Vote Pins

FiveThirtyEight Model Gives Biden 40% Chance of Winning Nomination

As the first votes in the 2020 Democratic nomination process have not yet been cast, it’s impossible to predict with certainty who will emerge as the democratic nominee to face Trump in the general election, particularly considering the historically large field of candidates running for president this year. That being said, pollsters have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the primary season to measure voters’ preferences towards each of the candidates, generating a tremendous amount of data for analysts at organizations like FiveThirtyEight to sift through. Accordingly, FiveThirtyEight just published the first iteration of its forecast simulating the outcome of the primary season, which claims that Biden has a 2 in 5 chance of winning the nomination and Sanders has a 1 in 5 chance of winning, whereas Warren has a 1 in 8 chance and Buttigieg has a 1 in 10 chance, with all other candidates having just a 1 in 40 chance of winning the nomination.

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The results of the study, which are based on computer simulations of the primary season that are run thousands of times based on data collected from polling organizations and models generated from an analysis of previous presidential nominations, were published in an interactive format that allows users to view the calculated probability of victory for each candidate in each state. Though FiveThirtyEight has analyzed political polls for more than ten years, this year marks the first time the ABC News-owned organization has published a “complete back-to-front model of the presidential primaries.” Despite the number of complexities involved, such as the difficult-to-predict impact of the winner of one state primary or caucus on future ones, the organization feels confident enough in the accuracy of its simulations to publish its findings even at this early stage in the process. One of the factors that led to the organization’s confidence this year is the amount of data collected on the primary processes of 2008 and 2016, which helps analysts understand the nuances of how presidential primaries tend to play out. The outcome of the Iowa caucuses, for instance, has historically had a tremendous impact on voters in the other 49 states.

The race is still very much up in the air

That being said, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver stresses that their model is a “forecast, … not an estimation of what would happen in an election held today” and that the forecast is “probabilistic” with a high degree of uncertainty. As more political events shape voters’ opinions on the candidates, more polls are conducted, and the first states begin to hold primaries and caucuses, the organization will continue to refine their predictions and update their forecast. Silver also stresses that FiveThirtyEight’s predictions should be taken literally, meaning that although Biden is currently calculated to have the best chance of any of the candidates of winning the nomination, the probability of his victory is only 40%, making it actually more likely than not that one of the other candidates will win instead.

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Although Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 led many observers to feel as though poll data is not to be trusted, as organizations like the New York Times had predicted with 85% certainty on the eve of the election that Clinton would win, FiveThirtyEight has a better track record than most organizations when it comes to the accuracy of its predictions. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight was far more pessimistic than most news outlets about the likelihood of a Clinton victory, giving the former First Lady a two-in-three chance of winning. As Nate Silver once commented, “one-in-three chances happen all the time;” when viewed from this perspective, it’s no surprise that Trump won in 2016, provided one has a realistic understanding of how to interpret the results of statistical models of probability. Accordingly, while Joe Biden has consistently led opinion polls since announcing his candidacy last year and has by far the highest probability of any candidate of winning the race for Democratic nominee, the race is still very much up in the air, as three other candidates stand a decent chance of victory as well.

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Former Democratic Candidate Julián Castro Endorses Elizabeth Warren

Just days after ending his presidential campaign, Mayor Julián Castro has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren for president. Warren, a former frontrunner whose popularity has waned in recent weeks, met with the San Antonio mayor to produce a campaign video in which Castro pledges his support and the two discuss the problems facing America today and potential solutions. Castro, a close friend of Warren’s, will join the senator at campaign rallies and events over the coming weeks and months as she continues her fight for the Democratic nomination, with the first votes being cast in Iowa less than a month away. Castro, who focused his campaign on a message of social justice, contextualized his endorsement by alluding to the women in his life, including his mother and grandmother, who worked hard to provide him with the opportunity to achieve the success he enjoys today. Though the Democratic field has narrowed considerably to include very few candidates of color, Warren remains among the highest-polling candidates, meaning she has the potential to become America’s first female president.

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Despite her early popularity, Warren has fallen to third place in the race for the Democratic nomination, trailing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders by several percentage points. Currently, the Democratic party appears to be split between those favoring a progressive political approach and those favoring a moderate one, with Warren and Sanders representing the progressive wing of the party and Biden and Buttigieg representing the moderate wing. Part of Warren’s struggle likely has to do with the fact that the progressive vote is split between her and Sanders; while Sanders benefits from name-recognition from his 2016 run for president and from being known for popularizing radical ideas like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, Warren has gained support through her calls for “big, structural change,” her detailed policy proposals, and her economic expertise. While Biden continues to enjoy frontrunner status thanks in large part to his reputation as Obama’s vice president, Warren’s political acumen is arguably unparalleled, as she is an expert in US Bankruptcy law who established the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. 

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As Castro struggled in the polls, failing to meet the requirements to participate in the next Democratic debate, it is unclear to what extent his endorsement will benefit Warren’s campaign. That being said, Castro’s minority status may draw nonwhite voters to support Warren, who has struggled with minorities particularly in the aftermath of her dubious claim of Native American ancestry. On Twitter, Warren thanked Castro for his endorsement, saying she was “honored” to have his support. Though Castro failed to gain widespread support, he has contributed ideologically to the primary process by calling attention to reparations, decriminalization of border crossings, and housing inequality, among other issues of particular interest to minority groups. Additionally, Castro is known for his criticisms of the primary nomination process, arguing that it favors white voters as the first votes are cast in states with predominantly white populations. With several months remaining before the Democratic National Convention during which the Democratic nominee for president will be formally announced, only time will tell whether Castro’s support will give Warren the boost she needs to win the nomination.


Andrew Yang Draws Controversy for his Handling of Asian Stereotypes

A number of people may have the unwarranted impression that positive stereotypes about a minority community can be beneficial to that community, as they think that portraying an entire group of people in a positive, if narrow, light can help that community to succeed. However, this impression is far from the truth, as even stereotypes of communities as being hard-working and intelligent can lead to negative consequences not just for members of the community in question, but for other communities to which so-called “model minorities” can be compared. Though it may not be obvious to people not well-educated about the history of racism in the United States, positive minority stereotypes have long been used as a tool to disenfranchise and alienate minority races in a number of ways.

The question of how positive stereotypes can cause offense and harm has been brought to the forefront recently as a result of democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s casual invocation of Asian stereotypes on the campaign trail. One of Yang’s catchphrases, “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” invokes a well-worn Asian stereotype, and during the third Democratic debate he quipped “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” While supporters of Yang and Yang himself view these comments about his race as playful in-group references, others have seen these remarks as inappropriate and demonstrating ignorance of the harm Asian stereotypes have caused historically.

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Yang has also drawn controversy lately for his reaction to being referred to with a racist slur by comedian and former SNL writer Shane Gillis who on a podcast called Yang a “Jew c—-k.” Gillis was fired for this and other racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks, prompting Yang to comment that while he found the insult hurtful, he did not think Gillis should lose his job and invited Gillis to have a conversation with him about the controversy, which Gillis accepted. Yang further commented that he had experienced a lot of anti-Asian sentiment over the course of his life and felt that discrimination against Asians was not taken as seriously as discrimination against other groups in America, but that in 2019 people have grown excessively sensitive about issues of race in some circumstances. Gillis did not apologize for this and other remarks, instead arguing that it is his job as a comedian to push boundaries, but commented that he respected NBC’s decision to remove him from the cast of SNL.

While Yang has fared better than other presidential contenders when it comes to discussing the issue of race, his repeated invocations of his own race on the campaign trail may come back to haunt him as the primary progresses.

Despite Yang’s willingness to open up a dialogue with Gillis about race, the candidate has drawn criticism for how we went about handling the controversy. Li Zhou, for instance, thinks that Yang’s frequent references to math and other stereotypical aspects of his Asian identity “[set] the tone for how many people may see Asian Americans and [perpetuate] a damaging caricature in the process.” Zhou points out that while stereotypes of Asian Americans tend to focus on intelligence and propensity for success in professional and academic environments, these characterizations have caused harm not only for Asian Americans but for other communities as well. According to Zhou, these stereotypes obscure diversity in the community, leading people to believe that all Asians have the same talents and interests, and Yang’s use of them panders to a white electorate which may be inclined to racist judgments. 

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Zhou also alludes to the history of the immigration of Asians to America and how their integration into American life led to the development of harmful stereotypes. In a 1966 op-ed piece published in the New York Times, sociologist William Petersen hailed Japanese-Americans as being the “model minority,” arguing that despite being the object of discrimination, this group of people has achieved a great degree of success relative to other “problem minorities,” a thinly-veiled attack on African Americans. This analysis, Zhou points out, fails to take into consideration the structural racism experienced by black people throughout American history as well as the fact that there were strict restrictions on immigrants from Asia to the United States, as only immigrants with a certain degree of educational or professional achievement were allowed to enter. The myth of the model minority, Zhou argues, is used to pit minorities against each other and further disenfranchise the individuals affected most by racism.

Yang’s comparison of society’s treatment of racist slurs targeting Asians versus those targeting other minorities also ignited criticism, as Yang observed that slurs like the n-word are treated more seriously than those against people like him. For this comment, Yang was accused of taking advantage of racism against black people for his own political ends and unfairly comparing the type of racism he experiences to the type of racism others experience, falsely implying an equivalency. While Yang has fared better than other presidential contenders when it comes to discussing the issue of race, his repeated invocations of his own race on the campaign trail may come back to haunt him as the primary progresses.

Podium Speaker

Andrew Yang Stands Out in a Crowded Field

Andrew Yang is not a typical presidential candidate. For one, his signature campaign promise, at first glance, seems patently absurd – if elected, he promises to institute what he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” a promise to give every American adult $1,000 a month, for free, no strings attached.