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Polling a ‘Foreign Tribe’

As the US presidential elections wind their way towards a painful and tortuous conclusion, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between reporting on a survey that offers a snapshot in time, as opposed to using polls, and past history, to predict what the results might be in a few days, weeks, or months. My colleagues and I have done lots of surveys over the last eight years in Colombia, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, and the USA. In all this work, we offered estimates of how many people in a given population engaged in this or that behavior, supported this or that policy, or thought positively/negatively about a particular organization or institution. There is always a confidence interval around every one of those estimates influenced in large part by the number of valid responses. This allows you answer questions like, “what percentage of the population living in the Moroccan cities of Casablanca or Rabat supported this or that political party in May 2015?” Or, “what is the statistical association between attending mosque and believing that women’s rights are human rights?” If I wanted to ask how many people were likely to vote for a specific Moroccan political party in the future, however, I’d have to do so much more than extrapolate from the previous work I’d done with my colleagues. I’d want to have more polls over time, so that I could track trends, and I’d want to figure out a way of predicting who would be likely to actually participate in the election, assuming that participation was voluntary. In the US, pollsters did not do as good a...
Who Thinks Rights Are Respected in the US?

Who Thinks Rights Are Respected in the US?

What do ordinary Americans think about the state of human rights and civil rights in their country? How bad, or good, do they think things are, and why does it matter? Our Survey My colleague Howard Lavine and I surveyed US public opinion in fall 2018 with the help of YouGov, a leading survey firm. Through them, we recruited a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults who had signed up with the survey group to answer online questions. YouGov’s team contacted each respondent twice, interviewing each in two waves of 22 and 24 minutes, on average. The median response rate was 86%. To achieve a nationally representative sample, YouGov weighted the 2,000 strong sample by gender, age, race, and education. We split these 2,000 respondents into two equal parts and asked the first about their perception of respect for “human rights” in the U.S. and asked the second about their perception of respect for “civil rights.” We found no meaningful difference between the two, and thus report on both combined. For this question, the 0.95% confidence interval was +/- 1.4%. As Table 1 indicates, most (61%) of the general population sample – represented by the green bars – told us that human/civil rights were reasonably well respected, as these respondents told You Gov that civil/human rights in the U.S. were either respected “some” (38%) or “a lot” (23%). The remainder – 39% – said that rights were respected either “a little” (27%) or “not at all” (12%). We rescaled perceived level of respect for human rights to 0-1 for statistical purposes, in which 0 = “rights are not at...

Populism and Trump’s Rhetoric of Distrust for Multinationals

This article was originally published to On Global Leadership. Check out James Ron’s other writings there! President Trump has always been a fair-weather friend of multinational corporations, at one moment embracing them for political advantage and at the next shooting Twitter missives that trigger precipitous crashes in stock value. It’s a bittersweet friendship that lacks all the important elements: trust, respect and loyalty. One reason for the president’s infidelity is his long-held belief that working-class Americans dislike global corporations and, in particular, globalization. In many corners of the American electorate, corporations are viewed as the cause of all the U.S. industrial policies that have resulted in more automation, fewer jobs and reductions in wages over the last 40 years. At first blush, the presidential war of words does not appear to provide Trump with much of an electoral advantage. Indeed, dating back to President Reagan, the embrace of corporations, globalization and trickle-down economic theory – advocated by the neoclassical economist Milton Friedman – have long been a centerpiece of Republican politics. According to a nationally representative survey of 2,000 adults we conducted with the help of YouGov in late 2018, Republican respondents were indeed more trusting of multinationals than either Democrats or Independents. In our survey, we found that self-identified Republicans were a statistically significant 6% more likely to trust multinationals than Democrats and 15% more trusting than Independents. We found similar results when we compared early Trump supporters – defined as those who voted for him in the 2016 Republican primaries – to those who did not. Thus, although none of America’s political tribes has great love for these international corporate behemoths,...