John Sides

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

Recent Articles

Facts On Your Sideline

Felix Salmon has a gracious reply to my earlier post : Apologies to John Sides and Jack Citrin for dismissing their science out of hand on my Tumblr: they really are careful and sophisticated researchers, and Sides is well within his rights to give me a good slap . He then goes on to clarify his thoughts. He points out some additional aspects of “numeracy” that often people cannot achieve. For example: And more generally, numeracy is about much more than estimating proportions and percentages. It’s about comfort with numbers and number lines, and having an intuitive feel for how they work. I agree. He also continues to argue that, despite my “carefully chosen counter-examples,” there is still reason to think that opinions resist facts: The general public doesn’t want its mind changed, and any changes which do happen are always going to happen slowly. Which is why presidential debates are almost never about who won the argument on any particular point, much as people like myself would...

2012 Election Fundamentals Watch

From Gallup : As we’ve noted on the blog many, many times, the most important predictor of presidential election outcomes is the trend in key economic indicators in the year before the election. Although Americans hardly see the economy as healthy, the trend from September into now is the best news Barack Obama could hope for. Now he just needs to hope it continues.

Why Romney Doesn't Care About His Margin of Victory

Alex Lundry and I have a new post at Model Politics that repeats a version of our earlier experiment . We again randomly assigned survey respondents to see information about how likely each Republican candidate is to win the nomination, win the general election, or both. Just as in our earlier study, this information makes a big difference. In particular, it helps Romney—the candidate most likely to win the nomination (by a large margin) and who currently polls best against Barack Obama. So as the New Hampshire results and later results convey similar information to voters, expect the Romney bandwagon to grow. Commentators have consistently underestimated Romney’s appeal within the party. But as I said in my post yesterday, a lot of people who aren’t currently supporting Romney aren’t necessarily opposed to him. Lynn Vavreck and I talked to several voters in Iowa who said exactly this: although they supported another candidate—and even a quite consevative candidate like Santorum or...

Beware the New Hampshire Expectations Game

Brendan Nyhan: However, journalists often exaggerate the effects of supposed over- or underperformance, in part by treating the conventional wisdom about how a candidate performed relative to expectations as some sort of objective fact rather than a social construction. (Note, for instance, how DiStaso’s report takes these expectations as given rather than attributing them to a source.) It’s particularly important to consider just how arbitrary the “expectations” that the media place on candidates can be. DiStaso asserts that if Romney does not win by 10 percentage points or more, it’s a “wide open race.” So if Romney wins by 9.9 points, the race is “wide open,” but if he wins by 10.1 points, it’s all over? The inevitability of Mitt Romney doesn’t seem much like of a storyline. But it is. Just a few weeks ago, and even after Iowa, it was all about how he couldn’t break 25%. Here’s Frank Rich , for example. Now he’s already broken that threshold . Part of that is bandwagoning, as Alex...

Americans and Innumeracy

In the Wall Street Journal , Carl Bialik mentions some of my research with Jack Citrin in a piece called “Americans Stumble on Math of Big Issues”: Political scientists John Sides of George Washington University and Jack Citrin of the University of California, Berkeley, hypothesized in a working paper that supplying Americans, who typically overestimate the number of immigrants and illegal immigrants among them, with correct numbers would reduce the perceived threat of immigration and change their views. Instead, getting the right number reinforced their views, and even increased their support for letting fewer immigrants into the U.S. There’s a lot of political science research cited in the piece—including some by James Kuklinski, Arthur Lupia, and others. However, the quote above prompts Felix Salmon to write : Which only goes to prove how out-of-touch political scientists can be. Not only are people naturally innumerate, but more generally you can’t argue people out of positions...