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 .) These ratings suggest that a rich business person with strong ties to “big business” evokes a pretty mixed set of social resonances—perhaps on a par with a poor person on welfare with strong ties to labor unions. Individuals’ ratings of the various groups are related to income, education, partisanship, and ideology in ways that are mostly unsurprising; but it is worth noting that even...

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. Drum 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. Yglesias “Just out of curiosity,” asks Kevin Drum, “did anyone ever really believe that ‘don’t be evil’ stuff?” I sort of did. Not because I expected Google to stop acting like a money-making operation and start running itself like a charity, but because I thought “when faced with a short-term tradeoff...

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. Ash chaired the 1969 President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization, which built on a prior study to urge the renaming and restructuring of the Bureau of the Budget (up until two days before the transmission of the reorganization plan to Congress, what would become the Office of Management and Budget was to be called the Office of Executive Management.) Ash also recommended the creation of the Domestic Council inside the Executive Office of the President, as a vehicle to facilitate creative policy formulation. In his March 1970 message to Congress on the topic, President...

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...

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. To bolster this broad argument, they argue that the unusually large number of veto players in the US political system is a major cause of inequality. A question thus arises, one both simple and surprisingly understudied by scholars of American politics: From a comparative perspective,...

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: (In all these graphs, the area of the circles is proportional to the turnout in the town. The diagonal line shows an equal vote share to 2008.) I show two graphs for Paul, because it appears that he picked up support in areas that had given strong support to Huckabee in 2008. But, first, the graph that compares Paul’s support in 2012 with that of 2008: The eagle-eyed will discern that the regression line through the scatterplot has a slope greater than one: 1.52 to be...

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 . He then goes on to clarify his thoughts. He points out some additional aspects of “numeracy” that often people cannot achieve. For example: And more generally, numeracy is about much more than estimating proportions and percentages. It’s about comfort with numbers and number lines, and having an intuitive feel for how they work. I agree. He also continues to argue that, despite my “carefully chosen counter-examples,” there is still reason to think that opinions resist facts: The general public doesn’t want its mind changed, and any changes which do happen are always going to happen slowly. Which is why presidential debates are almost never about who won the argument on any particular point, much as people like myself would...

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. Doubtless that overstates. But the January 1937 report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management , made up of public administration mandarins Louis Brownlow, Luther Gulick, and Charlies Merriam (all closely supervised by FDR ), served as the basis of the Reorganization Act of 1939 and Executive Order 8248 that same year, creating the Executive Office of the President. The EOP was to house the new White House Office and, importantly, the Bureau of the Budget (today’s Office of Management and Budget, then part of the Treasury), but its population grew quickly. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower appointed the first White House...

2012 Election Fundamentals Watch

From Gallup : As we’ve noted on the blog many, many times, the most important predictor of presidential election outcomes is the trend in key economic indicators in the year before the election. Although Americans hardly see the economy as healthy, the trend from September into now is the best news Barack Obama could hope for. Now he just needs to hope it continues.

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...

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 inevitability of Mitt Romney doesn’t seem much like of a storyline. But it is. Just a few weeks ago, and even after Iowa, it was all about how he couldn’t break 25%. Here’s Frank Rich , for example. Now he’s already broken that threshold . Part of that is bandwagoning, as Alex...

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. Rush Limbaugh echoed the line along with all the other bile he’s been splurting at Cain’s accusers, referring to Bialek as “the woman who wears makeup by the tub.” The makeup slam is odd, and not only because Bialek doesn’t appear to be wearing more of it than many women on TV. During the 1991 Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings (which inspired a pro-Cain ad to declare him the victim of another “high-tech lynching”), the right’s take on female makeup was: the more the better! Former Reagan and Bush I speechwriter Peggy Noonan had determined that...

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. There’s a lot of political science research cited in the piece—including some by James Kuklinski, Arthur Lupia, and others. However, the quote above prompts Felix Salmon to write : Which only goes to prove how out-of-touch political scientists can be. Not only are people naturally innumerate, but more generally you can’t argue people out of positions...

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. I doubt that is the case anymore. Recess appointments are increasingly common and are used for much higher level positions. If one were to update the work I did with Razaghian, no self-respecting editor would let the authors treat recess appointments as glibly as we did. As things have evolved over the past fifteen years, there is nothing unusual in that President Obama used the power to make recess appointments to seat Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer...

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 ...

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