The Simplest Post on Partisanship I Can Write

An attempt at getting the point across.

To try and settle, to some degree at least, some recent conversations, let me ask three simple questions:

  1. Is it possible to make a reasonable prediction of the breakdown of the partisan vote in the 2024 presidential election?
  2. Do you, the reader of this post, know which party’s nominee you are highly likely to vote for in 2024?
  3. Do you know which party will win the 2024 electors from the state of Alabama?

The answers are: yes, almost certainly yes (in many cases, definitively yes), and the Republicans.

That is without knowing candidates or the immediate political context of the election. That is without knowing the state of the economy or whether we are at war or at peace.

Yes, there are cataclysmic shifts that might change things in four years, but barring the truly unforeseeable, we can pretty easily answer those questions.

Does this help illustrate why I say partisanship is such a key variable?

Note: the reasons these things are true/our normative (values-based) evaluations are different discussions.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Politics 101, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Yes, yes, and the Democrats would be the answers for Massachusetts.
    Did you leave something out of the very last sentence in your post? I’m not quite getting what you mean.

    1
  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, of course you can call it partisanship and be content. But for me, I’m sorry, it’s a superficial explanation. Yes, some people are Team Blue, other people are Team Red, but why? Why? What is the thought process? What are the roots? What are the history, the philosophy, the factors that may exist but have not yet been identified?

    This is taxonomy without Darwinism. OK, we have a label. This is a chimpanzee and that is a giraffe. Why? What connects the chimpanzee and the giraffe? What evolutionary factors contributed to the creation of two such wildly divergent species? What would happen if we made changes to their respective environments? Are there situations in which chimp and giraffe could compete for food, or cooperate to defeat common predators.

    Say you’re a Yankees fan, dyed in the wool. OK. Why? Is it habit? Is it because your Dad was a Yankee fan? Was it perhaps because he was a Mets fan and you hate your Dad? Do you just like the team colors better? Is Yankee stadium more convenient to your house?

    I want to know those things because politics is human. Until I understand the humans involved, I’m just labeling.

    15
  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I love that you boiled this down to such a simple set of questions. I feel that often academia is seen as complicating issues that are simple, and indeed I know of academics who make a career of it. But to me, mastery of a subject always showed when you could simplify it. My thesis adviser wanted to understand the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra well enough that he could explain it to his (admittedly bright) 12-year old child.

    5
  4. @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes, some people are Team Blue, other people are Team Red, but why? Why? What is the thought process? What are the roots? What are the history, the philosophy, the factors that may exist but have not yet been identified?

    As I said in the OP:

    Note: the reasons these things are true, or our normative (values-based) evaluations are different discussions.

    In regards to this:

    Until I understand the humans involved, I’m just labeling.

    To which I would say: YES!! And I would ask, somewhat exasperatedly: how the hell else do you think systematic science is done, save by identifying and labeling phenomena?

    “Covid-19 is a virus.”

    “Man, that’s just a label. It doesn’t tell me anything else about it!”

    One last question: do you think that I think the labeling is the end of the analysis?

    11
  5. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Say you’re a Yankees fan, dyed in the wool. OK. Why? Is it habit? Is it because your Dad was a Yankee fan? Was it perhaps because he was a Mets fan and you hate your Dad? Do you just like the team colors better? Is Yankee stadium more convenient to your house?

    So, those are interesting questions.

    But here’s the thing: Yankees fans were likely to have a very different reaction to the various scandals involving Alex Rodriguez and minor brouhahas surrounding Derek Jeter than were, say, fans of the Red Sox. That’s going to be true regardless of the motivating factors that made one a Yankees or Red Sox fan to begin with.

    13
  6. @CSK:

    I’m not quite getting what you mean.

    I have restructured it slightly to help with clarity.

    I am just saying that identifying the phenomenon (i.e., stable partisanship) is not the same things are as explaining why it exists or if it is good/bad/indifferent.

    What I am pointing out (and have been trying to point out at different times on this subject) is a fact about our politics. In observing this fact I am not saying why it is, nor am I saying if it is good not.

    Indeed, the fact of stable partisanship leads to a host of other questions, as well as to a host of value judgments and assessments.

    (Indeed, I have repeatedly stated that I think our party system is deficient in a variety of ways and that our institutions are directly contributing to that fact).

    5
  7. @James Joyner:

    But here’s the thing: whatever one’s reason for being a Yankees fan, one was likely to have a very different reaction to the various scandals involving Alex Rodriguez and minor brouhahas surrounding Derek Jeter than were, say, fans of the Red Sox. That’s going to be true regardless of the motivating factors that made one a Yankees or Red Sox fan to begin with.

    YUP.

    9
  8. BTW: a retrospective version of questions #1 and #2 is at least in part how we got Trump as president. (That is, if I had asked these questions in 2012, we would have had the same answers–to #3 as well, for that matter).

    2
  9. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    One last question: do you think that I think the labeling is the end of the analysis?

    For whatever reason, that was my initial impression in the comments to that other post.

    But we kind of cleared that up, no? (Eventually)

    I am genuinely trying to understand what the issue is here.

    2
  10. 95 South says:

    Steven – I understand why you addressed a very specific issue in this article. I understand why you needed this as a foundation to help explain some of your other articles and comments. But I also think you should explain in a few paragraphs how this observation fits into your overall thinking, or it’ll be hard for people to integrate it.

    2
  11. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I understand perfectly that identifying a phenomenon and analyzing it are two different things. I am mystified as to why anyone would confuse the two, or become upset that identification is not analysis.

    4
  12. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    I am genuinely trying to understand what the issue is here.

    Too many people can answer questions 1, 2, and 3 and not get the caveat at the end. That is, while they acknowledge that Alabama is going to vote Republican in 2024 whether the candidate is another Donald Trump or another Mitt Romney, they’re unable to see that Alabama Republicans may well have voted for Trump even though they disliked him personally and disagreed with many of his policy proposals.

    6
  13. charon says:

    In our current environment it is pretty simple:

    There are people who see preferential or priviledged treatment of whites as of overriding importance.

    Also, there are people who see the priviledged position of Christianity/Christians as of overriding importance.

    White people who take one or both of those positions are R, others not, regardless of policy, scandals, competence or anything else, why Trump’s support is so stable and unshakeable.

    7
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    Look, I’m not denying anything @Steven or @James are saying. When I argue those positions it’s because I’m after something more. I don’t just want to know the name we’re calling a phenomenon, I want to know the why of the name and the what of the phenomenon.

    Why do I want to know more? Because I’m not a political scientist, I’m a writer, and when you read a sci fi novel and realize fifty pages in that you know nothing about any of the characters, it’s because some STEMie author stopped at the label. If all a writer knows about a character is the labels we might apply, he’s a shitty writer.

    But there’s a second motive as well. Labeling everyone Team Blue or Team Red tells us absolutely nothing about how we might change that line-up. Can a Red switch to Blue? Or the reverse? Or are we tattooed on our foreheads and no one can ever switch?

    Interesting question, given that both James and Steven are former Republicans who have (largely) switched sides. If they can do it, why can’t Persons X, Y and Z? And if change and growth are possible, how does one help to foster that? Isn’t that the actual point of politics? Addition? Persuasion? Hearts and Minds? How do you change hearts and minds when all you see is Red or Blue? How do we make progress as a civilization if all we see is Red or Blue?

    Way back when I first started coming here I got into a colloquy with James on abortion. It told me all I needed to know about him. He cared about truth. He felt obligated to justify and make sense of his positions. He had a sense of honor. He had a sense of fairness.

    At that point James was still very much a Republican, but had you asked me right then whether James, faced with something like Trumpism, would go along or resist, I could have told you with 90% confidence that he would reject Trumpism. Likewise I have not been shocked or surprised by anything Trump has done because I understood his character.

    13
  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    Ok, it looks to me like there’s less movement in Trump’s approval than there was in Obama’s, and certainly less movement than we saw in George W. Bush’s. Would you give the reason for this as “more partisanship”?

    The next step would be to take apart the partisanship engine and see how it works. I think I already have a bit of an intuitive understanding, since I often get caught in the gears of left-wing partisanship. Which is to say, I try to stay analytic, and catch a lot of flak for it. I also try to hold to my value of “every person has value”, and sometimes catch flack for that, too. In spite of having that belief as one of the core reasons I’m liberal. There’s a lot of “wonks v. hacks” dynamic there.

    2
  16. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    This doesn’t really address my question (but that’s on me for not being clearer, I guess), but this:

    they’re unable to see that Alabama Republicans may well have voted for Trump even though they disliked him personally and disagreed with many of his policy proposals.

    would have been more accurate if you would have written

    they’re unable to see that Alabama Republicans may well have voted for Romney even though they disliked him personally and disagreed with many of his policy proposals.

    Have you seen Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans?

    And I don’t think anyone at all would have been suprised by a Romney win in Alabama if he had run against Clinton in 2016.

    4
  17. charon says:

    @charon:

    Clarification: My description does not work for everyone R or R leaning, but it absolutely works for a large preponderance of the GOP “base.”

    ETA: I guess I should take pride in my downvotes, truth really hurts.

    3
  18. @Michael Reynolds:

    Look, I’m not denying anything @Steven or @James are saying. When I argue those positions it’s because I’m after something more. I don’t just want to know the name we’re calling a phenomenon, I want to know the why of the name and the what of the phenomenon.

    The problem is this: it often does seem like you are arguing the most basis point. As a result, what else do you think an academic is going to do save work like the dickens to make sure that the basic foundations of the conversation are understood before moving on.

    The best way to keep me focused on X is if I think you don’t understand X but I think understanding X is vital to further conversation.

    In general, let me note, that I very care about things like power, human nature, and the like. It is not about labels only, it by a long shot.

    I am honestly have been trying across many, many posts to address these things.

    3
  19. @Michael Reynolds:

    But there’s a second motive as well. Labeling everyone Team Blue or Team Red tells us absolutely nothing about how we might change that line-up. Can a Red switch to Blue? Or the reverse? Or are we tattooed on our foreheads and no one can ever switch?

    Lots and lots of research suggests that changes are unlikely for a given individual. That is part of why I keep harping on it, especially now, because it helps explain how a bunch of people who aren’t in cult of personality still voted for Trump and will again in November.

    It does not morally justify that support, but if one understands the importance of partisan ID, then one can better understand how people rationalize voting for Trump (or ignoring his insane statements).

    We don’t need the cult thesis to explain why Trump is president. At its base level, it is a crappy nomination process + an terrible election process + entrenched partisanship in a system with only two choices.

    10
  20. Northerner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Say you’re a Yankees fan, dyed in the wool. OK. Why? Is it habit?

    For 90% of voters you nailed it right there. That’s the percentage that vote for the same party in every election for their whole life. Habit energy drives so much of what we do (in every aspect of our lives), it’d be unusual if politics was an exception — and especially given how boring politics is for most people.

    As for why people change politics so rarely, I suspect a major component is that for most people politics is mind numbingly boring, a chore that ranks up their with doing your income tax. Even most of those who feel its their duty to do so are relieved to be able to vote for whoever their team has chosen as its leader without wasting valuable time thinking about it — its the equivalent of having an accountant do your taxes so you can do something more enjoyable in your spare time.

    Why they make that first choice is the interesting question.

    5
  21. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, we often have one word for a thing when we like it, and another when we don’t like it, even if it’s more or less the same thing. Maybe we also have a third name for something that’s meant to be neutral and analytic. You know, words like “obstinate” or “resolute” or just plain “stubborn”.

    In this case, those words might be “loyal”, “cultlike”, and “partisan”. Maybe we are just arguing over which words to use?

    5
  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But for me, I’m sorry, it’s a superficial explanation.

    To me, it’s not superficial. Instead, he’s making a statement about how much of electoral behavior can we know about a group of people given their party affiliation? The fact that it’s a lot isn’t surprising but the various things about just how sticky it is and places where it isn’t as prevalent, well, I find those things really interesting.

    I think you are hearing him add “…and therefore individual Republicans are not bad sorts, over all, and a lot of Democrats are probably real *ssholes.” But I don’t hear him stating that, so my reaction is just academic.

    The only place I think I disagree with him is that I feel it is fair to label the Republican Party, as an entity, as racist, lazy, incompetent, etc and I think Steven looks more at factions and components.

    1
  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    We don’t need the cult thesis to explain why Trump is president. At its base level, it is a crappy nomination process + an terrible election process + entrenched partisanship in a system with only two choices.

    Individuals walk into voting booths and make choices. They may well be victims of the system to an extent, yet they do still have free will. I voted for Nixon in 1972 and that is on me, not on the system, it’s on me. But you know what? I could have been talked out of it. I wish someone had.

    You’ve changed positions, James has changed positions, hell guys who used to be KKK have changed positions. Members of various cults have rejected their brainwashing. Change is possible, and sure the system and the economy and so on do much of the work, but it is also possible to change hearts and minds and to do that you have to pay attention to hearts and minds.

    You’re understanding the system – as befits a poli sci prof, and Occam is satisfied with your analysis. So am I, as far as it goes. I’m trying to understand the smallest component of that system – as befits a writer or a propagandist, and Occam does not work on humans. I don’t just want to know the symptom, I want to understand the pathogen because my brain occupies itself inventing stories and I can’t make a story out of a system. Different strokes.

    3
  24. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “One last question: do you think that I think the labeling is the end of the analysis?”

    Based on the discussion yesterday, as well as other recent ones, hell yes. You have been rather adamant about not trying to get beyond mere labeling into the motivations of partisans.

    I will add that your comments seem to reflect a belief that partisanship is less changeable, both over time and for individual candidates in the same election, than my experience suggests. For example, in 2016 Trump won the Presidential election in Pennsylvania narrowly, while Pat Toomey won the Senate election in Pennsylvania narrowly, each by less than 100,000 votes. Toomey won the in manner which nearly all Republicans who won close state-wide races in Pennsylvania have for decades, winning enough votes in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to stay close, and then pulling it out by winning the mostly rural areas by healthy but not overwhelming margins.

    Trump, on the other hand, lost all of the suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia by historically large margins for a Republican (e.g., losing Chester County 53-43, while Toomey won 49-47). He made up for it by winning some of the more rural counties with over 80% of the vote. There are many counties where Trump ran 7-12% ahead of Toomey (e.g., Trump won 69% of the vote in Greene County while Toomey won 57%).

    I do not see how mere partisanship would account for these differences.

    9
  25. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: Interesting. And, anecdotally, I’ve lived in lots of different cities and, back in the days when I followed sports, I always felt generous to the local team. Well, except the Atlanta Braves. The team was fine, and I wished them well, but it seemed like 90% of the fans were businessmen there on company tickets, just as happy when the other team was winning. And that Tomahawk Chop thing gave me the creeps. I don’t think there was much talk about negative Indian stereotypes at the time, but there was something about it that just felt… wrong. Probably because I knew about the deep, deep racism that still existed there and a giant group of white people chanting and making killing motions just seemed too on the nose.

    2
  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think you are hearing him add

    No, no, no, I can see where you might think that, but no. You might notice that while others here occasionally directly attack James or Steven, I don’t. Ditto Mataconis who I frequently defended against attacks. First, this is their place, I’m just a guest. But more because I genuinely respect both men (and Doug). I have never had any reason at all to suspect these guys of dishonesty or a lack of integrity. I don’t think I’m known to be overly generous to people but I like, enjoy and admire James and Steven and Doug.

    8
  27. @95 South:

    I understand why you needed this as a foundation to help explain some of your other articles and comments. But I also think you should explain in a few paragraphs how this observation fits into your overall thinking, or it’ll be hard for people to integrate it.

    On the one hand, sure.

    On the other (and I am not trying to be snarky): that is why I write all the time. And, really, full integration would take a book.

    Regardless, I will endeavor to be clearer (and I don’t mind at all being told I am not clear).

    4
  28. Kit says:

    I might be mixing up different threads, but wasn’t the last blow up about polarization?

    From that other thread, @Steven:

    the question that I am discussing is the degree to which the stability in public opinion is attributable to partisan polarization in the population. And, specifically, as to whether R behavior is especially different than D behavior in this period.

    MR hypothesized that R behavior is more religion-like than it is political. I countered that that that does not explain the similar stability in D behavior.

    …my basic assertion that the basic driver of stability in public opinion is primarily a function of partisan identity in the population.

    I’m unlikely to find the time to engage with OTB this weekend, but there’s something in the above that sticks in my craw. Over the past generation, Republicans have not only moved far to the Right, they have decided that compromise will not be tolerated. To flip that on its head and say that the other side is equally intransigent strikes me as either wilfully dishonest (and you strike me as always honest, Steven), or suffering from a sever case of déformation professionnelle.

    I’m starting to wonder if the proper way to understand your argument is that forces and structural deficiencies have conspired to push the parties apart. It not being in human nature to change, people go along for the ride.

    But if that’s true, how did the south ever turn from Democrats to Republicans? How was Reagan ever elected? How can Massachusetts constantly vote in Republican governors? How can one start thinking Russians are the good guys, or that locking kids in cages is something to cheer? And if that’s all people are in the end, why would anyone ever support democracy?

    You seem to have a deterministic understanding of society. People are so much steam in an engine—turn this knob, open that valve, and these are the predicted results. In a stable environment, I think that approach works, but it seems less convincing when the engine is blowing itself apart. For all your learning, I suspect that future generations will explain our situation quite differently. How is the media’s role to be understood? The new Gilded Age? Education?

    In fact, given the stability of political support in the age of coronavirus, it seems like polarization is the last knob you have to play with. What happened to the economy playing the biggest role? Wasn’t that the way people predicted how the presidency would go because the average Joe didn’t follow politics?

    That’s more than I wanted to write, and less than I wanted to say.

    13
  29. Nightcrawler says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    some people are Team Blue, other people are Team Red, but why? Why? What is the thought process?

    I think political orientation is innate, just like sexual orientation.

    I also think that, just like sexuality, political orientation exists on a spectrum. Team Blue and Team Red are the extremes just like straight and gay are the sexuality extremes.

    I’ve been calling myself a Nothing for some time, but I’m going to steal a term from the sexuality spectrum: I’m what you would call pan-political. I’m neither Team Red nor Team Blue. I support individual policies, not parties or entire ideologies, and the policies I support can fluctuate depending on the specific situation.

    The only reason I’m voting blue straight down the line this year is because the Republicans have gone off the deep end to support eugenics and fascism.

    Most people are clearly not like me. They support ideologies, not policies.

    I am convinced that I was born this way. I have never identified as Team Red or Team Blue. Until now, I voted rather colorful tickets comprised of Red, Blue, and Other depending on the candidate. I fist identified as libertarian, then anarchist, before I realized that all of the policies those groups support would be unworkable outside a textbook — and to be part of an -ism, -ist, or ian, you must support all of it. I have never been able to do that, not ever. I spent years being told I wasn’t a “good” libertarian/anarchist because I can’t stand Ayn Rand, and I don’t worship money and rich people in god-like fashion. Money is a tool, and rich people are just people.

    Why have I never been able to bound myself to an ideology? The same reason I’ve never been attracted to women: I was born this way. There is no other explanation that makes sense to me.

    Perhaps part of this is genetic. My grandmother was pan-political. Once, as a child, I asked her what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. She stuttered and stammered; she clearly didn’t support either ideology, either. She voted for JFK over Nixon, she voted for Reagan over Carter, and she voted for Mondale over Reagan.

    5
  30. Roger says:

    If you were planning two events and knew that 50% of the guests were vegan* and 50% were meat lovers, you wouldn’t have to know much about how the food was being prepared to anticipate how the RSVP cards would break down when you asked the guests to choose the vegetarian entrée or the prime rib. Meat vs vegetable partisanship would give you a pretty good idea of what you needed to order.

    But if you announced in advance of one event that the meat dish was rancid roadkill and the meat crowd fell from 50% to 10%, and you announced in advance of the other event that the vegetarian dish was poison mushrooms and still got an order for 50% vegetarian dishes, you might suspect that something more than partisan polarization was at work. You’re getting a result that looks more like what Mr. Reynolds has described as cult behavior.

    I think that’s the disconnect some of us have when you say that partisan polarization is the key variable. There’s no denying that partisan polarization is real and has an effect, but in the effort to drive that point home Dr. Taylor sometimes seems to be arguing its effect to the exclusion of anything else. Many of us (I think maybe even Dr. Taylor) see Mr. Trump offering us rancid roadkill with a poison mushroom sauce, and see 40% of the population say “please sir, may I have another.” That suggests the possibility that more than mere partisanship is at work, or at a minimum that the depth of partisanship is not affecting the two parties equally.

    *I live in Kansas City, BBQ capital of the world. I have friends who are vegan or vegetarian—except for burnt ends, which they choose to not see as meat because, seriously, who can deny themselves burnt ends? I assume for purposes of this hypothetical that burnt ends are not on the event menu, because that would blow up all my other assumptions.

    11
  31. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    That is, while they acknowledge that Alabama is going to vote Republican in 2024 whether the candidate is another Donald Trump or another Mitt Romney, they’re unable to see that Alabama Republicans may well have voted for Trump even though they disliked him personally and disagreed with many of his policy proposals.

    Except… Doug Jones.

    That is, there are limits to such partisanship even within Alabama Republicans. The are lines they won’t cross. And those lines didn’t/don’t include Donald Trump’s policies or personal characteristics.

    We are all responsible for our choices and actions. Our thoughts may explain why we did something but they don’t change the reality of our actions.

  32. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Interesting question, given that both James and Steven are former Republicans who have (largely) switched sides. If they can do it, why can’t Persons X, Y and Z? And if change and growth are possible, how does one help to foster that? Isn’t that the actual point of politics? Addition? Persuasion? Hearts and Minds? How do you change hearts and minds when all you see is Red or Blue? How do we make progress as a civilization if all we see is Red or Blue?

    I also find this an interesting question and, indeed, share that goal. Indeed, I think we have similar goals from the dialog here.

    But the kind of people who spend hours a week—if not more—not only reading about but debating politics and policy are outliers. Those who do so with intellectual honesty and considerable self-reflection are flat-out weirdos.

    It’s just incredibly difficult to get people to change their deeply-held beliefs, since they tend to be cultural and visceral rather than intellectual. And that’s true even of people who are trained intellectuals.

    While I think I was reasonably quick, given all that, to change my views—and it happened long before Trump—I was nonetheless able to stomach the Tea Party, etc. as more of a fringe than they really were by pointing to the nominating electorate ultimately settling on McCain over Huckabee and Romney over Santorum.

    And I wasn’t an Evangelical—or even religious—to begin with, so I didn’t have to betray my church along with my party in jumping ship.

    8
  33. @Moosebreath:

    Based on the discussion yesterday, as well as other recent ones, hell yes. You have been rather adamant about not trying to get beyond mere labeling into the motivations of partisans.

    On the one hand, I have to own my own lack of clarity.

    On the other, I think that that is an incorrect read of the conversation the other day.

    1
  34. @Kit: The simplistic answer I can give (and you ask a lot of good questions) is this: my focus was on national party politics as it pertained to Trump approval/disapproval and identifying a key variable (not the only variable).

    And I tried to point out the degree to which national politics have really become entrenched as the parties have become more ideologically sorted.

    It is highly unlikely, to pick one of your examples, that any politician could win an EC landslide like Reagan did in 1984 under current conditions.

    We don’t have the same party system in 2020 that we had in 1984 (even if the labels are the same). We don’t have the same party system we had in 1992. It started to change in 1994 and it deepened in roughly the last decade or so.

    4
  35. To a general point: yes, people can change their minds. Most people don’t.

    Indeed, most people don’t think very much about politics at all.

    7
  36. James Joyner says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Ok, it looks to me like there’s less movement in Trump’s approval than there was in Obama’s, and certainly less movement than we saw in George W. Bush’s. Would you give the reason for this as “more partisanship”?

    Honestly, I think there’s been less movement because Trump lost pretty much everyone he could possibly have lost in 2016 and lost them permanently. Bush and Obama were likable guys trying their best for the country. So, while hard-core members of the opposition party were never going to give them their due, moderates and the unaffiliated swung back and forth with events. There are no moderates and few unaffiliated get-ables for Trump.

    3
  37. @Kit: One more thing:

    I’m unlikely to find the time to engage with OTB this weekend, but there’s something in the above that sticks in my craw. Over the past generation, Republicans have not only moved far to the Right, they have decided that compromise will not be tolerated. To flip that on its head and say that the other side is equally intransigent strikes me as either wilfully dishonest (and you strike me as always honest, Steven), or suffering from a sever case of déformation professionnelle.

    This is the crux of the pushback, I think. It is actually something I didn’t say. Although I did say that we are all susceptible to motivated thinking that is often guided by our partisan preferences.

    I wrote a post a long time ago at PoliBlog describing what I called “the Deion Sanders Effect.” In brief, when Deion played for the 49ers, he struck me as an annoying, arrogant showboater. When he played for Dallas, he was awesome

    5
  38. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Except… Doug Jones.

    That is, there are limits to such partisanship even within Alabama Republicans. The are lines they won’t cross. And those lines didn’t/don’t include Donald Trump’s policies or personal characteristics.

    Roy Moore was a controversial figure even among Alabama Republicans for years and years before the pederasty charges came to light. But I guarantee you Alabama Republicans would have voted for him if the alternative was Hillary Clinton and not a guy who would be a Republican in almost every other state.

    3
  39. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, Deion is the classic case for me, too.

    1
  40. @Roger:

    But if you announced in advance of one event that the meat dish was rancid roadkill and the meat crowd fell from 50% to 10%, and you announced in advance of the other event that the vegetarian dish was poison mushrooms and still got an order for 50% vegetarian dishes, you might suspect that something more than partisan polarization was at work. You’re getting a result that looks more like what Mr. Reynolds has described as cult behavior.

    I think that’s the disconnect some of us have when you say that partisan polarization is the key variable.

    But the problem is, and regardless of what any of us think about it, that is decidedly not how R voters view the situation. Indeed, most of them would say that the D choice is roadkill.

    Indeed, to some degree, the partisan variable is what causes each side to see the other side as the roadkill.

    And yes, I fully agree that Trumps is the roadkill but my preferences don’t change the way millions of people behave.

    7
  41. @SKI:

    Except… Doug Jones.

    That is, there are limits to such partisanship even within Alabama Republicans.

    Although it took a perfect storm of perfect storms to get there–and even then, Moore won 48.3% of the vote.

    3
  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I voted for Nixon in 1972 and that is on me, not on the system, it’s on me. But you know what? I could have been talked out of it. I wish someone had.

    And that story is fairly common. In the early seventies the parties were only beginning to sort on ideology. As everyone points out, Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. Ticket splitting was very common. That you voted for Nixon said little about who you voted for for governor. Only like 4 or 5 % of parents said they’d oppose their kid marrying someone from the other party.

    Now, if you tell me who you voted for for prez, I can be 90% certain who you voted for for governor. Ticket splitting has largely disappeared. And something like half of people say they’d oppose their kid marrying an opposite partisan. Self declared independents now vote more consistently for one party than dedicated partisans did in the ’60s. It was a different world politically.

    I’ll again recommend Klein’s Why We’re Polarized. You want more insight into why individuals polarized as they have. Klein doesn’t dive real deep into it, but he references the books that do such as Prius or Pickup? which I have read and Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution or Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences which I have not.

    3
  43. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    what I called “the Deion Sanders Effect.”

    Klein talks about Kaepernick.

    There is nothing intrinsically liberal about football. But after Kaepernick’s protest became a national flash point, the NFL polarized. Before the controversy, about 60 percent of both Clinton and Trump voters viewed the NFL favorably. Amid the controversy, the NFL’s favorability among Clinton voters was unchanged, but its favorability among Trump voters plummeted to 30 percent and disapproval spiked to over 60 percent.

    6
  44. mattbernius says:

    @drj:

    Have you seen Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans?

    And, again, I think partisanship needs to be accounted for there as well. The extreme opposition to Trump, in a partisan analysis, can trigger a “round the wagons” response among supporters.

    Put a different way, going back to the early Obama years, there was no more galvanizing force for Democrats that McConnell saying “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

    3
  45. Kylopod says:

    I’ve been just too busy today to follow this entire multi-thread discussion, so let me try to answer the specific responses I got in the earlier thread.

    @James Joyner:

    The difference—which I presume Steven would readily acknowledge—is that it’s virtually inconceivable that Obama would do such a thing. But he’s right that there’s a natural tendency of partisans to rationalize conduct that they would deplore coming from the other team when their guy is doing it.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I made the mistake of addressing someone’s counterfactual without providing the obvious caveat that I cannot imagine Obama doing such a thing, and I understand that matters.

    The problem is that that’s not just a side point–it’s the entire point! As DrDaveT noted in the original thread where we had this discussion, the question of how Dems “would” behave if Obama said such a thing is entirely untestable. You may think Dems would adapt their views to this hypothetical Crazy Obama. I disagree. But it’s purely YMMV. There’s no way to prove it one way or the other. The fact is, we don’t live in a world in which any recent Democratic president spouted pseudoscience and medical quackery. We don’t live in a world in which Democrats elected a man who was a professional scam artist and a complete, undisguised pig of a human being who has literally boasted about grabbing women’s privates and has literally boasted about presiding over the deaths of 100,000 people. We don’t live in a world in which Democratic elected officials include anyone remotely as crazy as Louie Gohmert or Steve King. We don’t live in a world in which the top leaders of the Democratic Party are absolutely committed to fringe, discredited theories such as global-warming denial or supply-side economics. We don’t live in a world in which the broader liberal culture promotes a disdain for professional expertise and a disbelief in mainstream news in favor of snake-oil salesmen who hawk financial scams and quack medical cures on shows riddled with distortions and lies.

    You can’t separate the unanswerable question of how Democrats “would” behave in this hypothetical fantasy, from the reality that it is a fantasy. The fact that it requires such an absurd counterfactual shows that your entire premise is invalid. I’m not claiming Dems are political monks totally immune from partisan motivations; far from it. But they’re not going to follow their elected leaders down a rabbit hole of pseudoscience and factual nonsense, since no such rabbit hole exists. In suggesting that Dems would be just as liable to accepting nonsense from their leaders as Republicans have from theirs, you’re overlooking the extent to which those leaders are as much a product of that derangement as a cause.

    15
  46. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “On the one hand, I have to own my own lack of clarity.

    On the other, I think that that is an incorrect read of the conversation the other day.”

    That strikes me as a remarkably unhelpful response, reducing my comment to a “yes it is”/”no it isn’t” dynamic while flying past the evidence I set forth to support my position.

  47. @Moosebreath: :

    That strikes me as a remarkably unhelpful response

    I tried to acknowledge that I could be clearer but stated I think you are mistaken in your interpretation of what I said the other day. At the end of the day, what is wrong with either of those things? Plus, while I try to respond to everything, I cannot always write hundreds of words to every comment.

    I honestly think you flat-out misinterpreted my point from the other day, but politely acknowledged that I may have some blame for not being sufficiently clear.

    Let me repeat what I said to Kit above:

    my focus was on national party politics as it pertained to Trump approval/disapproval and identifying a key variable (not the only variable).

    And I tried to point out the degree to which national politics have really become entrenched as the parties have become more ideologically sorted.

    I am not saying, to your point above, that no one can change their minds. But, again, to repeat something from above:

    To a general point: yes, people can change their minds. Most people don’t.

    Indeed, most people don’t think very much about politics at all.

    4
  48. a country lawyer says:

    We all follow different paths to our political alignment. I grew up in a southern democratic family-the party of FDR and Truman. As a high school senior I worked for the election of John Kennedy and as college senior I cast my first presidential vote for LBJ. My first big political change came as a Marine officer in Viet Nam when my disgust with the political conduct of the war made me along with probably the majority of the officer corps switch my allegiance to the Republican party and in 1968 voted for Nixon. That big switch in the military in general to the Republican party has held fast until recently where it appears many in the military are gravitating away.
    I was senior in law school as Watergate developed and I began to become disenchanted with the Republican Party and by the time Reagan ran for office I was voting solidly blue in presidential elections. Considering the state of the respective parties I doubt that in the time I have left the Republican Party would nominate a candidate I could vote for.
    Because we have a binary system and there will always be some difference between the parties candidates I can’t see myself voting third party and I can’t imagine the Democrats would ever nominate someone so manifestly unqualified as Trump.

    9
  49. @Kylopod: I am going to think about a way to address this, but likely in a post (or series of posts). All of this has my brain going in several directions–so all I need now is time and energy.

    2
  50. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    One last try, and if it gets the same sort of non-response where you focus on a few words (which are typically not the substance of the comment) and ignore the remainder of the comment I am going dark on all of your substantive threads, Steven.

    Take a look at the data I provided above showing differences in the same election in support for Trump and Toomey. In some counties Trump’s share of the vote was 12% higher than for Toomey, while in other counties Toomey’s share was 6% higher than Trump’s. A world where the primary determinant of a person’s voting choices is partisanship cannot explain this, as that would require that Republican partisans would support both equally, and their share of the vote should rise and fall together based on the proportion of Republican partisans in that county.

    4
  51. Northerner says:

    Voting is like team sports in another way as well. There is now a great deal of sports related research (not surprising since its a billion dollar industry). Everything from the biochemistry of nutrition, to the physiology of muscle growth, to how neurons wire and rewire to learn physical skills, to psychological factors of sport. Much of it is very complex (Phd’s are awarded in all these from major universities). Most intermediate level and above coaches know the basics of these — they can discuss ATP and the Krebs cycle, they know the mechanism of how micro-tears in muscle fibre lead to muscle growth and the required rest periods. Its become a science. As well, the technical skills in every major sport have become very complex, taking years to learn. Patterns of play, combinations, reactions — its all drilled to a fine detail.

    Your average sports fan knows nothing of anything of this. If they had to study physiology, neurology and biochemistry to be a sports fan they’d quickly find something else to do. Same for if they had to develop the game skills athletes have, or understand the intricacies of play. They’re fans because they like to cheer, and because its effortless to do so. Being an athlete or a coach requires a lot of study and practice. Being a fan requires a TV set or computer — and they’re happy to let someone else to the hard work, the study of science and the drills and the sweating, leaving them to handle the cheering.

    Politics is no less complex than sports, but people expect voters to put the effort into it that they don’t put into being a sports fan — to understand what a politician means when they say something, to understand the issues, the economics, the history. In my experience, most voters are no more likely to do so than they are to get out a biochemistry book to understand sports physiology properly. Just as they leave it up to their teams and coaches to take care of all that, they leave it to their political teams leaders to worry about policies and morals — they see their job as cheering on their team, not understanding how politics (or sport) works.

    Thinking your average Dem or Repub voter to understands (or even cares) about their party’s policies is like thinking they understand the science behind their football team training and tactics — its an ideal that simply doesn’t apply for most voters (or fans), because they find it boring and unnecessary — that’s what coaches and party leaders are for.

    1
  52. DrDaveT says:

    Note: the reasons these things are true/our normative (values-based) evaluations are different discussions.

    I deleted a long reply in the previous thread, deciding to let it drop, but if you’re going to open the box again…

    It is precisely this claim — that the reasons behind partisanship/polarization are a different discussion — that I disagree most strongly with. More precisely: whether partisanship is a cause or an effect is an empirical question, and the answer matters for whether it is meaningful to say that partisanship explains behavior, as opposed to merely predicting it.

    As an overly simplistic example, consider the question of cause of death. Everyone who dies stops breathing. Cessation of breathing is an extremely accurate predictor of death. And yet, it is simply not correct to say that cessation of breathing explains death. Contrast this with, say, experiencing 20 g’s of acceleration. The correlation there is the same, but in this case the 20 g’s really do explain the death.

    So, my question is: what is your specific evidence/argument that partisan identification is like 20 g’s, and not like cessation of breathing? Especially in the face of counterexamples like the one @Moosebreath cited? I think this is also what @Michael Reynolds has been getting at; he can correct me if I have that wrong.

    7
  53. Monala says:

    @Nightcrawler: I’m not sure genetic is accurate – except to the extent that researchers say that some people have more “open” temperaments (open to new people and experiences) and others do not, and the former are more likely to be liberal.

    But how one is raised certainly has an impact. I was thinking about this recently when watching trailers for AKA Jane Roe, a documentary that airs tonight on FX. It’s about Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. She became famous anew in the ’90s when she became an evangelical Christian and later a Catholic, and renounced her pro-choice beliefs. In this documentary, filmed near the end of her life, she talks about how it was all an act, that folks from Operation Rescue paid her to do it (to the tune of a half million dollars) and so she did.

    More interesting to me is one of the Operation Rescue guys that appears in the trailer: Rev. Rob Schenck. In the trailer he is talking about how much guilt he feels about how they manipulated McCorvey, and about his role in harming women by his actions and hard anti-abortion stance.

    I realized that I recognized Schenck immediately, because this is not his first documentary. He appeared in the 2015 doc, Armor of Light. In that one, he got to know Lucy McBath (now a Congresswoman), the mother of Jordan McBath, the African-American teen murdered by a white man for playing his music too loud. Then, McBath wasn’t yet a politician, she was a grieving mother – and a devout Christian. Getting to know her shook Schenck’s world, and opened his eyes to the racism and gun festishism that were firmly entrenched in white evangelical Christianity. When he tried to raise these issues among other white evangelicals, his friends and peers, he was ignored or shot down.

    Seeing him again in the trailers for the Roe documentary made me look him up. Schenck, originally from Long Island, is the son of a Jewish dad and Catholic mom who coverted to Judaism, and was raised Jewish. He converted to evangelical Christianity as a teen, later becoming a minister. He was actively engaged in evangelical culture and politics for decades – yet he couldn’t stop questioning. Today, he still calls himself an evangelical, but his beliefs and politics place him more firmly in the liberal Christian camp.

    TL; DR: Part of me wonders if Rev. Rob Schenck’s tendency to keep questioning has a lot to do with the fact that he was raised Jewish.

    1
  54. @Moosebreath:

    Take a look at the data I provided above showing differences in the same election in support for Trump and Toomey. In some counties Trump’s share of the vote was 12% higher than for Toomey, while in other counties Toomey’s share was 6% higher than Trump’s. A world where the primary determinant of a person’s voting choices is partisanship cannot explain this, as that would require that Republican partisans would support both equally, and their share of the vote should rise and fall together based on the proportion of Republican partisans in that county.

    First, as I tried to note above, the discussion the other day was about national approval for Trump. I was not trying to explain all political activity and decisions.

    Second, “primary” does not mean “sole” and therefore other variables can also influence outcomes. The fact that Toomey was an incumbent would have effects on his vote share, potentially. I simply do not know enough off the top of my head about vote distribution for Toomey v. Trump to intelligently comment.

    For that matter, I don’t even know who Toomey was running against or what else might have been of significance to that race.

    But here’s a fun fact: in 2016, Trump won 48.2% of the PA statewide vote and Clinton 47.5%. Meanwhile, Toomey won 48.8% of the statewide vote and his Democratic challenger won 47.3% of the statewide vote.

    Also: the Libertarian in the Senate race did slightly better than the third party candidates at the presidential level. Maybe that accounts for some local variation.

    Those numbers kind of support my general hypothesis, although some local variation may have taken place. I would have to look further.

    Again, I never said partisanship was the sole determinant of anything. And, again, that whole thread the other day started out with a question of why there wasn’t more variation in Trump’s approval and MR’s assertion that Rs were behaving in a way different than standard politics.

    And in regards to this:

    if it gets the same sort of non-response where you focus on a few words (which are typically not the substance of the comment) and ignore the remainder of the comment I am going dark on all of your substantive threads, Steven.

    I am really being restrained here, but you realize that a) threats are not conducive to productive discourse, and b) I am not your trained monkey.

    3
  55. @DrDaveT:

    Especially in the face of counterexamples like the one @Moosebreath cited?

    I will underscore the statewide votes as cited above that my position has an empirical basis.

    The variation in statewide vote between Trump and Toomey was less than 1%.

    1
  56. @Steven L. Taylor: And the variation in the Democratic votes between Clinton and the Dem Senate candidate was ~0.2%.

    1
  57. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve referenced Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized several times in these threads. I think it’s highly relevant to this discussion and it’s good enough I’ve been rereading it. I just came across a footnote I think you might enjoy, Dr. Taylor. He has a chapter on motivated reasoning. He says we all do it. He presents experimental results showing that intelligence, general knowledge, and even subject knowledge don’t guard us against motivated reasoning, they make us better at it. He appends a footnote:

    I find that people often react defensively to critiques of human reasoning faculties. This seems … unreasonable. As Heath argues in the book, the fact that we are not perfectly rational—the fact that our capacities for rationality seem to have evolved as a by-product of other capabilities, like language—underscores how precious the ability to reason is and how attentive we must be to its development. Mapping its boundaries so we can consciously remain within its jurisdiction is part of how we respect this gift, not a dismissal of it.

    Seemed apt in this thread.

    5
  58. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Roger:

    except for burnt ends, which they choose to not see as meat because, seriously, who can deny themselves burnt ends?

    Depends… now if you are taking REAL burnt ends… then yes. If it is just brisket that is cubed and called burnet ends, then no.

    Those folks may as well sell popsicles and call it gelato.

    3
  59. 95 South says:

    @Kylopod:

    We don’t live in a world in which Democrats elected a man who was a professional scam artist and a complete, undisguised pig of a human being who has literally boasted about grabbing women’s privates and has literally boasted about presiding over the deaths of 100,000 people.

    Democrats are alright voting for someone who is accused of grabbing a woman’s privates though. There was also Bill Clinton whose affairs were an open secret. Scam artists? You had John Edwards on the ticket, and what exactly did Barack Obama do professionally before the few years he spent in the Senate running for President? You nearly nominated Ted Kennedy after he likely killed a girl, and Chris Dodd is advising Biden. There was Jim Wright’s ethics investigation, William Jefferson’s refrigerator, Bob Torricelli’s name pulled from the ballot, and the less said about Carlos Danger the better. I don’t believe Hillary Clinton made $100,000 trading cattle futures on an investment of $1000.

    This is the first pandemic we’ve had in a long time. I remember Obama’s shovel-ready jobs and the Summer of Recovery and I have no doubt he’d be bragging about his handling of the pandemic.

    1
  60. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “you realize that a) threats are not conducive to productive discourse, and b) I am not your trained monkey.”

    If you thought what I wrote was a threat, then I am sorry, for that was not my intent. Rather, I was saying that if my comments engender nothing more than a drive-by not dealing with the substance of what I wrote, I see no reason to participate.

    On the substance, I am aware that both Trump and Toomey won narrowly statewide, as I said exactly that in my original comment. However, if partisanship were the primary motivating factor in votes (as your comments in the original post in this thread state), then the county-by-county votes for Trump and for Toomey should be strongly correlated, as the voters in each county should vote in an equally partisan manner for both President and Senator. The fact is that they did not, with Trump running ahead of Toomey by low double digits in some counties, and behind by high single digits in others.

    Moreover, the fact that the numbers for Toomey were consistent with prior statewide elections narrowly won by Republicans in ways the Trump numbers were not suggests again that something other than pure partisanship had a significant effect on voting patterns, especially with respect to the presidential election.

    2
  61. Michael Cain says:

    Six US Senate seats are up for election in the Mountain West in November. Five of them are currently held by Republicans. What will the partisan split for those six be come January?

    The Democrats hold 15 state government trifectas, that is, both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Rank the Census Bureau’s four major regions from most Dem trifectas to least. (No penalty for looking up how the CB divides up the states.)

  62. @Moosebreath: The more you subdivide the vote, the more variation you are going to see until you get down to the individual who may have voted as they did for any number of reasons.

    Again, primary doesn’t mean sole.

    And the statewide numbers heavily confirm my hypothesis and do great damage to yours (especially since I am taking about national numbers and not county-level ones).

    Seriously, the statewide numbers eviserate your position. The variation is less than 1%.

    2
  63. In the aggregate means as a group. The bigger the group, the more generalized behavior can be observed.

    This is why polling is possible.

    Ends up, we actually aren’t all special snowflakes.

    2
  64. Kurtz says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Let me ask you this. Do you think that household income of a child’s parents is predictive of that child’s future earnings as an adult?

    1
  65. Roger says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But the problem is, and regardless of what any of us think about it, that is decidedly not how R voters view the situation. Indeed, most of them would say that the D choice is roadkill.

    There’s no doubt that many, if not most, Trump supporters say that Democrats are serving roadkill. But to draw from that truth the conclusion that this is caused by partisan polarization seems to me to be begging the question. Something causes them to feel that way, but is that cause the fact that they identify with the Republican party, or is it something else that leads both to animus against Democrats and a love of Trump?

    I’m no political scientist, and maybe I’m just overly affected by my personal experience, but I’m old enough that I was born in a Missouri that was solidly Democratic, came of age in a Missouri that was a bellwether state, and am now resigned to growing old and dying in a Missouri that is so red it thinks it’s Alabama (which, come to think of it, was also solidly in the Democratic column when I was born), so I can’t help but think that maybe it’s something other than a love of free trade (whoops, Trump abandoned that), balanced budgets (whoops again), and the importance of personal morality in the leader of the Party that leads to unwavering support for our president.

    The reason this characterization of Trump’s support as just being an example of our current state of extreme partisan polarization bothers me is that, intended or not, it smacks of false equivalence. Is polarization the best term to describe a situation where one party completely abandons any commitment to facts and the idea of objective truth, and the other party refuses to go along with that? Framing that situation as primarily a matter of partisan polarization is not just a neutral description. It has political import.

    6
  66. @Roger:

    Is polarization the best term to describe a situation where one party completely abandons any commitment to facts and the idea of objective truth, and the other party refuses to go along with that?

    Polarization is the best term to describe when two groups coalesce around two poles. And that is what we have.

    The whys and the whats are a different issue.

    If 50% like X and 50% like Y, we have a polarized situation, without even knowing what X and Y are.

    1
  67. Roger says:

    Right. And I’m an idiot. Apparently I left out the word partisan, which was the point I was trying to make. Regardless, I’ll leave you alone now.

    2
  68. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The whys and the whats are a different issue.

    Ding! Michael and Steven are engaging in two related but fundamentally different activities.
    Steven is describing a state; Michael is trying to figure out why that state exists.

    This doesn’t in any way clash with Dr. Dave’s point about risking confusion between cause and effect.

    GVOR makes several excellent points that may shine a light on both inquiries.

    Not sure why Moose is equating something that has a correlation of ~0.9 to being the only salient factor in voting behavior. Especially while using two counties out of 3000+ in the US.

    On that last point:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to use districts rather than counties to explore that question?

    When you’re looking at 3000+ divisions, there are bound do be abberant outcomes that are not easy to explain.

    This also doesn’t clash with Dr. Dave’s point about the distinction between predictive things and causation.

  69. Kurtz says:

    @Roger:

    Roger, if you haven’t noticed, the bar for idiocy has been raised significantly over the past few years–even more so the last few months. Forgetting a word no longer qualifies.

    If your goal is idiocy, time get back to work. 😉

    1
  70. Moosebreath says:

    @Kurtz:

    “Do you think that household income of a child’s parents is predictive of that child’s future earnings as an adult?”

    It is a factor. I don’t believe it is the greatest/primary one, though I have not studied it.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Again, primary doesn’t mean sole.”

    And yet you feel so sure that it is by itself sufficient to determine how the voting will go that you use words like “almost certainly” or “barring the truly unforseeable” in the post above to describe your level of belief in how strong it can predict 4 years into the future.

    “And the statewide numbers heavily confirm my hypothesis and do great damage to yours (especially since I am taking about national numbers and not county-level ones).

    Seriously, the statewide numbers eviserate your position. The variation is less than 1%.”

    Umm, no. First, the post above includes at least State level analysis (“Do you know which party will win the 2024 electors from the state of Alabama?”), and you believe it to be “almost certainly” predictive with respect to individuals (“Do you, the reader of this post, know which party’s nominee you are highly likely to vote for in 2024?”)

    Moreover, if that were all to it, then I can point out lots of counterexamples (e.g., in 2016, Hillary Clinton won New York 59-36, while Schumer was re-elected to the Senate 71-27, or in Florida Trump won 49-48 while Rubio was re-elected 52-44). My point is that the same people throughout Pennsylvania could vote for both Trump and Toomey and at least 6% of the Chester County electorate voted for Toomey but not Trump, while in Greene County at least 12% voted for Trump and not Toomey. If you believe that differences of this magnitude would occur when you can “almost certainly” say on an individual basis who people will vote for, then your definition of “almost certainly” is very different than mine.

    4
  71. Kurtz says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Okay, smart not to answer that. I’ll admit that it was a (telegraphed) gotcha attempt.

    One general point: all of the social sciences, by their nature, cannot produce precise results. Finding anything that is 90% predictive is pretty damn rare.

    Specifically, have you looked at the Chester County vote totals? About 2k (almost exactly) more votes were cast for the Senate race than for President. Taylor or Joyner could check me on this, but I’m pretty sure that is odd.

    Your counter-examples suffer from a flawed assumption if you’re trying to make such a specific point. Just looking at the percentages and assuming that the “missing” votes for Trump or Toomey mean a vote for Clinton or McGinty introduces error.

    Again, you’re partially correct–aggregate analysis applied to individuals is inappropriate. But you seem to be conflating primary factor with only factor. The vast majority of votes can be predicted by party ID, even with a candidate who breaks an unprecedented number of norms in style and policy.

  72. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will underscore the statewide votes as cited above that my position has an empirical basis.

    Allow me to express… disappointment… that this is the only portion of my comment that you chose to respond to.

    Is partisanship like 20 g’s, or like ceasing to breathe?

    2
  73. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Is partisanship like 20 g’s, or like ceasing to breathe?

    Human behavior isn’t physics. We’re complex animals who mostly don’t understand why we ourselves make decisions, much less why others do.

    Parties, states, the country, and the citizenry are constantly in flux.

    So, we’ve gone from California being such a reliably Red state through 1988 that the GOP was said to have a “lock” on the Electoral College. Starting in 1992, California has been reliably blue for statewide races (aside from the Schwarzenegger anomaly). There were a variety of reasons for that flip.

    Still, Utah has voted Republican in every single presidential election since 1952 (with the exception of the 1964 landslide).

    Ditto Idaho.

    DC has gone Democratic in every presidential election since it gained suffrage in 1964every election since 1980.

    The fact that a lot of rock-solid Republican states voted for LBJ over Goldwater tells us that party ID isn’t the only variable. Ditto that Alabama’s streak isn’t longer because George Wallace and Jimmy Carter were on the ballot.

    Still, Party ID is the first variable I’d look at in predicting how they’re going to vote in 2024.

    2
  74. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT:
    @James Joyner:

    James, to be fair, The analogy is more biology than physics. But…

    Dave, I’m surprised that you’ve taken this line for this long on this thread. A much closer analogy from the hard sciences would be gravity.

    Gravity is descriptive. Do we understand its nature? Not really. For example, we don’t know why it is significantly weaker than the other fundamental forces. We don’t understand how it fits into QM. Why is gravity descriptive above the Planck Length? If you can figure that out, there is a Nobel for you.

    But that doesn’t mean it isn’t descriptive.

  75. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Human behavior isn’t physics.

    That wasn’t the question, or the point.

    The point is about the difference between causes and effects; between correlation and causation. Does partisanship explain beliefs, or do beliefs explain partisanship, or are they both explained by some independent set of factors? Those questions are essential to understanding polarization, and can be addressed in the aggregate (like other social science questions) without believing that people are robots or that their motivations are always simple.

    1
  76. 95 South says:

    Is partisanship even a predictive variable though? Louisiana has a Democratic governor, and Maryland and Massachusetts have Republican governors. Eight states have Senators from different parties. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin supported Trump. At best, partisanship would enable a static model. Others have talked about their states changing over time.

    Likewise, others have talked about their personal party changes over time. I don’t know the answer to Steven’s question 2. I can’t believe I’d vote for the Democrat, and I hope the Republican Party gets back on track but that’s not an answer.

    So if partisanship isn’t a good long-term or short-term predictive variable personally or statewide, and it’s not an explanation, what’s its use? I know part of the answer but Steven, we’re clearly struggling. I don’t expect a full book-length explanation but you should listen and reply.

    2
  77. Moosebreath says:

    @Kurtz:

    “One general point: all of the social sciences, by their nature, cannot produce precise results. Finding anything that is 90% predictive is pretty damn rare.”

    You do recognize that I am not the one claiming a single factor produces near certainty. I am the one arguing against that.

    “Specifically, have you looked at the Chester County vote totals? About 2k (almost exactly) more votes were cast for the Senate race than for President. Taylor or Joyner could check me on this, but I’m pretty sure that is odd.

    Your counter-examples suffer from a flawed assumption if you’re trying to make such a specific point. Just looking at the percentages and assuming that the “missing” votes for Trump or Toomey mean a vote for Clinton or McGinty introduces error.”

    Given that Chester County is in the Philly suburbs, an area which is realigning away from the Republican Party under Trump, it would not surprise me if there were a number of people who were historically Republicans but could not vote for Trump (McMullin was not on the ballot). The extent of local feelings about Trump is reflected in the fact that the last time Chester County had a majority of County Commissioners who were Democrats prior to the 2019 election was about 2 centuries ago, having voted consistently for Whigs and Republicans ever since. BTW, Greene County is in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, bordering West Virginia on 2 sides, which would also explain higher than typical Trump enthusiasm there.

    “The vast majority of votes can be predicted by party ID, even with a candidate who breaks an unprecedented number of norms in style and policy.”

    I would agree with that statement (for definitions of “vast majority” in the 75% range, not 95%). If those were Steven’s words, I would not have entered this discussion.

  78. @DrDaveT:

    Allow me to express… disappointment… that this is the only portion of my comment that you chose to respond to.

    Is partisanship like 20 g’s, or like ceasing to breathe?

    I didn’t find it to be a useful question, so I decided not to invest time answering it–especially since I have probably written tens of thousands of words on this topic across several posts and comment threads (including a new one this morning and at least one more, maybe two, later today).

    The best answer I can give is that it is like neither 20 gs nor is it like breathing because I don’t think that the comparison given makes a lot of sense.

    1
  79. @Kurtz:

    Ding! Michael and Steven are engaging in two related but fundamentally different activities.
    Steven is describing a state; Michael is trying to figure out why that state exists.

    Indeed.

    In fact, as I keep trying to remind people, this whole thing started because MR posited that Reps are acting more like a religion than a political party and linked it to Trump’s approval rating.

    I accurately pointed out (and no one has ever even noted this) that he was leading out Ds in that discussion (you can’t talk about national approval ratings, and make historical comparisons, as MR did, and ignore the behavior of the other party’s adherents).

    A grand irony, to me, is that by definition a discussion about political parties is a discussion about partisanship. And yet the pushback on pointing that out is immense.

  80. @Moosebreath:

    Umm, no.

    So, you are going to dismiss basic math?

    First, the post above includes at least State level analysis (“Do you know which party will win the 2024 electors from the state of Alabama?”), and you believe it to be “almost certainly” predictive with respect to individuals (“Do you, the reader of this post, know which party’s nominee you are highly likely to vote for in 2024?”)

    Yes, and I gave you a state-level number. I don’t understand your point.

    Are you telling me we can’t know the answers to the questions above?

    Moreover, if that were all to it, then I can point out lots of counterexamples (e.g., in 2016, Hillary Clinton won New York 59-36, while Schumer was re-elected to the Senate 71-27, or in Florida Trump won 49-48 while Rubio was re-elected 52-44).

    Did you read my comment? I specifically noted that incumbency could be a factor, as are the specifics dynamics of a given race.

    Look, whether you want to admit it or not, you stepped in it from a rhetorical POV by picking PA and claiming a few county-level examples proved your point. You apparently didn’t look at the state level numbers. And now you are hunting other examples.

    I don’t know for sure, but you are coming across as having a position and then looking for evidence to match it.

    I don’t know how many times I can say that PRIMARY DOESN’T MEAN SOLE. I am not claiming that partisanship is the sole variable.

    And, again, the initial claim I made was about NATIONAL numbers.

    1
  81. @Kurtz:

    Specifically, have you looked at the Chester County vote totals? About 2k (almost exactly) more votes were cast for the Senate race than for President. Taylor or Joyner could check me on this, but I’m pretty sure that is odd.

    As a general matter, yes, that would be an odd outcome. I have not specifically looked at it, however.

  82. @James Joyner:

    The fact that a lot of rock-solid Republican states voted for LBJ over Goldwater tells us that party ID isn’t the only variable. Ditto that Alabama’s streak isn’t longer because George Wallace and Jimmy Carter were on the ballot.

    And it also tells us that the party system and partisanship itself evolves over time.

    2
  83. @DrDaveT:

    Does partisanship explain beliefs, or do beliefs explain partisanship, or are they both explained by some independent set of factors?

    This a reasonable question. There is a lot of research that suggests, in fact, partisanship explains beliefs, not the other way around.

    Most of us get our party ID as kids, and never let go. And we adapt our understandings of the political to fit that identity. And, indeed, the social groups we affiliate with (especially family and church) reinforce those views as do our lifelong friends all swimming in the same social waters.

    Studies even show that when confronted with facts that challenged their views, it deepens their belief in their views rather than changing them.

    There is an example of that in this very thread, actually.

    Yes, some people change their minds. Some people who travel, move, get educated, or otherwise are exposed to ideas and differences in the world can change their politics. I could likley write a sort of intellectual biography as to what has influenced my changing views of a variety of things, and top of my list is having lived in some very different places (Texas, Southern California, Colombia, and Alabama) as being huge influences on how I think.

    4
  84. Kurtz says:

    @Moosebreath:

    You’re missing the point though. Outside of the hard sciences, almost everything gives probabilistic results.

    Imagine putting all of the regular commenters here in a classroom. Steven asks the first two questions in his post and has everyone raise their hands if they would answer in the affirmative. Almost none of us could honestly keep our hands down. Yes, there are a few. But that is the point.

    If you agree with that, and you agree that social sciences can pretty much never find a 0.9 correlation without p-hacking, then you have to realize that the post is reasonable.

    Looking deeper at your examples, there are other anomalous results–the fact that 2000 (~1% of total ballots) more votes were cast for Senate than for President.

    Also, the Philly suburbs have been changing politically for decades.

    Failing to account for the trend line when looking at something so specific is an error.

    1
  85. @Moosebreath:

    I would agree with that statement (for definitions of “vast majority” in the 75% range, not 95%). If those were Steven’s words, I would not have entered this discussion.

    So if I had said “vast majority” and not “primary” we wouldn’t be having this conversation?

    And I have never put percentages down. I would say that I am pretty confidence that there is an over 90% chance Alabama will vote Republican in 2024.

    As to what percentage of political decisions are made based on partisanship? I could live with 75%, but of course, we are just spitballing at this point.

    I am somewhat perplexed, and a little amused, that this is the alleged difference here between our positions.

    1
  86. @95 South:

    Eight states have Senators from different parties. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin supported Trump.

    In those cases: what are the margins of partisan breakdown? And, again, national level partisanship is strongest, and it filters down to the local level over time. If you want to see that in operation, check out the evolution of party breakdown in southern states from the mid0-1990s into the first decade of the 2000s. In 1994 a lot of formerly conservative Ds shifted to R in southern states, especially at the House and Senate level, but almost all, if not all, local offices were mostly D (especially at the country level, but often state executive offices and Ds controlled state legislatures). This flipped and now what used to be solid D is solid R–it just takes longer for national behavior to filter down to local behavior).

    And again: individual races matter, as does the nature of competition. It is easier to be, for example, a more liberal R in a blue state running for governor than it is to be one running for president.

    Again, and I need a macro, primary doesn’t mean sole.

    1
  87. @Kurtz:

    Outside of the hard sciences, almost everything gives probabilistic results.

    Exactly.

    1
  88. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “So if I had said “vast majority” and not “primary” we wouldn’t be having this conversation?”

    No, but if you had said “vast majority” instead of “almost certainly” in talking about individuals we would not be having this conversation.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Look, whether you want to admit it or not, you stepped in it from a rhetorical POV”

    I’d say the reverse is true. And no matter how many times or how rudely you say you only said you were talking about national figures, you weren’t.

    1
  89. Moosebreath says:

    @Kurtz:

    “You’re missing the point though. Outside of the hard sciences, almost everything gives probabilistic results.”

    Agreed. Again, you should be taking that up with the person who is claiming near certainty, which is not me.

    “If you agree with that, and you agree that social sciences can pretty much never find a 0.9 correlation without p-hacking, then you have to realize that the post is reasonable.”

    Not when the post uses the words “almost certainly” to describe individual behavior. That pretty well excludes that level of correlation.

  90. @Moosebreath:

    Not when the post uses the words “almost certainly” to describe individual behavior. That pretty well excludes that level of correlation.

    You are using the phrase “almost certainly” out of context.

    I asked “Do you, the reader of this post, know which party’s nominee you are highly likely to vote for in 2024? ”

    And then answered: “almost certainly yes (in many cases, definitively yes)”

    Do you dispute that? Or would you prefer to continue to reduce my position to the phrase “almost certainly”?

    1
  91. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Do you dispute that? Or would you prefer to continue to reduce my position to the phrase “almost certainly”?”

    Yes, I disagree with your conclusion. I believe there are several regular posters who cannot say which party they will vote for in 2024 until they see the candidates. Again, if you had said “for the vast majority of you, yes”, I would not have said anything.

    Do you agree that the language you quoted refers to individual decision making and not national numbers?

  92. @Moosebreath: I think the fact that you are making this into a semantic debate between “almost certainly” and “vast majority” indicates that you know I am right, but don’t want to admit it.

    This has really gotten ridiculous.

    Do you agree that the language you quoted refers to individual decision making and not national numbers?

    Yeah-it was a question about individual choice in a NATIONAL ELECTION. When summed together, those choices are a NATIONAL NUMBER.

    Come on, man.

    2
  93. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    ” I think the fact that you are making this into a semantic debate between “almost certainly” and “vast majority” indicates that you know I am right, but don’t want to admit it.

    This has really gotten ridiculous.”

    I am restraining myself from saying far worse about a social scientist who cannot see the difference between saying a single variable explains roughly 95% of results versus 75%. Instead, I will leave this thread now.

    1
  94. Kurtz says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Still… Missing… The… Point. You are not this dense. Almost certain ain’t certain. I used 0.9 whereas Taylor would use 0.75. Again, he never said certain. Anyway, if you really think that the majority of posters here don’t know who they will vote for in 2024, then you are giving all of us (and the GOP) way too much credit.

    The primacy of party-ID has been shown repeatedly statistically. Even self-IDed independents are mostly partisan, much less those who identify as partisan.

    Will it change at some point? Almost certainly. But that change will be gradual and only identifiable in hindsight.

    4
  95. @Moosebreath: it would be nice to have a discussion with an honest interlocutor.

    1
  96. @Kurtz: Exactly.

    Thanks.

    1
  97. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Personally, I think a lot of this discussion is a result of a particular view of Republican voters more than anything else. Even if it’s not specifically that, accepting your premise may disturb that or another long held view.

  98. @Kurtz:

    Personally, I think a lot of this discussion is a result of a particular view of Republican voters more than anything else. Even if it’s not specifically that, accepting your premise may disturb that or another long held view.

    I think that is a huge part of it.

    Another part is the belief that people form political views and then choose parties when we know it is not so simple.

    Another part is the difficulty of thinking in terms of humans in the aggregate v. individuals.

    But if they think polling can be done, they are accepting my point of view more than they realize.

    My frustration with Moosebreath is that he has reduced the whole conversation to parsing the different meanings of phrases, putting numbers into my arguments that I never claimed, as well as pretending like I am wrong about question #2 above (not to mention not admitting his PA example was not as good for his position as he initially thought).

    The entire interchange is him digging in when all he had to do was admit a few errors or, at least, give me some credit instead of trying to make this into a deathmatch.

    Ah well.

  99. Indeed, as my annoyance wears off, the notion that “almost certainly” in the original usage can be seen to suggest a specific numeric probability is kind of funny (at least in terms of a hill to die on in a conversation like this).

    Although I will admit: in a group of persons highly engaged in politics, I would expect the ability of those types to know how they are going to vote in 2024 to be awfully high. I wouldn’t be shocked if the number was, in fact, in the 90% range.

    This strikes me as an utterly noncontroversial assessment, but apparently some folks’ mileage varies.

    1
  100. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Most of us get our party ID as kids, and never let go. And we adapt our understandings of the political to fit that identity.

    A friend of mine who was in the PhD program at Alabama at the tail end of my time there and whose father was one of my polisci professors at Jacksonville State one remarked to the effect, “I’ve spent more than a decade studying politics professionally. I read everything I can get my hands on about politics. I watch all the talking heads shows on TV to stay informed. And, yet, coincidentally, I vote almost exactly the way my father does.”

    6
  101. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I’m dramatically more liberal than either of my parents. Interestingly, of my six siblings and me, my sister (the oldest) is the only conservative–all us men are liberal.

    But I wasn’t, always. I became liberal much more recently, within the last 10 years. I had voted for every GOP candidate for President since Reagan, until Trump came along, but I started moving to the left just before Obama’s second term. I split my 2012 ticket, voting Democrat in state and local races but voted Romney for President. My move was already well underway, though. Trump was just the icing on a cake for which I had already lost the taste.

    Now I can’t see myself voting for a Republican–at any level–for a very long time, if ever.

    5
  102. Nightcrawler says:

    @Mikey:

    I’ve become more liberal about certain issues in recent years, most notably healthcare, because I think that those solutions are more workable in a global, digital economy than what conservatives want. Their solutions were more workable when national economies were more siloed, and the world was not digital. Technology has fundamentally altered the world economy.

    But I’m still not a liberal. I don’t embrace their entire ideology, just as I don’t embrace anyone’s. I don’t support wholesale student loan forgiveness, for example, although I do support having student loans discharegable in bankruptcy after a waiting period, say 7-10 years post-graduation/leaving school. This would prevent students from declaring BK the day after graduation, which is fair. You cannot run up your credit cards in Vegas and declare BK the day you come back, either.

    However, I do support forgiveness under certain specific circumstances. I think medical professionals who have worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis should be eligible for at least some loan forgiveness.

    Further, if the economy goes totally tits up (and it might), we may have to examine broader-scale loan forgiveness, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near there, yet.

    This is what I meant when I say I’m pan political. I support policies that make sense in light of real-world situations, not unyielding, no-exceptions ideologies.

  103. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “The entire interchange is him digging in when all he had to do was admit a few errors or, at least, give me some credit instead of trying to make this into a deathmatch.”

    In real life, long before this point one of you would have said “hey, who’s up for another round” and gone to the bar — and by the time that person came back the conversation would have moved on to another subject. Trouble with the internet is that there’s nothing stopping that “one more reply” except self-restraint…

    1
  104. @wr: There is serious truth to that. And I allow myself to get caught up in it too often.