John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University.

Recent Articles


Shrinking the president . Amen. Critiquing the media critics . Most honest political ad ever . Liberals aren’t so bad at economics after all . How men can dance all sexy .

Public Opinion about Tax Expenditures vs. Government “Grants”

This is a guest post from my colleagues Brandon Bartels and Jake Haselswerdt , which is substantially more interesting than the title that I gave the post: In response to Suzanne Mettler’s post on Monday, commenter Josh asked for clarification regarding the importance of policy delivery mechanism (e.g., direct cash payment vs. tax break) to citizen understanding and support of government programs. As Mettler noted in her response, the focus of her and Guardino’s experiment is not the effect of the delivery mechanism but the ways in which providing additional information can impact citizens’ evaluations of indirect or “submerged” programs. In a new paper (available upon request) inspired in part by Mettler’s work, we tackle the effect of delivery mechanism directly with a survey experiment of our own. Our findings confirm that the way a policy is delivered to beneficiaries can have a profound impact on public support for that policy, and that this effect is conditioned by ideology. We...

Mandatory Voting Isn’t a Solution to Polarization

William Galston : The third argument for mandatory voting goes to the heart of our current ills. Our low turnout rate pushes American politics toward increased polarization. The reason is that hard-core partisans are more likely to dominate lower-turnout elections, while those who are less fervent about specific issues and less attached to political organizations tend not to participate at levels proportional to their share of the electorate…A distinctive feature of our constitutional system — elections that are quadrennial for president but biennial for the House of Representatives — magnifies these effects. It’s bad enough that only three-fifths of the electorate turns out to determine the next president, but much worse that only two-fifths of our citizens vote in House elections two years later…But if you think that today’s intensely polarized politics impedes governance and exacerbates mistrust — and that is what most Americans firmly (and in my view rightly) believe — then you...

On Potential Deals in the Super-Committee

Political scientists Regina Smyth and William Bianco have written a pithy and interesting analysis of the sorts of deals that might emerge from the Super-Committee and, perhaps more importantly, the kinds of side-payments that party leaders might have to make if one of those deals is to win enough support in each chamber. Here is their analysis . Here is short excerpt: Many predictions about the shape of a potential deal emerging from the Debt Supercommitte (SC) process have centered on the personal chemistry of committee members, or the dearth of good feeling between congressional Democrats and Republicans. These analyses do not recognize the substance of bargaining, including the set of programs and policies that might be on the chopping block and the degree of overlap in members’ preferences over these specifics. In considering the shape of the potential deals, we base our analysis on measures of legislator preferences, as mediated through the fundamental congressional institution...

Magic Johnson and Public Opinion about AIDS

Twenty years ago today, Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV -positive. In my newest post at 538, I discuss how this affected public opinion, drawing on a 1994 paper by political scientist Philip Pollock . The upshot: Johnson’s announcement led the public to think about HIV and AIDS in terms of opinions about heterosexual sex, rather than just opinions about homosexual sex. The post is here .