Actual Science About Human Voting Behavior

When I criticize the way social scientists study politics using polls and other surveys, people say I don’t know what academics really do and, in fact, academics are doing what I say they aren’t doing.

What about when an academic says it?  

Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains 2016 Election  

When the people have spoken, it is critical to understand what it is that they have said. Nonetheless, even in high-profile American presidential elections, this important task typically is left to journalists and pundits who are unlikely to have the ideal tools, or adequate data to address this question. Because elections are not amenable to experimentation, it is difficult for scholars to make strong causal claims. As a result, most interpretations of election outcomes either rely on cross-sectional associations in survey data or are inferred from aggregate data on voting patterns by geographic areas. Neither approach is the best that can be done.

In observational settings, panel data are widely acknowledged as the ideal basis for causal conclusions (1). When analyzed appropriately, they have the ability to eliminate most potentially spurious associations. Surprisingly, there are few panels available to examine most election outcomes. The major data collections pertaining to elections are cross-sectional in design. However, for the two most recent presidential elections, a large, representative probability sample of the American public was interviewed in both October 2012 and again in October 2016, shortly before Donald J. Trump’s victory. This panel provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the basis of mass support for the winning candidate, support that ultimately elected Donald J. Trump. What changed during this 4-year period to facilitate his support?

France: An Objectively Terrible Country

Hey America, Trump’s a douche and the GOP is trying to stop people from voting, but we’ll be ok. And we are still, by any objective standard, a superior country to France.

No Handshake, No Citizenship, French Court Tells Algerian Woman

After the woman refused to shake hands with the officials, she was denied citizenship.

The woman appealed, but the court ruled this past week that the decree was legal. The ruling was based on a law that gives the government two years after a foreign spouse files for naturalization to oppose the request, on grounds of “lack of assimilation, other than linguistic.” The court also ruled that the decision was not detrimental to her freedom of religion.

CNN Lies About Trump To Make Him Look Rich

Here's a good example of how the press uses accurate information in order to full on lie.

CNN (What We Know About Trump's Business Empire) uses published financial disclosures by President Trump to make the following claims:

Trump may be best known for his Manhattan skyscrapers, but his golf courses and the companies associated with them account for about half of his income listed on the form, at least $308 million.

Trump also reported drawing an $84,000 pension from the Screen Actors Guild.

And decades after it was published, he still made more than $100,000 in royalties from his breakthrough book, "The Art of the Deal." His best seller, though, was his campaign book, "Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again." It earned him between $1 million and $5 million.

So Trump is rich, correct? No. First, there are the loans:

Trump has five loans in the the open-ended top bracket of more than $50,000,000. Among his largest creditors is German-based Deutsche Bank.

Then there is the difference between "income" and "profit":

What isn't clear from any of Trump's income -- because the form doesn't require candidates to specify -- is whether the numbers reported reflect his income after subtracting the expenses he incurred operating the business, or just the gross revenue number before expenses.

I have personally filled out these kinds of forms. Trump has five loans that he listed. For each loan he has to check a box indicating how much he owes. On my form I list a mortgage and check a box that says: "Between $100,001 and $500,000." So I might owe half a million dollars on my house, right?

Trump checks a box that says "Above $50,000,000" In other words, somewhere between $50,000,000 and INFINITY MILLION DOLLARS!!! Five loans, each of which could be up to INFINITY!!!!!!

Next we have the not-so-specific phrasing of these forms. Normal politicians faced with these forms want to minimize the appearance of wealth in an effort to be relatable.  Trump is not a normal human, let alone a normal politician. He has been lying about his wealth since he learned to talk. It would be just like him to report the gross revenue from his golf clubs, not the profit. Interestingly, the big CNN Interactive feature doesn't bother to find out how much a normal golf club makes. It could very well be the case that 10 golf clubs could never generate $300 million in profits. It could also very well be the case that running 10 golf clubs costs about $300 million and that a year with $308 million in revenues would represent just about breaking even. My guess is that is probably is the case.

Sure, all the above can be cobbled together by looking carefully at the CNN Report. But the Report is still designed to make you click to find out how rich Trump is, and to not disappoint when you land there. In short, it's a lie.

Jon Chait Inches Closer To Seeing The Way Of The Whigs

As usual, what even the most insightful members of the news media do not understand is the role played by the media in creating our present political moment and therefore misses as well the role they must play if we are to escape it.

Jon Chait has a piece about Never Trump Republicans failing to abandon the GOP and being totally useless as a result. His concluding paragraph sounds a lot like yours truly:

Over the long run, the country needs two small-d-democratic parties that are tethered to empirical reality. The GOP has no ability to be a party like that and no short-term prospects of becoming one. Even restoring the party to its relative sanity of a decade ago — a time when many Republicans agreed that the GOP was in dire need of reform — seems unimaginably ambitious from the standpoint of today. There comes a time when trying to patch things up and hoping for better days ceases to be a responsible choice, and one must conclude that the Republican Party’s straightest path to salvation runs through a cleansing fire of electoral destruction.

Earlier in the piece he makes an offhand observation that should be glaringly weird (emphasis mine):

One can make sense of the choices made by those Republicans, like Paul Ryan, most committed to the conservative movement’s ideological goals. They fervently support ideas, like reducing taxes for the rich and allowing industry to pollute the atmosphere for free, that lack popular support. They have no choice but to harness their program to the ethnonationalist base that Trump commands.

How on earth does a party win control of both Congress and the White House while espousing a policy program that voters do not support?  The answer seems to be something about ethnonationalism, but how does that work?

Again, Jon Chait almost, but not quite, got to the answer just last week in a piece about how the fraudulent image of Paul Ryan the wonk, came to exist

Ryan burst onto the national scene in 2010 because he simultaneously fulfilled two major needs. The Republican Party needed a new leader who could rebrand them after the disaster of the Bush administration. And the national media and the business elite needed a Republican who could serve as a projection of their disappointment with the Obama administration.

... They feared the budget deficit, which Ryan had spent his career working to increase, was too large, and they believed bipartisanship, which Ryan had spent his career ignoring, was the necessary solution. And so Ryan was cast to the country as the champion of bipartisan cooperation to solve the debt crisis, which was understood by these elites to be the country’s foremost problem.

... Ryan inhabited this peculiar role because the news media, having concluded that the Obama administration had forsaken bipartisanship and irresponsibly inflated the deficit, desperately needed someone to play the part it had cast.

So the media turned Paul Ryan into something he was not because of Obama? What about the long history of the same thing happening again and again with GOP politicians getting away with lies while being cast as equal and opposite foils to the Democratic Party? 

You can’t say the media was reacting to something Jimmy Carter did when they said nothing at all about racism after Ronald Reagan gave a blatantly racist First Inaugural Address, endorsing “States Rights” and echoing George Wallace’s complaints against the “intrusion” of the Federal Government, can you?

And what’s so great about bipartisanship in the first place? Why on earth would the media ignore the reality of Paul Ryan that Chait presents in the name of bipartisanship ? 

Why would they do that? 

Reagan the principled small government conservative, John McCain the Maverick, and Paul Ryan the wonk are three myths with one cause: the post war media business model of appealing to the broadest possible audience requires framing political debates as a battle between to equal and opposite parties. You can’t sell Republicans and Democrats the same newspaper AND tell the truth that Republicans lie about their actual plans and make racist appeals in order to gather enough votes for policies that only a tiny minority support. 

And so the media didn’t tell that truth. When the Republican Party stopped generating protagonists to match the likes of Carter, Obama and Pelosi, the media created myths. 

Competition thanks to the Internet will eventually bring down the ethical superstructure that remains left over from the monopoly business model. But things would get better much more quickly if someone like Chait would see through to the problems at the foundations of the media worldview.