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Commentary by Alan I. Abramowitz

Most Recent Releases

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August 11, 2016

Forecasting the 2016 Presidential Election: Will Time for Change Mean Time for Trump? By Alan I. Abramowitz

The Time for Change forecasting model has correctly predicted the winner of the national popular vote in every presidential election since 1988. This model is based on three predictors — the incumbent president’s approval rating at midyear (late June or early July) in the Gallup Poll, the growth rate of real GDP in the second quarter of the election year, and whether the incumbent president’s party has held the White House for one term or more than one term. Using these three predictors, it is possible to forecast the incumbent party’s share of the major party vote with a high degree of accuracy around three months before Election Day.

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June 2, 2016

Model Points to Close California Result Between Clinton and Sanders By Alan I. Abramowitz

On June 7, five states — California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota — will hold primary elections. It is the last major day of primaries of 2016, and with the Republican race already decided, almost all of the attention will be focused on the Democratic side, where 676 pledged (elected) delegates will be at stake in those five states.

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May 26, 2016

Why Democratic Unity Could Be Easier to Achieve This Time: Donald Trump and Barack Obama By Alan I. Abramowitz

With only a few weeks left in the 2016 primary campaign, a lot of liberal pundits and Democratic Party leaders are getting very nervous about the outlook for the general election. To almost everyone’s surprise, Donald Trump has secured the Republican presidential nomination while Hillary Clinton is still locked in a contentious battle with Bernie Sanders. Although Clinton holds a nearly insurmountable lead over Sanders in pledged delegates, Sanders continues to attack Clinton and win primaries.

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August 6, 2015

The Angry American Voter By Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster

As Republicans take the stage in Cleveland for their first presidential primary debate tonight — with Donald Trump in the middle of it — one thing is already abundantly clear: A lot of voters are angry. Very angry. In fact, a lot of voters have been angry for some time. The phenomenon that we call “negative partisanship,” antipathy on the part of Democratic and Republican voters toward the opposing party and its leaders, has been on the rise since the 1980s, and today it is arguably the most salient feature of the political scene in the United States. Now voter ire appears to be shaping both parties’ 2016 presidential nomination races. The rise of Trump and Bernie Sanders in the Republican and Democratic nomination contests, respectively, is symptomatic of this increased anger in the American electorate.

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June 4, 2015

The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is the Other Party By Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster Emory University

Which candidate will emerge from the crowded Republican presidential field next year? Can anyone stop or at least slow down Hillary Clinton’s seemingly inevitable march to the Democratic nomination? Will Democrats be able to match the GOP in Super PAC spending? And will there be new revelations about Clinton’s e-mails or the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising practices?

These are some of the questions that are dominating discussion of the 2016 presidential election in the media and among Washington political insiders. What you need to know is that the answers to these questions, interesting as they might be, will have almost no bearing on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

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April 23, 2015

Explaining the Republican "Lock" on the U.S. House by Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster

The results of recent national elections in the United States have followed a clear pattern: Democrats have dominated presidential elections while Republicans have dominated congressional and especially House elections. Since 1992, Democratic candidates have won four of six presidential elections and the popular vote for president five times out of six. At the same time, Republicans have won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives in nine of 12 elections and a majority of seats in the Senate in six of 12 elections. As a result, Democrats have controlled both chambers of Congress for only six of the past 22 years.

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February 19, 2015

Why Outside Spending Is Overrated By Alan I. Abramowitz

The Koch brothers and their network of wealthy conservative donors recently announced that they intend to spend almost $900 million on the 2016 elections. This level of spending by a group operating independently of any candidate or political party would be unprecedented in American politics. In fact, it would exceed the combined spending by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee during the 2012 election cycle. Understandably, this announcement reinforced concerns among Democrats and liberals that spending by the Koch brothers and other conservative groups could give Republican candidates a crucial advantage in key House and Senate contests and in the race for the White House.

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January 22, 2015

Obama’s Approval Rating and the Outlook for the 2016 Presidential Election By Alan I. Abramowitz

With the 2014 midterm election in the rearview mirror, the attention of pundits and political prognosticators has quickly shifted to the outlook for the 2016 presidential election. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State, First Lady, and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton appears to be the prohibitive favorite to emerge as the nominee. On the Republican side, however, there is no clear frontrunner, and early maneuvering by prospective candidates has intensified with the announcement by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that he is seriously considering a run for the White House. In addition to Bush, several prominent current and former Republican officeholders have already signaled their interest in running, including 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

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July 10, 2014

Americans Are Politically Divided and Our Feelings Toward the Parties Show It By Alan I. Abramowitz

How politically divided are ordinary Americans? The recent release of a report on polarization in public opinion by the Pew Research Center has reignited a debate among journalists and academics about the depth of the divisions between supporters of the two major parties. One of the key findings of the report is that supporters of the two parties hold increasingly negative feelings toward the opposing party and its leaders. While some scholars like Morris Fiorina of Stanford University have disputed the significance of these findings, an examination of evidence from the American National Election Studies provides strong support for the conclusions of the Pew study.

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May 22, 2014

Nationalization of Senate Elections Poses Challenge to Democrats in 2014 By Alan I. Abramowitz

Democrats face several challenges in trying to maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate in the 2014 midterm election. In addition to the normal tendency of the president’s party to lose seats in midterm elections, Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 seats that are up this year including seven seats in states that were carried by Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Moreover, six of those seats are in states that Romney carried by a double-digit margin.

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May 1, 2014

The Minimal Class Divide in American Politics By Alan I. Abramowitz

How deep is the class divide in American politics today? According to some scholars and pundits, it is very deep indeed. In a recent post on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University, the author of Unequal Democracy and a highly regarded public opinion scholar, presented evidence from a multi-nation public opinion survey that showed the relationship between income and support for cuts in government spending was considerably stronger in the U.S. than in other industrial democracies. Because of the disproportionate political influence wielded by upper-income citizens in the U.S., Bartels argued that their strong support for spending cuts has had a powerful influence on elite attitudes and ultimately on government policies.

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April 15, 2011

Why Democrats Could Take Back The House in 2012 By Alan I. Abramowitz

Between 1932 and 1994, Democrats controlled the U.S. House of Representatives for 58 of 62 years. Since then, however, party control has changed three times, with Republicans controlling the House from 1995 through 2006, Democrats from 2007 through 2010, and Republicans since then.

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June 12, 2009

Back to the Future for Obama By Alan I. Abramowitz

Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election represented one of the most dramatic shifts in political power in American history. In terms of both style and substance, the contrast between Obama and George W. Bush is perhaps as great as that between any incoming and outgoing presidents in the modern era. Yet the historic nature of this election should not blind us to the high degree of consistency between the results of the 2008 election and previous elections. New evidence on the results of the 2008 presidential election at the congressional district level reinforces this point.

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May 1, 2009

The Obama Generation By Alan Abramowitz

Americans under the age of 30 played a major role in the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. According to the 2008 national exit poll, 18-29 year-olds made up 18 percent of the electorate and they cast 66 percent of their votes for Obama vs. 32 percent for his Republican rival, John McCain.

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April 17, 2009

Independent Voters and the President: Myths and Realities By Alan Abramowitz

The importance of partisanship in contemporary American politics is widely recognized. Among the public as well as political leaders, party divisions run deep and it is increasingly clear that the arrival of a new President in Washington has done little to change that fundamental reality.

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April 9, 2009

Diverging Coalitions: The Transformation of the American Electorate By Alan Abramowitz

The election of America's first black president has been widely hailed as an historic event. However, much less attention has been paid to the demographic trends which made that event possible and which will continue to affect elections and politics in the United States far into the future. In this article I examine those trends and their consequences for the American party system.

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February 13, 2009

The False Hope of Bipartisanship By Alan Abramowitz

It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when." As in, when will all of the feel-good rhetoric about Democrats and Republicans joining hands to solve the nation's problems come to an end and open partisan warfare resume in Washington?

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October 10, 2008

Thirty Days and Counting By Alan Abramowitz

With one month remaining in the 2008 presidential campaign, national and state polling data indicate that Barack Obama holds a clear lead over John McCain.

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July 25, 2008

The Myth of a Toss-Up Election By Alan Abramowitz, Thomas E. Mann, and Larry J. Sabato

"Too close to call." "Within the margin of error." "A statistical dead heat." If you've been following news coverage of the 2008 presidential election, you're probably familiar with these phrases.

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July 18, 2008

Does Obama Have a Problem with White Voters? by Alan I. Abramowitz

"Poll Finds Obama's Run Isn't Closing Divide on Race," reads the headline on the front page of the July 16th New York Times.