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I caught a mouse this morning. I was just trying to get warm. I know I had to call my dad as I escorted the mouse out of the building. It's so nice of you to escort.


I know. When you said escorted out, I'm thinking you saved the mouse. Yeah.


No, no, no, no, no, no. That's not an escort.


Hello, and welcome to the 538 Politics podcast. I'm Galen Druken. Congress is back in session and Speaker Pelosi said she expects to pass the House version of the one point nine trillion dollar American rescue plan by the end of the week. We're going to talk about any hurdles to the bill's passage, how Americans view it, and whether this is the kind of thing that could shape public opinion of Biden and the Democrats. We're also going to again check in on Georgia, where Republican lawmakers have proposed additional voting restrictions to the ones that we discussed two weeks ago.


The latest proposal includes eliminating early voting on Sundays, which is when black churches mobilize voters through the Souls to the Polls program. And later in the show, we're also going to ask one of our favorite questions, which, of course, is good use of polling or bad use of polling. In today's example, pollsters asked Americans about their support for secession in each region of the country. So here with me to discuss it all is editor in chief Nate Silver.


Hey, everyone. Also here with us is senior politics editor Sara Frostiness.


And hello, Sara, Hegelian.


And of course, the last time listeners heard from you, you were just recovering from the crisis in Texas. Is everything OK? How are you doing?


Yes, we're lucky here. We've got power. We've got water. And it seems as if the state's on the upswing. So all good here.


All right. Good to hear. Also here with us is Atlanta Journal Constitution Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell. Welcome back to you.


Thanks for having me on again. So let's begin with the Democrats covid relief bill, which is being called the American rescue plan.


At this point.


Some of the key provisions in the plan include 4500 dollar stimulus checks, funding for vaccine distribution, as well as aid to state and local governments, schools and businesses, increasing the child tax credit from two thousand dollars to three thousand dollars per child, increasing unemployment benefits from three hundred dollars a week to four hundred dollars a week, and increasing the federal minimum wage from seven twenty five to fifteen dollars an hour by twenty twenty five.


So it appears that Democrats are on track to pass the American rescue plan without much or any Republican support. So are there any sticking points in Congress right now among Democrats? If so, what are they and why are they sticking points?


I would say the biggest sticking point right now is that minimum wage increase, they say, is about creating a working income for people, a livable income. But the CBO put out its report that showed that even though a minimum wage increase would lift people out of poverty, it would cost jobs like a million jobs in total. And so that backs up the concern from business groups that a minimum wage increase is not something that many businesses would be able to sustain and remain viable.


And so in the center, you have some moderates who are not as in favor of increasing the minimum wage, at least not now, as part of a covert relief bill. I think that's also the concern is just that minimum wage is a little bit outside of true culvert relief and therefore not something that Democrats should be lumping in. And that's why you have all the concerns about it.


So as to who is getting at this is something that's really dividing, like the more progressive members where you have like Bernie Sanders saying, like, look, this is our time to push it through. And then someone like Senator Manchin saying, I want people to have a living, working wage. But I don't necessarily think the way to do it is with this federal mandated 15 dollar minimum wage. Right. And Manchin, of course, being one of the more conservative members, the most conservative member within the Democratic caucus.


What's also interesting, though, is it looks like Democrats are going to pass this through the budget reconciliation process. And so that means that the Senate parliamentarian has to set what can and can't be included. And it's not really clear that something like a federally mandated minimum wage could be included in the reconciliation process. And so I think he's started to see. Biden met with some governors over the weekend, I believe, to talk about, hey, we might not have room for this in the bill, starting to temper expectations.


Of course, someone like Sanders is going to keep pushing hard for this because it's core to his base. It's also something that Biden would have campaigned on here in twenty twenty. But it does seem as if this isn't two thousand nine. Cats are not as divided as they were over the ACA because this time, you know, not that health care wasn't important, but now we're talking about people who are continuing to die each day as part of an ongoing crisis that has lasted more than a year now.


And the political stakes and infighting around the core of that don't seem to be as divisive as, say, in 2009 with the ACA.


Yeah. What have we learned about the Democratic Party and maybe how much it's changed since two thousand nine in this process is the crisis that's keeping everyone together?


Is the Democratic Party just more united or will it just take other proposals that are coming down the pike to show the true divides that exist?


It's not so much that the Democratic Party is like super divided. It's just that the Democratic Party has a really thin margin for error, like there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. So just one Democrat dissenting can kill a bill. And then in the House, they have a little bit more of the majority. But it's slimmer now than it was just a few weeks ago. And so there's less room for error in the house to you know, if you get progressives vote against bills all the time because they don't think they go far enough.


And then if you have more moderate Democrats saying, well, the bill goes too far, just a handful from either camp, and again, maybe they don't have a majority vote in the House.


Yeah, that's a really important point, that it really cuts off the option of saying, well, I kind of want the bill to pass, but I don't want to be the one who passes it. Like now you kind of are more constrained and sometimes constraints are helpful. It's also worth keeping in mind that with the rise of partizanship since 2009 nine, you don't have very many moderate Democrats anymore. Joe Manchin is the exception. There used to be seven or eight senators like him, and we're not talking about any particular bills are that radical anyway, necessarily a fifty dollar minimum wage.


Joe Manchin thinks that might be high for West Virginia. It's not considered radical by the public, at least in the polls pretty well. So it's a lot different than a national health care system, I think.


Yeah, I'm less sure that the Democrats as a party have really learned something from two thousand nine, but there just aren't as many moderates. And as Tia said, the margin just isn't big enough for them to actually have disputes and get something through. And you get the signaling that they really want to get covid really through, which. Understandable.


So should we expect that the minimum wage passes in the House, but that doesn't pass the Senate and gets pushed to another day? Is that the default option right now?


Or I guess Manchin said he would support an eleven dollar minimum wage federally.


Is that something that would end up in the Senate bill? Like where are Democrats going to land on this main sticking point?


I could see it either it could be taken out of the bill because the parliamentarian has decided it just isn't qualifying for the budget reconciliation or it being changed. But I would be very surprised if an increased to 15 dollar minimum wage gets to the finish line. All right.


So that's one of the key Democratic sticking points. Other questions I think have been sorted out before this point. Some Democrats were wary of of raising those unemployment benefits back up to six hundred dollars a week where they were earlier during the crisis and so on. But it seems like there's a lot of cohesion. What are Republicans saying? Because we don't really expect them to vote for this bill. What are their criticisms?


I think the biggest Republican criticism is just that this is deficit spending. This is going to increase our national debt. Now, of course, Democrats are going to say that's not something Republicans have complained about much for the past four years. I mean, it is a real concern because it is increasing our national debt, all this stimulus. And so I think that's something that you're hearing from Republicans more now than you would have when Donald Trump was still president.


Yeah, and you hear that like a lot of the covid spending isn't really about covid per say. Are Democrats saying I guess they're calling it a covert relief package in that kind of clever framing. But also, Democrats won control of Congress. It's kind of in the wherewithal of the party that wins control of Congress and the presidency to do a bunch of stuff. It has the votes for it. But, yeah, I mean, it's not like the GOP is necessarily like looking incredibly coherent points.


You know, there's some concern about like we'd like to you was saying, you know, there's a lot of money to spend. Could you have inflation there? Even a few centrist economists who have been worried about that? I think more are not probably the kind of usual hodgepodge of stuff.


But it is I mean, you look at this bill and child tax credit or paid family leave, the minimum wage is a great example. Maybe even some of the funding for state and local governments like this is a progressive economic set of bills that Democrats have been talking about since long before the pandemic hit. So to the extent that that's the Republican criticism, it's correct. Right. It's kind of like using the crisis as a. Backdrop for promoting economic priorities for progressives that have existed for a long time.


Is that fair to say?


Sure it's fair, but it's also what economists and people who study this kind of thing say what you should be doing during a pandemic. So it's not as transparently political, I think, as Republicans try to make it. At the end of the day, there are people who have lost their jobs or can't work or their businesses have closed because of the pandemic. And kids are home and schools have closed. And there are so many things that have people relying on the safety nets that Democrats have always wanted to increase funding for.


But now it's like a reality why those safety nets should have more funding if you agree that that's something government should be doing.


Yeah, definitely. Increasing the deficit seems to be in vogue in a way that it was not in 2009. Like one of the big lessons that economists from both more liberal and a little bit more center right have learned from 2009 is we didn't put enough money back into the economy and they want to avoid that this time around. That said, though, I mean, the moderate plan that someone like Collins or Bill Cassidy tried to present to Biden, was it six hundred and eighteen billion, which is not even close to the one point nine trillion Democrats want.


So as Republicans move forward in this, I think, Gaylan, what you're getting at is there's two options for them. They're either going to say this is way too much money. We've already put in a lot of money. But as you said, in the last four years under Trump, they increased the deficit a lot. So it does feel kind of like, well, now why is it an issue or do they latch on to some of the more cultural issues in the bill, like the minimum wage and saying that, hey, this isn't about covid relief, it's about Democrats pushing a progressive policy, which those we talked about earlier.


We're not even sure if the minimum wage would pass through and as Nate said, is popular with Americans, but maybe that's a valuable way for Republicans to push back on this.


So a new poll from The New York Times and Survey Monkey shows that 72 percent of Americans approve of this one point nine trillion dollar stimulus package, nearly all Democrats, or 97 percent. Seventy six percent of independents and even forty three percent of Republicans approved of the proposal. A Quinnipiac poll showed slightly smaller but similar numbers in early February.


So should we take these polls at face value when 72 percent of Americans say they approve of this two trillion dollar stimulus package? It's that simple. They approve.


Sure, yeah. People like getting checks. They generally like spending when they feel there's a need for it. And given the pandemic and the damage to the economy, people feel there's a need for I think it's like not actually that complicated with laws like this.


Are there any risks that they become less popular after they pass or become politicized in a way that they might not be early on in the process?


There's the risk that, like the economy struggles, and if you do have whatever inflation or whatnot, then Democrats get blamed for it. But Biden needs to kind of be good anyway to get reelected. And for Democrats, have a good midterm in twenty, twenty two. And so, I mean, look, obviously like let's say we do raise minimum wage and there is at some point a spike in unemployment, like Democrats get blamed for that probably, but they get blamed for it anyway.


So it's kind of like if it's popular and it's probably good for the economy, then I think it's kind of like one of the easier and more straightforward decisions politically, which is why Democrats are probably going to get a lot done, maybe not everything done with these very narrow majorities.


I think Nate's right that this is one of the pretty straightforward issues where, like public opinion poll for both Democrats, independents, Republicans overwhelmingly want a stimulus check. I mean, Nate had done some analysis in the lead up to the election that found if Trump had maybe done a second round of stimulus checks, that could have helped him electorally win. So this does seem like a no brainer for Democrats. That said, though, Galen, the point you were raising about if this is complex, could that shape public opinion?


Yes, absolutely. One of the reasons why the ACA took so long to become popular was because it was this huge patchwork of regulations that a lot of Americans didn't understand, wasn't clear cut how to do it. The marketplaces were a mess and then the individual mandate was really unpopular. Right now, we don't see any of that with the current stimulus package, but maybe in its implementation, there's parts that aren't rolled out perfectly.


And I also think Democrats have work to address the biggest vulnerability, which was who gets the stimulus checks and those income limits. And it's, again, a little unpopular among the most progressive parts of the Democratic Party. But in general, the income limits are pretty modest, I think is what? Seventy five thousand is where? Starts to taper off, so I think that'll help because you lose that line from Republicans that you have people who don't need money just using their checks for frivolous things when you point to seventy five thousand in lower.


It's harder to make that argument, especially in in most places in America where that's middle income. Yeah.


Are Republicans taking any political risks by not supporting this? And I guess to if you've been tracking the whip count, are there any Republicans who are actually supporting it?


As with a lot of things, that's more likely in the Senate to get a few Republicans to vote with Democrats? I'm not saying it will happen, but I'm saying it's more likely to happen in the Senate than in the House. That being said, I think Republicans, they're expecting the normal midterm elections to swing in their favor in a major way, which is tradition in America. But I wonder if things like the stimulus, if the polling shows that it remains popular even after implementation, that'll continue to negatively affect perception of the Republican Party and what Republicans in Washington will do and could do and therefore negatively affect what happens in the midterms.


One lesson they learn from 2009 is that if you deny a bill the auspices of being bipartisan, then it will become less popular. So I guess it's a strategy. But again, it does seem like the effects on the economy, whether it does result in more inflation or a bit more jobs or more money in people's pockets, it seems like that's the more important thing, right? Let's say the economy is good. Are you going to say, well, you know, Susan Collins opposed aid to state and local governments.


Bottom line, ba she's terrible. I mean, I guess so. This is the flip side of the point that Tom made earlier, which is that like if you needed GOP votes for passage, then the calculation becomes a lot more complicated potentially. In what sense? Well, because then you have to weigh, you know, frankly, hey, what if we're sabotaging the economy? But that would be good for us. But then we would get blamed potentially like it's hard to get blame that much for something that passes anyway, I guess, is what I'm saying.


So you mean if Republicans withheld votes and therefore the bill didn't pass, then Democrats could launch a campaign saying, hey, like the economy is struggling and it's all because the Republicans wouldn't pass this bill?


Yeah, but the fact that you don't need the GOP votes makes it like a lower stakes decision. And maybe Republicans can say, you know, it's also a case where like if it's a lower stakes decision, then maybe you're rich. Donor base, you keep them happy, the people who are concerned about inflation. Yeah, OK, so you're basically saying, like Republicans can not vote for it if it's popular, they reap the benefits. But if it turns out to be a disaster, then they could say, hey, I didn't vote for it.


Yeah, I think that's part of it. And I think, you know, there could be some risk if the economy is doing really well, there could be some risk to them. But I think it's just like it's not like. That consequential decision either way, compared to like if you had forty nine Democratic senators and one Republican to vote, then it's like that's just more high leverage decision. Let's keep in mind, too, that some of these people are ideologically opposed to government spending.


And so it's not necessarily like they've made this careful, detailed calculus about the political implications either.


Yeah, one of the questions I asked on Inauguration Day, I think itself was Biden had this agenda that he laid out, the beginning of which at least seemed pretty broadly popular. And here we are. They have this rescue plan that has 72 percent American support or thereabout.


And my question at the time was like, does passing popular policy actually help your electoral outcomes? Does it make you, as a president, more popular and therefore your party? Is there a one to one like you do things that Americans like, they reward you at the polls? Or has that broken down to a place where cultural debates and identity and tribalism and partizanship eliminate some of that? And, of course, a lot is going to happen between now and the next elections.


And so maybe we'll never know.


But now that we are at a place where Democrats are about to start passing seemingly popular legislation, what do we think? Like, does this actually make a difference in terms of how Americans view Biden and the parties?


I mean, I think there's a risk of like the media underrating how much bread and butter economic issues matter as opposed to culture war stuff, because the media loves the culture.


Hot take there.


Well, no, I mean, like so there's this question about why did Trump do better among in particular Hispanic voters and to a lesser extent, other voters of color relative to two thousand and sixteen? One answer is that actually, if you look at wage growth or job growth, that you did see some growth among nonwhite groups. And that's more important than the culture war stuff necessarily. Likewise, why did Trump come sort of close to winning the election when people approved of his performance on the economy, or at least, you know, he had tolerable numbers on that.


And so, again, it's unique in that this is the opposite of like.


Symbolic legislation, this will have a very tangible effect on people putting money in people's pockets and a tangible effect on state and local economies have a tangible effect on minimum wages if that part passes on covid relief. So it's kind of like the polar opposite of like a bill where the symbolism matters, especially given that we're almost two years till the midterm, it's does this actually work? That I think is important and will affect the bottom line a little bit. I want to push back just a little bit on that because I do think the culture war plays in part because it's still about the framing.


So, you know, the Affordable Care Act did a lot of good things for poor people of all colors, but it was framed in a way that made it unpopular in rural white America. And so the same thing trumps the economy was a good economy that was building off of what he inherited. But it was framed in a way that spoke to particularly men of color in very coded ways that helped increase his popularity in twenty twenty. So it was still part of the culture war.


It was based in policy, but spoke to different groups in ways that affected their perception of the policy. And so I think that could impact this in general. covid stimulus, again, you see people trying to frame stimulus checks as frivolously passing out money that people can then trick off. And if that becomes a prominent perception that will speak to certain people in different ways, depending on your identity.


Have you seen that messaging this time? I haven't seen it as overtly yet, but I do think it was touched upon. When you start talking about the income levels and you talk about do coastal elites need more stimulus? And I mean, again, that's a real policy debate. But again, it can be framed in a way I haven't necessarily seen it in overt racial terms, but I think it could come depending on which parts of the bill ultimately make it in.


And again, like you said, if the bill turns out to overall be perceived as a good thing for the economy and it's popular, maybe it doesn't get framed in that way. But if the consultants and the pollsters see that they can pick off some voters by framing stimulus in certain ways to certain populations, I think we're going to see it right.


Just to add on that, like one thing political science has found is that if policy victories are framed in such a way that this is very liberal for Democrats, voters aren't going to reward them at the ballot box. It's going to lead to electoral losses. The same is true for Republicans when they're in office. And something that they pass is perceived as very conservative. It's that pendulum swinging. Right. And so I think Tim is right. Absolutely. That depending on how this is framed, which politicians notoriously can't control, that definitely could lead to electoral repercussions here in twenty, twenty two.


All right. Well, some very interesting things to keep tracking there in terms of how the public perceives that and how politicians try to message around it. But I want to move on and talk about the newly proposed voting restrictions in Georgia.


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The numbers, not the letters. Georgia Republicans introduced a new package of voting law changes in the state late last week, most notably, the changes would end early voting on Sundays, which appears to be the clearest measure that would suppress black votes for decades.


Black churches have used the Souls to the polls program to boost voter turnout in conjunction with church attendance.


There are other changes in the package as well, which we can get into.


We discussed some of the proposed voting changes in Georgia a couple of weeks ago, and I'll say we're going to try to track what is happening with voting laws on the state level as we go forward here on this podcast and particularly in Georgia.


And something that people should keep in mind about Georgia is that unlike swing states in the Midwest, Georgia has unified Republican control of state government, meaning it's likely the most consequential state to try to make major voting law changes post 20 20.


Now, that's not to say that there are not plenty of other states that are making voting changes happening in blue states and red states. We're seeing initiatives in Arizona and Texas, and we're also seeing blue states try to make it easier to vote, for example, if we're going to take a look at all of it. But we are going to pay special attention to what's happening in Georgia. And, of course, being with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Hopefully you can help us out with that.


What are some of the other voting law changes that have been proposed in this new package that just came out late last week?


So initially there were all these separate bills, and then last week there was this one comprehensive package that came out and it included, as you mentioned, rolling back in-person early voting. So it no longer occurred on Sundays, but it would remain on Saturdays. During the pandemic, people could drop off their absentee ballots in mailboxes that were available. Twenty four hours. Well, this would move those drop boxes inside early voting locations. So they would only be open as long as the early voting site was open, not 24 hours.


It would increase the I.D. requirements to request an absentee ballot. It would change oversight of the state election board and remove it from the secretary of state's office. If there were a lot of things, again, all built into this one piece of legislation. There's a lot here.


I'm sure that there are different arguments for why different aspects of these proposals exist.


Obviously, what we all latched on to in the national media, because it seems the most directed at black voters, is eliminating Sunday voting.


First of all, I just want to ask, what are Republicans saying is the reason that they want to do away with Sunday voting?


So what about colleagues? Patricia Murphy asked them, what problems are you trying to solve in general with all this legislation? And most of the Republicans she spoke to were saying, you know, that's a good question. What problem are we trying to solve? You've hit the nail on the head. But what they said was we're trying to boost confidence in our voting system. People are skeptical right now. So we want to do whatever we can to reduce that skepticism.


And, of course, what is going unsaid is that Donald Trump and his supporters are who sold the skepticism and created whatever perceived problems there are that now Republicans are trying to solve when it comes to Sunday voting. They talk about the fact that they can accomplish early voting goals without having seven day a week access, and it can create some space and some time for staff and things like that. I mean, there's not it's not the most cohesive answer, but that's what you'll hear, is that we don't need sun voting in order to have robust in-person early voting.


Yeah, it's definitely seemed at this point more of a deflection. So I'm glad that that also matches what you've heard. I was trying to see, like. Right. Like what is the actual answer Republicans have for, like, why early voting on Sunday isn't something that they want to carry moving forward? And it reminds me so much of the voting rights issues in North Carolina in the sense that the court there found that that specifically targeted black voters with a surgical like precision.


It's hard for me to see how at the same argument, particularly with like eliminating early voting on Sunday isn't true of Georgia as well. Right. We know not just in Georgia, but in states that offer early voting in person. It's African-Americans who predominantly use that more than white Americans, more than Hispanic Americans. And by eliminating the sun aspect, which is Gaylan was saying at the outset here with souls to the polls, that just that seems like such a targeted effort that, again, as you said, they keep saying, oh, because of doubts we had in the 20.


The election, which there was no proof of fraud in Georgia. So what is it that they're trying to address?


And I also think, you know, we've talked in the past about how Democratic groups and voter rights groups will adjust to whatever becomes law. Like if there is no longer early voting on Sunday, then the churches will likely organize souls to the polls on Saturday. And Republicans know this. They know it'll make it harder, but they know it won't necessarily have a huge impact, which to me shows that it's even more so about messaging. It's almost a dog whistle in a way or a way of thumbing your nose at particularly black Democratic voters.


Just to put on the record that we can do it.


And I'll say we have data here to back up what Sarah said in terms of voting patterns. I don't read a passage from Mother Jones article by Ari Berman. It says, quote, The January 5th runoffs were the first time that Democrats outnumbered Republicans during in-person early voting and black voters constituted a third of early voters in the November general election. Black voters used early voting on weekends at a higher rate than whites. In forty three of 50 of the state's largest counties, black voters make up roughly 30 percent of Georgia's electorate, but comprised thirty six point seven percent of Sunday voters in twenty twenty.


So you look at the data and you see that this would have an outsize impact on black voters. We know the history of souls to the polls and things like that. The data reflects this as well. What other kinds of effects could we see from this and should we expect a backlash?


Number one, I think this is going to further energize Georgia Democrats. And we're going to see that Stacey Abrams Fair Fight Action Group is spending all week doing these virtual hearings to create attention and increase the urgency to oppose these bills in Georgia. And so there's already that increased energy around Democrats. But I also think there will be tangible changes that will require pivot's with Democratic groups if they want to have the same level of success they had in 2020. But it will also require just in general, Georgia elections were run probably more smoothly in November, in January than they had in quite some time.


So this is likely to also have the consequence of returning to some of the problems we saw in the primaries in twenty twenty in Georgia, where there were long lines in Atlanta and some of those suburban counties, which aren't a good thing for voting in which make voters very upset.


Yeah, I mean, there are multiple ways in which this is risky for the GOP potentially. One is that it's a little transparent. I mean, they can make their excuse about voter integrity. But like you said, you don't have to be that well versed in politics to understand it like it was the Republicans were pushing this idea about the election being illegitimate. And so if you are one of those moderate swing voters in the Atlanta suburbs, maybe you feel like, OK, I'm tired of this B.S., too, is that if Democrats are better organized in Georgia, then whatever barriers you put up, even if they're rather explicitly targeted toward black voters, if they are more able and willing and organized working around those barriers, there's a potential risk.


And part to be of that is that if the GOP is leaning more on lower propensity voters because some of the white people who are in rural areas don't vote in every midterm, well, you unintentionally kind of create barriers to your own voters voting. So there are risks here. At the same time, I guess Occam's razor is like we have found in our research and the research has found that like when you make it hard to vote, that tends to hurt Democrats.


Maybe it's different now with the twenty, twenty one electorate than it was 10 years ago. But it's not a mystery why they're doing this. It's hard for me to think, though, given the action from verified action and other groups, that this doesn't somehow result in a lawsuit if it is passed and challenged by Democrats in terms of the GOP trying to implement this.


So how likely is it at this point that this package of proposals will pass, including the no more sun early in-person voting? We have seen in past cases when states do some pretty explicitly bigoted things, there is an outcry from the corporate world and politicians and sometimes. States will take a step back and reverse course. I mean, this seems like what's happening here. Does it seem like there are some divisions within the Republican Party in Georgia over how to move forward?


The Republican Party is split on which of these proposals are truly necessary. And so I do think there could be some changes, some amendments as this bill navigates the normal legislative process so that all of the provisions that are currently in the bill may not all be in the final version. I do think some things will pass. We've talked before about how I do think increasing the level of identification needed to request an absentee ballot is likely to pass the Sunday early voting.


It's so blatant that I could see that being one of the things to go just because it's like you're picking a fight in a state that has a large black population when you don't need to. So the bill could change. I think you're right that there will be lawsuits no matter what. That's fair. Fight Action is probably more engaged on challenging things in the courts or just as engaged on court challenges as they are with the organizing and public policy aspect.


So it's going to be in the courts. And that's also why what's happening at the federal level with the for the people at will have a big impact because the Democrats are able to pass legislation that reinstates judicial oversight of elections, law changes in states like Georgia, then that could also create another level of scrutiny for what the legislature is trying to do.


And I think we can also imagine that if such a bill were to pass federally, which there's a lot of questions about the filibuster and whether it could make it through given the filibuster, I think we would expect a lot of legal challenges to that law as well that would end up at the Supreme Court. And then we would have to see where this current makeup of the Supreme Court stands on these kinds of issues. Right.


I mean, part of the reason why we're seeing laws like the one in Georgia being discussed is because the Supreme Court in 2013 decided that states like Georgia that had under the Civil Rights Act, had to go through federal approval in terms of making voting rights laws. They did away with that. They said the way in which those decisions were made were outdated and fine. It's not nineteen sixty five anymore. But I think what's really telling from that is, you know, the Brennan Center who studies voting rights at laws throughout the US, has found that one hundred and sixty five bills in thirty three states that would restrict voting are on the table this year, and that's a four times fold increase at this point last year.


And it's just something that continually has come up again since twenty thirteen. And when the Supreme Court made it easier for these states and other states across the country to pass more restrictive laws.


All right. Well, as we mentioned, we're going to continue to track these proposals. We'll see what makes it what doesn't. And we'll keep an eye on other states around the country. Before we wrap, though, I want to get to one of our favorite questions here on this podcast, which is good use of polling or bad use of polling. So bright line watch, which is a group of academics that track the health of democracy in the United States, released an extensive survey of the public and experts last week.


And they asked a lot of different questions, sometimes provocative questions like which form of government is best democracy, expert rule, military rule or strongman rule.


And so the surveys that this organization conducts are like trying to get to. Are there underlying doubts about democracy here in the United States? One of the survey questions that got the most attention was about secession. And there were two parts to this question.


But the first just simply asked whether respondents supported dividing up into more like minded regions in order to reduce conflict.


Thirty five percent of Republicans said yes. Twenty one percent of Democrats said yes. And then thirty seven percent of independents said yes. So that's about a third of respondents saying that they are interested in dividing up the United States into more like minded regions. We have a lot to unpack here, but I'll just ask the standard question first. Is this a good use of polling or bad use of polling?


I think it's totally fine. I think it's good for pollsters to ask about ideas that may not be talked about as much or not entirely mainstream, but they aren't totally out of the mainstream. I mean, you hear talk about secession from a couple of groups, one of which is Republicans in the Deep South, like Texas or whatnot. And you hear sometimes about California or the Pacific Coast states thinking about becoming independent or joining up with British Columbia or something and forming some Pacific Northwest like Orka Republic or something like that.


So I think it's stuff people should be thinking. About I mean, if you think about, like, the downside scenarios where an election really is stolen. Then what's the response to that? It wouldn't shock me if the responses, some blue states saying we went out, if we took seriously all these kind of threats to democracy, then there are only X number of ways those ultimately get resolved and they are all pretty bad.


So I understand that a couple lawmakers have mentioned it on the state level and that there are maybe some jokes about it, I think, with regards to the West Coast. But I haven't heard any serious consideration of actual secession.


And on top of that, this poll doesn't ask anything or say anything about the details, like would there be violence? How would the country break up into different segments? So, like, are they asking people their support for a civil war, but without asking any of the details about it like secession as an idea? OK, a third of Americans support it. Thirty five percent of Republicans, etc..


But then what does that mean? It's a very abstract. Like if you're going to ask this question, should there be more details in it?


Totally. I agree with Nate that ultimately I think it's a good use. However, I had serious methodological quibbles, which I think you're hitting on Gaylan. I thought the way in which they chose to word the question was disingenuous. It was like secession as a solution, not secession as a civil war or as violence. And also, you know, like secession. It's not legally possible.


Right. Like the Supreme Court passed after the Civil War that, hey, estate tax, it can't happen. Right? Texas can't just break away. That doesn't mean, though, that if we are in this twenty twenty four doomsday scenario where a significant percentage of the country is saying, I don't accept the result, that they couldn't try to secede. So I think ultimately it is really important to understand where Americans are on this issue. However, to your point, the credible examples they link to as evidence that this is becoming more mainstream, the Mississippi lawmaker like backtracked what he said within a day and said, my views actually don't represent my constituents and myself, and it was inappropriate.


Texas has a long history of trying to break away, like Kyle Biederman is not the first to try to do it. It is not seriously gaining traction. And the Wyoming stuff, too, is kind of nebulous. So it is nebulous. I think there are issues with how they phrased it. They made it sound as if it was this great solution versus something that could be stemmed in violence and the end of democracy in America as we know it.


But I think it is still with those caveats put in place, important to understand how a fringe or what we perceive as a fringe idea could take root.


I agree with what you guys both have said, but I also think it's worth talking about because it might not be true secession. But I do think we need to be talking about how fragile our democracy is. And the reality of the last few months we've experienced shows us that it's not that abstract of a possibility that our democracy ultimately fails in the United States of America is either not governed the same way or its boundaries don't look the same in our lifetimes.


I'm not saying that should happen. I'm not saying I want that to happen. But that is a clear possibility. And so I do think there should be more science and social studies and political science and statistics or whatever you want to call it about those possibilities, what they look like, how it could happen, what the ramifications would be, because it's real. And we in America have watched we watched the fall of the USSR and we've watched the shifting empire that was the United Kingdom.


And maybe I'm just looking at it more because I watched the crown or whatever. But I mean, we look at these things and it's like it happened to those countries and we think the United States of America is this unified body of 50 states, and that's what it is. But it could happen here in especially, you know, like you guys have said, we came really close in twenty, twenty, twenty, twenty one. So who knows where the elements of discord might go in the coming years or decades.


And I think we should be studying it.


Yeah, I don't empirically, if you look back when I was a kid, Germany was two countries. Now it's one. The USSR was one country. Now it's thirteen or whatever it is. Right. The UK, you nearly had Scotland leave and Scotland may still leave, nearly had Quebec leave from Canada. Those are both relatively peaceful transitions. But like it's not necessarily normal for a country to keep exactly the same territorial integrity for centuries on ahead. Exactly.


So I guess when it comes to probing questions about Scottish secession or independence, as they call it, or even Brexit or the votes that they have in Spain or in Quebec, etc., how does polling work in the. Scenario, do they talk about the details involved of what separation would look like, do you just simply ask, are you in favor of this region breaking off and no longer being a part of the United Kingdom or Canada or what have you like what are good practices in terms of pulling dramatic political events that could have very severe consequences for democracy, violence, things like that?


Are you supposed to get into those details or do you just ask it in an abstract way?


I think you don't want to ask. Like the people who envision that California would secede does not involve violence. It's a peaceful process for California to go for it. Somehow the Congress would consent. I'm not sure how that works. Exactly. And then while California is in state, so like in some ways, I don't mind how this question was phrased because, like, it's talking about like the end result of leaving it ambiguous. How it would be achieved, I guess.


I don't think it necessarily. Presumes a civil war. I don't know, I mean, is it that crazy to imagine? That some state would want to secede and and the rest, it was like, OK, goodbye. I don't know.


So I guess maybe we can get a little more into the details of this. So I imagine that there were two parts. The first part is where they ask the simple question, would you be in favor of secession, essentially breaking up into like minded groups of states in order to, again, as you emphasize, Sara, reduce conflict? It was kind of framed as having something of a positive outcome.


So then they asked maybe a little more neutrally, but then also it got into greater specifics about the hypothetical new nations that would be created. So they asked respondents in states in the Northeast if they would like to break away as a cohesive region. And then in the South, in the Midwest, in the mountain region and the West Coast and in each region, the dominant political party was most interested in secession. So while overall Republicans may be more interested in breaking up the union than Democrats writ large, forty one percent of Democrats on the West Coast in this scenario were interested in breaking away, whereas 50 percent of Republicans in the South.


What does that part of the poll tell you about our country? And is that a good use of polling?


I thought that was interesting, that section of the poll, because essentially what it did is kind of show that as long as your party is the one that's in control, sure secede, baby. Otherwise, no, thanks. And I thought that was valuable and instructive because, again, like I mean, some of this, I think is lumped into like partizan identity and cues, like when the polls were finding that 80 percent of Republicans didn't believe in the election results.


There was a lot of political science that was like, well, some of that's partizan cheerleading that you're seeing. As we saw on January 6th, clearly a section of the Republican Party did not believe in the election results. But there is a danger, I think, in reading too much into this. And I kind of saw the regional breakdown as a way to kind of make sense of it, as, oh, sure, if I lived in a part of the country where my party could be in power, I might like secession.


Right. I mean, it's easy to talk about it in the abstract. And I think it's worthwhile because, again, we know there are elements who could push for it in ways that would be more successful now that we've seen what happened in recent history, in American history. But also the more we sit here and chat about it, I'm like, well, then what happens when you end up in the region that doesn't shake with your politics? And we've seen that in other countries where you have the new boundary lines get drawn and then you have ethnic minorities who feel obligated or feel that it would be better for them to immigrate to a new country and then that creates a different type of crisis.


So don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it would be easy or feasible. Again, as we're talking about. I'm like, so what happens when all the black folks in the Deep South decide they would really have a better time if they were able to move to that new country up in the northeast that seems to line up with their politics better or has better opportunities because they feel like this new ultra conservative country doesn't speak to them. And that would create a whole nother issue.


So, you know, it's weird to try to talk about it and try to figure it out in your brain. But I think we should be talking about it because politically, there are elements who are pushing these types of things on both extremes of the political spectrum. And we should be talking about it.


I mean, we should be emphasized like unlike adding a state to the union, there is not a clear constitutional mechanism in place for removing a state. So you have to if you were doing it peacefully, you'd have to probably pass a constitutional amendment to outline the terms for that. And that's a high threshold, obviously.


Yeah, I think it's important also to emphasize what Sarah said, which is like a lot of this is partizanship. And I would be curious, they didn't ask this poll question when Trump was in office. But if we would have seen different numbers for Republicans and Democrats right now writ large, Republicans are more in favor of breaking up the country. But there's also a Democratic administration running Washington. You know, when Trump was in office, would you have seen those numbers reversed for Democrats?


The other complication here is that a lot of our political divides in America are more specific than region based there, urban and rural. And like in that sense, we're stuck with each other. Right. You know, you can't break up regions and have one region that's the cities and one region. That's the rural areas. And so this question is a weird one for the political divides that we see in America right now.


I just wanted to interject. It's funny because in Georgia, we are having that debate. You have these cities and all these municipalities that have created in Georgia in the past 20 years, particularly in the Atlanta area. And there are racial factors often involved. But now you have. Buckhead, which is a neighborhood everybody knows, Tony Buckhead, and they're talking about succeeding from the city of Atlanta right now. And again, it has to do with politics, but not so much politics because there are Democrats in Buckhead, but they're wealthy Democrats and Buckett and they're whiter than the rest of Atlanta.


And it's not clear how they can do it legally. It's been tried with other municipalities and failed. But there is an effort. You can Google it. Google like Buckhead secession. And it's interesting. So it is playing out on the local level.


Interesting. And I should say, before we wrap this up here and give this our official rating of good use of polling or bad use of polling, the people who conducted the survey, the academics involved in Bright Line Watch, gave this as their rationale for why they were doing this polling. They said, quote, We asked respondents for the first time their views about a scenario in which the United States would break up into more than one country. Secession is a genuinely radical proposition.


Until recently, we would have regarded it as too marginal to include in a survey. But state legislators in Mississippi and Texas and state GOP leaders in Texas and Wyoming have openly advocated secession in recent months. Again, this is what you were referring to earlier as like it's not really in a in such an earnest maybe a more symbolic way, but they said to continue prompting us to design two survey items to gauge perceptions of this data. We caution that these survey items reflect initial reactions by respondents about an issue that they are very unlikely to have considered carefully.


So understanding the caveat that they placed in this survey, it seems like you guys think this is a good use of polling. But I'll just ask to wrap up the segment. 538 official good use of polling or bad use of polling sparked a good discussion on this podcast, so. Good use, good use, but work on how they asked the question in round two. I do think there's some quibbles with it.


It's a great, good use, but we need to keep talking.


Yeah. And there are a lot of other survey questions in this report that they released that are not as sensational as this, that are interesting. And maybe we can keep looking back on that for more examples to discuss on this podcast. But that is it for today. So thank you to Sarah and Kate. Thank you. Thank you. My name is Galen Droog. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room. Claire Bitta, Gary Curtis is on audio editing.


You can get in touch by emailing us at Podcast's at five thirty eight dotcom. You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments. If you're a fan of the show, leave us a rating or review in the Apple podcast store or tell someone about us. Thanks for listening and we will see you soon.