Insights from data in politics

Here's a snippet from a fascinating interview with Democrat data scientist David Shor in New York Magazine.

Mitt Romney and Donald Trump agreed on basically every issue, as did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And yet, a bunch of people changed their votes. And the reason that happened was because the salience of various issues changed. Both sides talked a lot more about immigration, and because of that, correlation between preferences on immigration and which candidate people voted for went up. In 2012, both sides talked about health care. In 2016, they didn''t. And so the correlation between views on health care and which candidate people voted for went down.

One interesting tidbit Shor alludes to is an analysis by political scientist David Broockman (see writeup in Vox) showing that moderate voters do not actually have moderate views on invididual issues. What we call moderate voters are really voters with many ideologically inconsistent views.

For Ahler and Broockman, this solves a puzzle. They note that many states have implemented election reforms to wrest the process away from partisans and empower average voters to elect the moderate politicians they really want. These reforms include open primary elections, nonpartisan redistricting, and public funding of elections. But “the bulk of studies on these reforms finds little evidence that they improve moderate candidates' fortunes.”> The answer, Ahler and Brookman realize, is simple: these voters don't want moderate candidates because these voters aren't actually moderates.

Posted by Abraham