Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What If We Had to Vote?

March 21, 2015 Leave a comment

We’re back from Spring Break and my students have sent me a new batch of politics related stories that have caught their attention.

President Obama’s suggestion that it might be time to consider madatory voting showed up in several students’ submissions. The president said that making voting mandatory as it is in Australia, Belgium, and other democracies could be “transformative.”

An article in The Fix argued that mandatory voting might have changed the results in a number of states in the 2012 presidential election. 

On the other hand, a Monkey Blog post held that mandatory voting would have little impact on electoral outcomes for a variety of reasons. 

While mandatory voting ceteris paribus might not change the outcomes of many elections, it almost certainly would change campaign strategies and tactics, and other aspects of electoral politics. 

More controversial is whether mandatory voting would be an oppressive violation of citizens’ freedom. Other responsibilities of citizenship are mandatory (paying taxes, jury duty, etc.). Why not voting?

Categories: Uncategorized

Was Tyrese a Democrat? Because I’m Pretty Sure Rick is a Republican

March 8, 2015 Leave a comment

We are on Spring Break now, so I was tempted not to post a POLS 041 student submission this week. Happily, Kaori Kubo found a gem of an article that I could not resist sharing. 

While most of my students this week found articles discussing Hillary Clinton’s email difficulties and what they may suggest about her presidential possibilities, Kaori discovered this delightful article exploring a facet of the attitudinal differences separating Democrats and Republicans.

According a recent Yougov poll, 43% of Republicans say that they would survive longer than most people in their community in the event of an apocalyptic collapse. That’s roughly twice the rate of Democrats. 

Various recent studies have highlighted differences between Republicans and Democrats in the TV programs they like to watch, their preferred pets, which alcoholic beverages they are more likely to drink, and whether to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, so I guess it’s no surprise that Democrats and Republicans have different views about the apocalypse. 

While both sets of partisans are worried about nuclear war causing the apocalypse, Democrats are more likely to worry about catastrophic climate change bringing the end of the world. Republicans tend to focus on Judgment Day as the cause of the end times. 

On a personal note, writing this post taught me that I drink like a Democrat, own pets like a Republican, and watch TV on a strictly bipartisan basis. There is not a red Hulu Plus and a blue Hulu Plus . . .

Categories: Uncategorized

The Difference Between Journalists and Political Scientists (One More Time)

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Time again for our weekly contribution from an introductory political science student. This week Claudia Valencia offers this National Journal article suggesting that Hillary R. Clinton isn’t quite the slam dunk to be elected president in 2016 that some in the media may incline us to believe. 

The point has been made many times by now, but unlike journalists who often focus on personalities and the short-term events of campaigns (who won the straw poll at CPAC now?), political scientists try to isolate the fundamental factors affecting how people vote.

But political scientists who specialize in presidential-race forecasts aren’t relying on their guts. They’ve built statistical models that draw on the history of modern presidential campaigns (since Harry Truman’s reelection in 1948) to determine with startling accuracy the outcome of the next White House contest.

Political scientists may not tell the most colorful stories, but they are likely to help you keep your eye on the critical fundamentals. 

Categories: Uncategorized

And Oscar’s Campaign Contributions Go To . . .

February 22, 2015 Leave a comment

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?

Categories: Uncategorized

American Government and Politics Students on Current Events

January 19, 2015 Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized

November 8, 2012 16 comments


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

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.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of Diebold,
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

Categories: Uncategorized

Money Is Speech

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I explained this in class today, but the video is more entertaining.

Categories: Uncategorized

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