Robo Calls

I love this story from Farad Manjoo which nicely summarizes political science findings on the most effective ways to win-over voters.  It is quite encouraging to know that the utterly despicable “robocalls” of which Republicans are running many, do not seem to be at all effective.  TPM is actually running a nice site that keeps track of all the sleaze.  Sample script from a call running right here in NC:

“You need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with Domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the US Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans.  And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington.  Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgement to lead our country.” 

Anyway, here's the skinny on what works and what doesn't:

Political scientists have run dozens of such studies during the past
few years, and the work has led to what you might call the central
tenet of voter mobilization: Personal appeals work better than
impersonal ones. Having campaign volunteers visit voters door-to-door
is the “gold standard” of voter mobilization efforts, Green and Gerber
write. On average, the tactic produces one vote for every 14 people
contacted. The next-most-effective way to reach voters is to have live,
human volunteers call them on the phone to chat: This tactic produces
one new vote for every 38 people contacted. Other efforts are nearly
worthless. Paying human telemarketers to call voters produces one vote
for every 180 people contacted. Sending people nonpartisan
get-out-the-vote mailers will yield one vote per 200 contacts. (A partisan mailer is even less effective.)

Meanwhile, pinning leaflets to doors, sending people e-mail, and running robo-calls produced no discernible effect on the electorate. Green and Gerber cite many robo-call studies,
but the most definitive is a test they ran during the 2006 Republican
primary in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry recorded a call praising a state
Supreme Court candidate as a true conservative. The robo-call was
“microtargeted” to go out only to Perry supporters?people who'd be most
open to his message. But as Green and Gerber show, Perry supporters who
received the call reacted no differently from those who'd been kept off
the list. They were no more likely to vote, nor, if they voted, to vote
for Perry's candidate.

And working in Obama's favor, it appears that an innovation of his campaign, text-messaging, is amazingly cost-effective:

These findings create an obvious difficulty for campaigns: It's
expensive and time-consuming to run the kind of personal mobilization
efforts that science shows work best. Green and Gerber estimate that a
door-canvassing operation costs $16 per hour, with six voters contacted
each hour; if you convince one of every 14 voters you canvass, you're
paying $29 for each new voter. A volunteer phone bank operation will
run you even more?$38 per acquired voter. This is the wondrous thing
about text-messaging: Studies show
that text-based get-out-the-vote appeals win one voter for every 25
people contacted. That's nearly as effective as door-canvassing, but
it's much, much cheaper. Text messages cost about 6 cents per
contact?only $1.50 per new voter.

As for me, I generally like to leave texting for the under 36 crowd (except when I occassionally like to pretend I'm still young).  Not that Obama needs to text me for my vote anyway.

Kay Hagan and the 9th Commandment

During my first viewing, I thought this response from Kay Hagan to Elizabeth Dole's ridiculous new attack ad (yesterday's post) was just pretty good, but I think it ends with one hell of a zinger.  Maybe my favorite ad of the season.

Godless Americans for Kay Hagan!

I've been collecting mail on the NC Senate and Presidential races for a Political Science project I'm working on.  Fun stuff the Republicans are sending out.  Stuff they wouldn't dare put on TV.  My favorite was an Elizabeth Dole flyer about “Godless Americans for Kay Hagan.”  And look, now they have turned it into a TV ad:

Spreading the wealth

Wow.  I'm getting a little tired of all McCain's silliness about Obama's “spread the wealth” comment meaning that he's a socialist and will be the “redistributor in chief.”  We are simply talking about progressive taxation here.  A commonsense notion championed by, among others, that radical socialist, Adam Smith.  My favorite response to McCain comes from Jonathan Chait.  Short version: redistribution is called government.  Longer version:

John McCain today:

“That’s what change means for the Obama administration. They’re
redistributing. It means taking your money and giving it to someone

Need I point out that literally having every any government at all
involves taking somebody's money and giving it to somebody else? Even
the more restrivtive definition of redistribution — using government
to create a less unequal distribution of wealth — has been going on
for a century. If McCain is really opposed to redistribution, then that
means he thinks the rich should get back a dollar in spending for every
dollar they pay in taxes.

And here's Ezra Kleins take:

It's been odd watching the McCain campaign warn darkly against
redistribution. Redistribution — which McCain says “means taking your
money and giving it to someone else” — is what the government does.
It collects taxes and uses them to buy things, or give people money.
Put even more simply, it collects revenues and then distributes them.
As such, I rather like Jon Chait's summary of the McCain campaign's recent message: “McCain: Obama Wants to Have a GOVERNMENT in WASHINGTON!”

My favorite, is this completely nutty Florida news anchor who quite seriously accuses Obama of being a communist in an interview with Biden.  When she quotes Marx to Biden, he quite clearly (and with good reason) thinks the interview most be some sort of joke.

Airport security

Current airport security is a joke that is simply designed to make passengers feel safer without actually doing much to actually make them safer.  Jeffrey Goldberg has a great article in the Atlantic pointing out just how flawed and wasteful the current approach is.  Some highlights:

A no-fly list would be a good idea if it worked; Bruce
Schnei­er's homemade boarding passes were about to prove that it
doesn't. Schnei­er is the TSA's most relentless, and effective, critic;
the TSA director, Kip Hawley, told me he respects Schnei­er's opinions,
though Schnei­er quite clearly makes his life miserable. The whole system is designed to catch stupid terrorists, Schnei­er
told me. A smart terrorist, he says, won't try to bring a knife aboard
a plane, as I had been doing; he'll make his own, in the airplane

Schnei­er and I walked to the security checkpoint. Counter­terrorism
in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better, he said. Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit
doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers. This
assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking,
or target aviation at all. We defend against what the terrorists did
last week, Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just
as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11
levels. Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations,
and emergency response.

As it stands, the system is designed to only catch stupid terrorists.  I love this exchange following a description of how to get around ID requirements:

What if you don't know how to steal a credit card?

Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you, he said.

What if you don't know how to download a PDF of an actual boarding pass and alter it on a home computer?

Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you.

I couldn't believe that what Schneier was saying was true in the
national debate over the no-fly list, it is seldom, if ever, mentioned
that the no-fly list doesn't work. It's true, he said. The gap blows the whole system out of the water.

Anyway, read the whole thing for the amazing list of items Goldberg smuggles through security, both secretly and openly (e.g., a Hezbollah flag in his luggage).

My fault?

This is fun…

Dumbest headline ever?

From the front of today's Washington Post website:

ANALYSIS | GOP nominee plans to fight on despite poor poll numbers from key states.”

Gee, and I thought he would go ahead and give a concession speech this weekend.

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