John Sides

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

Recent Articles

Journos v. Political Scientists

Carlisle Rainey discusses a potential reason political scientists and political reporters have different views of campaign effects: they use different underlying counterfactuals, in two senses: First, political scientists tend to discuss the effects of small changes in campaigns, while journalists tend to imagine big changes. Second, political scientists construct counterfactuals in which campaigns are responding to each other and cancelling out, while journalists tend to hold one campaign constant and vary the other. The first means that political scientists imagine a world in which, say, a candidate did not commit a gaffe or air a particular ad, but journalists imagine a world in which that candidate did not campaign at all. The latter counterfactual leads journalists to infer big effects but the former leads political scientists to infer small effects. I disagree with this characterization, because I don’t think it accurately represents the thinking of journalists. I think...

Obama's Lackluster Storytime

(Flickr / Daniel Ogren)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down with CBS News’ Charlie Rose for an exclusive interview that will air on CBS Sunday Morning . In the interview, Obama was pressed by Rose to describe what he thinks has been the biggest mistake of his presidency. The president replied that he thought he got the policies correct, but his salesmanship was lacking. Specifically, Obama said: When I think about what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well. The mistake of my first term—couple of years—was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times (Via Mediaite ). Zach Beauchamp suggested a post on this, implying facetiously that Obama’s comments vindicate Drew Westen’s argument . Of course—given my previous posts —I think Obama’s comments better reflect how easy it is...

Has Anthony Kennedy Moved to the Right?

This is a guest post by Michael Bailey . See also his earlier post on the ACA decision. ***** Has Justice Kennedy moved dramatically to the right? Many believe so and Kennedy’s behavior on the health care case certainly reinforces this view. I want to express a bit of skepticism about such claims. First, these claims rest on justice ideology scores developed by Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn. But these scores aren’t great at tracking preference change over time. As the figure below shows, their method implies that the Court reached a conservative peak in the early 1970s, a time when the Court was creating constitutional rights to abortion and against the death penalty. Quinn has (with Dan Ho) expressed concerns about using these scores to compare preferences over time and I agree . Second, it’s not clear to me where the apparent shift to the right is coming from. The Court is not ruling in a “conservative” direction more often, as the graph above demonstrates. (There are questions...

The Gallup Pro-Choice Number

A new Gallup poll shows that the percent of Americans calling themselves pro-choice has fallen to 41 percent. In 2008, when that number hit 42 percent, there was a predictable flurry of news attention. So I want to call attention to what I wrote then . In short, this “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” question obscures the true nature of American attitudes toward abortion. Support for the right to abortion depends strongly on the circumstances of the pregnancy. They cannot be summarized with the labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Moreover, and most importantly, more nuanced measures show little of the fluctuation that Gallup’s pro-choice vs. pro-life measure shows. Indeed Gallup’s new poll confirms this finding: However, it is notable that while Americans’ labeling of their position has changed, their fundamental views on the issue have not.

The Health Reform Battle Will Go On

This is a guest post from Eric M. Patashnik and Jeffery Jenkins. Patashnik is professor of public policy and politics in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. Jenkins is associate professor of politics and a faculty associate of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. They are the coeditors of Living Legislation: Durability, Change and the Politics of American Lawmaking . ***** The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in June. If Intrade is right, there is about a 60 percent chance that the individual mandate will be found unconstitutional. But suppose the smart money is wrong and the mandate is upheld. Will the Affordable Care Act then be completely secure? Not necessarily. While a Supreme Court victory would be a huge legal victory for the Obama Administration, the main impact of the Court’s decision will be to shape the political ground on which the health...