By Ben Folds
Hey, I have that shirt!
It is too early to declare a victory for the Progressive movement in the Democratic Party (obviously) but last night’s debate was a strong sign that there is a strong progressive movement, it is coherent and powerful, and it is winning.
Here’s why I say this, based on preliminary observations of last night’s debatge:
1) The two most progressive candidates, Sanders and Warren, started out well ahead in the polls among this randomly selected large sample of Democratic candidates. The lower down in the polls, within this group of candidates, the least progressive the politician. That is partly a function of who happened to be in this selection, but it is still relevant given that we are talking about ten candidates in one sample.
2) These two progressive candidates did very well in the debate using no apologies, no mincing of words, no side stepping, no clever restating of their positions, and they took no hits on the chin though there were many jabs.
3) The most “centrist” of the other candidates focused on opposing the progressives more than on their own positions, they did so at an apparent cost to party unity, which is going to leave a mark (on them, not the party), and there were a few punches on the chin taken by them, easily delivered by Warren or Sanders. There were times when this looked like two giants swatting flies.
4) The other candidates, who are in my view progressive in their ultimate objectives (mostly) but incrementalist in their approach, tried and partly succeeded to make themselves look like they are progressive in spirit but wiser than the actual progressives. Their supporter will stick with them, but I don’t see much prospect of these candidates gaining after last night.
Anthropologists have long observed that others either imitate the dominant culture, or fight them.
I believe that a number of Democrats who were mostly agnostic about the candidates, or waiting to see, saw and may have moved away from the centrists.
Indivisible conducted a flash poll among members after the debate and found these results:
Warren – 52%
Buttigieg – 19%
Sanders – 13%
Klobuchar – 5%
Williamson – 4%
O’Rourke – 3%
Bullock – 2%
Ryan – 1%
Delaney – 0%
Hickenlooper – 0%
This year’s nomination process for US POTUS is a little different than usual. Super Tuesday happens FIRST instead of later in the race. Well, first, after the first states. The first state is New Hampshire. Except Iowa goes before New Hampshire, but whatever. After that are Nevada and South Carolina.
So, in that pattern we get a middle of the country white state, an eastern white state, an eastern southern state with a large African American population, and a random labor state (Nevada Democrats are union workers in the casinos, and such), first, and thus, an early look at what some semi-representative parts of the nation think of the candidates.
But then, this year, right away, boom, Super Tuesday.
So, CBS has put together a poll on the standing of the candidates in all the Super Tuesday states plus the first states. And, it is rather amazing.
Here is the breakdown:
Everybody else, all under 1%
Now, we need to adjust slightly. Note that Texas is in this poll. That is why O’Rourke is in the second Tier, I suspect. And, good for him. If his candidacy could guarantee Texas it would be good. Klobuchar’s Minnesota, also a Super Tuesday state did not help here in this poll. Among the many Minnesota Democrats I hear from, the most widespread comment I get is “Amy’s great. Senator Amy is great,” and that’s about it. We may be keeping her home. I suppose California being in this group may be helping Harris. Note also how well Warren is doing. Mass is a Super Tuesday state but I would think New York Dems would be very big on her.
For this poll, I suspect that Warren is underestimated and O’Rourke is overestimated, but overall, these numbers are roughly as expected. Notice that as noted elsewhere, Sanders is a 16%er and that’s it. Not much more and not much less.
Final chapter for now…
I made a very special graphic, have a look:
Following in part on the procedure discussed here, this analysis combines data from several time-overlapping polls to produce a neater and cleaner depiction of each of the top four candidates march towards the presidency … or not.
It turns out that polls come in clusters. There will be several days in a row with a bunch of polls coming out, and then there will be a few days with no polls at all. There are reasons for this I won’t go into now. And, these polls, in the clusters, tend to overlap in time. For this reason, it is easy to take a bunch of polls in such a cluster and average out the results to give a better than average snapshot of a candidate’s status for a given period of time, usually about a week. Then, these withing cluster estimates are somewhat independent from the other clusters because there is no overlap in time, for the most part. The power of each estimate is very high, the trends depicted across the estimates are very likely.
That’s what the graphic above shows for Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris. Trends I noted in the previous several blog posts are apparent, but more cleanly depicted.
Here is what this graphic, based on 38 national polls, shows:
1) Biden has had a steady decline, and the rate of that decline may have increased after the first and so far only debate, but he is still number one.
2) Sanders has had consistent, immutable, results the whole time, never changing. It is like there is a certain number of people who support him, and they are not budging, nor are they gaining allies.
3) Warren started to rise in the polls well before the debates. This seems to have corresponded with intensification of her campaign, and her issue oriented displays of knowing things and having plans. Most experienced candidates and campaigners will tell you that is a bad approach. For Elizabeth Warren, it may have moved her into second place.
4) Harris was steady in her just barely 10% status — remarkably flat in fact — until the debate, when she suddenly rose almost meteorically, but not beyond the first cluster.
Is Warren’s rise more stable and issues and candidate based, therefore long lived, while Harris’s rise is a temporary bump from going after Biden in the debates? Is Biden’s downward trend going to continue at its newly accelerated rate or will it flatten out a bit, as hinted in these numbers?
To find out the answers to these and other questions, stay tuned!
But seriously, the next cluster of polls will be available in less than a week from now, most likely. The current pattern requires that the average for Biden be 35% or lower. Warren needs to be a strong second with over 25%. Sanders, while looking very flat, is actually down at his lowest rate in this sequence at present. Sanders should drop below 20%. Harris is likely to stabilize at around 20 or drop back to below 20. Or, she will rise to the mid 20s at the expense of Biden, mostly.
In evaluating these projections, remember how they are calculate. The poll numbers you see will all be lower than those mentioned here because of this. I don’t have full confidence in these projections, but when I say it all out loud, it seems right.
The Warren and Harris stories are similar to each other, when viewed using the data described here. Both are trending upwards from a respectable just under two digit position, menacing those in second place.
I put the polynomials (third order) on there to investigate consistency in this trend over time. They show that Warren’s upward trend is steady, and Harris’s is more stepwise. It is hard to know if this means one is stronger, or rising faster, or more likely to take a top position, than the other. Not shown here, but looking at only the last month or so, both trend up, and Harris overtakes or equals Warren 20 days out. But, the variance in the data for that shorter time period is high, so I wouldn’t put much in it.
Bottom line: Harris and Warren are moving into position to be contenders in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, currently moving past, or about to move past, second place Sanders, while at the same time Biden is sinking into the same range. For a brief moment, this may be a four way horse race, by the end of July or early August.
This could all be because of name recognition, it could all be because of insiders at the DNC deciding in advance who the candidates are going to be, or some such thing. But the variation among these four candidates does not correlate to their own levels of name recognition, and at least one of these candidates is very powerful in the DNC, so I’m thinking none of that is key. These are good people. They are impressive, and they impressed in the debates. These four candidates could provide the nominee, any one of them could rise up out of the very low numbers and become a key contender,the nominee, even the president. But for now, there is really only one thing to say about the polling numbers, using the same data set as described here, for Booker, Yang, Klobuchar, and Castro: Rounding errors.
That strange pattern you see there that looks like layers in a cross section of a pristine tropical rainforest, that’s rounding errors. All the internal structure of these data is from rounding errors. Even the ranking could be so affected by rounding that I don’t think we can say much about these candidates except to wish them well.
Now that we have dispensed with Bernie Sanders’ and Joe Biden’s stories, let’s have a look at two very different cases, those of Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.
See this post for a description of how the numbers are calculated for the following graphic:
Instead of using a straight line regression I used a third order polynomial to track the polling over time for these two non-linear candidates. Each shows a rise and fall, with the fall ongoing. Don’t pay much attention to the 20 day projection. Maybe one or both of these candidates is oscillating rather than descending. Only time will tell.
There seem to be two main conclusions that can be drawn from these graphs.
1) Buttigieg is more or less on the board with a consistent high one digit showing, but he did not surge after the debates, and he is not really surging anywhere. In contract, O’Rourke has been essentially a non factor. People blame much of the pattern of polling on name recognition. This is true to some extent, but this effect is a) overplayed and b) important in choosing a candidate, not something to be discounted. Given the possible role of name recognition note that an unknown small time mayor is beating the pants off (in this low digit world) the guy who was VERY famous running against Texas Ted Cruz. In the end, O’Rourke does not appeal, Buttigieg has some potential.
2) Neither of these candidates really seems to be going anywhere.
In case you think me unfair or a statistical scoundrel of some kind for using a third order polynomial (and you should think that) for making the trend lines, there’s more.
The following graphic has the third order polynomial extended to fifth order. To illustrate the absurdity of it all, not this: There are some 38 data points here. A 38th order polynomial line would run through all of them. Anyway, using the high order polynomial, both candidates are doing great! But that is just for fun.
More important is the straight line regression line that shows both candidates as flat lining or slightly declining across this entire period, down below 10%. I suspect both of these candidates will be out of the race by the end of this November.
Here is a graph showing polling for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. See below for some important details.
The numbers used for this graph come from 38 national polls asking for voter preference about a varying number of candidates. There is a large variation across the polls in how many answered something other than a particular candidate (like “none”). These two factors cause useless and distracting variation in the actual percentage value given to a candidate for a given poll. You can imagine that if a certain candidate gets 23% of the “votes” in a given poll, that number could change a lot if non-answers were excluded, or the total number of candidates was different. An imperfect but still improved way to calculate the percent value for a given candidate is, then, to only look at a subset of the candidates across all the polls, and recalculate the percentage of polling for each candidate using only those numbers. That is what this graph shows, for these candidates only:
Why that particular list? Well, I noticed that if you look across all the polls, one minor candidate (minor in terms of percent in the collection of polls) seemed to vary from the middle of the middle tier to the bottom of the middle tier, but was never in the lowest lowest tier, and also, was polled from early on: Klobuchar. So, I took the RCP average at about the time of the debates, and applied the Klobuchar Factor. If you were below Klobuchar, you were out of consideration. Since then, the candidates have moved around a bit, and a present day Klobuchar Factor would produce a different list. But I don’t really care, because I just needed to have a cutoff somewhere.
The regression analysis suggests that about 56% of the variance seen in each canidates’ polls is explained by time (i.e., there is a pretty robust trend where time matters). I’ve extended the regression line out 20 days into the future, which would be the end of July.
So, getting back to the story of these two candidates. I want to consider each candidate separately. The reason they are both in the same graph, and blog post, is because they are the two candidates with the highest number across the entire data set, so the graph makes sense for their scale, and the process is cleaner of we separate out candidates by scale.
The story of Joe Biden is this: He started off high, around 50%, and ended up much weaker, closer to 30% with some of the most recent polls showing 25%. He halved, almost. Or at least, looking at the extended projection, he is in the process of measuring out his polling half-life, as it were. He was probably artificially high partly due to name recognition, and lost ground as other candidates gained. He also started out in a different sort of artificial high, as a well known and widely loved guy where policy had not been vetted, and has lost among Democrats in that way as well. But this is Biden, and this is how he has performed in his earlier presidential campaigns. Biden watchers are not surprised. Biden watchers will not be surprised if he isn’t really a factor in this campaign by the end of the year.
The story of Bernie Sanders is interesting. His numbers show the second lowest amount of variance, scaled by magnitude, of all the candidates. He started of around 20%. He is still around 20%. Bernie is not moving up, Bernie is not moving down. Well, maybe a tiny bit down. What he seems to be doing, really, is slowing down just a bit as Elizabeth Warren is passing him, much like a car going 45mph slows down a bit when a faster car is passing them on the highway. Though that is of course a bad analogy because the intentionality of events is very different.
In short, Biden is gliding to a campaign ending landing, while Sanders is flat-lining. The latter observation is, I think, the most significant. It tells us something, maybe, about Sanders campaign. His base is unmoving. This is expected, I think. I just hope that should Sanders not get the nomination nod, that base sees fit to support the nominee in 2020, all of them, different than what happened in 2016.
More time needs to pass to be more certain, but I’ll venture the following estimates based on my own impression, social media fervor, and limited polling. Continue reading Democratic Nominees After The First Debate
Right now there are only three candidates in the race. Biden is in first place, and Warren and Sanders share second place. Biden’s numbers have been steadily dropping, but I suspect he will experience a more dramatic drop over the next polling cycle or two. Sanders’ have been slowly dropping, and Warren’s numbers are going up at a somewhat faster rate than Sanders have been going down. In the chart below you can see them close to convergence in about 20 days now, given current trends.
Of course, the debate will shake all this up and possibly add or remove individuals from this top three spot.
The kindest interpretation, and I think rather accurate, of what was going on in the back of Vice President Biden’s head when he made his recent controversial comments, is this, IMHO:
Continue reading What Joe Biden should have said…
In THIS poll, Warren, passes Sanders in new poll. In the all that apply question: Which candidate or candidates are you considering voting for in the Democratic Presidential primary or caucus in your state in 2020? (Select all that apply) Continue reading It’s Biden, Sanders, Warren, no wait, Warren pulls ahead by a nose…
More evidence that this is a race between Warren, Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, with everybody else (including O’Rourke) not so much.
A straw poll in North Carolina yesterday produced this result:
Warren – 55
Biden – 44
Sanders – 40
Harris – 26
Buttigieg – 22
Booker – 7
Castro, abbard, Gillibrand, Other 2 or 3
Biden announced he’d run for President around April 23rd. AFter that, he climbed steadily in the polls, mostly taking air out of Sanders’ previous lead as well as the undecideds. He had already held a commanding, leading, position in the polls before he was running, but that is not quite the same thing. But a month later, Biden’s lead sagged significantly and he has been at a steady 35% since, dropping a couple of percent in the last few days. Sanders, having lost wind with Biden’s entry, regained some of those numbers apparently off of Biden’s deflation, and has been holding steady since about May 26th at 16%. That is just looking at the ongoing average of all the polls. Looking at more detail is more dangerous, but when we do that, we see the most recent poll, YouGov, with Biden falling off sharply and Sanders steady but dropping a little.
Simpler version of the above, for the last couple of months, Biden has led Sanders and the two held the top two positions, with variations in their poll trajectories resulting from Biden’s entry and a subsequent cool off.
But forget about those guys for a minute. Consider Buttigieg and Warren. Both have had numbers that varied a lot over several weeks, but both have trended upwards in the most recent polls. Buttigieg’s most recent poll numbers (from mid May to the present) were 6,5,5,7,8,10, respectively. Warren’s were 10,5,7,10,5,12, more variable, several times in the double digits. Harris has had a couple of good days, but for the most part, Warren and Buttigieg seem to be the only two with a good chance of establishing two digit status in the near future.
But the most interesting recent development is Iowa. Here, we have these numbers:
Everybody else: Never mind.
New Hampshire also has this as a more or less four person race between Biden, Sanders, Buggigieg, and Warren (with Harris not far behind), in that order. Polls in South Carolina have a very strong Biden followed by Sanders, Harris, Booker, and Warren. A tiny bit of polling has Nevada going for Biden then Sanders, but almost tied, followed by O’Rourke, Warren, Harris.
So there are two horse races going on. The boring one where Biden is firmly ahead of Sanders and they are just running along in the top two slots in this order, and the more interesting one, where Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and maybe O’Rourke are trading places across time and space. Significantly, none of the other candidates seem to have emerged as factors yet.
I predict … a horse race that continues to be interesting.