Archive for the ‘political science’ Category

party in the street: why study failed movements?

This is the last post responding to Professor Amenta’s lengthy, supportive and critical take on Party in the Street. We earlier discussed whether it was wise to group Afghanistan and Iraq and if our explanation of the anti-Vietnam War movement was valid. In the review, he asks, if the antiwar movement of the 2000s failed, what is the point of studying it?

Short answer: Don’t select on the dependent variable.

Long answer: In the social sciences, we often exhibit a bias toward success. We like to talk about Apple and Google, but not that’s a bad thing, especially if you want to study the outcomes of social processes. Failures are just as important as successes in the social sciences. You need a random sample of events or a sample where you can model the bias. So, in movements, we shouldn’t study only those that succeed. We need comparisons. And detailed case studies of a movement are way to start.

Peace movements are a class of movements that are notoriously unsuccessful, as we note in the book. By studying one in detail, and comparing with others, we can develop a sense of why that might be the case and then ask about other movements. Note: If you want a highly meritorious study of a study that uses a random sample of successful and non-successful movement groups, see Kathleen Blee’s award winning Democracy in the Making.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 26, 2016 at 12:06 am

party in the street: let’s talk about vietnam

Earlier this week, I discussed Professor Amenta’s insanely generous review, “Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics,” which just came out in Contemporary Sociology. We’ve been discussing Amenta’s criticisms. On Tuesday, I discussed why it is useful to see the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan as part of a broader war on terror. Today, I’ll discuss Professor Amenta’s other criticism. He doesn’t buy our explanation that polarization was such a big for the modern peace movement in comparison to the Vietnam era movement:

The authors attribute the contrast between the vigor of the anti-Vietnam War movement during the post-Johnson (Nixon) years and the weakness of the antiwar movement during the post-Bush (Obama) era to the less intense partisanship of the earlier period. It is true that U.S. politics in the late 1960s featured many conservative southern Democrats and moderate Republicans, but partisanship remained important and influenced political contention against the war. In addition, the earlier antiwar movement was boosted by Nixon’s ‘‘secret plan’’ to end the Vietnam War, which was revealed to be intensive bombing of Vietnam and then invading Cambodia. Moreover, unlike recent history, there was a draft and no news blackout on Vietnam War destruction and deaths, each of which spurred continued movement activity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is a significant oversight because it underlines the difficulties faced by antiwar movements today.

First, let’s start with points of agreement. Michael and I definitely agree with Professor Amenta about the importance of the draft. That’s a huge difference and it certainly kept a lot of other wise apathetic citizens on the street to prevent themselves and their family from being drafted. In multiple interviews with older activists, we where told a number of times that the draft was a big motivator in the 1960s.

Still, that doesn’t get you far enough. If “draft theory” were very true, then there would not have been any antiwar movement at all. A relatively small volunteer force fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We would not have seen any protest at all. Furthermore, you need some explanation of why there would be ups and downs of the movement. We think our partisan-identity theory is a plausible explanation rooted in an intuitive political psychology. Polarization just exacerbated the issue. Once Democrats assumed leadership in the war effort, there was nobody on the “other side” to pick up slack in the movement, as moderate Republicans might have in an earlier era.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 16, 2016 at 12:26 am

pro-religion, pro-science

Tim O’Brien* of UW-Milwaukee and Shiri Noy of U-Wyoming have a new article in Socious (“A Nation Divided: Science, Religion, and Public Opinion in the United States“) that explores people who are both religious and pro-science. From the press coverage:

“If we look at the modern group and the traditional group and their political and social attitudes, they differ in virtually every domain of human society,” O’Brien said. “When it comes to criminal justice, they are different. When it comes to families, they are different. When it comes to civil liberties, race relations, sexuality, we see a big schism between these traditionalists and the moderns. As you might expect, moderns tend to hold more liberal or progressive opinions and traditionalists tend to be more conservative or orthodox.”

The wild card is the post-secular group. Embracing both science-oriented and religiously inclined views led them to have unique attitudes toward social issues. They are more conservative when it comes to gender and sexuality but lean progressive when it comes to social justice, and education.

“Basically what we have found is that scientific Americans aren’t necessarily liberal. … We also find that religious Americans aren’t necessarily conservative; they are progressive in some domains as well,” O’Brien explained. “The overall finding is that people’s attitudes about science and religion really map onto their socio-political in a more diverse set of ways than I think people usually acknowledge.”

That’s important because moderns and traditionals make up 70 to 80 percent of the American population, and they vote predictably. It’s the post-seculars who have disproportionate sway in American political elections. They tend to vote Republican, but with this year’s unorthodox election, it’s anybody’s guess.

Read the whole thing.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

*As my former TA, I take .01% of the credit for Tim.

Written by fabiorojas

September 14, 2016 at 12:06 am

party in the street: response to amenta

In the most recent Contemporary Sociology, Irvine’s Edwin Amenta wrote an incredibly kind and generous review of Party in the Street (“Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics“). It’s really humbling to have such an accomplished researcher so deeply engage with our work and find so much value. Not only did Professor Amenta say nice things about the book, he also offered a number of carefully thought out critiques of the book. In this post, I’d like to summarize what Professor Amenta wrote and offer a few brief comments in response.

Amenta takes issue with a fundamental assumption of the book. Here is Amenta:

Specifically, I question the authors’ explanation for the contrast between the decline of the recent antiwar movement and the expansion of the anti-Vietnam War movement, the analytical conflation of antiwar protest and antiwar movements, and their empirical conflation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Let’s start with what I think is a more amenable issue – the issue of the connection between the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Once again, Professor Amenta:

The authors’ most puzzling decision—to combine analytically the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan—challenges their account of movement decline. This conflation of the two wars is central to their puzzle— why did the antiwar movement end while war kept going? But the contrast in opposition to the two wars answers this better than the rise to power of a Democratic president. The war in Afghanistan, beginning almost immediately after the September 11 attacks, drew the protest of only scattered anti-imperialist, anarchist, and other smallbore groups. That war was waged on a Taliban regime and its ward al Qaeda,  which had planned the attacks, and generated public support. By contrast, even before the war in Iraq began, it drew extensive opposition from a broad coalition of organizations and participants; it was clear during its lengthy run-up that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and that the Bush administration claims of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were questionable. Without this war of choice, or ‘‘dumb war,’’ as Illinois state senator Barack Obama referred to it in 2002, it seems unlikely there would have been much antiwar activity or an antiwar movement. As president, Obama quickly wound down the Iraq war, the one that the movement opposed. And so it is not surprising that antiwar activity slowed and did not return, even after the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, as there was never any real movement against that war. The origin of the mass antiwar movement in opposition to the Iraq war—in its  gratuitousness, deviousness in justification, and bungled execution—helps to explain the decline of this movement, as it ended as that war ended. The authors’ point is well taken that protest declined after partisan government changed, but the decline of movements is also typically related to their emergence and their influence; and thus any analysis of decline should address these influences.

A number of issues suggested to us that it would be useful to link the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the narrative. First, the “kernel” of the antiwar movement emerged in the days after 9/11. Amenta calls these early groups “smallbore.” I would agree, but all movements need to start somewhere. The Afghanistan war was the event that pulled a lot of hard core activists into peace activism and these activists often went on to leadership positions. For example, one the leading groups during the Iraq War era was International A.N.S.W.E.R. From one perspective, it is a “smallbore” group – allied with the socialist left and operates with a pretty small staff. However, it was one of the groups that got in “on the ground floor” right after 9/11 (the early Afghanistan war era) and became a highly influential player during the peak of the antiwar movement (the Iraq War era). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense (to us) that both of these conflicts were important events that shaped the trajectory of the movement. The Afghanistan war “jump started” a core of activists who were previously working on other issues while Iraq allowed that core to grow into a truly mass movement.

But there is a deeper point. Much of the antiwar movement leadership said they were in the *peace* movement, not the anti-Iraq War movement. Also, it was the frame offered by the Bush 2 administration. They were both parts of the “War on Terror.” If you can accept this view, then a lot of public opinion makes sense. The public supported both Iraq and Afghanistan as responses to terrorism and only turned on Iraq once casualties mounted. Among activists, they were both wars to be opposed for similar reasons (e.g., pacifism or anti-imperialism). Only among the Democratic/liberal wing of the electorate do you see the split on Iraq and Afghanistan, which we attribute to the tension between partisan and movement identities. This overall pattern only makes sense if you consider Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a broader context, not completely independent events.

Later this week, we’ll delve more deeply into the comparison between peace activism in the Vietnam and Iraq War eras.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 13, 2016 at 12:33 am

more tweets, more votes: wired magazine

A few weeks ago, Wired magazine discussed how you can use social media data to improve political forecasting. From Emma Ellis:

Traditional polling methods aren’t working the way they used to. Upstart analytics firms like Civis and conventional pollsters like PPP, Ipsos, and Pew Research Institute have all been hunting for new, more data-centric ways to uncover the will of the whole public, rather than just the tiny slice willing to answer a random call on their landline. The trending solution is to incorporate data mined from the Internet, especially from social media. It’s a crucial, overdue shift. Even though the Internet is a cesspool of trolls, it’s also where millions of Americans go to express opinions that pollsters might not even think to ask about.

And they were kind enough to cite the More Tweets/More Votes research:

According to Fabio Rojas, a sociologist at Indiana University who conducted a study correlating Twitter mentions and candidate success, “More tweets equals more votes.”…

Social media data gives you a sense of the zeitgeist in a way that multiple choice questions never will. “Say I wanted to learn about what music people are listening to,” says Rojas. “I would have to sit down beforehand and come up with the list. But what if I don’t know about Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber?” Polls are generated by a small group of people, and they can’t know everything. Social media is a sample of what people actually talk about, what actually draws their attention, and the issues that really matter to them.

That sentiment matters, and pollsters can (and in PPP’s case, do) use it to direct their questioning. “People clue us in on stuff online all the time,” says Jim Williams, a polling analyst at PPP. They even ask the Internet where and on what they should poll next, hence Harambe’s presence in its poll. But, Williams says, joke suggestions aside, Twitter’s input also helps pollsters include the finer points of local and national politics. And even the Harambe question itself actually tells the pollsters something interesting.

Interesting stuff.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 2, 2016 at 12:01 am

trump symposium iii: social science and trump

In this third installment of the Trump symposium, I want to talk about how social scientists should think about Trump. Let’s start with prediction – who foresaw Trump? We need to make a distinction.

So what should a social scientist do?

  • Start with the following mantra: Social science is about trends and averages, rarely about specific cases. If an outsider becomes a major party nominee once, then you can cling to the old theory. If you get three Trumps in a row, then it’s time to dump the Party Decides model, unless, of course, you see the party openly embrace Trump and he becomes the new establishment.
  • Feel confident: One crazy case doesn’t mean that you dump all results. For example, polling still worked pretty well. Polls showed a Trump rise and, lo and behold, Trump won the nomination. Also, polls are in line with basic models of presidential elections where economic trends set the baseline. The economy is ok, which means the incumbent party has an advantage. Not surprisingly, polls show the Democratic nominee doing well.
  • Special cases: Given that most things in this election are “normal,” it’s ok to make a special argument about an unusual event. Here, I’d say that Trump broke the “Party Decides” model because he is an exceptionally rare candidate who doesn’t need parties. Normally, political parties wield power because politicians don’t have money or name recognition. In contrast, Trump has tons of money and a great media presence. He is a rare candidate who can just bypass the whole system, especially when other candidates are weak.

What does the future hold? Some folks have been raising the alarms about a possible Trump win. So far, there is little data to back it up. In the rolling Real Clear Politics average of polls, Trump is consistently behind. In state polls, he is behind. He has no money. He has not deployed a “ground game.”In fact, the RCP average has had Clinton 2 ahead of Trump every single day since October with the exception of the GOP convention and about two of the worst days of the Democratic campaign. Is it possible that Trump will be rescued by a sudden wave of support from White voters? Maybe, but we haven’t seen any movement in this direction. A betting person would bet against Trump.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 1, 2016 at 12:44 am

trump symposium ii: the organizational basis of today’s crazy politics – a guest post by josh pacewicz

This guest post on Trump’s run for president is written by Josh Pacewicz, a political sociologist at Brown University. 


In case you haven’t noticed, this has been a crazy election cycle. On both the Democratic and Republican side, a candidate who is more extreme than the typical serious presidential contender went all the way to the convention. Trump, who espouses some positions that are not recognizably Republican, is arguably even more the anomaly than Sanders. But both fared well, which suggests that the contours of America’s 20th Century party system are strained, if not cracked. How did this happen?

2016 makes sense only in the historical context of the gradual polarization of American political parties, or the tendency of politicians from the two parties to vote differently on every issue. Party polarization is distinct from other trends like a rightward drift among both Republicans and Democrats and is visible in, for instance, analyses of congressional voting, which show no Republican with a voting record left of any Democrat. A political status quo based in complete disagreement is a necessary precondition of this election, because only then do political observers expect politicians to treat their opponents as unredeemable out-there radicals, a state of affairs that creates opportunities for candidates who truly are outside the political mainstream. Because partisan polarization is a decades-long trend, explanations of 2016 that focus on factors like the recession or racial resentment over Obama’s presidency seem incomplete. Since the 1980s, party polarization has increased in good economic times and bad, during periods of war and peace, and under Democratic and Republican administrations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

August 31, 2016 at 12:39 am