Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ambassador Christopher Hill Joins Columbia University Faculty

Chris Hill was just appointed the George W. Ball Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. The announcement from SIPA Dean Merit Janow follows:

I am also pleased to share that Ambassador Christopher Hill will serve as the George W. Ball Adjunct Professor at SIPA in Spring 2021. As the George W. Ball Adjunct Professor, Ambassador Hill will teach a course on diplomacy and also deliver the annual George W. Ball lecture, among other activities. His extraordinary foreign policy experience will be of tremendous benefit to our students and intellectual community, and we look forward to welcoming him to SIPA this spring.

Chris was the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies for 7 years, professor of diplomacy and head of a DU Center of Global Engagement. Chris and I frequently presented on politics, elections and foreign policy.

Congratulations Chris on your Columbia appointment.
Floyd Ciruli and Chris Hill present a post-election event,
Nov. 2016 | University of Denver photo

Monday, September 21, 2020

Three Republican Senate Seats in West at Risk

Democrats could pick up three of the four seats they need to take control of Senate. If they win all three, Democrats would have a bloc of 7 western states out of 11 and control both members of the delegation (14 members), or about a quarter of their Democratic senate majority. Forest management and climate change would move up in the priority list.

Among the competitive western states, Republican incumbent Martha McSally (Arizona) has been consistently behind Mark Kelly (up 7 points, RealClearPolitics). President Trump won the state by 3 points in 2016, but has been behind Joe Biden (now 5 points). The map below is the latest from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball forecast at UVA. 
Colorado may be the keystone state for Democrats to win the Senate. John Hickenlooper appears to be ahead of Cory Gardner by about 5 points in spite of an inarticulate candidate and an onslaught of negative Republican advertising. He is riding the reverse coattails of Donald Trump, who is losing the state by at least 10. He lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 5 points and would be very lucky to get that close this year. 
Montana is a more difficult state for the Democrats. Trump won it by 20 points in 2016, but is only ahead today by 6 points. And, Steve Daines, incumbent Republican senator, running against the current Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, is 2 points ahead. In Montana, Trump helps Daines. 
Other races Democrats have good chances and rated as “toss-ups” by Sabato are Maine: Susan Collins -6, Trump -1; North Carolina: Thom Tillis -4, Trump -1; and Iowa: Joni Ernst -1, Trump +2.

Crossley Center Fall Election Program

The Fall Election Program has begun with virtual presentations, which started with pre-Labor Day Zoom update on the status of the election and a podcast commentary on the accuracy of polling. China and its impact on the election is the first virtual conversation. A panel of Colorado election experts is next in October and November 3 results discussed post-Election Day. YouTube, podcasts and virtual events are adjusting to the pandemic. Join us for the most important election in the century.

Election Central: Pre-Labor Day Update
The recording of the “Election Central: Pre-Labor Day” session is available. Join with the 140 Friends of the Crossley Center who participated in a review of the major issues, such as the pandemic, race relations and the economy, and the position of the campaigns on September 1, the major questions related to polls and forecasts, and what Election Night will look like.

Podcast: Political Polls: Can We Trust Them? 
For those of you who want to know more about what happened with the 2016 presidential polls and if it could happen again, tune into a DU RadioEd podcast I did on the subject. LISTEN HERE

The U.S. and China in the 2020 Election: A New Cold War?
On September 30, our opening program “The U.S. and China in the 2020 Election – A New Cold War?” brings together Professor Sam Zhao of the Center for China-US Cooperation and Professor Floyd Ciruli of the Crossley Center in a conversation addressing the questions around the U.S.-China relationship’s effect on the election and whether the campaigns are ensuring a new Cold War regardless of who wins. Plan to join the program on Zoom at 3:00 pm on September 30. REGISTER HERE

Colorado Political Experts Election Panel: Presidential, Senate and Third Congressional
Some of Colorado’s best political minds will share their assessments of the major races and ballot issues as early voting starts. They will also discuss Election Night and what to expect as the returns roll in. Zoom, October 21 at 3:00 pm. REGISTER HERE

Election 2020: What Happened? Why?
On November 4, Dean Fritz Mayer and Professor Floyd Ciruli will discuss the available results and lead a conversation of what happened and why. Zoom, 3:00 pm, November 4. SAVE THE DATE

Friday, September 18, 2020

Majority of Asian Americans Voting for Biden

A majority (54%) of Asian Americans are voting for Joe Biden. Donald Trump is receiving 30 percent support. They are the fastest growing (39% since 2000) racial group (growing faster than Hispanic – 21%, Black – 33% and White – 7%) and have been a new bloc of voters for Democrats. Exit polls show they voted Republican before the 2000 election. They then shifted, narrowly to Al Gore, and have been increasingly in the Democratic camp. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won the Asian American vote by more than two-to-one. Support for Biden this year ranges from a high of 65 percent among Asian Indians and 61 percent among Japanese to a low of 36 percent among Vietnamese Americans.
There are 11 million Asian Americans eligible to vote this year. The largest concentrations of Asian Americans are in California (3.5 million), Maryland (900,000) and Texas (700,000). They exhibited high turnout levels in the 2018 midterm elections, and could be important constituencies in battleground states of Arizona, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Forecasters Mostly See Colorado Senate Race as “Lean Democratic”

Although there’s no post-Labor Day polls (as of 9-17-20), the three late August-early September polls had the senate race favoring John Hickenlooper by 5 to 10 points over incumbent Cory Gardner. The latest polls reflect voter opinion after millions have been spent since June by the GOP and its allies on negative advertising attacking Hickenlooper.

As of now, national political forecasters have placed the senate race in the “lean Democratic” category, with one exception, the Cook Political Report. Most recently, RealClearPolitics and Politico moved the race from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”

In a September 5 article, Joey Bunch in a Colorado Politics analysis speculates on the race shifting in favor of Gardner. The consensus from his interviews was that it was possible, but unlikely as the ballots are mailed on October 9, well ahead of Election Day. He wrote: “Time for changing hearts and minds is neigh.”
Bunch quoted me from a summer DU donor event:
“That 6 points is still a lot of ground to cover,” Ciruli said, noting that Gardner must support a president consistently polling around 13 points down in Colorado.
“His challenge is to get this in a one-on-one race with Hickenlooper and get people to think of this as a choice between them, because he’s a good campaigner and he thinks he’s had a good six years,” the veteran pollster said.
He expected the polls to tighten after Labor Day, when pollsters focus on the “likely voters,” instead of those less engaged.
“And Biden could make a mistake,” Ciruli cautioned.
But the polls haven’t narrowed sufficiently to change the forecasts tilting against Gardner running with a president that is consistently 10 or more points out.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Kick the Tires and Light the Fires: Forecasts

 Campaigns are now in their final run. Conventions are over and polls continue to accumulate. And, of course, the forecasts are being published. In the table below are the six forecasts I’m following, providing a range of views on the race as of September 15.
Presidential Election Forecasts
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, shown in the map below, lists the toss-up states’ electoral votes, which corresponds to their view of what’s in doubt. They have Joe Biden with 269 electoral votes and 65 toss-up states. They forecast a close race in popular and electoral votes. The Crystal Ball also offers a best Republican map and best Democratic map (243 Biden, 295 Trump/350 Biden, 188 Trump). All the forecasters emphasize that this is a state-by-state race and generally list similar states in play: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Two other well-known forecasters who use polling – current and historic – plus information on specific state campaigns, Cook and Inside Elections, have Biden with more than 270 electoral voters and a small number of toss-up states. Cook does expect a close electoral contest based on recent elections.
RealClearPolitics only uses reported polling and believes there are 211 electoral votes in play, partially because of inadequate current polling. But when forced to distribute all electoral votes by current available polling, they give Biden 352 votes to 186 for Donald Trump.
Finally, two forecasters distribute all their electoral votes and publish a confidence factor. The best known is Nate Silver’s 538, which uses a sophisticated formula to weigh the quality of polls, add historic data and consider factors, like undecided voters. They have Biden with 321 electoral votes, but with a risk factor of 28 percent, the same amount as in 2016 when the forecasts were wrong and many with 98 and 99 percent confidence levels.
Crystal Ball
Electoral College Rating
September 10, 2020
Finally, a new forecast is from the weekly, The Economist. It has Biden with 334 electoral votes with a risk factor of only 16 percent.
It should be restated that the forecasters were dramatically off in 2016. They are more cautious today, and much of the current polling, especially state-level, has improved. The national polls were accurate, but overstated Hillary Clinton’s position, which contributed to the models under-considering risk factors and commentators (and Clinton) considering the win a certainty (i.e., no concession speech). Forecasts are still useful gathering places for all the data available and the latest thinking about the political environment. Just remember the risk. These are tools, not certainties.

Battleground States Remain Tight, But Biden Advantage Holds

 The national popular vote as portrayed in polls only indicates the direction of the presidential race, currently steady with a Joe Biden lead, greater than Hillary Clinton’s four years ago, but not so great as to be comfortable. The real race is in a dozen battleground states, and these races tend to be within the margin of error, and the numbers have been mostly drifting closer the last 30 days.
Biden has had a consistent, albeit narrow, lead since mid-April in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Donald Trump has mostly led in Georgia and Iowa. North Carolina has shifted back and forth – today, Biden is up by one. Florida has closed and is now two points.
At the moment, 50 days ahead of Election Day, the Blue Wall of North-Midwest states that so spectacularly failed in the 2016 contest appear back in place. But because so many of the battleground states have modest amounts of polling and the spreads are near or in the margin of error, a closer Electoral College result is still possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

U.S. Crosses 200,000 COVID-19 Fatalities: Is the Virus Behind Us?

A common refrain is: “I’m so tired of the virus,” as the public wearies of the constant news of more fatalities and surges with frequent appeals for masks and social distancing accompanied by still closed popular venues. And indeed, polls record a narrow majority of Americans (51%) believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, up 11 percentage points since mid-August (CNN, 8/28-9/4). But, still 57 percent of people remain worried there will be an outbreak next year. Also, more than half (58%) of the public know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus and 75 percent are concerned they could get sick (Axios-Ipsos, 8/28-31).

These concerns are well placed. In the last 30 days, 40,000 more fatalities have been reported as Texas moves ahead of California for the third most deaths and Florida holds in fifth position. With more than 200,000 fatalities, the virus is not behind us.

Unfortunately for President Trump, his reputation for handling the virus has not improved. Most Americans disapprove of his performance (63% to 36%) in three different polls, unchanged post the conventions. Also problematic for Trump (59%) is that a majority of Americans now have little or no trust in the accuracy of the information he provides. Also, trust in the CDC has declined from 83 percent in April to 67 percent in September.

National Dashboard: 50 Days Out – Little Movement

With less than 50 days to November 3 and only a few weeks until ballots arrive in Colorado (October 9), the National Dashboard of Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s positions have not moved significantly since mid-April. Biden still leads in the head-to-head and Trump still maintains his mid to low 40s approval rating as he has for most of his term. 

As of September 15, post the two conventions and more than a week after Labor Day, polls continue to range around the same averages in spite of a variety of astounding news with The Atlantic article accusing the President of denigrating the war dead, the Bob Woodward book accompanied by tapes of interviews with Trump, and more protests and violence in American cities. Also, both candidates are now going into battleground states – the President with his raucous rallies and Biden with masks, small groups and Zoom.  

The President’s current disapproval at 54 percent and a negative 9 points is slightly better than two weeks ago, but the head-to-head spread remains a similar 7 points, down from 8 to 10 during the summer, but still substantial. 

Trump is betting, as the virus recedes in the news and some level of normalcy gains traction, that his law and order theme and the economy will work with swing voters and late deciders for the final advantage. The numbers remain close enough to make the theory plausible, but early voting is starting and the numbers have been stubborn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

From Left to Right, Social Issues to Taxes, Colorado Voters Face Eleven Ballot Issues

In a Colorado Politics report. Marianne Goodland (9-8-20) describes the impact, sponsors and opponents of the 11 ballot issues Colorado voters will sort through this election.

I predict massive turnout because of the presidential race. I did not believe the ballot issues would influence it, but will have to deal with it.

As University of Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said recently, there’s something on the ballot for everybody this year.

The 11 measures approved for the Nov. 3 ballot touch on social, fiscal and electoral issues and represent diverse political views, Ciruli told Colorado Politics.

As a result, it's a wash for either side to think a particular ballot question would drive turnout in their candidates' favor. Voter turnout in Colorado is likely to be record-setting, regardless, Ciruli said.

The major protagonists include: environmental groups interested in introducing grey wolves and the farm and ranch community in opposition; long-time opponents engaged in an abortion limit; conservative tax groups are active for tax reduction and the placement of fees under TABOR; and liberal interests are backing paid leave with business interests in opposition. More than $10 million has already been raised, mostly from out-of-state funders.

As Vaccine Becomes Politicized, a Majority Won’t Take It

Preparation, introduction and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine have become politicized, and now two-thirds of the public say they won’t take it. Another blow to President Trump, who saw it as a game changer for his come from behind Election Day strategy.

With Trump’s frequent insistencies that the vaccine would be ready before the end of the year and the recent order from the CDC that local distribution sites be ready before Election Day, the vaccine is now part of the political landscape and its utility to containing the virus is compromised.

A new poll shows that only a fifth of the public (21%) would get vaccinated as soon as possible. The majority (58%) would wait to see what happens. Two-thirds (65%) say “if there is a vaccine this year” their “first thought would be” it was “rushed through.” The YouGov panel poll was conducted September 2-4, 2020 for CBS News.

In another indicator of the politicization of the vaccine: in March, 86 percent of voters trusted information from the CDC. Today, only 54 percent.

In fact, there is an across-the-board decline in the credibility of authorities and sources of information about the virus, but the CDC took the brunt of the loss.

The More Trump Campaigns, the More Democrats Benefit

Joe Biden’s supporters are more likely to say their support is based on dislike of Donald Trump than support for Biden. A majority of Democrats (56%) say dislike of Trump is the main reason for their support of Biden. Only 19% of Trump supporters say their main motivation is dislike of Biden.

Observers have suggested that this is one of the origins of the enthusiasm gap between Biden and Trump (20% difference between “strong support” for Trump – 66% over Biden – 46%). But, it also reflects the contradiction in Trump’s basic strategy. The more he campaigns, especially on his instinct and with his aggressive rhetoric, the more he strengthens Biden’s base and alienates independent voters.

For example, the thrust of the Trump convention and post-convention strategy is law and order. And indeed, Americans oppose the violence they see and read about on the news and newsfeeds. But, when asked if what the candidates are saying about protests is making the “situation better, worse or doesn’t have much of an affect,” 55 percent say Trump makes it worse, including 26 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats, and importantly, 53 percent of independents. Only 13 percent of the public believes he’s helping.

In a follow-up question, Trump lost out to Biden by nearly two-to-one on questions of uniting vs. dividing America (64% Biden vs. 33% Trump), doing a better job of handling race discrimination (64% Biden vs. 34% Trump), or doing a better job handling protests (59% Biden vs. 39% Trump).

Monday, September 14, 2020

Gardner Hits the Final Run Still Off the Pace

The August 30 poll from Morning Consult, the second in the last six weeks, brought bad news for Cory Gardner. He was 9 percentage points behind his Democratic challenger, John Hickenlooper, just as the race led into the final 60 days. An even more recent poll from AARP offered better news, but still showed Gardner down 5 points (51% to 46%) (9-5-20).

Gardner’s campaign and financial allies have been pouring money into advertising, much of it negative, in the hope of realigning the race. It has had a mixed result. In the Morning Consult’s July poll (7-12-26), the race had tightened to 6 points from a presumed 10 or more points in several previous polls before and after the June 30 primary. But then, they reported it as 9 points just before Labor Day.

As I commented recently, Gardner needs to show the race is closing or the party may begin to shift support to Republican incumbents in closer races, such as Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Steve Daines in Montana and Joni Ernst in Iowa.

The collective problem the entire Republican senate field faces is that the presidential campaign is stalled and 6 to 7 points behind nationally. Both of the latest Colorado polls have Donald Trump 10 points behind Joe Biden.

All the commentators on the poll mention that a Republican must win the unaffiliated voters to survive a statewide race in Colorado, and in the Morning Consult poll, Gardner is 23 points behind Hickenlooper by self-declared independent voters. He was 13 points behind in the earlier poll. The AARP poll reported voters 50 years old and older were 2 points in favor of Gardner (49% to 47%), a good, but not unexpected figure. However, it’s not good enough to make up for the difference among under 50 years old voters (52% Hickenlooper, 44% Gardner).

Read The Buzz:
Are National Republicans Giving Up on Gardner?
Senate Race Tightens

Election Central: Conversation on Election 2020

Is there a Silent Majority? Will the polls tighten? Where’s the Colorado senate race now?

Watch the Crossley Center video, “Election Central,” which reviews the candidate polls and the major election questions, including Election Night, as the campaigns go into their final runs.

August Economic Report Shows Slow Recovery. Bipartisan Public Support for More Stimulus Payments.

The Senate defeated an economic stimulus proposal just as the American people reported it as their top priority and as the August economic report showed the pace of the recovery has slowed. In its top political issues for voting, Pew reported on August 13 that the economy was the most important issue for voters it tested, attracting 79 percent.

Although the overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent from 10.2 percent in July, the biggest news was an increase in reported layoffs and furloughs becoming permanent. Announcements of planned corporate layoffs has mounted with United Airlines – 16,000, American Airlines – 19,000, MGM – 18,000, Coca-Cola – 4,000, Marriott Hotels – 100,000 and Boeing – 6,000. The Federal Reserve confirmed the need for more stimuli, from Chairman Jerome Powell, to numerous board members, such as Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, who said: “Partisan politics threatens to endanger additional fiscal relief…a very significant downside risk to the economy today.”

Gallup reports a bipartisan majority support more stimulus. Seventy percent of U.S. adults support more federal stimulus payments, including 82 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans.

Both parties need to find a compromise. The public was also generous on the size of the payment, with majorities of both parties supporting payments of at least $600 per week.

Courts and Judges are Important to Both Parties

President Trump in his long interview with Bob Woodward revealed the names of people on his shortlist of possible Supreme Court nominees. It included conservative Republican Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Josh Hawley (Missouri).

In a recent poll on the most important issues in the election, Supreme Court appointees were third on a list of 12 items asked of voters in early August 2020, with 68 percent of voters making it a “very important” issue. It ranked ahead of the coronavirus and violent crime, but behind the economy and health care. Both Democrats (61%) and Republicans (66%) believe it is very important, each from their own perspectives.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Ciruli: Podcast – Are the Polls Accurate?

Poll Skeptic
“I’ll bet $100 that the polls on 1 October will be off by MORE than the margin of error from the results of the presidential election in early November. I’m interested to see if indeed polling has improved in the past 4 years from the dumpster fire it was in 2016.

I pointed out that polls on October 1 will describe the election on that day within the margin of error, not the result on November 3. Polls in 2016 weren’t a “dumpster fire.” Tune into my DU podcast to get the full discussion.

Political Polls: Can we trust them?

Since Donald Trump's upset victory in the 2016 election, skepticism of political polls has grown steadily. After all, the numbers showed Hillary Clinton in the lead from start to finish. Pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli talks to us about what happened four years ago, the likelihood of the president eking out a similar victory on Nov. 3, and what it all says about the state of the country and democracy worldwide. Listen here 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The U.S. and China in the 2020 Election – A New Cold War?

China is a topic in the U.S. presidential election. President Trump and the administration regularly speak of it in disparaging terms. Public sentiment and many members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment have turned against it decisively. Does the next U.S. administration inherit a new Cold War with all of its costs and dangers?

Professors Suisheng (Sam) Zhao and Floyd Ciruli will lead a conversation on China as a presidential election issue and the alternatives for China policy in the next administration.

Join the talk on September 30 at 3:00 pm MT

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Early Polls – Still Biden Advantage

Donald Trump needed a bounce from his convention. In fact, he needed a leap. He was losing on average 7.4 points before the event and is losing this week by 7.2 points according to the RealClearPolitics average posted yesterday, Wednesday, September 2.

Today’s results aren’t much better in the battleground states. A new Fox News poll conducted in Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin through September 1 shows Trump losing to Biden by an average of 7 points. All three Republican senate candidates are also on the defensive.

Fox News Poll
Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin

North Carolina
Source: Fox News, 8/29-9/1, 2020
Format: Ciruli Associates 2020

Political Polls: Can we trust them?

I just did a political podcast for the University of Denver online radio on the accuracy of polls:
  • What happened to the polls in 2016?
  • Are they better today?
  • Biden’s ahead, but Trump has strengths
  • Is there a Silent Majority being missed in the polls?
Listen to the podcast here