Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Making a Comeback

Mea Culpa (Iterum)

So a lot has happened since my last post but, as usual, I have not found the time to do anything preemptive for the various electoral shenanigans at home and abroad. I missed both of the territorial elections, which is disappointing because they get rather limited coverage as it is and there is a lot to talk about--particularly in the ACT which has several nice modifications to their electoral system.

Then, further abroad, there has been the usual endless train of elections--Palau, for example, elected it's President and both houses of parliament yesterday. Sure, most of these I wouldn't have commented on except in the presence of abundant leisure time anyhow, but there were some cool things that I might have gone out of my way to examine. Last month had a lot of multi-stage elections (Czech Republic, Georgia and Lithuania). Azerbaijan had a constitutional referendum in September, and I firmly believe Azerbaijan is the most enjoyable nation to say aloud. And, most realistically in terms of me actually covering something, Iceland recently elected its independence party to minority lead in the Althing (which is also fun to say) with 21 of the 63 seats, more than its two next closes rivals combined (Left-Greens and Pirates with 10 seats each). This may possibly pave the way towards an Icelandic referendum on leaving the EU which (in the tradition of the Grexit and Brexit) will probably be called Icexit because that's the nomenclaturial hell we appear to live in.

Also, when this guy has six seats in your parliament you know you had a good election.
So I missed a lot of history. Again. But even if I did neglect two territorial elections in my own country, there is one election in 2016 I cannot possibly overlook. Okay, two, but the Australian Federal Election has come and gone, which leaves...

The United States Presidential Election 2016

(Or: No, really guys. Joke's over. Where are the real candidates?)

And when you're talking about the US Presidential Election, how could you not be of Donald J Trump? With less than a week until a combination of voluntary voting and the monstrosity that is first-past-the-post polling conspire to elect the most despised president of the Unites States in recorded history, (though Salon offers and interesting counterpoint), Trump is ahead in the polls today for the first time in a long while. Such a simplistic polling analysis is far from telling of the likely electoral result, however, due to the variation of polling state-by-state and the nature of the electoral college system. A detailed prediction that factors these in will appear on this blog at some point in the coming week (I promise) though history suggests that may well be on the night before the election.

There is, however, an important caveat to be made regarding any predictions for this election: Trump has repeatedly defied conventional wisdom and expert analysis by far wiser minds than mine. Anything could happen.

In particular, I want to look at Trump's polling results and their resilience against gaffes that would eliminate any other candidate.

Anatomy of a Trumpism

Politicians can get away with a lot of things. Embezzlement, corruption, war, sexual assault, even rigging elections. The one thing that was assumed they couldn't survive--at least in a democracy--was upsetting the voters. Since becoming the de facto nominee of the Republican Party on May 4, Trump has (among many less caustic (mis?)statements like forgetting the date of the September 11 attacks) insulted many significant demographics in this election. A short list is provided here:

Date Reported Demographic Targeted Demographic Size
03/10/16 PTSD Victims 0.8%
21/09/16 African Americans 12.6%
02/08/16 Women* 50.8%
06/07/16 Jews 0.2%
03/06/16 African Americans 12.6%
31/05/16 Latinos 16.3%
11/05/16 Non-Whites 36.3%
* Certain comments about a Purple Heart Medal may have put American veterans off side here as well.

All of these were sourced from The Atlantic's 'Gaffe Track', where a fuller list can be found, dating back further and covering all candidates. These were, in my opinion, the statements most likely to put large demographics off from voting for Trump. Only the most recent three of these, however, have occurred since Trump became the official Republican nominee and polling started

Well, sort of standardising. House biases remained, of course, and sample size varied. We discussed previously the important distinction between phone and internet polling methods. Sample sizes varied, and so did the duration of polling. In short, trying to produce a detailed map of Trump's polling is as futile as it would be inaccurate. And since this blog is all about futile and inaccurate statistical analysis, I figured I'd do just that by averaging all the polls released each day since Trump became the official nominee. (Some days had no polls released, these were skipped on the inaccurate (but not futile!!! :D) assumption that his polling remained on a smooth gradient over these days).

The red line is an average of the blue line for two days in either direction, to remove some of the wild variation.

Next, I highlighted the seven day periods following each statement noted above:

And from this we can determine... absolutely nothing. The blue line remains as erratic as ever, and there is no obvious pattern in the red, either. No consistent period of lost votes regained over time, nor surge in support from "I want a politician who speaks their mind" types. This may be because we only have three sample periods to consider (the first may be an aberration, for example, and a longer analysis will see a general pattern of Trump ending the week lower). But there's not much we can do about that, and no real way of extrapolating any pattern.

But my general observation would be this: Trump isn't necessarily resilient. He doesn't bounce back from his gaffes, because he never suffers any significant loss of support to begin with. It's not that supporters forgive Trump's statements, its that they are unaffected by them. Part of this is probably the polarising nature of this campaign. Most Trump supporters aren't pro-Trump, they're anti-Clinton (and vice versa) and nothing Trump could say will dissuade the bulk of his supporters from opposing his Democratic opponent over poorly configured email servers and Benghazi.

A further explanation might be appropriated from Clinton's response to her own campaign issues regarding the FBI's un-closeing of their investigation into her emails. Clinton believes (or at least hopes) that most people had already made up their minds about this issue before the FBI reopened the case. The same is probably true of Trump supporters regarding the Donald's often hateful statements. There's no one left in the Trump camp who would abandon the candidate over such speeches because, quite simply, they left during the primaries and never came back.

In Australian politics we've had a lot of elections that seem to hinge on a candidate not losing their support. 2007 was Rudd's to lose (which he didn't), 2010 was Abbott's to lose (which he did), 2013 was the same (this time he won) and 2014 had the Turnbull honeymoon period so long as he didn't stuff it up. USA 2016 is not like these. Trump is probably incapable of losing supporters, short of foul weather and the usual variations of the US voluntary system. Assuming his current lead is indicative of a Trump win looming (and I personally am not convinced this is the case), Trump cannot stuff this up and hand the victory to Clinton. The latter, instead, must make a comeback and claim the election on her own merits.

No comments:

Post a Comment