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In the News
Why did pollsters like me fail to predict Trump’s victory?
Tuesday, November 15 2016

American voters were desperate for change, so Hillary Clinton’s late focus on continuity and incrementalism shifted the balance – ultimately producing a reactionary result

 

By Stanley Greenberg
Appeared in The Guardian on November 15, 2016.


America is being shaped irreversibly by a growing new majority of millennials, racial minorities, immigrants and secular people. So how did the presidential election produce such a reactionary result, surprising all the pollsters, including me? “Shy” Tories and Brexiters apparently upended Britain. Did “shy” Trump voters upend America?

To understand what happened, you have to start with the demand for “change”.

The elites, academics, pundits and even President Barack Obama look at the US and see a dynamic country that is economically and culturally ascendant. But America is also a country of deepening inequality and growing political corruption. Most people struggle with declining or stagnant incomes, while CEOs and billionaires have taken most of the gains in income and wealth. More than anything, people are angry that the game appears to be rigged by corporate special interests.

Donald Trump managed to become the Republicans’ candidate of change by attacking crony capitalism, trade deals favoured by big business, the billionaire SuperPacs that fund the candidates and Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. That allowed him to ride the support of the Tea Party and white people without a four-year college degree all the way to the nomination.

But the cry for change coming from the new liberal American majority was just as intense. Bernie Sanders’ call for a “revolution” produced landslide victories with millennials and white Democrats without a four-year degree. This progress nearly allowed him to contest the convention. No less than Trump, Sanders attacked Clinton for her Wall Street speeches and SuperPacs.

Clinton achieved her most impressive leads in the polls when she, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren embraced after the primaries and after her convention speech that demanded an economy that worked for all, not just the well connected. She emerged with her biggest lead when she closed the debates with a “mission” to “grow an economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone”, and “stand up for families against special interests, against corporations”.

That led many more voters to see Clinton as standing for the American middle class, which most working people aspire to, and being better on the economy, truthful and willing to stand up to special interests.

Working as a pollster for Bill Clinton in 1992 and Al Gore in 2000, I watched voters settle into their decisions immediately after the debates. Trump and Hillary Clinton were both talking about change, and Clinton was winning.

But then the campaign’s close was disrupted by a flood of hacked emails, whose release was linked to Russia, intended to show that friends of Bill Clinton were using the Clinton Foundation to enrich the former president, and then by FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the reopening of his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

This allowed Trump to close his campaign with a call to “drain the swamp” and reject “the Clintons’ big business trade deals that decimated so many communities”.

The Clinton campaign fought back. It attacked Comey for his unprecedented intervention and then used its advertising muscle to shift the spotlight from Clinton to Trump. Its ads running right through the very last weekend showed Trump at his worst. By then, nobody could remember that Hillary Clinton was a candidate with bold economic plans who demanded that government should work for working people and the middle class, not corporations. She was no longer a candidate of change.

As President Obama campaigned for her at the end, Clinton urged voters to “build on the progress”. She closed her campaign with a call for continuity and incrementalism. That turn is why the polls turned out to be so wrong.

This was a “change election” for the new American majority too, and that late turn by Clinton produced disappointing turnout among Hispanics, African Americans, single women and millennials. The African Americans’ greatly diminished turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee likely gave the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump.

Clinton’s total vote fell well below Obama’s in 2008 and 2012.

The new American majority really did make up the majority of voters for the first time, and they helped Clinton win the popular vote. But their late pull back upended the pollsters’ key assumptions about turnout.

The other change voters, the white men without a four-year college degree, did their part too. They were never shy about their support for Trump, but concentrated in rural and smaller towns in the rust belt, they became even more consolidated in their support for him, put out lawn signs and turned out to vote in unprecedented numbers. Our polls showed him with a 36-point lead before the conventions. But further consolidation and higher-than-expected turnout gave Trump an unimaginable 49-point lead and 72% of the vote among this group. The Trump vote was never shy, just not fully consolidated.

And don’t forget the non-college-educated white women who, after all, are a majority of the white working class. Through most of the campaign, Trump’s disrespect of women and Clinton’s plans for change allowed her to compete with him for their support. She trailed by just nine points after the debates. But with Clinton mostly attacking Trump and no longer talking about change, the women shifted, almost unnoticed but dramatically, to Trump. He won them by 27 points, a nine-point bigger margin than that achieved by Romney in 2012.

These late turns allowed Trump to win Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a percentage point.

America has changed, but this change election produced a reactionary result.

 
Trump Scorched Earth Plan Threatens Downballot Republicans
Thursday, October 13 2016
Attachments:
Download this file (Dcor_Alert_Trump threatens GOP downballot_10.13.2016.pdf)Memo[ ]191 Kb

For at-risk Republican candidates, wrestling with how to run vis-à-vis Donald Trump is nothing new. Distancing yourself from Trump risks alienating his hardcore supporters, but embracing Trump could push away moderate Republicans and swing voters turned off by the GOP nominee. Until recently it seemed they may have their cake and eat it too. A season of attempts to tie them to the unpopular GOP nominee had failed as a 48 percent plurality of voters believed “most Republicans do not share Donald Trump’s ideas.” Republican Senate candidates were running 7 points ahead of Trump across the battleground and their maintaining control of the upper chamber was more likely than not.

Donald Trump’s determination to publicly admonish Republicans withdrawing support in reaction to his sexually aggressive 2005 remarks snapped the tightrope those candidates walked. Democracy Corps’ September battleground survey for WVWVAF found almost one-quarter of Trump voters in the most contested states are prepared to punish a Republican congressional candidate who holds back from supporting Donald Trump.

alt

Polls conducted after last Friday’s revelations confirm the price of abandoning the top of the ticket. In the Politico/Morning Consult poll, 74 percent of Republicans said GOP leaders should continue to back the embattled nominee and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 67 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning Independents wish the same of GOP congressional candidates.

We will watch the “post-video” polls to see whether candidates like John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Joe Heck, and Pat Toomey are overcoming that deficit with enough “Never Trump” Republicans. For now, two things are clear. First, an “unshackled” Donald Trump has reinvigorated Democratic hopes of retaking the U.S. Congress. Second, Democrats must change their message to take advantage of this new opportunity because the well-covered flight from Trump undermines attempts to connect downballot Republicans to the GOP nominee.

 
The Wave
Monday, August 22 2016
Attachments:
Download this file (Dcor_The Wave_8.22.2016.pdf)Memo[ ]181 Kb

America is about to experience a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake of an election, but progressives do not seem to trust the new American majority and its ascendant values and thus, continue to be tactical, reactive, and fight old wars. As a result, they may miss the chance to create a governing majority after November 8th.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to emerge with the kind of lead you would expect in a country where over 60 percent of the electorate will be racial minorities, single women, millennials, and seculars and where the positive sentiment about the Democratic Party is 9 points higher than for the Republicans.[1]

Progressives, pundits and the media are consumed with the pivotal role of angry white working class men when their vote share is declining every presidential election and will be only 18 percent of the electorate this year.  When Clinton’s margin was only 3 points, their share of the electorate would have to jump to 25 percent to push the overall vote to parity.[2]

I am the person who invented the term “Reagan Democrats” and took Bill Clinton to Warren in Macomb County, Michigan. But then, the white working class men’s share of the electorate was twice what it is today.

Today, I want progressives to embrace an economic narrative that seeks to “level the playing field,” because that is key to motivating working class voters, white and minority, including women who are now a majority of the working class, not because of its appeal to Reagan Democrats.

Because progressives did not trust the new American majority, they thought Donald Trump’s dark convention and speech was effective and waited for the polls to be sure.  They thought Pennsylvania would be close, underestimating the new dynamics in the state. And their priority and strategy was to stop Trump in the Rust Belt states to stamp out any chance of Trump being elected.

But Trump already lost this election before his disastrous last week, as only 6 percent of Clinton voters would even consider supporting Trump. The number of potential switchers in this election has shrunk to just a third of what it was in the last three presidential elections.

This misplaced priority comes at the expense of efforts to produce the biggest possible wins in the elections for the U.S. Senate and House and state elections.

Campaigns and media should be focused on this number: 38 percent. That is the percent of the vote that Trump is likely to win in this multi-party election, matching the vote share for George Bush in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton by 5 points. That 38 percent should concentrate the mind on what is the real opportunity for Republican votes and voters to disappear down the ballot.

This memo outlines what progressives should focus on to maximize that opportunity.

READ THE MEMO.


[1] Huffpollster average, August 11, 2016. Democrats viewed favorably by 44 percent, Republicans by 35 percent.

[2] In a three way race, white non-college educated men vote for Trump over Clinton, 58 percent to 22 percent. In a two way ballot, 61 percent vote for Trump and 35 percent vote for Clinton. With all else equal, white non-college men would need to count for 25 percent of voters in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a competitive three-way race and they would need to count for 36 percent of the electorate in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a two way race.

 
Greenberg's America Ascendant Sparks Big Debate
Friday, November 20 2015

What Senator Elizabeth Warren says:
"Stan called me a few weeks ago and he said, ‘I have a book that I finished and I think you’re going to like it.’ He sent it over and boy was he right. It was exactly my kind of book. It was full of all kinds of fabulous history, data, and wonky tidbits. It was just delicious, three hundred pages of deliciousness. I could nerd-out all night on this book...Stan is right. Our diversity is what makes us strong. Our diversity is at the heart of how we build the middle class, of how we will build a middle class. Americans are tough. Americans are resourceful. And Americans work hard. And that’s going to make us always, so long as we do that on the ascendancy. Reading through Stan’s book, and just seeing how page after page, he puts pieces of that together and makes it work, was truly an inspiration...Stan, I hope many many people read your book and are inspired by your book, to have the kind of courage it takes to fight for the America that we believe in. An America of progressive values, an America that will build a stronger future.”

What conservative Michael Barone says in the WSJ:
"With “America Ascendant,” the widely respected Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has written an ambitious book, part history, part social analysis, part campaign memo. Along the way, he provides an interesting diagnosis of America’s ills. Mr. Greenberg believes that “America’s path is to a unified, multicultural identity,” but he is not exactly keen on bringing us together. Like most political practitioners, he looks forward not to ending partisan polarization but to helping his side build a permanent majority. Mr. Greenberg and his focus-group participants aptly describe the problems that candidates of both parties now face. Mr. Greenberg cites both Robert Putnam’s and Charles Murray’s analyses of family disintegration and failed social interconnectedness among Americans who haven’t graduated from college. Amid much fair-minded recounting of Republican opinions, Mr. Greenberg can’t resist some partisan spin. Republicans are so hostile to government and “blue America” that they “nearly disqualify themselves from the public debate.” 

What Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs, says:
“With a great sense of history as well as a deep understanding of the hopes and fears of today's Americans, Stan Greenberg lays out how reformers must lead a new national renewal. Our demographics and the nature of the workforce are changing in ways not seen since the industrial revolution. We now need a spirit of political reform that will match these challenges.”

 
Why 2016 could be shattering for Republicans
Monday, November 16 2015

By Stanley B. Greenberg, author of the new book "America Ascendant." This article appeared in the Washington Post.

Election Day 2016 will produce a shattering crash larger than anything the pundits anticipate because the revolutionary economic and social changes occurring in the United States have now pushed both the burgeoning new majority and the conservative Republicans’ counterrevolution beyond their tipping points.

The United States is being transformed by revolutions remaking the country at an accelerating and surprising pace. Witness the revolutions in technology, the Internet, big data and energy, though just as important are the tremendous changes taking place in immigration, racial and ethnic diversity, the family, religious observance and gender roles. These are reaching their apexes in the booming metropolitan centers and among millennials.

As the revolutions interact, they are accelerating the emergence of a new America. Consider that nearly 40 percent of New York City’s residents are foreign-born, with Chinese the second-largest group behind Dominicans. The foreign-born make up nearly 40 percent of Los Angeles’s residents and 58 percent of Miami’s. A majority of U.S. households are headed by unmarried people, and, in cities, 40 percent of households include only a single person. Church attendance is in decline, and non-religious seculars now outnumber mainline Protestants. Three-quarters of working-age women are in the labor force, and two-thirds of women are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners of their households. The proportion of racial minorities is approaching 40 percent, but blowing up all projections are the15 percent of new marriages that are interracial. People are moving from the suburbs to the cities. And in the past five years, two-thirds of millennial college graduates have settled in the 50 largest cities, transforming them.

Shifting attitudes were underscored in this year’s Gallup Poll when 60 to 70 percent of the country said gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, sex between an unmarried man and woman, and divorce are all “morally acceptable.”

The United States is emerging out of its revolutions as racially blended, immigrant, multinational and multilingual — and diversity is becoming more central to our multicultural identity.

Further, these revolutionary transformations have accelerated the growth of a new majority coalition of racial minorities, single women, millennials and seculars. Together, these groups formed 51 percent of the electorate in 2012, but our analysis of census survey data and exit poll projections indicates that they will comprise fully 63 percent in 2016. With these growing groups each supporting Hillary Clinton by more than 2 to 1 in today’s polls, it is fair to say that the United States has reached an electoral tipping point.

The Republican Party’s battle to defeat this new majority has reached a tipping point, too. The brand of the Republican Party today has probably not been as tarnished since the Watergate era.

Republicans have joined a ferocious and intensifying decade-long counterrevolution in an attempt to stop this new majority from governing successfully. In 2004, George W. Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove launched the battle for American values when he gave up on the so-called swing voter and worked to engage millions more evangelicals. That has required pouring ever more fuel on the fire — including warning of Armageddon if the liberal Democrats were to govern.

This battle has left the Republicans with mostly married voters, as well as the oldest, most rural and most religiously observant voters in the country. That creates formidable odds against its winning an electoral college majority.

It has also left a Republican Party where three-quarters of its base voters are tea party supporters, evangelicals or religiously observant. That in turn has catapulted to the top of the Republican presidential race candidates who promise to challenge this new America before it’s too late.

That this counterrevolution has reached its own tipping point is evident in the shrinking proportion of people who think of themselves as conservative. When Republicans challenged President Obama in the off-year elections of 2010, 46 percent of the country was conservative at the high point. That figure is now 37 percent.

For Republicans, 2016 will prove to be no normal election, because it will confirm that the new America is here and that the counterrevolution has lost. That is why I expect the result to be shattering for the Republican Party as we know it.

But it may not prove to be so shattering for the Republican Party that emerges afterward, or for the republic.

For the GOP, 2016 may look like 1984 did for the Democratic Party. It emerged divided out of a bitter primary, and the Democrats’ mainstream candidate, Walter Mondale, lost in a landslide. Afterward, the modernizers got the upper hand. They might well have elected Gary Hart in 1988 and did elect Bill Clinton in 1992.

It is easy to imagine, then, that after the coming shattering election, some Republican leaders will repudiate this campaign’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim appeals and actively embrace the United States as an immigrant nation. Other leaders might accept the sexual revolution and the new gender roles and work to help the modern working family. Others might embrace again the need for national investment in education and modern infrastructure.

That would allow a different kind of debate within the Republican Party and, perhaps, a different kind of politics in the country.

 
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