John Sides

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

Recent Articles

Ryan the Bipartisan?

Jordan Ragusa : So this campaign of late to make Paul Ryan seem like a moderate, bipartisan guy who works with Democrats is just wrong. The claim that Ryan “works with Democrats about as often as any Republican” is technically true, but very misleading. But the important point is that the problem isn’t Paul Ryan , the problem is that the two parties (especially Republicans in the House ) are so highly polarized that the average Democrat and Republican hardly ever works with his or her rivals. Being “typical” in a polarized Congress does not make one a moderate.

Are Racists Only in One Political Party?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Alex Tabarrok quotes MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other. He then summarizes several survey items and finds that both Democrats and Republicans express attitudes that are not favorable to blacks. He concludes: It is undeniable that some Americans are racist but racists split about evenly across the parties. No party has a monopoly on racists. I think Tabarrok’s conclusion is closer to the truth that Hayes’s statement. Let me see if I can elaborate this issue in some useful ways. As a measure of racism—and by no means a perfect one—I will use two different items from the 2008 American National Election Study . Respondents were asked to evaluate whites, blacks, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans on two scales. Each scale was numbered 1 to 7. At one end was the word “intelligent” or “hardworking.” At the other end was “unintelligent” or “lazy.” Respondents gave their answers to these...

Is Paul Ryan the Most Conservative Vice-Presidential Nominee of All Time?

(Flickr/wallyg)
This is a guest post from University of California, Berkeley political scientist Eric Schickler . ***** There are many good things about journalists and other political observers using concepts and measures from political science as they analyze contemporary politics. But an example this weekend from Nate Silver, the excellent analyst of polls and related matters, offers a cautionary lesson. Silver uses NOMINATE scores to argue that Paul Ryan “is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” Ryan may well be the most conservative Vice Presidential nominee in decades, but the NOMINATE methodology is not suited to making claims about the relative liberalism or conservatism of politicians over the long time span invoked by Silver. An obvious problem is that the scores are comparing Ryan to Republican...

Why Campaign Finance Reform Is Hard

From a new Washington Post -Pew poll : So, 65 percent have heard little or nothing about campaign spending by outside groups, 75 percent think the effect of this spending will be neutral or have no opinion about its effect, 69 percent do not think it will help one candidate more than the other or have no opinion about this, and 60 percent cannot identify what a super PAC is. These sorts of findings are one reason why, despite Americans’ distaste for money in politics, the public rarely provides much impetus for campaign finance reform.

The Declining Culture of Guns

This is a guest post by political scientist Patrick Egan . The massacre unleashed by James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado shortly after midnight on Friday is a tragedy of national proportions. Like other mass shootings before it—Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007 come to mind—it leaves us desperate for explanations in its wake. There are those who blame our nation’s relative paucity of gun control laws and others decrying the power of the gun lobby. Cultural explanations abound, too. On the right, one Congressman has pinned the blame on long-term national cultural decline. On the left, fingers are pointed at America’s “gun-crazy” culture. But as pundits and politicians react, they would do well to keep in mind two fundamental trends about violence and guns in America that are going unmentioned in the reporting on Aurora. First, we are a less violent nation now than we’ve been in over forty years . In 2010, violent crime rates hit a low not seen since 1972; murder rates sunk to...

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