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The Crosstab Weekly Newsletter 📊 October 14, 2018 — It's (Not) The Economy, Stupid. + More forecasts, tips for reading polls, and (gasp!) a look at 2020.

Welcome! I'm G. Elliott Morris, data journalist at The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and
October 15 · Issue #10 · View online
The Crosstab Weekly Newsletter
Welcome! I’m G. Elliott Morris, data journalist at The Economist and blogger of polls, elections, and political science. Happy Sunday! Here’s my weekly newsletter with links to what I’ve been reading and writing that puts the news in context with public opinion polls, political science, other data (some “big,” some small) and looks briefly at the week ahead. Let’s jump right in! Feedback? Drop me a line or just respond to this email. 

This newsletter is made possible by supporters on Patreon. A special thanks to those who pledge the top two tiers is written in the endnotes. If you enjoy my personal newsletter and want it to continue, consider a monthly subscription for early access and regular blogging for just $2.

This Week's Big Question
What are the midterms even about?
Trump is not literally on the ballot in 2018, but his tenure in office is certainly occupying voters’ minds. But if voters do care about Trump, what do the not care about? The issues getting put on the back burner are perhaps even more important than those that aren’t.
Let’s talk about the economy. With 1990s slogans like “It’s the economy, stupid” percolating political discourse even today, it would be an understatement to say that the state of the economy is an important political topic. Except it’s not 1990 anymore, it’s 2018, and the election is not about the economy. Holding other demographics and attitudes constant, voters who feel warmer to the economy are no more likely to vote for Republicans than those who think it’s getting worse.
But maybe voter attitudes aren’t what matters, but that a healthy economy generates other factors that cause voters to cast ballots for for the party in power. The data say no. Rather, Trump is underperforming predictions of presidential job approval based on the state of the economy. In other words, neither positive attitudes toward or the actually healthy state of the economy are being factored into voters’ decisions this November. At least, we can’t pick anything up that indicates otherwise.
The only variable that does remain significant in my model — which is by no means comprehensive — is whether or not a voter disapproved of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the supreme court. Still, that only made someone 2% more likely to vote for the Republicans in the coming midterms. A technically significant effect, but not a very significant one.
I suggest checking out this new data from the Pew Research Center about issues in the midterms, which are suffering from extreme partisan polarization. When the parties are so sorted on which policies voters ought to support, it’s not perplexing when they don’t make big differences in who Americans voice support for.
Politics and Election Data
Seven ways misinformation spread during the 2016 election
Little Partisan Agreement on the Pressing Problems Facing the U.S.
Who’s Behaving Like A 2020 Presidential Candidate
Predictions of the 2018 election results
Trump vs. Obama: The midterm rallies edition
Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape
Other Data and Cool Work
'megaregions' in the US, as defined by commutes
Political Science & Survey Research
The Anatomy of Voting on the Long Ballot
Comparing Survey Sampling Strategies: Random-Digit Dial vs. Voter Files
What I'm Reading and Working On
I’m still finishing Kornacki’s new The Red and The Blue, but also picked up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S Grant as I missed the heavy bouts of US history reading from university. This week, I’m writing about
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back again next week! In the meantime, follow me online or reach out via email. I’d love to hear from you!
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