The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

How Iowa Matters for NH

My newest post at 538 looks at how beating expectations in Iowa drives media attention to candidates, which in turn helps them in New Hampshire. Here’s the graph:  More at the post.

Romney ’08 vs. Romney ’12: Not the Same Voters

This is a guest post from Tobin Grant : Most early analysis noted that Romney received around the same percentage of the caucus vote and number of votes as he did four years ago. During the punditry last night, some even suggested that Romney attracted the same voters except those that died in the interim. Polling results further suggested that the Republican electorate was very similar to four years ago and that Romney did about the same in the major demographic groups as he did in 2008 (see here and here for examples). Entrance polls are only one way to slice the results, however. Another is to look at the geography of the contest. A comparison of the county results shows that counties that backed Romney in 2008 did so again in 2012, but the results from the two contests are correlated at only 0.69—positive but relatively low for aggregate data like this. More puzzling: At the county level, Romney received only 55 percent of the vote percentages in ‘12 that he did in ‘08. How, then...

When it rains, it pours: More on the Senate

The Forum’ s December issue, Governing through the Senate , is now available on-line. It offers eleven short, accessible pieces on the state of the Senate. An overview of the issue appears below: The Senate is often the institutional pivot for political conflict in the United States, so this issue of The Forum focuses on ‘governing through the Senate’. Charles O. Jones considers its inherent peculiarities as the institution meant to ‘go second’ in a separated system; Sarah Binder argues that the modern Senate is moving away from its constitutional role; Frances Lee considers the role of party competition in shaping senatorial behavior; Barry Burden asks about the influence of senatorial polarization and party balance within the bicameral context; and Daniel DiSalvo contrasts partisan polarization with divided government as influences on senatorial behavior. Randall Strahan observes one particular senator negotiating this complicated framework; Wendy Schiller and Jennifer Cassidy...

Is the president playing fair during recess? The Cordray appointment

President Obama today will give a recess appointment to Richard Cordray to serve as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established under Dodd-Frank. With Senate Republicans vowing to oppose any nominee absent structural reform of the CFPB , a Republican filibuster last month blocked the Senate from securing cloture on Cordray’s nomination. Because recess appointments last until the end of the “next session,” Cordray’s appointment would last until the end of 2013. Republicans immediately cried foul, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell arguing that the recess appointment “threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.” Speaker John Boehner called the move a “power grab,” and McConnell warned that the move took the White House into “uncertain legal territory.” Republican consternation stems from the nature of the intra-session recess during which the president...

The Santorum Surge

The Pizza Ranch in Altoona, Iowa sits amidst a long series of strip malls. At 5 pm on Caucus Eve, and hour before Santorum appears, Carl Cameron is the first person you encounter inside—deeply tanned with pancake make-up, talking seriously into his microphone. The second is a man selling Santorum buttons. 3 for $10. It’s early, and there are more reporters than Santorum supporters. A room has been set aside for his remarks. Over the doorway to this room is a sign indigenous to the Pizza Ranch: “Faith, Family, Friends.” No apparent relation to Santorum’s “ Faith, Family, and Freedom Tour .” The Pizza Ranch does indeed have a ranch-y decor: rusted tractor seats and farm tools, pictures of John Wayne. Incongruously, the rustic vibe is interrupted by the world’s most sophisticated soda fountain, with a touch-screen screen, 20 different Coca-Cola products, and the ability to include shots of lime, orange, vanilla, cherry, and cherry vanilla. This makes up for the salad bar, which includes...

The Representativeness of Iowa Caucusgoers

I am here in Iowa with Lynn Vavreck . I’ll have more to report on our minor adventures later. But before the caucus takes place, it’s important to address a perennial concern: the unrepresentativeness of people who attend the caucus. This is a familiar refrain that typically involves claims about the high costs the caucus imposes on voters, the resulting low turnout, the domination by activists, etc. Of course the caucus isn’t the least costly way to structure an election and caucusgoers are not a perfect random sample of the electorate. But claims about the unrepresentativeness of caucusgoers are generally overstated. (As are concerns about the unrepresentativeness of Iowa, but that’s another post. See here for a link to one piece of useful research, however.) Here is some relevant data from a new and important book about the Iowa caucus, Why Iowa? , by political scientists David Redlawsk , Caroline Tolbert , and Todd Donovan . Turnout in the Iowa caucus is low as a share of the...

Public Opinion Polling before the Internment of Japanese-Americans

Soon after Pearl Harbor, acting under political pressure and without time to design and pre-test a survey, interviewers from the Agriculture Department’s Program Surveys spoke to people in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and California’s Imperial Valley. These “preliminary impressions” found a range of views toward Japanese-Americans, with more negative opinions in rural areas, among Filipinos and people who worked with them “or in competition with them.” While distinguishing between particular individuals and the group, there was “a feeling that all should be watched, until we know which are disloyal, but a tendency to feel that most are loyal – if we could be sure which.” These findings, including political and economic considerations, were presented to high-level government officials and were part of the discussions underlying the deportations. In a late January 1943 meeting where the data were discussed, Secretary of Agriculture Wickard “emphasized the political aspects of...

Is “Academically Adrift” statistically adrift?

Jacob Felson points me to this discussion by Alexander Astin of a recent book on college education: The implications of the study recently released with the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, have been portrayed . . . in apocalyptic terms: “extremely devastating in what it says about American higher education today” . . . The principal finding giving rise to such opinions is the claim that 45 percent of the more than 2,000 students tested in the study failed to show significant gains in reasoning and writing skills during their freshman and sophomore years. Astin continues: It is not my custom to offer technical critiques of other researchers’ work in a public forum, but the fact that this 45-percent conclusion is well on its way to becoming part of the folklore about American higher education prompts me to write. . . . The method used to determine whether a student’s sophomore score was “significantly” better than his or...

How to Parent Like a Social Scientist

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Tea Party Analysis Analysis Fail

at Esquire magazine I respect any reporters who go out and do the work of actually talking to ordinary people, and I especially respect any political reporters who do so, because too much of our elite political reporting takes place within the self-contained Beltway terrarium of politicians, consultants, think-tankers, and other relatively useless fauna. And I have no doubt that the people to whom Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson spoke said the things they are reported to have said, and that they think the things they are reported to think. When you’re complaining that someone on the Internets is wrong, wrong, wrong, it’s usually a good idea to try for accuracy yourself. And Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson are not, by any stretch of the imagination, reporters, let alone political reporters. A hint for Mr. Pierce – you can find out a lot by actually reading someone’s book. For example, valuable information about a book’s authors is very often to be found on the back cover (...

Chris Schmid on Evidence Based Medicine

Chris Schmid is a statistician at New England Medical Center who is an expert on evidence-based medicine. I invited him to present an introductory overview lecture on the topic at last year’s Joint Statistical Meetings, and here are his slides . All 123 of them. I don’t know how he expected to go though all of these in an hour. You could teach a semester-long course based on this material. Good stuff, I recommend you all read it. I’m posting this here because (a) medicine is important in its own right, and (b) the principles of evidence-based medicine also apply to public policy.

We Really Don’t Have Anti-Incumbent Elections

A few weeks ago, I was dubious about 2012 as an “anti-incumbent” election. Alan Abramowitz brings some better data to bear: The graph shows that when congressional incumbents lose, they tend to be mostly from one party. There are really no elections in which large numbers of incumbents from both parties are defeated.

Below the Surface, Surprising Trust in Government

This post is coauthored with my Vanderbilt colleague Marc Hetherington : The politics of 2011 have been dominated by the fruitless search for a “grand bargain” to rein in the federal budget deficit, primarily by curtailing government spending. Much of the surface appeal of budget-cutting stems from a belief that citizens have become so disenchanted with their government that they will tolerate, and perhaps even embrace, having it do less. A recent New York Times poll found “Americans’ distrust of government at its highest level ever,” with only 10% saying they trusted the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time or always. The corresponding figure when Lyndon Johnson was president was around 70%. The erosion of public trust in government is both real and politically consequential . However, the politics of deficit reduction may hinge less on Americans’ attitudes about government in the abstract than on their attitudes about the specific agencies and activities...

Using Social Media to Measure Conflict in the Gaza Strip

Using a novel data set of hourly dyadic conflict intensity scores drawn from Twitter and other social media sources during the Gaza Conflict (2008–2009), the author attempts to fill a gap in existing studies. The author…measure(s) changes in Israel’s and Hamas’s military response dynamics immediately following two important junctures in the conflict: the introduction of Israeli ground troops and the UN Security Council vote. The author finds that both Hamas’s and Israel’s response to provocations by the other side increase (both by about twofold) immediately after the ground invasion, but following the UN Security Council vote, Israel’s response is cut in half, while Hamas’s slightly increases. This new article, by political scientist Thomas Zeitzoff, is here (gated). Here is an earlier working paper version, and a related post by Drew Conway.