Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Friday, May 21, 2021

Pennsylvania has Become the First State in the U.S. to Curb the Governor's Emergency Powers

In the 2021 primary election in Pennsylvania there were 2 constitutional amendments on the ballot to limit the Governors emergency powers in times of a pandemic or natural disaster.  The first amendment empowers the state legislature to terminate or extend a disaster declaration with a simple majority without input by the governor. The second amendment places a 21 day limit on a disaster declaration with legislature approval needed for an extension.  A fuller explanation of these amendments can be seen here.

These amendments have been approved with 53% of the vote apiece.  In Cambria County, the first amendment received 62.7% of the vote and the second received 63.3%.  These amendments could have major ramifications for how the state handles future crises such as natural or epidemiological disasters.

For example, in the not so distant future, natural disasters related to climate change could befall this and other states.  A legislature with a majority of climate change deniers can block the governor from taking action beyond 21 days.  There is no way of knowing how many lives Gov. Wolf's disaster declaration saved but it did save lives.  

The graph above shows the daily death counts in Pennsylvania since the pandemic began.  Restrictions were made in March the death counts rose until May and then leveled decreased as personal protective equipment and ventilators became more available.  The restrictions were eased in June and deaths did not rise.  The deaths began to rise after the November election due to mask-less rallies held by the Trump campaign in the state.  Due to this restrictions were then tightened during the Christmas holidays and the deaths decreased in the state (though higher than it was before the election).  Roughly 21% of the state's eligible voters voted in the primary.

The voters who went to the polls and voted yes on these ballot questions (10.8% of the electorate in Pennsylvania) are rebuking Gov. Wolf for listening to scientists such as Rachel Levine.  Levine now works for the Biden Administration as the first transgender department head.  The right has distributed images like the one above to demonize the governor and Dr, Levine.  One has to wonder how much transphobia played a role in this primary.

Our county, Cambria County, still ranks 9th in the state in case mortality and 5th in deaths/100,000 while it voted 63% for both measures.

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Our Webinar on the Corona Virus Numbers in Cambria County

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Why the New York COVID-19 Nursing Home Scandal Matters


Last week I posted on coronavirus mortality in nursing homes in Pennsylvania.  By coincidence, just to the north of PA is the state of New York where it's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has come under fire for underreporting the number of deaths in nursing homes there.  In the above clip, NY Assemblyman Ron Kim claims that Cuomo called him to threaten him not to go public with the underreporting.  The state assembly will vote to curtail Cuomo's emergency powers.

When I report on the Pennsylvania numbers, I and those that use the numbers trust that their reporting is accurate.  There is already a certain level of distrust of the federal, state, and local government's honesty.  Scandals like these only reinforce this mistrust.  It makes it harder to track and sound the alarm about the spreading of cases. 

Impeachment or some other accountability by the voters is warranted.  Cuomo will not be up for reelection for a fourth term until 2022.  His father Mario (once a potential Presidential candidate) was defeated for a fourth term by George Pataki in 1994.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Chicken's Coming to Roost for Trump?

On Jan 6 I posted my reaction to the shocking events at the U.S. Capitol that day.  I wondered what would happen to Trump's approval ratings as his other antics have had minimal effect on them throughout his presidency.  Now it seems like I have an answer now that there are three days left for him in power.

The graph above shows a sharp drop in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average in approval rating polls since Jan 6.  Trump's approval rating was 44.2% that day.  Today it is 39.7%, the sharpest decline in his term.  This rating is still 2.7% ahead of the lowest his average approval rating has been back in December 2017.  

Rasmussen (a Republican polling firm) estimates his approval rating to be 48% which is by far the highest of any of the major polling firms.  They limit their sample size to likely voters where the other firms sample from all adult Americans or from registered voters.


Nate Silver's website FiveThirtyEight estimates his average approval rating to be 38.7% which is 1% lower than the RCP average.  They weight their polls by the their quality based on sample size and bias in the selection.  They rate some polls such as ABC News/Washington Post as A grade and others such as Economist/Yougov as B.  Rasmussen is rated as C+.  Otherwise the trend in the poll average for FiveThirtyEight mirrors that of the RCP.  

It remains to be seen what will happen in the upcoming impeachment trial of Trump.  Sixty seven Senators will have to vote to convict him to bar him from ever holding office again.  The decline in his approval ratings may give 17 GOP Senators the courage to vote with the 50 Democrats to do so as it gave 10 GOP House members the courage to break with the rest of their party to impeach.  

Nixon's approval rating was 25.1% before he resigned when GOP senators told him the game was up. Democracy Now has a discussion on what happens next for Trump with historian Tim Snyder.  He does face state level investigations for which he cannot be pardoned either by himself or by his successor.  Snyder says he believes the best option for Trump would be to leave the country.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Where do We Stand in 2021?

Happy New Year all.  I started writing this post last night as the numbers were trickling in from the Georgia runoffs last night.  I am surprised as anyone about the events of today.  I admit to finding it frightening that Trump's supporters would resort to occupying the U.S. capitol building.  We knew that this was a possibility as Trump refused to accept the results of the election.  WJAC-TV reports that over 500 people from Cambria, Blair, Somerset, and Bedford counties went to the rally.  The chair of the Cambria County Republican Party, Jackie Kulback, says that they left before the violence began.  Even if it were a peaceful protest they likely were exposed to COVID-19 and brought it back to their homes.

Since the election that Biden won, Trump's approval rating hardly changed from 45.9% to 44.1% today.  How sad it would be if they hardly change after today's events.  It would take about 4 day to a week before we know what impact it has had on his approval ratings.

Warnock and Ossoff have won their Senate races.  This means that the Democrats will technically be in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives once Biden and Harris take office on January 20.  The 50-50 split in the Senate (with Harris as the tiebreaking vote) gives the Democrats more leverage but the Republicans, with Mitch McConnell's leadership, still have the filibuster.  They can use it to block any meaningful legislation with only 40 votes.  

In 2013 McConnell used the filibuster to block a bill banning the use of assault rifles in the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting in which 26 people were killed.  The Democrats had a 54-46 majority at the time and the bill had strong support of the families in Newtown but it didn't matter.  There have 56 mass shootings in the US since then with 445 fatalities according to Mother Jones magazine.

Joe Biden will try to be a return to normalcy President.  Trumpism is unlikely to disappear entirely as it was present before he took office.  Trump's niece Mary says it best:

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Friday, July 24, 2020

How Does Trump Stand for Reelection Now?

Some pundits have written off Trump's reelection chances due to his handling.  They often point to the results of one poll to reinforce that conclusion.  I would argue that it is better to look at the aggregate of polls to see trends.  

The Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls includes Republican polling firms like Rasmussen, neutral firms like Politico and Quinnipiac, and Democratic firms like Change Research.  In the graph above we see that the RCP average for Trump's approval rating has steadily declined from an all time high of 47.3% at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic to 42.2% today.  This number is still higher than Trump's all time low rating of 37.1% on December 17, 2017.


Nate Silver's website estimates his current approval rating to be 40.4%.  This number is still higher than their all time low estimate of 36.4% on December 17, 2017.  Silver's group uses a different than RCP that you can read about here.  In both poll estimates, Trumps approval rating has never been above 50%.

FiveThirtyEight also provides a comparison of Trump's approval rating the past 12 Presidents at the same point in their Presidencies (1282 days) going back to Harry Truman.  Of these past 12 Presidents, only three had approval ratings lower than Trump's and this point: Truman (39.6%), Carter (33.9%), and George H.W. Bush (36.7%).  Truman managed to win his election bid while Bush and Carter lost.  Ford was in office for fewer than 1282 days and he lost as well.  The other Presidents either won their reelection bids or left office before running again.

RCP's poll average of national polls has Biden leading Trump 49.6% to 40.9% while FiveThirtyEight has Biden up 50.0% to 42.0%.  One should always be careful about making predictions about the outcome of the November election this early.  However it is pretty clear that he faces a tough bid to win this year.  In the month of June 2016, Clinton had a lead of 5.7% over Trump while Biden had a lead of 7.7% over him in June 2020.  He could still eek out an electoral college win with his loyal supporters.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Coronavirus and the 2020 Election

Today there is a wealth of statistics being released including the ones that I have compiled here.  The official unemployment rate increased from 4.4% in March 2020 to 14.7% in April 2020.  The unofficial rate (which some call the true unemployment rate) rose from 8.7% in March to 22.8% in April.  The official rate counts people who are unemployed and are looking for work.  The unofficial rate includes those who have given up looking for full time work and those who are underemployed (including myself).

Undoubtedly, the political campaigns are going over these numbers to see how they can gain an advantage over the other.  As of today, Joe Biden has a 4.4% advantage in the Real Clear Politics poll average over Donald Trump.  On this date four years ago (May 8), Hillary Clinton had a 6.5% advantage over Trump in the same poll average.  On the same date four years ago Bernie, Sanders had a 13.4% advantage over Trump in the RCP average.  At the time Sanders dropped out of the race on April 7, he had a 4.2% advantage over Trump in the RCP average.  On the same day, Biden had a 6.1% advantage over Trump.

It may be to early to say what impact Tara Reade's allegations have had on the Trump-Biden race.  Both candidates have lost support in recent weeks as can be seen above.  At the beginning of April, Trump's overall approval rating reached its highest point at 47.4% in the RCP average.  It has since fallen to 44.6% which is close to where it was before the pandemic started.

I stay away from making predictions, especially this far out.  Anything is possible in the next few months.  The crisis has given the administration cover on the economy.  They can blame it on the virus.  Both sides will demonize China.  Pennsylvania Governor Wolf has announced that 

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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Facebook and Twitter Primaries: Super Tuesday Update

Joe Biden had an impressive win in South Carolina yesterday.  The real test for the seven remaining candidates is Super Tuesday in two days with 14 states and two territories voting.  This gives a total of 1,242 pledged delegates at stake or 32% of the total pledged delegates.  I thought I would take a look at the state of the candidates social media following to see how it predicts their Real Clear Politics (RCP) national poll averages.  Super Tuesday is the closest thing to a national primary.  The numbers are below.

Feb RCP Avg %
FB Following Feb
Twitter Following Feb
Twitter Audit Feb % Real Followers
Real Twitter Following

Above we can see that Bernie Sanders leads in the polls nationally and in his Facebook and Twitter followings.  The Twitter audit column shows an estimate of the percentage to Twitter Followings are real (ie not bots). The last column shows the estimate or the real number of Twitter followers.  Bernie Sanders does have a low percentage of real followers but still leads in the overall number of real followers.  Tom Steyer is included even though he dropped out of the race yesterday.  The graph below shows how Twitter followings are associated with national support.  

The R squared statistics shows the percentage of the variability in the poll averages that is accounted by the variability in the twitter following.  This value is 0.8546 or 85%.  In January, this relationship accounted for 51% of the variability in the poll averages.  This was mostly due to Biden having high poll averages but low a Twitter following and to there being more candidates in the race.

When I limit the data to real twitter followers, the relationship with the RCP poll average becomes even stronger accounting for 91% of the variability in the RCP average.  If 100% of the variability were accounted for, all of the candidates would fall right on the line in the graph.

Looking at the relationship between the Facebook followings and the RCP averages, a weaker relationship that that with Twitter emerges.  Sixty-three percent of the variability is accounted for which is higher than the 42% in January.  These higher percentages in the Twitter and Facebook relationships suggest greater engagement by consumers of social media with the candidates and its potential influence on voters now that primaries are heating up.

Trump now has a following of 73,242,775 on Twitter (79% real) and 26,091,741 Facebook.  It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the general election.

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Socialism is "Uncomfortable"?

In last Wednesday's debate, NBC anchor Lester Holt asked Senator Bernie Sanders about his network's poll where 67% of registered voters said that they were either "very uncomfortable" (46%) or "have some reservations" (21%) about a socialist candidate for president.  Sanders retorted "who was winning" in that poll (hint it's Bernie)? Looking at the text report for that poll, it does not ask the respondents what their understanding of the word 'socialist' is.

NBC did put the same question to respondents in February 2019 and 29% had "some reservations" and 43% were "very uncomfortable" for a total of 72%.  In October 2015, and 25% had "some reservations" and 45% were "very uncomfortable" for a total of 70%. Among registered Democrats in the Feb 2020 poll, 53% said that they were "enthusiastic (16%)" or "comfortable (37%)" with a socialist candidate.  In Feb 2019, 47% said that they were "enthusiastic (10%)" or "comfortable (37%)" with a socialist candidate.

A different picture emerges if one looks at the individual proposals of the "socialist" Bernie Sanders.  A CNBC poll of all Americans, whether registered to vote or not, showed strong support for the individual proposals that the "socialist" Bernie Sanders makes.  Goran Lazarevski makes a strong argument that "centrist" candidates like Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg are not necessarily the most electable.  

It doesn't matter who the Democrats nominate.  The right will label them as "socialist."  It is more important to have a candidate with proposals that are at the center of peoples lives rather than a mythical center.  A new Yale study shows that Medicare for All would save money and lives.

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