Sunday, October 16, 2016

WHY, OH WHY CAN'T WE HAVE A BETTER PRESS CORPS? (Road Sign Edition)

Stephen Hiltner of The New York Times took a motorcycle trip through rural white GOP America ... and was shocked to discover that most of the presidential road signs he saw were for Donald Trump:
I idly recorded those in support of Donald J. Trump until, after the first few days, the number approached 100. I eventually lost count.

Those in support of Hillary Clinton were comparatively easy to keep track of: I traveled nearly 2,500 miles before I saw a single one.

By the end of my trip, I’d spotted a whopping five.
Yes, it does occur to him that he might not be conducting a particularly scientific survey of voter opinion in America:
The lopsided tally is at least partly a consequence of my route. Draw a sagging, squiggly line from Portland, Ore., to Cleveland, and that’s roughly the path I took, riding my 1973 BMW R75/5 mainly on back roads and quiet highways: State Route 14 and U.S. Route 12 in Washington and Idaho, State Route 43 in Montana, U.S.-36 through Kansas and Missouri....

Most of the states I visited -- Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri -- lean Republican, no doubt skewing the yard-sign count in Mr. Trump’s favor. I also spent much of the trip in rural areas, where Mr. Trump has found more support than Mrs. Clinton.
Yet the concept of a representative sample isn't particularly important to him:
Still, the route alone would not fully explain his utter dominance of the pastures, lawns and embankments that formed the margins of my field of vision.
No, you dolt -- the route alone explains it precisely. You were in Trump Country. Before it was Trump Country, it was Romney Country, and McCain Country, and Bush Country.

Here's a county-by-county map of 2012 electoral results. Remember, the red stands for Romney, the guy who lost:



Hiltner's route passes through a lot of red land -- it just doesn't pass though a lot of votes. Hiltner may be unaware of this, but not a lot of people live in rural America. Tiny, blue Massachusetts has eleven times as many people as massive, red Wyoming. (Do we want to break it to Hiltner that blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan are even more full of voters than Massachusetts?)

There's one other reason Hiltner might not have seen a lot of Clinton signs on his rural bike trip: fear. I live in a big city, but if I were a rural Democrat, I'm not sure I'd want to put up a Clinton sign. Take another look at that Boston Globe article with the Trump fans threatening intimidation of minority voters at the polls, and talking of a possible violent uprising if their guy doesn't win. Would you want to risk riling these people up if you lived in an area where they're the majority?

28 comments:

Kathleen O'Neill said...

1. Newspaper publishers/owners are happy because current coverage serves their interests. 2. They support Republicans. 3. They admire Trump and hold the same opinions (if only he weren't currently losing the horse race). 4. Consumers who matter to them aren't demanding a better media (just we hyper partisan America hating Lib'ruls).

Ray said...

Besides not wanting to put a sign out. The other matter is that Hillary signs tend to be destroyed somehow or just disappear in some cases.

rclz said...

My mom lives in rural E.Washington and she put up a Hillary sign so far so good. The local sheriff has a fence, which in the past was adorned with Bush, McCain and the like. This year, Hillary.

Eastern side of the state is pretty red but I have a hunch it's still not as bad as some of the redder parts of the country.

The Idaho Examiner endorsed Hillary and you could have knocked me over with a feather. Will it make a difference, probably not but still for the paper to go there is mind boggling. Idaho is pretty damn red.

sdhays said...

I live in a liberal area and I don't even want to put a political bumper sticker on my car because I don't need people keying my car or being extra aggressive while driving around me out of their irrational rage. Even though it's a liberal area, there are lots of cars with the Gadsden flag on them, and I just don't have confidence in those people's ability to control their emotions.

rclz said...

sorry the Idaho paper is The Statesman, not the Examiner. Should have looked instead of using my faulty memory.

Chris Andersen said...

I can't take seriously the commentary of anyone who thinks the number of yard signs is in any way representative of a candidate's support.

Mart said...

I would never put up a sign for a Democrat in my white suburban lawn. Upon learning I was a dirty old hippie, my neighbors placed hundreds of Bush Cheney signs in my yard the night before the 2004 election. Conservative humor, they still smirk behind my back. Also too, best moment of the last debate at neighbors birthday party, he will make sure that bitch goes to jail. I was also instructed to say President Trump. So yeah, no signs for me.

2272f348-93d1-11e6-bccc-dfe14f8a9dac said...

As a black man a jaunty roadtrip through the 'heartland' would be harrowing enough for me, forget a Hillary sign.

Victor said...

Hell. if I lived in the sticks, I-'d put up a t-RUMP sign, too!

And then let my dog piss on it, and take a piss on it myself - under cover of darkness, of course.

Diane said...

Perhaps this astute reporter could check back after the election and see how it went in each of the counties he passed through.

Nick said...

I ageee with Steve. I've come to believe that, at least down here in central Virginia, there's an intimidation factor at play.

Diane said...

Actually, I also live in a rural Republican area, and what we've noticed is that there are few yard signs at all this election. I'll bet that in 2012 he would have seen more Romney signs on his trip than he saw Trump signs this year.

Danp said...

If you had gone through my WV town 4 or 8 years ago, you would have seen a lot of Obama signs - not as many as McCain or Romney, but enough to know who was running. I have not seen a single Hillary sign this year. It is not that these same people have switched parties. It is, as you suggest, the intimidation factor. Meanwhile, the new fashion shirt says, "I'm deplorable and I vote."

Don K said...

Here in upper-income suburbia (Bloomfield Township, MI), I've yet to see a Trump sign this year, whereas in previous years there were loads of McCain and Romney signs. I suppose people think showing their support for the Donald here would be disreputable. I've also seen only a couple of Clinton signs, probably the intimidation factor in action. It's weird seeing so few presidential lawn signs, while there are plenty of signs for state representative candidates, judges, and school-board candidates.

rclz said...

One last thing about signs...who pays for them? My mom had a devil of a time getting her hands on one. The local dem honcho could only get 3 yard signs for the whole area.

I think there are two reasons, doesn't matter much what the East side does because king Co and most likely Pierce Co are going blue and we have enough population to drag the rest of the state with us. So if you're paying for signs why not use them in swing states, save your money. Same with Trump. I've seen few signs even when I crossed the state. Why send out a bunch of signs for a place that's not going to do you a lick of good?

I'd like to know how thick the signs are in swing states.

Tengrain said...

Steve -

I'm reminded of the time in 2012 Peggy Noonan counted lawn signs and reported back that it was going to be Mitt in a landslide.

Rgds,

Tengrain

rclz said...

It was probably martini time and Noonan was probably seeing double.

AllieG said...

My son is reasonably active in Democratic politics. He's worked for Obama, several governor's races and mayor's races. He and all other pros HATE yard signs. They are considered useless in generating support (but if the person with the sign engages in face-to-face contact with neighbors about the election, that does move the needle). Trouble is, candidates themselves love them. They constantly monitor for yard signs while being driven around.

Jim Snyder said...

@Tengrain: famous Crazy Jesus Magic Dolphin Lady reference. Thinking I'll have another martini in honor of Nooners.

Jimbo said...

Although we live in a near DC suburb (Silver Spring, MD.) we have a fixer-up farm in beautiful Shenandoah Co. VA in the west near the West VA, border. This is a rural area where many houses fly the Confederate flag (though not usually in the towns); occasionally both Confederate and US flags. There are a good number of Trump-Pence signs, which are a boring black and white and very few HRC-Kaine signs but the ones we have seen are businesses: two solar installers and one design-build contractor (no solar installation business is going to vote GOP, of course). In general, even in cities, you don't see many Clinton-Kaine signs because everyone knows who she is and you're either for her or against her.

nainam97 said...

Here on the Eastern Shore of MD (mostly Trump country) I am working the phones for Clinton but wouldn't dare put out a yard sign.

5a48aae6-feb8-11e5-b47c-8b0fbd021ad4 said...

There was a segment this morning on the CBS Sunday Morning show about political signs. One part of that was a visit to a factory, in Kansas as I recollect, which does a booming business in Presidential election years. The reporter shared the fact that way more Hillary bumper stickers had been printed than had Trump ones. So, there's that fact, for whatever it's worth.

Roger said...

A majority of police unions have endorsed Trump. I don't think putting a Hillary/Kaine bumper sticker on your car is really a good idea.

Daro said...

I have 11 Liberal friends in a chat group. None of them are voting at all.

Jim Snyder said...

@Daro: tragedy of the commons...

Freeloaders ...

Feud Turgidson said...

Somewhat Off Top to Jim Snyder: It's almost like Sam Wang's been reading your stuff here. His latest, just out today, on stability, a.k.a. lack of volatility in this election:

http://election.princeton.edu/2016/10/17/the-polarization-hypothesis-passes-the-access-hollywood-test/#more-18158

Jim Snyder said...

@Feud: hrmph. I responded via gmail, which at least once before posted to this blog's comments section, but no more. Not recently, anyway.

Here's what I thought I had posted from gmail:
__________________________

@Feud: funny, I read that article just a minute ago, before checking gmail and finding your note.

I'm a little taken aback by Wang's statements that a) the first debate moved (what I'm calling) the underlying distribution by 4 points, and b) "least volatile election since 1952". (One or possibly both in comments.)

Can both be true?

I s'pose they can, if 4-point deltas were common in earlier races, but still ... that strikes me as a YUUUGE shift in public sentiment. (Doesn't mean my perception is correct, of course.)

Several polls out this morning [correction at 1830 EST: yesterday, not today] which found HRC with leads of high-single-digits and low-double-digits, as well as a CNN poll which found an HRC lead of 4 points. Even the "GOP-friendly" poll - don't remember which one - found a lead of 8 points (IIRC).

I will hope that that indicates another shift in preferences among the electorate ... to be confirmed in next week's polls ... and on 8 November. I want Trump YUUUGE-ly repudiated.

Interesting article in Politico about a recent poll (Ipsos? Or was that the USA Today poll?) they commissioned, which found HRC with a lead of something like 68%-20% among millennials ... a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad result for Republicans, since CW says that partisan preference evidenced in youth tends is sticky. Trump is eating GOP seed corn.
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