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Name: Kurt Cagle
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cascadia
Member since: Sat Dec 3, 2016, 02:02 AM
Number of posts: 1,353

About Me

Contributing Writer, Forbes Magazine

Journal Archives

Trump was never ahead - in his entire term, he was a loser

Unsaid but significant - during this election cycle, Trump was never ahead of Biden after March. He never broke 50%, was underwater in ratings throughout his presidency, was never ahead or even tied with Biden for electoral votes or popular totals. Yes, he was (and still is) ahead in individual states), but never to a point where he could claim that he was winning. He did, of course, election night, but I cannot remember a politician in the last forty years who was so arrogant and clueless as to claim he was the winner when he was losing badly.

Not ideal, but I'll take it

We regained control of the White House, gained at least one Senate seat, and picked up a few more in the House.

Here's what didn't happen last night:
* Trump didn't receive a second term as President, possibly ending the country as a Democracy.
* The House didn't revert back to the Republicans, which would have just hastened the process
* We didn't have riots or looting or armed thugs attacking voters
* The Republicans didn't gain more seats, making it even harder for them to turn the country into one-party rule, and forcing McConnell to compromise more.

With Biden,
* we throw out the Barrs and DeJoys and the Salazars and replace them with people who are neither corrupt nor incompetent,
* we stop the hemorrhaging of civil service people,
* we restore the CDC and sort out real responses to the Pandemic
* we rejoin the Paris Accords
* we clean up the damage done to the EPA, get rid of all of those Trump EOs and start sane Climate Change responses
* we no longer conduct important governmental business on Twitter
* we no longer have to deal with abusive MFers gaslighting us

So, yeah, I'll take it.

(Had someone recommend I repost this as a thread).

Were the polls wrong?

I am the Community Editor for Data Science Central, so looking at statistics is both my passion and my job.

I've been pondering the comments that many people have said here at DU about never trusting the polls or pollsters again, because they were so off. My answer is simple - no, the polls were actually pretty accurate.

Most polling looks at distributions - the variations among the way that people will behave, with the idea that you can make models that test a lot of different variables and that in turn make it possible to combine or simulate the likelihood of a particular event occurring.

This year has been a real test for many pollsters and modelers, such as Five thirty eight. Between Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown, the economic impact of that, racial protests and the like, there were a lot of factors that went into the models that were simply not knowable beforehand, because we've not had a widescale pandemic in modern times (the last one of note was the Spanish Flu in 1918-1920). Several modelers all made the same point - Biden will probably win but it could be by 5 electoral votes or 200. Florida was likely a toss-up, and outside of Miami-Dade country the numbers were in line with expectations, the same with Ohio (note that Ohio and Florida seem to be increasingly in sync, perhaps because Florida is where Ohioans retire to).

Similarly, Georgia and Arizona (and quite possibly North Carolina) were considered as being slightly leaning towards Biden, in part because all three of them are seeing growing college-educated populations in critical tech and media hubs offsetting retirees, and all three had similar probability distributions because of that (note that this becomes clearer looking at Omaha, which went for Biden, it too is becoming known as a technical hub. If Nebraska had a winner-take-all system, this detail would have been lost, as most of the rest of the state is agricultural and rural.

The same point can be made for most of the rest of the electoral map. The map that's emerging now is remarkably close to what most pollsters were projecting, Biden taking the Pacific West (including Colorado). Texas and the Interior West went to Trump (though it was closer than expected in Texas), and so forth. If you read beyond the headline numbers, however, what also emerges (and what's not always obvious beforehand) was that the likelihood of the Democrats capturing the Senate was above 50%, but not by much. They picked up two and lost one, and there are three more outstanding due to run-offs, so it's still possible.

What data analytics tells you are probabilities. and moreover probabilities after all the dust has settled. With network television, people became conditioned (perhaps too conditioned) to believing that elections would be over by the time midnight rolled around, but in reality, elections take time, though the use of mail-in ballots and a relatively long lead time, along with rules about secrecy, mean that we're now moving away from that model, for the better I believe. Government is a deliberative process, because it requires that we think about the choices that we make. In the era of quick gratification, the flashy TV graphics and horse-race pacing of coverage may garner more eyeballs, but it robs us of the opportunity to choose the best candidates or propositions.

So, before you condemn pollsters and data scientists as charlatans, wait a bit and get a clearer picture of the whole results, not the results in the moment. In 2020, the results followed the polls quite well, but only if you don't interpret them with additional expectations (a second blue wave, as an example).

Trumpers Over the Road

A contingent of Trumpers were on one of the walkway overpasses on I405 in Kirkland, WA this afternoon. A couple of dozen people, waving signs for Trump and Culp, Trump's Mini-Me running for governor. None of them wore masks or distanced, and I noticed that there more drivers giving them the finger as they passed underneath than were honking in support. The irony is that this was the first time I had actually seen a Trump sign here in Seattle, especially given mail-in ballots went out on October 15 here. If an oversized semi- had taken out that bridge, I suspect Seattle would end up with no Trump supporters whatsoever.

Trump and Low IQ Voters

I've held a theory for a while that Democrats are smarter than Republicans. It's not by much - perhaps only about 5 points, but it's consistent with what I've seen in the literature. If you control for other factors - race, sex, age, income, and region, for instance - this difference is another way of talking about college-educated vs. non-college-educated people. College specifically tests for intelligence, by either direct or indirect measures, and while hardly consistently true, going to college usually signals that a person is more likely to be just a bit smarter than average.

Why does this matter? Intelligence, like many aggregates, tends to follow a normal or gaussian distribution (with some caveats). The actual distribution is slightly asymmetric, with a somewhat longer tail towards higher values and a somewhat bulgier (short tail) towards lower values. Put another way, if you assume the mean is 100, then there are roughly as many people between an IQ of 100-112 as there between 90 and 100, and there are likely fewer people at 80 than there are at 120. This is also not necessarily talking about the Stanford-Binet IQ test, which has many flaws, but is more a question of any reasonable measure of mental capacity. For purposes of discussion, however, talking about a normal or gaussian distribution for intelligence is not unreasonable.

When you make the argument that Trump generally attracts lower-IQ voters, what that means is that the mean of the distribution of Trump voters is likely about 5 points lower. You may have Trump voters that have IQs of 130 (two standard deviations), but there will be fewer of them there are Biden voters at 130. How much fewer? Consider that IQ has a standard deviation of around 15 points, this means that there are 22,800 people per 1M people with an IQ of 130, given a mean of 100. If the mean is 95, however, there are only 9,800 people per 1M people with an IQ of 130.

What's telling is that at an IQ of 95 or below (or a standard deviation of about 0.33) you end up with about 37% of the population, approximately the size of Trump's base. Again, is should be emphasized that this is a distribution - you will have high IQ trump supporters, but you will have more Trump supporters with IQs of 90 or less than you would in the Biden distribution ... significantly more.

There are some cognitive hallmarks that you tend to see at different levels of intelligence. At an IQ of 100, magical thinking usually begins to give way to more analytical thinking - the ability to think logically from known priors. At around 120, analytic thinking shifts towards systemic thinking - the ability to understand how systems operate, to get a better sense for the idea of chains (or graphs) of events. At 140, you are beginning to think holistically - the ability to compare multiple systems and see the metaphoric similarities and differences. Most mathematicians usually clock in around 135-140 and go up from there.

Below 95, magical thinking predominates - the world exists in black and white, supernatural agents predominate, and there is a clear social order that you belong to. The ability to think analytically is simply not developed yet, though it's nascent in conspiracy theories that appear logically consistent but are usually built upon weak priors. This is the land of the cargo cult - people do actions that make no sense though at one point they did. This is also the realm of the sports team booster - my team is better than your team because I am a member of this team. Since you are not, I am better than you. Roughly 40% of the population in the US is in this zone.

About half of the conservative faction, 50% are magical thinkers, while only about 35% of the liberal faction is. On the other hand, there are about three times as many holistic thinkers among liberals than conservatives, and these tend to be responsible for the majority of patents, books, and other intellectual property produced in this country.

Trump understands the low IQ voter, because he is one. The Dunning-Krueger Effect, where one overestimates personal competence when you don't have the necessary foundations, is strong among this crowd. They live with a personal feeling of resentment, fear of complexity and distrust of those people who are the "intellectual elite", who understand things they don't, and they often turn this resentment into hatred. They want their world to be understandable and simple, and when it is neither, they tend to blame those who do.

This also should give some indication about who is and is not likely to be a blind Trump follower. As intelligence rises, the ability to compare data points and draw inferential conclusions also rises, and after awhile, someone who is already an analyst, even if they are predisposed to a conservative viewpoint, will get alarmed when they see ongoing incompetence and corruption. Trumpist lawmakers are ideologues, and for the most part, they tend to have a magical thinking view of the world (or at least project that they do) in order to reach the sub 100 population. Personally, I think that Trump probably once had a working IQ around 115 or so, but it's deteriorating fast as he self-destructs.

I expect to get a few bricks thrown at me for this, but it seems consistent with what I'm seeing.

538 has Trump down to Two Maps

This may seem silly, but I've become obsessive about checking out the 538 forecast. In the background of the leader page (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/) the graphic (showing potential Trump and Biden election maps) is not static. Instead, it reflects the likelihood of a red vs. blue victory. When the forecast started after the RNC convention, there were 11 red maps and 11 blue maps. As of today, we are down to 2 red maps (Trump) and 20 blue maps (Biden), with Trump at 11% likelihood in the 538 forecast, Biden at 89%. This race is also as stable as any I've seen in the last 35 years.

We voted

We had a whole bunch of amendments here in Washington, then the Presidential race at the very bottom, with Biden/Harris appearing first and Trump/Pence third in the list of about eight different parties. My wife, daughter and I sat around the dining room table, comparing candidates, while our cat Bright Eyes decided that the Voter's Pamphlet was the best place to lay on the table.

We dropped our ballots off at the Drop Box in Issaquah, WA, at the city hall building. It was getting towards early evening, but even so, with twenty days to go, there was a steady stream of people dropping their ballots off.

Issaquah's on the very outer fringe of Seattle along I-90 - less than a mile down the road, you're on the steep climb into the Cascade mountains. As such, it's an interesting mix of rural and urban. I've seen a fair number of signs for Culp, who's waging an uphill battle against the very popular Jay Inslee. I have seen quite a few Biden/Harris signs, but none for Trump (it was fifty/fifty in 2016). Even on the ballots, there were several races between Democrats and Democrats.

There's also a very palpable energy in people - they want Trump out, in no uncertain terms. There's a lot of respect for Biden, but the loathing that Trump generates here is strong.

What about the census?

If (I hope) Biden wins, one of the most pressing issues may be to advocate to redo the census, citing numerous irregularities. As this factors in apportionment of legislators and hence political control over the next decade, it would seem reasonable to start laying the groundwork for a census redo. Thoughts?

538.com: Biden chances for winning 77%, Trump 22%

This projection was 65/35 at the end of August, and Trump has fallen a point every day and a half since. GA and IA are now both reported as tossups.


Where Does RBG's death put Roberts?

Reading up on Five Thirty Eight about the impact of a Trump SCOTUS appointment will play out, I noticed, an interesting graphic:


One of the most startling observations was that when he was nominated in 2005, Roberts was about as conservative as Alito, but especially in the last few years, Roberts has become almost scrupulously moderate. The reputation of the supreme court is actually something very much of value to him, and he has become a mentor to Kavenaugh to the extent that Kavenaugh's been surprisingly moderate in his own decisions.

I have to wonder, if Trump does attempt to push through an arch-conservative (and his judicial list has a bunch of them), Roberts may very well move farther to the left to compensate - not necessarily because he's temperamentally becoming more liberal but because he doesn't want to see the courts become a political instrument.

Another thought. Breyer is 82, Thomas is 72, and Alito is 70. For reference, Ginsburg was 87, and while we hoped she'd lived to be ninety she's been battling cancer for a long time now. Should Biden win, I suspect that Breyer will announce his retirement in February, putting a young (likely black female) justice on the court (Michelle, where are you?). This brings up an interesting possibility. Thomas at that point has to make a decision - stay on until health does become an issue (and his health isn't great) or retire as well.

Let's say that Trump decides to put forward the current version of Laura Ingraham in a black robe (https://www.ratfuckingthecourts.com/post/report-amy-coney-barrett), it's likely that McConnell may be in a quandary, as it pushes a raving lunatic into senate judiciary hearings in prime time election mode at a time when people are angry at how extreme right the GOP has gone. That gives McConnell about sixty days to put a second appointee up after the election, before Trump is out on his ear.

The SCOTUS decisions traditionally are made in June. This means that worse case scenario there will be a counter to Trump Pick #3 in place (Roberts shifting leftward) and the very real possibility that either Thomas or Alito will end up retiring or possibly dying between now and the end of Biden's term.

Of course, if Trump wins, we're screwed regardless, but I don't think he will.

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