanders’ platform is less radical than Harry Truman’s was in 1948. In that sense, Sanders stands in the mainstream of the 20th century Democratic Party. Richard Wright puts Bernie Sanders in the tradition of Victorian moralizing socialists, like William Dean Howells (who voted Republican) or Frances Willard. This is a highly mainstream American tradition, and Bernie’s only difference is the “socialist” brand. To explain socialism, Sanders sometimes cites Denmark, which the Heritage Foundation ranks very high on measures of business freedom, investment freedom, and property rights. I like Denmark’s social contract but would describe it as liberal.

Sanders has never passed any socialist legislation but is part of Chuck Schumer’s leadership team in the Senate. In the 115th Congress, Sanders and, e.g, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) agreed on 90% of their votes–all their rare divergences relating to Trump’s executive branch appointments, plus H.R. 2430, “a bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” and H.R. 3364; “A bill to … counter aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea.” You could argue that if Sanders is a socialist, so is Merkley and most of the Democratic caucus.

Although Sanders made major economic proposals, they had little chance of passage, which made him sort of a notional or symbolic socialist. Yes, if Bernie had won in a landslide–carried to the White House by a wave of grassroots enthusiasm and activism for the substance of his agenda–he could have passed his bills. But the primary campaign showed no evidence of a dramatically new electorate. A capable Democratic administration pressured skillfully from a growing leftwing caucus can do much more.

See also three views of the Democratic Party when democracy is at risk; Bernie Sanders runs on the 1948 Democratic Party Platform; and democracy is coming to the USA