From my post for The Upshot: Young Americans have been moving left and leaving the G.O.P. in recent years, but a successful Democratic coalition built on the backs of liberal youth is far from a sure thing, especially in the short term. The party’s problem is straightforward: getting them to actually go to the polls. Politicians know which part of the electorate still butters their bread — and there’s no avocado on it.
Note: This article was written in conjunction with Alexander Agadjanian, a fellow political science undergraduate student at Dartmouth College. Follow him on Twitter @a_agadjanian.
Voters are often overanalyzed. They’re put into buckets based on their party or ideology. They are often assumed to have consistent policy preferences — either liberal or conservative — across various issue domains. But this is hardly the case. One of the more longstanding and well-established findings from political science research on political beliefs has been that Americans aren’t particularly ideologically coherent.
It has been roughly two weeks since I launched my forecasting model for the 2018 midterm elections to the House of Representatives. Current generic ballot polling gives Democrats a 7.2 percentage point edge in the national popular vote, roughly where it has been since a month after Donald Trump became president. The forecasting model estimates, contrary to what a 7.2% lead would imply, that Democrats have just a 22% chance of winning the House majority on November 6, 2018.
It is no secret that lawmakers in congress have become polarized in an asymmetric fashion, with Republican House members moving to the right far more than Democrats have moved left. However, it is entirely plausible that Democratic voters are more liberal than they used to be, even if lawmakers are not. To answer this riddle I consult the data. Is there a shift left among the party base itself, even if lawmakers have not moved?
Image from: https://web.stanford.edu/~neilm/ When last we chatted, I talked of how congressional elections have shifted to reflect national politics more than local influences. Importantly, I noted that this may be less the result of ideological “polarization” — the process by which the beliefs of partisans move left/right — and more the result of partisan “sorting.” But polarization does exist, and it is real. This is especially true of elites in government: congresspeople in particular.
There are many hundreds of quotes by our nation’s founders noting the importance of representative government. For each one, there is also a quote about the dangers of improper government — my favorite is John Adams’ proclamation that “…division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader….is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” John Adams — along with James Madison (early on), George Washington, and others — recognized the danger of organized groups competing for control of the National government.
Note1 This article was written in conjunction with Ryan Matsumoto, a contributor at FiveThirtyEight, Developer Programs Engineer at Google and Stanford Alum. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmatsumoto1. Note2 A previous version of this article had Ossoff up 1.3% with 57% odds. Recent polling data had use revise those estimates to 0.6% and 53%, respectively. In the 2016 Iowa Democratic Primary Hillary Clinton won at least six precincts by way of a coin toss.
You can’t win an election without turning out voters, and boy, are Democrats taking that to heart. Americans in special and primary elections all over the country are turning out for elections at rates unseen in the most recent midterm cycles. We already know that Democrats are overperforming expectations for electoral performance, but raw votes in recent elections offer us some more insight into just how energized their base is.
On Wednesday, May 24th, the Republican candidate for Montana’s at-large congressional district essentially beat (body slammed) a reporter. Then, on Thursday, Greg Gianforte also beat his Democratic opponent Rob Quist in the race for the district’s House seat. Gianforte’s victory cut against some pundits’ expectations of a Democratic pickup — granted, he did break a reporter’s glasses while otherwise being a flawed candidate — and squashed hopes of Democrats being able to flip deep red House seats.