Thursday Evening Open Thread: Fun With Polls

Too early for polls to mean much about who will be our Democratic nominee next year, but there’s a certain entertainment value in seeing how people chose to interpret them. New poll from YouGov/the Economist, which was published online under the headline “Elizabeth Warren is now among Democratic front runners”

You’ll have to click on the poll picture to see the full image… but I would never have guessed there were almost as many ‘Biden or bust’ fans as, well, you know.

I suspect the Biden-or-bust people will change their minds if their guy doesn’t end as the front-runner, though. Call me a starry-eyed optimist!

Speaking of optimists:

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Numbers Gaming

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Glass-Half-Full Open Thread: Fewer, If Fiercer, Racists?

Like me, the Washington Post always looks for a little optimism to start its readers’ day. From this morning:

Racial prejudice has not increased among white Americans since the explosive 2016 election, argues political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins. It has actually decreased by some measures, he found, possibly as a reaction to Trump’s unexpected ascension to the White House.

Hopkins told The Washington Post that the results initially surprised him. Upon reflection, however, “it’s quite conceivable that Trump has simultaneously galvanized a small number of highly prejudiced white Americans while also pushing millions more to affirm that they are not as prejudiced,” he argued.

In other words, Hopkins believes the study provides evidence that the racially incendiary rhetoric and policies issuing from Trump’s White House have pushed the majority of Americans in the opposite direction.

The specialist in race and political behavior acknowledged that his findings speak only to professed bias and not to concrete behavior, such as whether Americans are moving into heterogeneous neighborhoods.

The study, currently under review but posted on the Social Science Research Network on Thursday, starts from an unambiguous premise: “As a political leader, Donald Trump has used racist rhetoric to build political support.”

Hopkins and an undergraduate student, Samantha Washington, set out to determine what effect that rhetoric was having on white Americans, 57 percent of whom voted for Trump in 2016, according to exit polling. Among white men, that figure was 62 percent.

Most think the president is motivating his racist supporters to declare their bigoted views. A Quinnipiac University poll last summer found that 55 percent of voters believed that Trump was emboldening people who hold racist beliefs to state them outright.

There are two ways that effect might play out, the study observes. One is normalization, whereby members of the public would feel more comfortable expressing racist beliefs that they always harbored but once felt were outside the mainstream. The other is so-called opinion leadership, whereby the public would be moved to adopt racist positions advanced by political elites.

Instead, the authors found evidence of an altogether different effect — people actually moving away from the positions embraced by those in power…

Across the roughly 12-year period covered by the data, anti-black prejudice declined based on these metrics, with an especially marked drop between November 2016 and November 2018. The effect was only slightly more pronounced among Democrats than among Republicans. Education was not a decisive factor.

“The decline was apparently not driven by Trump’s candidacy — or by white Americans’ reactions to his campaign rhetoric in 2015 and 2016 — but instead by their reactions to his presidency itself,” the paper claims…

Whether the shift discovered by researchers has actually “shaped social behaviors” — rather than being empty value statements or even cover for discriminatory conduct — “is another critical question for future work,” the study suggests. But it casts into doubt whether hate crimes that rose 17 percent in 2017 reflect deepening hatred across the board.

Instead, the political scientist points to the increasing isolation of an extremist minority whose prejudices have intensified in the face of a broader shift away from the sort of opinions aired in Trump’s White House and on his Twitter feed…

More detail at the link. I’m not completely convinced, either — it’s a lot easier to lie to a pollster about the purity of one’s beliefs than to change hundreds of years of prejudice. But, on the other hand, there’s also the fact that acting out good values, however spurious one’s motives, does tend to gradually shift one’s core values towards those actions.

It also makes sense that the committed racists, seeing or sensing a shift among their neighbors, would respond with an extinction burst of exaggeratedly horrible, explicitly racist behavior. Donald Trump, rancid old sack of pasty overprivileged man-meat, is pretty much a bigot extinction burst made flesh.

Late Night 2020 Election Open Thread: Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, Mike Gravel, Uncle Tom Cobleigh* et al.

(*Refers to the other folkloric Uncle Tom, and one overburdened… horse.)

Also Dave Weigel, in the Washington Post:

On Wednesday, when the news broke that New York mayor Bill de Blasio was going to seek the White House, Mike Gravel asked why he’d even bother…

Gravel, who celebrated his 89th birthday last weekend, is not typically included in the count of Democratic White House hopefuls. There’s a reason: He initially said he was not really running for president. He was running to get into the party’s televised debates, like he had in 2007, when he emerged from decades of obscurity to hector the Democratic field about the risks of nuclear war. And he was doing so this time at the behest of some perspicacious, teenage left-wing activists, whose stated goal was to not to win but to shift the party to the left.

That has been enough to get Gravel halfway to the 65,000 donors needed to qualify for a slot in the debates, a stronger position than at least a half-dozen candidates who say they’re actually running. The Gravel project epitomizes what the primary has become before it can be winnowed down: a contest with a clear leader in the polls (former vice president Joe Biden), a left-wing challenger (Sen. Bernie Sanders), a few candidates with the money and staff to seriously compete, and a whole lot of candidates who are not being taken seriously…

I, of course, blame the Republicans — after their 2016 KKKlown Karnival ended with the ‘winner’ embedded in the Oval Office like a tick, why wouldn’t any halfway ambitious politician try during the next cycle? Jonathan Bernstein, at Bloomberg Opinion:

There was always going to be a large field in this cycle, given that there was no obvious front-runner and most Democrats think President Donald Trump is beatable. Those are two standard reasons that candidates choose to run.
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Wag the Dog Open Thread: “Not Saying We Won’t Get Our Hair Mussed… “

No, really. (It was a ‘surprise appearance’ to ‘thank American troops for their service’.

Meanwhile, perpetual war cheerleader Tom Cotton is doing his best General Turgidson imitation:

… because nothing props up a Republican “president”‘s sagging self-esteem poll numbers like a nice photogenic foreign war, amirite?!?

The main firewall against John Bolton and his acolytes right now seems to be that Trump thinks (a)being in charge of a war is too much work; and (b) it would give entirely too much media attention to people who are not Donald Trump. Slender reed.
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