Four Distinct Democratic Campaigns

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Here is a nice new graphic showing the polling data for four of the current Democratic candidates. The graphic is meant to contrast the campaigns with respect to their overall pattern of performance over time.

Each of the four graphs represents polling from April to the present.

Each graph has four lowess smoothed lines representing the data, with all four candidate’s lines on each of the four graphs.

Each candidate gets its own graph, with those four lines, but with that candidate’s polling data shown.

The polling data is normalized so that each point is the proportion of polling points across just these four candidates, so there are no effects of other candidates entering or leaving the race.

All four graphics are on the same scale, but since I don’t want scale or actual polling numbers to be the focus, I did not include them.

What we see here is four distinctly different patterns. Biden is a top candidate with a declining campaign. Warren is an up and coming candidate with an expanding campaign. I used to use the term “flat line” to describe Sanders’ numbers, but I won’t do that any more. Let’s just say he has a nice, healthy, straight line that does not go up or down.

Harris has a campaign that experienced a temporary peak that went away.

Pretty cool graph, if I may say so myself.

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5 thoughts on “Four Distinct Democratic Campaigns

  1. “Pretty cool graph, if I may say so myself.”

    I agree – super cool!

    You created this graph yourself, right? Congrats! But Greg, let me offer a modest proposal for improving it, perhaps for its next iteration – allow me to play the role of, let’s say, William S. Cleveland:

    Instead of using black font for every candidate’s name (top of each graph), consider labelling each name with the color that matches their specific scatter plot w/line: e.g., blue for Biden, red for Warren, etc.

    This is a minor quibble, but you may not appreciate its utility because (a) you’re so used to viewing the graphs, and/or (b) not many people have my apparent neurological deficit.

    Here’s what I mean (yes, it’s weird – yet psychologically real): The first time I viewed the graphs, I literally could not figure out which line under “Biden” was Biden’s, etc. At that point I thought, “How come Greg didn’t tell us which color goes with which candidate?” Then, kaboom, I saw the dots surrounding the LOWESS [not LOESS, correct?] regression line, and all became instantly clear (like a Necker cube frame shift).

    So why didn’t I “see” this at first glance? Four possibilities come immediately to mind: (a) senility; (b) transient ischemic attack; (c) intellectual obtundedness (cf. a); (d) ocular migraine; (d) Stroop Effect.

    I’ll go with the Stroop Effect – it’s powerful, it’s real, and it’s a compelling explanation for my inability to “see” the graphs when I initially scanned them. This might seem unbelievable to you – and maybe I’m your only reader “dumb” enough to have had experienced this – but please (intellectually if not viscerally) accept the truth of what I say.

    I’m an expert on this particular issue: my PhD thesis used extensive color scatterpoint graphs. When scanned as B&W into UMI, my entire thesis data became unintelligible. Ouch!
    _________
    Now, as far as real-world import … This op-ed by author/journalist E.J. Graff* provides much food for thought:

    “The new rules of ‘electability’ mean Joe Biden can’t win. Guess who can?”
    E.J. Graff (Boston Globe – Perspective/Magazine Oct. 9, 2019)
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2019/10/09/the-new-rules-electability-mean-joe-biden-can-win-guess-who-can-biden-can-win-guess-who-can/HznRjHMCRuhy0AOyWO7ZEI/story.html

    * https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/graffej/

    For readers who lack access to this informative article (which contains good links), it basically says: “Democratic primary voters are too focused on appealing to fictional centrists or Midwest swing voters. But appealing to the middle fails … ” BECAUSE THERE IS NO ‘MIDDLE’ any more … The electorate is just too polarized: Appeal to everyone (e.g., w/Biden), and you’ll end up getting no one. And so, Graff concludes, “Safe candidates lose. Passionate crusaders [Obama / Trump] win. When you write your checks or vote in your primary, go with your gut.”

    Needless to say, Greg’s blog has considered this point many times.

    1. No, that’s not a minor quibble, it is totally obvious and I can’t believe I didn’t do it. Next time!

  2. Oops. I should have typed:

    So why didn’t I “see” this at first glance? FIVE possibilities come immediately to mind: (a) senility; (b) transient ischemic attack; (c) intellectual obtundedness (cf. a); (d) ocular migraine; (e) Stroop Effect.

    My failure to catch this error under the editing time limit means, ipso facto, that (a) might still be in play.

  3. And, in the latest polling news, it looks like Warren’s trajectory is NOT crossing Biden’s trajectory, both are maintaining a steady first-place, second-place thing, while Sanders continues to flat line. All the other candidates are just sitting there.

    1. I haven’t watched much television coverage of the campaign. Thus, when I recently saw network news coverage of every Democratic candidate on the stump, I was really struck – viscerally struck – about how qualified a field this really is. Any and/or all of them. Giants [Democrats] trumping the shoulders of Midgets [Republicans], if I may be permitted this deliberately awkward play on the famous expression.

      Still, I’ll go with this bumper sticker that a friend in Hawaii tells me he sees everywhere. (I don’t drive anymore, so I wouldn’t know; have you seen it?) –

      https://www.amazon.com/Functioning-Adult-PRESIDENT-2020-Sticker/dp/B077GKNDGS

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