The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

Hard to Remember Things: Birthdays, Appointments, How Much TV You Watch

The short answer: not very well. That’s the subject of my first post over at the Washington Post’s polling blog, Behind the Numbers. It features this graph from Lynn Vavreck and Michael LaCour . See the post for more.

Obama Wins...If Election Was Today

We are pleased to welcome professors Charles Tien of Hunter College and Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa with what we hope will be a regular feature on The Monkey Cage over the next 12 months: their current “nowcast” of the 2012 presidential election. In contrast to the usual election forecasting approaches, we offer nowcasting . An election nowcast predicts what would happen if the election were held “now” (Lewis-Beck, Nadeau, Bélanger, 2011). Thus, the nowcast acts as an invaluable early warning device, signaling what will come to pass unless things change. The nowcast comes from a relevant statistical model, whose parameter estimates are held valid across current moments. That is, the model (with its fixed constant and slope values) predicts the election outcome based on current (changing) X values, as the final contest approaches. Nowcasting, then, is dynamic, and election predictions may be issued on a quarterly, monthly, or even daily basis, with updates until the...

Do GOP Voters Care About Electability?

Alex Lundry and I have a new post up at Model Politics. In a YouGov survey from last week, we included an experiment. After GOP voters had been asked which candidate they supported in the primary, we randomly assigned them to see Intrade probabilities for the GOP nomination, for the general election, or both. Then we asked them a second time which candidate they supported. The goal was to see whether knowing something about electability would change their preferences. Indeed, it did: In the graph we examine all respondents, regardless of which probabilities they saw. In total, 35% of them changed their preference. And unsurprisingly, they moved to the two candidates who did best on Intrade: Gingrich and Romney. Our post has further details, such as: Romney is helped by his general election probability much more than his nomination probability. About 25% of Gingrich supporters defect to Romney after they’ve seen the general election numbers from Intrade. Paul and Johnson voters tend to...

The Photocopy-and-Furtive-Conversation Revolution

P. took the subway to Bowling Green. On his way to the exit, he passed a line of police officers accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs. Outside, police had surrounded the “Charging Bull” with barricades and, a few blocks north, sealed off a stretch of Wall Street around the Stock Exchange. P. tried to look nonchalant as he carried a black messenger bag that contained a first-aid kit, a bottled solution of liquid antacid and water (to remedy the effects of tear gas and pepper spray), fifteen Clif bars (carrot cake), and several hundred photocopied maps, showing seven possible locations. “We decided that low-tech communication methods would be best,” P. told me. “If we’d used a mass text message, or Twitter, it would have been easy for the police to track down who was doing this…” …P. quickly found the two other members of the Tactical Committee, both white men in their twenties. All three were “extremely nervous,” P. says. They left to scout Location Two, three-quarters of an acre of honey...

The influence of strategic retirement on the incumbency advantage in US House elections

Ben HIghton writes : Failure to take into account ‘strategic retirement’ leads to inflated estimates of the incumbent electoral advantage. The one attempt to address this issue in the context of US House elections implies that much of the supposed incumbency advantage and most of its presumed increase over time are illusory (Cox and Katz, 2002). This paper identifies possible problems with the Cox and Katz (2002) method and develops a new approach based on simulating the counterfactual condition of incumbents standing for re-election rather than retiring. The results show that when the bias induced by strategic retirement is removed, much of the apparent incumbency advantage and its increase over time remain evident. This makes me happy because it is consistent with our claims here .

Hey Journalists! Go Report on the Ground Game!

I think the press is way too focused on media strategies — both as they say in the business paid media and earned media — and way too little on grassroots organizing and the so-called “ground game” of politics. Interest groups get under-covered tremendously. There’s also kind of moralism in political journalism; that there are good guys and bad guys; that people are being tested on character; that they are being caught doing bad things or are innocent of doing bad things. There’s a tendency not to understand larger forces — to use a kind of “great man theory” of history — and not to understand politics in the way that political scientists generally do: as a realm where interests come to contend and try to run societies either peacefully or not. Interest groups tend to be treated as illegitimate actors. Compromise tends to be undervalued. Legislation tends to be undervalued. Within political coverage, there tends to be too much focus on the executive branch and not enough on the...

Correlation is Not Causation – Really Big Data Edition

Via Cosma in comments at the other place I hang out , this is a very nice teaching tool for the sole and single purpose of getting this point across to students. NB that you need to be logged into a Google ID to use it. My favorite so far is the .8222 correlation between my random graph and searches for “frogsex” (the mind squirbles).

Tea Party Racism: Some Experimental Evidence

Lavine and his colleagues designed an online survey and got responses from a sample of about 800 citizens, including many who expressed sympathy for the Tea Party and many who did not. The survey asked about programs designed to help people who can’t keep up with their mortgage payments stay in their homes… But the online survey contained two curveballs. At the beginning of the section on the mortgage assistance, a picture was included of a man, presumably a struggling homeowner, and a house with a foreclosure sign in the yard. Half of the sample saw a white man in the yard; half saw a black man. That’s curve No. 1. The second curve was the way the survey suggested those men came to be standing in their yards next to a foreclosure sign. Half the sample was told: “As we now know, many people took out large loans and mortgages during the housing bubble that they couldn’t afford and they are likely to lose their homes unless the government intercedes.” This is from research by political...

Blending Journalism with Academia

I think the press is way too focused on media strategies — both as they say in the business paid media and earned media — and way too little on grassroots organizing and the so-called “ground game” of politics. Interest groups get under-covered tremendously. There’s also kind of moralism in political journalism; that there are good guys and bad guys; that people are being tested on character; that they are being caught doing bad things or are innocent of doing bad things. There’s a tendency not to understand larger forces — to use a kind of “great man theory” of history — and not to understand politics in the way that political scientists generally do: as a realm where interests come to contend and try to run societies either peacefully or not. Interest groups tend to be treated as illegitimate actors. Compromise tends to be undervalued. Legislation tends to be undervalued. Within political coverage, there tends to be too much focus on the executive branch and not enough on the...

Irregularities in Russian election?

See here . (Run it through Google translate if, like me, you don’t know any Russian.) I don’t know anything here, will defer to the experts on this one.

Will Assad Survive?

The entrails of the Arab Spring suggest that Assad will be the fifth dictator to fall only if the Syrian military irrevocably splits or if international military force intervenes on the side of the opposition. Neither looks likely. The Syrian army is dominated by Assad’s Alawite minority and foreign powers have demonstrated no stomach to insert themselves into the quagmire of a civil war in Syria which would spark tensions, not just between Turkey, Israel and Lebanon, but would ominously see NATO , Russia and China picking sides. From an op-ed by Andrew Reynolds, based on his forthcoming book, The Arab Spring: Political Transformation in North Africa and the Middle East , with Jason Brownlee and Tarek Masood.

Will 2012 Be an Anti-Incumbent Year?

“Record High Anti-Incumbent Sentiment,” Gallup reports . Here’s a graph: Well, we went through this in 2010, and the reelection rate of incumbents was still 87% —a little lower than in most elections since 1970, but hardly low. In 2012, I’m even less convinced that anti-incumbency sentiment will actually get incumbents out of office. What happened in 2010 was not due to generalized anti-incumbent sentiment, but to an anti-Democratic sentiment. When lots of incumbents decide not to run or run and lose, it’s usually a by-product of a partisan wave. (One exception is 1992, due to the House banking scandal. See this piece by Gary Jacobson and Michael Dimock.) What does this mean for 2012? Based on weak economic growth and middling presidential approval, we’d expect the Democrats to lose some seats. But they don’t have many seats to lose at this point. At the same time, low congressional approval hurts the majority party , other things equal. Given that the constellation of economic growth...

Guide to Today’s Russia Coverage at the Monkey Cage

For those interested in a quick primer on recent developments in Russia, here’s a guide to our posts today: Andrew Little on applications to Russia of theories of non-competitive elections Sam Greene on how Putinism has come to violate Russia’s non-interference social contract Regina Smyth on the dangers of over-simplifying Russian politics Konstantin Sonin on the meaning of the parliamentary elections Graeme Robertson on the beginning of the end of Putinism as we know it

Noncompetitve Elections and Information: A Theoretical Perspective on the 2011 Russian Elections

Finally (at least for today), we present the following response to the Russian parliamentary elections from Andrew Little , a Ph.D. candidate at NYU who is writing a dissertation on noncompetitive elections. In response to my queries, Andrew offered the following six points in response to the 2011 Russian elections: 1. Noncompetitive elections—those where the ultimate winner is not in doubt—matter. In one of my papers , I argue the main reasons they matter is because of the information they generate. Even if United Russia was never in danger of losing control of the Duma, the results last week seem to have drastically changed beliefs about the strength of Putin/United Russia and how long the regime will last. These elections are not window dressing or a facade to confer legitimacy—by what definition of legitimacy could anyone possibly be convinced by these elections that Putin’s rule is legitimate?—but are meaningful political events because they generate public information about the...

A Resonant Signal: The Russian Parliamentary Elections of December 2011

Our next report on the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections comes from Konstantin Sonin of the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia. These comments originally appeared at Free Policy Briefs . ******* Days before December 4, prospects of electoral democracy in Russia looked bleak. Consolidation of the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since 1999, adoption of non-democratic electoral laws and politically-motivated law enforcement, constant harassment of media, civil society organizations, and election observers, and outright involvement of the government in the electoral process gave little hope that elections would make the political leadership accountable. The courts and electoral officials were used to prevent most opposition leaders from registering a party or participating in elections; opposition financial supporters had been driven into exile. Parliamentary elections in December 2007 and presidential elections in March 2008 were marred by such...

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