John Sides

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

Recent Articles

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...

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...

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