The Russian invasion of Ukraine, not surprisingly, remains the top news story this week. That will likely be the case as long as the war and the devastation continue.
Still, there are stories on the domestic front that have also been making waves, both from a statistical angle and for their political implications.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis positions himself for 2024 run against Donald Trump
If we’ve learned anything from the last two presidential cycles, it’s that free media is worth a lot in presidential primaries. Trump got a historic amount of free media attention in 2016, and now-President Joe Biden led the pack for free media on the Democratic side during the 2020 primary season.
DeSantis seems like he’s the next major “free media” beneficiary. One of the few non-Ukraine news stories to break through in the last few weeks was the outcry over the new Florida legislation that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” (My colleague Zach Wolf has a strong article on what is actually in the bill and what it means.)
Indeed, DeSantis is continuing to lap other potential non-Trump 2024 candidates in Fox cable mentions. In about the last six months, “DeSantis” has been mentioned 920 to 950 times (depending on the day you start counting from), per the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive. “[Mike] Pence” and “[Ted] Cruz” have been mentioned about 900 times – combined.
The same was true nearly a year ago when I wrote “How the numbers show Ron DeSantis’ stock is rising.” It doesn’t hurt DeSantis that the bill that recently passed in Florida is popular among Republicans, both in-state and nationally, and that he is a strong favorite for reelection as governor this year.
The idea behind my piece in 2021 was that DeSantis should be considered a Republican front-runner for 2024, if Trump decided not to run.
At this point, I think we can replace “a” with “the” in that last sentence. To be sure, Trump is the favorite for the GOP nomination in 2024 if he runs, but DeSantis is clearly the next most likely nominee.
The Florida governor is second in pretty much every national 2024 GOP primary poll that includes Trump as an option. He’s also the only other Republican to almost always crack double digits in these polls.
When Trump is not included, DeSantis has the advantage in nearly every survey, usually polling in the mid-20s. That’s quite similar to where Biden was in early 2020 Democratic primary polls. It’s an enviable, though not infallible, position.
DeSantis is polling this well despite not being as well known to voters as Trump and Biden. Nearly 40% of Republicans had no opinion of DeSantis, a January Marquette University Law School poll found.
But while Trump had a higher favorability rating among Republicans than DeSantis (74% versus 52%), DeSantis’ favorability rating among Republicans who were knowledgeable enough to have an opinion was higher than Trump’s (about 83% to about 75%).
Indeed, the governor is in a much stronger position in the one place where voters know both DeSantis and Trump well – Florida. DeSantis and Trump are within single digits of each other in an average of polls for a hypothetical 2024 primary in the Sunshine State. Trump calls Florida home now, and he easily won the 2016 Republican primary there over home-state Sen. Marco Rubio.
We’ll have to see what happens once Republicans nationwide know DeSantis as well as Republicans in Florida do.
Violent crime continues to rise in major cities
Another story that garnered major headlines this week was about a man who senselessly shot homeless people in New York and Washington, DC. While a suspect is under arrest, the fact is that crime continues to be an issue in American cities.
Violent crime rose during the coronavirus pandemic in many American cities. Although we don’t know exactly why, it’s notable that this increase happened just when daily life was interrupted.
This year, the pandemic has been less of an issue, but rates of violent crime still seem to be rising in the biggest American cities.
In New York, the number of complaints for violent crime is up 27% from this point last year.
In Los Angeles, it’s up 5% from this time last year.
And in Chicago, complaints of violent crime are up 9% from last year.
All three cities have seen similar (in the case of Los Angeles) or larger (45% in New York and 34% in Chicago) increases in their overall crime rates within the past year.
The good news from the stats is that the murder (or homicide) rate does seem to be down in all three cities. Unfortunately, the murder rate tells only part of the story.
The higher crime rate in these cities is getting people’s attention. A record percentage of New York City voters (74%) said crime was a very serious problem, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. It ranked as the top issue facing the city, the poll found.
In Washington, (where violent crime is up 20% and overall crime is up 9% from this point last year), 36% of residents said the No. 1 problem facing the city that they wanted the mayor to solve was crime, violence or guns, per a recent Washington Post poll. No other issue mentioned by DC residents as the biggest problem got more than 14% in the survey.
We’ll see if this eventually translates into crime becoming a bigger national story. As I pointed out in January, it hasn’t yet.
For your brief encounters: No one wants to hear about your NCAA bracket
On the lighter side of the news, you may be watching or about to watch an NCAA basketball tournament game. If you have any interest in the topic, I’d suggest you check out my piece on the tournament, how much work productivity is lost during March Madness and the chances of Duke losing.
One thing I will point out is that only about 15% of Americans even fill out college basketball brackets every year. Given that low percentage, I can assure you that no one really wants to hear how good or bad you’re doing at predicting results.
Question of the week: Are you more excited for the NCAA tournament or for the start of Major League Baseball in April? Tell us about it here, and we’ll report the results next week.
Most of you were in favor of making daylight saving time permanent. For instance, Chris Peterson tweeted, “Daylight Saving time all year, but time zones should shift east by several hundred miles to ensure sunrise times in winter are within a reasonable window.”
A vocal minority were in favor of keeping standard time all year round. “It’s the natural time, defined by the sun and longitude. Why fight nature instead of working with it?” tweeted Kristen Tullo.
And Mark Pritchard came in with this novel idea: “What we need is Weekend Savings Time. Clocks move forward one hour every Friday at 4 pm: suddenly it’s 5 pm and the weekend! Clocks move back every Sunday night: now you have an extra hour of sleep before Monday.”
Little did I know then that the US Senate would hear your calls and vote by unanimous consent to make daylight saving time a year-round affair. We’ll see what the House and Biden do about it.
Sleep problems: Having trouble sleeping? If so, you’re not alone. A mere 32% of American adults said they had slept excellent or very good the previous night, according to a new Gallup poll. That compares with 33% who reported “fair” or “poor” sleep. (The rest said “good.”) More Americans under age 50 (38%) said they had slept fairly or poorly than those 65 and older (24%).
Masks at work: Just 39% of American workers said their workplaces had mask mandates last week, per an Axios/Ipsos poll. At no other time since the question was first asked in August 2021 had that percentage fallen below a majority. This comes as Covid-19 rates are rising in Europe and signs emerge of the potential for similar spikes in parts of the US.
French presidential election: Last week, I noted that Biden seemed to be benefiting from a bit of a “rally around the flag” effect following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One politician who is definitely receiving a bounce in his ratings is French President Emmanuel Macron. He faces reelection in about three weeks, and polls now show him over 30% in the first round, well ahead of the competition. As long as he finishes in the top two ahead of a likely runoff, Macron will be a heavy favorite for a second term.