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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

News Deserts

Margaret Sullivan at WP:

Already in a sharp downward spiral, the local news industry was hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic. The worst blows were taken by newspapers — businesses that, as a group, had never recovered from the digital revolution and the 2008 recession. Between 2005 and the start of the pandemic, about 2,100 newspapers closed their doors. Since covid struck, at least 80 more papers have gone out of business, as have an undetermined number of other local publications, like the California Sunday Magazine, which folded last fall — and then won a Pulitzer Prize eight months later.

Those papers that survived are still facing difficult straits. Many have laid off scores of reporters and editors — according to Pew Research Center, the newspaper industry lost an astonishing 57 percent of its employees between 2008 and 2020 — making these publications a mere specter of their former selves. They are now “ghost newspapers”: outlets that may bear the proud old name of yore but no longer do the job of thoroughly covering their communities and providing original reporting on matters of public interest.

Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor, describes the loss of the Sun-Advocate in Massachusetts as “a grim picture but not nearly as catastrophic as in some parts of the country.” After all, he told me, there are other news organizations nearby, including the Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn and, a digital site run by Gannett that serves swaths of Massachusetts. (Gannett had owned the Sun-Advocate until its closure.)

By contrast, in many regions of the country, there is no local news coverage at all, or next to none. These areas have come to be known as “news deserts” — a term used by academics and researchers to refer to areas where coverage of the community by local news outlets is minimal or nonexistent. It’s in such places that the collapse of local news is being felt most dramatically. Then again, even if you don’t live in a defined news desert, you may have noticed that your regional paper long ago ditched actively covering your community if it is outside the immediate city and first-ring suburbs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Madison v. AOC

Greg Weiner at NYT:
But if disappointed progressives are looking for a Democrat to blame, they should consider directing their ire toward one of their party’s founders: James Madison. Madison’s Constitution was built to thwart exactly what Democrats have been attempting: a race against time to impose vast policies with narrow majorities. Madison believed that one important function of the Constitution was to ensure sustained consensus before popular majorities could prevail.
Democrats do represent a popular majority now. But for Madison, that “now” is the problem: He was less interested in a snapshot of a moment in constitutional time than in a time-lapse photograph showing that a majority had cohered. The more significant its desires, Madison thought, the longer that interval of coherence should be. The monumental scale of the Build Back Better plan consequently raises a difficult Madisonian question: Is a fleeting and narrow majority enough for making history?
In this Madisonian sense, Democrats are tripping over their own boasts. Even in announcing that the spending plan had been scaled back, President Biden repeatedly called the measure “historic.” No fewer than four times in a single statement, his White House described elements of the Build Back Better framework as the most important policy innovations in “generations.” Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, called the bill the House passed last week “historic, transformative and larger than anything we have done before.”

Living Arrangements

From the Census Bureau:
The percentage of adults living with a spouse decreased from 52% to 50% over the past decade, according to newly released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual America’s Families and Living Arrangements table package.

At the same time, living alone became slightly more common: 37 million (15%) adults age 18 and over lived alone in early 2021, up from 33 million (14%) in 2011. The percentage of adults living with an unmarried partner also inched up over the past decade, from 7% to 8%.

These statistics come from the 2021 Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), which collects labor force data as well as data on a variety of characteristics of households, living arrangements, married/unmarried couples and children. The ASEC has been conducted for more than 60 years and so allows for an examination of trends in families and living arrangements.

Other Highlights

Households and Families
  • There were 37 million one-person households in 2021, or 28% of all U.S. households. In 1960, single-person households represented only 13% of all households.
  • The number of families with their own children under age 18 in the household declined over the last two decades. In 2021, 40% of all U.S. families lived with their own children, compared to 44% in 2011 and 48% in 2001.
  • In 2021, 34% of adults age 15 and over had never been married, up from 23% in 1950.
  • The estimated median age to marry for the first time was 30.4 for men and 28.6 for women in early 2021, up from ages 23.7 and 20.5, respectively, in 1947.
  • In 2021, less than one-quarter (24%) of children under age 15 living in married-couple families had a stay-at-home mother, compared to 1% with a stay-at-home father.
Living Arrangements
  • Some living arrangements differed by sex and age group in 2021. The percentage of men and women ages 18 to 24 that lived alone, about 5% each, did not significantly differ. More women than men in this age group lived with a spouse, 7% and 4%, respectively. The percentage of men ages 18 to 24 living alone was not significantly different from the percentage of men who lived with a spouse. A greater share of women (12%) than men (7%) this age also lived with an unmarried partner.
  • Men and women ages 25 to 34 were more likely than their younger peers to live with a spouse or unmarried partner: one-third (33%) of men and 42% of women lived with a spouse in early 2021. But about the same share (17%) of both men and women of these ages lived with an unmarried partner. These patterns were likely related to the lower median age of women (28.6) than men (30.4) at first marriage.
  • In 2021, more than one-half (58%) of adults ages 18 to 24 lived in their parental home, compared to 17% of adults ages 25 to 34.
For more data on families and living arrangements, visit Families and Living Arrangements at <>.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Ranked-Choice Voting

 Gary Schmitt at AEI:

Another idea for reforming the candidate selection system is ranked-choice voting, in which primary voters rank their candidate choices from most to least favorite. If no candidate wins a majority of the votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated; his or her voters’ second choices are distributed among the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate gets a majority.

This means that no candidate can be the winner just by getting more votes than any of the other guys. It also means that to win a majority, a candidate will have to appeal to a broader range of eligible voters instead of single-mindedly pursuing a narrow, polarizing block of the voting public. In fact, there is some evidence that in Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial primary this year, ranked-choice voting produced a candidate, Glenn Youngkin, who—while decidedly conservative—showed himself to have enough broad appeal to succeed in a purple, blue-trending state.

No single system is guaranteed to produce candidates who are both popular and fit for office. No selection system can, by itself, fix the current state of our political parties. But an advantage of ranked-choice voting is that it provides a potential corrective to problematic populist campaigning by installing a selection system that can be said to be as democratic as, or even more democratic than, the system currently in place.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Green Lantern: Exaggerating Presidential Power

Scott Clifford, D.J. Flynn, Brendan Nyhan, and Kasey Rhee have a paper titled Decider in Chief? Why and how the public exaggerates the power of the presidency."

 Democratic accountability requires citizens to accurately attribute credit and blame to leaders and institutions. However, citizens tend to simplify politics by personifying the state as its leader and directing credit and blame accordingly. Using an expert survey and a five-wave public panel survey spanning two administrations, we conduct the first comprehensive study of perceptions about presidential power. We demonstrate that the public exaggerates the president’s powers relative to scholarly experts and that those who exaggerate presidential powersmost are more likely to attribute blame to the president. However, a change in partisan control of the presidency shifts perceptions of power among partisans. Finally, we find suggestive evidence of similar shifts in belief after salient policy failures. These results provide the most direct evidence to date that citizens generally exaggerate the president’s influence and control but that these beliefs change over time in response to events.

In 2009, Nyhan blogged:

Matthew Yglesias pinpoints an important -- and absurd -- meme in which liberals blame Obama's legislative compromises on a lack of will (see, for instance, Kos and Hamsher on health care reform):
I sort of want to stop writing about Matt Taibbi, but his decision to respond to his critics with an article on “Obamania” compels me to write more... [W]hen it comes to domestic policy issues, and certainly when it comes to financial reform, you’d be hard-pressed to find an issue on which there’s a majority in the House, and a majority on all the relevant House committees, and a majority on all the relevant Senate committees, and 60 votes in the Senate for some progressive bill but Barack Obama is standing in the way of reform...

Whatever failings the package may have, they’re not the fault of the Obama administration. And whatever ties the Obama administration may have to big banks, the banks like the Republicans’ ideas a lot better than they like Obama’s.

If you want to complain about the Obama administration, you should complain about their conduct of issues they actually have control over... [O]n legislative matters that require the concurrence of congress, it’s not clear what pushing Obama to the left would accomplish. Rather than “Obamamania” I think a lot of the left is infected with a kind of “Presidentmania” in which they assume that the White House could get anything done if only they really wanted it. But let me promise you, the White House wants to sign a health care bill. They really, really do. Having their top priority bogged down for months is not part of a secret plan.
During the Bush years, Yglesias coined the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics*
to mock conservatives who believed that "[t]he only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower" in foreign policy. What he identifies here is nothing less than a Green Lantern theory of the presidency in which all domestic policy compromises are attributed to a lack of presidential will. And, like the Green Lantern theory of geopolitics, this view is nonfalsifiable. Rather than learning from, say, the stimulus vote that Obama faces severe constraints in the Senate, liberal GL proponents have created a narrative in which all failure and compromise is the result of a lack of presidential willpower. (Hamsher, for instance, claims that "The failure to establish a public option to control medical costs and increase competition is President Obama’s failure alone.") It's a fantasy world.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Stay Out of Silos

 From Professor Robert George of Princeton:

In recent days, our divisions have been stoked by high profile criminal cases. Viewed from the silos, the meanings of these cases seem obvious, and anyone who sees them differently must be an “ignoramus,” a “bigot,” an “out-of-touch elitist,” a “liar,” a “manipulator”—in short, a fool or a fraud. An example is the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Was it a travesty of justice, which seems obvious to some Americans? Or was it the essence of justice itself, which seems equally obvious to others? Was Rittenhouse a “vigilante” and a “white supremacist”? Or was he a hero who placed himself at risk to defend the lives and property of innocent people from rioters and vandals? 

Or could it be that the situation is not quite as black and white, as open and shut, as people in either camp suppose?

 I have my own opinions on these matters. But it is not my role as Director of the James Madison Program or as a professor at Princeton University to try to persuade you that my opinions are the ones you should adopt. It is not the job of any professor, or of any unit of the University, or the University itself to tell you what to think. Our role in your lives is to encourage and empower you to think deeply, to think critically, and to think for yourselves about important issues, such as those dividing our nation today. 

On the major issues we face, reasonable people of goodwill are not all of one mind. To decide where you should stand, I urge you to avoid the silos and listen attentively to what intelligent voices on the competing sides are saying. To make up one’s mind, however tentatively, one needs to seek out and thoughtfully consider the most reliable information and the best arguments offered in support of the various positions. To allow oneself to be constantly reinforced in what one already believes is to court becoming a mere partisan, a dogmatist, an ideologue. 

So please stay out of the silos. Even in personal relationships, make sure you are not surrounding yourself with people who can be counted on to tell you you’re right. If you don’t have a friend who sees things differently than you do, please try to make one. 

This is not to discourage you from being people of conviction—people who stand up for their beliefs, who condemn what they believe is wrong and defend what they think is right. It is rather to encourage you genuinely to think for yourself and to engage others in a truth-seeking spirit, one that does not presuppose one’s own infallibility. There is no incompatibility between being a person of conviction and practicing the virtue of intellectual humility. Even people of conviction can acknowledge that they may have things to learn from people with whom they disagree. And no one ever learned from someone while shouting at him or shunning her.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Being Truly American

 From PRRI:

More than nine in ten Americans say that it is somewhat or very important to being “truly American” to believe in individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech (slightly up from 91% in 2018 to 95% today), to believe that every citizen should be able to vote in elections (93%), to accept people of diverse racial and religious grounds (up from 86% in 2018 to 92% today), and to respect American political institutions and laws (91%). Nearly eight in ten (79%) say it is somewhat or very important to being truly American to be able to speak English.[4] This percentage has gone down consistently, from 89% in 2015 to 83% in 2018 and 79% today.

Fewer Americans, but still a majority, think it is very or somewhat important to being truly American to believe that capitalism is the best economic system (59%) and to believe in God (56%). Thinking a belief in God is important to being truly American declined substantially, from 69% in 2015 to 52% in 2018. Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to think that both belief that capitalism is the best economic system (77% and 50%, respectively) and belief in God (78% and 45%, respectively) are important to being truly American. Independents closely mirror all Americans. Most religious groups have similar beliefs, but members of non-Christian religions and religiously unaffiliated Americans are less likely than Christian groups to say that believing capitalism is the best economic system (50% and 44%, respectively) and believing in God (40% and 21%, respectively) are important to being truly American.

Less than half of Americans think being born in America (48%, substantially down from 58% in 2015, but similar to 50% in 2018) is somewhat or very important to being truly American. Most Republicans (62%) say it is important to be born in America, compared to 44% of independents and 43% of Democrats. Majorities of Black Protestants (70%), white evangelical Protestants (58%), and white Catholics (54%) agree that being born in the country is important for being truly American. Other Christians (52%), white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants (51%), and Hispanic Catholics (49%) are divided over this question. Members of non-Christian religions (39%) and the religiously unaffiliated (33%) are the least likely to think that being born in America is important to being truly American.

Just over four in ten Americans believe that being Christian (43%, substantially down from 53% in 2015 and 39% in 2018) is somewhat or very important to being truly American. Republicans (63%) are more likely than independents (37%) and Democrats (35%) to say that being Christian is important to being truly American. Solid majorities of white evangelical Protestants (76%) and Black Protestants (75%) say that being Christian is important to being truly American. Around half of Hispanic Catholics (52%), white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants (49%), white Catholics (46%), and other Christians (46%) think the same. Only one in ten religiously unaffiliated Americans (12%) and members of non-Christian religions (9%) say that being Christian is important to being truly American.

Less than one in five Americans (17%) believe that being of Western European heritage is important for being truly American. About one in five or fewer Americans across party and religious affiliations think that Western European heritage is important to being truly American. Republicans (21%) are slightly more likely to say this than independents (15%) and Democrats (17%) are.