The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

One man’s outlier is another man’s high-leverage case

Nate Silver, over at fivethirtyeight , objects to the conventional wisdom that Herman Cain, despite his place in the polls, has little chance of becoming the Republican presidential nominee. That wisdom, consistent in this case with our book, The Party Decides , is that that Cain may have some appeal with some elements of the party, but he is not broadly appealing among political leaders, and so the party leaders will find a way to nominate someone else. Cain is an outlier, in that his poll performance is high, but his ranking on various non-poll measures, such as support from political insiders, is low. Silver presents a great graph showing the relationship, using a new measure. Since these various measures of candidate strength are highly correlated, Cain is unusual. If you wanted to predict his poll position from his non-poll strength, you’d miss. (Although notice that this poll of political insiders shows more favorable attitudes toward Cain than a lot of other conventional wisdom...

Hack pollster Doug Schoen misrepresents his own poll

In the Wall Street Journal , of all places! What happened? They couldn’t get John Yoo to write something on short notice?

Art Buchwald must be spinning in his grave

From the Washington Post: (link from here ) As Jay Livingston points out , the Post’s lolcat is not only ridiculous on its own, it also doesn’t fit with the first paragraph of the news story.

The Campaign Fallacy

In his most recent New York Times column , David Brooks falls into a common trap of political reporting, mixing concerns of policy and campaigning. Brooks writes: Democrats can win elections in this climate if they defuse the Big Government/Small Government ideological debate. With his Third Way approach, Bill Clinton established that he was not a Big Government liberal. Once he crossed that threshold, he could get voters to think about his individual policies, which were actually quite popular. What wins elections? To answer this question, I start with political scientist Steven Rosenstone’s 1983 book, Forecasting Presidential Elections. There’s been a lot of research on the topic since then, but Rosenstone’s basic findings remain. The #1 thing the incumbent party’s candidate wants is strong economic growth in the year leading up to the election. Beyond this, it helps to be ideologically moderate. So yes, we have every reason to believe that Clinton’s moderation won him votes, but...

Ethical Challenges of Embedded Experimentation

Continuing our series of articles from the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Democratization Section , Newsletter, today we present the following article on the “Ethical Challenges of Embedded Experimentation” by Macartan Humphreys of Columbia University. Since posting the first article from the newsletter on Monday, I have subsequently learned that the entire newsletter is free and publicly available on the website of National Endowment for Democracy . So you can find the entire Humphreys article there in .pdf format, as well as all the other articles in the newsletter. Humphreys’ piece is part of a symposium in the newsletter on the use of experiments in studying democratization. ******************** Introduction Consider a dilemma. You are collaborating with an organization that is sponsoring ads to inform voters of corrupt practices by politicians in a random sample of constituencies. The campaign is typical of ones run by activist NGOs and no consent is sought...

GOP Insiders Seemingly Confident in Herman Cain’s Viability

I am fascinated by this result from the latest HuffPo-Patch poll of Republican party elites in the early primary and caucus states: Nearly three-fourths, 74%, of these party insiders believe that “can beat Obama” describes Cain “very well” or “somewhat well.” That’s more confidence than I would expect. I would be interested to know why these insiders see him as so viable. Given the economic headwinds that Obama faces, there are probably many GOP candidates or non-candidates who could beat him—including, I think, Romney, Perry, Christie, Huntsman, Daniels, Thune, Pawlenty, and others. All you need is some modicum of political experience, a likable enough personality, issue positions that you can massage as needed for your primary and general election audiences, and a minimum of outright wackiness. (And even issue positions that are tougher to massage may not matter much if the economy dominates all other issues.) These qualities typically combine to make a viable candidate who in turn...

David Karol and Hans Noel

We’re very pleased to welcome David Karol and Hans Noel as occasional contributors. They have appeared on this blog on and off (e.g., here or here ), and I have cited their book on the presidential nominations process, The Party Decides , several times. They will be blogging about the election and anything else that catches their fancy. We’re glad to have them aboard.

All that you ever wanted to know about the political economy of small businesses in Italy, but were afraid to ask (and much, much more)

Matt Yglesias and Tyler Cowen argue that Italy’s economic problems have a lot to do with the country’s reliance on small businesses. Matt: Jared Bernstein cautions against the over-lionization of small businesses in the New York Times. I agree. The best evidence for skepticism continues, I think, to me the fact that if small firms were so fantastic Italy and Greece would be the economic superstars of the western world … you can have an economy like Italy’s with lots of barriers to competition so that poorly managed firms stay in business with low productivity Tyler: A good introduction to the bright side of Italy’s economy is Michael Porter’s 1998 The Competitive Advantage of Nations; Porter portrays Italy as having some vital clusters of family-owned businesses, largely in the North. Do you want your kitchen redone with some nice marble tile? Italy can supply just the right stuff. This neat graph shows just how much Italy has specialized in small business. Perhaps therein lies the...

Tunisia Post-Election Report II: Free Fair and Meaningful

Continuing our series of election reports , we present a second post-election report on Sunday’s historic Tunisian elections from Professor Jason Brownlee of the University of Texas, Austin, the author of Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization . Brownlee, who was in Tunisia observing the elections, is currently co-authoring, with Andrew Reynolds and Tarek Masoud , a book that connects the Arab Spring to scholarship on revolutions, transitions from authoritarianism, and constitutional design. ************ On January 14, 2011 Tunisians ended the twenty-three year dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and launched the Arab Spring. Their accomplishment on Sunday, October 23 capped the “Jasmine Revolution” and upped the ante for fellow Arabs aspiring to follow Tunisia’s example. Under rigorous supervision by the country’s higher electoral commission, voters in the semi-prosperous North African state thronged to the polls and curtailed the authoritarianism that had...

Switzerland Post-Election Report: 2011 Parliamentary Elections

In our continuing series of election reports , we are pleased to welcome the following post-election report on Sunday’s Swiss Parliamentary election from Sean Müller and Paolo Dardanelli , both of the University of Kent . [NOTE: An incorrect, slightly different version of this post was originally posted. This version now reflects the correct version. Apologies – JT.] ************** Swiss federal elections rarely produce dramatic results but, by the country’s standards, this one was more momentous than most. Some of the major trends that have shaped Swiss politics over the last 20 years appear to have come to an end and a significant change of direction is in the making. The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC), which had grown relentlessly since the early 1990s, lost ground for the first time while the Greens, the other rising star of Swiss politics, suffered a major defeat. Both parties lost support primarily to start-ups that had broken away from their own ranks. The Radical...

Why Didn’t Qaddafi go into exile?

Below are some thoughts on Qaddafi’s death and his decision not to seek exile from Barbara Walter , a professor of international relations at the University of California at San Diego. Professor Walter is a renowned expert on internal wars and terrorism and has published several outstanding books and articles on these topics as well as issues of bargaining, cooperation, and reputation more generally. We are glad to share her views here. One of the many puzzles surrounding Muammar Qaddafi was his refusal to go into exile. Once NATO intervened on behalf of the rebels and Tripoli fell, Qaddafi must have known that he would eventually lose the war and that this would mean death. Instead of leaving the country, he decided to stay. Why? One surprising answer has to do with the International Criminal Court. It used to be that exile was an attractive long-term option for dictators to take. Rather than stay and fight, they could live their lives in wealth and comfort in beautiful and stable...

The rule is . . . there are no rules

Seema Mehta presents an amazing list of errors in recent speeches of congressmember and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. What’s scary here is not so much that there’s a U.S. congresswoman running around who can’t seem to distinguish between truth and fiction—-after all, my very own congressman is reportedly a criminal, and I can only assume that he’s been too busy with his criminal enterprises to have paid much attention to politics for the past few decades—-but rather the rules of how her campaign is covered. Basically, the rule is that we’re all allowed to laugh at her now that she’s so low in the polls. (In the most recent standings , she leads only Rick “Google” Santorum and Jon “Democrat” Huntsman in the race for the Republican nomination.) When she was doing well, the appropriate response was fear , perhaps covered by some hope that if she were actually elected she’s have advisers who would warn her before she was about to step off any cliffs. We’re still allowed to...

Motherhood and Marijuana

My new post at 538 looks at whether motherhood affects political attitudes, including attitudes toward marijuana. It speaks to the trend toward acceptance of marijuana and what, if anything, might slow that trend. It seems logical, as Megan McArdle has suggested , that becoming a parent might make you less supportive of legalized marijuana. I draw on some recent research from political scientist Jill Greenlee to address that possibility. The answer? Don’t expect motherhood to matter much. NY Times did not include the link to the research itself. Here it is (gated). [ Photo credit ]

Invisibility and policy design

One of the themes of my new book, T he Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy , is that Americans are largely unaware of many public policies, even if they benefit from them themselves. This was indicated, for instance, by a table from my earlier work that was discussed on the Monkey Cage last winter and reproduced on other blogs; in an article that appeared in Washington Monthly this past summer ; and in the introduction to my book that appeared on Salon last weekend. In reading the comments, I’ve noticed that some readers interpret me to be implying that people are stupid or ignorant. That is not my argument and the data do not support that conclusion. Rather, I am arguing that Americans’ awareness of social welfare policies is influenced primarily by the design and delivery of such policies. I draw on Paul Pierson’s conceptual approach to policy feedback, specifically his suggestion that policies must be visible and traceable to government...

Welcome to Suzanne Mettler

Suzanne Mettler, Cornell political scientist, author of The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy , and creator of the table that launched 1000 blogposts will be guestblogging with us for a while. We are very happy to have her.

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