Archive for the ‘Scholarship’ Category

Policy Arguments Distilled

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Hello again! It’s been a while since we have blogged here, but this infographic by Dylan Matthews of Wonkblog is too good to not repost here. It succinctly captures how policy arguments progress.

Categories: Scholarship

The Onion on Absentee Voting

I am working on a rewrite of an article about why people choose to vote by mail, and I was reminded of this Onion infographic from the last election:

I just thought I would share.

Prop. 14 and California’s Minor Parties

So after not posting anything new for a while, you get a couple posts one right after the other.

My article, “Proposition 14 and California’s Minor Parties: A Case Study of Electoral Reform and Party Response,” is now available from the California Journal of Politics and Policy here (gated unfortunately; here’s the version I will be presenting at MPSA next month). Here’s the abstract:

In 2010, California voters enacted Proposition 14, the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which changed California’s electoral system from single-member, plurality district elections to a top two (majority) runoff system. Although literature in comparative politics and formal theory suggests this change should help third parties in California, almost 80% fewer minor-party candidates filed for office in 2012 than in 2010. Indeed, 2012 saw the smallest number of minor-party candidates in California since 1966. Employing a mixed-methods approach, this paper examines different explanations for the decline in minor-party candidacies. Although most observers argue that Proposition 14 directly discouraged minor-party candidates from filing for office (because they likely would not make the runoff ballot), I argue that the decline results from three other factors: (1) a long-run decline in the California Libertarian Party, (2) a legislature-driven increase in the filing fee required from minor-party candidates, and, most importantly, (3) party elites foregoing candidate recruitment in 2012.

If their publishing schedule looks like last year’s, it will be in the upcoming June issue.

Your 112th Congress: Most. Polarized. Ever.

The DW-NOMINATE scores for the 112th Congress were released by VoteView yesterday (original post). The title of this post gives the punchline away, but according to the NOMINATE measure the 112th Congress was the most polarized since Reconstruction. Here’s the graph to go with it:

NOMINATE uses every vote cast during a congress to estimate the ideological positions of each member. Since membership overlaps and individual members’ ideologies do not change much over time, it is possible to compare comparing the ideology of members today with members from the past. The measure is scaled from -1 (the most liberal member) to +1 (the most conservative member). What you see above is the ideological distance between the average Republican and the average Democrat in the House and Senate over time.

Where does all that polarization come from? Mostly the Republican Party, though note that this is not anything new. The average Republican has been getting more conservative since the mid-1970’s.

Here’s VoteView’s statement:

The 112th Congress closed unceremoniously this month with a series of votes (by the House and Senate) to avert the “fiscal cliff”. With this data, we can now analyze roll call voting in the 112th Congress in its entirety and place the amount of Congressional polarization seen over the last two years in historical context. … And … this phenomenon has been asymmetric: contemporary polarization of the parties is almost entirely due to the movement of congressional Republicans to the right. Polarization is measured as the difference between the Republican and Democratic means on the first DW-NOMINATE dimension, which represents the ideological (liberal-conservative) scale.

Dan O’Neill Goes All Tom Cruise in Seattle

September 6, 2011 2 comments

University of the Pacific Political Science and International Studies Professor Daniel O’Neill also participated in the recent Seattle meetings of the American Political Science Association.  He delivered a paper “Risky Business: China‘s Foreign Direct Investment and Aid to Developing Countries.”

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

Foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is increasingly destined for developing states with high corruption, weak rule of law and substantial political risk. To explain the ability of China’s state owned enterprises (SOEs) to invest successfully in such environments, I present a theory of how Chinese bilateral policies, particularly foreign aid, shape incentives for the leadership in the receiving country that constrain predatory behavior against Chinese SOEs. This creates a de facto insurance for Chinese investors in foreign states lacking the institutions shown to protect investments. Case studies of Chinese SOEs in Cambodia and Kazakhstan support the hypotheses. A main contribution of this study is in analyzing the effects of the policies of home (FDI source) country governments on outward foreign direct investment.

Who Builds Up Foreign Debt And Who Brings It Down

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment
A color-coded legend of forms of government. C...

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At the recent meeting of the American Political Science Association, Pacific‘s Professor Yong Kyun Kim presented a poster “Who Builds Up Foreign Debt and Who Brings It Down?”  His student attributes a great deal of change in foreign debt to political institutions.  Here is his abstract:

We present an empirical analysis of the political determinants
of foreign-debt buildup and reduction
in developing countries. Three interesting patterns
stand out. First, most factors exhibit nonlinearity
when the dependent variable’s sign changes. Federalism,
for instance, helps prevent a large debt
buildup but does not promote a large debt reduction.
Second, some factors are symmetric in the
sense that they accelerate or dampen changes in
both directions. Presidential systems are associated
with a significant rise in foreign debt as well as
with its big fall. Finally, the way many political institutions
are related to changes in foreign debt differs
significantly across different levels of democracy.
Governments with a larger share of seats in
the legislature and left governments are better able
to bring their foreign debt down only if they are
highly democratic. When highly autocratic, they
make it less likely to happen. We show that political
institutions as a whole explain a great deal
of variation in the increase and decrease of foreign
debt and that they do so in a complex manner.

You can see Professor Kim’s poster here: ykimapsa2011.

Kelleher Takes Top Prize at 2011 PURCC

Graduating senior Chelsea Kelleher recently took home the top prize for oral presentations at the 2011 Pacific Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference. She was up against 23 other students from a variety of disciplines. Congrats Chelsea!

Here’s the abstract of her paper, which she completed as an independent research project under the direction of Prof. Keith Smith:

Is there a relationship between crime and Section 8 housing? In 2008, Atlantic Monthly journalist Hanna Rosin published an article investigating the relationship between high crime rates in the Memphis area and newly formed clusters of Section 8 recipients. She argues that the Section 8 program is responsible for the rise in crime rates for Memphis, Tennessee, and extends this conclusion to the rest of the United States, implicating a host of popular affordable housing programs as well. Housing advocates and policy makers were quick to respond to these allegations, arguing that Rosin had established no causal link between Section 8 and crime, and that her findings could not be verified for the country as a whole. This paper seeks to test the hypothesis that the presence of Section 8 housing increases crime rates in an area. To do this I use a controlled comparison of crime rates in six Stockton neighborhoods in 2009, using three pairs of neighborhoods matched by similar demographic characteristics. Drawing from crime statistics from the Stockton Police Department, I then examine their crime rates in comparison to their matches, before finally drawing a conclusion. The results reveal that there is insufficient evidence to state that there is a relationship between Section 8 and crime; while areas with higher poverty rates tended to experience more crime, whether or not they accepted Section 8 did not make a difference.

Pacific@MPSA: Ambition, belonging, and the moral community

Late 19th century view, the Puritan stereotype...

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Ed. note: This is the fourth in our series on papers presented at the Midwestern Political Science Association meeting. Today is Prof. Jeffrey Becker’s paper, “The Ambition of Moral Citizens: Belonging and the Limits of the Moral Community.”

This essay argues that democracies face an elementary challenge of building a sense of belonging out of a diverse and heterogeneous population. Socially, people inevitably separate one another into exclusive categories of “us” and “them.”  Yet, politically, when democratic citizens seek political power by claiming the mantle of moral righteousness, and in turn demonize their political opponents as immoral, they undermine the capacity of democratic institutions to build political unity and consensus.  Political ambitions to build a community of moral purpose by dividing “us” from “them”, when adopted as a strategy for ambitious citizens seeking political power, end up demanding that citizens who have no immediate reasons to despise one another-sort themselves into coalitions defined by increasingly polarized worldviews. By connecting a case study of the American Puritans with contemporary political debates I show how claims to political power which center on determining the moral purity of citizens end up expanding and entrenching an authoritarian politics hostile to democratic practices. Left undeterred, this polarizing of citizens undermines democratic practices essential to forming a collective responsibility for public life.

Pacific@MPSA: English for the children?

Ed. note: This is the third in our series of entries about presentations by people associated with the department at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings. Today’s entry is especially exciting as it is from Ms. Julia Sweeney, one of our students. Ms. Sweeney presented a poster about her project evaluating the impact of Prop. 227 in California. Be sure to check out the photo at the end.

In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 227, “English for the Children”. This ballot initiative promoted an English-only approach to teaching English Second Language (ESL) learners. The impact of ESL policy in California is great, as 23.7% of the California public school population is classified as ESL ( This project assesses the impact of that English-only proposition on the success of ESL students in each California school district.

The implementation of Proposition 227 varied immensely throughout the state. Some districts drastically changed their services from providing primary language support to English-only; some districts continued primary language support; and some districts provided the same English-only services before and after Prop. 227. Due to the differences in impact Prop.227 had throughout the state, this project analyzed the relationship between services provided within a district and ESL test scores, assuming that Prop. 227 influenced an overall increase in English-only methods and decrease in primary language support.

The literature discusses the importance of embracing an ESL student’s primary language, stating that ESL students can fall behind academically if they don’t learn the basic skills being taught in English. If a student enters the first grade and spends that year focusing on learning “Survivor English” (the very basic English communication skills) and does not comprehend the academic content being taught, by the time that student understands academic English, they have missed the foundation for their academic content. The research in this area also stresses that academic skills established in a primary language are transferable once the student better understands English. For these reasons I predicted to see a negative relationship between English-only instruction and ESL test scores. As the percentage of students in a district receiving no primary language services increased, I predicted to see a decrease in the percentage of students in a district testing at a proficient level.

Using the data from the California Department of Education website on school instructional services, ESL populations within a district, and California English Language Development Test (CELDT) scores, I analyzed a cross section time series. Although the results initially have shown an insignificant relationship, the proponents of Proposition 227 were incorrect to say that English-only services would improve test scores and raise ESL student success.

After receiving feedback at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference last weekend, I plan to expand this project to include other test scores and more quantitative analysis for my senior political science capstone presentation at the end of April.

Ed. note: This is the second of several entries on our faculty’s presentations at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings in Chicago, IL. Prof. Susan Sample presented her paper, “From Territorial Dispute to War:  Timing, Causation, and the Steps-to-War.”

Pacific@MPSA: From Territorial Dispute to War

Ed. note: This is the second of several entries on our faculty’s presentations at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings in Chicago, IL. Prof. Susan Sample presented her paper, “From Territorial Dispute to War:  Timing, Causation, and the Steps-to-War.”

One of the most influential theories about the causes of war over the last couple of decades is the steps-to-war theory, first articulated in The War Puzzle by John Vasquez in 1993.  The steps-to-war theory argues that wars tend to emerge from conflicts over territorial issues, which are then “negotiated” with power politics policies, like making alliances and building up your arms in order to demonstrate how important the issue is to you, and to make fighting easier if war comes.  Rather than making war less likely through deterrence, these things lead to step increases in the probability of war.  Empirical testing of the relationships has demonstrated that the variables embedded in the theory, individually and collectively, do in fact increase the probability of war.

This paper takes the next step in testing this theory by asking whether there are patterns in the sequence in which the various steps emerge?  Sequence matters because it gets to the underlying theoretical mechanism of how these processes work–others have argued, for instance, that taking the steps isn’t increasing the chance of war, but rather, states make a decision to go to war, then do all of these things in order to prepare to fight it.  In other words, the things are correlated, but the steps-to-war theory is getting the causes and consequences backwards.  There are other critiques that are similar:  they argue that the correlations between the variables and war may work, but the real causal mechanism is different from what the steps-to-war theory argues.

This paper tests this by looking at sequencing of the steps.  I find that all territorial claims are not alike.  The causal path of some certainly fit the steps-to-war theory quite well, but many are clearly following paths that are likely better explained by other theories.  By looking at the historical records of actual conflicts, we can test these theories and figure out what they have to offer our explanations of the causes of war. The next step is likely to be moving from this article to a book-length project that does process-tracing of particular historical case studies to try to trace the particular causal mechanisms at work in the different categories of cases.


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