Sunday, May 21, 2017

The owl of Minerva, part 2

One of the striking things about the 2016 election was that the gap between more and less educated voters became much bigger.  Compared to the 2012 election, less educated voters shifted towards the Republican, more educated voters towards the Democrats.  The American National Election Study asked about vote in 2012, and I used that and 2016 vote to create a six-way classification:  non-vote to Trump, Non-vote to Clinton, Obama to Trump, Obama to Clinton, Romney to Trump, Romney to Clinton.  There was a bias towards recalling a vote for Obama in 2012 (see my previous post), but my concern here is with opinion differences among the groups, and for that purpose the bias is probably not harmful.

I focused on the OC, RT, and OT groups.  Common sense suggests that the Obama-Trump group--people who voted for a Democrat once and a Republican once--will be in between the people who voted for a Democrat both times and a Republican both times.  I looked at average opinions on a lot of issues and that is generally the case.  However, there are some exceptions.  There was one on which the OT group was more "Democratic" than the Democrats:  spending on Social Security.  With 1 meaning that spending should be increased, 1.5 that it should be kept the same, and 2 that it should be reduced, the average for OC voters was 1.19, RT was 1.28, and OT was 1.15.  

There were a number for which the OT group was more "Republican" than the Republicans.  Two involved spending:  crime prevention (OT most favorable to more spending) and science and technology (OT least favorable to more spending).  Four involved "feeling thermometers" about different groups:  Jews, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Blacks.  On all of these, OC was most favorable, and OT least favorable.  Finally, on rating blacks has hard-working versus lazy, OT voters were more negative than RT.  

The differences on spending for Social Security and crime are consistent with what Trump said in his campaign.  He didn't say much about science and technology, but he certainly didn't give the impression that he was interested in spending more in that area.  

The differences in the feeling thermometers are more puzzling.  Trump talked a lot about illegal immigration, with an emphasis on Mexico, so lower ratings for Hispanics aren't surprising.  However, he didn't say much about blacks, and what he said implied that conditions were the result of faulty government policy rather than the fault of blacks themselves.  Some people said that he appealed to anti-Semitism, but I didn't find their examples convincing.*  I don't recall that he said anything about Asian-Americans.  A lot of people said that Trump appealed to ethnic prejudice of all kinds, and this might seem to support them.  However, the pattern didn't show up on most issues related to race and ethnicity.  For example, there was a feeling thermometer towards the Black Lives Matter movement.  OC voters were 66, RT were 22, and OT voters were in between with 37.  That is, it was only on the general ratings of groups that OT voters were more extreme.

My thought is that it has to do with what people now call "political correctness," or what used to be called "respectability":  the things people know that they are supposed to think and say.  The "respectable" position is that you should show positive feelings towards every ethnic and religious group that's part of the "American community."  But there are some people who are are prejudiced or at least feel "I'll tolerate them, but don't tell me I have to like them."  Trump was the first major party candidate in a long time who didn't care about being respectable, which would be appealing to people like that, apart from any specific statements or proposals.





*From Ian Buruma in the NY Times Magazine:  "Incendiary references to a 'global power structure' that was robbing honest working people of their wealth were illustrated by pictures of George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein. Perhaps not every Trump supporter realized that all three are Jewish. But those who did cannot have missed the implications." 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

That was some uptick

I wasn't going to post again this soon, but this morning I read an interview with Heather Ann Thompson, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of a well-received new book on the 1971 uprising in Attica prison.  It reads
[interviewer] You point out not only that the war on crime was a bipartisan effort — it started with L.B.J. but grew under Nixon — but also that it wasn’t really in response to a crime uptick, as many Americans thought at the time. [Thompson] It was pure rhetoric. It was a policy choice, not a crime imperative. . . . The civil rights movement comes North, and all of a sudden, Johnson starts to sound like Bull Connor, right?

Here is a graph of the murder rate from 1960-75:


Here is motor vehicle theft, which is measured pretty accurately because there are car registration records.



For other crimes, there's more possibility of changes in reporting rates, but here are a couple of others.






Finally, here is the number of prisoners in state and federal institutions:


Putting these together, there was a large and sustained increase in crime beginning in about 1960, while the number of people in prison declined between 1960 and 1972.  Of course, Thompson is right to say that  the "War on Crime" was a policy choice; maybe there were better choices that could have been made.  But to say it "wasn't really in response to a crime uptick" is like saying the New Deal "wasn't really in response to an unemployment uptick."

Sources:  FBI Uniform Crime Reports 
Historical Statistics on Prisoners in State and Federal Institutions,Yearend 1925-86

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The owl of Minerva

The American National Election Studies 2016 data has been released.  There is a lot which can and will be done with these data, but I'll start with some basic things.
     1.  The ANES asked people how they voted in 2012, and I originally intended to write about the relationship between 2012 and 2016 vote.  However, about half the the non-black, non-Hispanic people* who said that they voted in 2012 reported voting for Obama.  That's too high--the actual figure would be a little over 40%--suggesting that a significant fraction of the people who recalled voting for Obama actually voted for Romney.  So I'll leave that aside.
   2.  A lot has already been said about the relationship between education and vote, but here is the table:

          Didn't Vote  Clinton  Trump   Johnson  Stein Other
HS or less     37%        21%      38%     1.6%  1.3%  1.3%
Some college   22%        24%      47%     3.8%  1.0%  1.1%
College grad   11%        46%      36%     4.3%  0.7%  2.0%

Although most accounts focused on Trump's support among people with a high school diploma or less (which journalists like to call the "working class"), he did even better among people with middle levels of education.  The major contrast is between college graduates and everyone else.  Most people with no post-secondary education don't vote at all (the figures for non-voting in the ANES are too low, partly because some people say that they voted when they actually didn't, and partly because the sort of people who don't participate in surveys are less likely to vote).
  3.  Income is more complicated.  On the average, Trump voters had lower incomes than Clinton voters.  After controlling for education, there was no clear difference, but after adding a control for being married, it was back again.  (Married people were substantially more likely to vote for Trump and have higher family incomes).  However, the effect of income seems to differ by education.  Here is a figure showing estimated support for Clinton by education, income, and marital status.  (Income is measured by 28 categories, going from under $5,000 to over $250,000--9 is about $25,000; 15 is about $50,000, and 23 is about $100,000).

I was surprised by how much difference marital status made--I knew it had become a fairly important factor but didn't think it would be that big.  Income has more effect among college graduates.  Another way to put it is that education makes only a little difference among people with low incomes, but a lot of difference among people with high incomes.
4.  The ANES also includes a variable for occupation, but this is a preliminary release, and doesn't include the occupation variable yet.  The occupation variable might help to illuminate the educational differences among people with high incomes.

*all of the analyses are limited to people who are neither black nor Hispanic

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The popular kind of populism

In March, the Gallup Poll asked a series of questions starting with "Now, I am going to read several actions either taken or proposed by President (Donald) Trump. For each one, tell me if you agree or disagree with it, or if you don't know enough to have an opinion."  They are, going from most to least approval:
                                                                                                                                              A   D   DK
require companies to provide family leave for parents 
                             after the birth of a child?  81% 10%    9%
enact a $1 trillion program to improve US 
    infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and tunnels?  76   12    12
significantly cut federal income taxes for the middle 
                 class?                                   61   26     13
provide federal funding for school-choice programs that 
allow students to attend any private or public school?    59   26     14

increase military spending by $54 billion?                47   42     11
replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as 
     Obama-care, with a new healthcare plan?              44   44     12
stop all refugee resettlement in the US for 120 days?     40   46     14
impose a 90-day ban on issuing new US travel visas for 
     citizens of six Muslim-majority nations?             40   47     13

reduce the corporate income tax rate                      38   43     19
authorize construction of the Keystone XL and 
                      Dakota Access pipelines?            36   39     25
begin the construction of a wall between the 
             US and Mexico?                               36   56     7
eliminate US funding for international organizations 
     that promote or provide abortions?                   35   53     12
put a hiring freeze on most civilian jobs in the 
                 federal government?                      33   46     20
end US participation in the Trans-Pacific trade 
              Partnership or TPP?                         27   30     43
require that for every new federal government regulation 
     put in place, two existing regulations 
     must be eliminated?                                  27   46     27

The striking thing is that he has not taken any action, or even seriously talked about taking action, an the two proposals that are most popular.  In contrast, he has done something on many of the less popular measures.  

I should offer a couple of qualifications.  First, the extremely high popularity of the first two items is probably partly because of the lack of attention they have received. If they were really on the table, opponents would mobilize to make their case and some of the support would fade.  Second, the survey didn't ask about some things that probably are popular, like stepping up deportations.  Still, it is striking that Trump has pushed the parts of his program that people are no more than lukewarm about, and not the parts that people seem to like.  

This relates to the issue of whether we could get a realignment along the lines proposed by R. R. Reno or David Brooks, which you could call "open" versus "closed."  The "open" side would be in favor of immigration, internationalism, and multiculturalism and be liberal on most social issues.  The "closed" side would be nationalist and traditionalist.  On economics, the open side would support redistribution to the poor; the closed side would favor aid to "worthy" people--people with jobs (especially in manufacturing and construction), farmers, small business, veterans.  The open side would be more sympathetic to market mechanisms; the closed side would favor direct government intervention.  The social bases of the parties would shift:  Brooks says "imagine a Republican Party after Donald Trump, led by a younger candidate without his bigotry and culture war tropes. That party will begin to attract disaffected Sanders people who detest the Trans-Pacific Partnership and possibly some minority voters highly suspicious of the political elite."

Could this happen?  In principle, I think that you could have politics oriented around a open-closed axis.  However, I'm not sure that you could get there from here.  Politics has a conservative bias, not in a liberal/conservative sense, but in the sense that keeping your "base" happy is a priority.  If Trump pushed a large public works program or strong measures for family leave, there would be a revolt in the Republican party.  What about a realignment from the other side?  Suppose someone who was America-first, nativist, and socially conservative won as a Democrat.  They would presumably make public works and family leave priorities.  But after that, why move on to things that would not be as popular and would cause a split in the party?  They might make some changes at the margin, but wouldn't go too far.  So even if an open-closed alignment makes sense in principle, I don't think it will become dominant--the left-right alignment will remain dominant, although open/closed will continue as a secondary one.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reasons and results

In my last post, I showed trends in answers to four questions in the General Social Survey proposing possible explanations for why blacks have worse jobs, income, and housing than whites.  The proposed explanations were discrimination, less inborn ability, less chance at education, and lack of motivation.  I briefly mentioned the relationships of answers to these questions to opinions about what should be done, but thought it deserved more attention.

Here are results from regressions of  opinions on "Some people think that (Blacks/Negroes/African-Americans) have been discriminated against for so long that the government has a special obligation to help improve their living standards. Others believe that the government should not be giving special treatment to (Blacks/Negroes/African-Americans" (HELPBLK) and "Here is a card with a scale from 1 to 7. Think of a score of 1 as meaning that the government ought to reduce the
income differences between rich and poor, and a score of 7 meaning that the government should not concern itself with reducing income differences. What score between 1 and 7 comes closest to the way you feel?" (EQWLTH) on answers to the four questions about reasons.  A positive coefficient means that "yes" is associated with more liberal opinions (government should help blacks or reduce the difference between rich and poor).  Standard errors are in parentheses.

                   HELPBLK                     EQWLTH

Discrimination     .776                       .419
                  (.022)                      (.023)

Ability           -.055                       .051
                  (.030)                     (.022)

Education          .427                       .190
                  (.022)                     (.023)

Motivation        -.325                      -.174
                  (.022)                     (.023)

As you might expect, people who say that differences are due to discrimination or less chance for education are more liberal on both questions; people who say that differences are due to lack of motivation are more conservative.  But beliefs about whether differences are because blacks have "less in-born ability to learn" make little or no difference.  This is more surprising.

Some philosophical defenses of egalitarianism hold that whether or not there are innate differences is irrelevant.  For example, in 1929 R. H,  Tawney said the idea "that men are, on the whole, very similar in their natural endowments of character and intelligence . . . is a piece of mythology against which irresistible evidence has been accumulated by biologists and psychologists."  But he went on to say that didn't matter--the equality he valued was "not equality of capacity or attainment, but of circumstances, and institutions, and manner of life."  (Equality, pp. 34, 37).  That is, people of different natural abilities should have different jobs, but not radically different standards of living.
However, you don't hear this sort of thing much today.  For example, Charles Murray (Coming Apart, p. 298) says that the belief that people "are equal, or nearly so, in their latent abilities and characteristics" is a foundation of the welfare state.  Many of his critics seem to go even farther, saying that talk about innate differences means denying people's "right to exist."   But for the average person, it doesn't seem to matter much.

PS:  there was no evidence to support my suggestion in the previous post that people who answered "no" to all were more conservative.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The decline of reasons

The General Social Survey has a series of four questions introduced by the statement, "On the average [Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans] have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people.  Do you think these differences are."  The possibilities offered are "mainly due to discrimination," "because most [N/B/A-A] have less in-born ability to learn," "because most [N/B/A-A] don't have the chance for education that it takes to rise out of poverty," and "because most [N/B/A-A] just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty."  These were separate questions, not options--respondents answered yes or no to each one.

Yes answers to the discrimination or education questions was correlated with more liberal opinions on policy (e. g., that the government should spend more on improving the conditions of blacks); a yes answer to the willpower question was correlated with more conservative opinions.  A yes answer to the in-born ability question was in the middle--it had some association with conservative opinions, but not as strong as the willpower question.  This may seem strange, but you can argue that people should not be held responsible for conditions that are not their fault.

Here are the figures for the proportion of blacks and whites saying yes to each question; I omit people of other races because the numbers were small.  (Blacks were not asked these questions in 1977).






The proportion saying that discrimination was the main reason declined for both whites and blacks, but more for blacks.  There was, however, a substantial rise between 2014 and 2016 for both races.  I wonder if that resulted from the news stories and videos about police treatment of blacks in the last couple of years?

The proportion of whites who said that the differences were because blacks had less in-born ability declined substantially; the proportion of blacks increased, and has been consistently higher than the white proportion since 2000. 

The proportion of whites who said that the differences were due to less chance for education declined slightly; the proportion of blacks who said this declined more substantially.

Finally, the proportion of whites who said that the differences were because blacks had less motivation declined, while the proportion of blacks rose.  Opinions on this question among blacks and whites are now about the same.  

To summarize, whites have become substantially less likely to say yes to the two "conservative" choices, and somewhat less likely to say yes to the two "liberal" choices.  As a result, the number who said no to all rose substantially, from about 5% to over 15%.  People who said "no" to all had somewhat more conservative opinions than people who answered yes to at least one, suggesting that they have sort of a fatalistic outlook--"that's just the way things are, and there's not much you can do about it."

Blacks have become more likely to say yes to the two "conservative" options, and less likely to say yes to the two liberal ones.   As a result, there's been a convergence on three of them--the exception is inborn ability, which blacks are now more likely than whites to see as a reason.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where the working class are

For several years, I have been saying that journalists write as if the "white working class" is found somewhere out in the Midwest.  It occurred to me that there was a way to check on my impression--search for news stories that included "white working class" and the name of a particular state.  I did that for stories in the New York Times for the last 12 months.  Many of the mentions of states are incidental--for example, this story is mostly about the views of some Democratic politicians in Ohio about how to win back the white working class, but it says "it's not enough for new national Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez to tell voters, as he did recently in New Jersey, that Trump and Republicans don't care about them," so I count it for both Ohio and New Jersey.

Some states in the Northeast:

New Jersey        24
Connecticut         9
Massachusetts    17
Maine                   9
New Hampshire  38

Pennsylvania, which could be regarded as split between the Northeast and the Midwest, has 93.  My impression is that almost all of them are about the part of the state from Allentown and Scranton on west, but I didn't check that.  Moving on to the Midwest:

Ohio                  91
West Virginia    20
Michigan           55
Wisconsin         66
Illinois               12
Minnesota         20

The Midwestern states got substantially more mentions in conjunction with "white working class" than the Northeastern ones did.  In some cases, that might be because they were "battleground" states or unexpected wins for Trump, but Ohio was a pretty safe Republican state in this election, and West Virginia, which was a lock for Trump, got twice as many mentions as Maine, which was competitive.

I also tried three large states from various parts of the country:

California        45
Texas               36
Florida             64

Those were higher than I expected, but the Midwest is still over-represented relative to its population--the combined total for California, Texas, and Florida is below the total for Ohio and Michigan or Ohio and Wisconsin.  So my impression seems to have been correct.

Note:  I left out New York because many of the mentions were for the New York Times, and Indiana and Vermont because stories might mention Mike Pence or Bernie Sanders and include their state in describing them.

[Thanks to Robert Biggert for inspiring this post]