John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University.

Recent Articles

What About Today's Election Would Prove Me Wrong?

This post was originally published at The Monkey Cage . To date, I haven’t made a formal forecast of the presidential election (though I will below). But I want to answer the question in the title of this post first, because it’s one that isn’t asked (or answered) enough. Political science is more often about testing theories and explanation than forecasting the future per se. So when I think about today’s race, I am first and foremost interested in updating how I view key theories, as opposed to whether any particular forecasting model, “mine” or anyone else’s , is “right” (more on that below too). One interesting question is what today's outcome will say about the role of “fundamentals,” such as the economy, in presidential elections. Such factors are not the sole determinant of election outcomes, but they do shape whether candidates enter the race, how they campaign, and who wins. On balance, I have argued that the sum total of economic fundamentals favor Obama. If he loses, then I...

Arlen Specter's Guide to Party-Switching

This is a guest post by Kevin A. Evans , Rolfe D. Peterson , and Nathan J. Hadley . ***** In 2009, Arlen Specter left his political party and made headlines, enemies, and a few friends in the process. He serves as a cautionary tale to those thinking about jumping ship; Specter did not make it past his primary. Our research ( gated ; earlier ungated version ) helps to illuminate why the election after a switch is an uphill battle. Following a party switch, the incumbent attempts to frame the decision as one based on ideology (principles). Specter claimed the Republican Party had moved “far to the right.” By contrast, opponents and the media tend to focus on electoral motivations (opportunism). For example, Representative Joe Sestak’s ad showcased Specter’s own off-hand, and somewhat out-of-context, remark that he switched “in order to get re-elected.” With these two competing narratives so apparent, we conducted a survey of registered voters in western Pennsylvania—run by the...

Puncturing Myths about the White Working Class

A new survey and report from the Public Religion and Research Institute—entitled “Beyond God and Guns”—is a valuable corrective to so many stereotypes of the white working class. Particularly noteworthy in this report are the large and important differences within the white working class—by age, region, gender, and party, to name a few. For example, consider this: In mid-August, Romney held a commanding 40-point lead over Obama among white working-class voters in the South (62% vs. 22%). However, neither candidate held a statistically significant lead among white working-class voters in the West (46% Romney vs. 41% Obama), Northeast (42% Romney vs. 38% Obama), or the Midwest (36% Romney vs. 44% Obama). The report amplifies some of the findings I discussed in my “zombie” post —not only how different the white working class is within and outside the South, but how much more social issues affect the political choices of the white college-educated more than the white working class. Along...

Science Confirms that Mitt Is Really, Really Good-Looking

Harvard University political science Ryan Enos reports some important findings: Mitt Romney is better looking than almost everyone reading this blog. Back in 2008, I wrote about how Sarah Palin’s looks put her in the 95th percentile of politicians. Romney has even Palin beat—he scores above the 99th percentile. These results come from a study with my colleagues Matthew Atkinson and Seth Hill , in which we developed a method for obtaining the ratings of the facial competence of governor and Senate candidates from 1994 to 2006 by showing the images of these candidates to undergraduate students for 1 second, as pioneered by Alex Todorov . In 2007, when we collected this data, we removed highly-recognizable candidates so that opinions about the candidates, other than their appearance, would not affect the ratings. However, as with Palin, we are fortunate that Romney was a relative unknown at the time (at least to the undergraduates in California that we used), so we obtained a rating of...

Who's Running in 2016?

A reporter asks: In advance of the Dem convention next week, I’m working on a piece about the 2016 presidential candidate “bench,” for lack of a better term. It seems that plenty of Republicans are mentioned as potential candidates in 4 years: Christie, Daniels, Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush… even Nikki Haley and Rand Paul. It seems far fewer Democrats are on the bench… there’s always Hillary, and some talk about Martin O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo, but I don’t hear too many more. The story would focus on that disparity, and whether the Democratic party needs to use its convention to introduce new faces. Is it natural that there is less focus on the “bench” when the party is in power, i.e., President Obama and the Dems right now? My response went like this. This is a really questionable moment at which to evaluate the party’s benches. We’ve just gotten a chance to see all the GOP faces, but not the Democratic faces. Who knows what will happen at the Democratic convention? I would wait...

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