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Racial identity is more fluid than you might think
Plus: Myths about political demography, college towns and the GOP, Ramaswamy and Haley lead early state visits, how to do things with AI
No. 276 | July 21, 2023
David Byler: Racial identity is more fluid than you might think (The Washington Post)
“Many Americans assume race is a constant: something people are born into and that — like their birth date or country of origin — simply doesn’t change.
But for a surprising number of us, race is a fluid concept. Polling data show that roughly 8 percent of adults jumped from one racial category to another in recent years. And that has important political implications for the Republican Party.
On the most basic question of race — ‘What racial or ethnic group best describes you?’ — many who initially identified as Hispanic, multiracial or “other” changed their answers in the second round.”
David Byler: 5 myths about politics, busted by data (The Washington Post)
“Politics is full of false stereotypes. Journalists (myself included) often toss out generalizations — “Republicans are the rural party!” or “Democrats now win White college graduates!” — in an attempt to make some broader point. In their haste, they paint cartoonish or inaccurate portraits of voters from both parties.
Thankfully, the Pew Research Center recently released data that might help. Its validated voter survey, which uses official state records to check whether respondents really voted, dispels five common political misconceptions:”
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“Pew Research Center has a long history of measuring Americans’ views of the United States, China and other countries, but less is known about Asian Americans’ views of these countries. Amid the American public’s increasingly negative views of China and rising concern over tensions between mainland China and Taiwan, how do Asian Americans feel about the homelands in Asia to which they trace their heritage, as well as about the U.S., China and elsewhere?
Around three-quarters of Asian Americans (78%) have a favorable view of the United States – including 44% who report very favorable views of the country. A majority also say they have positive views of Japan (68%), South Korea (62%) and Taiwan (56%), according to a new analysis of a multilingual, nationally representative survey of Asian American adults conducted from July 5, 2022, to Jan. 27, 2023.”
“Spring elections in Wisconsin are typically low turnout affairs, but in April, with the nation watching the state’s bitterly contested Supreme Court race, voters turned out in record-breaking numbers.
No place was more energized to vote than Dane County, the state’s second-most populous county after Milwaukee. It’s long been a progressive stronghold thanks to the double influence of Madison, the state capital, and the University of Wisconsin, but this was something else. Turnout in Dane was higher than anywhere else in the state. And the Democratic margin of victory that delivered control of the nonpartisan court to liberals was even more lopsided than usual — and bigger than in any of the state’s other 71 counties.
The margin was so big that it changed the state’s electoral formula. Under the state’s traditional political math, Milwaukee and Dane — Wisconsin’s two Democratic strongholds — are counterbalanced by the populous Republican suburbs surrounding Milwaukee. The rest of the state typically delivers the decisive margin in statewide races. The Supreme Court results blew up that model. Dane County alone is now so dominant that it overwhelms the Milwaukee suburbs (which have begun trending leftward anyway). In effect, Dane has become a Republican-killing Death Star.”
Nate Cohn: Hard Questions if Biden’s Approval Doesn’t Follow Economy’s Rise (The New York Times)
“Doesn’t it feel as if everything’s breaking President Biden’s way lately?
His chief rival — whom Mr. Biden already beat in 2020 and whom Democrats, in a sense, beat again in the midterms — is facing criminal indictments and yet currently finds himself cruising to the nomination anyway.
The economy — which teetered on the edge of recession for two years with inflation rising and real wages declining — seems as if it might be on track for a soft landing, with inflation falling, real wages rising and the stock market recovering.
The backlash against “woke” — a topic Republicans seemed most keen on exploiting in the Biden era — appears to have receded significantly, whether because Donald J. Trump has taken up much of the oxygen; conservatives have overreached; or progressives have reined in their excesses and fallen back to defense after conservatives went on offense.”
“All of the Republican presidential candidates who aren’t former President Donald Trump are looking for some version of their Jimmy Carter moment. Way back in 1976, Carter — then a little-known governor — invested heavily in his Iowa ground game, won the caucuses, and went on to clinch the Democratic nomination.
Since then, his success has encouraged countless other candidates to visit the first few nominating states early and often. And because their time is finite, particularly for candidates who still have day jobs, looking at where they’re choosing to spend their time early in a primary contest can tell us about their strategy, and where they think they have the best chance of breaking out of the pack.”
Amy Walter: How Seriously Should We Take a Potential No Labels Candidate? (The Cook Political Report)
“It’s understandable why Democrats are openly fretting about the prospect of a No Labels third-party candidate making the ballot in 2024.
In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader (and butterfly ballots), cost Democratic Vice President Al Gore Florida and the White House. In 2016, third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson took just enough votes to help tip the former “blue wall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Donald Trump.
And, given that President Joe Biden narrowly carried the Electoral College by 42,915 votes, a shift of just a couple thousand votes in a key swing state could be enough to tip the election to Trump.
But beyond the vibes (and political PTSD), is there empirical evidence that a third-party candidate like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin or former Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan would drain more votes from Biden than Trump?”
Rhodes Cook: Where People Voted in 2022 — and Where They Didn’t (Sabato’s Crystal Ball)
“— Despite a requirement that congressional districts have roughly identical populations within states, the number of raw votes cast in each district can vary widely, both within a state and across the country.
— In 2022, there was a nearly 300,000-vote difference between the lowest-turnout district (NY-15 in New York City) and the highest-turnout one (MI-1 in northern Michigan).
— Republicans won about two-thirds of the districts that cast the most votes (300,000 or more) while Democrats won about two-thirds of the districts that cast the fewest (less than 200,000).”
Louis Jacobson: Almanac of American Politics Excerpt: The House Districts of Brooklyn and Queens (Sabato’s Crystal Ball)
“More than a half-century ago, most of the neighborhoods in New York City’s outer boroughs were overwhelmingly white. Most of these areas were filled with descendants of the great mass of immigrants who came from eastern and southern Europe between 1890 and 1924, and from northern Europe earlier—Irish and Italians, Jews and Hungarians, Poles and Czechs and Greeks. A few parts of Queens were WASPy and high-income. Forest Hills in Queens, with its famous tennis stadium and large Tudor houses, was a notable example. But the only thing permanent in New York is change. When liberal Manhattan Republican John Lindsay was mayor in the 1960s, middle-class New Yorkers fled the city’s high taxes and crime-riddled neighborhoods. Forest Hills was the site of sometimes violent protests when Lindsay attempted to place low-income housing projects there.
In recent years, the overall picture in Queens has brightened. It has become the borough with the most residential growth in New York City. Much of this growth has been in areas with large numbers of recent immigrants, though some of it has been from the more economically established children and grandchildren of immigrants. Queens is more than one-third larger than Brooklyn in area, but its civic nodes are more highly dispersed. The Economist wrote in 2018 that “it has the vibrancy of a whole world. Around 160 languages are spoken across the borough; residents hail from almost 200 countries.” The 2020 Census reported that 55 percent of the residents in Queens spoke a language other than English at home, and 47 percent were foreign-born.”
“Historically, voters have punished or rewarded presidents at the polls for their perceived handling of the nation’s economy — Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 are two excellent examples of this effect from both ends of the spectrum. While this sentiment has arguably been misplaced at times, given the limited, peripheral role that presidents play in the immediate global economy, it still makes intuitive sense; voters decide to keep or change the status quo (defined as the party controlling the White House) based upon their lived economic experiences.
To better understand the relationship between the economy and the presidential election results, we decided to construct an out-of-sample, regression-based model of the incumbent party’s two-way vote share using three key fundamental measures: real GDP, sticky CPI (a more stable proxy for inflation), and the unemployment rate.”
📊 Public Opinion
Daniel Cox: Turning Against Organized Religion (American Storylines)
Early work documenting the beginning of America’s religious decline found that, while people were readily relinquishing their formal affiliations, they retained some spiritual inclinations or religious beliefs. From these early findings emerged new religious categories — the “spiritual, but not religious” and “unattached believers” — to describe groups of indeterminate size and questionable cohesion. Efforts to characterize this important constituency met with limited success. In The Atlantic, Caroline Kircher suggested that they, “reject organized religion but maintain a belief in something larger than themselves. That ‘something’ can range from Jesus to art, music, and poetry. There is often yoga involved.”
In a changing world of space exploration defined by intensifying private efforts and competition between a growing number of nations, Americans continue to see an essential role for the United States as a leader in space exploration, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
About seven-in-ten Americans say it is essential that the U.S. continue to be a world leader in space, while 30% say this is not an essential role for the country. Support for a U.S. leadership role in space is widely held across groups, including by majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Most Americans say the U.S. government and technology companies should each take steps to restrict false information and extremely violent content online. However, there is more support for tech companies moderating these types of content than for the federal government doing so, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Support for both technology companies and the government taking steps to restrict false information online has grown in recent years. For example, the share of U.S. adults who say the federal government should restrict false information has risen from 39% in 2018 to 55% in 2023.
This increase in support comes amid public debates about online content regulation and court cases that look at how tech companies moderate content on their platforms.”
🤖 Artificial Intelligence
Ethan Mollick: How to Use AI to Do Stuff: An Opinionated Guide (One Useful Thing)
Increasingly powerful AI systems are being released at an increasingly rapid pace. This week saw the debut of Claude 2, likely the second most capable AI system available to the public. The week before, Open AI released Code Interpreter, the most sophisticated mode of AI yet available. The week before that, some AIs got the ability to see images.
And yet not a single AI lab seems to have provided any user documentation. Instead, the only user guides out there appear to be Twitter influencer threads. Documentation-by-rumor is a weird choice for organizations claiming to be concerned about proper use of their technologies, but here we are.
I can’t claim that this is going to be a complete user guide, but it will serve as a bit of orientation to the current state of AI. I have been putting together a Getting Started Guide to AI for my students (and interested readers) every few months, and each time, it requires major modifications. The last couple of months have been particularly insane.
@emollick: “The nexus of politics, misery, and change: Paying close attention to politics significantly increases negative emotions, & hurts physical well-being, but also motivates people to take action to change things. Avoiding politics makes people happier, but less likely to seek change” (Twitter)
@BradWilcoxIFS: “Couples w/ joint checking accounts are happier. But correlation or causation? Causation. Fascinating new *experimental* study assigned some newlyweds separate & other newlyweds joint accounts. Joints did much better in their marriages.” (Twitter)