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September 25, 2007

Fryer and Holden on how to redistrict

Abstract: The United States Supreme Court has long recognized compactness as an important principle in assessing the constitutionality of political districting plans. We propose a measure of compactness based on the distance between voters in the same district relative to the minimum distance achievable - which we coin the relative proximity index. We prove that any compactness measure which satisfies three desirable properties (anonymity of voters, efficient clustering and invariance to scale, population density and number of districts) ranks districting plans identically to our index. We then calculate the relative proximity index for the 106th Congress, requiring us to solve for each state’s maximum compactness; an NP-hard problem. Using two properties of maximally compact districts, we prove they are power-diagrams and develop an algorithm based on these insights. The correlation between our index and the commonly-used measures of dispersion and perimeter is -.22 and -.06 respectively. We conclude by estimating seat-vote curves under maximally compact districts for several large states. The fraction of additional seats a party obtains when their average vote increases is significantly greater under maximally compact districting plans, relative to the existing plans.

Roland G. Fryer and Richard Holden (2007), “Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans,” unpublished paper.

Via Andrew Gelman (see here for Gelman’s sympathetic critique of the paper).

September 20, 2007

Senior Nello on who wins and loses from agricultural liberalization

Abstract: This paper aims at showing the role of agriculture in determining many of the controversies and problems of the current phase of globalisation. This first entails presenting key statistics indicating the main developments in world agricultural trade, illustrating how there has been a relative deterioration of the export performance of developing countries. The Doha Development Agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is then analysed, indicating the positions of the main actors involved as this illustrates the perceived vulnerabilities and opportunities arising from agricultural trade liberalisation. The final part of the article provides a survey of the main estimates of the impact of agricultural trade liberalisation, and tackles the issue of those countries, sectors and households that might be adversely affected by the process. In particular, the paper will attempt to illustrate how the possible negative consequences of the failure of the Doha Round could be overcome.

Susan Senior Nello (2007), “Winners and Losers from World Agricultural Trade Liberalisation,” EUI Robert Schuman Center Working Paper. Available here.

Ames, Barker, Bonneau and Carman on Whether Academia Discriminates Against Conservatives

Abstract: Do conservatives suffer discrimination in academe? In “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte argue that “conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats.” Using a survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities, they conclude that their results are “consistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism confers a disadvantage in the competition for political advancement.” In this response, we show that Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte’s work is plagued by theoretical and methodological problems that render their conclusions unsustainable by the available evidence. Furthermore, we offer an alternative hypothesis theoretically consistent with their findings. Unfortunately, we were unable to subject our alternative hypothesis to empirical assessment (or even to replicate the initial results of Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte) since they have refused to make their data available to the scientific community.

Barry Ames, David C. Barker, Chris W. Bonneau, and Chris J. Carman (2007), “Hide the Republicans, the Christians, and the Women: A Response to “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” unpublished paper. Available here.

September 17, 2007

Linberg and Morrison on Clientelism, Voting and Africa

Abstract: This article explores voting behavior in one of Africa’s new democracies. Recognizing that much of the literature assumes African political behavior to be subsumed in ethnic ties and clientelism, we ask if individual voting behavior in Africa is driven by evaluative rationales based on retrospective or prospective judgments of the performance of parties or representatives, or by non-evaluative rationales characterized by clientelism and proxy voting. Based on a survey of voters in two recent elections in Ghana, one of the most surprising findings is that an overwhelming majority of the respondents do not vote based on clientelism, or due to ethnic or family ties but cast their ballots after evaluation of candidates and parties. Despite the significance of ethnicity among elites in Africa, voters are seemingly not influenced primarily by it. This leads us to hypothesize that citizens in “transitional democracies” often reason and behave as relatively “mature” democratic voters by consciously appraising the past performance of the promised policy programs of candidates and parties. We also found in the Ghanaian case that as expected clientelism is more likely where political competition is high. This seems to suggest a dilemma in newly democratizing poor countries: while high-level competition is generally thought to be a desirable characteristic of a democratic regime, competition may also work to raise the frequency of political corruption.

Staffan Lindberg and Minion Morrison (2008), “Are African Voters Really Ethnic or Clientelistic? Survey Evidence from Ghana,” Political Science Quarterly, forthcoming. Available here.

Ames, Barker, Bonneau and Carman on Whether Academia Discriminates Against Conservatives

Abstract: Do conservatives suffer discrimination in academe? In “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte argue that “conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats.” Using a survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities, they conclude that their results are “consistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism confers a disadvantage in the competition for political advancement.” In this response, we show that Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte’s work is plagued by theoretical and methodological problems that render their conclusions unsustainable by the available evidence. Furthermore, we offer an alternative hypothesis theoretically consistent with their findings. Unfortunately, we were unable to subject our alternative hypothesis to empirical assessment (or even to replicate the initial results of Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte) since they have refused to make their data available to the scientific community.

Barry Ames, David C. Barker, Chris Bonneau and Chris Carman, “Hide the Republicans, the Christians, and the Women: A Response to “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

September 12, 2007

Gelman on Axelrod and Trench Warfare

Abstract: The Evolution of Cooperation, by Axelrod (1984), is a highly influential study that identifies the benefits of cooperative strategies in the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. We argue that the most extensive historical analysis in the book, a study of cooperative behavior in First World War trenches, is in error. Contrary to Axelrod’s claims, there soldiers in the Western Front were not generally in a prisoner’s dilemma (iterated or otherwise), and their cooperative behavior can be explained much more parsimoniously as immediately reducing their risks. We discuss the political implications of this misapplication of game theory.

Andrew Gelman (2007), “Methodology as Ideology: Mathematical Modeling of Trench Warfare,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Schonhardt-Bailey on Congressional Debates about Partial Birth Abortion

Abstract: I employ automated content analysis to measure the dimensionality of Senate debates on the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and compare these results with the final vote. The underlying verbal conflict leading up to the final roll call vote contains two important dimensions: (1) an emotive battle over the abortion procedure itself, and (2) the battle over the constitutionality of the bill. Surprisingly, senators appear not to have voted along the first dimension of the verbal conflict, but rather along the second dimension. The analysis of the deliberations of senators not only enables us to understand the complexity of the arguments that is not captured in the vote, but it also uncovers (and measures empirically) the strategies employed by legislators to shape the relevant lines of conflict, and ultimately, the final content of the bill.

Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey (2008), “The Congressional Debate on Partial-Birth Abortion: Constitutional Gravitas and Moral Passion,” British Journal of Political Science (forthcoming). Available here.

September 06, 2007

Gelman and Baldessarri on How Partisanship is Changing

Abstract: Political polarization is commonly measured using the variation of responses on an individual issue in the population: more variation corresponds to more people on the extremes and fewer in the middle. By this measure, research has shown that - despite many commentators’ concerns about increased polarization in recent decades - Americans’ attitudes have become no more variable over the past two or three decades. What seems to have changed is the level of partisanship of the electorate.

We define a new measure of political polarization as increased correlations in issue attitudes and we distinguish between issue partisanship - the correlation of issue attitudes with party ID and liberal-conservative ideology - and issue alignment - the correlation between pairs of issues. Using the National Election Studies, we find issue alignment to have increased within and between issue domains, but by only a small amount (approximately 2 percentage points in correlation per decade). Issue partisanship has increased more than twice as fast, thus suggesting that increased partisanship is not due to higher ideological coherence. Rather, it is parties that are more polarized and therefore better at sorting individuals along ideological lines; the change in people’s attitudes corresponds more to a re-sorting of party labels among voters than to greater constraint on issue attitudes.

We conclude suggesting that increased issue partisanship, in a context of persistently low issue constraint, might give greater voice to political extremists and single-issue advocates, and amplify dynamics of unequal representation.

Andrew Gelman and Delia Baldessarri (2007), “Partisans Without Constraint: Political Polarization and Trends in American Public Opinion,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Legro on What China Will Want

Abstract: China’s national power is growing rapidly, but what China will do with its newfound capabilities remains an issue of contentious debate among scholars and policymakers. At the heart of the problem is the difficulty of divining future intentions. Two arguments have dominated the debate. One focuses on power and likely Chinese revisionism. The other highlights China’s growing interdependence and likely future satisfaction. Both are problematic in terms of logic and evidence. They offer linear projections that ignore the way that China’s future is likely to be contingent—especially on the interaction of foreign policy ideas and events. Relative power and interdependence are important but their impact is mediated through the doctrines leaders use to justify action and establish authority: those ideas are prone to change in regular ways—and with them China’s intentions. If this argument is right, policy prescriptions that advocate containing, engaging, or some mix of the two (i.e., hedging) in relations with China need to be reconfigured.

Jeffrey W. Legro (2007), “What China Will Want: The Future Intentions of a Rising Power,” Perspectives on Politics 5: 515-534. Available here.

September 04, 2007

Williams and Gulati on Facebook and the Midterms

Abstract: As part of a 2006 election feature, Facebook created entries for all U.S. congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Candidates or their campaign staff then could personalize the profile with everything from photographs to qualifications for office. Facebook members could view these entries and register their support for specific candidates. They also received notification every time one of their Facebook friends registered support for a candidate. Facebook displayed the number of supporters for each candidate and calculated the percentage of ―votes‖ that candidate had in his or her race. According to Facebook, 2.64% of their users supported a candidate. All total, 1.5 million members (about 13% of the total user base) were connected either to a candidate or to an issue group.

This study investigates the extent of Facebook profile use in 2006, and analyzes which Congressional candidates were more likely to use them, with what impact on their vote shares. Of those running for the Senate, 32% posted content to their Facebook profile, with the Democratic and Republican candidates attracting an average of 2,146 supporters. Of those running for the House, 13% posted profiles with an average of 125 supporters among Democratic and Republican candidates. Democrats were more likely to post a profile and had more supporters as well. For House candidates, challengers, better-financed candidates, and candidates running in competitive races were the most likely to update their Facebook profile. Competitiveness of the race was the only variable to have a significant effect on whether or not a Senate candidate campaigned on Facebook. The candidates‘ Facebook support had a significant effect on their final vote shares, particularly in the case of open-seat candidates. Given that Facebook supporters may not draw from a candidate‘s eligible and registered voters and tend to overrepresent the 18 to 24 year old age demographic, we see this measure as a proxy for the underlying enthusiasm and intensity of support a candidate generates. In other words, the number of Facebook supporters is an indicator of a campaign resource that does matter, and is independent of the impact of other variables in our predictive model.

Christine B. Williams and Girish J. “Jeff” Gulati (2007), “Social Networks as Viral Campaigns: Facebook and the 2006 Midterm Elections,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via TechPresident.

Kahl on measuring progress in Iraq.

Extracts: In terms of security, there has been a reduction in sectarian murders and insurgent attacks in areas where there are either more American troops or more cooperation between U.S. troops and local Sunni sheiks and militants, or both. … Politically, there has been no progress in Baghdad. There has been political progress in Anbar among the Sunnis, but this is not sectarian reconciliation or even “accommodation” since Anbar is homogenous. Politics has regressed in the south as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), SIIC (and its Badr militia), and the
Fadhila Party violently compete for local dominance. … To the degree that there is progress in Iraq, it is all “bottom-up” rather than “top-down.” The central government is broken. It is a corrupt, failed state. All the “progress” is occurring via ad hoc arrangements at the local and provincial level. Moreover, bottom-up progress may, paradoxically, be undermining top-down progress, as U.S. cooperation with Sunni sheiks and former militants exacerbates Shia paranoia. … There are no George Washingtons or Kemal Ataturks in Iraq and, even if there were, Iraq’s central institutions can’t be fixed and wielded in a way to produce stability from the top-down anytime soon. … Continued decentralization and separation might lead to a relatively stable equilibrium if it is structured in a way that addresses the security dilemma (both among communities and between localities and the center) driving the conflict. A perfect three-way Shia-Sunni-Kurd split into homogenous regions (i.e., a “soft partition” as in Bosnia) is unlikely. There will be substantial mixing in many parts of the country, and perhaps a desire for a unified “Iraq” among much of the population, for the foreseeable future. But, all politics in Iraq is becoming local, the central government will remain weak, and U.S. policies must be designed to accommodate this reality.

For more, see Colin Kahl (2007), CNAS Policy Brief: Measuring Progress in Iraq. Available here.

Via Laura Rozen.

Hindman on APSA and commercial broadcasting

Description: In recent years, many have called for political science to engage more strongly with the public. In his 2004 APSA presidential address, Robert Putnam declared that “attending to the concerns of our fellow citizens is… an obligation as fundamental as our pursuit of scientific truth.” Other scholars (and other APSA presidents) have echoed this theme. APSA committees on inequality, and on civic education and engagement, have recently striven to make their work more accessible and more “relevant.” There is a strange omission in these debates. In calling for political science to have a “stronger public presence” (in Putnam’s words), scholars have ignored the historical period when the public presence of political science was at its zenith. This paper looks at a nearly forgotten episode in the early history of radio. From 1932 to 1936, the APSA sponsored a nationwide radio program on NBC. Entitled “You and Your Goverment,” it was run by some of the most famous scholars in the discipline’s history, including Charles A. Beard and Charles Merriam. Incredibly, the show aired on Tuesday nights after Amos ‘n’ Andy—guaranteeing a lead-in audience of tens of millions. Six percent of the APSA’s membership—and nearly all of it’s leading lights—were featured in the most prominent time slot in broadcast history. At the start of the broadcasts, the committe organizing the broadcsats declared that they were “the greatest single opportunity directly to effect citizenship in the United States that has ever been offered.” The program signified “the opening of the door of wider usefulness for the political scientist.” Yet a few years later, when NBC cancelled the program, these same political scientists had changed their tune, calling broadcasting “a positive menace to culture and democracy.” The political scientists blamed the network and the public, while ignoring or excusing their own errors. Seven decades later, as political scientists again try to make themselves useful to the public, some of these same errors look likely to be repeated.

Matthew Hindeman (2007), “Amos, Andy ‘n’ the APSA: Political Scientists, the Public, and the Creation of Commercial Broadcasting,” unpublished paper. Available here. Via Matthew Hindman’s blog.