The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

More on Romney’s Bain Bane

I suggested in a comment on John’s post this morning that Mitt Romney’s “wealth problem” probably has more to do with perceptions that he doesn’t really ”care about people like me” than with wealth per se. Here’s a different angle on the same issue—average ratings on a 100-point “feeling thermometer” for a variety of social groups. (A rating of 50 is supposed to reflect neutral feelings about a group, so numbers between 50 and 100 reflect varying degrees of net favorability. These ratings are from the 2004 National Election Study survey, extracted from Table 5.4 of my 2008 book, Unequal Democracy.)

Google and the Dread Pirate Roberts Strategy

A blogpost that I wrote elsewhere, complaining about Google, has led to a disagreement between Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias.


Just out of curiosity, did anyone ever really believe that “don’t be evil” stuff? I mean, Google’s a big corporation. They’ve been a big public corporation for nearly eight years. Big public corporations are in business to make money and enhance their stockholders’ wealth, and that’s that. Google has long been big enough and profitable enough that they could sort of pretend otherwise now and again, but even that was only bound to last as long as their competition remained weak and ignorable. That’s no longer the case, and Google is responding normally.

The History of Bureaucratic Feng Shui

Roy Ash, an important figure in the “battles of the budget” in the 1970s as director of OMB under Presidents Nixon and Ford, died this week.  (His obituary is here.)

Given President Obama’s proposal today on government reorganization—he hopes to merge six agencies dealing with business and trade into one—it is timely to note the history of such efforts and the lessons Roy Ash might teach us on that front.

Mean, Nasty South Carolina Politics

Peter Hamby has a nice debunking of some myths of South Carolina politics.  For one, some instances of negative campaigning were widely discussed but never quite confirmed.  For another, the negative campaigning that does occur may not work.  See also my discussion of the academic literature on negative campaigning, which finds exactly that.

Jordan Ragusa adds another valuable point.  Rather than assuming that South Carolina’s “culture” breeds nasty politics in presidential primaries, consider this:

Because the primary system is an iterated process (rather than a one-shot, 50 state election), political “momentum” is critically important…Simply put, candidates who win early primaries like Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to receive greater support in subsequent states because of sophisticated or “front runner” voting (see this paper) as well as generate greater campaign donations and support.  This, in turn, improves their chances for winning subsequent primaries.  Because South Carolina is third in this sequence, there is an incentive for candidates to go negative independent of the state’s demographics.

A Veto for Inequality

The Linz and Stepan article that I linked last week suggests that we need to look to comparative politics rather than Americanist political science in order to understand the sources of American inequality.

The preoccupation of many Americanists with America’s distinctive governmental institutions—Congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court—obscures this inequality and what it means for the U.S. political system. It thus seems to us that Americanists’ ability to analyze American politics would be enhanced by locating these problems in a larger, comparative context. Such a reconceptualization of American politics could help to broaden our discipline and enhance the quality of its generalizing theories.

Romney Should Thank His Rivals For His Big Win

Following on his earlier post on the Iowa caucus, here again is political scientist Charles Stewart.


As with the Iowa caucuses, vote shares for the Republican candidate in New Hampshire distributed themselves geographically in 2012 in ways that are highly consistent with how they were distributed in 2008.  The following graphs illustrate that persistence of support.

In the order of the finish, we start with Romney, whose showing in 2012 repeated that of 2008, just shifted up about 5 percentage points in every town:

Facts On Your Sideline

Felix Salmon has a gracious reply to my earlier post:

Apologies to John Sides and Jack Citrin for dismissing their science out of hand on my Tumblr: they really are careful and sophisticated researchers, and Sides is well within his rights to give me a good slap.

Happy Birthday, Brownlow Report!

Yes, I know today is devoted to New Hampshire (live free or die…), but the departure of William Daley as White House chief of staff gives me  the excuse to trumpet the 75th anniversary of the Brownlow Committee report to President Franklin Roosevelt—released this week in 1937. After all, without the Brownlow report, there would be no staff to be chief of.

Why Romney Doesn't Care About His Margin of Victory

Alex Lundry and I have a new post at Model Politics that repeats a version of our earlier experiment.  We again randomly assigned survey respondents to see information about how likely each Republican candidate is to win the nomination, win the general election, or both.  Just as in our earlier study, this information makes a big difference.

In particular, it helps Romney—the candidate most likely to win the nomination (by a large margin) and who currently polls best against Barack Obama. So as the New Hampshire results and later results convey similar information to voters, expect the Romney bandwagon to grow.

Commentators have consistently underestimated Romney’s appeal within the party.  But as I said in my post yesterday, a lot of people who aren’t currently supporting Romney aren’t necessarily opposed to him.  Lynn Vavreck and I talked to several voters in Iowa who said exactly this: although they supported another candidate—and even a quite consevative candidate like Santorum or Perry—they would vote for Romney in November.  The Model Politics details one of my conversations:

At a Santorum event in Altoona, Iowa, Sides was approached by a man selling a book he had written…a retelling of The Cat in the Hat, starring Barack Obama as “The New Democrat.”  The illustrations resemble the Seussian originals, although the verses differ slightly.  To wit:


I’ll make friends with our enemies.
They’ll do us no harm…
If they see we are weak
We must therefore disarm!

Sides asked the author, Loren Spivack, who he was supporting in the Republican primary.  He said either Santorum or Perry (“definitely one of the Ricks”).  Then Sides asked if he would vote for Romney if Romney were the nominee.  He paused a moment, shrugged, and said “Yeah.”  His tone suggested that there wouldn’t be any other option.

Beware the New Hampshire Expectations Game

Brendan Nyhan:

However, journalists often exaggerate the effects of supposed over- or underperformance, in part by treating the conventional wisdom about how a candidate performed relative to expectations as some sort of objective fact rather than a social construction. (Note, for instance, how DiStaso’s report takes these expectations as given rather than attributing them to a source.) It’s particularly important to consider just how arbitrary the “expectations” that the media place on candidates can be. DiStaso asserts that if Romney does not win by 10 percentage points or more, it’s a “wide open race.” So if Romney wins by 9.9 points, the race is “wide open,” but if he wins by 10.1 points, it’s all over?

The Politics of Eyeliner

Good catch by Leslie Savan:

Here’s how the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser began a column (“Jobless & Shameless Gal Going for Gold”) on one of the women charging Herman Cain with sexual harassment:

Gold diggers—unite! Sharon Bialek is 50, out of work and, according to one who knows her, she’s a smooth operator living way above her means. From the look of her heavily painted face, she’s also soon to be in acute need of a new tub of eyeliner.

Americans and Innumeracy

In the Wall Street Journal, Carl Bialik mentions some of my research with Jack Citrin in a piece called “Americans Stumble on Math of Big Issues”:

Political scientists John Sides of George Washington University and Jack Citrin of the University of California, Berkeley, hypothesized in a working paper that supplying Americans, who typically overestimate the number of immigrants and illegal immigrants among them, with correct numbers would reduce the perceived threat of immigration and change their views. Instead, getting the right number reinforced their views, and even increased their support for letting fewer immigrants into the U.S.

Those Recess Appointments

Almost fifteen years ago, Rose Razaghian and I wrote a paper that examined the underlying causes of increasing delays in the confirmation of executive branch appoints (not surprisingly, partisan polarization was the main culprit).  Recess appointments did not quite fit into our framework as we focused on the time between nomination and Senate confirmation.  Fortunately, at the time, recess appointments were rare enough and for positions insignificant enough that we could ignore them and still publish the paper in a good journal.

How Enduring Is American Economic Inequality?

Alfred Stepan and Juan Linz in a review essay (gated) in the most recent issue of Perspectives on Politics.

Certainly there were many important welfare improvements in the United States from the 1930s to the late 1960s, linked to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Civil Rights movements, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. In fact, by 1968, equality had improved greatly, with the Gini index of inequality falling to .388, the best Gini ever recorded in the United States. Even so, looked at comparatively, at its best where did the United States rank? Unfortunately, we do not have systematic comparative data for many countries in this period. But we do have some telling data. Two leading scholars of inequality have comparable data for the United States and at least seven other long-standing democracies in advanced economies for the period 1975–77. During this two-year period, four of the seven countries (France, the UK, Sweden, and Finland) had Gini indices that fell between .200 to .250; two of the seven (Germany and the Netherlands) were between .270 to .300; and only one (Canada) was over .300 at. 360. Thus, during the heyday of income equality in the United States, no other country in the set was as unequal as America, and most were substantially more equal.
Since the early 1970s, moreover, inequality in the United States has only gotten worse. From an all-time best measure on the Gini index of .388 in 1968, by 2009 the US Census Bureau had put the US, Gini at .469, America’s worst Gini index in many decades.