The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

Forecasting Elections with Real-Time Economic Data

This post is jointly written with Anton Strezhnev , a very bright Georgetown undergraduate. One of the challenges in forecasting elections is that economic data are often inaccurate when first released. Some of the adjustments are substantial. Just to illustrate this point, the image below ( source ) shows the change from original issue to current estimate in a composite index of economic performance: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI). The magnitude of some of these adjustments could potentially affect forecasts in what the models predict to be a close election . Moreover, there is serial correlation in the direction of the errors. So, if you are rooting for Obama you may think that the more recent positive adjustments mean that Obama has a slightly better chance than the models predict. If you are a forecaster, the serial correlation may allow you to better predict adjusted values. Economists have long recognized that the use of real-time versus ex post adjusted values...

Rick Perry, the Good Old Days

With Rick Perry now in 4th place in GOP polls, I wanted to share this reminder of his glory days in Texas gubernatorial politics before it was too late. The attached radio ad comes from his 2006 reelection campaign against former congressman Chris Bell. Perry won 39%-30% (with two strong independent candidates, bizarrely including Kinky Friedman , garnering 30% of the vote between them.) Part of Perry’s theme: “this ain’t Taxachusetts!” It’s a negative ad—it’s called MrWayTooLiberal after all—but it’s funny. On purpose, unlike the Perry campaign this time around.

Will the Supreme Court Overturn Obamacare?

The Supreme Court has reinserted itself in the heart of domestic politics by agreeing to review the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). How is the Court likely to rule? Consider two scenarios. The first scenario relies on a prominent theory of judicial decision-making called the attitudinal model . It holds that justices are unconstrained policymakers. To predict and explain Court actions we simply need to figure out the policy implications of the legislation and justices policy preferences. The vote takes care of itself from that point. In our recently published book, The Constrained Court (you should buy it here —think holiday stocking stuffer), we use politicians’ positions on Court cases to “bridge” preference estimates making them comparable across Congress and the Supreme Court (see here for more details). Applying this technique to the PPACA we can estimate probability that each justice would vote to overturn the law if ideology were the only factor. Based on...

No no no no no

I enjoy the London Review of Books but I’m not a fan of their policy of hiring English people to write about U.S. politics. In theory it could work just fine but in practice there seem to be problems. Recall the notorious line from a couple years ago, “But viewed in retrospect, it is clear that it has been quite predictable.” More recently I noticed this , from John Lanchester: Republicans, egged on by their newly empowered Tea Party wing, didn’t take the deal, and forced the debate on raising the debt ceiling right to the edge of an unprecedented and globally catastrophic US default. The process ended with surrender on the part of President Obama and the Democrats. There is near unanimity among economists that the proposals in the agreed package will at best make recovery from the recession more difficult, and at worst may trigger a second, even more severe downturn. The disturbing thing about the whole process wasn’t so much that the Tea Partiers were irrational as that they were...

How to Become a Political Blogger

A new book by Tanni Haas interviews 20 political bloggers and gets their thoughts. Here is one from Tyler Cowen on how to have a successful blog: It needs to be updated regularly and to some extent be self-critical or self-reflective. And the person should read widely on the Web. That’s a requirement. There are some very smart bloggers who shall remain nameless. They don’t read other blogs or respond to them, and I find what they produce to be a little bit backwards. So it’s important to be on the frontier of the debate in the political blogosphere. And Matt Yglesias: It’s especially important, in terms of quality, to ask why people would be reading it. What do you know that other bloggers don’t know? What value is being provided? This is especially important if you’re new and don’t have an institution backing you. People are instinctively going to be a little bit wary. So you really have to find subjects you’re knowledgeable about, and deliver information that, if other people link...

Evidence Tampering

There’s apparently a meme developing in the early general election reporting that goes like this: I know Obama is in a difficult position heading into 2012, but I can’t just report on the poll numbers or the fact that everyone knows incumbents have a difficult time getting re-elected when the economy is doing poorly , so I’m going to seize on some piece of information that’s out of context to be “another sign” that Obama is in trouble. My post last week in regard to the AP’s claim about supposed fund raising problems for Obama was a good example of this type of reporting. Today’s nominee comes from Adam Nagourney’s NY Times article about the fact that college students who volunteered a tremendous amount of time to campaign for Obama in 2008 do not plan to devote the same amount of time to volunteering for him in 2012. How does he know this? By citing polls among college students in 2011 and comparing them to polls among college students in 2007? Of course not—he interviews a number of...

The Voting Paradox Explained! Why People Vote…

United Russia, Russia’s ruling party, saw its popularity drop by nine points this week and then released the following online add: The tag line? “Let’s Do it Together” [h/t to Brian Whitmore, Israel Marques, and Scott Gehlbach, who wants this to be immediately nominated for most unusual campaign advertisement .]

Speaking of Things that Aren’t Democratic…

Earlier this week, I raised the issue that there might be some tension between the sudden savior status of technocratic government and traditional notions of democratic accountability. Thus it was with great interest that I read the lead to the AP story on Italy’s likely incoming new – “TECHNOCRATIC” – Prime Minister, Mario Monti: Italy’s Senate approved crucial economic reforms demanded by the European Union on Friday, the first step in paving the way for Premier Silvio Berlusconi to resign as early as this weekend and a transitional government to be formed. The 156-12 vote took place after respected economist Mario Monti – widely expected to become the interim prime minister – was welcomed with applause in the Senate chamber, where he was officially designated senator for life . [emphasis added] It’s not enough he gets to head a government without winning an election—he needs to be senator for life as well?

Campaigns and Elections Text

Daron Shaw, Matt Grossmann, and Keena Lipsitz, and I have a newly published text on campaign and elections that might be of interest to some readers. It’s intended for classroom use and would, I think, be appropriate for advanced high school students or undergraduates. We tried in the book to do three things. First, we cover all sorts of campaigns—presidential, congressional, state, local. Second, although presenting a lot of political science evidence, we also discuss the actual nitty-gritty of canpaign strategy from the point of view of consultants and other campaign professionals. Third, we engage a lot of normative questions about campaigns, including debates over campaign finance, the Electoral College, and other topics. Accompanying the book are a host of ancillaries, such as group exercises, videos, instructor resources, and the like. The book is here (Norton) or here (Amazon). Apologies for the self-promotion!

Forecasting 2012: How much does ideology matter?

Brendan Nyhan and Jacob Montgomery talk sense here . I am perhaps too influenced by Steven Rosenstone’s 1983 book, Forecasting Presidential Elections, which is the first thing I read on the topic. In any case, I agree with Nyhan and Montgomery that the difference in vote, comparing a centrist candidate to an extreme candidate, is probably on the order of 1-2%, not the 4% that has been posited by some.

Why We Need More Polls

Elmo Roper , 1962: It may be human to err, but to err time and time again, in precisely the same way, is folly of divine dimensions. I am talking about journalists—when they tackle the job of predicting elections. Though their impressionistic predictions often land them in electoral soup, journalists keep on preferring the intuition of a backroom “political expert” to the full, exhaustive reporting of the public’s intentions by any source so dry and uninspiring as public-opinion polls. Journalists run about state or nation, talking to people, people, people everywhere in the dozens or even in the hundreds, ignoring the fact that scientific sampling procedures are available to determine which people should be chosen to represent the nation and that the results are available to all. From the Columbia Journalism Review . Seems crazy to think that we need more polls now. But then again, there is all this me-the-peopling .

How Violence in Mexico is Designed to Work

We are delighted to welcome back UCSD professor Barbara Walter and her colleague, professor Alberto Díaz-Cayeros . Professor Díaz-Cayeros is an expert on Mexico and professor Walter is an expert on insurgency. Below they combine their respective sources of expertise and analyze the violence in Mexico as a form of insurgency. ## President Obama and his Secretary of State had their first public disagreement last year – not over Iraq or Afghanistan, but Mexico. Hillary Clinton argued that Mexico was increasingly in the midst of an “insurgency.” President Obama argued that the drug killings in Mexico, whose numbers far exceed U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan, is not. That’s because the drug trade organizations (DTO’s) have only financial goals, not political ones. The Mexican government has consistently agreed with President Obama, repeatedly rejecting any suggestion that an insurgency is taking place. The violence in Mexico may not be a classic insurgency , but it is certainly being...

Potpourri

Shrinking the president . Amen. Critiquing the media critics . Most honest political ad ever . Liberals aren’t so bad at economics after all . How men can dance all sexy .

Public Opinion about Tax Expenditures vs. Government “Grants”

This is a guest post from my colleagues Brandon Bartels and Jake Haselswerdt , which is substantially more interesting than the title that I gave the post: In response to Suzanne Mettler’s post on Monday, commenter Josh asked for clarification regarding the importance of policy delivery mechanism (e.g., direct cash payment vs. tax break) to citizen understanding and support of government programs. As Mettler noted in her response, the focus of her and Guardino’s experiment is not the effect of the delivery mechanism but the ways in which providing additional information can impact citizens’ evaluations of indirect or “submerged” programs. In a new paper (available upon request) inspired in part by Mettler’s work, we tackle the effect of delivery mechanism directly with a survey experiment of our own. Our findings confirm that the way a policy is delivered to beneficiaries can have a profound impact on public support for that policy, and that this effect is conditioned by ideology. We...

This is confusing

Andrew Sullivan quotes Jon Huntsman, back in September, loving all over Captain Beefheart and specifically referring to Trout Mask Replica . Wow. That has to be the most non-mainstream musical identification (cf. party identification) ever given by a U.S. presidential candidate. And a Republican to boot. What’s the logic whereby you are willing to say that, but not to be the one guy to raise your hand in response to the question about whether you would accept a budget deal with a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases? You’ve already given up and figure what the hell? You don’t think this could ever feasibly be used against you in a future campaign? Despite seeming sane compared to some of your rivals, you actually do believe that it’s more important not to raise any taxes at all than to actually lower the deficit? Probably there’s just no logic or strategy going on here, but while I haven’t done a systematic study, my impression had been that presidential candidates are as...

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