Joshua Tucker

Joshua Tucker is a professor of Politics at New York University with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies and New York University-Abu Dhabi. His major field is comparative politics with an emphasis on mass politics, including elections and voting, the development of partisan attachment, public opinion formation, and, political protest.

Recent Articles

2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections

The following post-election report on the 2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections is provided by Harris Mylonas, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. (His pre-election report is available here.) His book, The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

This is a historic low for the two dominant parties ruling Greece since the collapse of the Junta in 1974, PASOK and Nea Demokratia.  Together they garnered only 33% of the vote. The result was hard to anticipate—especially the second place for the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA), with 16,77%. Less unexpected was the electoral success of Independent Hellenes (10,6%) on the right and Golden Dawn on the far right (7%). A coalition government seems highly unlikely at the moment if one considers tonight’s statements by party leaders. It is interesting to note that more than 19% (!) of the vote was garnered by parties that did not ultimately make it to the parliament. These include: Popular Orthodox Rally-LAOS, Democratic Alliance, DRASI (Action), Dimiourgia Xana (Recreate Greece), Social Agreement (Koinoniki Symfonia), and the Green Party (Oikologoi Prasinoi). Finally, 35% of the Greek electorate—more than 3 million people—did not go to vote. These people may now be regretting their choice to not participate.

There are many messages that one can draw. People voted against the two-party system—that can no longer fulfill its side of the “patronage contract”—and against austerity measures. Yet, they voted—at least nominally—in favor of a European future. Another thing that is apparent is that the current electoral law produces odd and hardly representative results. For instance New Democracy received 2 percentage points more than the Coalition of Radical Left but this difference resulted in 56 more seats for the former party. Moreover, as a result of fragmentation of the party system, parties that did not make it to the parliament have collectively received a higher percentage than the first party, which receives 108 seats!

The European leaders are numb and will probably wait and see whether a government can be formed before they react to the result. This electoral result was not really expected and it increases the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Eurozone since a stable government in Greece seems unlikely. If we combine the Greek result with Hollande’s victory in France—and the expected friction in Franco-German relations—the markets will most likely react negatively and remain volatile until things clear out.

Hamsters vs. Rabbits

We are pleased to welcome back Graeme Robertson, an Associate Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill and author of a 2010 Cambridge University Press book entitled The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes: Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia, with some observations on the run-up to the March 4, 2012 Russian presidential election.

While most political scientists in the US are marveling over Michigan and Rick Santorum gets laughs just for mentioning the words political science, some of us are entranced by another contest—hamsters versus rabbits. Hamsters, as we now know, not only store food in their cheeks but, in Russia at least, also like free elections. Rabbits, as the pro-Putin activists are being called, on the other hand, like stability, Vladimir Putin and driving in their underwear. The last two weeks have seen competing driving protests in Moscow (Saturday for Putin, Sunday against), some 100 000 rabbits gathering in the giant warren-like sports complex Luzhniki on February 23rd, or as we all know it Defender of the Fatherland Day, and hamsters creating a human chain around central Moscow.

Beyond the merits of the various protests, most of the commentary has focused on two classic issues: whose rallies are bigger, and whose are more authentic. While size clearly matters, authenticity is at least as important. Vladimir Putin was quick to allege that the State Department is behind the hamsters, and while this was perceived by many as a ridiculous charge, the charge had real resonance in Russia. More easily accepted in the West, were charges that the rabbits are inauthentic –paid or coerced students or employees of the Moscow city government. While there is almost certainly a lot of truth to charges that government resources and pressure have played a role in generating big crowds for Putin, it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that there are many real enthusiasts among the rabbits. Surveys taken in Moscow in advance of the Defender of the Fatherland Day festivities suggested roughly similar numbers of people planning to participate in pro and anti-Putin demonstrations. If the survey data are anything to go by, the fact that the pro-Putin rallies are generally larger indicates significant use of “administrative resources” to turn people out. On the other hand, there also seems about as much voluntary pro-Putin activity as anti-Putin activity. If true, in analyzing events in the streets around Russia, we neglect this real pro-Putin support at our peril, especially since, as the experts tell me, “one kick from a rabbit’s powerful back leg would kill a hamster.”

Voting Behavior of US Military Personnel

In a post earlier this week, I asked whether anyone had conducted research regarding the voting behavior of US military personnel. Major Jim Golby, an Instructor in the Department of Social Science at the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Stanford Ph.D., kindly sent along the following response. Please be aware that these views are Jim’s and do not reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

To my knowledge, there are no current polls about military preferences for the GOP candidates. There are a few unscientific polls done by a newspaper, The Military Times, that measure military approval of the president, but that is it. They show approval for president Obama within the military at around 25%.

I have done some research in this field, however [paper available here]. One of the main take-aways from my research is that Republican officers in the military and elite veterans are no different, on average, than Republican civilian elites once we control for demographic factors. Although my work focuses on senior officers and veterans, Jason Dempsey’s book, Our Army, and Jeremy Tiegen’s paper support this general claim for soldiers and veterans, respectively.

I find one exception, however: military officers are marginally more conservative than civilian Republicans on social issues. This may bode well for Santorum v. Romney, but there is no evidence suggesting that any GOP nominee would have trouble winning the ‘military vote’ since there really is no such thing. There are not many Democrats in the military and there are even fewer liberals in the ranks; in general, most Democrats in the military are moderate or conservative Democrats (especially in the higher ranks).

There is one other small point to note. Although Ron Paul’s campaign has claimed to have the overwhelming support of military personnel over the last few months, there is not much evidence to support that view at this point. The last time I checked on the FEC database, around 500 military folks (active duty and retired) had contributed a little over $100,000 to Paul’s campaign, out of approximately 22 million veterans and 1.5 million service members. Paul has, in fact, received more contributions from people associated with the military than have other GOP candidates, but those contributors are not necessarily representative of the military as a whole. The low levels of participation among members of the military seen here also is consistent with the research of my colleague here at West Point, Heidi Urben, who finds that – with the exception of voting – members of the Army participate in domestic politics at very low rates.

Sex Scandals and Race

With Herman Cain endorsing Newt Gingrich over the weekend, one can’t help but notice that one of these two had a sex scandal at least partially knock him out of the race, whereas the other one seems to have survived fairly widespread allegations of marital infidelity and kept on going.

While there are of course many differences between Cain’s and Gingrich’s purported affairs—one important one certainly being that Gingrich’s is old news whereas Cain’s was a more recent development—recently published research in the journal Political Behavior suggests another possible factor: the race of the candidates. In the previous US presidential election cycle, Adam Berinsky, Vincent Hutchings, Tali Mendelberg, Lee Shaker, and Nicholas Valentino conducted experiments to examine people’s reactions to stimuli suggesting that either Barack Obama or, ironically enough, John Edwards were potentially guilty of “sexual indiscretion” (p.185; see p.198-200 for actual cues). Here’s their summary of the article and its findings:

A growing body of work suggests that exposure to subtle racial cues prompts white voters to penalize black candidates, and that the effects of these cues may influence outcomes indirectly via perceptions of candidate ideology. We test hypotheses related to these ideas using two experiments based on national samples. In one experiment, we manipulated the race of a candidate (Barack Obama vs. John Edwards) accused of sexual impropriety. We found that while both candidates suffered from the accusation, the scandal led respondents to view Obama as more liberal than Edwards, especially among resentful and engaged whites. Second, overall evaluations of Obama declined more sharply than for Edwards. In the other experiment, we manipulated the explicitness of the scandal, and found that implicit cues were more damaging for Obama than explicit ones. (emphasis added)

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