Unicorns

This week there were a couple of studies in the news which shine a little light into the darkness that is settling over America. One should be read by all Democrats. The other will almost certainly be ignored by reality- and reading-averse Republicans. But both call into question the existence of near-mythological creatures believed to be true.

The first study, released last week by the Pew Research Center, calls into question the importance of the mythological swing voter. It turns out that the 40% of voters who identify as “independents” are not really all that independent. 13%, in fact, are pretty much reliable Republicans, while 17% are fairly reliable Democrats. This leaves 7% — mostly young and male — who are politically unmoored. This is no great revelation in a polarized political landscape in which the “middle” has largely eroded.

What’s important, however, is that, of these 7% only a third actually vote, which reduces the actual number of “independents” to about 2.3% of the American electorate. Democrats might actually appeal to some of these disaffected young voters if they chose a progressive candidate under 70, yet many in the 2020 race think they can appeal to the unicorn by bashing the social safety net, going weak on abortion, or alienating minority voters by slamming “identity politics.” Rather than trying to lower themselves to GOP standards, Democrats ought to be doubling-down on what makes them stand out from Republicans. And redoubling their opposition to Trump’s Imperial Presidency.

On this last point, Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who has correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections, warns that — unless Democrats “grow a spine” and risk alienating white swing voting unicorns by launching impeachment proceedings — we will see Donald Trump re-elected in 2020.

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The second study, which was actually published a couple of years ago, reinforces a large body of research on immigration and criminality, showing (once again) that immigrants are actually less likely to engage in criminal behavior. The so-called “violent illegal” or Trump’s “Mexican rapist” are both unicorns, figments of the white supremacist imagination.

With the dry title, “Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: Evidence across four decades,” a study in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice concludes:

Research has shown little support for the enduring proposition that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime. Although classical criminological and neoclassical economic theories would predict immigration to increase crime, most empirical research shows quite the opposite. We investigate the immigration-crime relationship among metropolitan areas over a 40 year period from 1970 to 2010. Our goal is to describe the ongoing and changing association between immigration and a broad range of violent and property crimes. Our results indicate that immigration is consistently linked to decreases in violent (e.g., murder) and property (e.g., burglary) crime throughout the time period. […]

Despite continuing nativist arguments alleging a causal relationship between immigration and crime, individual-level research based on arrest and offense data of the foreign-born shows that they are overall less likely to offend than native-born Americans. Some argue, however, that regardless of immigrants’ relatively low involvement in crime at the individual level, immigration might nevertheless be tied to increases in crime through structural and macro-level mechanisms. […]

Our results indicate that, for property crimes, immigration has a consistently negative effect. For violent crimes, immigration has no effect on assault and a negative effect on robbery and murder. This is strong and stable evidence that, at the macro-level, immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it. The interpretation of our results gives us pause when considering the current cultural ethos in the United States. The variety of legislation at the state level aimed at immigrants, legal or not, is underscored by popular sentiments about how current immigration is detrimental to the U.S. economically and socially. But at least when it comes to crime — and in fact, on many other counts addressed in the literature — there is no evidence at a metropolitan level of these severe impacts. Our results are clear and overarching that immigration does not lead to increases in crime in American metropolitan areas.