Trump, whose approval rating was historically low during his tenure as president, increased his support among black men and Hispanic voters in key swing states while maintaining his influence over white voters without college degrees. The majority in the Democratic House shrank, in part due to losses in the suburbs, and the split-ticket voting all but vanished, doomed Democratic Senate candidates in rural, Trump-friendly states. And even while President-elect Joe Biden is on track to win a higher share of the national referendum than anyone challenging an incumbent president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, the future now looks bleak for Democrats.
“We have an electoral system that makes it fundamentally impossible for the current coalition of Democrats to ever exercise legislative power,” said Shor. “We are now rightly able to get 54 percent of the population’s vote – which we didn’t even get this time – for several consecutive cycles so that we can really pass legislation.”
Since the election results began, Democrats across the ideological spectrum have had a heated and surprisingly public debate about what went wrong this year and how the party can be realigned in the long term. Much of this debate has been shaped by ideological preferences. But what would it look like if you looked at it from a data-centric perspective?
To get an answer to that question, clarify what a new democratic coalition might look like, and evaluate the most effective strategy to get there, POLITICO Magazine spoke to Shor this week. Below is a condensed transcript of this conversation, edited for length and clarity.
The choice is over. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by a considerable margin, but not as strongly as many polls suggested. Democrats did not retake the Senate and held the House, but lost seats. What happened? What are your large takeaways?
Yes, I think there are two different questions: what actually happened and why were the polls wrong? We’ll have to see what the final popular vote margin is, but it looks like Biden will end up about 1.5 to 2 percentage points better than Hillary Clinton in some kind of uniform swing. In relative terms, highly educated whites swung a lot against Democrats, and non-educated whites swung against us in relative terms. The polarization of education was ultimately greater than it was in 2016. Hispanic voters swayed against us by a wide margin – although it will be unclear how large and how accurate the geographic and demographic distribution is until we get more accurate results. That’s the big picture for what happened.
Public polls have vastly overestimated the extent of a uniform turnaround. You have not planned a national four-point race. The public polls did not take place here. With education polarizing, most public polls showed it was going to lose some weight; Few said it was going to get bigger. The public poll of Hispanic voters indicated a decline [for Democrats] – That was something that reporters really raised the alarm about, although I think it was something people didn’t take too seriously. That is, the decline [in Hispanic support for Democrats] ended up being significantly larger than predicted, although the polls fell quite sharply.
On that split between college and non-college voters, are we at a high water mark for the “diploma difference”? And will college suburbanites stick with Democrats, or do you expect them to return to the GOP after Trump?
There’s a pretty consistent trend: in almost every country in the western world, the gap between those with a college degree and those without a college degree has widened steadily over the past 60 to 70 years. There are very strong social currents that are driving this change – that as the proportion of the population with a university degree increases, politics should of course be stimulated to create divisions through education.
Politics is basically about dividing the country in half. And if white college graduates are 4 percent of the electorate, as they were immediately after World War II, you can’t do that. But when they’re 38 or 40 percent, suddenly you can. It is therefore not surprising that the higher the education rate, we have seen this happen.
Of course, if you think mechanically about the strengthening currents that caused this, when college whites join the Democratic Party and become an increasingly large part of the Democratic Party while the opposite happens to Republicans, then of course it will affect who they are Party primaries wins and What kind of people wins internal party battles? In practice – given that college graduate whites donate at disproportionate rates and volunteer at disproportionate rates – it will be very difficult for Democrats to resist resistance to accommodate their preferences, which of course will result in loss of votes among people they are not: not just not studied white, but as we have seen this cycle, non-white voters too.
It is reasonable to expect that these gaps will continue to grow unless the parties make a concerted effort to swim upstream. And even then, it will probably be more about slowing things down or keeping things where they were. I think an underrated aspect of Barack Obama is that he actually led one of the few periods of educational depolarization. In 2008 and 2012, the education gap actually depolarized as it performed unusually well among non-college whites in the Midwest. And some of that is likely the recession. So it’s not impossible, but it’s going to be difficult.
Over the past week there has been some disagreement within the Democratic Party on exactly how to target voters in swing areas. Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who narrowly won re-election, raged in a phone call to other House Democrats that attacking Defund the Police ads nearly cost her the race and said she would never hear again how Dems uses the word “socialism”. At the same time, much of the energy in the party seems to be on the left. How do Democrats navigate so successfully?
It’s a real challenge. An underrated aspect of democratic politics over the past 10 years – and, to be honest, arguably the last 40 years – has been this increasing polarization and the decline in ticket allocation.
In 2006, there was essentially no correlation among Democratic incumbents between the 2004 president’s vote and the Senate’s vote: Ben Nelson in Nebraska did better than Bob Menendez in New Jersey. It used to be possible for politicians to define these individual brands and win on the basis of these brands. But those correlations are much, much higher now – just to put it in numbers, the correlation was about -0.02 in 2006 and has increased to about 0.95. There are many structural reasons for this. The decline in local media and coverage means people are consuming much more national news. And there is actually an interesting paper out there that argues that the rise of broadband and 3G cellular services is accelerating political polarization and decreasing ticketing. I don’t think that will go away.
In 2020 there was the idea that ticket splitting would increase, but in fact there was considerably less ticket splitting than we expected. The Democrats really expected our Senate candidates to beat Biden. It did not do so at the rates suggested in the public polls. There’s a pretty similar story you can tell about the U.S. home. This drop in ticket split means that people who vote on their candidate for the local home are increasingly doing so based on the news they have about the National Democratic Party. And that creates a tough compromise: It is no longer true, as it could have been 20 or 30 years ago, that someone in a safe place can say what they want to power the base without any consequences To have swing districts. That doesn’t mean Abigail Spanberger, for example, should control the exact content of what is being said, but it really does show the importance of being disciplined and accepting things that are popular and things that are not unpopular. I think AOC suggested a lot of things that are incredibly popular. The Loan Shark Prevention Act, which caps credit card interest at 15 percent – in the New Progressive Agenda Project survey we conducted with Sean [McElwee]This was one of the most popular guidelines we’ve ever tested.
But now that we have this increased polarization, we cannot escape it. There are very real compromises in talking about things that are not popular. Obviously, there is a lot of disagreement about what is popular and what is not, and polling is difficult. It is very easy to create surveys that popularize single pay health care or background checks [for gun purchases] Popular. But if these things show up in the ballot box in different ways, they end up losing. The things that liberals want – or that the left wants – some of them are very popular and some are not, and I think we have to be honest with ourselves about what is what. And that can be difficult both from the coalition’s point of view and emotionally, but the importance is very high.
You know, there was a point where the Republicans lost a lot of elections because they didn’t impose news discipline. In 2012, the Democrats won two Senate seats – and probably more, given the national implications – because Republican politicians made very unpopular statements about reproductive voting.
Since then, I think they have done a much better job. While many Republican activists really want to get rid of capital gains taxes or legalize machine guns or ease pollution of rivers, they don’t go out and hold their politicians accountable on these issues. You are not asking that of Republican politicians. And Ted Cruz isn’t out there tweeting that we need more assault rifles on the streets. Instead, he does scrutiny propaganda.
There is a real existential question: what is activism for? What is public communication for? We should move forward with things that we believe will move voters in a direction we want. People can have reasonable disagreements about what these things are, but there are some issues that are clearly not on that side.
In Congressman Ocasio-Cortez interview with the New York TimesMuch of their criticism has centered on strategy and tactics – spending money online in the final weeks of the election or suggesting that Democrats respond to high levels of white support for Trump by investing in “anti-racist” sources deep acquisition“across the country. How should Democrats deal with declining support among white voters? What does the data say about whether something like” anti-racial advertising “is actually productive?
The most important thing to remember when campaigning is this: the average general election voter is around 50 years old – medium term or higher in elementary school. You don’t have a college degree. They watch TV for about six hours a day – that’s the average. There are people who see more. They generally do not read partisan media. They still get most of their news from mainstream sources. You can see what’s on the ABC Nightly News. You might see some stuff on Facebook, but it mostly comes from mainstream sources.
You need to focus on that person and think about how they interact with politics. With all of these things, whether in advertising or digital ads, the reality is that people are mostly forming their opinions based on what the press says. This theory has a long history – [political scientist John] Zaller’s “nature and origins of mass public opinion” – but it is true. I don’t think this is a right idea. This is a left theory of mass politics that dates back to the radio of the 1920s and 1930s. If you really want to influence public opinion, you have to do it through scalable media and communication. AOC welcomes this to their credit in a way that very few congressmen speak with Fashionbe active on Instagram.
We didn’t lose in 2016 because our voting lists weren’t sorted well enough. And it wasn’t that we had the wrong kind of digital alignment. We lost because, by and large, we ran a campaign to raise the profile of immigration at a time when marginal voters in swing states in the Midwest disagreed with us on immigration. That’s why we lost. Obviously it was a close choice, and maybe you could have done something else and got 0.4 points more in Wisconsin. But big picture, that’s exactly what happened. And I think it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees. There is reasonable debate about the cost effectiveness of acquisitions or how much we should spend on digital ads, but ultimately that’s not what drives elections.
One of my old bosses said politics was like being in a hot air balloon. A lot of the things you deal with on a daily basis – microtargeting models or digital displays or whatever – just throw sandbags up and down. What really determines where you go is the weather. In politics it is important to do everything possible to change the weather, which is very difficult. Most of what determines the “weather”, the national media environment, are these major structural forces – the economy, the anti-incumbency, the cultural forces, whether it is what is in the media or what is going on in the country Time becomes better educated or more mundane. But campaigns and activists do have the ability to create media narratives about what is being talked about and what is not. From an election point of view, these are the most important decisions campaigns and activists make, and this creates real responsibility for all involved.
If you look specifically at Defund the Police, there has been a real movement among educated, liberal people in the media and activists on a wide range of the left to address this issue and get people to talk about it. And that has advantages and disadvantages. I’m not going to pretend that I know what is right – sometimes it makes sense to talk about unpopular subjects. However, we should recognize that, in practice, these decisions of increasing the importance of certain issues and reducing them to other issues are actually something that campaigners and activists have a great deal of control over. And they will end up having a lot more influence on the vote share than any decision a single campaign makes about which digital providers to use, or how many digital ads to use, and which TV ads to use.
Ultimately, in this hyperpolarized world, what national media is talking about will be far more important to determining if [Democratic Congressman] Collin Peterson survives in Minnesota 7th district more than anything he does. That’s just the reality. [This month, Peterson lost his bid for reelection.]
Georgia now seems to be more winnable nationwide to a Democrat than Florida. How did this happen?
An underrated part of what happened in Florida is that internal migration is really hurting Democrats’ chances. I think [Republican pollster] Patrick Ruffini once referred to it as the endless waves of white Red Army retirees who move to Florida every year. I’m assuming people who have moved to Florida since 2016 were worth a 1 point drop [in Democrats’ vote share]. It is actually a very serious matter. Of course there is also international migration. And of course it has a very large Hispanic population, and there was a big swing there.
Florida is a very educational throwback to this idea of demographics as fate. More than twice as many Florida voters cast their ballots in 2020 as they did in 2000. Florida voters are far less white than they were in 2000. Yet it is more Republican than it was 20 years ago. The reason for this is that in North Florida there was basically a group of rural whites who voted for Democrats and that kind of stop. At the same time, the non-white population initially tended towards Democrats and now they are turning against us. There are many different factors.
If you look at Georgia, we’ve basically hit rock bottom with rural whites in the last 20 years. So there wasn’t a lot more to do so there is a lot of room to grow. The real story behind Georgia, much more than its demographic influx, is just those huge swings in the Atlanta suburbs that make up most of the state. There are a number of boroughs where Obama got 30 percent of the vote and now Trump got 30 percent of the vote – absolutely wild swings in these well-educated suburbs. That’s most of the story.
In both 2018 and 2020, the proportion of blacks in the electorate will decrease or stay constant, and Democratic support among black and non-white voters in general will decrease as well, but then so will among whites with college degrees and college students. educated white people who are off the charts. And that’s the story: we had hit rock bottom among non-college whites and had plenty of room to grow among college whites. And there wasn’t a huge Hispanic population like Texas, so we had big gains among college whites, and there wasn’t this huge Hispanic voter base to mitigate that surge.
Let’s talk about it. What happened in the Texas border counties where we saw this Hispanic surge for Trump?
I want to be honest and say I don’t really know.
This is completely right.
I will still talk! [Laughter] I just want to make it clear that I have a lot less security.
There was an initial tendency to say, “Oh, of course we Cubans lost in Florida” or “In the Rio Grande Valley, they’re all very conservative.” But within Texas, we’ve also fallen tremendously in the Hispanic counties in Houston. There has been a significant decline in Hispanic support for Democrats in northeastern Massachusetts; The same is true of Osceola County, Florida, which is predominantly made up of Puerto Ricans who live near Orlando. There has been a fairly wide decline in much of the country. Specifically, looking at the Miami-Dade counties, the decline was essentially the same for Cuban counties and counties Not-Cuban Districts – It was a bit bigger in Cuban Districts, but not very much.
What is really interesting is that this change has been reflected in the vote. This is actually very surprising. In 2016, there were many areas that swung 20 points against Democrats – rural white working class areas – but still voted for Democratic candidates for the Senate, House of Representatives, and state. Dejected Democrats were slaughtered in many Hispanic areas that year. In Florida we lost seats in the Hispanic House, and it was pretty brutal at the legislative level. There was a convention seat in the Rio Grande Valley [Texas’ 15th district] that we had won in 2018 and 2016 with 20 points and this time only with 3 points. It is possible that the politics in 2020 will be different from 2016, but that really tells me this was a party ID change, more than anything Trump or Biden specifically did.
However, there is a broader trend for white college graduates who have a larger stake in the democratic coalition and a larger stake in the democratic vote to pull the party on cultural issues. Ungraduate white people have more in common culturally with black working-class and Hispanic working-class voters. It should come as no surprise, then, that non-white voters will take action against us as the cultural power of white graduates in the Democratic Party increases.
There was an increase in support for Donald Trump among black men and Hispanic voters overall in 2020. Do you see these voters returning to Democrats, or is the GOP becoming some kind of pan-racial, anti-cosmopolitan party?
The joke is that the GOP is really putting together the multiracial coalition of the working class that the left has always dreamed of. But I think it’s worth noting that both black and Hispanic voters are still a predominantly democratic group, even though Hispanic voters are a lot less than they were four or eight years ago.
In terms of whether or not these trends will continue, I think there is this very real question among African Americans: How sustainable is it to get 95 percent of the vote within a racial or ethnic group over an extended period of time? And I think the answer is that it probably doesn’t. If you look at these long-term structural factors, the reason there are all these culturally conservative African Americans voting for Democrats is that there are just as many economically liberal, uneducated whites who vote for Republicans, there are these social institutions, that transform identity with party politics. And if you look at what the big predictors are, what those institutions are among black voters and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic voters, then look at churches. You see many community organizations whose power is diminishing. And you also have this broader trend of racial integration and intermarriage.
So the long-term trend is probably towards racial depolarization. And I find that really interesting and surprising. Racial [political] The polarization had increased steadily from 1992 to 2016. In 2016, the course was reversed and many people thought it was a deviation. But 2018 and 2020 show that this is not the case. In some ways, it’s very strange that Donald Trump ushered in an era of racist depolarization.
I think the trends that are causing this are likely to continue. However, predicting the future is very difficult.
In light of this, is it time to admit that this longstanding prediction of an “emerging democratic majority” – with this inevitable demographic and geographic fate for the left – is wrong?
I will say that the Democratic Party has some positive plans. Age polarization is really working in our favor. I think it is clear that the gap between young and older voters is much wider than it is now. And it seems like zoomers are even more liberal than millennials, although there might be some interesting gender differences between men and women there. Zoomer men could actually be more conservative. However, these age differences are very large.
Structurally, some of the factors that have traditionally been theorized to make people more conservative as they age – having children, getting married, etc. – are complicated. Fertility rates are much lower than they were 10 or 15 years ago, to the point where it is statistically important. At the same time, the average age in the first marriage is a decade higher than 15 years ago. That means Democrats have more time and can own a longer part of the voter lifecycle. The downside is that there is always a dialectic in these things. In 2004 it would have been very easy to say, “Look at Florida, we’ve won young people and we’ve lost old people. So in 20 years we’re going to win.” And of course that didn’t happen.
The other part of the good news, I think, is that now that highly educated people are so democratic, it will affect how the media reports on Democrats, as journalists are generally very literate and the world is run by highly educated people . On multiple levels, whether it’s the boardroom or whatever, there are likely to be some long-term benefits. And that’s reflected in the fact that Democrats are now raising more money.
The downside is that we have an electoral system that makes it fundamentally impossible for the current Democratic coalition to ever exercise legislative power. Uneducated whites are heavily represented at every level of government, and we are currently fighting against elections on legislative maps, congressional maps, an electoral college map, and a senate map that are ridiculously unfavorable to us. From now on we are rightly in a position to get 54 percent of the population’s vote – which we did not even get this time – for several cycles in a row so that we are able to really pass laws. That’s pretty bad.
We need to change the nature of our coalition if we are to exercise legislative power. It’s possible the Republican Party really screwed it up. But we basically had the least popular Republican president since Nixon, and the Democrats haven’t been able to capture the kind of legislative majorities we need to bring about change. This underscores the need for us to try to change the nature of our coalition.
That doesn’t say anything new to anyone who works in democratic politics. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi – everyone would like to have more white working class voices. How do you actually do it is a big question, but when it comes to passing legislative majorities, the alternatives to these changes are bleak.
By and large, the choices Trump made in 2016 are – embracing nationalism, persecuting voters with high levels of racist resentment, having very classy language, and speaking in ways that truly educated people hate and uneducated People don’t hate that much – it’s nice to realize that was a good deal. It’s something that a lot of people in the Republican Party didn’t like, but they know it was a good deal. You can see that they have these near permanent structural advantages in the Senate and in all of these state legislatures. So I am skeptical that they will change course.
Wie viel Prozent der Wähler waren bei dieser Wahl Personen, die Trump unterstützen, aber ansonsten generell von der Politik unzufrieden sind? Und haben Sie ein Gefühl dafür, ob sie sich für andere herausstellen werden – werden sie sich zum Beispiel für die GOP-Kandidaten und bei den Sonderwahlen in Georgia im Januar herausstellen, wenn Trump nicht an der Wahl teilnimmt?
Im Allgemeinen denke ich, dass die Menschen die Bedeutung der Wahlbeteiligung bei Wahlen mit hoher Wahlbeteiligung wirklich überschätzen. Es ist definitiv richtig, dass die Wahlbeteiligung im Jahr 2020 höher war als im Jahr 2016. Angesichts der Ergebnisse des Landkreises ist jedoch klar, dass diese neuen Wähler größtenteils Demokraten und Republikaner in etwa gleicher Anzahl waren.
Die Geschichte für diesen Wahlbeteiligungsanstieg handelt weniger von den Mobilisierungsbemühungen von Demokraten oder Republikanern; Das Interesse an Politik hat im Allgemeinen zugenommen. Sie haben dies gesehen, als Sie Leute befragt und gefragt haben, wie genau sie die Dinge verfolgen – es war viel höher als vor vier Jahren. Wir hatten einen Zeitraum von vier Jahren, in dem sich alle sehr intensiv für Politik interessierten. Und wir haben noch nie zuvor eine solche dauerhafte Mobilisierung gesehen. Es hat zu Rekordzahlen bei Spendenaktionen und einer Rekordzahl von Protesten geführt, und mehr Menschen kandidieren für ein Amt, und die Politik hat einen höheren Status.