John Sides

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

Recent Articles

Is Obama More Popular Then He Should Be?

I tackle that question in a new post at 538. The analysis involves constructing a model of presidential approval from 1948-2008 and forecasting values for Obama. On average he is about nine points more popular than the model would predict. Out-of-sample predictions for Obama and past presidents are here (click to enlarge): Among these presidents, only Reagan and George W. Bush have actual first-term approval ratings that exceed their expected approval ratings at a level comparable to or great than Obama. If anyone wants to read the 538 post, which has more details, and leave me some reactions here, I’d be grateful. This analysis will hopefully be part of an initial chapter of the 2012 book , which will focus on the broader political and economic landscape leading up to the election.

GOP Unitymentum!

Following on this post , here is a tidbit from a new PPP poll: Romney’s seen a massive improvement in his personal favorability numbers over the last 2 months as GOP voters have unified around him. He’s gone from a -28 spread (29/57) up to a -12 one (39/51). Most of the improvement has come with Republicans, going from 43/41 to 67/22. His numbers with Democrats are steady and he’s seen a little bit of improvement with independents from 32/55 to 36/50, although he remains unpopular. The reason I keep harping on this is because party disunity is so frequently a news story, but party unity is by far the norm. In fact, one of the most venerable findings in the study of elections is that political campaigns consolidate the faithful, bringing wayward sheep back the flock, as it were. In one of the earliest quantitative studies of a presidential contest , The People’s Choice , authors Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet said this of the 1940 campaign: Knowing a few of their...

Who Is the Nate Silver of the 2012 Race?

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So asks Ben Jacobs at the Daily Beast . The profile is here . Josh’s blog is Frontloading Headquarters .

How I Think About Presidential Elections Forecasts

(Flickr / Derek A)
Nate Silver’s newest critique of presidential election forecasting models has been making the rounds. He was kind enough to publish my response to his critique late last week while I was traveling, so I want to highlight it now. The essence of my response is this: Undoubtedly these forecasting models could be improved in various ways. I agree with several of Nate’s specific criticisms. (Thus, contra Jon Bernstein , I don’t think I’m “giving the models a pass.”) The models—despite their limitations—rarely predict the wrong winner, so the lay consumer of these models will not be grossly misled most of the time. By lay consumer, I mean someone interested enough in politics to care who wins the presidential election, but not much interested in “mean squared error” and other commonplaces of the “nerdfight.” Most political science knowledge about the economy’s role in elections, the effect of campaigns, and voter behavior does not come from forecasting models. There is no easy way to...

Predicting the Supreme Court Vote

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This is from political scientist Michael Evans , and was originally posted to a law and courts listserv. I thank him for sending it along: ***** I was curious about the relative number of words directed at the two sides in yesterday’s oral argument and thought the results would be of interest here. For those not familiar with the research on this (see below), it has shown that Justices tend to direct more questions and words at the side they eventually vote against. (Questions and words are highly correlated, but I prefer words because questions are harder to define.) The theory is that Justices generally do not play “devil’s advocate”—asking questions to help the side they support—but, rather, attempt to expose what they see as the weaknesses of the other side’s arguments. This table shows the relative number of words uttered by each Justice to the two sides regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate under the commerce clause. As is typical, Thomas did not ask any...

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