The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

The Snowe Retirement

…should there be a two-way race for the Senate seat (and that’s by no means a sure thing), Republicans will need a candidate who can run as a Snowe Republican. The currents of 2010 affect their ability to field such a candidate. That’s U. of Maine political scientist Amy Fried in this post . See also her earlier piece with Douglas Harris, “Maine’s Political Warriors: Senators Snowe and Collins, Congressional Moderates in a Partisan Era.” Here is their graph of the changing partisan composition of New England’s congressional representatives: See also this post by Peter Ubertaccio. And this post by Keith Poole and this post by Simon Jackman, who writes: Should the Democrats pick up the seat, we might expect a Senator racking up a voting history a la Levin (D-MI), Stabenow (D-MI) or Cantwell (D-WA) or Murray (D-WA), right in the middle of the Democratic pack.

Potpourri

The psychology of primary voters . Lots of good polisci here. (Hat tip to Daniel Lippman.) What Citizens United did and did not do. Australia makes American politics looks nice? Citation to some of Deborah Brooks ’ work too. And there’s also the psychic crocodile . (Hat tip to Llewelyn Hughes.) See also Simon Jackman . Save the National Longitudinal Survey. Maps and war (via Seth Masket).

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...

What Makes a Referendum Campaign Sing?

A Monkey Cage reader asks: I’m just curious, is there much information out there about what (if anything) precisely impacts voting on referendums or initiatives? And if so, what aspects of a referendum campaign are most effective (like advertising, phone banking, door to door campaigning, etc.). Any information and/or help locating any information would be much appreciated. There is some work on whether the presence of initiatives on the ballot serves as a mobilizing factor. See, e.g., here or here . I’m not sure about work that specifically addresses what means of mobilization motivate people to vote in such campaigns. I assume that studies of mobilization in elections generally would have some applicability, however. On how voters make choices in initiatives, I think a dominant notion is that voters rely on shortcuts or heuristics. See, for example, Arthur Lupia’s piece on the role of group endorsements—as well as other of his work . Or Regina Branton’s piece , which highlights the...

Do Campaign Spending Bans Work?

This paper seeks to understand the effect of campaign finance laws on electoral and policy outcomes. Spurred by the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which eliminated bans on corporate and union political spending, the study focuses on whether such bans generate consequences notably different from an electoral system that lacks such bans. We observe three key outcomes: partisan control of government, incumbent reelection rates and corporate tax burdens. Using historical data on regulations in 49 American states between 1935 and 2009 we test alternative models for evaluating the impact of corporate and union spending bans put in place during this period. The results indicate that spending bans appear to have limited, if any, effect on these outcomes. From a new paper by Ray Laraja and Brian Schaffner. Their findings are very much in the spirit of the research I noted not long after the Citizens United decision ( here , here , and here ).

Everything You Think About Negative Advertising is Wrong

Continuing the series , here’s another zombie idea: negative advertising “works.” Either by hurting the candidate who is attacked or by turning off voters from the campaign altogether. The sheer volume of negative ads certainly keeps this zombie living. As does the terrific string of cliches attached to so much writing about negative ads. Consider this piece . We have effluvia: “tsunami of slime,” “toxic.” Boxing: “win the fight with a knockout punch.” Gore: “expensive and brutal evisceration,” “bloody victory.” And, of course, war, war, war: “ammo,” “counter-offensive,” “sharpening their arrows,” etc. (I am not even one-fifth of the way through the piece.) As does many examples of campaign reporting that discuss tactics—like negative ads or the micro-targeting of ads —with only vague statements about their effects. Often from people whose very profession involves convincing candidates to pay them to make ads! And so you get this from a forthcoming New America Foundation event :...

Why Tuesday?

A readers points me to the group, Why Tuesday , that wants to move Election Day to a more convenient time. They write : Today, we are an urban society, and we all know how hard it is to commute to our jobs, take care of the children, and get our work done, let alone stand on lines to vote. Indeed, Census data over the last decade clearly indicates that the inconvenience of voting is the primary reason Americans are not participating in our elections. If we can move Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holiday for the convenience of shoppers, why not make Election Day more convenient for the sake of voters? First and foremost, it is time to end the deafening silence of good people on this vitally important issue. So we ask: Why Tuesday? Personally, I would have no problem with this. But I’m not sure it’s going to increase turnout. The political scientist André Blais reviewed a lot of evidence on turnout for a chapter in this book . Here is what he wrote on...

Potpourri

The story behind the fMRI of that fish. Via Henry. Ben Bernanke’s speeches are more powerful than Barack Obama’s . Brendan Nyhan on media coverage of Romney . Yahoo! forecasting model predicts Obama victory . Hat tip to Daniel Lippman. Uncle Sam needs scientists. Social science job markets. Chicago: still corrupt. Hat tip to Daniel Lippman again. Rick Santorum as Dr. Ruth ? Hat tip to Andy R.

Unpacking the "Zombie" Confusion

John Sides and Larry Bartels have recently spent some space explaining the “political science” view of social class and voting in American politics, in contrast to the claims of journalists Thomas Frank, George Packer, and Jonathan Chait, that working-class whites vote Republican. Frank, Packer, and Chait are outspoken liberals, but their views of class and politics align well, at least in this point, with arguments by conservatives such as David Brooks, Michael Barone, and Charles Murray about the prominence of upper-class liberals. John and Larry presented the data clearly. What I’d like to add here is a brief discussion from Red State Blue State about how all this confusion can have arisen. First take a look at this graph of trends in voting by occupation class. We created the graph using data from the National Election Study. (Sociologists Clem Brooks and Jeff Manza published a similar graph before we did; our improvements were to include more years of data and to simply plot raw...

Morphing Zombies

One of the commenters on John’s “Zombie Politics” post notes that Jonathan Chait has a new piece applauding George Packer , doubting Sides (and Bartels), then transitioning to a discussion of Packer and others discussing Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart . Chait’s title: “Why Are Poor Whites Conservative? And Poor?” Just for the record, they’re not (conservative, that is). The figures John posted yesterday aren’t really relevant for assessing Chait’s premise, since people without college degrees are (mostly) not “poor” and voting Republican is not the same thing as being “conservative.” Here’s a more relevant figure, from my book Unequal Democracy , comparing the economic policy views of whites in the bottom and top thirds of the income distribution from 1972 through 2004. Poor whites are noticeably more liberal than affluent whites on this issue. They don’t seem to have become any less liberal over three decades, either relatively or absolutely. Nor is the substance of the...

Zombie Politics

Zombie politics—a play on Zombie Economics —refers to ideas about politics that have become so cemented in conventional wisdom that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them. It doesn’t matter what the data says, or what published research says, or what this blog or any blog says. Zombie politics means that even though the ideas are dead, they just can’t be killed. I regret using the by-now-hackneyed zombie metaphor, but it remains apt. And so, George Packer : Perhaps the biggest political puzzle of our time is why, as the lives of working-class whites have descended from the stability and comfort of “All in the Family” to the chaos and despair of “Gran Torino” and “Winter’s Bone,” these same Americans have voted more and more reliably Republican. This would be a puzzle, if it were really true. From Larry Bartels : The graph only the merest hint of a secular trend in the voting behavior of whites without college degrees. It also shows that there is not much of a difference between...

Potpourri

First-mover advantage and the President’s budget. Big Data. Featuring Justin Grimmer, Gary King, and some dude named Gelman. The “98 percent of Catholic women” who’ve used birth control? Maybe not. How ski resorts lie. (Via Justin Wolfers.) The Rowe memo. Severely conservative. No comment. Voter suppression. Felix Salmon : “If you want to get to half a million pageviews, you’re always much more likely to get there with a thousand blog posts than you are with a single swing for the fences.”

Steamy, Sexy, Hot Political Scientists

From today’s New York Times profile of economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers: In her third year there, a handsome Australian on a Fulbright scholarship arrived. At first, Ms. Stevenson dismissed him as a mere political scientist. “It wasn’t what he said; it was his long hair,” she said. Mr. Wolfers, kneading one of Ms. Stevenson’s pedicured feet, interrupted. “Betsey used to tell this story as, ‘He was too good-looking to be an economist,’ ” he said. “But somehow the story has gotten less generous.” I was all ready to get worked up at “mere” and then I remembered that, crap, I had long hair as a political science graduate student. But if Wolfers’ comment is correct, the story of their meeting gets more interesting. In fact, the story would then show how early Stevenson manifested one of the crucial traits that defines how she and Wolfers practice economics—what the article describes as “hew[ing]—one might even say passionately—to the data.” Why would the story show this?...

More on political opinions of U.S. military

Following up on this and this , Paul Gronke writes: There is a fairly active literature on attitudes of military personnel. The bulk of the literature has come out of sociology, much of it inspired by the pioneering work of Morris Janowitz (Chicago) and Charles Moskos (Northwestern, passed away in 2008). The primary academic journal in the field is Armed Forces and Society. Political science engagement has been primarily driven be interests in the “civil military gap” that has grown as a consequence of the all-volunteer force. Peter Feaver , an old friend and colleague of mine when at Duke, has been a leader in this area, working mainly through the Triangle Institute for Security Studies , along with Dick Kohn (History at UNC , now emeritus) and Chris Gelpi (Duke, moving now to the Mershon Center at OSU ). I worked with Peter, Chris, and Dick on a set of parallel surveys of civilian and military elites and the mass public, and much of this work was published in a 2001 MIT Press book...

Military officers have different opinions than enlisted personnel

Josh asks about political opinions of U.S. military personnel. Jason Dempsey and Bob Shapiro have done some work on this. Here’s Dempsey’s website , and here’s something he wrote a few years ago that’s relevant to the discussion: The Military Times released the results of a survey showing that members of the armed services planned to vote for John McCain over Barack Obama by a factor of nearly three to one–this at a time when the Democratic nominee was handily beating his Republican rival in almost all national polls. The survey apparently reaffirmed the long-held conventional wisdom that the U.S. military overwhelmingly backs the GOP . . . . The truth about the military’s politics, however, is more complex and all too often obscured by narrowly focused polling. Participants in the Military Times survey, for example, tended to be white, older, and more senior in rank–that is, they were hardly a representative sampling of the armed services. . . . In a study of the Army that I [Dempsey...

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