Special election voters are different
Biden's opening, immigration matters more, views of institutions, anxious teens, defending internal polls, the secret of Trump's fundraising, top podcasts, Google's Gemini model
No. 302 | February 9, 2024
Nate Cohn: Turnout Data Reveals the Core of Democrats’ Success in Special Elections (The New York Times)
“Over the last year, two different sets of data have yielded two very different theories of where Democrats stand heading into 2024.
On one hand, there’s polling. Survey after survey shows President Biden even or trailing against Donald J. Trump. Voters, especially young and nonwhite voters, appear extremely dissatisfied with the president. No matter how good the economy looks to economists, most voters still say it’s bad.
On the other hand, there’s election results. Almost every time polls bring Democrats down, there’s a special election result to bring them back up. Special elections occur outside regular election cycles to fill a vacated seat, and overall Democrats have outperformed Mr. Biden’s 2020 results by four percentage points in these elections since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to data compiled by Daily Kos.”
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Nate Cohn: Biden Has Openings for a Comeback on Two Weak Points (The New York Times)
“President Biden’s approval ratings are as low as ever. An NBC poll this weekend was only the latest example, showing him trailing Donald J. Trump by five percentage points nationwide, with his approval down to 37 percent.
But over the last few months, the conditions for a Biden comeback have gradually come into place. It hasn’t shown up in the polls, at least not yet. But for the first time since the 2022 midterms, Mr. Biden has an unmistakable political opening. If he can’t capitalize in the months ahead, it will heighten doubts about his political viability.
The two big developments have come on what voters say are Mr. Biden’s biggest weaknesses on the issues: the economy and the border.”
“Former President Donald Trump's signature campaign issue of immigration immediately helped fuel his remarkable rise to the top of the Republican primary polls in 2015. In a 2018 study, political scientists John Sides, Lynn Vavreck and I found that negative views of immigrants were a strong and consistent predictor of Republicans' support for Trump in the primaries — from the very start of his campaign in June 2015 up until he formally accepted the GOP nomination in July 2016.
Attitudes toward immigration were also a much more potent factor in the 2016 primaries than they had been in prior Republican nominating contests. Unlike Trump, who powerfully tapped into a reservoir of anti-immigrant sentiment en route to winning the nomination, then-Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both performed slightly better among pro-immigrant voters than they did with immigration hawks in the 2008 and 2012 GOP primaries, respectively.”
📊 Public Opinion
“Americans overwhelmingly see small businesses as having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country.
By contrast, their views of large corporations are broadly negative. Most people – including identical shares in both parties – also are critical of the impact of banks and financial institutions.”
“Although it has never been easy to be a teenager, the current generation of young Americans feels particularly apprehensive, new polling shows — anxious about their lives, disillusioned about the direction of the country and pessimistic about their futures.
Just one-third of respondents ages 12 to 17 said things were going well for children and teenagers today, in a survey published Monday by Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group. Less than half said they thought they would be better off than their parents when they grew up — a downbeat view shared among teenagers in many rich countries, other data shows.”
“Internal polls are the middle children of the world of elections analysis: often ignored, desperate for attention and chronically misunderstood. But, also like middle children, internal polls are keen observers of their surroundings.
Most polling that makes it out into the open is commissioned by media organizations, colleges and universities, or other public interest groups — like ABC News's surveys with The Washington Post and Ipsos. But these polls are few and far between compared with the surveys conducted every day for private interests. The phrase ‘internal polling’ refers to surveys conducted exclusively for a campaign or political action committee to inform strategic decisions. Nearly every credible campaign for statewide or congressional office commissions its own polling, choosing from multiple private firms that span the ideological spectrum. Some of the best-funded campaigns keep pollsters on contract, tracking responses to individual questions for months at a time.”
Khadijah Edwards: Black Americans’ Views on Success in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)
“Most Black Americans consider themselves at least somewhat successful (66%). When asked to define what success means to them personally, 82% of Black adults point to the ability to provide for their family.
However, success isn’t exclusively related to financial achievements, a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Majorities of Black adults also cite quality-of-life measures such as personal happiness (80%), having enough time to do the things they want to do (65%) and having a job or career they enjoy (56%). A related analysis finds that most Black adults say they are at least somewhat happy and have enough time to do the things they want to do at least sometimes.”
Katherine Schaeffer: For Valentine’s Day, facts about marriage and dating in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)
“This month, many Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day with important people in their lives, whether it’s their romantic partner or their closest friends. Ahead of the holiday, here are some key facts about marriage and dating in the United States, taken from Pew Research Center surveys and other analyses.”
🗺️ Data Visualization
Francesca Paris: See How Your School District Is Recovering From the Pandemic (The New York Times)
“Elementary and middle-school students are recovering from pandemic learning losses, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford and Harvard.
But there are huge differences across the country. Some school districts are testing better than in 2019. Many more are still worse off.
This tool includes math test scores for public school districts from 41 states. Several states — New York among them — are excluded because of low test participation rates or insufficient public data.”
📰 Media Habits
“Podcasts have grown increasingly popular over the past decade, becoming part of the daily routine of about one-in-ten Americans. Nearly half of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past year for many reasons, including to learn, for entertainment or just to have something to listen to while doing something else.
Last year, Pew Research Center conducted an analysis of top-ranked podcasts to take a close look at their key characteristics.”
Galen Stocking and Meltem Odabas: Most Top-Ranked Podcasts Bring On Guests (Pew Research Center)
“Podcasts are a unique, audio-first source of news and entertainment that has steadily drawn more listeners since 2013, with about half of Americans saying they have listened to a podcast in the past year.
Podcasts are often based around the perspective of the host or hosts, but many podcasts bring on guests to provide additional viewpoints. A new study of 434 top-ranked podcasts shows just how common this practice is: 76% of top-ranked podcasts brought on at least one guest in 2022. About one-in-five (22%) featured guests regularly, and 5% of the shows had guests in almost every episode (90% or more of the time).”
🤖 Artificial Intelligence
@emollick: Our new paper: we know that GPT-4 generates better ideas than most people, but the ideas are kind of similar & variance matters But it turns out that better prompting can generate pools of good ideas that are almost as diverse as from a group of humans
Ethan Mollick: Google's Gemini Advanced: Tasting Notes and Implications (One Useful Thing)
“Right around the time you are getting this email, Google finally released their long-awaited powerful AI, which, in the continued tradition of sudden AI name changes, is no longer Bard but rather Gemini Advanced. I have had early access to this LLM for over a month (as a reminder, I take no payments from any AI lab, nor do they see what I write in advance), and I wanted to offer some tasting notes.
And, yes, I mean tasting, not testing, notes. In these newsletters, I have been sloppy with spelling — I figure it is a sign that a regular human rather than an AI wrote it — but I am not making a mistake here. AI testing benchmarks have their place, but they can also mislead. AIs can be trained on the test questions, on purpose or on accident, and many of the benchmarks consist of lists of trivia questions or reasoning puzzles, which don’t reflect real-world usage. So, I wanted to offer a bit of a subjective/ objective mix of opinions about Gemini Advanced, more like sampling a wine that giving a rigorous review. I am going to avoid doing a detailed feature set comparison, and focus on the big picture, with plenty of examples.”
“Fairfax County is losing population at a faster rate than some counties in Southwest and Southside Virginia.
People are moving out of parts of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads at rates not seen in our lifetimes — or sometimes ever.
Meanwhile, virtually every part of rural Virginia — with two clusters of exceptions — has seen an influx of newcomers over the past three years as pandemic-induced population trends reshape the state in sometimes unprecedented ways.”