Republican mailers in 2017

I’ve seen a few tweets like the one below over the past few days.

But I couldn’t help but think this…

Below is a list of mailers for Republican campaigns and GOTV operations I’ve come across online.

Notice the vast majority are from official arms of the Republican Party – the NRSC, the state parties of New York and Virginia. I’ve noted where the mailers were delivered and included links to local news coverage where have been called out for fearmongering and race-baiting. Republicans appear to have decided, based on some combination of Trump’s example and independent research I’d guess, that this is what they need to do to win. The only way to stop it is going to be showing them it won’t work.

I’ll be updating the list as I come across more…


Republican mailers in 2017

The president’s bad tweets, by the numbers

This is a short post just to give a home to a few charts I made out of curiosity. YouGov* has quietly been carrying out a pretty huge project that may be interesting to future historians and social scientists. Heck, it’s pretty interesting now.

What they’ve done is included nearly every one of the president’s tweets since February 4th in an online survey (YouGov is an online-only research company) and asked people to rate them on a scale of Terrible to Great. This is recorded as a score from -2 to 2, then multiplied by 100, so there is a theoretical maximum of 200 (if every respondent said the tweet was Great). More detail can be found on their micro site here, where they have every tweet with its overall rating as well as its rating by party identification.

Hypothetically, a dataset like this could be used to see whether Trump’s bad tweets (or his good ones) have a measurable effect on other measures of his performance, like Job Approval. I haven’t yet made any comparison like that, but for now I’ve included some charts from this data set below. To be clear, I just scraped this from their site – I didn’t have any direct line. Also note there are some gaps in the data that I can’t explain; a week in September is missing; for roughly a month in June-July I could only get some tweets that were in the top or bottom 80% because the site wouldn’t load everything when sorting by date; there may be other quirks I’ve not noticed. But it’s a large dataset nevertheless, including 1,304 tweets since February 4th, 2017.

I’ll let the charts speak for themselves, but to make a couple of notes from the toplines: most of his tweets, 61% to be exact, are sub-zero tweets, meaning they received more bad ratings than good. The median tweet receives a rating of -15. The bottom 25% of tweets receive a rating of -40 and lower. Democrats are more likely to give his tweets a positive rating (55 tweets, or 4%) than Republicans are to give him a negative rating (1 tweet, or 0.08%). That one tweet was Trump’s Worst Tweet Ever, according to the Index. It was a tweet criticizing Mark Cuban.

(Note, the lines are created using LOESS regression).



Out of interest, I also looked at volume of tweets. It seems the president has been tweeting more and more since the spring. He was tweeting about 4 tweets a day in March; more recently, he’s been tweeting about 8-10 times a day. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


*Disclosure, I used to work for them, though before this project was underway.

The president’s bad tweets, by the numbers

Tracking Trump’s inattention to Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria via his tweets

Ten days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, millions in Puerto Rico are still without electricity, gas, cash or running water (make a donation to help out here)—but this is 2017, so obviously we’re talking about the president’s bad tweets.

The meta-narrative here is that Trump is on the defensive against an emerging narrative that the administration has been tragically slow to respond to Maria, the third major hurricane to make U.S. landfall this season. In fact, the specific tweet that got me thinking about this post was actually from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee, pushing back on a report published by the Washington Post overnight.

The report itself is a truly damning, and depressingly plausible, account of Trump’s initial handling of Maria. It describes how Trump became alerted to the true urgency of the crisis in Puerto Rico only after watching television from his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, already several days after Maria made landfall and knocked out power for the whole island.

Though the obvious answer to “should we believe Sarah Sanders that Trump has been attentive to the crisis?” is “no” we are actually in a fairly unique position, historically speaking, to understand the president’s priorities and state of mind over this period. Because of his bad tweets.

So, as it’s a beautiful Saturday in NYC, I cracked open Excel and coded five weeks of the president’s tweets and retweets based on their subject-matter. The data is displayed in the charts below, with tweets about the three recent hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—highlighted. I also note the dates each hurricane made landfall in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively, and the dates Trump visited each hurricane site.


Here’s the same data, but with each day’s topics shown as a percentage of all topics Trump tweeted about that day.


It’s pretty obvious which events really gained the president’s attention. In terms of hurricanes, Trump tweeted dozens of warnings and, later, supportive messages for Harvey. Similarly, Irma dominated his output when it seemed poised for a direct hit on southern Florida (it also hit PR several days earlier—killing three—thought only one Irma tweet mentioned the island). Maria has only come into the foreground the past couple of days—more than a week after landfall, and after coverage had already turned negative on the administration’s handling of a growing crisis. And while Trump visited both Texas and Florida within 5 days of landfall, his first trip to Puerto Rico is scheduled for next Tuesday, 13 days later.

Notice also that Trump found plenty of time to tweet about other topics in the period after Maria hit Puerto Rico, including 25 tweets about the NFL protests, 18 tweets about the UNGA, 15 about Senate health care bills and 13 about the Alabama U.S. Senate primary (including several he later deleted). During this same period he tweeted or retweeted a total 22 times about Puerto Rico and Maria (as of noon Sep 30), not including his five tweets this morning attacking the Mayor of San Juan and the media for its coverage of the crisis.

The data tells a story that is consistent with two especially troubling features of crisis management in the Trump Era: first, that Trump will only give a crisis attention once it starts to look especially bad on cable news (remember Syria?)—and, second, that this first feature means crises, even those affecting millions of Americans, may go ignored until its too late.


Tracking Trump’s inattention to Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria via his tweets

Trump and the unpopular GOP health care bill

Zombie Trumpcare 2.0 has been laid to rest – again. Without delving into the policy or the politics of ACA repeal, this seems like a good time to touch on some notable aspects of the bill’s popularity.

It was striking how just how unpopular the bill was. The best illustration of this I have seen is from MIT political scientist Chris Warshaw, who compared numbers for the GOP health care reform to various major legislative proposals from the past few decades. GOP health care reform is less popular than them all – not just less popular than, say, the ACA (in 2009/10), but also less popular that TARP, which passed after a market crash and led to huge backlash, or Hillarycare, which failed to launch and helped foment the 1994 GOP wave.

What’s at the heart of such historic unpopularity? Part of the blame surely falls at the feet of its low quality as legislation, a reality that’s manifested itself in the public eye through CBO scores, protests, industry opposition, and even skeptical Republican officials. But I wanted to focus on one Republican official in particular – the main one.

The reality is Donald Trump’s sales effort on this bill has been noticeably limp, not only when you compare it to Obama’s full-court press in 2009 and 2010, but also when you compare to his own remarks on things he actually cares about – like border walls, and stopping people from looking into his financial information. His remarks about health care have been rare, and when they appear they do nothing to directly address concerns about what’s in the new bill, but instead focus on Obamacare and Senate process.

I went to a recent YouGov poll to see if there was evidence of poor marketing. The basic idea is this: if Trump’s sales pitch on GOP health reform has been especially bad, it should mainly show up when looking at the voters who are in general likely to listen to Trump (e.g. Republicans, 2016 Trump voters). Conversely, on issues where he’s made a real push, you’d expect to see a boost with these same Trump-friendly voters.

A recent YouGov poll asked about a few Trump-backed policies, including the health care bill, the border wall, and the firing of James Comey. Below is public opinion on those three policies, broken down by party identification and 2016 vote. The policy changes are set alongside Trump’s own approval rating with the same groups.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 5.01.29 PM
Source: Economist/YouGov Poll

Notice anything?

To make it a bit clearer, here’s that data again, except this time it shows the difference between support for the policy and support for Donald Trump (negative numbers indicate the policy is less popular with a given subgroup than Trump is).

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 5.01.24 PM
Source: YouGov/Economist Poll

Support for the border wall and the firing of the FBI director track very closely to Trump’s own popularity among groups that mostly dislike him. These policy/personnel changes trail his own popularity only slightly among supporters.

The GOP health care bill is no different among Trump’s disapprovers – they like the bill as much (or as little) as they like Trump, no more, no less. Yet the the bill trails Trump by around 20 points when it comes to his supporters.

In other words, he appears to have effectively tied the border wall and the Comey firing to his own popularity, but has failed to do so with the Obamacare replacement. That’s still not necessarily a positive thing for the popularity of the firing or the border wall – Trump himself is not very popular, and there are compelling reasons to believe the border wall is actually less popular than it could be without its association to Trump. But a failure by Trump to even win over his supporters helps explain why the GOP health care bill is especially unpopular.


Trump and the unpopular GOP health care bill

Newspaper endorsements in British elections

A British general election is tomorrow! That means lots of predictions and projections floating around for the next 24 hour. There are also some interesting questions surrounding British polling right now, after pollsters dramatically underestimated support for the Conservatives in 2015. But I have no prediction of my own; for one, I would find it hard to improve on what’s already out there. Here’s a smart piece on the state of things (along with an overview of changes to British polling post-2015) if that’s what you’re after.

I did find myself looking for a history of endorsements by UK newspapers, and couldn’t find anything recent. I have always found British newspaper culture fascinating, particularly for its open partisanship. While newspaper endorsements tend to reflect elite opinion in both the US and Britain, in Britain they are also much more likely to reflect an editorial line that has been visible in the paper’s tone and choice of coverage throughout the campaign. Probably the notorious endorsement to have taken place in modern British politics was the Sun’s in 1992, which led the tabloid to outright claim credit for an upset Tory victory: “it’s the Sun wot won it“. One study even found that the Sun’s shifting stances in 1997 (pro-Labour) and 2010 (pro-Conservative) were responsible for moving hundreds of thousands of votes.

So, where do UK newspapers find themselves now? After backing New Labour for several years, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun is back to supporting the Conservatives and had been reliably pro-Brexit. There are few other surprises compared to 2010, though it is interesting to see how some of the papers have evolved since the Labour landslide in 1997 (many through changing ownership, but also shifting tides).

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 11.00.23 PM.png

The post-financial crash election of 2010 looks like a high water mark in newspaper support for the Conservatives since 1992. In fact, an analysis by LSE found that 71% of newspaper readership in 2010 went to a Tory-endorsing paper, more than double 2005. Of the 10 larger papers shown above, the 7 endorsing the Conservatives account for about 70% of the overall circulation (some of this could be overlap, and the list is incomplete, so classify this as very rough). Either way, May appears to have mostly kept hold of Tory gains under Cameron.

Of course, causation can go either way here – some readers may be swayed by the editorial line, and some newspapers may have made their picks to attract new readers or avoid alienating old ones.

Please let me know if you see any errors* or important omissions, some of this came secondhand. My main sources are here, here and here. In some cases they conflicted, and I did my best to find a better resource. 

*The Evening Standard came out for the Conservatives today, so that’s been updated. It’s also been pointed out that the Sun endorsed SNP for Scotland in 2015.

Newspaper endorsements in British elections

Lies, Damned Lies and Partisanship

The latest Economist-YouGov national tracking poll includes a few great questions on public trust in government statistics. What’s better is they were previously asked in 2014, which allows for a comparison of views under the Obama and Trump administrations.

Key takeaway: while Republican views on government statistics have evolved – they now have considerably more confidence in the numbers than they had in 2014 – Democratic views have not shifted much at all.

Percentage who say half or more of the statistics reported by the government are reliable and accurate:

May 2014 Mar 2017 Change
Republicans 32% 58% +26
Independents 50% 56% +6
Democrats 74% 77% +3
Total 50% 64% +14

SOURCE: Economist-YouGov Polls

You see the same thing when the question gets more specific: is the unemployment rate being accurately reported?

Percentage who say there are “More unemployed people” than shown in the numbers released by the government in the most recent employment report:

May 2014 Mar 2017 Change
Republicans 76% 48% -28
Independents 64% 46% -18
Democrats 41% 39% -2
Total 59% 44% -15

SOURCE: Economist-YouGov Polls

There are similar effects to varying degrees for CBO data on the number of uninsured, US Census data on the population, and NASA/NOAA data on temperature changes.

It’s possible that Democrats’ trust in Trump administration will deteriorate over time. It might even be surprising if that didn’t happen. However, it’s also plausible is that Democrats are, as a starting point, much more likely to be confident in official government information.

In fact, pushing a “both sides do it” frame on this seems forced – and worse, for a blog post, boring. The more interesting theorizing has to do with the question of why Republicans tend to be more epistemologically flexible when it comes to official statistics. My hypothesis is that these people have been forced to choose between political or religious realities and the word of “the BLS” or “the media” or “climate scientists” or “crowd scientists”  in ways most Democrats simply have not (or at least have not had to do so on such a regular basis). As a result, the default position on official and expert data shifts from credulity to something purely conditional. Democrats are surely victim to this in certain ways. But it seems to me that they are not forced to choose between the “official” line and their own moral line nearly as often as Republicans are.

Lies, Damned Lies and Partisanship

The New Quinnipiac Poll: Either Noise… or Pretty Worrying for Trump

Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University has a new poll out, which is mainly interesting for some erosion in support among Trump’s base, as their poll release points out.

Quinnipiac always breaks out the information for whites with and without a college degree (something really all pollsters should do in the Trump era), which allows for a look at the trend lines since January. This shows that their previous polls had been relatively consistent among both groups — non-college whites gave Trump net ratings of around +20 and college whites around -15.

This week, whites with a degree haven’t budged, but his support among non-college whites has fallen significantly to a net +7, from a high in early March of +26. This is the first Quinnipiac Poll to come out since the GOP released its Obamacare replacement bill (on March 6th). Importantly, it’s not alone in showing a softening in Trump’s numbers during March, at least in the toplines.

Using “net” approval, percent approve minus percent disapprove, has its drawbacks – the measure is, basically by definition, noisier than just “approve” or “disapprove”. But it’s useful for comparisons across groups, and the changes are eye-catching however you look at it. Since February, Trump had been consistently in the 56-60% range for approval with non-college whites, and he is now at 50%. File under Number To Watch.

In addition, Trump’s support among Republicans declines from 91% to 81%. Disapproval is up to 14% from 5%. This may seem like a natural decline, or like it’s still quite high, but context is important here. George W. Bush was in the 80s and 90s among Republicans for most of his presidency – amidst numerous crises and big declines among Democrats and independents. He only fell consistently below Trump’s current level after his second midterm election in 2006, with the combined pressures of Katrina, Iraq and eventually economic crisis. And even at Barack Obama’s lowest points, he really slumped into the mid-70s among Democrats. In other words: maybe this is just noise, or else Trump hitting his floor with Republicans – but I don’t think “still strong with the base” is the correct frame if he’s really hovering around 80%.

The New Quinnipiac Poll: Either Noise… or Pretty Worrying for Trump