2012 California Propositions - Analysis, Trends, Predictions

posted Oct 1, 2012, 12:15 AM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Nov 6, 2012, 11:11 PM ]

This page provides in-depth information on the 11 propositions to be voted in the 2012 California elections. They are Prop. 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40. The three selected California propositions will feature descriptions & analysis, poll numbers, list of pros & cons, and the final predictions.

California Proposition 30
Simon's Voter Pulse @10/29: Yes - 26 . No - 25 (not a percentage)
Analysis - This is shaping to be the closest race among the propositions. Despite being a liberal-leaning state, California has voted down several tax increase proposals in recent years. Is Gov. Jerry Brown persuasive enough to get the Democrats out to the polls?
(1) Increase taxes on those with annual earnings of over $250,000 for seven years.
(2) Raise sales tax by 1/4 cent for four years.
Pros - Help to ease somewhat the state's budget/debt crisis. Winners: California government, schools
Cons - Hurt some small businesses and may discourage employers from spending money and investing in the state. Losers: top 1%, small businesses, job seekers.
Prediction - Prop. 30 will pass by less than 3%.

California Proposition 32
Simon's Voter Pulse @10/29: Yes - 27 . No - 31 (not a percentage)
Analysis - Unless there is an abrupt change in attitude, current trends point to Prop. 32 being struck down by California voters.
(1) Ban unions and corporations (or government contractors) from using payroll-deducted funds for political activities.
(2) Ban contributions from the said entities to candidates and their campaigns.
Pros - Put limits on interest groups' influence on the elections. Winners: concerned voters, low profile candidates.
Cons - Reduce the effectiveness of unions and workers' advocacy groups. Losers: unions, some corporations and government contractors.
Prediction - Prop. 32 will FAIL to pass with about 54% opposed.

California Proposition 37
Simon's Voter Pulse @10/29: Yes - 29 . No - 25 (not a percentage)
Analysis - Agriculture lobby groups are spending millions of dollars in TV ads to try to defeat this measure. As a result, the race is closer than it should be.
(1) Require the proper and specific labeling of genetically engineered foods sold to consumers.
(2) Ban the marketing of modified foods as "natural" products.
Pros - Protect consumers from misleading marketing of potentially undesirable food. Winners: consumers, producers of organic food.
Cons - Discourage people from buying genetically modified food (which could be just as safe to eat as organic foods but cheaper). Loser: producers of modified foods.
Prediction - Prop. 37 will pass with over 50% support.

Other California Propositions
1) Prop. 31 - State Budget Reforms. Prediction - Not Pass
2) Prop. 33 - Auto prices based on driver's previous insurance history. Prediction - Pass
3) Prop. 34 - Repeal the Death Penalty. Prediction - Not Pass
4) Prop. 35 - Increase punishment for human trafficking convicts. Prediction - Pass
5) Prop. 36 - Reduce penalties for three-strikes-law offenders whose third strike is non-serious & non-violent. Prediction - Pass
6) Prop. 38 - Increase state income taxes for 12 years to finance education and reduce state debt. Prediction - Not Pass
7) Prop. 39 - Require multistate businesses to pay income taxes based on the percentage of their California's sales.
8) Prop. 40 - Approve new district boundaries by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

About Simon's Voter Pulse: This qualitative model looks at data such as current political trends, past voting results, web search data (Google Trends) and opinion polls to measure voter's support for or disapproval of an issue.
Reference - California Official Voter's Information Guide

2012 Democratic National Convention - Schedule & Speakers

posted Aug 26, 2012, 12:35 AM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Sep 7, 2012, 2:07 AM ]

The 2012 Democratic National Convention is set for September 4-6 in Charlotte, North Carolina. This partisan political event will feature speeches from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as prominent democratic party figures. Below are schedule, TV channels, a list of keynote speakers and my analysis of key speeches for 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Democratic Convention - Day 1 - Tuesday September 4
Venue - Time Warner Cable Arena
TV - ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + plus more

Prime Time - Start 10 PM ET
Notable speaker - Michelle Obama (First Lady of United States)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B | Style A = Overall A- (Did an excellent job selling her husband's character)
Keynote speaker - Julián Castro (Mayor of San Antonio, Texas)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B | Style B = Overall B (Lacking grand ideas for a keynote address)

Other speakers - Corey Booker, Tim Kaine, Harry Reid, Ken Salazar, Rahm Emanuel, Kathleen Sebelius, Ted Strickland

Democratic Convention - Day 2 - Wednesday September 5
Venue - Time Warner Cable Arena
TV - ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + plus more

Prime Time - Start 10 PM ET
Notable Speaker - Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B+ | Style B = Overall B+ (Defended the president's policies well)
Keynote Speaker - Bill Clinton (Former President)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance A | Style B+ = Overall A- (Length of speech ruined an otherwise masterful performance)

Other speakers - Sandra Fluke, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Dannel Malloy, Tom Vilsack

Democratic Convention - Day 3 - Thursday September 6
Venue - Time Warner Cable Arena
TV - ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + plus more

Notable Speaker 1 - John Kerry (US Senator - Massachusetts)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B+ | Style B = Overall B+ (Laid out Obama's foreign policy credentials)
Notable Speaker 2 - Joe Biden (Vice President of the United States)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B+ | Style B- = Overall B (Gaffe-free speech)
Candidate Speaker - Barack Obama (President of the United States)
Simon's Speech Grade: Substance B | Style A = Overall B+ (Offered few concrete plans or specifics)

2012 Presidential Debates - TV Schedule & Analysis

posted Aug 13, 2012, 12:29 AM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Oct 27, 2012, 11:32 PM ]

The 2012 Presidential Debates are scheduled in October. There will be three presidential debates and one VP debate. Historically, these debates have had a big impact on the election. Below are T.V. schedule and analysis for 2012 U.S Presidential Debates.

Presidential Debate #1 - October 3 (University of Denver - Colorado)

TV: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + more
Time: 9 PM ET | 6 PM PT
Participants: President Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R)
Subject: Domestic Issues & the Economy
Moderator: Jim Lehrer
Simon's Scorecard
Substance - Obama: C | Romney: A+
Style - Obama: B- | Romney: A-
Total - Obama: C+ | Romney: A
*Romney is the consensus winner of the first debate

Vice Presidential Debate - October 11 (Centre College - Kentucky)
TV: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + more
Time: 9 PM ET | 6 PM PT
Participants: Joe Biden (D) and Paul Ryan (R)
Subject: Domestic Issues & Foreign Policy
Moderator: Martha Raddatz
Simon's Scorecard
Substance - Biden: B | Ryan: C+
Style - Biden: D | Ryan: B+
Total - Biden: C | Ryan: B
*Ryan is my pick for the winner

Presidential Debate #2 - October 16 (Hofstra University - NY)

TV: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + more
Time: 9 PM ET | 6 PM PT
Participants: President Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R)
Format: Townhall Questions & Answers
Moderator: Candy Crowley
Simon's Scorecard
Substance - Obama: C+ | Romney: B-
Style - Obama: B+ | Romney: C+
Total - Obama: B | Romney: C+
*Obama is the consensus winner

Presidential Debate #3 - October 22 (Lynn University - Florida)
TV: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC + more
Time: 9 PM ET | 6 PM PT
Participants: President Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R)
Subject: National Security & Foreign Policy
Moderator: Bob Schieffer
Simon's Scorecard
Substance - Obama: B+ | Romney: C-
Style - Obama: A- | Romney: B
Total - Obama: A- | Romney: B-
*Obama won the final debate

2012 U.S. Presidential Election - Predictions & Trends

posted May 30, 2012, 2:55 PM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Oct 27, 2012, 11:28 PM ]

In any other election year, the incumbent president would be in big trouble if the economy is poor. President Barack Obama has clearly defied this trend. Most national and swing state polls are showing the president ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, though his lead is likely within the margin of error. Our own Voter's Pulse (as of 10/26), which measures support for the presidential candidates using factors such as unemployment rates and web search trends, shows Romney leading President Obama by 1 point nationally. The national trend continues to favor Romney after his strong overall debate performance.

With a little more than a week to go and a critical jobs report set to be released just days before the election, the momentum could swing either way. While the contest is deadlocked nationally, President Obama is ahead in many critical swing states including Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Romney is ahead in Virginia, Maine, Connecticut and Colorado. The others are either locked to a particular candidate or tossed up.

Simon's Voter Pulse (10/26) *NOT A PERCENTAGE
National: Romney 35 - Obama 34
Virginia: Romney 98 - Obama 96
Iowa: Romney 66 - Obama 71
Colorado: Romney 85 - Obama 83
Wisconsin: Romney 81 - Obama 88
Maine: Romney 85 - Obama 83
Minnesota: Romney 82 - Obama 84

Looking at the overall picture, it is entirely possible that Romney would win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote. We could see a repeat of 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but lose the presidency to George W. Bush. The Obama's team has clearly done a superb job in helping the president gain support in swing states. Yet, the Romney's campaign still has plenty of unspent money it could use in the coming weeks to change the dynamics of the race. The money factor goes beyond TV and radio ads. The ground game and get-out-the-vote effort will be many times more critical than negative ads on TV.

The next and final update for this page will be on the Sunday before Election Day (November 6). In the meantime, I would like to ask you to be involved in encouraging your friends and family members, who have not registered to vote or do not intend to vote in this election, to fulfill in this important civic duty. Thank you!

Barack Obama - Presidential Approval Ratings

posted Aug 13, 2011, 8:43 PM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Aug 17, 2011, 7:27 PM ]

This page analyzes Barack Obama's presidential approval ratings using unconventional methods. Check back often for updates.

About Simon's Presidential Index: We measure presidential approval ratings using a model based on the Tiebout Hypothesis, which contends that people reveal preferences through their habits. In this case, we observe key search trends patterns to gauge the intensity of people's approval or disapproval of the president's job performance. Search data are from Google Trends

Barack Obama

*A positive rating indicates majority approval; a negative rating indicates majority disapproval.

By Month
Simon's Index
July 2011 -6
June 2011  -6
May 2011**  +5
April 2011**  -2
March 2011  -6
February 2011  +6
January 2011**  +11
December 2010  +13
November 2010**  -5
October 2010 

By Event  Simon's Index
Osama Bin Laden's Death
(May 2-8, 2011)
Debt Limit Crisis
(Aug 1-3, 2011) 
Bush Tax Cuts Renewed
(Dec. 14-21, 2010) 
Health Care Bill Passed
(March 19-26, 2010) 

 By YearSimon's Index 
 2010 +1

**Adjusted because of low search volumes.

Scandals are career ending for politicians and elected officials

posted Jun 20, 2011, 4:19 PM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Mar 3, 2012, 3:41 PM ]

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s moral indignity is the latest in a series of high-profile scandals involving elected officials. This incident comes at a time when public trust in government is nearing historic lows. A recent survey conducted by Pew Research shows only 29% of Americans trust their government. Fearing further erosions of trust, leaders from both parties joined in unison to push for the disgraced congressman’s resignation. The whole Weiner’s episode raises an interesting question. Is poor personal conduct a justifiable cause for one’s expulsion from public office?

Over the years, American voters have been able to detach a politician’s private life from his public work. Case in point, numerous politicians including former President Bill Clinton won public office despite their well-known character shortcomings. Americans do not expect their elected officials to be personally infallible, as long as their transgressions do not affect their work performance. 

Unfortunately, it has become difficult for an elected official’s private flaws not to affect his or her work in today’s 24-hour news cycle and social networking environment. Within minutes of Anthony Weiner’s shocking admission, the congressman from New York became one of the top trending topics on Twitter and Facebook. The subsequent media’s fixation on the scandal was a big distraction that made it impossible for the congressman to effectively conduct his legislative duties. Resigning was the only choice for Weiner at that point.

Additionally, reputation plays a critical role in the effectiveness of an elected official. Even if Anthony Weiner was not rigorously pursued by the media, his reputation would still have been so severely damaged that he won’t be able to carry out his duties successfully. His resignation was probably the best thing that could have happened to his party and constituents. 

Finally, an elected official’s conduct is a reflection of the area he serves and government in general. Even though Weiner still enjoys the support of a majority of constituents, according to a poll by Marist Institute, this support is only temporary as people are still learning about the scandal. Had Anthony Weiner not resign from his office, his New York  district will forever be linked with this unflattering indignation. Also, public trust in government would have deteriorated even further as a result. While it is the elected official’s personal choice to resign or stay, resigning is seemingly the most logical decision.

Simon Nguyen, M.A. Economics

Rewind: 2010 U.S. Midterm Elections

posted Dec 15, 2010, 8:21 PM by Simon Nguyen   [ updated Sep 10, 2012, 11:56 PM ]

The 2010 Midterm Election, set for November 2, is shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections in recent times. Notwithstanding a few exceptions, a candidate’s profile this time around is not as big of a factor on the voters’ mind as the general mood of the country. Although most polls give the edge to Republicans, the Democrats have been able to close the gap somewhat. This article provides an empirical analysis of the 2010 Midterm Election and offers predictions on which party will control the Congress come next year. 

In economics, there is a concept called Tiebout Hypothesis which contends that people reveal their personal preferences in their habits and behavior. This idea is applicable to voting in elections as well. As people are increasingly using the Internet to search for information on their preferred political party or candidate, an empirical analysis of the search data may allow us to capture the mood of the country and predict the voters’ choice come this November. 

My analysis of Google's search trends data (for the U.S.) shows that it had correctly predicted the general outcome of the last two congressional elections. In 2006, the average search trends data for information on the Democratic Party (up to October) was 1.033 compared to 0.928 for the Republican Party. The Democrats ended up earning a net gain of 31 seats in the House and 5 seats in the Senate. In 2008, the average search trends data was an adjusted 1.112 for the Democrats and 0.965 for the Republicans. The Democrats eventually gained 21 House seats and 8 Senate seats.

If the trend holds for the 2010 Midterm Election, the Democrats appear to be in serious trouble. The search trends data for 2010 shows a dramatic shift that clearly favors the Republican Party. The average search trends data this time around is 0.998 for the Republicans, compared to 0.760 for the Democrats. The difference of 0.238 is 2 times bigger than the ones enjoyed by Democrats in 2006 and 2008. This tells us that 2010 may be a repeat of 1994, when the Republicans gained a whooping 54 seats in the House at the expense of Democrats.

Will the Republicans be as successful in Senate races? While a net gain of Senate seats is assured, how big it will be is still uncertain. Search volume data provides a moving snapshot of the mood of the country, which makes it very good at predicting House elections. For Senate races, a candidate’s profile is equally as important as the current political environment. There is a reason why some senators have been able keep their seats through many tough election cycles. These people possess strong name recognition and internal support that are difficult for their challengers to overcome. The best estimate would be a gain of 6-10 seats for the Republicans. 

If the predictions hold for the 2010 Midterm Election, the Republicans would take over the House as the majority party and at worst, prevent the Democrats from retaining a clear majority in the Senate. This will inevitably put President Obama in the same situation former President Clinton was in following the 1994 Midterm Election. How the President deals with a Republican congress will ultimately decide whether he will be reelected two years from now.

Simon Nguyen, M.A. Economics

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