27 February 2016

I side with

isidewith was an interesting attempt started back in 2012 to get some members of the public to think more about matching their policy interests and goals with political candidates who might better support those. I'm rather skeptical that this project is likely to have much fruitful action in and of itself, for reasons that have to do with how most people vote and why not having very much at all to do with policy goals, particularly in a polarized voting environment. But it was a laudable project at the time to try to get people to think about third parties and more rigorously evaluate their policy visions and compare them to something like the actual positions of candidates.

I'm less sure of its current development still fulfilling that mission, but I have other uses for it all the same.

*I don't really have a positive opinion of some of the methods of matching being used, and the site seems to have taken a somewhat more distinguishably liberal tone to some of its questions and answers rather than being more obviously neutral (I say this as someone who on many issues regards Democratic candidates as illiberal squishes rather than anyone invoking a liberal political and policy tradition). A further problem may be the online sampling is likely to skew younger than the overall population. This has implications on a variety of issues more likely to be popular among younger voters than older voters (note these are not necessarily predictable. Support for entitlement reform for instance tends to be greater among older voters than young people). What that may be suggesting is that some of these issues that are closer in appearance here may be possible for reform, but not for several more years as demographics shift to have fewer of the existing older voters still alive.

But there's still some interesting results in looking at the poll results on specific questions that I wanted to pull apart more.

Issues with general agreement of some kind across parties that might actually get something done in the next few years (and not totally annoy me). 

Welfare-work requirements: Pretty popular with both parties. About 3/4 of Democrats and 80% of Republicans are in favor. I think this would make a possible case for an expansion and better tax incidence smoothing of the EITC and other social welfare programs. But not something like a negative income tax (my favored solution instead of min wages and smoothing out transfer payments by eliminating many programs and consolidating them as a cash transfer.)

Paid family/sick leave: Popular with both parties (60-40 Republicans, 90-10 Democrats). I would prefer this be implemented by having the government pay for it, in a way that it operates like disability insurance of a sort, rather than risk providing distorted incentives for employers to fire or not hire people who are more likely to get sick or avoid hiring or promoting fertile aged women capable of reproducing. It is however an issue on which there appears to be some possibility for reforms, which is rare.

Universal background checks for guns: This gets almost 90% support from either party. One caveat to this is that the support for "more gun regulations" is highly split (80-20).

Euthanasia: There's a gap here, but both Republicans (55-45) and Democrats (90-10) supported this as an option.

Issues with odd divides or near uniformity that annoy me:
ISIS - declaration of war ends up being mostly pro. Democrats were split about 35-65. I could see some number of people suggesting a legal procedural problem of allowing the military and President to conduct a conflict without the input of a Congressional vote but this wasn't offered as a legitimizing feature in the "more options" categories. A very similar partisan split occurred in using "ground troops" however, suggesting that if there is some sort of legal procedural voting bloc, it isn't very big.

"Decrease the military budget" - Republicans were almost united in opposing any decrease, but even Democrats were about evenly split. This was utterly horrifying to me given how much money we expend on defense budgets annually and what little return we receive for it (even in reference to what the defense department receives, this is less than clear it is getting what it asked for in exchange for the money allocated).

Foreign aid - reliably, everyone hates this (across both parties). Also reliably, I expect pretty much no one knows how much we are spending and on what.

GMO labels. The only political group that opposed these in substantial numbers is libertarians (and then it was still about 50-50). Both Democrats and Republicans were at 80-20 margins.

Drug testing welfare recipients. Despite considerable evidence this is either unconstitutional or totally ineffective, both parties supported this. Republicans do so to an absurd degree (93-7). But Democrats do themselves no favors (58-42).

Farm subsidies: There's not much of a divide here. Democrats are marginally more supportive of them. Republicans are about 50/50. Again, libertarians were the only political group that opposed these in substantial numbers. There hasn't been a good economic case for these since the Progressive Era under Hoover. Which is to say there is not one.

Prosecuting bankers for the 2008 financial crisis attracted bipartisan support (more from Democrats, but it's about 60-40 from Republicans). I am unclear what good this would do and tends to be pretty hard to do.

Marijuana legalisation: Still pretty opposed by Republicans (60-40). Democrats are up to about 90-10 in favor. I'm constantly annoyed this has not translated at the elite level very much at all. Few Democratic candidates are openly in favor. Drug decriminalisation more broadly (potentially including say, cocaine) has a similar split of around 70-30.

Patriot Act/NSA reforms, not supported very highly by either party. Republicans are more apt to back the existing architecture of the national security state. Libertarians of course hate these powers. The Apple-FBI fight has a similar split in support of demanding Apple hack phones for the government.

Social security. Both parties tended to have about 70-30 opposition to raising the retirement age for Social Security. I had other ideas on how best to fix the problems here (means test the benefits). Others would prefer raising the tax limit for it. But I can't really see a basis for leaving the age where it is either.

Term limits. Both parties support this at nearly 90%. I've never seen a good argument in favor of this idea. It's entirely populist nonsense. Fortunately nobody in office will do anything about it.

Campaign finance laws: both parties oppose the current Citizens United framework. I think the case against this is pretty weak and that greater funding transparency would be of sufficient fix for now. It misdiagnoses the problem as election laws rather than lobbying.

Voter ID laws: Both parties support these. Republicans are at extremely high rates but Democrats are still at around 2/3s. I find there's little or no basis for this form of voter fraud protection and that methods of suppressing or preventing individuals from voting are really poor ideas (even though I think many voters are poorly informed at best, and misinformed at worst).

Death penalty: Supported by both parties. Democrats around 2/3s. Republicans at 90-10. I can conceive of a moral case for killing certain people based on the severity of crimes and the possibility of rehabilitation, but the amount of burden of proof and expense, and the civil libertarian moral case for not killing people who might be innocent or may be otherwise "redeemable", and that there does not appear to be an effect of deterrence for the sort of crimes that we use it for, and the case that we are often using it for racist reasons, all weigh heavily against this being still a good and necessary idea in a modern state.

Issues with odd divides or near uniformity that may annoy partisan elites:

Cuba - There's a partisan split here but it's an odd one for the way Republican elites have been talking about it. Democrats almost universally support this change (95-5), while Republicans come out as almost a 50-50 split. I'm not sure there's much of a cohort available to them to pander toward (neoconservatives?) that it would actually be beneficial to reverse course on this policy trend toward normalizing relations with Cuba. It probably seems pretty clear to almost everyone what we were doing wasn't working.

Global Warming - big partisan split here too, but there's a cohort of Republicans that still favor doing things (about a third). Democrats are almost universally in support of doing something, but almost none of them favor taxing carbon emissions. Which is really disheartening. I think it's probably one of the simplest methods of attacking the problem.

TPP - Both parties voters were about 60-40 against. I have mixed impressions of this because of intellectual property rights law intersecting with the treaty in a way I find undesirable (strengthening and expanding the protections rather than reducing them to be more sensible).

NSA metadata collection - both parties seem to have about a 60-40 opposition to these programs. Further reform to squash them may be possible.

Issues with large partisan divides (things that we should expect to come up in the elections)

Syrian Refugees (accept or not) - For the record I answered this with "we should accept many more than 10k". I'm about as pro-refugee and asylum as someone gets, particularly given all the restrictions and system of checks involved in accepting such people as we already have making it difficult to accept and integrate as many people as we should.

This comes out as a near 50-50 split. But on partisan grounds both parties ended up closer to 80-20 or 20-80 splits. It's likely to be a sore point over which partisans will argue, but no middle ground can occur.

There isn't a cohort that broadly supports overthrowing Assad or preventing Russian support of Assad through their airstrikes. This seems to be a big disconnect between the public, particularly the conservative public, and most of their candidates (Voldemort seems to have tapped into this best, though it isn't a focal point of his blustery word salad presented as a campaign).

Iran - There's a big partisan split over attacking Iran though. Republicans favor airstrikes on nuclear facilities by an 80-20 margin. The polling there is older, but I doubt it has shifted very much since. (For the record, I wouldn't favor airstrikes even if I thought they were building a bomb. Which I do not think is or has been the case for some years now anyway).

College loans/college debt. There's a big partisan split over how to fund these. Sanders plan of a Wall St tax or raising taxes on rich people to fund colleges is very popular among Democrats and liberals. But nobody else likes it.

Immigration: Democrats on virtually any immigration question favored much broader admittance and acceptance. Republicans did not. There was a huge split over whether local law enforcement should detain people based on minor crimes (like traffic violations or other misdemeanors). This is likely because this is believed to be used (and has been shown to be used) for racial profiling purposes rather than immigration enforcement. There was another 80-20 split over birthright citizenship and over the restriction of Muslim immigrants. There was also a gap between Democrats (50-50) and Republicans (96-4) over "border security".

There was no real divide over "immigrants should be required to learn English". Which in practice makes sense, but in terms of the legal system does not.

Unions were regarded negatively by Republicans (70-30) and positively by Democrats (80-20). Which probably explains min wage discussions. Speaking of which, minimum wage increases were along a similar split (80-20 each).

Obamacare: huge partisan divide here. Democrats favored 85-15, Republicans 95-5 against. This essentially forecloses the ability to do either a) reforms to the existing system that make it work better or b) any substantive discussion of further liberal policy choices. It also limits the prospect of conservative policies being put forward instead as the existing system is essentially one put in place by moderate conservatives (Mitt Romney for instance).

Abortion: Remains a pretty strong partisan split. Republicans are "only" coming in at 70-30 "pro-life". Democrats at 90-10 pro-choice. Planned Parenthood funding achieves similar results as a proxy fight in this issue.

Gay marriage: Republicans come in 70-30 against still (Democrats are nearly universally in support).
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