Showing posts with label political science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label political science. Show all posts

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Won't Somebody Please Think About the Political 'Scientists'!?!

With all due respect to Helen Lovejoy, this isn't about just the children anymore.

Yes, that's right: My fellow political "scientists" and I are under attack. Well, our funding from the National Science Foundation is, at least, now that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced an amendment to eliminate it. This quote from the senator's press secretary kills me:
"Political science would be better left to pundits and voters," said Don Tatro, Senator Coburn's press secretary, in an interview.
Indeed. I think Steven Taylor has put it best:
"I can readily accept the notion that there is a debate to be had about federal funding of research (and not just polisci work). That is perfectly legitimate. However, it would be nice if Coburn at least knew what he was talking about. ... It is flatly not the case that the University of Michigan’s work on American elections is somehow equivalent to election-night reporting and commentary. And while there are some bloggers who do attempt to engage in legitimate analysis, some of it truly empirical in nature as well, they are not the same thing as actual political science analysis."
There are some other great reactions out there as well from political scientists (see below). Look, no one wants their funding threatened (Remember the bear DNA study that was a part of the presidential campaign a year ago?) and it is natural for political scientists to want to fight this. But seriously, Senator, if you're going to make this argument, please come up with something better than, "CNN could do just as well." That's simply not true. And that's not just some ivory tower-dwelling political scientist saying that.

Andrew Gelman
Henry Farrell
Joshua Tucker
Matthew Shugart
Dan Drezner
Steven Taylor

Oh, and John Sides awarded Coburn the Cobie.

Recent Posts:
FHQ Friday Fun: Things are More Fun in Iowa

September (State and Local) Primaries Are Now a Step Closer to Disappearing

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (10/8/09)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

So, Who's Going to Win This Race? The Forecasts are Starting to Come In

With second quarter economic data now available, many of the typical political science presidential election forecasts are beginning to emerge. And this week seemed to be the time for their unveiling. Thomas Edsall, who is writing for The Huffington Post now, had a great run down of some of them earlier in the week and since then Seth Masket and Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien have released their numbers. Those add to the back and forth between Abramowitz, et al. and Campbell that I discussed in the electoral college post last Sunday.

Let's look at the numbers here and some of the impressions we can draw from them. [As a side note, I should add that I tried to track down some of the sources from Edsall's piece (Some forecasts have links while others do not.) and stumbled upon a special issue of the International Journal of Forecasting* focused on presidential election forecasts. Now, while the issue does not contain the actual forecasts, it does provide more than adequate insight into the models and debates within the forecasting area of the literature.]

Abramowitz, Mann and Sabato: Comfortable win for Obama (a Democratic environment, Democrats' party ID advantage, and recent state and national polls)

Campbell: Close election (Bush approval does not translate to McCain necessarily, McCain was the best-positioned of the Republican candidates to for the general election, open seat elections are close)

Erikson and Wlezien: Obama = 53% of the popular vote (based on state trial-heat polls and leading economic indicators)

Geer: Close election (electorate's comfort zone with candidate's foreign policy stances post-9-11, McCain is a good candidate for the GOP, the last two elections have been close)

Lewis-Beck and Tien: Obama = 50.6% of the popular vote (based on jobs growth and growth in GNP and including a correction for the race factor in the contest)

: McCain = 47.7% of the popular vote (based on 2nd quarter real per capita disposable income)

: Obama = 50.1% of the popular vote (based on support of major party candidates in the primaries among other factors)

I withheld Sandy Maisel's prediction because it doesn't neatly fall into either category, landslide or toss up. He sees an Obama win unless the Illinois senator does something to lose it. With that said, we have seven forecasts; 4 close calls (two unambiguously finding Obama winning) and 3 -- I hesitate to call them landslides -- more comfortable victories for Obama. Five of these forecasts see Obama wins, but find different margins based on the underlying factors included in their models.

I should also mention that there were two forecasting models discussed at this past spring's Western Political Science Association conference: De Sart and Holbrook and Gurian and Cann. De Sart's forecasting web page hasn't yet updated for the 2008 election, but the forecast is based on both state and national polls (While we're citing, I should go ahead and include Thomas Holbrook's blog (again) as well.). The paper that Paul Gurian -- an occasional FHQ contributor -- presented at WPSA wasn't intended as a forecast, but he and Damon do have a forecasting component to it. They are still waiting on another couple of factors to add in to complete the forecast portion, though.

H/T to The Monkey Cage for the head's up on the Edsall article and Erikson and Wlezien's latest forecast.

* The pdf files of those articles are gated (for purchase), but the abstracts should be available to those who, at the very least, want to check those out. Simply click on the title of the article to get the abstract.

Recent Posts:
VP Announcement Timing

5% of Democrats Say They'll Vote for McCain

The Electoral College Map (7/30/08)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama and the Red State Question: A Deeper Analysis

Recently, The Fix ran a post looking at the Obama campaign's contention that it, given primary and caucus performances thus far, has the ability to swing red states into the Democratic column in November. This post gets the ball rolling on several questions that may prove worthy of further examination within the realm of political science.

The first, as posed by University of Maryland-Baltimore County associate professor, Thomas Schaller, surrounds the observation that, over the last two presidential cycles, the higher the percentage of state's population that is African American, the better the GOP has done (in terms of vote share for the Republican candidate for president). Now, I've glanced through my trusty journal search engines of choice and have yet to find anything that directly addresses this hypothesis. Several confounding factors come to mind when thinking about this relationship though. The way I see it, swing state status and the number of majority-minority congressional districts may form an interactive relationship.

The states in the South are as solidly Republican now as they were Democratic in the 1960s and before. So while those states are the states with the highest percentages of African Americans, they are nonetheless solidly red. Solidly red means little attention from the Democratic candidates for president though. Voters then, that may be likely to swing one way or the other (and are outside of those majority minority districts), are swayed by what they are hearing (or aren't hearing) within their districts: a Republican message. In other words, if African Americans are packed into one or two districts in a state, while Republicans maintain majorities in the remaining districts, the inattention from both parties in those Republican districts leaves a void that is filled by the prevailing GOP message. The question then becomes, does any Democratic attention in those districts help sway enough independents (or even Republicans) to put the state in the toss up category when the general election rolls around. That is the very type of micro-targeting that the Bush team employed with great success in 2004; making some states more competitive than the conventional wisdom would have thought possible. Ultimately though, does this interaction "explain away" the relationship we've seen in the last two cycles between the percentage of African Americans within a state and the vote share captured by Republican presidential candidates? Well, that begs for further research.

The other question concerns whether Obama (if he becomes the Democratic nominee) can shift the pool of competitive, general election states; pulling in some formerly solidly red states. This one I'll tackle less scientifically. It is very early and we don't yet know exactly who the nominees will be for each party (Fine, McCain is the guy for the GOP, but not officially until he crosses the 1191 delegate threshold.), but there are head-to-head polls that are being conducted on the state level. Again, this is less than scientific, but looking at these polls does give us a glimpse into the potential power of an Obama candidacy in the general election. Here are the states that have had head-to-head polls (conducted and) reported over the last week (Clicking on Clinton or Obama gives you a link to their head-to-head against McCain in these states via Real Clear Politics. Emphasis will be given to polls conducted around or since Super Tuesday.).

Swing States:
Iowa: (Obama, Clinton): Iowa has been a swing state in the last two cycles; going for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004. It was one of the few states that actually switched from 2000 to 2004. These early head-to-head polls offer a stark contrast though; a twenty point swing depending on who the Democratic nominee is. Obama leads McCain by ten points, while Clinton trails McCain by the same margin. That's the definition of swing, though not in the terms we're used to in presidential elections. Here's an example of a 2004 red state, that could be comfortably with the Democrats or out of reach based on who the nominee is. Numbers like these don't hurt the electability argument Obama has been pushing.

: (Obama, Clinton): Obama has an eight point lead over McCain while Clinton is tied. The latter roughly reflects the distribution of votes in the 2004 Bush-Kerry match up in the state. Is there potential for Obama to make Michigan solidly Democratic? Well, we'll have to ask those Michigan delegates who may not be seated in late August.

New Mexico: (Obama, Clinton): New Mexico, like several other states in the following analysis, has been a swing state in the last few general election cycles. It is one of the few states that switched support, moving from Democratic in 2000 to Republican in 2004. Early on it looks like Obama has a decided advantage over McCain in a state that neighbors McCain's own, Arizona. Against Clinton however, McCain is knotted in a dead heat.

Pennsylvania: (Obama, Clinton): In four polls since Super Tuesday, Pennsylvania looks to be shaping up as a swing state again in 2008. In averaging those polls, both Clinton and Obama hold about a percentage point lead over McCain. Gov. Ed Rendell could prove useful as a running mate for either Democrat in that scenario and former Sen. Rick Santorum fits the profile of the a possible McCain running mate (Well, if age was the only balancing consideration.).

: (Obama, Clinton): If you focus just on the polls from February 2008, then the results are a wash. Clinton would have a two point advantage while Obama and McCain are tied. Ohio is a swing state, regardless of which Democratic candidate emerges.

Oregon: (Obama, Clinton): Like Pennsylvania, Oregon is a state where McCain being the GOP nominee may actually benefit the Republicans. Oregon has been with the Democrats in general elections since 1988. Of course, that only holds if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. McCain has a five point edge over her in Oregon but trails Obama by eight points; a margin twice what Kerry's was over Bush in 2004.

The tally: In the six swing states represented, four give Obama an advantage over Clinton and the two others are virtual ties between the two and McCain.

Blue States:
California: (Obama, Clinton): There really isn't a need to dwell on California for too long. It is a blue state and these poll numbers show that. Ironically, Obama has a larger margin against McCain than Clinton does in the Golden state despite losing the state's primary to her on February 5.

New Jersey: (Obama, Clinton): Both Democrats lead McCain by about the same margin that Kerry beat Bush in the state in 2004. This is a Democratic state unless the leading indicators point to a Republican lean in any given cycle. 2008 is not that cycle for the Republicans (though the Bush folks focused some on New Jersey down the stretch in 2004).

New York: (Obama, Clinton): The surprise here is that Obama does better in Clinton's "home state" than she does against McCain. Across the two post-Super Tuesday polls, his lead is fourteen points to her nine over McCain. In the end New York will be in the Democratic column.

The tally: These three states are part of the Democratic electoral bedrock, and none give either candidate a significant advantage. The Democratic nominee will be in good shape in November no matter which candidate is settled upon.

Red States:
: (Obama, Clinton): Alabama was a red state and given these numbers will likely stay red. Whether the Democratic nominee is Obama or Clinton doesn't seem to have an effect. One note to make is that Alabama is the one state on this list that falls into the heavily African American hypothesis discussed above. It seems to drive home that perception.

Kansas: (Obama, Clinton): Kansas is a red state where Obama could make a push. Both Democrats trail McCain in these early polls, but the margin between Obama and McCain is much smaller than the one between Clinton and McCain. One of the hot names on the speculative VP list for Obama is Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius. With Obama's Kansas roots (or his mother's) and her on the ticket, that six point margin could quickly dissipate. Do the state's six electoral votes really net the Democrats anything though? I suppose that depends on how close the election is.

Virginia: (Obama, Clinton): Like Kansas, Virginia is a solidly red state (at least on the presidential level), where Obama could make some waves. He and McCain are neck and neck while McCain leads Clinton comfortably. The VP choice could be key to hypothetically putting an Obama-led Democratic party over the top in a state like Virginia. This is why we hear Gov. Tim Kaine's and Sen. Jim Webb's names mentioned in relation to Obama. And with thirteen electoral votes at stake, that could prove a real steal for the Democrats.

The tally: Here's the real question: Does Obama potentially bring red states into the electoral equation for Democrats in the fall. In this rather unscientific analysis, he does seem to bring something to the table in two of the three states represented. Virginia has been circled by Democrats since Tim Kaine's gubernatorial win there in 2005 and Jim Webb's ousting of George Allen in the 2006 midterms. Kansas, on the other hand, is intriguing. The margin is enough that a Kansan on the ticket could mean something. The reason Sebelius is governor is because the Republican party in Kansas is split between moderate and conservative factions. Can those conservatives "hold their noses" and vote for McCain? That is the question and why Kansas is a state the Dems could pick off.

Overall, what do we see from this? Obama is helpful in swing states and may be able to pick some spots in red states that could swing some of those into the Democratic column in November. In blue states however, it really doesn't matter. "Give me a Democrat and I'll vote for them" could almost be the mantra.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Political Science Academia and the Nomination Races

Far be it from me to introduce political science into all the fun we've been having here at FHQ since the nomination races commenced, but a couple of blog posts have popped up over the last couple of weeks that have caught my attention...and are rooted in professional political science in one way or another.

The first link comes from poblano
, a contributor over at the Daily Kos. Sure, sure that liberal bastion. However, he's put together a rather nice regression analysis of the contest on the Democratic side; isolating a handful of variables that he(?) hypothesizes affect the two candidate vote share between Clinton and Obama. With the ten or so variables included, 95% of the variation in that two candidate vote share has been explained in the contests up to (not through) last weekend's contests in Washington, Nebraska and Louisiana. Check out the link above for the particulars. The interesting part (And you knew we'd get there, right?) is that the results are then taken and used to predict the finishes in the upcoming contests. I like the analogy that Ohio is simply a replay of Missouri with fewer Southern Baptists. I don't know that Ohio will play out like that (a narrow Obama win), but you can't argue with the demographic similarities between the two states. The sense I gathered from the live discussion group last Wednesday was that Obama's chances were better in Texas than Ohio. So it is interesting to see some evidence to the contrary. The polls continue to show healthy leads in both for Clinton (Ohio and Texas via Real Clear Politics).

And speaking of the live discussion group, one topic that was raised this past week was the differences in campaign tactics on both sides if the parties switched delegate selection rules. The second blog post I happened upon this week doesn't address this directly, but it does examine how the delegate count would differ now if the parties employed the delegate allocation rules of the other. The Monkey Cage (Yes, a political science blog from some faculty at George Washington University.) highlights some of these differences (via Michael Franz at Bowdoin) in their post. Obama's lead increases under Republican delegate rules while doubt would be cast on McCain's inevitability had the GOP nomination been waged under Democratic allocation rules.

Let the discussion begin (...on an otherwise slow weekend). I'll be back later with an update on what's been happening in the news during my blogging absence these last two days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Remember the Alamo...uh, Nevada

As we are apt to do when the nomination season rolls around, we tend to shift the focus to what is next in the process instead of casting an eye toward what has been (and why). It is not unlike the classic one-night-stand scenario though Super Tuesday in that context is a bit overwhelming...but I digress. Political scientists are always haunted by these "what has been" and "why" questions (or they should be if they want to make it in the discipline). When something new like the Nevada caucus comes along, it presents a natural opportunity for unique research. So instead of moving on to Wisconsin and Hawaii, why not look back at Nevada for a moment. Occasional commenter and all-the-time Nevada area political scientist, Dave Damore, has a great post-postmortem (I already used postmortem to describe it in an earlier post.) of the January 19 Nevada caucuses up on Good stuff.

While you're there, be sure to check out (and I'm not trying to divert attention away from Dave's post) the sister sites in other states--in the middle column. Both some of the states that have gone and some that have yet to go are represented. All should have good insight on the contests in those states.