Larry Bartels

Recent Articles

“Political Polling Has Reached Its End Point”

That’s according to Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, who cites a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that one of Mitt Romney’s improvised campaign appeals is making big inroads into Barack Obama’s base in electoral-vote-rich Michigan. The PPP robo-poll of 500 Michiganders asked, ”In Michigan, do you think the trees are the right height, or not?” “That’s right,” Scherer writes, ”2008 Obama voters are 17 points more likely to agree with Romney on the height of Michigan trees. It was a crossover vote play all along!” (Trees also polled well among women and young people.) It would be fascinating to follow over the course of the campaign whether Michiganders bring their vote intentions into line with their, uh, spatial preferences or—as is more often the case —simply adopt the views of their favored candidate if and when they learn what those are. Alas, I don’t think PPP does robo-panel surveys; and in any case, political polling has reached its end point. (Thanks to Chris Achen.)

Morphing Zombies

One of the commenters on John’s “Zombie Politics” post notes that Jonathan Chait has a new piece applauding George Packer , doubting Sides (and Bartels), then transitioning to a discussion of Packer and others discussing Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart . Chait’s title: “Why Are Poor Whites Conservative? And Poor?” Just for the record, they’re not (conservative, that is). The figures John posted yesterday aren’t really relevant for assessing Chait’s premise, since people without college degrees are (mostly) not “poor” and voting Republican is not the same thing as being “conservative.” Here’s a more relevant figure, from my book Unequal Democracy , comparing the economic policy views of whites in the bottom and top thirds of the income distribution from 1972 through 2004. Poor whites are noticeably more liberal than affluent whites on this issue. They don’t seem to have become any less liberal over three decades, either relatively or absolutely. Nor is the substance of the...

Challenging Romney's Beliefs on the Very Poor

Mitt Romney’s focus is on “middle-income Americans” because “these are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years”; they’re “the folks who are really struggling right now.” Here is a rough test of Romney’s claim. Caveats follow the jump. I’m interpreting “the Obama years” literally, comparing the most recent income figures with those from 2008, George W. Bush’s last year in office. I have argued elsewhere that new presidents should not be considered responsible for transition years, since their policies generally require some time to take effect. The Census Bureau’s most recent data are from 2010; comparable data from 2011 will not be released until next fall. These figures do not reflect changes in taxes or the value of non-cash benefits, so they miss part of the “very ample safety net” that makes Romney so sanguine about the status of “the very poor.” The Census Bureau stopped reporting broader measures of income a decade ago; the Congressional Budget Office...

Calling for Evidence-Based Elections

That’s the message I take from a recent book by James Gilligan, a psychiatrist at New York University. In Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous than Others , Gilligan documents a striking statistical connection between changing rates of violent death in the United States over the past century and the party of the president. He concludes that Republican administrations are “risk factors for lethal violence,” and that the only reason they have not produced “disastrously high epidemic levels” of suicides and homicides is that Democrats have repeatedly undone their damage. (I’ve added handsome hand-coloring to Gilligan’s key figure in order to highlight the partisan pattern.) Gilligan found that, over the 108 years covered by his analysis (1900-2007), the age-adjusted suicide rate increased by an average of 9.7 per million over each Republican four-year term but decreased by an average of 11.1 per million over each Democratic term. The age-adjusted homicide rate increased by an average...

More on Romney’s Bain Bane

I suggested in a comment on John’s post this morning that Mitt Romney’s “wealth problem” probably has more to do with perceptions that he doesn’t really ”care about people like me” than with wealth per se. Here’s a different angle on the same issue—average ratings on a 100-point “feeling thermometer” for a variety of social groups. (A rating of 50 is supposed to reflect neutral feelings about a group, so numbers between 50 and 100 reflect varying degrees of net favorability. These ratings are from the 2004 National Election Study survey, extracted from Table 5.4 of my 2008 book, Unequal Democracy .) These ratings suggest that a rich business person with strong ties to “big business” evokes a pretty mixed set of social resonances—perhaps on a par with a poor person on welfare with strong ties to labor unions. Individuals’ ratings of the various groups are related to income, education, partisanship, and ideology in ways that are mostly unsurprising; but it is worth noting that even...

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