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Author Page for Dave Brockington

Born in San Jose, grew up in Seattle, received a Ph.D. in poli sci from University of Washington, worked for three years at Universiteit Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, and have worked at the University of Plymouth for eight academic years now in Plymouth, United Kingdom.

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The Voter Fraud Fantasy, Continued

[ 61 ] September 17, 2012 |

What really fascinates me about the voter fraud myth is how fervently the zealots believe this shit.  None of their phantom busloads of fraudulent voters transported in from out of state have been verified.  Few if any of the fraudulent votes that they identify appear so much as questionable to elections administrators.  It simply doesn’t exist, no matter how much they try to will it into being.

At the same time, they never question just why in hell somebody would fraudulently vote.  As a student of voter behavior in general with a sub specialty in turnout, I can list at length how the costs associated with voting far outweigh whatever tangible benefits one might accrue.  One has to navigate registration, polling locations, the hours the poling location is open, let alone being in possession of both the internal and external efficacy such that you’re confident in your decision, and that decision will make one iota of difference.  As one who studies and teaches this, it’s amazing to me that so many do vote to begin with.

Why bother to do it twice?  If one is unemployed and has nothing to do with their day, perhaps $20, $50, $100 will get me onto a bus from Chicago (and we all know what type of person lives in Chicago) for a day out up to Wisconsin.  Then you have to ask, for whom is it worth to spend that much money.  The sheer number of fraudulent votes necessary to tip an election such as the Wisconsin recall is not one here, another there, a busload up yonder.  It would have taken 171,106 votes added to the Democratic tally to swing it — to a recount.  Best add another 50,000 to ensure a recount doesn’t happen, as we wouldn’t want this fraud coming to light.  That’s 220,000 voters.  At $20 per fraudulent voter, “labor” costs alone are $4,400,000.  If it costs $100 for a person to give up their day, break the law, and experience both Wisconsin and the interstates, a cool $22,000,000 is required to replace a Republican with a Democrat in Wisconsin.

Then there’s transport.  It would require 2,445 sorties of a Blue Bird All American school bus to transport our wave of nefarious democracy from Chicago to Wisconsin, if packed to their capacity of 90.  I have no idea what it costs to rent, fuel, and provide a driver for one of these, but this cost is not insubstantial.  And don’t forget lunch; in the classic tradition of GOTV, we should feed our anti-democratic legions.

Let’s review.  We need a population of 220,000 people willing to give up their day, knowingly commit a crime, for some modest financial remuneration.  We require the infrastructure to transport them.  And food.

Basically, we need a hell of a lot of money to pull this off.  The entire recall itself, both sides, raised $63 million.  Our project would add a significant pile of cash to this total.

The activists have consumed large quantities of the kool aid.  They believe that these monsters exist.  But those financing the project really know what they’re doing.  It’s more pernicious than preventing granny from voting because she lacks state photo ID.  They’re specifically targeting minority precincts or any other conveniently concentrated demographic that tends to vote Democrat, acting as election “observers”:

In Houston, the group targeted the Congressional district represented by Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is black. Ms. Engelbrecht said the group settled on Ms. Lee’s district because thousands of addresses there housed six or more registered voters, which it took as an indication of inaccurate registrations. The methodology, which the group still uses, could disproportionately affect lower income families.

“The first day of early voting, at many of the 37 locations, primarily in minority neighborhoods, dozens of poll watchers showed up sent by King Street Patriots,”

It must frighten these people that six or ten adults live at the same address, let alone that they’re registered to vote at the same address.  This is an economic reality that is incomprehensible to the King Street Patriots.  Yet, here’s the reality:

“They had one particular case I remember very well,” said Douglas Ray, the Harris County assistant attorney who represents the election registrar. “They had identified an address where eight or 10 people were registered to vote. There was no building there.” Mr. Ray found out that the building had been torn down and that the people simply moved.

And then there’s those damned college students:

On Election Day, poll watchers appeared to have slowed voting to a crawl at Lawrence University in Appleton, where some students were attempting to register and vote on the same day.

Charlene Peterson, the city clerk in Appleton, said three election observers, including one from True the Vote, were so disruptive that she gave them two warnings.

“They were making challenges of certain kinds and just kind of in physical contact with some of the poll workers, leaning over them, checking and looking,” said John Lepinski, a poll watcher and former Democratic Party chairman for Outagamie County.

He said that as a result of the scrutiny, the line to register moved slowly. Finally, he said, some students gave up and left.

This transcends lofty concerns about good government.  This is blatant, targeted voter harassment.

And it will have an effect.  In stark terms, this is nothing more than an additional cost that must be incurred to vote.  I can readily understand how it dissuades people from voting to have an election observer, already distrusting your right to vote because you’re the other, breathing down your neck and that of the polling place workers.  Whereas we can roughly measure the effect that a lack of photo ID might have in terms of a reduction of the potential electorate, and we can infer from demographics the asymmetric impact that this has on the two parties, the sort of intimidation discussed in the NYT article linked above will be extremely difficult to account for from a social science perspective.

We’ll never really know what impact that this will have on the election.

Justice for the 96

[ 60 ] September 13, 2012 |

The Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report was released yesterday, following nearly three years of work re-examining the Hillsborough disaster of April 15, 1989.  A good summary of the findings are here.  The NYT has a story here.  For those unaware, Hillsborough (the ground of Sheffield Wednesday FC) was the neutral venue for an FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.  96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives [*] immediately before and in the opening minutes of the match in a crush at one end of the ground — the match was cancelled only six minutes in.  The official narrative blamed the Liverpool fans themselves; drunk, violent, ticketless trying to force their way into the ground.  This myth was helped along by the print media, most notoriously The Sun.  Indeed, Boris Johnson, present Conservative mayor of London and all around moppy clown, oversaw if not wrote an unsigned editorial which reiterated blaming the fans, specifically “the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground” while editor of The Spectator as recently as 2004.  Today (literally), he is “very, very sorry“.  As is David Cameron, who exonerated the fans role yesterday in Parliament.

The true cause was not the fans or their behavior, but a combination of incredibly amateur crowd control on the part of the South Yorkshire Police and the remarkably decrepit state of stadia serving as the venues for the most popular spectator sport in Britain, against a sociological backdrop that stereotyped soccer fans as lower class hooligans.  The latter in part resulted in the perimeter fences then standard at grounds in the UK.  Indeed, the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough had been subdivided into five “pens” (yes, they were called pens).  Hillsborough was supposedly one of the better grounds in England at the time, hence being a frequent location for a semi final, but it was in dreadful condition (as was a majority of the grounds around the country up and down the pyramid).  Slightly less than four years prior, 56 fans died in a fire at Valley Parade, home ground of Bradford City, and 66 people died in a crush (on exit) at Ibrox in 1971.  I can’t think of anything remotely similar in US major league sports during my lifetime (the year I was born, Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12, and Denny McLain won 31 games).  The best I can come up with on a cursory search is when some bleachers collapsed at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia in 1903, killing 12.

The incompetence of the police, both in planning and during the match itself, deserves the majority of the blame.  While the tragedy was unfolding, a sizable portion of their presence was employed in making a barrier across the pitch to prevent the Liverpool supporters now on the pitch from rushing the Forest supporters at the other end (because that was precisely on their mind after they got over the relief at simply being alive).  These expressions of incompetence suggest why, in the aftermath, the South Yorkshire Police systematically covered up their responsibility.  In 116 cases, written statements by officers on site had been effectively cleansed, “to remove or alter comments unfavourable” to the police, in preparation for the official inquest.  This conspiracy extended to portions of the media and the government of the day.  It wasn’t the police, it wasn’t the infrastructure, it was those working class hooligans from radical Liverpool.

I have several friends who are Liverpool supporters, including a good friend of mine who lives down the street from my house here in England.  The findings of the report released yesterday have been common knowledge for 23 years.  But, it’s never been official knowledge until now; the official narrative was quite different.  A lot of people have been queuing up to apologise in the past 24 hours, deservedly so, including the FA for hosting the semi final at a ground lacking a safety certificate.  It looks as though the South Yorkshire police will refer this to the independent commission that investigates the police.

Anticipate a criminal investigation to the cover-up in the near future.

[*] 94 died at the ground, two more later in hospital.  I knew that.  Having just read this, I spotted my error I figured I’d correct it before a reader does.

Zymurgical Transparency

[ 23 ] September 1, 2012 |

Finally, after much prodding and criticism, the President has seen fit to release the White House beer recipes.  Obama’s beers: 2.  Romney’s tax returns: 1.

As an amateur brewer, writer, and judge of some repute in a past life, I feel obligated to offer commentary on this release.  First, these are a politician’s beers, designed to be accessible to most tastes.  Likewise, with minimal investment in kit, anybody who can warm up a can of Campbells Tomato Soup on their stove can make these beers.

As beers made from extracts, they’re starter recipes, and in my experience it’s rare (though not impossible, both from personal experience and beers I’ve judged) to make a professional-grade beer from extracts.  While I appreciate the need to be approachable in both taste and process, c’mon man!  You have the resources (and credit) of the Federal Government at your disposal.  You have ten Nimitz class carriers and the old USS Enterprise to hand.  Why brew a frigate?  Kick it out a bit, and set up a proper home brewery!  The use of dry yeasts would have likewise normally bothered me, but last weekend while hanging out in Northern Virginia / DC with some brewing friends, old and new, I’ve learned that dry yeasts have made great strides in quality and cell count since I was active.  Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as brought to my attention six months ago, according to an extensive thread concerning my one recipe that stubbornly remains famous after all these years, it was designed in “the dark ages” (and yet they still love and brew the damned thing).  Finally, if at all possible (and there’s probably the odd spare fridge available in the White House somewhere), don’t ferment at room temperature.  Hook up an external thermostat, and ferment your ales at a consistent 65F, give or take.  Consistency in temperature is more important than the precise level.

Also interesting from a political perspective is the reliance on two yeasts of English lineage, and hops of both English and continental origin.  There’s not an American yeast cell or hop in sight.  The Republicans could use that in some nefarious way, but they’d have to tell the truth about it, which would strain their strategy.

As for the beers, the honey ale is, well, enjoyable by anybody, possibly even the Republican nominee.  I like the use of bisquit malt, the use of both Fuggles and EKGs in hopping (though please use whole hops, especially for flavor / aroma, and not pellets), and the Windsor yeast strain is known for being estery, offering some character.

The porter is more promising.  Nice variety of malts (though I’d ease off the 20 degree crystal in favor of more black, chocolate, and brown malts), good yeast selection, bittering hop subtle enough to not distract from what should be a malty-ish beer.  Nobody should use HBUs as a measure, but again, accessibility.  And as the bittering hop was unspecified, this is where the porter can be made American.  Any hop starting with a “C” will suffice.

Of course, the signature aspect of these recipes is the locally harvested honey.  And by local, look to the left of the picture above that I took last Friday.  Honey does little for beer beyond adding fermentable sugars and precious little added flavor.  Good meads, on the other hand, are a different thing entirely, and at one BBQ in Virginia last week I had brought out a 1994 and a 2000 vintage straight mead of mine, which the host matched with some of his own stock.  But in a beer, it attenuates the assertiveness of the flavor profile, replacing it with accessible alcohol.  Yet, that the White House staff are making their own honey, and brewing with it on premises, is inherently cool.

As much as my vote was in doubt, that the President is brewing training wheel beers in his basement tipped me over the edge.  I’ll add my vote to Obama’s column in the critical swing state of Oregon.

Which apparently has a university, with a football team, one capable of scoring touchdowns against Arkansas State. Go Rob and Eirk.

Thursday Afternoon Poll Blogging

[ 35 ] August 30, 2012 |

As Erik points out, Silver has positive news for Obama in Ohio.  Much of this optimism hangs on the house effect of the recent Gravis Marketing poll; measuring and adjusting for house effects can be a bit of an art.  House effects can also vary from election to election, which to my mind makes reliable inferences drawn from them somewhat risky.  House effects perhaps aren’t as unreliable as BABIP or Catcher ERA, but it isn’t impossible that, in this electoral context, Gravis Marketing has a more valid combination of a likely voter model, demographic weighting of the sample, method of measuring leaners, etc., than do the other houses.  Unlikely, I’ll allow, but not beyond possible.

Incidentally, two days ago UK Polling Report put up a thorough post on house effects.  Granted it’s from the British context, but the basic principles involved are context-independent.

One good illustration of how variance in house effects matters is on August 25, Silver has a discussion of a recent CNN poll and the difference between it’s registered voter estimate (Obama +9%) and the estimate after their likely voter filter is applied (Obama +2%).  Another, perhaps more optimistic (from a Democratic POV) illustration is an article by Jonathan Chait discussed over at The Democratic Strategist.  Briefly, most houses are apparently assuming an electorate that is whiter than reality.  The example cited is ABC, which assumes a 78% white electorate.  This would be going against a trend consistent since 1992 when the white share of the electorate fell from 87% (1992) to 74% in 2008.  It was 77% in 2004.  Even if the enthusiasm gap favors Republicans in 2012, reversing this trend ten years seems highly unlikely.

TDS nails it in the end, of course:

None of which changes the priority challenge facing Democrats — to launch the most extensive and intensive GOTV mobilization of the base constituencies in the history of the party.

Unrelated to polling (and I trust that Lemieux might have something to say about this) a district court panel unanimously ruled the Texas voter suppression law unconstitutional, and the three judge panel included a Bush II appointee (along with Clinton and Obama appointees).  Before we get too excited, the chance of me having those drinks in New Orleans as scheduled for right about now is marginally better than Texas flipping blue any time soon, and it has to meet a more stringent test for changes in electoral law as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act applies to the entire state, burdens that Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin can ignore.

Of course, Texas is also challenging the constitutionality of Section 5, a challenge the same panel allowed to proceed (and good luck with that).

“This fall, Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota will vote on ballot measures about marriage equality. Each has a chance to create a new playbook.”

[ 7 ] August 5, 2012 |

Excellent, largely realistic first hand account post on TDS about this issue.  A bit optimistic in places, especially in the appeal to the Federal government:

“As a citizen, I appeal to the authority of the federal government, which, history has shown, must sometimes act to ensure that citizens in all fifty states are guaranteed equal protection and rights under the law.”

but a worthy read nonetheless.

“Look, when people want to get married, we ought to let them get married”

[ 32 ] August 3, 2012 |

This courageous quote comes courtesy of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.  Being the governor of Mississippi, one might guess that Bryant is white, male, in his late 50s, and very conservative.  As these are predominantly the prerequisites for the job (aside from the Ronnie Musgrove interlude) of the past two decades, no bonus points are awarded for a correct guess.

Before cognitive dissonance ensues, Bryant isn’t taking a political stand unpalatable to an electorate which voted 86% in 2004 to amend the state constitution limiting marriage to opposite sex couples.  Rather, he’s attempting to drag Mississippi, at least the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, boldly into a future where a predominantly white Baptist congregation will allow the wedding of a black Baptist couple (also congregation members) to simply happen in the church.  Of course, those who pressured the pastor into notifying the couple that their wedding was off with 24 hours notice are characterised as a “small minority” of the congregation, that while this action is clearly unfortunate, “(we) have been portrayed as a racist church, we’re not!”.

I doubt it was a small minority of the congregation.  The way the story is told by the groom, the pastor was threatened with being voted out of the congregation if he allowed the wedding to go forward.  While even the pastor characterises the opposition to be a “small minority”:

The church’s pastor, Dr. Stan Weatherford, says he was taken by surprise by what he calls a small minority against the black marriage at the church. ”This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that,” said Weatherford.

They clearly must have been large or influential enough for Weatherford to notify the couple a day before the wedding that it wasn’t going to fly.  Furthermore, the groom has also pointed out that he has encountered what a local reporter calls “mixed reactions” once this story went public.

I’ll let the trail-blazing Governor have the final word:

“We have enough people that won’t go and get married. I want to make every opportunity I can for any couple that wants to, to go get married.” But when asked if that should include couples where both partners are of the same sex, he added: “I wouldn’t say gay couples, no,” Bryant said. “I’d say a man and a woman. Let me make sure, let’s get that right. When I say couples, I automatically assume it’s a man and a woman.”

 

 

 

Women’s International Soccer, Olympic Edition

[ 26 ] August 2, 2012 |

Group play, consisting of three groups of four teams, ended two days ago. The tournament gets interesting now, with all four quarter final matches tomorrow (Friday).  Eight of the twelve sides involved in the tournament qualified for the quarter finals, meaning North Korea, Columbia Colombia (duh), South Africa, and Cameroon worked hard at not doing all that well in comparison.

The quarterfinal brackets (full bracket can be found here) follow (times are BST; subtract five for EDT, eight for PDT). FIFA rankings as of June 1 in parentheses. As Great Britain doesn’t have a FIFA recognised team, I’m using the England ranking with apologies to the two non English players on the side: Ifeoma Dieke and Kim Little, both Scots.

Left Bracket:
19:30: (9) Great Britain v (7) Canada
14:30: (1) United States v (23) New Zealand

Right Bracket:
12:00: (4) Sweden v (6) France
17:00: (5) Brazil v (3) Japan

While this appalls the comedy club writing at conservapedia, the US is placed on the left bracket.  (Seriously, there’s so much potential material in their entry on the 2012 Olympics such that posting about it is impossible due to being overcome with laughter every time I try.)

I’ve only been able to watch parts of a few group matches.  The cable package we have where I live in Oregon can only be called “cable” because, well, that’s how we get TV.  I do have a VPN connection to my home institution back in England, allowing me access to all the BBC feeds, but time zones and other responsibilities haven’t helped.  First impressions on the brackets is that the US got lucky, largely due to Great Britain’s surprising victory over Brazil in front of around 70,000 in Wembley.  Brazil wins, Brazil’s in the USA’s bracket.  The USA v Brazil match in the 2011 World Cup was a classic, and an experience best avoided as long as possible.

The Great Britain v Canada match is interesting.  GB don’t have much of a track record, obviously, while Canada’s is recently spotty.  The Canadians finished 16th out of 16 in 2011.  Canada drew 2-2 against Sweden in the group, while GB drew 0-0 in their only friendly immediately prior to the Olympics.  On paper, Canada should probably win, but I’ll go for Team GB because they’ll be playing in front of a sold out City of Coventry Stadium.  Among the 32,000 there should be a few Canadian fans . . .

Winner: Great Britain

USA v New Zealand.  If this were cricket, rugby union, or nuclear non-proliferation, New Zealand.  However, their women’s soccer side has one single point in the history of the world cup (in 2011), and lost 4-0 to the USA in the 2008 Olympics.  An NZ victory would be more of an upset than GB beating Brazil.  They have two things going for them, however.  Crowd support at St. James’ Park in Newcastle should favor New Zealand, and they’ve been stingy on defence, conceding only one goal in each of their three group matches (including against Brazil).

Winner: USA

The right side of the bracket is a lot tougher, both in terms of competition and predictions.  Sweden v France is a rematch of the third-place playoff in the 2011 World Cup, won by Sweden 2-1.  This match will be a reverse of last year.  In the 20 matches that the French have played since that match, they’ve won 19 and only lost one (the 2-4 against the USA last Friday).  This streak features uneven competition (2013 European Championship qualification and friendlies), but to go 19-0 itself is an impressive achievement, and it includes victories over Japan, Canada, England, and North Korea, all top-ten sides.  I might be mistaken, but Sweden’s last victory of note was defeating the USA in the final group stage match in the 2011 World Cup (a favor the US returned 4-0 in March at the Algarve Cup), and as hosts of Euro 2013 haven’t had to go through qualification.

Winner: France

Brazil v Japan.  Both teams have been uneven in this tournament. Japan had two 0-0 draws (Sweden and South Africa) and only beat Canada 2-1. Brazil of course lost to Great Britain, beat New Zealand 1-0, and buried Cameroon. Although Japan is the current holder of the World Cup, I’ve got to go with Brazil. Japan’s past year has been more erratic, and in Marta and Cristiane, Brazil have two of the best players on the planet, and they’re both still at their peak (ages 26 and 27 respectively).

Winner: Brazil

Semi-Finals:  USA over Great Britain.  Brazil over France (just).

Final: USA over Brazil.  That said, I predicted the USA to march through the knock-out rounds at the 2011 World Cup, where they barely got past Brazil on penalties, struggled against France in the semi final, and ultimately lost to Japan on penalties. Hence, take the above with een korreltje zout.

I’d write about the 2012 men’s tournament, but this is predominantly a U-23 competition, thus making it not as interesting.  It is refreshing to see Ryan Giggs finally playing in an international tournament however, much as I loathe Man Utd.

0 for 32

[ 18 ] July 27, 2012 |

That is not the Seattle Mariners record for the month of July (bless the continued existence of the Kansas City Royals) but the win/loss record for same sex marriage in the league of direct democracy.

This streak might change in November.  Washington’s Referendum 74 will either uphold (a yes vote) the same sex marriage law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Gregoire this past February, or Prop 8 it (a no vote).  According to the NYT today, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have pledged $2.5 million to the Washington United for Marriage campaign in support of basic civil rights.  Added to previous donations, WUM now has over $5 million raised for the pro Referendum 74 campaign.  The opposition hope to raise $4 million, but according to the wiki page on Ref 74 have fallen somewhat short of this goal (if $132,000 can be considered somewhat short of $4M).

Polling is likewise in favor of Ref 74.  In addition to the three listed on the wiki page (+1%, +21%, +9%), Elway released a poll a few days ago that reports a 10 point lead, but as often occurs with these, there might be some confusion at the margins regarding the meaning of a yes or no vote.

Very, very good news on balance.

UPDATE 1: As commenter John reminds us, there are also ballot propositions in Maryland, Minnesota, and Maine.

UPDATE 2: if you would like to match the Bezos family donation, you can do so here.

Mitt Romney, Diplomat

[ 116 ] July 26, 2012 |

Most of us have seen this, but I still find it fantastic that Romney wasn’t adequately prepared for his trip to London.  Let’s see, travel to London on the literal eve of the 2012 Olympic games hosted by the same, and make some disparaging remarks about a Great Britain’s ability to organise said games.  It really adds to the impact that the UK already has a healthy chip on its shoulder about the United States.  Pure comedy gold.

I disagree with The Guardian‘s headline that “Mitt Romney’s Olympics blunder stuns No 10 and hands gift to Obama”. Stunned 10 Downing Street, sure. Make any difference in November?  Hardly.

I never thought I’d offer accolades to either, but the best line of this non issue issue either goes to David Cameron:

We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.

Or The Telegraph:

Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.

When the Olympics gaffe is placed along side this post over at TDS (headline below) we have the makings of a real winner here.

The invasion of Iraq overthrew Iran’s most lethal enemy and replaced it with a regime that is now Iran’s closest and most reliable ally. Depressingly, Mitt Romney has chosen the architects of this massive strategic fiasco as his principal advisors.

It’s a good thing for Romney that foreign policy doesn’t really matter much.

A Tour Through Soccer’s Hinterlands

[ 29 ] July 19, 2012 |

This handy guide describes the venues that Rangers FC (and their travelling support) will be descending upon over the course of the coming season in Scotland’s fourth (and final) tier of professional soccer.  Note that capacities are typically smaller than said travelling support, and average attendances last season ranged from 628 (Elgin City) down to 321 (East Sterlingshire).  The latter, incidentally, are the subject of a decent book I have, Pointless, published in 2006.  It describes a single season in the existence of East Sterling that followed three successive bottom of the table finishes, and should be required reading for travelling Rangers supporters (and hell, the squad).

As there is no automatic relegation out of the bottom division, Rangers need not worry about a dramatically bad season eliminating them from the professional game altogether.  I’d suggest this arrangement would be similar to the Yankees having to play a season in the short-season Single-A Northwest League, but I’ve been to a few of those parks, and they look better than the SFL’s Third Division.

(Above: Shielfield Park, home of Berwick Rangers FC.  Below: Links Park, home of Montrose FC)

Public Opinion and the ACA, Individual Level Edition

[ 24 ] July 19, 2012 |

NPR released a new poll this morning of LVs concerning attitudes towards the ACA and the USSC decision.  Briefly, a) there’s not much new here, and b) most of the interesting stuff is within the MoE anyway.  What these new data do reiterate is that support for both the ACA itself and the Supreme Court decision are heavily mediated by pre-existing partisanship, as highlighted by my post a couple weeks ago on state level support for the ACA (which I’m going to follow up on soon as I’ve added several new variables to that little dataset).

The meat of this survey is in their (small) oversampling of the “battleground” states: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI (notably, all went for Obama in 2008).  Respondents from these states are marginally yet consistently more critical of both the incumbent and the ACA.  The only item where battleground respondents are more likely than the general population to take the “Democratic” position is ‘ok, let’s accept the Supreme Court decision and move on to focus on the economy etc.’ (page 12) by 53%-44%.  For comparison, BG respondents disapprove of the ACA 39% – 52%, whereas the general population is 43% – 48%.  One would think that this might extend to Obama’s chances in these states in November.

Yet, the tendency of BG respondents to be more opposed to the ACA and the incumbent is not reflected in current polling in those states.  In only two does Nate Silver’s forecasting model predict less than a 60% probability of an Obama victory (Romney is predicted to win both Florida at 50.7% and North Carolina at 70.4%).  Both Silver and electoral-vote.com running polling averages range from marginally to rather significantly in favor of the incumbent, with only E-V’s FL (-1%), NC (-1%) and 538′s NC (-0.6%) even slightly in the Republican column.  It’s difficult to draw any substantive conclusions from this as the ACA might be a choice determinant at the margins with certain subsets of the potential electorate.  However, given that the BG states are predisposed (according to these data) to consider the ACA and the incumbent more critically, that Obama would likely win (at least) ten of these 12 states if the election were held today, this offers a conservative test of the hypothesis that the ACA is not going to swing the election.  As I discussed in my state level post on this issue, the ACA is interpreted through the prism of partisanship, as is the incumbent himself.

Perhaps the most interesting finding from this survey, at least most likely to induce a chuckle, is the response to this question (page 9):

Does the fact that the Supreme Court said the health care law is constitutional make you more likely to support the law, less likely to support the law, or does the Supreme Court decision have no effect on your support for the law?

Overall, 21% are more likely to support the ACA, 16% less likely, and it makes no difference to 58% (again, supporting the hypothesis that it’s all about pre-existing partisanship).  BG voters are a near exact replication of the overall sample (21/17/58). However, when limited to Republican respondents, the numbers are 8/30/56.

30% of Republican respondents are less likely to support the ACA because the Republican led Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.  One might excuse the 6% of Democrats believing this, but Republicans?

Movement Conservatives

[ 121 ] July 17, 2012 |

I’ve always considered this term an oxymoron.  Anybody who knows anything about Burke gets this.  Ideally my students get it as well, given that they should know some of what I know about Burke, which is greater than nothing but shy of authoritative.  This term also illustrates a rift between theoretical expectation and empirical reality.  True conservatives shouldn’t be a movement.  True conservatives should weigh any action against the potential for unintended consequences.  But, then, movement conservatives have as much in common with Burke as I do, a point somewhat illustrated in this excellent read by David Roberts.

Roberts nails two of the conventional wisdoms held here at LGM.  First, increased polarization in American partisan politics is not symmetrically distributed.  Although the left has crawled further left, the right is sprinting towards the cliff.  It’s the right who are moving.  Citing both political science (Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal) as well as Galston (also of The Democratic Strategist) and Mann from Brookings, Roberts offers a compelling account which demonstrates the asymmetry in contemporary polarization.  His argument is perhaps best captured by the following quote:

The national Republican Party, by contrast, has now been almost entirely absorbed by the far right. It rejects the basic social consensus among post-war democracies and seeks to return to a pre-New Deal form of governance. It is hostile to social and economic equality. It remains committed to fossil fuels and sprawl and opposed to all sustainable alternatives. And it has built anepistemological cocoon around itself within which loopy misinformation spreads unchecked. It has, in short, gone loony.

Such an epistemological cocoon allows for this sincere exhibition of hilarious lunacy noted by Erik a few days ago.

Second, “centrist” pundits are, well, idiots.

Instead, pundits — and, to be fair, lots and lots of non-pundits — cling to the presumption of symmetry. Their minds rebel at asymmetry, especially extreme asymmetry. The notion that “partisans on both sides” are preventing a sensible middle course is deeply rooted to the point of catechism.

Which nicely sets up the money shot of Roberts’ post:

Maddeningly, when pundits actually lay out what that sensible middle course would look like, they end up describing Obama’s agenda. Benjy Sarlin at TPM put it best: “Pundits Urge President Obama To Back President Obama’s Proposals.”

It is this political environment that allows for Mitt Romney to vociferously run against an ACA that is close to the very Massachusetts plan that he signed.  It allows for voters in the “center” and the right to disbelieve that Romney supports the Ryan budget when the specifics of the latter are spelled out for them (I saw this within the last week, but I can not find the link / cite to it.  Ergo, I could just be making it up. h/t commenter Howard, I’ve now attached the link.) And it might even allow for John McCain to say, presumably with a straight face, that it wasn’t the 23 years worth of tax returns which cooled McCain to selecting Romney as his VP running mate, it was that Sarah Palin was the better candidate all along.

Back to our pal Burke: ”It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.”  I wonder whom Burke would find the loudest complainers of the past three 20 years.

h/t Tom Birkland for the Roberts piece.

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