Author Archive | Dan Hopkins

What Enron’s E-mails Teach Us about Lobbying

Popular discussions of lobbying focus on quid pro quo transactions between legislators and lobbyists, with campaign contributions as the currency of choice. And if any company had the connections, incentives and willingness to engage in those transactions, it was Enron. But in Enron’s case at least, the company’s employees devoted far more attention to monitoring political events and formally participating in bureaucratic processes than to planning campaign contributions.

That’s from my latest post at Wonkblog, describing research (ungated) Lee Drutman and I undertook analyzing thousands of e-mails from the now-defunct Enron Corporation.  More is here.

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When Mayors Matter–and When They Don’t

This Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles head to the polls to pick a new mayor.  And last Friday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced his decision to appoint a manager with far-reaching powers over Detroit’s finances.  It’s as good a time as any to consider the impact that mayors can actually have on city spending—and the limits of that influence.  That’s what I do in a post over at Wonkblog.  There might not be a Republican or Democratic way to pick up the trash, but mayors do have a pronounced influence on public safety, an area on which their authority is relatively uncontested.

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Translating Immigration Attitudes

[C]oncerns about English have … colored Americans’ reactions to immigrants from the days of Benjamin Franklin, and they remain an important element in the immigration debate today.  These concerns are widely shared among native-born Americans and prove especially influential among Republicans.  So don’t be surprised if proposals related to language, such as expanded English-language instruction, prove central in building legislation that can win support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

That’s from my new post over at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

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The GOP’s Conservative Christian Conundrum

We welcome a guest post by Daniel Cox.  He is the Co-founder and Research Director of the Public Religion Research Institute and a Ph.D. candidate in American Government at Georgetown University.

Political pollsters (like myself) spend an inordinate amount of effort gauging the American electorate’s vote intentions. We often focus on the salient issues of the campaign and assess how each issue will drive voters toward or repel them from a candidate. In 2012, many political reporters suggested that the issue of Israel would be pivotal for Jewish Americans, and it did feature prominently in both campaigns. Yet in the end, the issue did not seem to affect the voting decisions of most Jewish voters, 69% of whom backed President Obama. If the question of Israel did not move many Jewish voters, what did? Although it was not discussed widely during the campaign, one of the most influential factors for Jewish voters was the Christian Right.

It is not difficult to see why coverage of issues and campaign events tends to dominate an election cycle. Structural forces that are unperturbed by campaign events make poor copy. Still, in the case of Jewish voters, the close association between the GOP and the Christian Right proved to be profoundly important. And this shouldn’t be surprising. Research by Green, Palmquist and Schickler (2002) demonstrates that partisan attachment is constructed through a process of social group assessment. In determining where they stand politically, Americans assess what social groups they belong to or identify with, and how those groups relate to each of the parties.

Few social groups are further apart in their politics than conservative Christians and Jews. In 2012, the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey of Jewish voters. That survey painted a portrait of a group that remains one of the most socially liberal in the U.S. American Jews strongly support legal abortion (93% say it should be legal in all or most cases) and favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry (81%). Conservative Christians, by contrast, are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage (78%), and most believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases (65%). However, the two groups are not just divided on social issues. Both groups also embrace very different perspectives on cultural pluralism, religious traditionalism, and church-state separation issues.

Given the substantial cultural and political gulf separating these two groups, it’s not surprising that Jewish Americans hold cool feelings toward the Christian Right. Our Jewish Values Survey found that on average, the Christian Right scored only 20.9 on a 100-point “feeling thermometer” scale among Jews, well below Muslims (41.4) and Mormons (47). Nearly one in five (19%) Jews gave the Christian Right the lowest score possible (1). In fact, no political or religious group scored lower among Jews than the Christian Right.

In 2012, these negative feelings about the Christian Right appear to have had significant consequences at the ballot box. Among Jewish voters, feelings about the Christian Right were strongly predictive of voting preferences, even when controlling for party identification, age, education, and other characteristics. Jewish voters who harbored very cool feelings toward the Christian Right (a rating of 1-9) had just a 9% probability of supporting the GOP candidate. Among those who rated the group neutrally or higher (50+), the average probability of supporting the Republican candidate was 69%. Not only were feelings toward the Christian Right a significant predictor of voting preference, they were among the strongest predictors. Only partisan affiliation, specifically identifying as a Democrat, had a stronger impact.

Although in recent years conservative Christians have been outshone by the Tea Party, they remain a potent force in American politics as the bedrock of Republican Party’s electoral coalition. They are sometimes discussed as independent movements, but our recent surveys have found that the Tea Party and Christian conservatives are in fact constituencies with overlapping memberships. The 2010 American Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, found that nearly half (47%) of Americans who identified with the Tea Party also identified with the Christian Right. Self-identified conservative Christians are also more than twice the size of the Tea Party movement. Christian conservatives remain among the most reliable Republican voters and staunch allies of conservative causes; their views on important social issues like abortion are part of the national party platform.

Over the last 20 years, the Republican electoral coalition has remained relatively stable, while the Democratic coalition has undergone a dramatic transformation. In 1992, exit polls showed that 86% of George H. W. Bush’s voters identified as white Christians, making the GOP of that era nearly identical to Romney’s supporters, 81% of whom were white Christians. Clinton’s coalition in 1992, which also relied heavily on white Christian voters (60%), was starkly different than the one that re-elected Barack Obama. Only 39% of Obama’s voters identified as white Christians in 2012.

The challenge confronting the GOP as it attempts to broaden its base is not limited to Jewish voters. A survey conducted by Pew last year found that more than six in ten (61%) non-Christian affiliated Americans (a group that includes Hindus, Jews and Muslims) agreed that “religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party.” Nearly two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated Americans also affirmed this statement. These groups are among the fastest-growing religious communities in the U.S. And if the GOP is serious about appealing to these voters, its candidates must navigate the difficult path of keeping conservative Christians engaged and committed while not appearing beholden to them.

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Superbowl Potpourri

  • Where to get up-to-the-minute Superbowl win probabilities during the game: here.
  • Where to see how much each player earns: here.
  • What to watch if you want some backstory on Baltimore’s commitment to its football team: here.
  • What to read if you want some backstory on concussions in football: here.
  • Where to look if you want to know where to find Ravens or Niners fans: here.
  • Where to add something that you think I should have included: the comments.
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Political Ads: Not as Powerful as You (or Politicians) Think

Over at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, I have a new post on the effects of political advertising in the 2012 presidential race.  I first use the map below to illustrate where it was that each candidate had advertising advantages when considering all national advertisements by the campaigns and their allies starting in April 2012.  I then estimate the effect of advertising in non-swing states, making use of the uneven mapping between television markets and swing state boundaries.

The takeaway?  The 2012 electorate was hard to persuade through television, with advertising effects much smaller than in 2008 but comparable to those in 2004.  In all likelihood, even major shifts in advertising would have produced only minor shifts toward the candidate benefiting from those shifts.

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Congress’s Magic Words

In the latest installment of “Poli-Sci Perspective” over at Wonkblog, I look at a conference paper in which computer scientists Tae Yano and Noah A. Smith teamed up with political scientist John D. Wilkerson to look at the features of House bills which predict that they will make it out of committee. Once we know the words in a given bill, knowing additional information including the bill’s sponsor tells us surprisingly little about the bill’s fate. And in the words that do predict bill survival, we can see more than a trace of our current fiscal logjam.  Words associated with spending (including “authorize”) make bills more likely to win committee approval.  Not so much for words like “revenue,” and for others associated with taxing.

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The Auto Bailout’s Electoral Impact

That’s the topic that I take on in a new “Poli-Sci Perspective” post over at Wonkblog.  The results (or the weakness thereof) will be surprising to those who followed the pre-election reporting on Ohio, but not to those who have followed the decades-old research in political science on self-interest.

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No Surprise! Party Identification and Illegal Immigration

We welcome a guest post by North Carolina State University’s Michael Cobb. 

In a recent WonkBlog post, Dan Hopkins argues that there is a surprising level of bipartisan agreement about legal immigration. Here, I tackle a different dimension to immigration—illegal immigration. And, when it comes to policy proposals for addressing illegal immigration, partisanship still very much drives preferences. Consequently, Republican leaders in Congress are caught in a bind. They are trapped between needing to moderate their positions about illegal immigration to court Hispanic voters and their inability to do so without alienating their supporters.

In the 2012 presidential election, Romney lost decisively among Hispanic voters, earning just 27% of their votes. That showing was actually worse than when McCain captured 31% of the Hispanic vote in 2008. Despite the new-found media attention to this demographic problem, Republicans have not been blind to this emerging demographic dilemma. Back in April, Frank Luntz penned an article in which he claimed that Republicans’ preference for deportation was a myth. According to Luntz, “only a tiny fraction would support a shortsighted (and fiscally unfeasible) blanket policy of deporting the illegal immigrants already here.”

Fortunately, survey data exists to examine Luntz’ claim. The results not only reveal a consistently large partisan gap about how to manage illegal immigration, but also a solid Republican preference for deportation. To start, a CNN/ORC poll conducted July 16-21, 2010 asked, “What should be the main focus of the U.S. government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration—developing a plan that would allow illegal immigrants who have jobs to become legal U.S. residents, or developing a plan for stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here?” Although the question wording fails to isolate deportation as a single option, answers nevertheless reveal fundamentally different priorities among partisans. Three-quarters of Republicans (73%) answered that deportation and stopping the flow should be our priority. Meanwhile, just 39% of Democrats expressed that sentiment.

A TNS Opinion poll for Transatlantic Trends in 2011 asked a similar question. Although it didn’t use the word “deportation,” it isolated the effective equivalent of “requiring illegal immigrants to be returned to their home country.” Similarly, 66% of Republicans, but just 34% of Democrats, said illegal immigrants must be returned home. Furthermore, another question finds that 7 in 10 Republicans don’t believe citizenship should be granted to children of illegal immigrants who are born here (just 36% of Democrats agreed). In light of these data, Governor Romney’s attacks on Gov. Rick Perry as being soft on immigration during the GOP primary make more sense.

To further establish the breadth of the partisan divide, the CNN/ORC survey reveals that 75% of Republicans and just 30% of Democrats favor the immigration law passed in Arizona that was widely condemned by Hispanic interest groups. Likewise, a majority of Republicans support building a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico (58%), while a majority of Democrats opposes that plan (61%). Finally, the intensity of attitudes also varies. When asked how the number of illegal immigrants made respondents feel, twice as many Republicans as Democrats reported feeling “angry” (32% versus 16%).

Given the immediate discussion of demographics following Romney’s loss, perhaps attitudes changed in response to leading Republicans’ changing rhetoric? I was able to find two surveys about illegal immigration taken right after the election. In short, the partisan gap remains large.

The Congressional Connection Poll from Nov. 8–11 asked, “Some experts believe there are as many as 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. Which ONE of the following steps, if any, do you think the government should take to deal with illegal immigrants?” The “harshest” option, “Deport all illegal immigrants, no matter how long they have been in the U.S,” was supported by 29% of Republicans, but only 5% of Democrats. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from Nov. 7-11 asked, “Do you support or oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?” While a solid majority of Democrats supported a path to citizenship (71%), 60% of Republicans opposed that option.

One problem I encountered is that very few survey firms ask similarly worded questions, and their answer options are sometimes convoluted. Yet, even these data demonstrate how deeply divided Americans are about illegal immigration. And if illegal immigration is the pivotal dimension to overall immigration reform, which I think it is, this only underscores the difficult situation Republican leaders find themselves in. Even if the Republican office holders don’t truly favor harsh policies, their voters certainly do.

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Political Geography and 2012 U.S. House Vote

Yesterday at the Washington Post’s Fix blog, Aaron Blake observed that the Democratic Party appears likely to have won more raw votes in U.S. House of Representatives races, and yet fell well short of winning a majority of the seats.  Redistricting at work?  Blake thinks so:

The numbers seem to back up what we’ve been talking about on this blog for a while: Redistricting drew such a GOP-friendly map that, in a neutral environment, Republicans have an inherent advantage.

But partisan redistricting isn’t the only source of bias in the translation of votes to seats.  Consider a paper by Jowei Chen and Jonathan Rodden:
We show that in many states, Democrats are inefficiently concentrated in large cities and smaller industrial agglomerations such that they can expect to win fewer than 50 percent of the seats when they win 50 percent of the votes. To measure this “unintentional gerrymandering,” we use automated districting simulations based on precinct-level 2000 presidential election results in several states. Our results illustrate a strong relationship between the geographic concentration of Democratic voters and electoral bias favoring Republicans.

It’s not hard to find districts in which the Democratic House candidate takes more than 85% of the vote, even in states like California or New York where the GOP had no advantages in drawing district boundaries.  But it’s much harder to find contested races where the GOP candidate wins by those margins, suggesting that the Republican House vote is distributed more efficiently across space.  It’s not just about who draws the districts, but also about where Democrats and Republicans live in the first place.  Much more is in their paper.

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