Friday, January 12, 2018

SurveyUSA on California Governor and Senator

We've seen a few polls for the California gubernatorial and senate races but one problem common to all the polls was that they didn't actually survey the entire ballot. They chose the candidates they thought would do the best and polled them. This wasn't as big a problem for the gubernatorial race, as the polls included as many as six candidates, four Democrats and two Republicans. The senate polls, however, included only two Democrats, Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de Leon. And then they gave the shocking revelation that two Democrats would finish top two! Hmmm. You included only two candidates and both finished top two. What are the odds?

I've had a lot of criticism for SurveyUSA's polls. They've included voters who say they're going to vote and have ended up with 80% of the voters they've reached included in the survey. A primary might get a third of that. In this new poll they only include 55% of registered voters. Probably still too high but definitely better than previous polls. SurveyUSA includes everyone who'll be on the ballot and even some who probably won't be. They have over 30 candidates for governor and 20 for senator. It may be difficult for people to keep track of so many candidates in a phone survey but it's more reflective of what the actual ballot will be.

In the gubernatorial survey Gavin Newsom leads fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa and Republican Travis Allen 18%-10%-9% in the gubernatorial poll. More than twice as many Republicans were undecided than Democrats. I gave the undecideds a choice based on what their fellow Republicans, Democrats, and independents said and ended up with Newsom 23%, Allen 15%, and Villaraigosa 12%. That'd put a Democrat and a Republican in top two and would mean an easy Newsom victory in November. Villaraigosa wouldn't make top two because of the number of Democrats in the field, but also because he isn't seen as an alternative for Republicans in the survey.

The senate poll produces very different results than previous surveys. In the Capitol Weekly poll that included only two Democrats Kevin De Leon beat Dianne Feinstein among Republicans 36%-17%. I theorized this was because Republicans had no idea who De Leon was but knew they didn't want Feinstein. When the four Republicans who are running are included on the ballot, those Republicans get 47% of the Republican vote, with Feinstein getting 6% and De Leon getting only 2%. As a result, De Leon finishes 6th, behind all four Republicans.

The survey isn't all bad news for De Leon, however. Feinstein beats him 58%-6% with Democrats and 25%-2% with independents. Once De Leon gets his name out there those margins should shrink, perhaps quite a bit. Secondly, the four Republicans are unknown and they split the Republican vote almost equally. If De Leon can improve his numbers with Democrats and left leaning independents he can make top two because the four Republicans split the vote. My projection is Feinstein 35%, De Leon 15%, and the Republicans in the 9-11% range.

The big difference between the gubernatorial and senate races is that Travis Allen is well known with the grassroots and has garnered some support. If Republicans don't run someone Republican voters have heard of, their candidates will split the vote. It's not a high bar for Republicans. They don't need a stellar candidate with huge name ID, but they do need someone voters can identify.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

538 Podcasts on Gerrymandering

538 has been tackling gerrymandering on their podcasts. The central theme in most of the media since 2012 has been that gerrymandering is how Republicans steal elections.

In the first episode they look at Wisconsin, a Republican gerrymander. Democrats won the majority of the congressional vote in 2012 and still only won 3 of the 9 districts. The Wisconsin map doesn’t look that much like a gerrymander. Two of the Democratic districts are fairly compact and, to some extent, reflect Democratic self-packing, something that is mentioned in the podcast. Republicans won the three closest districts by 12 points apiece. So it’s possible that even if the GOP hadn’t gerrymandered the state Republicans might’ve also won 6 seats.

Democrats sued because they felt that winning a majority of the vote entitled them to more than 3 seats. The case is before the Supreme Court.

They then went to North Carolina. North Carolina was a very ugly looking Republican gerrymander that resulted in Republicans winning 10 of 13 seats despite Democrats winning a majority of the vote. Democrats sued that the map was a racial gerrymander. They won. So Republicans redrew the districts to comply with the court and drew a gerrymander that wasn’t nearly as ugly. The GOP won 53% of the vote in 2016 and still won 10 of 13 seats. The map is still a Republican gerrymander designed to crack and pack Democrats. It just doesn’t look as much like one.

The central premise here is that Democrats aren’t winning congressional districts proportional to their vote totals.

The podcast didn’t feature any Democratic controlled states like Massachusetts and Maryland, ugly maps that give Democrats a disproportional share of the seats.

They go to the controversial Arizona map. These were drawn by a commission where an independent is supposed to be the deciding vote. The independent Colleen Mathis is married to someone heavily involved with the Democratic party. Mathis dismisses the idea that she might favor Democrats. She can think for herself! Um… They wouldn’t let Mathis serve on the jury if her husband was trial, although I’m guessing that Mathis would argue that she should be because she thinks for herself.

The maps were supposed to maximize competitive districts. So Mathis and the Democrats packed Republicans into 4 districts in order to make 3 others competitive. They weren’t competitive. In 2012 Democrats took all 3. So Democrats won more districts despite losing the popular vote 54%-46%. Mathis points out that Republicans did win 1 of the 3 districts in 2014. So the districts were fair! What she doesn’t mention was that 2014 was a massive Republican wave and that Republicans won that district by 130 votes in a recount. So the best Republicans could do in 3 “competitive” districts was win 1 of them by a slim margin in a big Republican year.

538 concluded the Wisconsin and North Carolina maps were unfair to Democrats. I would’ve thought the Arizona result would lead to the conclusion that the map was unfair to Republicans, but 538 concludes that nothing was off.

I should add that the commissioner in Arizona admitted the districts were heavily gerrymandered in order to produce competitive elections. So if people are upset about gerrymandering they should be upset about these lines.

The fourth episode went to California, discussing how the 2001 maps were heavily gerrymandered to protect incumbents. A commission was set up to take politics out of the process. The podcast goes indepth about how Democrats tried to inject politics back into the line drawing, disguising it as concerned citizens looking out for their communities. Republicans stayed away.

Instead of presenting Republicans as virtuous for complying with the law and Democrats as cheaters, 538 presents Democrats as smart and Republicans as stupid. Republicans need to learn to game the system the way Democrats did. The commission’s goal was to remove partisanship from the equation and yet the podcast said they didn’t happen.

The podcast goes over how the lines are much better than 2001 and the elections were much more competitive. What they gloss over is that, as with Arizona, Democrats won ALL the competitive elections. Republicans were only able to get within 3 points in 7 districts in the massive 2014 Republican wave. Despite winning 42% of the vote the GOP got only 26% of the districts.

If districts are drawn where one party can’t win so called “swing” districts in a massive wave, then they aren’t competitive. They’re not swing districts. A swing district is one which each party wins during a decade, especially during a massive wave. Yet Republicans were only about to win one “swing” district in either Arizona or California during their best year and win that one by 130 votes.

The Cleveland Browns went 0-16, but they did lose 5 games by 4 points or less and a 6th game in overtime. No one would argue the Cleveland Browns were competitive.

Those that think gerrymandering is responsible for uncompetitive elections should really look at California. The districts aren’t gerrymandered yet even under the most generous terms 80-85% of the districts are safe. Of course, thus far, 100% of the districts have been safe and California has had less turnover than other states.

It’s possible that more districts will flip to California Democrats in 2018 and that’ll be a sign that shows how uncompetitive the maps are. Republicans get 42% of the statewide vote and now could get even less than 26% of the districts. That’s the ceiling?

The 538 gerrymandering series shows some things, although I’m not sure they realize what it shows. Yes, when one party has unfettered control that can lead to less competitive seats. I’m not sure they realize that they’ve shown that when the drawing is done by someone other than a partisan legislature that doesn’t lead to more competitive.

The Arizona commission was asked to make competitive districts. They said that’s what they did, but they drew districts that weren’t competitive. In California the commission wasn’t charged with making competitive but the hope was that not considering prior voting would make more competitive elections. It didn’t.

What the series showed was the quixotic nature of the complaints. People claim that gerrymandering needs to end to get competitive districts, but California shows us that won’t be the case. People claim that gerrymandering needs to continue to get competitive districts, like in Arizona. And yet the gerrymandering didn’t produce that either.

Both California and Arizona are as unfair to Republicans as Wisconsin and North Carolina are unfair to the Democrats. Yet Democrats want more states like California and Arizona, and have no problem with Maryland or Illinois. So perhaps it’s not about gerrymandering at all, but just Democrats wanting to win more elections.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Repeal AB 1621

In 2016 Democrats in the state legislature passed AB 1621, a law that makes it legal for someone other than a family member to get a person's ballot to a polling place. The law doesn't limit it to a friend. It allows campaigns and other groups involved in partisan elections to collect them too. I didn't hear about this law when it passed but it's horrible. And sure enough a campaign is already pressuring people to give them their ballots.

What will the Wendy Carillo campaign do with the ballots they collect? They could open them even if they’re sealed to see who the person voted for and discard the ballot. I'm guessing they're not allowed to do that but if you’re going to go to the trouble to get the ballots into your office are you going to really care about that? You don’t even need to open the ballots. You can go into neighborhoods where your opponent is likely strong and “forget” to turn in the ballots. Sometimes things get lost.The person who cast their ballot has no idea if the ballot made it to the polling place, so who's to say that any ballots were collected that weren't turned in?

People have worried about voter intimidation from employers or unions. With this law these organizations are encouraged to ask their employees or members to give them their ballots. There's nothing stopping anyone collecting ballots from changing an election.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Wave Didn't Miss California

Paul Mitchell has an article at Capitol Weekly about whether the wave that hit Virginia and elsewhere will come to California. He states, "First, California didn’t experience a Republican wave election after Obama." Paul is an astute guy with great insights but this is just wrong. He makes the mistake casual observers make and measure a wave based on seats won or lost. A party winning or losing seats isn't a wave. It's the consequences of a wave. A wave is when one party gets a higher percentage of votes than they had in the last election. When that happens, the result is often that party winning a lot of seats. Republicans in 2014 didn't win a lot of seats here and Democrats didn't win a lot in 2016. But there were waves.

Take a look at my spreadsheets. In them I compare the percentage of the vote each party got in 2012 to 2016 and 2014 to 2016 in seats where a Republican and a Democrat ran against each other in an election.

here were 33 congressional seats where that had a Democrats and a Republican in both 2012 and 2014. In 2012 Democrats got 57.1% of the vote in 2014 they got 53.9%. There was a slightly different group of congressional districts that had a Democrat and a Republican in 2014 and 2016. In 2014 Democrats got 53.3% of the vote in them. In 2016 they got 58.9%. For good measure we can compare the 35 congressional seats with both a Democrat and a Republican in 2012 and 2016. In 2012 Democrats got 56.0% in these seats. In 2016 they got 58.2%. The swings from 2012 to 2014 and then in the other direction in 2016 were dramatic.

These swings didn't result in seats flipping, however, because the seats which had the biggest shift from 2012 to 2014 weren't ones that were close in 2012. Republicans lost 7 congressional districts by 5 points or less in 2014. Since Republicans didn't take these districts in 2014 they couldn't flip back to the Democrats in 2016. The seats Republicans did win in 2014 were mostly one sided. Democrats lost all of them by 12 points or more. So even a big shift in 2016 didn't result in any of these districts flipping.

Democrats are certain to do much better in 2018 than they did in 2014 and may even do better than they did in 2016, the best year they've had this decade. If they do that might result in a dramatic number of seats flipping, but it also might not. Mimi Walters won by 17 points in 2016. David Valadao won by 13 points. Ed Royce won by 14. The shift could be big enough where these seats flip, but it also could be big and these seats won't. If there is a wave, it won't miss California. Because it hasn't in other elections.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Virginia Governor Numbers Very Similar to 2016 Presidential

As I mentioned yesterday the Virginia governor's race was a wave for Democrats. I'm not convinced it'll be a wave to get them the House. Democrats won legislative districts Clinton won by won only one Trump district and that was a small Trump victory. There are 23 Republican seats that Clinton won. It seems unlikely they’ll win all of them but if Democrats do, and lose no seats, they’ll fall short of a majority by 1 seat. Here is a comparison of Clinton v. Northam margins:

1: Trump +12, Gillespie +10
2: Trump +3, Northam +4
3: Clinton +32, Northam +37
4: Clinton +22, Northam +25
5: Trump +11, Gillespie +9
6: Trump +25, Gillespie +22
7: Trump +6, Gillespie +4
8: Clinton +53, Northam +53
9: Trump +41, Gillespie +37
10: Clinton +10, Northam +12
11: Clinton +39, Northam +41

Except in VA-2, Northam ran almost universally 2-4 points ahead of Clinton. Democrats can’t take the House that way because Clinton only won 205 districts. It appears that Trump voters are staying with Republican in districts Trump won. That could mean that Democratic incumbents in Trump districts are vulnerable even in a Democratic wave. Republican congressional candidates in MN-1, MN-7, MN-8, PA-17, did far better than expected due to Trump's coattails. Trump voters stuck with Gillespie, who is very unTrumpy and they may stick with Republicans in 2018 too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Landslide Good Sign for Democrats

Last night Democrats in Virginia demolished Republicans up and down the ballot. They had similar smaller victories in Georgia, New Jersey, Washington, and elsewhere. They picked up 14 Republican House of Delegates seats and could end up with 18 more when the final count is in. Gerrymandering doesn't help as much as some people imagine it does, but gerrymandering was supposed to make sure Republicans kept their majority. They might not. I'm sure a lot of people will spin this election to mean what they want it to mean, but I'll try to cut through all that.

Turnout was high, not low. There are already 16% more ballots counted in Virginia than there were in 2013. And there are provisional and absentee ballots to count. Anyone who tries to spin that Ed Gillespie lost because he wasn't conservative enough or enough like Trump are barking up the wrong tree. He has 16% more votes than the 2013 nominee, conservative Ken Cuccinelli. Gillespie didn't lose because voters didn't turn out for him. he lost because Ralph Northam has 31% more votes than Terry McAuliffe got in 2013. (Note: If one candidate got 31% more and the other 16% you'd think turnout would be more than 16% higher. In 2013 3rd party candidates got 7.0% of the vote. Yesterday they got 1.2%.)

Gillespie did very well in getting right leaning voters to show up to the polls and vote for him. Northam just did a lot better. Democratic enthusiasm showing up at the polls is good news for Democrats but Gillespie doing much better than Cuccinelli is a silver lining for the GOP. There's going to be a drop off in voters from a Presidential election to any non-Presidential one. In 2013, McAuliffe got 54% of Barack Obama's 2012 vote total. Ken Cuccinelli got 56% of Mitt Romney's. This year Northam got 71% of Hillary Clinton's vote total, while Ed Gillespie got 66% of Donald Trump's. And, as I said, there are still ballots to count.

As elections this year have shown, Republicans haven't had a problem turning out their voters. They are actually turning out at higher than expected numbers. Their problem is that Democrats are doing even better than that. The worst combination for a party is when the other party is enthusiastic while your party isn't. There's not much you can do there. If your party is enthusiastic while the other party is more enthusiastic you can win if the other party is a little less enthusiastic. We don't have any reason to expect Democrats not to be as enthusiastic as they were last night but such high enthusiasm levels can be tough to maintain across the country. That doesn't mean Republicans will do better in 2018 than Democrats did in 2010 or 2014. It does mean they are more likely to do better than the Democrats were then.

Virginia Democrats did extremely well in traditionally Republican suburbs that have been getting bluer. The voters continued to support Republicans down ballot even as they voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Republicans did very well in rural white working class areas.

From the New York Times:
Of the 16 districts where Democrats currently lead in Virginia, Mrs. Clinton won 15 of them and received 49.7 percent of the vote in the other, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project and Daily Kos Elections.

If this continues it's extremely bad news for Republicans holding the upscale suburban districts that went Clinton but voted Republican down ballot again. There are 22 districts that voted for Hillary Clinton but voted Republican for congress. The good news for Republicans is that some more traditionally Democratic areas that went Trump in 2016 went for them last night. Congressional Democrats won 11 districts Trump won in 2016. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to win the House of Representatives. They'll have to win most of the districts Clinton won and some Trump won. If they lose their own districts that Trump won in 2016 they'll have win even more Trump districts in 2018. As good as this election might be for Democrats all it shows is that they can win in areas Hillary Clinton won. Unfortunately for them, that won't be enough.

That shouldn't discourage Democrats. Right now they look better than they have at any time since 2008. Not taking the House next year would be a disappointment but they've only had a higher percentage of the House vote in one of the last four elections. If they only do good it's a lot better than they have been doing.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CA-Sen Poll Good News for Dianne Feinstein

When it comes to understanding California politics and elections, few are better than Capitol Weekly. Out of state pollsters don't ever seem to be able to figure out who is going to vote and who won't. One piece of information that's publicly available is how many of the last five elections a voter has cast a vote in. Anyone participating in California campaigns knows that when you're targeting voters you go after "4s" and "5s." Those are people who've in either 4 of the last 5 elections or all 5.

When polling you want to heavily poll the "4s" and "5s," especially in a mid-term. Mid-terms draw less voters and the "1s" and "2s" have likely skipped previous mid-terms. Of course, there are exceptions. Young voters weren't registered for the last 5 elections and some people move to California from out of state. I don't know who Capitol Weekly surveyed in their latest poll but I trust them.

Capitol Weekly polled for the primary, asking people whether they preferred Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Democrat Kevin de Leon, or Republican John Cox. Cox is running for governor, so he won't be running for senate. Cox, however, was polled with 9% favorable 6% unfavorable that are 9%/6% with 14% having no opinion and 71% having never heard of him. He's pretty much “generic Republican" to the voters. They could've used almost any name.

In a hypothetical match-up between Feinstein, de Leon, and John Cox, Feinstein gets 40%, Cox 32%, and de Leon 15%. They don’t break down the vote by party but, but Cox’s number is high enough that Feinstein is getting no more than 5-10% of Republican voters. And there are likely a few more Republican points in the 13% undecided voters. If Republicans get 35% of the vote in the primary, De Leon would need Republican voters to split their votes among 3-4 candidates or he’d need to significantly eat into Feinstein’s 40%. This should be a wake up call to California GOP chairman Jim Brulte. He wants a Republican to make the general election. If one is on the ballot he's more likely to get better turn out to help Republicans down ballot. He needs someone with a little bit of name ID and a little bit of money. Neither has to be that big.

The hypothetical general election head-to-head for Feinstein and de Leon has Feinstein winning 36%-17%. In that election 28% said they wouldn’t vote for either. These are likely almost entirely Republican voters. In 2016 15% of voters left the race blank and that was pretty high compared to other states. It certainly would help de Leon in a general election if Republican voters were to leave the ballot blank. If they do vote, Feinstein will probably get 75-80%. Anything over 50% puts him further behind.

This poll is what I expected. There's little path to victory for de Leon due to top two.