Issue Priorities, Partisanship, and Crossover Voting in 2016

In this post, we look at the relationship between issue salience, candidate support, and partisanship vary by candidate support using data from the pilot study of the 2016 American National Election Study. This is part of a larger project that examines how different types of Democrats and Republicans vary in their issue priorities. In addition, issue salience may help to get a better handle on crossover voting (Democrats voting for Trump/Republicans voting for Clinton) in the 2016 election.

Below, we plot the percentages of each candidate’s supporters (whether they answered Clinton, Trump, or other/not vote in the general election matchup question) naming the given issue as one of their top four most personally important issues.

We show just Democrats and independents in the first plot, and isolate Republicans and independents in the second plot. We include independents in both groups because the sample sizes for Trump Democrats and (especially) Clinton Republicans is negligible (there are 24 Democrats who support Trump and 4 Republicans who support Clinton). Combining independents with both groups seems to reinforce the patterns when isolating respondents by partisanship (we provide these plots at the bottom of the post), but provides more leverage for the analysis.

The results indicate that crossover voters are indeed more likely to name issues “owned” by the opposite party as important. Issues like immigration, the national debt, and terrorism are more salient to respondents (including Democrats/independents) who support Trump. Conversely, the issues of environmental protection, health care, and income inequality are more salient to Clinton supporters (including Republicans/independents). It doesn’t appear that issue salience is of much help in explaining which respondents say they would vote for another candidate or not vote in a Clinton/Trump matchup—these respondents simply aren’t distinctive in their issue priorities. We thought that the other/not vote Republicans would be more likely to prioritize social issues (abortion and morality), but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Certainly, some of this is a projection effect, but, especially in a year in which ideology plays such a murky role, issue salience can pick up the slack in modeling vote choice and crossover voting.

Click images to enlarge

Below are show separate plots for Democratic, independent, and Republican respondents. The general findings are consistent with the above graphs, but (especially when it comes to Republicans who support Clinton), the sample sizes are quite small.

Click images to enlarge

Ideological Perceptions of the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Below, we use Aldrich-McKelvey scaling (see here and here for background) to analyze voters’ ideological perceptions of the 2016 presidential candidates and other political figures. The 2016 pilot study of the American National Election Study asked respondents to place themselves and each of these figures on a seven-point ideological scale ranging from “extremely liberal” to “extremely conservative.” The Aldrich-McKelvey scaling procedure allows us to recover bias-corrected estimates of the respondents and candidates on the underlying ideological dimension.

The estimated scores (plotted below) show that three Democratic figures (the Democratic Party, President Obama, and Secretary Clinton) are ideologically clustered together. Clinton is a bit closer to the center than the other two, but not by much. On the other hand, there is considerable heterogeneity in ideological perceptions of the four Republican stimuli: Senator Rubio, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, Senator Cruz. It’s probably not surprising that Rubio is perceived to be the most moderate and Cruz is perceived to be the most conservative of the four.

What is noteworthy is that Trump is placed at nearly the same spot as Rubio. Trump, however, has the the greatest amount of uncertainty associated with his ideological score (as a technical note, we estimate 95% confidence intervals for the Aldrich-McKelvey scores using 1,000 bootstrap replications, as described in Chapter 3 of our book on estimating spatial models).

This is equivalent to saying that respondents differ the most in where they place Trump on the ideological scale. The width of Trump’s confidence interval is about twice that of Clinton’s, for instance. This uncertainty could be a factor in the 2016 race, as some political science research suggests that voters reward candidate ambiguity (see also here).

Click image to enlarge

We wondered if voter uncertainty about Trump’s ideological position was being driven by a divide among self-identified conservative respondents; that is, between those who embrace Trump and believe he’s a conservative, and those (e.g., #NeverTrumpers) who doubt Trump’s conservative credentials. To look into this possibility, we plotted the mean placements of Trump and Clinton by respondents’ ideological self-identifications. “1” indicates extremely liberal, “2” indicates liberal, and so on until “7” for extremely conservative. Respondents are sorted in this way on on the vertical axis of the graph below.

For each ideological category of respondents, mean placements of Clinton and Trump are shown along the same seven-point liberal-conservative scale on the horizontal axis. For example, the most conservative respondents (self-identified “7”‘s or extremely conservative) place Clinton furthest to the left. The gray bars represent variation in the corresponding group’s ideological placements of Clinton and Trump.

Interesting, across the ideological categories, respondents are pretty evenly uncertain about Trump’s position on the liberal-conservative scale. On the whole, self-identified conservatives do view Trump as somewhat more moderate than do self-identified liberals (evidence of what is known as interpersonal incomparability or differential item-functioning). But, it is self-identified moderates who place Trump closest to the center (and have the least variation in their Trump placements).

Click image to enlarge

The Whigs and The Republicans

The last time a major Political Party broke apart was in the early 1850s when the Whig Party collapsed because of the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise was an effort by Party leaders to settle the various controversies between North and South with a classic set of tradeoffs. The Compromise was made possible by the death of President Zachary Taylor on 9 July 1850.

The Compromise of 1850 was consisted of five separate bills. The first was to organize the Territory of New Mexico which was part of the Mexican Cession of 1848 that Mexico ceded to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  Texas claimed most of what is now New Mexico so the bill to organize the New Mexico Territory consisted of a payment to Texas for the land east of the Rio Grande River up to the modern border of Texas (this was approved by the Texas State Legislature).  The Federal Government also assumed Texas’ debt resulting from its War of Independence from Mexico.  In addition, slavery would be decided by the people of the Territory by Popular Sovereignty.  This was a rejection of the Wilmot Proviso that would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War. It was proposed by David Wilmot (D-PA) in August of 1846. It passed in the House in 1846 and 1847 but was defeated in the Senate so it never became law. Although it was never passed by Congress it was very important to the Northern Anti-Slavery forces.

Below is the House vote on organizing the New Mexico Territory.  The roll call split Southerners with many Southern Democrats opposing the bill.  They opposed the reduction in the size of the slave state of Texas.  However, most Southerners voted for the bill because they felt the tradeoff of reducing Texas was worth being rid of the Wilmot Proviso and the chance of organizing New Mexico as a Slave state.

In Contrast to the Southerners, most Northerners voted against the bill but enough Northerners voted with the Southerners to squeeze the bill through the House.

Click image to enlarge

Second up was the admission of California as a Free state. This was an easy bill to pass simply because of the massive amount of gold flowing into the economy from California.  The opposition was mainly from Southern Democrats.

Click image to enlarge

The Utah Territory was organized on the same terms of New Mexico.

Click image to enlarge

The most controversial part of the Compromise for Northerners was the Fugitive Slave Law.  However, as shown below, it passed by a comfortable margin largely along sectional lines with significant Northern Democratic support but with substantial Northern Whig opposition.

Click image to enlarge

Finally, the Slave Trade but not Slavery itself was abolished in the District of Columbia.

Click image to enlarge

The Fugitive Slave Law roiled the Northern Whigs during 1851-52 and that marked the beginning of the unraveling of the Whig Party. The Party structure of the 32nd Congress (1851-52)  simply collapsed as documented by Joel Silbey’s
The Shrine of Party: Congressional Voting Behavior, 1841-1852 and Poole and Rosenthal (1997) chapters 3 and 5. This is shown in the roll call vote below which reaffirmed the support of the House for the Fugitive Slave Law.  Contrast this vote with those above.  The spatial structure of the parties has begun to collapse.  The absence of a “channel” between the two parties shows a lack of party line voting.  Indeed, only 75% of the voting is accounted for by two dimensions in the 32nd.

Click image to enlarge

What finally delivered the decisive blow to the Whig Party and set the course for bloody conflict until the Civil War itself broke out in April of 1861 was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The main dimension of conflict is now South (on the left of the first dimension) vs. North (on the right of the first dimension).

Click image to enlarge

Finally, echoing the analysis in Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting (chapter 5) by 1858 the Whigs were gone and the Republican Party had emerged as the unquestioned second major party to oppose the Democrats. The roll call below was on a proposal by the Democratic majority to postpone President Buchanan’s message on the admission of Kansas to the Union. The infamous Lecompton Constitution which was pro-slavery had lost in a referendum on 4 January 1858. The Kansas Constitution was accepted by the Senate but voted down in the House later in the year.

In the roll call below the Republican Party is on the anti-slavery (right side) of the first dimension and the pro-slavery forces are on the left side of the first dimension. The Whig Party was gone.

Click image to enlarge

As we argued in our last post the Republican Party in the House seems very likely to split into two factions as the result of the 2016 elections. Many Republican voters (enough to make Donald Trump the nominee) are angry at the Republican “Establishment” for not stopping President Obama on a variety of issues. The various charges that Paul Ryan is some sort of secret agent of “The Establishment” echo craziness from the days of None Dare Call it Treason (1964) and A Choice Not an Echo (1964) with their conspiracy theories about Communists and New York Bankers.

Unlike in the 1850s there is no second dimension of Congressional voting. Almost all issues — including lifestyle and affective — have been drawn into the first dimension. The split in the Republican Party will occur on this strange dimension that mixes economic and the classic “social” issues. Below is a figure we used in an earlier post showing a smoothed histogram of the 114th House:

Click image to enlarge

Suppose the split occurs somewhere to the right of Gowdy. Not everyone to the right of Gowdy listens to “talk radio from Area 51”. So some sorting out will occur between the two factions — traditional Republican Conservatives vs. “Conspiracy Republicans”. Assuming that Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 Presidential election, it is difficult to see how the Republican Party could ever again win the Presidency given the alienation of Hispanics, Blacks, and Social Liberals from the Republican Party. In addition, the traditional Internationalist Conservative Republicans will be willing to make deals with President Hillary Clinton to increase Defense Spending which will mean the end of the sequester. This will further divide the Republicans.

But what might finally trigger a realignment of the New Deal Party System are the obvious divisions in the Democratic Party that to this point have been papered over by their solid opposition to the Republicans. Income inequality has rapidly increased. The bottom 40% of the income distribution has not moved since the mid 1970s.

Click image to enlarge

Where has the money gone? To the mega-rich, especially the denizens of Wall Street who looted the economy leading up the the Great Recession. The graph below shows the spectacular run-up in wages in the Financial Sector (including insurance) relative to other sectors of the economy. No wonder all of the smart mathematics graduates from the Ivy League were lured to Wall Street!

Click image to enlarge

Finally, the runup in the share of income of the top 1% continues.

Click image to enlarge

What does this rapid rise in inequality mean for a President Hillary Clinton? Well, like Willie Sutton, she will have to go where the money is if she is going to fund all of her promises. That means she will have to steeply raise taxes on her supporters on Wall Street and the socially liberal rich. Good Luck!

The Coming Split in the House Republican Party in 2017

Although it is way to early to predict doom for the Republican Party, however, just as a snowball gets bigger when it is rolled down a hill, enough is now known that the Presidential election prospects look very bleak for the Republicans. Donald Trump is a Mountebank and will lose to Hillary Clinton with near certainty. Perhaps not as much as Barry Goldwater lost to President Johnson in 1964 or Senator McGovern lost to President Nixon in 1972, but Clinton’s victory will be at least as big as then Senator Obama’s victory over Senator McCain in 2008. If the Republican Convention in July maneuvers to give the nomination to Senator Ted Cruz (clearly the most unpopular member of Congress), Cruz will lose almost as badly as Trump and Trump’s die-hard supporters will be mad as hornets.

Assuming that the Senate flips back to the Democrats (unless there is a third Party Conservative candidate to provide cover for some of the vulnerable Republicans), how would a lopsided victory by Hillary Clinton affect the House Republicans? Suppose that Clinton subtracts 7% from every Republican’s two Party percentage from 2014 (the horizontal line in the figure below — my thanks to Gary Jacobson for suggesting this number), then the Republican Caucus would come in around 220 members. This would be enough to retain “control” but the Republican Party will be badly split by either the nomination of Trump or Cruz and it is safe to say that the far, far, right will be even less likely to be cooperative in passing necessary appropriations bills. Suppose this “suicide” caucus is to the right of 0.65 using CS DW-NOMINATE Scores and above the 57% line. This will leave 41 members to gum up the works in 2017.

Click image to enlarge

To get anything done, President Hillary Clinton will have to negotiate cross-party deals in the House. This, of course, will further infuriate the “suicide” caucus and it could lead to a permanent division within the Republican Party.

The last major Party to break up were the Whigs from 1851-1854. We may be living through an equally historic period. Time will tell.

More on The Divisions in House Republican Party (March 2016)

To recap: As we discussed in earlier posts, alpha-NOMINATE is a new form of NOMINATE that is fully Bayesian and is meant to replace W-NOMINATE which is now getting close to being 34 years old (the multidimensional version, written by Nolan McCarty and Keith Poole, is over 25 years old). NOMINATE was designed by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal during 1982-1983. It used a random utility model with a Gaussian deterministic utility function (see pages 14 – 15 of the linked 1983 paper) and logistic error (random draws from the log of the inverse exponential). The Gaussian deterministic utility function is able to capture non-voting due to indifference and alienation.

Alpha-NOMINATE is a mixture model in which legislators’ utility functions are allowed to be a mixture of the two most commonly assumed utility functions: the quadratic function and the Gaussian function assumed by NOMINATE. The “Alpha” is a parameter estimated by Alpha-NOMINATE that varies from 0 (Quadratic Utility) to 1 (Gaussian Utility). Hence, in one dimension with Alpha = 0, Alpha-NOMINATE is identical to the popular IRT model. Thus Alpha-NOMINATE can actually test whether or not legislators’ utility functions are Quadratic or Gaussian.

Below we apply Alpha-NOMINATE to the the 114th House through mid-March 2016. There have been 834 total votes of which 718 are scalable (at least 2.5% in the minority; that is, votes that are 97-3 to 50-50). We used the R version of Alpha-NOMINATE to perform the analysis. We used 4000 samples from a slice sampler in one dimension with a burn-in of 1000. The first graph shows the Trace and Density plots for alpha.

Click image to enlarge

The mean of alpha is 0.99986 with a standard deviation of 0.00014 strongly indicating that the Representatives’ utility functions were Gaussian.

Below is a smoothed histogram of the 3000 configurations after burn-in. The divide between Democrats and Republicans is a very deep one.

Click image to enlarge

Of more interest, however, are the clear divisions in the Republican Party shown in the smoothed histogram. The gap between Speaker Ryan and the head of the Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan (R-OH) is very wide. Given the turmoil in the Republican Presidential Nominating process, it is growing harder and harder for Speaker Ryan to restore “regular order” and pass a budget. With Hillary Clinton leading both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the polls and the competition between Trump and Cruz to gain the 1237 delegates they need for the nomination likely to drag out until at least May and perhaps even to the convention in July, this is likely to paralyze the House Republican Party for some time. This potential paralysis has motivated one of the members of the Freedom Caucus, Paul Gosar (R-AZ), to lead an effort to stop any post-Presidential Election or “Lame Duck” session of Congress for fear that spending “deals” would be struck by the leaders of both Political Parties. Depending on the state of the Presidential race in September this issue could get entangled with Presidential campaign politics. (The House is scheduled to go into recess on September 30th.) All in all, it will not be a boring year!

The next five plots show the estimated ideal points for the 435 Members who served during the 114th through mid-March along with their 95% Credible Intervals. Furthest left is Grijalva (D-AZ) at -2.38 followed by Lee (D-CA) at -2.16. On the far right are Massie (R-KY) at 4.16, Amash (R-MI) at 4.52, and Jones (R-NC) at 5.73.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

How Would the GOP Contenders Fare in a Matchup with Hillary Clinton?

The 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) Pilot Study asked respondents who they would vote for in a series of randomized general election matchups between Hillary Clinton and a series of Republican candidates (we focus on Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio). Bernie Sanders and John Kasich were not included in these matchups.

We model respondents’ choices between Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate across the treatments of Trump, Cruz, or Rubio as the nominee. We include party ID, ideology, education, income, gender, race, and trade attitudes as predictor variables, also estimating interaction effects between GOP candidate, party ID, and education/trade attitudes/gender in a bivariate probit model.

Below we plot the interaction effects on predicted probabilities of supporting the Republican candidate. The main finding is that Trump divides the electorate by gender, education, and trade attitudes like no other. Among independents (coded “4” on the party ID scale), for instance, there are huge gaps in predicted Trump support on each of these variables. Across party identification, women, those with college/postgrad degrees, and voters supportive of free trade agreements are much less likely to support Trump than men, those with high school degrees or less, and voters opposed to free trade agreements.

These findings, of course, are hardly surprising, although the magnitude of the effects took us aback. If Trump is the GOP nominee, his path to victory would rely on the bloc of the electorate least likely to vote. Based on weighted values from the 2016 ANES Pilot Study, only 38% of independents with a high school diploma or less said they voted in the 2012 election (which, as a self-report measure, is itself an overestimate). This is a meaningful slice of the electorate—comprising about 6% of all voters, again with weights applied—but one whose turnout has historically lagged. Hence, the real uncertainty surrounding a Trump nomination.

Click images to enlarge

NOTE: “1” indicates less than high school education, “6” indicates postgrad degree.

NOTE: “1” indicates strong opposition to free trade agreements, “7” indicates strong support.

Multidimensional Scaling of Feeling Thermometers from the 2015 CCES and 2016 ANES Pilot Study

Below, we use a multidimensional scaling method (metric unfolding) to analyze feeling thermometers data from two recent national public opinion surveys: the 2015 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) and the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) Pilot Study. Both surveys asked respondents to rate their feelings towards candidates and groups (for example, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Muslims) on a 100 point scale. We transform the thermometer ratings into distances and produce a spatial map of the results, much as we would to produce a map of cities from on a spreadsheet of driving distances between the cities.

The results are shown below, with the survey respondents marked as “D”, “R”, and “I” based on their party identification. In both plots, the first dimension (the horizontal axis) represents the familiar partisan-ideological divide, separating liberal/Democratic groups and candidates from conservative/Republican groups and candidates. Groups like scientists and college professors are placed in the center-left, while groups like the police are placed center-right.

We suspect that the second dimension is tapping into establishment vs. outsider divisions in both parties: between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders among Democrats, and between Donald Trump and the other candidates (particularly Jeb Bush) among Republicans. Trump is preferred by the larger cluster of Republican voters in the top-right quadrant of both plots, while Bush is preferred by the smaller clusters of Republicans in the bottom-right quadrants. Cruz and Rubio are both somewhere in between.

Within the parties, respondents’ relative preferences between the candidates do not appear to follow a traditional liberal-conservative divide, but are structured along a separate dimension—perhaps involving establishment vs. outsider attitudes and preferences on cross-cutting issues like free trade.

Click images to enlarge

The Heroin Epidemic

This past Wednesday, 2 March 2016, there was a procedural vote in the Senate to waive budget caps in order to appropriate more funds to fight the epidemic of Heroin and other Opioids (just search Google News for countless recent articles across the country on this). Sam Quinones in his book Dreamland details the origins of the recent epidemic in the widespread use of Oxycodone (OxyContin is the time released form of Oxycodone) and Black Tar Heroin from Mexico. The Opioid epidemic became an issue in the recent New Hampshire Primary but it is a nationwide problem. Atlanta’s Channel 11 television news just did a four part series on how widespread Heroin is in Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs where packages of heroin are delivered to the front doors of users (the user leaves money under a doormat and the deliveryman takes the money and leaves the heroin).

Below we show the procedural vote on more funds to fight the Opioid epidemic using our Constant-Space DW-NOMINATE Scores. Five Republicans voted “Yea” — Ayotte (R-NH), Collins (R-ME), Graham (R-SC), Kirk (R-IL), and Portman (R-OH). The cutting line goes through the lower left portion of the Republican Party and there are only four “errors” on the roll call with a PRE of 0.91.

Click image to enlarge

Portman’s vote for addition funding is significant. Quinones starts his investigation of the twin epidemics in Portsmouth, Ohio, on the Ohio river. Southern Ohio has been hit hard by the Opioid epidemic and Governor Kasich expanded Medicaid under the ACA in part because of the impact of Oxycodone and Heroin in Ohio. His argument is that treatment and helping the addicted to regain their independence and hold jobs is better than incarceration. Hopefully his point of view will prevail.

The Francis Vote?

Even before this week, Republican voters were split over Pope Francis and Donald Trump. In the 2015 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we asked respondents to rate a variety of political groups and figures (including Pope Francis and Donald Trump) on a 100-point “feeling thermometer,” with higher values corresponding to more favorable evaluations.

Below, we divide the roughly 250 Republican and Republican-leaning respondents in the survey into two groups: those who rate Trump higher than Francis, and those who rate Francis higher than Trump. We then split respondents by whether they rate Trump, Cruz, or Rubio most highly on the feeling thermometers.

Two things are clearly seen in the plot: most Republicans (about 2/3) rated Trump more highly than Francis (this survey was fielded in late 2015); and Trump (naturally) wins the Trump greater than Francis group, while Rubio is the big winner in the Francis greater than Trump group.

Click image to enlarge

Next, we look at which types of voters comprise the two groups in the GOP. We specify a binary probit regression model in which the response variable is coded 1 if the respondent prefers Francis to Trump, and 0 if the respondent prefers Trump to Francis. Below we present the effects of a series of variables (all coded to range between 0 and 1) in terms of the change in predicted probability of a Republican respondent being in the pro-Francis group.

Not surprisingly, conservative immigration attitudes most strongly predict pro-Trump dispositions, while education increases the probability of preferring Pope Francis to Trump.

Catholic identity has perhaps the most intriguing effect: whether or not Republican Catholics are more likely to side with Pope Francis over Donald Trump depends on level of religious activity and involvement. Those who are most active (in the top half of a religiosity scale comprised of level of prayer, church attendance, and personal religious salience) are more likely (about 35% more likely) than other Republicans (including less religiously active Catholic Republicans) to rate Pope Francis more highly than Donald Trump.

This might seem a fairly obvious finding (more active Catholics are more strongly committed to the Pope), but Pope Francis has also stood out in his appeal to non- and lapsed Catholics (the so-called Francis Effect). However, there is no apparent Francis effect (at least as it involves feelings vis-a-vis Trump) among Republican Catholics.

Click image to enlarge

The Presidential Contenders: 6 February 2016

Below we show a smoothed histogram of the 114th House (red and blue) and Senate (dark red and dark blue) using our Constant-Space DW-NOMINATE Scores. In the graph we show the current contenders for the Democrat and Republican Presidential Nomination along with some other legislators and President Obama (as a Senator) for reference. We cannot show Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, or Carly Fiorina because they never served in Congress.

Bob Dole, who was the Republican nominee in 1996, is almost at the same location as John Kasich who served in the House from 1983-2001. Both were moderates compared to current Republicans in both Chambers. Ted Cruz is very extreme and unless there was a multi-candidate election it is hard to see how he could win nationally.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton (as a Senator), Joe Biden (as a Senator), and President Obama (as a Senator) are practically indistinguishable. To their left is Bernie Sanders but anchoring the far Left of the Democrats is Elizabeth Warren.

Click image to enlarge

If Hillary Clinton were to exit the race, despite the enthusiasm of the Democratic base for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, clearly Vice President Biden would be more competitive nationally. But this is a strange year and we are a long way from November.