Trump’s Law And Order Message Isn’t Resonating With Most Americans

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

As President Trump continues to push a “law and order” campaign message, we’ve been keeping an eye on the polls to see whether there’s any truth to the narrative that the recent unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will help Trump politically. So far, the answer is no. Polls conducted this week and late last week suggest that public attitudes aren’t really breaking in Trump’s direction, even though the Republican National Convention focused a great deal on characterizing the Democrats as the party of chaos and anarchy.

It’s true that Americans are less inclined to view as peaceful those protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha compared with those who were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May. This week’s survey from The Economist/YouGov found that 41 percent of Americans considered the protesters themselves “mostly peaceful,” while 40 percent said they were “mostly violent.” This marked a sizable departure from early July, when the pollster last asked this question — back then, 54 percent viewed the protesters as more peaceful, while only 31 percent viewed them as more violent. And late last week, a Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — thought the protests had gone too far, compared with 31 percent who said that they hadn’t.

The most recent protests in Kenosha and elsewhere also don’t have quite the same level of support as the protests that followed Floyd’s death. According to a new survey from Politico/Morning Consult, 49 percent of registered voters supported the latest protests, while 32 percent opposed them. Back in early June, 57 percent of registered voters backed the Floyd protests, while just 23 percent opposed them. However, the new Politico/Morning Consult survey still found a plurality backing the ongoing protests connected to Kenosha, and other polling echoes this finding: A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that 57 percent felt peaceful demonstrations should continue despite the violence that has cropped up in some cities, whereas 36 percent felt the protests should cease because of the violence that has sometimes followed.

Given the underlying support for these protests, a major challenge remains for the president: Many Americans doubt his ability to fix the problems and reduce tensions that have precipitated the demonstrations. According to a YouGov survey on Wednesday, 56 percent of adults said that the violence happening at protests would get worse if Trump were reelected this November. Fifteen percent thought the violence would stay at similar levels, while 18 percent thought it would improve (11 percent said they didn’t know). Conversely, 43 percent thought protest violence would get better if Joe Biden won, and just 23 percent thought it would worsen. Somewhat similarly, 50 percent of likely voters told Quinnipiac University this week that they felt less safe with Trump as president, compared with 35 percent who said they felt safer. These voters were more split on Biden, however: 42 percent said they’d feel safer with Biden in the White House, and 40 percent said they’d feel less safe.

Furthermore, other polling continued to show that voters preferred Biden’s prospective handling of race relations, public safety and unifying the country. In this week’s Quinnipiac poll, 58 percent of likely voters said Biden would handle the issue of racial inequality better, compared with 36 percent who said Trump would fare better. A new CNN/SSRS poll found a similar breakdown — 56 percent of registered voters said Biden, and 38 percent said Trump. According to Politico/Morning Consult’s new survey, 51 percent said Biden would do a better job handling race relations versus 32 percent who said Trump; 47 percent said that Biden would better handle public safety versus 39 percent who said Trump would. Even on an issue that might fold in better with Trump’s law-and-order messaging, 51 percent of registered voters told CNN/SSRS that Biden would do a better job dealing with the criminal justice system, compared with 44 percent who said Trump would. CNN/SSRS also found that 56 percent thought Biden stood a better chance of unifying the country and not dividing it, while just 36 percent thought Trump stood a better chance.

We can’t know what other events will unfold between now and November, but we can say that the violence in the wake of Blake’s shooting has seemed to affect public sentiment. That effect isn’t huge, however, and the public hasn’t used that violence to impugn the protests against police violence and systemic racism as a whole. Moreover, more Americans support Biden’s approach to these issues than Trump’s.

Other bites

A new HuffPost/YouGov survey suggests that Trump now dominates the Republican Party he leads. Among Republicans1 who voted for Trump in 2016, 49 percent considered themselves more Trump backers than GOP backers, while 19 percent said they were more supporters of the GOP than they were supporters of Trump. Another 28 percent said they were supporters of both. And if there were a conflict between Trump and congressional Republicans, 61 percent said they’d be more likely to support Trump, compared with just 13 percent who would be predisposed to back Republicans on Capitol Hill instead.Although votes this November will be counted more slowly than usual because of increased mail-in or absentee voting, a poll from Axios/Ipsos found that a plurality of Americans — 36 percent — expected the 2020 presidential winner to be announced on Election Night. Another 24 percent believed the winner would be called one to two days after the election, 14 percent a week after, 13 percent a few weeks later and 12 percent at least a month or more after. However, the findings didn’t show sizable differences in expectations between Democrats and Republicans.Based on its polling so far this year, NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that voters who cast ballots for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein in 2016 were more likely to back Biden than Trump this November. Of these voters, 47 percent said they planned to support Biden, 20 percent said Trump and 33 percent were undecided or planned to vote for another candidate.According to polling from Franklin Templeton/Gallup, Americans overwhelmingly support another economic-support payment similar to those sent as part of the CARES Act earlier this year. Seventy percent said the federal government should send another one-time payment to all qualified adults, while only 17 percent disagreed (13 percent didn’t know). Despite partisan wrangling in Congress over the issue, there was largely bipartisan agreement in the poll: 82 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans backed the one-time payment initiative.A new survey from Morning Consult found that 28 percent of Americans felt the Food and Drug Administration based its decisions concerning potential COVID-19 treatments and vaccines on political pressure, while 49 percent thought its choices were based on science (23 percent didn’t know or had no opinion). And half of respondents thought that Trump influenced FDA decisions “a lot” or “somewhat.” The agency has drawn criticism from health experts for misrepresenting the effectiveness of some COVID-19 treatments and for suggesting that some clinical trials could be skipped to fast-track a vaccine.An Ipsos survey of almost 20,000 adults in 27 countries on behalf of the World Economic Forum found that 74 percent would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available. However, 59 percent did not expect to have access to a vaccine before the end of the year. Among U.S. respondents, 67 percent said they would get a vaccine if it were available, and 66 percent didn’t expect to have access to a vaccine by the end of 2020.While Trump has tried to showcase a strong military as part of his political appeal, a new poll from the Military Times/Syracuse University found that his support was flagging among active-duty service members. Half of those polled had an unfavorable view of the president, while 38 percent viewed him favorably, a reversal from his standing in 2016, when he was a candidate for president. And in the election this year, 41 percent said they would support Biden, compared with 37 percent who backed Trump.YouGov asked Americans about domestic terrorism by right-wing or left-wing extremists and found that 62 percent were very or somewhat concerned about right-wing extremists, while 54 percent said the same of the left wing. Unsurprisingly, 79 percent of Democrats had concerns about right-wing violence, and 84 percent of Republicans worried about violent left-wing activity. By 6 percentage points, independents were more worried about right-wing (59 percent) than left-wing (53 percent) extremists.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 43.4 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -8.9 points). At this time last week, 42.2 percent approved and 54.3 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -12.1 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 54.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -13.6 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.4 percentage points (48.7 percent to 41.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.3 points (48.3 percent to 41.0 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.8 points (48.3 percent to 40.5 percent).

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s full presidential forecast; you can also see all the 2020 polls we’ve collected, including national pollsFlorida pollsMichigan pollsMinnesota pollsNorth Carolina pollsTexas polls and … well … all the states, really.


Election Update: Biden Gets Great Polls In Arizona And Wisconsin– And A Bad One In Pennsylvania

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s Election Update for Thursday, September 3! We’ve now gotten several state polls conducted entirely after the end of the Republican National Convention, and they are consistent with the tale told by post-convention national polls: The RNC hasn’t boosted President Trump enough to meaningfully improve his odds of winning the election. In fact, the state polls we’ve gotten this week have been pretty darn good for Joe Biden — with one big exception that we’ll get to in a minute.

Probably the most eye-opening state poll was Fox News’s survey1 of Arizona, which gave Biden a healthy 9-percentage-point lead. The poll was taken in the immediate wake of the RNC, and although candidates generally poll higher right after their conventions, Fox found Trump in a worse position compared with its previous poll.2 Morning Consult appeared to confirm Biden’s upward trajectory in Arizona, releasing an Aug. 21-30 poll showing Biden up by 10. (That was a big shift from Trump’s 2-point lead there in Morning Consult’s Aug. 7-16 poll.)

Previously, Arizona polling had been a little disappointing for Biden, given that the state appeared primed to move into the spotlight as one of the top 2020 swing states. But these two good polls for Biden helped the Democrat jump out to a clearer lead in our Arizona forecast (although it’s still pretty close to a toss-up):

In addition, Biden now leads Trump by 4.6 points in our weighted average of polls of Arizona. That’s significant because, if you were to line up all 50 states from those where Biden has the biggest polling lead to those where Trump’s lead is biggest, right now Arizona would be the Electoral College “tipping point” — the state that puts one candidate over the top. (That said, our forecast, which blends the polls with election “fundamentals” like the economy to predict where the race will stand in November, maintains that Pennsylvania is the likeliest state to wind up as the tipping point on Election Day.)

Fox News also had good news for Biden in Wisconsin, putting the Democrat ahead by 8 points. And two other recent polls (from Morning Consult and Opinium) staked Biden to similarly large leads — 10 and 13 points, respectively. Notably, all three of these polls were conducted mostly or entirely after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha, kicking off protests where two demonstrators were killed (a militia member has been charged with their murder). But contrary to what many commentators have insisted, those tragic events — and the Trump campaign’s focus on the violent fallout and a “law and order” message — don’t appear to be boosting the president’s standing in the state. Biden’s chances of winning it are up to 73 in 100, per our forecast.

The one state where Trump does seem to have emerged from the conventions in better shape is Pennsylvania; Monmouth University now has Trump and Biden in a virtual tie among likely voters there. Biden is 3 percentage points ahead in Monmouth’s high-turnout scenario and 1 point ahead in a low-turnout scenario. In Monmouth’s July 9-13 poll of the Keystone State, Biden led by 10 points in the former scenario and 7 points in the latter. As a result, our forecast shows Trump with a better chance to win Pennsylvania than he’s had in months.

It’s a bit surprising to see Biden polling relatively poorly in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and one that he references frequently on the campaign trail. According to the polling averages with Monmouth factored in, he currently leads Trump by just 3.4 points there — a smaller lead than in demographically similar Michigan (6.5 points) and Wisconsin (7.1 points).

That said, although Monmouth is an excellent pollster, its post-convention survey may be an outlier. Monmouth’s sample sizes are on the small side, and the company isn’t afraid to publish results that diverge from the consensus (that’s a good thing), so its polling can sometimes be subject to large swings.

And the fact remains that Biden is still more likely than Trump to win Pennsylvania. Indeed, as you’ve seen, he is more likely than Trump to win all three of these crucial states. That’s a big reason why he still has a 69 in 100 chance of winning the Electoral College overall — almost exactly the same position he was in before the conventions.

Are we seeing a post-convention polling bounce? | FiveThirtyEight

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s full presidential forecast; you can also see all the 2020 polls we’ve collected, including national pollsFlorida pollsMichigan pollsMinnesota pollsNorth Carolina pollsTexas polls and … well … all the states, really.


Trump May Have Gotten A Convention Bounce. But It’s Really Small And May Currently Be Fading.

We’ve now seen an array of new national polls conducted in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention, and collectively they show nothing major has shifted in the race between President Trump and Joe Biden. Trump may have enjoyed a very slight convention bounce, but one that represents only a small boost compared to where the race stood before the party conventions — and even that small bounce is showing some signs of fading.

FiveThirtyEight’s general election forecast tells the tale. On Aug. 16, the Sunday before the Democratic convention, Trump had a 28 in 100 shot at winning. A little over a week later, as the GOP convention was taking place, Trump’s chances ticked up to 32 in 100, as there wasn’t much evidence of Biden getting any post-DNC bounce. And as of the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 2, Trump has a 30 in 100 chance. All in all, there’s been only a very small shift in Trump’s direction.

Those forecasted odds are derived mostly from the polling data being released. So let’s take a closer look at that data; we’ll separate the polls into batches according to their methodologies — telephone surveys, online polls and tracking polls.

First, four live-telephone pollsters1 released surveys on Wednesday that offered only modestly positive news for the president. Quinnipiac University found Biden ahead by 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent, in a poll conducted after both conventions, which marked an improvement over Trump’s 15-point deficit in the pollster’s mid-July survey (the new poll is among likely voters, while the earlier one was of registered voters — the former tend to be a tad more Republican-leaning than the latter). Meanwhile, USA Today/Suffolk University gave Biden a 7-point edge, 50 percent to 43 percent, smaller than the 12-point lead Biden had in late June. Grinnell College/Selzer & Co. also released a new survey, finding Biden ahead by 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent, although it hadn’t tested the race since late March when it gave Biden just a 4-point lead over Trump. Lastly, CNN/SSRS’s post-convention survey actually showed a marginal improvement for Biden — he led by 8 points, 51 percent to 43 percent, up from his 4-point lead in mid-August.

However, pollsters that conduct surveys online haven’t shown much movement in their national numbers. And the online pollsters have tended to poll more often than live-phone outfits, giving us more recent benchmarks to judge the conventions’ effects (mostly pre-convention polls conducted just prior to the Democratic event). Ipsos showed a marginal improvement for Trump, who went from trailing by 11 points in mid-August to 7 points after the conventions. But others found no real change. Canadian pollster Léger found Biden’s lead going from 8 points in early August to 7 points after the GOP convention, while Morning Consult found no change in voter sentiment in three-day polls before and after the convention period, giving Biden an 8-point edge in both surveys. Meanwhile, three pollsters showed a very slight increase in Biden’s margin: YouGov/The Economist, IBD/TIPP and Redfield & Wilton all found Biden’s margin actually increased by 1 point. Lastly, Emerson College partially conducts its surveys online, and its latest poll found Trump down by only 3 points after he trailed by 6.5 points at the end of July.2

Finally, tracking polls — which conduct daily interviews over a rolling period of time — have been a mixed bag. In its first 7-day tracking poll ending on Aug. 17, leading into the Democratic convention, USC Dornsife found Biden up by 10 points based on responses to its probabilistic voting questions, and Biden’s lead expanded to 14 points following the Democratic convention. But as of Sept. 1, with the GOP convention days mostly out of this weekly tracker, Biden led by 9 points. Morning Consult also conducted a handful of 1-day polls in and around the convention period, and the pollster found that Trump received a small bounce the day after his convention; though, as we mentioned earlier, the pollster didn’t find any improvement for Trump in its lengthier polls.

Of course, these national surveys tell only part of the story, as the Electoral College will be decided by the vote in each state. New state-level surveys are coming in, as well, and we plan to have more to say about those tomorrow. We’ll be looking for whether Trump’s slight bounce is enduring or fading (or was even there to begin with). But for now, it looks like the conventions didn’t fundamentally alter the trajectory of the campaign.


Twitter’s Double Requirement: Enable Antisemitic Khamenei Tweet, Block Account Exposing Antisemitic Hazards

>Social media platforms have become Petri dishes for the bacteria that is antisemitism to grow and flourish. Twitter is no exception to that rule.

The site allows antisemitic posts and accounts to often go unchecked. What’s more, it appears Twitter has spent more time cracking down on accounts exposing antisemitism online than it has countering actual antisemites.

A Statesville, North Carolina man, Uriah Brandon, threatened the life of a rabbi on an Instagram Live conversation with Miko Grimes, the wife former NFL Miami Dolphins football player Brent Grimes. The post was exposed by and shared on Twitter.

The Statesville Police Department didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment on the threat.

In the video, which is still on’s Facebook page, Brandon says “If I see a rabbi… I might take his life on the spot… F—- a rabbi.” Click here to see the full clip.

Here is a portion of the conversation:

The platform acted swiftly, putting the antisemitism watchdog in “Twitter jail,” meaning the post had to be deleted before a seven-day appeal process could start. The group deleted the post and waited.

On Sunday, the group cancelled the appeal because it didn’t seem like anything would come of it and it had already been six days. But, by canceling the appeal, Facebook added an additional seven days to the “jail sentence,” making it a total of 14 days before the group can get their account back. Until then, they’ve been posting from @StopAntisemitsm, a partnered account.

“We were literally punished for exposing an antisemitic physical threat where someone could have been hurt,” said in a statement to this reporter Tuesday.

So let’s get this straight … @StopAntisemites is suspended on #twitter for exposing a physical threat against a rabbi but the #Khamenei calling Jews “filthy Zionists” is totally cool? 🤔

— (@StopAntisemitsm) September 1, 2020

If you’re the leader of the largest state sponsor of terrorism, however, it appears your tweets are free to post and linger.

“The nation of Palestine is under various, severe pressures,” said Iran’s Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei on Twitter Tuesday. “Then, the UAE acts in agreement with the Israelis & filthy Zionist agents of the U.S. —such as the Jewish member of Trump’s family— with utmost cruelty against the interests of the World of Islam. #UAEStabsMuslims“

Khamenei’s account has over 800,000 followers and the tweet received thousands of impressions. The tweet has been posted for hours and is still up.

U.S. Assistant Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ellie Cohanim reacted to Khamenei’s tweet, telling this reporter on Tuesday, “It is shocking to see Twitter give a platform to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei– which he routinely abuses to spread anti-Semitic hate. For example, just this morning he referred to members of the First Family with an anti-Semitic trope. It is well overdue for Twitter to enforce their own terms of use on Iran’s anti-Semite in Chief.”

Antisemitism online can inspire antisemites and/or validate their opinions. Unfortunately, it’s taken the loss of precious Jewish lives for many to realize that.

The post Twitter’s Double Standard: Allow Antisemitic Khamenei Tweet, Block Account Exposing Antisemitic Threats appeared first on Sara A. Carter.


Why Minnesota Could Be The Next Midwestern State To Go Red

This is the third in aseries of articles examining the politics and demographics of 2020’s expected swing states.

In the fabled “blue wall” — the collection of historically Democratic states that pundits (wrongly) assumed gave Hillary Clinton an Electoral College advantage in 2016 — Minnesota is the cornerstone. The Democratic candidate has won Minnesota in 11 straight presidential elections, the longest active streak in the country. What’s more, no Republican has won any statewide election in Minnesota since 2006 — not for Senate, not for governor, not even for state auditor.

It’s tempting to conclude from this that Minnesota is a safe Democratic state. But Minnesota is much more evenly divided than that record suggests: For example, it came within a couple percentage points of voting for now-President Trump in 2016. And as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — which voted Democratic in every presidential election from 1992 to 2012 — showed in 2016, streaks are meant to be broken.1

Most ominously for Democrats, there is evidence that Minnesota is becoming redder over time, with 2016 being a particular inflection point. In 1984, the state was 18.2 points more Democratic than the nation as a whole. But in 2016, for the first time since 1952, Minnesota voted more Republican than the rest of the U.S.

Even as it votes for Democrats, Minnesota shifts right

How Minnesota has voted relative to the nation as a whole in presidential elections since 1976

MinnesotaElectionDem.GOPMarginNational MarginMinn. Lean197654.9%42.0%D+12.9D+2.1D+10.8198046.542.6D+3.9R+9.4D+13.4198449.749.5D+0.2R+18.0D+18.2198852.945.9D+7.0R+7.6D+14.6199243.531.9D+11.6D+5.8D+5.8199651.135.0D+16.1D+8.5D+7.6200047.945.5D+2.4D+0.5D+1.9200451.147.6D+3.5R+2.4D+5.9200854.143.8D+10.2D+7.3D+3.0201252.745.0D+7.7D+3.9D+3.8201646.444.9D+1.5D+2.2R+0.7Sources: Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, Minnesota Secretary of State, U.S. House of Representatives

And Minnesota may be even further right in 2020. According to the current2 FiveThirtyEight forecast, Joe Biden is on track to defeat Trump by 4.2 points in Minnesota — 1.9 points better for Trump than our forecast for the national popular vote.

What explains Minnesota’s rightward shift? Fifty-three percent of the population age 25 and older are non-Hispanic white and lack a bachelor’s degree, a demographic with which Republicans — and especially Trump — have been gaining ground. Historically, though, Minnesota’s predominantly white, working-class population has actually been quite progressive: The state’s many German and Scandinavian immigrants (the biggest ethnic groups in Minnesota are German Americans, at 33 percent of the population, and Norwegian Americans, at 15 percent) brought with them their progressive values and faith in government, and its active labor movement (in 1983, more than 23 percent of Minnesota employees were members of a union) rallied blue-collar workers around the Democratic Party. In fact, Minnesota’s Democratic Party isn’t called the Democratic Party at all — it is the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, reflecting its historical growth out of those two constituencies.

But in recent elections, Democrats’ pro-environment and anti-gun positions have alienated these voters in places like the Iron Range, an ancestrally Democratic mining region, and in 2016 Trump was able to tap into their racial and economic grievances as well. Democrats went from carrying Minnesota by 7.7 points in 2012 to carrying it by just 1.5 in 2016. Tellingly, the counties that shifted the most toward Trump were also the counties with the highest concentrations of white people without a college degree.

As you can see, 2016 also contributed to Minnesota’s ongoing urban-rural realignment. One of the most important divides in Minnesota politics is between the diverse, cosmopolitan Twin Cities metro area and “Greater Minnesota,” whose residents often feel short-changed relative to the metro. In 2016, every county in Greater Minnesota got redder, and 19 of them flipped from Barack Obama to Trump.

However, there is a silver lining for Democrats: Several counties in the metro actually got bluer in 2016, powered by formerly Republican suburbs like Eden Prairie, Edina and Chanhassen. Still, it wasn’t enough to counterbalance Democrats’ losses in Greater Minnesota, so the state shifted toward Republicans overall.

So, robbed of the formula that fueled them for so long — an uncharacteristically strong performance in rural areas and among non-college-educated white voters — Democrats are now in serious danger of losing Minnesota for the first time since 1972. It might not happen this year: Biden, after all, leads by 4.2 points in our forecast there. But that is more about Biden’s strength nationally than Minnesota being blue.

Indeed, Minnesota is now one of the likeliest states to be the Electoral College tipping point — the state that delivers the next president his decisive 270th electoral vote. So assuming that future presidential elections are closer contests, be prepared for Minnesota to be one of the main swing states going forward — and know that the next time a Republican wins the White House, there’s a good chance Minnesota’s blue streak will have come to a long-awaited end.


New U.S. People Were One Of The Fastest-Growing Voting Blocs. But Not This Year.

On a Wednesday morning in late February, Annie Johnson Benifield was already through the doors of the M.O. Campbell Education Center, in Houston by 5:30 a.m.

The occasion was a once-a-month naturalization ceremony, where anywhere between 1,700 to 2,600 legal permanent residents swear a 140-word oath in order to become U.S. citizens. The ceremony wouldn’t begin until later in the morning, but Benifield and the 40 or so volunteers from the League of Women Voters (LWV) had arrived early to set up.

The League is the official registration partner for many naturalization ceremonies across the country. And before the pandemic, these events happened frequently, taking place once, or sometimes twice, each month at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices as well as some federal courthouses. The League had predicted that, in 2020, it would interact with up to 200,000 new citizens and their family members in 1,000 events across the country.

The Houston chapter specifically had an 85 to 90 percent success rate in new voter registrations, for an annual average of 30,000 new voters, according to Benifield. But this year, with the widespread interest in the presidential elections, she thought registrations might crack 40,000.

“I was getting excited and feeling giddy about it,” she told FiveThirtyEight, “but COVID-19 had a different plan.”

Newly naturalized citizens are one of the fastest-growing voting groups in the United States. In February, the Pew Research Center published a report that found that 23.2 million naturalized citizens would be eligible to vote in November’s presidential elections, making up a record 10 percent of the total electorate. And according to a February analysis by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a coalition of immigrant advocacy organizations, 860,000 new Americans were expected to have naturalized by November before the pandemic brought things to a halt.

But not all eligible voters actually vote, and naturalized Americans have historically trailed native-born Americans at the polls.1 In 2016, for example, 54 percent of naturalized citizens voted in the general election compared with 62 percent of native-born citizens. According to studies, one explanation is an element that could be missing again this year: voter registration. It’s not a lack of desire to participate, the study finds, but rather it’s an unfamiliarity with how or where to register, registration deadlines, and language issues. Once these barriers are overcome and new Americans are registered, they tend to vote at the same rates as native-born members of their demographic group.

Take someone like Raz Ahmadi, a new U.S. citizen from Afghanistan. For the past five years, he has worked as an organizer registering voters and advocating for progressive environmental policies in Virginia. And this year, after completing the naturalization process, which had been interrupted by COVID-19, in mid-July, Ahmadi will finally be able to cast his own ballot.

Though he has already been involved in politics, Ahmadi says that being able to actually participate is a whole new feeling for him. Being “empowered to vote, mentally, it gives you a lot of power,” he says. “It just personalizes a lot of things. Now you’re more involved in the community.”

But even before COVID-19, the wait time for citizenship applications had hit new highs under the Trump administration. According to USCIS numbers, the naturalization process averaged 8.8 months in 2020, compared with 5.6 months in 2016 and a peak of 10.3 months in 2018,2 though in some cases, it could take up to three years.

COVID-19 exacerbated this delay. On March 18, USCIS temporarily shut down all public-facing activities, including interviews for visas, asylum and naturalization as well as oath ceremonies. The agency did not make plans for virtual alternatives, bringing much of U.S. immigration to a halt.

For each day that USCIS remained closed, 2,100 potential new voters would be disenfranchised, according to a frequently cited report by Boundless, an immigration-services company co-founded by an Obama administration official.

USCIS field offices reopened on June 4 and prioritized in-person oath-swearing ceremonies. Some field offices held drive-through ceremonies, while others held more frequent, but smaller, indoor or outdoor ceremonies. By the end of July, the agency says that it has cleared the backlog of 110,000 oath ceremonies delayed by its closures, as well as an additional 7,905 oath ceremonies not scheduled before the pandemic.

Judge Ramon E. Reyes Jr. speaks via livestream during a naturalization ceremony in New York City earlier this summer.

Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Still, these 7,905 new naturalizations in July represent a twelve-fold decrease than the typical 95,850 naturalizations completed each month. So even though in-person oath ceremonies are continuing, “the fact of the matter was that there was already a backlog of people waiting to be naturalized,” says Jeanette Senecal, who oversees voter-engagement programs at the League of Women Voters, “so unless USCIS is both increasing the number of people who are getting naturalized at each one and offering more ceremonies, there’s really no way they can make that up.”

From the outset of USCIS’s closure, a diverse group of bipartisan policymakers, immigration lawyers, community advocates, and third-party voter-registration organizations like the League of Women Voters have called on USCIS to follow in the footsteps of other federal government agencies in moving activities online. In June, the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office, a small, independent office in the Department of Homeland Security that appeals specific immigration cases and suggests improvements for USCIS, weighed in, calling remote oath ceremonies, held via video teleconferencing, “a legally permissible and operationally feasible solution” for the agency in the short term and a potential long-term solution to “increase efficiencies” in its annual report to Congress.

But still, the USCIS rejected a virtual option. Spokespeople told FiveThirtyEight repeatedly, both before and after the Ombudsman’s report, that “the statutory language mandated by Congress contains certain requirements that are logistically difficult for USCIS to administer naturalization oaths virtually or telephonically.”

USCIS says that they’ve taken steps to clear the backlog in oath ceremonies, but these ceremonies are not the only steps in the naturalization process that are delayed.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, calls USCIS’s emphasis on clearing the backlog in oath ceremonies “really misleading” because it wasn’t just oath ceremonies that were paused during this time. “It was also interviews, which meant that naturalization applications weren’t being processed,” said Pierce. She added that unless USCIS was also trying to expedite processing of naturalization applications, there was “no way” the agency was going to be able to naturalize the same number of people by the election.

By the end of March, there were more than 700,000 naturalization applications waiting to be processed.

Dan Hetlage, a USCIS spokesperson, told FiveThirtyEight that the agency has also “prioritized rescheduling interviews for naturalization and adjustment of status that were postponed,” but as of early August, immigration lawyers I spoke with said that their clients had not been contacted to schedule naturalization interviews.

There are currently 315,000 naturalization applicants awaiting their interviews, which on average occur two months before an oath ceremony, according to a Boundless analysis. In two months it will be October, which is the deadline for voter registration in many states. That means an unknown but likely significant number of those 315,000 applicants will not naturalize soon enough to register by October and vote in November.

It’s not just USCIS that has changed as a result of the pandemic. A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute cataloged 63 executive actions undertaken by the Trump administration since March that have further restricted immigration.

Pierce, who co-authored the report, says that these changes represented some of the Trump administration’s “boldest actions on immigration to date” that, in some cases, they had long been pushing but had been unable to achieve. This includes a travel ban on 31 countries, the end of asylum at the southern border, and the suspension of immigration for many family- and employment-based categories as well as four temporary-worker programs.

“During an unprecedented pandemic, which includes both public health and economic crises, you would expect immigration to take a backseat,” says Pierce, “but rather, the opposite has been true.”

When USCIS offices reopened on June 4, organizations like the League of Women Voters scrambled to help with voter-registration efforts. Benifield, from LWV-Houston, recalls reaching out multiple times to the local field office. “We were prepared to go and set up in the parking lot … if they allowed us,” she said.

In the end, her persistence paid off. “The branch chief … agreed that we could actually bring cards” for officials administering the naturalization ceremony to give out. The League cannot be on-site to register applicants directly because of the continued threat the pandemic poses, but they can drop off folders containing voter-registration packets to the local field office to be distributed at the socially distant ceremonies. USCIS is legally mandated to provide, at a minimum, voter-registration forms at each naturalization ceremony.

Benifiled said she was glad they could distribute materials, but she remained unsure how effective this form of voter registration would be. “Clearly, it will not be 30,000 like … last year.”

This is affecting the League’s activities across the country. “Spring and summer are usually really busy seasons for voter registration, but especially in presidential years, we usually see massive increases… [in] naturalization ceremonies,” says Senecal, from the League’s national office.

Volunteers understand the public health prerogatives that prevent them from conducting registrations in person, especially since many are older and at higher risk for COVID-19, but many, like Benifield, are concerned about the effect on registration numbers and broader civic engagement.

“The opportunity cost is not just registration,” adds Senecal, “it’s also voter education.”

At a basic level, in-person voter registration provides necessary information in native languages, says Nancy Xiong, the communications director for Hmong Innovating Politics, a California-based nonprofit that aims to increase civic participation among Southeast Asian Americans.

Native language materials are essential, since many new citizens, especially in already marginalized communities, have challenges with English. Even when they are provided with translated voting materials, Xiong adds, these materials “may not always be helpful because county/state offices do a word-to-word translation, without much context.”

This can create the perception that these communities are uninterested in politics, leading to “big campaigns never or rarely contact[ing] the Southeast Asian community,” Xiong says, even though 92 percent of the 310,000 Hmong Americans are citizens, one of the highest rates among Asian Americans, and 45 percent are eligible to vote. And this perpetuates a cycle of disenfranchisement, at the very moment when immigrant voters might be especially incentivized to vote, if previous elections in which immigration was a hot topic are any indication. In 2008, presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that immigrants should “self-deport” and hardline views on DACA, for example, have been linked to a jump in voter registrations between 2008 to 2012.

Sundrop Carter, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), which partners with the Philadelphia USCIS field office as its official third-party registration organization for naturalization ceremonies, told me part of the problem is that: “[B]y definition new Americans have no voter history.” As a result, she said, they’re often bypassed by most get-out-the-vote efforts. “New voters … they’re just invisible.”

This is despite the fact that in many battleground states, like Pennsylvania, where Carter is based, as well as Michigan, Florida and Nevada, the number of new Americans who are eligible to vote now is larger than the margin of victory in the 2016 elections, according to the June 2020 report from the NPNA. “Newly naturalized citizens could help to sway the outcome of national elections,” says Diego Iñiguez-López, the NPNA’s policy and campaigns manager. But more importantly, he adds, “what’s at stake is the political empowerment of newly naturalized citizens … and for the democratic ideals of this country to be fully realized and exercised.”

Community organizations have always tried to fill in the gap — and this year, just as the need for their services ramp up, COVID-19 has made them more difficult to deliver.

Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), in California, and the nonprofit Bonding Against Adversity in Houston, which works mostly with Latin American immigrants, are doing their best to adapt by moving their activities online. HIP has switched to a text-messaging platform, which uses current friends-and-family circles to encourage contacts to register to vote. Bonding Against Adversity, meanwhile, has expanded another SMS-based communications platform to provide real-time immigration application help, and plans to restart an online version of their 14-session “citizenship college” civic-education program and application workshops in August.

Meanwhile, LWV-Houston members have paid for a QR code that brings up voter-registration information, which it is sharing on signs and, for a while, in person at public libraries, community and faith-based organizations, protests and even a taco chain restaurant.

But still, many organizations are afraid that some of the most vulnerable communities, who already feel left out of the political process, will fall through the gaps. “A lot of the communities that we work with have elementary education, are not computer-savvy, and don’t speak good English,” says Mariana Sanchez, a co-founder of Bonding Against Adversity. That’s why she says in-person registration and education is essential.

But the pandemic has put these in-person services on pause, and as a result, the applicants who need the most support are unable to access it.

Wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus, new citizens are sworn in during a naturalization ceremony in Miami.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

COVID-19 shows little evidence of slowing down. By June, hospitals in states like Texas that had avoided the early wave of infections were warning that hospital beds were close to full, and in-person voter-registration activities, which the League of Women Voters had just restarted alongside USCIS’s reopenings, were put on indefinite pause.

In the meantime, smaller oath ceremonies continue, with USCIS spokespeople emphasizing their adherence during the ceremonies to public-health guidelines, including masks and social distancing. But it is not clear if USCIS has any contingency plans in place for alternatives to in-person activities.

The potential of more stay-at-home orders at a local level is also a possibility, which would affect which activities USCIS could continue. Guam’s USCIS office, for example, was shut down for a week as the territory’s COVID-19 case count led the governor to issue orders to shelter in place. Hetlage, the USCIS representative, did not respond to a specific question on contingency plans but reiterated that virtual oath ceremonies weren’t possible.

This has many immigration advocates perplexed. “Almost every business, school district, university and government agency across the country has made adjustments to keep their organizations — and the country — moving,” says Eric Cohen, the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy group. “Why should USCIS be any different?”

The question represents an ongoing frustration: Yes, there is an unprecedented public-health crisis, but there is also a human-made immigration crisis stemming from the administration’s policies and USCIS’s decision-making during the pandemic.

“It’s hard to look at the actions the administration has taken that result in decreased immigration, and not think that there was some intent there, especially when you’re talking about an administration that is historic in its stance on legal immigration.” says Pierce, of MPI, on whether the immigration agency’s decision-making could be political. Beyond the 63 actions taken during the pandemic, Pierce’s report identified over 400 executive actions by the Trump administration taken in the past four years that have shifted the immigration system toward removing suspected undocumented immigrants, and away from processing applications for naturalization and legal immigration.

It stands in stark contrast with the second night of the Republican National Convention, when Trump naturalized five new citizens at the White House in a prerecorded video. The president welcomed them to “a family comprised of every race, color, religion and creed united by the bonds of love,” as he said in his concluding remarks. “We are one people sharing one home, saluting one great American flag.”

USCIS representatives did not respond to a request for comment on whether the five were given voter-registration forms, as required by law.

Since early summer, USCIS has warned that if it does not receive $1.2 billion in emergency funding, the agency would furlough 13,000 workers – 70 percent of its workforce — and slow or pause many immigration processes. On August 25, after months of back-and-forth, Congress and USCIS reached an agreement that would avoid the furlough.

That agreement would not, however, avoid further delays in processing, as Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy at USCIS, told The Washington Post: “Averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.”

In an effort to increase its financial sustainability, USCIS will increase fees by an average of 20 percent across the board, and more than 80 percent for naturalization applications. For groups like Bonding Against Adversity and Hmong Innovating Politics, which were already under-resourced before the pandemic, these changes will only add to their immediate workload.

Sanchez says she’s already received more inquiries from people who want to apply for citizenship before application fees for naturalization increase. “The immigration laws are so difficult,” says Sanchez, that “the only way, for some of the people we serve to help their families is through citizenship…and voting.”

But USCIS is making the process more difficult. That’s why the NPNA sees naturalization delays as an issue of voting rights.

“It’s part of the larger anti-immigrant agenda that the Trump administration has pursued over the last few years,” says Iñiguez-López. “Keep immigrants feeling unwelcome, keep them afraid, keep them intimidated, and keep them away from knowing and asserting their votes, including their right to vote.”

In other words, while these would-be citizens are trying to follow the rules of the U.S. immigration system to naturalize and effect change through the established democratic processes, the system has itself become the barrier.

This story received support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Rowan Copley contributed research.


Biden’s Voters Appear Much more Likely To Vote By Mail Than Trump’s. That Could Make For A Weird Election Night.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the fortnight

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states have taken steps to make it easier for people to vote by mail. (We’re tracking them all here.) Absentee ballots have constituted a majority of the votes cast in most primaries since the pandemic struck, and polling suggests a record number of people will vote by mail in the general election as well.

However, amid saturation coverage of problems with the U.S. Postal Service, new polling from CNBC/Change Research suggests that the number of Americans planning to vote by mail has ticked down. In early August, 38 percent of voters in six battleground states1 said they planned to vote by mail. But in the pollster’s just-released Aug. 21-23 poll, the number of voters in those states saying they planned to vote by mail was down to 33 percent. Among all voters nationwide, the share planning to vote by mail went from 36 percent to 33 percent — although that drop was within the poll’s margin of error.

Other recent polls agree that about a third of voters intend to vote by mail this year. But not all voters plan to do so in equal numbers. Democrats are much likelier than Republicans to say they will vote by mail — which makes sense given that Democrats also tend to be more supportive of mail voting. (By contrast, the Republican standard bearer, President Trump, has repeatedly and inaccurately assailed mail voting as ripe for fraud.)

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 30 percent of registered voters said they planned to vote by mail, and 43 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. But among Trump supporters, only 11 percent said they planned to vote by mail, and 66 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. Among Joe Biden backers, 47 percent said they planned to vote by mail, while only 26 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. (The share who said they would vote early in person was consistently 20-21 percent among all three groups: Trump supporters, Biden supporters and voters overall.)

If this holds, it would mean votes cast on Election Day would skew heavily toward Trump, and votes cast by mail would skew heavily toward Biden. This has serious implications for … well, democracy. First, Trump could argue the mail ballots (which, remember, could account for most of Biden’s votes) were fraudulent and thus should not be counted. Although it’s unlikely they’d actually be thrown out, this would damage the credibility of the election in the eyes of many Trump supporters. Second, it could mean the first votes counted on election night will be disproportionately good for Trump, who might claim victory based on incomplete returns. It might not be until days later, after a good chunk of the Democratic-leaning mail vote is counted, that Biden pulls ahead.

Let’s do a quick-and-dirty exercise to show what I mean. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll overall, Biden led Trump by 9 percentage points among registered voters. But Biden led Trump by 63 points (!) among voters who planned to vote by mail, and Trump led Biden by 33 points among voters who planned to vote in person on Election Day. If this kind of partisan split occurred in every state, Biden would win the mail vote in all 50 states — from Alabama to Wyoming — and Trump would win the Election Day vote in all 50.

To be clear, I don’t expect Trump to be leading in all 50 states when the first results are reported on Nov. 3. For one thing, the partisan split between Election Day and mail votes will surely vary from state to state; I don’t literally think Trump will win the Election Day vote in every state, nor Biden the mail vote in every one. For another, Election Day votes aren’t the only results we’ll get on election night: We’ll also get early in-person votes in states that have early voting, which should make things look better for Biden. (Biden led Trump by 12 points among early in-person voters in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.) And some mail votes will probably be counted by the time we go to bed as well.

Nevertheless, the gap between the Election Day and mail vote could be huge this year, which should serve as a stark reminder not to overreact to election-night returns. We could — not necessarily will, but could — have absurd initial results like Trump winning Massachusetts or Illinois. That would not mean he has won the election; it takes days, sometimes even weeks, to count every mail ballot, so we may not know the identity of the next president until mid-November.

Other polling bites

Although the Democratic National Convention’s TV ratings were lower than they were in 2016, 50 percent of Americans told ABC News/Ipsos that they watched at least a little of the 2020 DNC. Those who did were overwhelmingly satisfied with what they saw: 72 percent approved of what Democrats said and did at the convention, while just 26 percent disapproved.Last week, Trump said he wanted to send law enforcement officials to polling places this fall, although it’s not clear he has the authority to do so. Although his statement disturbed voting watchdog groups, the American public had mixed feelings about it. According to YouGov, 37 percent said this move would keep people from voting, 22 percent said it would protect against voter fraud and 23 percent said it would have no effect on voting. The remaining 19 percent didn’t know.According to NBC News/SurveyMonkey, 48 percent of parents said their child’s schooling will be conducted entirely online this fall; 17 percent said their child will attend school in person, while 25 percent said their child will have a mix of in-person and virtual schooling. The number of parents reporting their child’s schooling will be fully online has increased by 7 percentage points since early August.Trump has two home states: New York, where he was born and rose to fame, and Florida, where he now claims residency. But a new survey from Public Policy Polling found that neither state wants to claim him. By a 53 percent to 22 percent margin, New Yorkers want Trump to claim Florida as his home state, but Floridians want him to claim New York 47 percent to 37 percent.On Tuesday, state Sen. Stephanie Bice won the Republican runoff to take on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma’s 5th District — perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic-held congressional seat in the nation. However, shortly after Bice’s win, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a GQR Research poll showing Horn at 51 percent and Bice at 46 percent. Given that internal polls tend to be a tad too optimistic for the side releasing them, the Oklahoma 5th looks like a toss-up race.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -12.1 points). At this time last week, 41.8 percent approved and 54.2 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -12.4 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 55.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -15.6 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.3 percentage points (48.3 percent to 41.0 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.4 points (48.4 percent to 41.0 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 8.5 points (49.5 percent to 41.0 percent).

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 presidential forecast, as well as all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.


Why Trump’s Racist Appeals Might Be Less Efficient In 2020 Than They Remained in 2016

In the closing days of the 2018 midterms campaign, with the economy on a historic run, President Trump tried to focus Americans’ attention on a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the United States. He seemed to believe that by highlighting the migrants, he might rally voters back to the GOP in advance of the vote.

In recent weeks, Trump has telegraphed that racialized wedge issues are again a central element of his political strategy and seems to see a consistent political advantage in overt or dog-whistle racist appeals and the condemnation they invariably draw. For example, Trump has promised to protect “the suburban housewife” from lower-income neighbors; threatened to veto a bill that contained a provision to rename military bases named for Confederate leaders; waved off the problem of Black Americans being disproportionately killed by police by saying “so are white people;” focused his campaign advertising on crime and protests; and repeated baseless, racist allegations about Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris.

In using racial appeals, the president is the latest in a generations-long line of politicians tapping into a dangerous vein in American politics. But is there sometimes a political logic to such appeals? They didn’t work in 2018. Democrats would go on to take control of the U.S. House and a bunch of governorships.1 That was a midterm election, though, and this is a contest for the presidency. So, are racialized wedge issues likely to work to the GOP’s advantage in November?

To answer that question, it’s valuable to turn back to a case in which the effects of white voters’ racial attitudes and prejudices on voting have already been extensively analyzed: the 2016 general election. Then, too, Trump was widely seen as using racial wedge issues to build political support.

White voters’ racial attitudes in 2016

One good starting point in assessing the impact of white voters’ racial attitudes in 2016 is the influential book “Identity Crisis” by John Sides, FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck. The authors build from a long-standing framework in political science which holds that lots of voters have political attitudes that point in opposite directions in terms of which party they might support. (Consider, for example, someone who opposes abortion but believes we need to take immediate action on climate change.)

Campaigns matter, in this view, because they can make specific issues more or less relevant in voters’ evaluation of their choice, a concept sometimes called priming or activation. The telltale sign of activation is that an attitude — in our example, the voter’s opposition to abortion — becomes a more powerful factor in their vote choice after the campaign highlights abortion-related rhetoric. In this way, a voter who believes in climate change might vote for a climate-change denier because that issue has become less of a factor in the voter’s choice.

How did this play out in the real world? In 2012, Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was reelected by a coalition that included a meaningful number of voters with “conservative” views on race-related issues and immigration, particularly in pivotal states. Then, in 2016, many of those voters’ views on racial issues became more closely integrated with their vote choice after exposure to racialized campaign rhetoric, according to a panel survey Sides, Tesler and Vavreck collected tracking the same group of individuals over time. They concluded that Trump won a small but influential sliver of the electorate with conservative views on race and immigration after his campaign foregrounded those identity-infused issues.2

Those are striking findings given that the nation’s first Black president had been running for reelection in 2012, and given that racial attitudes were already very predictive of whether a white voter is likely to be a Republican or a Democrat. Still, it’s broadly consistent with other research on the activation of whites’ racial attitudes in 2016, including Diana Mutz’s research on “status threat” and Matt Baretto and Christopher Parker’s research on racial attitudes and support for the pre-Trump tea party.

On its own, that body of research seems to suggest that Trump could win votes by using racial appeals, especially if activating racialized issues plays to the GOP’s advantage in swing states. Still, it’s critical to keep in mind that activation can cut both ways, since those with liberal racial attitudes can shift away from the GOP just as those with conservative racial attitudes shift toward it. Indeed, we’ve seen exactly that, with college-educated white voters — who tend to have more liberal attitudes on race — moving towards the Democratic Party since Obama’s election in 2008.

Also, activation isn’t the only way to measure a concept as broad and important as “racialized voting.” In a recent paper, Justin Grimmer and Will Marble pointed out that, relative to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Trump actually gained more support from voters with moderate views on race than from voters with more conservative racial views. One key difference between Grimmer and Marble’s approach and those detailed above is that they measure whites’ racial attitudes separately in 2012 and 2016. Since white Americans’ racial attitudes overall became more liberal and less prejudiced between those two elections, it stands to reason that fewer Trump supporters would take conservative positions on race-related issues than Romney supporters did.3 In the 2016 general election, I found results generally consistent with Sides and co-authors’ evidence of activation: Respondents at the 20th percentile of anti-Black prejudice (low levels of prejudice) supported Trump 4 percentage points less than did respondents at the 80th percentile (high levels of prejudice), holding constant partisanship and various demographics. (That doesn’t mean Trump got a 4-point advantage, since that number partly reflects low-prejudice white voters shifting away from the GOP.)

In the 2016 GOP primary, though, the role of anti-Black prejudice was much more clear-cut. There, if we compare white voters who identify with the GOP with prejudice scores (measured years earlier) at the 20th percentile to those at the 80th percentile, Trump was doing a striking 10 percentage points better with the latter group in the GOP primary as of January 2016. That association is far stronger than any comparable association observed in the 2008 primaries. In the Democratic primary that year, Obama did a more modest 3 percentage points worse among the group that scored higher on the prejudice scale. Meanwhile, knowing white Republicans’ prejudice scores doesn’t really explain vote choice at all in the 2008 GOP primary. So where did using racial wedge issues arguably work to Trump’s advantage most? In the 2016 GOP primaries.

Where Things Stand Now

Fast forward four years, past Trump’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, cursing NFL players who kneel for the national anthem, referring to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries,” and much else.

Looking at that panel survey I used in the Political Behavior study, we can see how the relationship between white respondents’ prejudice and their presidential intentions has changed. In the January 2020 survey wave, the poll included a question about a potential Trump-Biden general election match-up. And respondents who reported especially high levels of prejudice back in 2012 were roughly as firmly with Trump as of this January as they had been in fall 2016.4

But notice the histogram at the bottom, which show how many respondents registered each level of prejudice: The high-prejudice portion of the white electorate where Trump was clearly outperforming Romney accounts for roughly a quarter of all white respondents (to say nothing of nonwhite voters or voters too young to appear in a 12-year-old panel). Further activating this group is likely to have diminishing returns for Trump because there aren’t many of them and they are already strongly behind the president. By contrast, white voters with lower levels of prejudice are far more numerous, and also less likely to be with Trump than in 2016. In other words, Trump has far more room to increase his support among the larger number of white Americans with lower levels of prejudice.

Remember, this wave of the panel was conducted in January — before COVID-19 and, crucially, before the protests following the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake. The protests may have changed the relationship between racial attitudes and voting in ways not detected in this survey. But the evidence to date suggests that, if anything, the protests may have continued to push white Americans’ racial attitudes in a liberal direction. And as Tesler contends, Democrats are now arguably more unified on race-related issues than Republicans, meaning that relative to 2016, there are fewer voters with the mix of attitudes that might make them responsive to racial appeals. Other issues, like the coronavirus and the government’s response, have also crowded the political agenda, limiting Trump’s ability to change the subject.

True, Grimmer and Marble disagree with Sides, Tesler and Vavreck on the role racial attitudes played in 2016. But when looking ahead to 2020, the researchers are more in agreement. In an email, Grimmer offered a conclusion similar to Tesler’s, noting that “in 2016, Trump was already winning almost all of the declining fraction of voters who are highest in racial resentment. So he has a lot more room for growth among those in the middle of the racial resentment scale, both in terms of turning out and choosing him over Biden.”

It’s surely too soon to count Trump out. But if Trump does win reelection in November, it’s very likely to be due to gains with white voters lower in prejudice or with nonwhite voters. Using racist appeals and racialized wedge issues won him support most clearly in the 2016 GOP primary. But there are key differences between that contest and the 2020 general election — differences that may make racial appeals less impactful this year. And judging from the RNC’s periodic efforts to counter the charge that Trump is racially divisive, some of its planners seem to agree.


Support For Black Lives Matter Surged Throughout Protests, But Is Waning Amongst White Americans

The recent protests against police brutality are some of the largest and most widespread in American history. An estimated 15 million to 26 million Americans have taken to the streets to protest police violence and advocate for Black lives.

The remarkable size and scope of these demonstrations has translated into real policy gains, too. Dozens of state and local police reforms have been enacted since the protests started. And at the federal level, President Trump signed an executive order that outlines his administration’s priorities for police reform, including creating a national database that catalogues police misconduct. The House of Representatives passed an even more ambitious piece of legislation that proposes a series of reforms, like tying federal funding to bans on chokeholds and setting up a task force to address excessive police force, but the GOP-controlled Senate hasn’t taken it up.

Arguably, though, the protests’ impact on public opinion has been even more immediate and wide-ranging. Unfavorable views of the police, acknowledgement of widespread discrimination against African Americans and support for Black Lives Matter all jumped up by at least 10 percentage points, according to tracking polls conducted shortly before and after the protests by both Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape and Civiqs.

These changes in public opinion are being driven in large part by white Americans, who for years have been much less likely than Black Americans to acknowledge that racial inequality remains a real problem. Since the first wave of large-scale Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, white Americans’ racial attitudes have gradually become more liberalized while Black Americans’ views have remained relatively steady.

Trump’s many offensive statements may be contributing to this trend, as they seem to be driving Democrats, particularly white Democrats, to adopt more liberal views on race in response. That’s one reason so many white Democrats showed up at the most recent protests.

But the protests’ impact on public opinion appears to be fading — particularly among white Americans, as you can see in the chart below. Black Americans’ opinions have stayed much steadier, as they have in the past.

Drawing on data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape’s weekly tracking surveys, I found that unfavorable views of the police are trending back down toward their pre-protest levels among white Americans and have dipped among Black Americans. White respondents are also becoming somewhat less likely to say that African Americans face “a lot” or “a great deal” of discrimination, though those numbers remain higher than they were before before George Floyd was killed in May. Black Americans’ views on the discrimination they face have remained essentially unchanged.

The same patterns are evident in tracking surveys from Civiqs and YouGov/The Economist. In the Civiqs data, white respondents’ net support (support minus opposition) for the Black Lives Matter movement surged from -4 shortly before the protests to +10 in early June, but has since dropped to 6 points underwater. Meanwhile, Black Americans’ net support went from +76 in early May to +85 in early June and has remained within a point of that mark ever since. And in the YouGov/The Economist surveys, the share of white Americans who said racism is a big problem decreased from 45 percent in June to 33 percent when the question was last asked in early August. Three-quarters of Black Americans, on the other hand, said racism was a big problem in both surveys.

Why, then, do white Americans’ views on racism and the police seem to be returning to their baseline, but Black Americans’ views remain steady? Well, as media attention turns away from the protests, it may simply be easier for white people to forget about the issue, while the stakes were always greater for Black Americans.

In an analysis of closed captioning data of cable news broadcasts from the TV News Archive,1 we found a huge spike in the number of clips that mentioned “racism” or “Black Lives Matter” as the protests raged during the first two weeks of June. But, as you can see in the chart below, the amount of attention cable news paid to racism and the Black Lives Matter movement has dropped as we’ve moved farther away from peak protest activity. (Coverage of these two issues is still higher than it was prior to Floyd’s death, however.)2

This surge and decline in media attention clearly corresponds to changes in public opinion among white Americans, and it’s possible that some of the historic gains we’ve seen in white views of the Black Lives Matter movement might not last.

This drop is not surprising, since we’ve seen it before in how public opinion changes on school shootings, for example. Because media attention on even the most high-profile mass shootings tends to be fleeting, so are these shootings’ effects on public opinion. And now, white Americans’ opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement may be following the same trajectory. That’s driving a decline in overall public support even as Black Americans continue to back the movement at very high rates.

This decline in public opinion is consistent with a long line of political science research that tells us that the effects of events on public opinion tend to last only for as long as they are at the forefront of the country’s — or, in this case, one group’s — collective consciousness. That also means that without prolonged activism and sustained media attention, the impact of this year’s protests on white public opinion could evaporate entirely.


Women Won the Right to Vote 100 Years Ago. They Didn’t Start Voting Differently From Men Until 1980.

Women officially won the right to vote just a few months before the 1920 presidential election, and as soon as the 19th Amendment was ratified, suffragists were predicting a sea change in American politics. One activist even proclaimed that “the women’s vote is going to be a tremendous factor in this election.”

And that did happen, eventually. In the century since women’s suffrage, women have transformed our politics — in particular, they’ve become a force to be reckoned with inside the Democratic Party. Of course, many women — especially white women — still vote Republican, but in election after election, it is the Democratic Party that has added more women to its ranks.

It was a “women’s wave,” after all, that swept Democrats into the House in 2018, including a record number of female Democratic lawmakers. And this week, Democrats will officially nominate Sen. Kamala Harris as their vice presidential candidate, just the fourth woman to ever be on a major party’s presidential ticket.

But it took a surprisingly long time for women to become the electoral force that suffragists predicted. After the passage of the amendment, women were not broadly mobilized, and in many places, women of color continued to face barriers to voting. This meant that the first women to vote were largely white, wealthy or living in states that made it easier for women to vote. It wasn’t until 1980, for instance, that equal shares of men and women cast a ballot. That was also the first election where there was an observable gender gap in the presidential vote.1 According to exit polls, that year less than half (47 percent) of women voted for Ronald Reagan compared to 55 percent of men. And since then, the gap has largely expanded, with women becoming an increasingly large and influential base for Democratic candidates.

“It’s a pretty stunning effect,” said Elizabeth U. Cascio, an economist at Dartmouth and the co-author of a recent paper on the gender gap. In her research, she and colleague Na’ama Shenhav gathered voter turnout data in presidential elections, finding women went from being 10 percentage points less likely to vote than men in the 1940s to being about 4 points more likely to vote in 2016. At the same time, she added, women became increasingly likely to identify as Democrats, compared to men.

So what happened to make women turn out at a higher rate than men — and stick with the Democrats while many men have abandoned the party for the Republicans?

The first question is easier to answer. It took several decades for women to vote at the same rate as men, but once they did, they actually became more engaged voters. Now, it’s routine for women to turn out at substantially higher rates than men.

“It’s a story of generational replacement and change,” said Christina Wolbrecht, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame and the co-author of “A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections Since Suffrage.” Before 1920, women hadn’t just been denied the right to vote — they had also been told over and over that voting and politics were for men. Reliable data about women’s voting patterns in the 1920s and 1930s is scarce, but according to Wolbrecht, some women in the years after suffrage never stopped believing that voting simply wasn’t their job.

That wasn’t how later generations of women saw the world, though. To most women born in the mid-20th century, voting seemed like an entirely natural thing to do. By the 1980s, it was so natural, in fact, that women were consistently voting at higher rates than men. That shift was driven in part by Black women: Despite facing systemic barriers to voting through the mid-1960s, they turned out at rates similar to white men — and only slightly lower than white women — by the mid-1990s.

But that story of generational replacement doesn’t explain why women became an increasingly important fixture of the Democratic base, starting with the 1980 election. Before that year, men’s and women’s voting patterns looked pretty similar — they voted at almost exactly equal rates for the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 1972 and 1976 presidential elections, for instance. That’s why it was so shocking when in 1980, an 8-point gender gap emerged between the share of men and women who voted for Reagan, with 55 percent of men backing him but just 47 percent of women.

So what happened? Simply put, prior to 1980, it hadn’t been as clear which party was more naturally aligned with most women’s views on policy issues. But in that election cycle, the Republican Party took a sharp right turn on a number of issues that mattered to women, including issues like spending on the social safety net, the environment, and the role of government. (The GOP also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time that year in its party platform.) And while a majority of men, who had been increasingly drawn toward the Republicans as the Democrats grew more liberal on issues of race, ended up in Reagan’s column, a majority of women did not.

As the parties became more and more polarized over the next few decades, this gap grew larger too, as women and men’s political allegiances continued to drift apart. “The issues that women tend to care about have largely been embraced by the Democratic Party,” Cascio said.

Other factors may have also helped drive this shift. For starters, several experts told us, women were increasingly likely to join the workforce, particularly in public sector jobs like teaching, which may have reinforced their support for a robust government safety net. At the same time, rising divorce rates, declining marriage rates and changing eligibility requirements for social welfare programs like Medicaid made many women more dependent on government support, which may have also drawn them to the Democratic Party, the party increasingly branded as supportive of big government. And according to a 2017 study, single women are more likely than married women to see themselves as connected to other women, which in turn predicts a more liberal ideology, especially for white and Latina women. (Black women tend to be liberal regardless of their marital status.)

Black women’s support for Democratic candidates was also a crucial part of this shift. “Black women have consistently and strongly supported the Democratic Party for decades now,” said Chaya Crowder, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. But that’s not because the Democrats have done a particularly good job of engaging with Black women, or worked to win their votes. Instead, according to research by Crowder and her co-authors, Black women are especially likely to see voting itself as an important and urgent act. One reason they’ve continued to vote Democratic, despite the party’s long history of lackluster outreach, is that their policy goals are almost always more aligned with those of the Democrats.

Over the past few years, there’s evidence of yet another crucial shift in women’s political allegiances too: More white women are moving toward the Democratic Party. The gender gap in 2018 was the largest in at least two decades, for instance, with a bigger share of white women voting for Democrats than in 2016.

This year, that trend could accelerate even further, thanks to President Trump’s presence on the ballot, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests continuing to unfold around the country. According to an analysis of likely voters in Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys conducted from July 23 through August 12, women are much likelier to support Biden over Trump, while men are fairly evenly divided between the two candidates. Biden is also slightly ahead of Trump among white women — which is noteworthy, because a majority of white women supported Trump in 2016.

There’s a big gender gap for Biden — and Trump

Share of male and female likely voters who are supporting Biden and Trump, according to surveys conducted July 23-Aug. 12

BidenTrumpraceFemaleMalemarginFemaleMalemarginAsian/Pacific Islander67.3%62.0%+5.324.7%30.7%-5.9Black86.876.9+10.06.516.7-10.2Hispanic57.858.0- Democracy fund + UCLA Nationscape

Of course, we’re still several months away from the election, and these numbers could change. But even before the pandemic hit, Trump’s lagging support among women sparked speculation that Republicans face a tough road with female voters. For instance, Trump’s favorability among women overall is very low, according to the Nationscape data. Of likely voters, only 37 percent of women said they had a favorable view of the president, while 56 percent said they have a favorable view of Biden. Likely male voters, on the other hand, tend to have a rosier view of Trump — 46 percent of men said they have a favorable view of the president — and a less positive impression of Biden. Just 51 percent of men said they had a favorable view of Biden.

Additionally, several experts told us that there are good reasons to believe that Biden is on track to see record high support among women, including white women. Mary-Kate Lizotte, a political science professor at Augusta University who studies the gender gap, told us that for many women, the fallout from the pandemic could underscore their support for a strong government safety net and draw them toward Biden. Faced with school closures and a historically high unemployment rate, Lizotte said, many women could feel especially inclined to support a party that promises significant government support. Meanwhile, Erin Cassese, a political science professor at the University of Delaware, said that with Harris on the ballot, sexism is likely to be a prominent issue, as it was in 2016 — which could help widen the gender gap even further.

The Black Lives Matter protests could also galvanize more women to turn out for Biden, according to Lizotte and Crowder, because women have been active in the protests and tend to score lower in racial resentment — a widely used measure in political science to capture racist attitudes — and tend to have more liberal perspectives on issues around race.

One big question, though, is whether women will turn out at high rates this year, with their kids out of school and the ordinary rhythms of life and work in disarray. Lizotte said she thinks it’s possible that these barriers might deter some women from voting.

But it’s even likelier, she said, that women might be more motivated than usual to turn out. “These issues are so personal and so dramatic and so likely to affect women,” she said. “Some of those people who haven’t been consistent voters might feel like it’s actually worth their time.”

And if that happens, women will do a lot to determine the fate of the 2020 election, just a few months into their second century of suffrage.