Political Focus on South Florida

By UM News

Political Focus on South Florida

By UM News
Republican and Democratic presidential debates will take place in South Florida on March 9 and March 10.

The eyes of the political world will be squarely focused on Coral Gables and Kendall as South Florida plays host to a Republican and Democratic presidential debate on successive nights, March 9 and March 10.

On Wednesday, March 9, the Democratic presidential debate will be held at the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College. The debate is hosted by Univision and The Washington Post, and will feature candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

On Thursday, March 10, the Republican presidential debate will be held at the BankUnited Center on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami. The debate is hosted by CNN, the Washington Times, and Salem Radio Network. Candidates participating are expected to include Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.

Florida elections: the battleground—Read the letter published in The Miami Herald from UM President Julio Frenk and Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón on their schools hosting this week's Republican and Democratic presidential debates.

Below the UM News Notes are two articles related to the political season. Political Science Associate Professor Casey A. Klofstad provides some insights on what to pay attention to in political polling results, and a new School of Business Administration study looks at the popularity of extremist politicians.

UM News Notes:

  • About 2,000 tickets will be issued for the Republican debate. The University received a small number of tickets, and held a lottery for students interested in attending.
  • UM alumni in the forefront. Republican candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, is a 1996 graduate of the UM School of Law. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is a 1998 graduate of the UM School of Law.
  • CNN will be broadcasting live during the week from The Rock on UM’s Coral Gables campus.
  • UM previously hosted two presidential town hall meetings in 2012, one with President Obama and the other featuring Mitt Romney; Univision’s first-ever Spanish-language debates, one for Democratic candidates and the other for Republicans, in 2007; and a 2004 debate between former President George W. Bush and John Kerry.
  • Road and parking lot closures as well as other restrictions will be in effect due to the debate. Here's what you need to know.

Inside Election Cycle Polling

By Casey A. Klofstad
Associate Professor, UM Department of Political Science

With the presidential election cycle in full swing, media outlets are clamoring to report the latest poll numbers on which candidates are in the lead. But how are voters supposed to wade through all of these numbers?

Here are a few tips:

Margins of error
Always pay attention to the margin of error. Because surveys are conducted on samples of people, not the entire population, the numbers they produce have uncertainty about them. For example, if a poll says that 50% of the public supports Donald Trump, +/- a margin of error of 4 percent, the actual preference of the public could be anywhere between 46 percent and 54 percent. The size of a margin of error varies based on the number of people that are surveyed; the more people who are surveyed, the lower the error. A margin of error should ideally be around 4 percent or lower. If the margin is larger than 4 percent the results are a less reliable indicator of what the public is currently thinking. If a margin of error is not reported, do not treat the numbers, or the media outlet reporting them, seriously.

Poll aggregators
Given the large number of polls that are out there, a good way to make sense of them is to look at an aggregation of what they are all saying. Two good sources are fivethirtyeight.com and pollster.com. These free services are clearinghouses for all of the polls that are currently being conducted across the country. They also provide estimates of what the polls indicate if they are averaged together, a “poll of polls” of sorts.

Who was surveyed?
Also look at who was surveyed. Was it a sample of the general population, registered voters, or likely voters? Knowing this will give you an indication of how well the results of the poll relate to the potential outcome of the election. For example, a poll of the general public will be less predictive of the outcome than a poll of likely voters because a poll of the general public contains a mix of opinions of people who are and are not likely to actually turnout out to vote.

Did they call cellphones?
Ideally, they should have. A new challenge in polling is cellphones. Traditionally, pollsters called household landlines and randomly selected a person in each house to be interviewed. Now that most people have cell phones, and many people no longer have landlines in their homes, this poses a challenge to pollsters. What makes this even more complicated is that people who have cellphones and no landline at home are likely to be younger, have lower incomes, and be racial or ethnic minorities. In short, if you do not call both cellphones and landlines the results of your poll will not be very representative of the public.

Who did the survey?
Finally, consider who conducted the survey. For example, news outlets and university survey centers are generally more reliable than polls conducted by political parties or the candidates themselves.

The Rise of Extremist Politicians

By Jeff Heebner
Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 3, 2016)  – Today’s longer campaign cycles, filled with numerous televised debates and constant news reporting and social media coverage, are causing the rise of extremist politicians, according to a new study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration.

The research, which utilized game theory, finds that longer campaigns, which offer voters more information on the candidates via 24-hour news coverage and social media, turn voters’ attention more toward a candidate’s character - such as trustworthiness and how he or she delivers speeches and exchanges debate barbs - and away from his or her stance on policy. 

With this in mind, politicians now have less incentive to moderate their messages, a tactic often used in order to bring swing voters to ballot boxes as they tend to vote for more moderate candidates.

“Our research shows real impact associated with longer, more informative campaigns, and perhaps a reason why we are seeing candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders doing so well within their parties this late in the game,” said Raphael Boleslavsky, assistant professor of economics in the School of Business Administration, who conducted the study along with Christopher Cotton of Queens University.

“Candidates base their platforms on how to capture the majority of voters relative to their opponent so our research suggests that extremism is likely something we will see more as campaign cycles continue to get longer and longer,” he said.

According to the researchers, a shorter campaign cycle with less time for media saturation might allow voters to experience a greater balance of a candidate’s policy positions and character.

This would lead to better-informed voters because of more attention on policy issues. Further, increasing the number of debates in an election cycle, according to the study published in the American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, decreases the incentive for politicians to run on moderate platforms.

For the study the authors developed a mathematical model of an election in which parties nominate candidates with policy preferences ahead of a campaign that produces information about their overall characteristics independent of policy. 

The mathematical model used the tools of game theory, which allowed researchers to describe strategic situations and understand strategic incentives in a mathematically rigorous way.

They then solved the equations generated by the model, resulting in a robust prediction about the level of political extremism that political parties select, and how this level of extremism changes with the length of the political campaign.

“Over the next eight months our country will likely judge our next president, not only on his or her policy proposals, but also on his or her television performance in debates and speeches, and our perception of his or her character,” the study states. “These other dimensions may be relevant to the candidate’s capability to lead, but unfortunately, there is a link between our ability to learn about these dimensions and candidates ideological extremism. Because we started thinking about our next leader so early, the moderate policies many voters want may not be on the table.”

To view the full paper, visit https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/mic.20130006