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October 7th, 2016:

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 16

I’m not embarrassed.

1. Time (The Revelator) – Gillian Welch
2. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
3. Wild At Heart – Gloriana (Cheyenne Kimball)
4. Automatic Rainy Day – The Go-Gos
5. The Cruel Sister – Gordian Knot (Cidnie Carroll, Amy Price)
6. The Climb – Hannah Montana
7. Caoineadh Na Dtri Muire – Hector Zazou and Katie McMahon
8. So Yesterday – Hilary Duff
9. The Highway – Holly Williams
10. Getting Good At Waiting – The Honeycutters (Amanda Anne Platt)

Yes, I have both Hannah Montana and Hilary Duff in my iTunes library. It’s called “having daughters”. Speaking of such things, Holly Williams is Hank’s granddaughter. That’s all I got.

YouGov: Trump 50.1, Clinton 41.5

So says the YouGov Election Model for Texas. Here is how that works.

The raw data for our analysis is a rolling sample of over 30,000 respondents to YouGov’s polling over the past two weeks, updated with around 3,000 new interviews every day; however turning that into state-level estimates involves several other sources of data to ensure that we are generating a representative portrait of the electorate, not just of those who respond to our polls.

The approach we are following, which is referred to as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP), has three components. Here we will use a bit of shorthand that is useful for describing the approach: when we refer to a `voter type’, we mean someone’s measurable characteristics. This includes age, gender, education, who they voted in 2012, where they live, and so on. So one type of (potential) voter in the election might be a female, age over 85, with post-graduate education, living in the 9th Congressional district of Massachusetts, who voted for Obama in 2012. Change any of those characteristics, and you have another type. For each of these types, there are three important quantities that we would like to know.

What proportion of people of that type will vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, etc, among those who do vote?
What proportion of the individuals in each voter type will turn out to vote?
How many (voting eligible) individuals are there of that type?

If we knew all three of these for every type, we could simply multiply the vote shares for each candidate (1) by the turnout share (2) by the number of voters of each type in the voting eligible population (3), add the results for every type together, and we would have the number of votes for each candidate overall. The difficulty is in forming high quality estimates of each of these from the available sources of data that we have to work with. Here is how we have formed our estimates.

We estimate the proportion of people of each type who will vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein and everyone else, among those who vote, using the roughly 50,000 YouGov panelists who have responded to surveys in the last fourteen days. We estimate how support for each candidate varies as a function of 2012 vote choice, age, education, gender, race, marital status and date of interview, as well as many interactions between these. In addition to the ways that voters vary in their intentions by their individual characteristics, we also model how they vary on average by the congressional district, state, and region (census division) that they live in.

We estimate the proportion of people of each type who will turnout using a similar model based on individual-level and geographic-level variables, however, this model is not fit on the YouGov panel. We use the November 2012 Current Population Survey, which asked about election turnout in addition to a variety of other attributes of individuals. We use the CPS to calibrate the likely demographic profile of turnout because the CPS is a large (about 100,000 respondents) random survey of individuals in all 50 US states, it gets a relatively high response rate, and it is not primarily about politics. This means that it is likely to yield a more representative picture of voter turnout, and how it varies across different groups in the population. We have made a judgment call that we would rather use a high quality estimate of the patterns of turnout from the 2012 general election than a low quality estimate of the patterns of turnout for the 2016 election. Given the historical stability of turnout patterns we think this is a good bet, but this is a key place where we might get things wrong if there is a large change in turnout patterns. A similar strategy worked well for our analysis of the UK referendum on leaving the EU earlier this year, even though turnout was substantially higher in that referendum than in the preceding general election.

We augment this data by imputing 2008 turnout for each individual onto each observation using the information in state-level voter files about the rate at which voters and non-voters in 2008 voted again in 2012. This information is important because mostly the same people vote and do not vote in every election, and one of the critical tasks of the turnout model is to get the right mix of 2012 voters and non-voters in our 2016 estimates. The best place to estimate this is through comparing 2008 and 2012, although patterns in 2016 versus 2012 could of course be different.

We estimate how many people there are of each type in the electorate primarily based on the 1% microdata sample from the 2010 US Census, with updated distributions of race, age, gender and educational qualifications based on the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau each year. We then augment this data by imputing 2012 election turnout and vote of each of these 2.3m individuals using CPS and YouGov survey data from around the 2012 election, plus the knowledge of how many people voted for each party in each congressional district and state. The logic of this approach is that, at the very least, we know we have the right number of 2012 general election supporters of each party (and non-voters) in each congressional district and state, as well as the right mixes and combinations of age, gender, etc.

This general approach worked well in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union earlier this year, albeit with entirely different data sources. It also works well when we go back and re-evaluate YouGov’s polling for the 2012 US presidential election. YouGov’s polling in September of that year, analysed in the same way as we are analysing the 2016 data, with the data sources available at that time, predicted a 4.1% Obama margin, versus the 3.9% that resulted on election day. Only two states were incorrectly predicted, New Hampshire and North Carolina. YouGov’s polling in October and November yielded similar estimates, the final polling in November yielded the same 4.1% predicted margin, and only erred on North Carolina.

You can see some limited details on the data on the Texas page, which are as of October 3. Clinton is trailing with white voters by a 68-23 margin, which sounds like a lot but is actually closer than it was with Romney-Obama in 2012. Romney was over 70% with white voters in Texas; one poll had him up 77-17 among whites. I think that was an overstatement, but he still had a wider lead than Trump does. YouGov also has Trump trailing among Latinos by the seemingly too close margin of 57-33. Given Trump’s absolutely abysmal national numbers among Latinos, I have a hard time with this. Romney finished with something like 31% among Latinos in Texas, and it should be noted that while YouGov was fairly accurate in Texas, they claimed Romney had 42% support among Latinos in their final poll. I’m betting the under on this one, is what I’m saying.

Anyway. YouGov was fairly accurate in Texas in 2012; their final result underestimated Obama by three points, but they had been right on for him before that. I’m not sure what their update frequency will be for this, but I’ll keep an eye on it. Take a look at their results from other states as well. In all of the tossups they have except for Georgia (yes! Georgia is a tossup!), they show Hillary Clinton leading. Make of that what you will.

Jared Woodfill never stops never stopping

Here we go again.

RedEquality

Fifteen months after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, anti-LGBT groups in Texas are still fighting the decision.

Jonathan Saenz, president of the right-wing lobby group Texas Values, and Houston anti-LGBT activist Jared Woodfill announced Tuesday that they’re again asking the Texas Supreme Court to hear their lawsuit seeking to block the same-sex spouses of government workers from receiving health care and other benefits.

[…]

In their motion for a rehearing, Saenz and Woodfill argue that Obergefell should be interpreted narrowly because it violates states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, has no basis in the Constitution and threatens religious freedom.

“It is clear that the current Supreme Court will continue to use its power to advance the ideology of the sexual revolution until there is a change of membership,” Saenz and Woodfill wrote. “It is well known that the homosexual rights movement is not content with the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage in all 50 States; it is also seeking to coerce people of faith who oppose homosexual behavior into participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies.”

Ken Upton, senior counsel for the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, told theObserver that Saenz and Woodfill are “more to be pitied than censored.”

“Obergefell requires the government to treat all married couples the same,” Upton said. “Obergefell doesn’t say that a government employer has to offer any married couple spousal benefits, but if it chooses to do so it must offer the same benefits to all married couples not just the different-sex ones. The government does not get to privilege straight couples over gay couples.”

If the Texas Supreme Court were to take the case and rule in favor of Saenz and Woodfill, the city of Houston could appeal the decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, Upton said.

“But let’s be realistic,” he added. “The Texas Supreme Court is not going to grant rehearing. My take is that the Texas Supreme Court is done with marriage. I don’t think there’s much appetite to re-engage that discussion.”

See here for the background. Some things call for logic and reason, some for scorn and derision, and for some all one can do is stare in slack-jawed amazement. That’s all I’ve got on this one.

Chron overview of Harris County Tax Assessor race

It’s deja vu all over again.

Mike Sullivan

Mike Sullivan

Republican Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan once again faces a challenge from Democrat Ann Harris Bennett, a rematch from four years ago for an office that oversees billions of dollars in property tax collections, maintains voter rolls and registers more vehicles than any other county in the state.

Bennett lost to Sullivan in the 2012 election by about two-tenths of a percent, or less than 2,400 votes.

Now, she is back, with a mission to unseat Sullivan and end the succession of Republican tax assessor-collectors, including Don Sumners and now-state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, that she said represents the establishment.

“They have used (the office) in ways that I don’t think the taxpayers of Harris County would be pleased with,” the former court coordinator said.

[…]

Ann Harris Bennett

Ann Harris Bennett

Sullivan has made “customer service” his motto. He was a former city council member before becoming the county taxman, and was on the Humble ISD school board before that.

In almost four years in office, he has launched initiatives that he said touches virtually every resident of Harris County.

Among them, he said, were workshops to help people challenge their property appraisals and training sessions for high school principals in Houston ISD on how to register students as voters.

He pointed to his work with the county budget office to upgrade the office’s computers and software, and touted his creation of a military help desk to aid soldiers and their families navigate what can be complex tax rules. He said he also instituted an employee recognition program to improve morale.

He also points to decisions to allow people to pay for registration renewals or other transactions with credit cards and put televisions in the lobbies of all of his offices.

“For me, it’s all about serving the public,” Sullivan said.

For Bennett, a big part of what separates her from Sullivan centers on how and when to use the office’s soapbox to advocate for issues beyond its immediate control.

Last year, Sullivan was part of a delegation of county officials whose lobbying in Austin helped torpedo a bill that would have allowed Texas voters to register online.

Sullivan said that the process already is fraught with irregularities, adding that his office regularly has to deal with discrepancies between Department of Public Safety records and information on the voter rolls, discrepancies he said would only grow with online voter registration.

Sullivan pointed to a record number of registered voters in the county this fall – close to 2.2 million – as evidence that current methods are working.

There’s two ways of looking at this race. One is that Sullivan has unquestionably been an upgrade over the two clowns that preceded him, Don Sumners and Leo Vasquez. He’s also been less political than Paul Bettencourt was. The big strike against him, which led to the Chron endorsing Bennett, is his opposition to online voter registration. He has his stated reasons, and it is true that registrations are at a record high for the county. It’s also true that this is contrary to his generally modern approach to technology in other aspects of his office, that he could have pledged to work with the DPS to fix the problems he says they have with their data, and that even if people have been able to overcome the existing obstacles to getting registered, they shouldn’t have had to overcome them when a much easier solution was available. Like the other countywide races, the partisan tide will be the biggest factor in who wins and who loses. I think Sullivan has the best chance of the three Republican incumbents to survive if the Democrats have the overall advantage. Whether he does or he doesn’t, the issue of online voter registration is not going to go away.

Endorsement watch: Who stands with Trump?

Texas Monthly wonders if any Texas newspaper will endorse Donald Trump.

Between the three newspapers with the largest circulations in Texas—the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News—there have been exactly two endorsements of a Democratic presidential nominee in the last forty years (the Chronicle and Express-News backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, respectively). This year, however, all three papers have endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the first time the trio has gone completely blue in at least 75 years. This weekend, two smaller Texas papers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the El Paso Times, also raised their flags for Clinton. That’s a 5-0 newspaper endorsement lead for the Democratic nominee in Texas—a lead that jumps to 6-0 if you count the endorsement of the University of Texas-Austin’s student paper, the Daily Texan. This is fairly shocking considering Texas hasn’t voted Democrat since a peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976.

There’s about a month left until election day, and plenty of Texas newspapers still have yet to make an endorsement. But it’s worth noting that Texas seems to be part of a nationwide trend that’s seeing papers that have historically backed conservative candidates turn away from Republican nominee Donald Trump. The Cincinnati Enquirer went with a Democrat for the first time in nearly a century. The Arizona Republic had never chosen a non-Republican since it started publishing in 1890, until it endorsed Clinton last week. And the San Diego Union-Tribune broke a 148-year streak of endorsing Republicans on Friday when it implored its readers not to vote for Trump.

The Dallas Morning News‘s streak was nearly as impressive, stretching back to 1940, when the paper backed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his successful campaign for a third term. “We don’t come to this decision easily,” the Morning News wrote in an editorial explaining the Clinton endorsement in September. “Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.” The newspaper went on to say “Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism,” and that he “plays on fear… to bring out the worst in all of us.” The story garnered more than 3,500 online comments and drew about a dozen protesters to the steps of the Morning News‘ building in downtown Dallas. The endorsement also seemed to rile up the Republican nominee himself:

The Houston Chronicle was an early endorser of Clinton, jumping on board way back in July. Like the Morning News,

the Chronicle pulled no punches, writing: “Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities—his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance—is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, ‘I alone can fix it,’ should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.” Meanwhile, the San Antonio Express-News chose not to analyze the characters of Trump and Clinton and instead focused on policy issues, eventually concluding that “Clinton is the only logical choice in this presidential election.” Before their recent Obama endorsements, the last time the papers picked a Democrat was 1976, when the Express-News endorsed Jimmy Carter, and 1964, when both the Chronicle and the Express-News endorsed Lyndon B. Johnson.

The El Paso Times went after Trump pretty hard for his border policies and his well-documented racist outbursts against Hispanic people. “A Trump presidency would be a disaster for our country, and worse for those of us on the border,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial. “His promises to make Mexico pay for a needless wall between our nations, and his vow to unilaterally terminate vital trade agreements, would disrupt one of the United States’ most important international relationships and set the border economy back decades.” The Times proceeded to quote, in entirety, Trump’s infamous remarks from June, when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists. It called the prospect of a Trump presidency “detestable.” And it said a vote for Clinton “allows El Pasoans to push back on efforts to marginalize and demonize our community.”

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times was far more pro-Hillary than its primarily Donald-dumping newsprint siblings. “She is not, as has been sold, a mere lesser of two evils,” the Caller-Times wrote. “Her experience and intellect would make her a standout in any group of candidates.” But the paper still got in a few well-placed jabs at Trump, saying he’s “an insult to voters’ intelligence” and that “voting for Trump is a form of nihilism,” and even implying that Trump doesn’t know how to change a diaper.

There are a few more major newspapers in Texas that have yet to announce an endorsement—the biggest being theAustin American-Statesman, but it’s hard to imagine the newspaper that services our state’s most liberal city will side with Trump, especially considering no major newspaper in the country has done such a thing as of right now, aside from the New York Observer (which is published by Trump’s son-in-law) and the Onion-esque National Enquirer. Even if Clinton sweeps the Texas newspaper endorsement circuit, it may not make much of a difference in the final poll, at least in the Lone Star State, where Trump has held on to a modest lead of about six points despite this first handful of non-endorsements.

Let’s put aside the question of how much these endorsements matter – most likely, the answer is “not very much” – and ask the question “will newspapers in heavily Republican areas still endorse Trump?” I’m thinking the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the Odessa American, and so forth. I mean, if the Morning News pissed off some people enough to make them angrily protest in front of their building, what happens if one of those papers declines to toe the party line? Maybe they’ll go the route a few Republican-aligned papers have gone and stump for Gary Johnson, or maybe they’ll make like USA Today and denounce Trump but not endorse anyone. I figure Sundays are the days where they’re most likely to publish their choice, so I’ll keep an eye on it. But if any paper will go for Trump, I would bet its one of these. Mother Jones has more.