Last weekend was really busy and I failed to post a news item from my introductory US government and politics class. Sorry about that. We had some very interesting submissions, really we did.
Lots of interesting articles and posts sent in by my students again this week. Everything from evidence that Barack Obama really hearts America to Oklahoma’s efforts to spin the AP history exam to a fascinating article about Trinity Industries’ efforts to lobby states’ attorneys general.
But it’s Oscars night. The celebrities are on the red carpet and, so, our featured article this week has an Academy Awards theme.
Political Scientists love data and while federal election law may not do much to discourage floods of money going into campaigns, it has provided us with lots of data about who gives how much to whom.
Analysts from Crowdpac, a group that compiles campaign finance data, examined records of actors, producers, directors and crew members who worked on this year’s Oscar-nominated films in search of a correlation between the message of their film and the political views of their creators.
Crowdpac assigned each person a score based on their donor history, ranking them from most liberal to most conservative. The analysts then tallied an average score for each Best Picture-nominated movie.
Here’s how it breaks down for the Oscar-nominated films (film/liberal index (out of 10)/number of donors/total contributions):
Imitation Game – 9.4L (4 donors – $4,441)
Birdman – 9.2L (16 donors – $518,602)
Selma – 9L (8 donors – $448,408)
Boyhood – 8.7L (11 donors – $39,515)
Whiplash – 8.6L (7 donors – $33,859)
Grand Budapest Hotel – 8.4L (6 donors – $23,500)
Theory of Everything – 6.3L (1 donor – $19,281)
American Sniper – 3.1L (9 donors – $55,959)
It won’t surprise many to see that the donors associated with these films tend to the liberal end of the spectrum, or that American Sniper is the least liberal-leaning film in tonight’s competition.
But maybe there is room for a methodological debate here. After all, if you follow the Auteur theory of cinema, maybe we should only count donations from a film’s director (and maybe screenwriter). I mean, do the Key Grip’s contributions really affect the politics of a film?
This semester my students are monitoring the news and sending me their weekly suggestions articles to read about events and issues they think are interesting and important for students of American politics to follow. Every week I will be posting the top articles that they send me here.
I did not receive many suggested articles last week, It was the first week of classes and students are busy preparing for an intensive simulation of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
However, Juan Aguirre did send a link to this article about terror cells in Belgium.
Dealing with what may be a new phase of terrorist operations will create problems for governments all over the world, including the U.S.
Watch us every week for more news items suggested by my students.
No post from our assigned faculty member, so how about this reblog for fun.
Originally posted on abrahampenrose:
A tribute to the mathematician who predicted the outcome of all 50 states correctly in 2012. Nate Silver, of http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
Nate Silver is my statistician; I shall not fret.
He maketh me to lie down in blue states:
He leadeth me beside the bicoastal urban elites.
He restoreth my faith in the electoral college:
He leadeth me in the path of accuracy for his name brand’s sake.
I will fear no recounts: For he is with me;
His blog and his stats, they comfort me.
He preparest a table of odds before me in the presence of partisan hacks;
He filleth my head with possible outcomes; My brain bloweth up. Surely middle class tax relief and affordable health care shall follow me all the days of my life,
and Obama will dwell in the House of White for the next four…
View original 263 more words
I explained this in class today, but the video is more entertaining.
Some interesting local politics news:
The California Supreme Court unanimously smacked down the latest Republican challenge to the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s (CRC) new State Senate maps. The ruling is notable for a couple reasons:
- The Court, comprised of six Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, went out of its way to demonstrate the partisan nature of the challenge to the maps. It repeatedly referenced the “open, transparent and nonpartisan” process used by the CRC to draw the maps. Moreover, in the footnotes of the opinion the justices repeated made reference to the Republican Party ties of the various actors challenging the maps.
- The ruling means that the new maps will be used during this election cycle, even if voters approve the referendum disapproving the CRC’s maps. If voters do approve the referendum, any new maps will not be used until 2014.
Incumbent Jerry McNerney (D) has another fight on his hands for the newly formed 9th Congressional District. The latest campaign filings just came out, and his most likely challenger, Republican Ricky Gill (watch out for the auto-play on the video), has raised more money than McNerney at this point in the election cycle ($957K to $893K) and has more cash on hand ($838K to $780K). In 2010, McNerney had to raise and spend over $3 million to keep his seat.
Some additional thoughts about the upcoming contest:
- Many Democrats are complaining that Gill’s numbers are inflated by personal loans he has made to his campaign. It doesn’t matter. Challengers have to spend their own money to compete with incumbents. What matters is that Gill is out-raising McNerney right now. The more challengers raise and spend, the worse incumbents do in elections. So points for Gill.
- Ricky Gill, who so far is running a very effective campaign by all indications, is not what political scientists call a quality candidate. By this, we mean that he has never held elected office. Candidates who have never held elected office, no matter how much money they raise and spend, tend to do poorly in elections. So points for McNerney.
- The new 9th District, which encompasses the greater Stockton-Lodi area–including Galt, Lathrop, and Mountain House and stretching all the way over to Antioch/Brentwood/Oakley–by most estimates tilts somewhat Democratic. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 45% to 36%, and the new district voted 58% to 42% for President Obama in 2008 and 51% to 42% for Governor Brown in 2010. So points for McNerney.
- In 2010, McNerney faced a very well funded challenger (although, again, someone who had never held prior elected office) in a very strong year for Republicans in general and in a district that was more competitive than the new one–and he still won reelection. So points for McNerney.
Does all this mean McNerney will win another term in Washington? Not at all. What we know from political science about the election right now, though, indicates it will be hard for Gill to unseat McNerney. The big wild-card in all of this is the outcome of the presidential election. If Mitt Romney does well in the fall, McNerney will have a hard time holding onto the seat.
(As an aside, it takes some digging through Gill’s web site to figure out that he’s a Republican. It’s not evident in the same way it’s obvious from McNerney’s site that he is a Democrat. Newly enacted Prop. 14, which changed how we select nominees for office in California, does not require candidates to state their party affiliation on the ballot. Will Gill state his then? Will McNerney?)
This past weekend Pacific’s Speech and Debate travelled to Santa Rosa Junior College to compete against 27 other schools from around Northern California (and some Southern California schools as well). At the end of the weekend, Pacific Speech and Debate was first overall in school sweepstakes as well as in Open Parliamentary Debate.
Of special note: The team’s Pacific BS squad (Robert Birlew & Manpreet Sandhu) won the entire debate tournament. Emma Henry received the Cynthia Sutherland Top Speaker award for the most points earned by a single student! It should also be noted that the Pacific Lincoln-Douglas Debate squad closed out the tournament taking first through fourth place! (Emma Henry, Richard Birlew, Mark Rauschmayer, & Robert Birlew, respectively).
Meg Whitman, despite (or perhaps because of) spending over $140 million of her own money on the campaign, lost to Jerry Brown in the California gubernatorial contest last night. The margin wasn’t even that close: Whitman won just 41% of the vote. Brown won 54% of the vote. What happened?
As the following graph shows, Whitman was ahead of Brown in the assorted public opinion polls in August and September. In September, however, Whitman’s support began to fall off dramatically. Why?
One possible explanation is the revelation that Whitman employed an illegal alien for about nine years. Perhaps the news that a candidate who had taken a hard-line stance on employers who hire illegal immigrants had herself employed an illegal immigrant hurt her in the polls. We can write off this explanation, however, because the news broke on Sept. 30, several days after the downward trend in Whitman’s poll numbers began. In the following graph, I’ve added a line for when this story broke to illustrate why this explanation can’t be the cause of Whitman’s loss.
So what else might explain Whitman’s decline? Political science tells us to look at the fundamentals of the election. First, California is, at least in terms of party registration, a heavily Democratic state. Over 44% of the electorate are registered Democrats; just 31% are registered Republicans. Although 20% of the electorate is registered as Decline to State, most of these people have party allegiances. We know that the number one influence on a person’s vote choice is their party affiliation. So in order for Whitman to win, she would have had to convince a lot of Democrats to vote Republican–something that is not very likely.
Second, the sitting Governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a Republican. Political science has demonstrated that voters hold the party of the executive responsible for whatever is going right or wrong. Most people think there is a lot wrong with the state of California, and no matter how much the Democrats and Republicans share responsibility for this fact, voters are more likely to punish a Republican running for governor than they are to punish a Democrat.
Political science also tells us that many voters do not start paying attention to an election until it is almost upon them. Despite Whitman’s heavy spending on television and radio ads throughout the state, many voters simply had not begun to pay attention to the gubernatorial race until September. Once they did, the above considerations began to kick in and Whitman’s support began to decline.
Thus, despite a very good year for Republicans nationally, Meg Whitman faced a tough battle to win in California–a battle that she lost.
- Meg Whitman’s Swan Song (alternet.org)