Congress votes to ruin my future research

I would not argue too greatly with the idea that NSF funds more political science research than is truly worthy.  That said, the idea of singling out the political science budget within NSF is wrong on so many levels.  Monkey Cage:

The Flake amendment Henry wrote about appears to have passed the House last night with a218-208 vote. The amendment prohibits funding for NSF’s political science program, which among others funds many valuable data collection efforts including the National Election Studies. No other program was singled out like this. The vote was essentially party line, with only 5 Democrats voting in favor and 27 Republicans against. Here are some of our previousposts on Tom Coburn’s failed efforts to achieve the same thing.

This is obviously not the last word on this. The provision may be scrapped in the conference committee (Sarah Binder?). But it is clear that political science research is in real danger of a very serious setback.

The aforementioned National Election Studies, I would suggest, are responsible for somewhere between 70-90% about what we understand about American elections.  I use this data all the time in my research, but more notably, I don’t think I’ve published a single piece of scholarship that was not heavily dependent upon the knowledge that’s come from these studies.   If this is approved by all of Congress, this would truly be a devastating blow to our future understanding of American politics.  Though, I guess Republicans would prefer that.

Vote choice by demographic groups

Nothing all that surprising here, but this is a very interesting Gallup collection of demographic breakdowns of support for Obama vs. Romney.  Among other things, it really makes the point about how much Obama’s re-election will depend upon strong minority support.  And, of course, what a minority I (and many of you) are in being white male Obama supporters.  Than again, “post-graduate” is also a big Obama category.  Here’s some of ’em:

Vote Preferences by Race and Ethnic Status, April-May 2012

Vote Preferences Among Whites, by Education, April-May 2012

Vote Preferences Among Whites, by Gender, April-May 2012

Lastly, this one might surprise you:

Vote Preferences Among Whites, by Age, April-May 2012

Notice, that is white people by age.  So what’s up?  Gallup explains:

One of the reasons Obama does well among young voters overall is because young voters include a larger percentage of nonwhites than older age groups do.


Photo of the day

Really like this one I took of my son Evan at the Durham Bulls game this past Sunday.  In fact, I liked it so much that I finally thought I had something good to use as a FB “cover photo” (I’ll finally be forced to switch to Timeline on Saturday).   Among other things it really demonstrates one of the best pieces of photography advice I’ve found on-line (via Ken Rockwell): use your flash in the sun.

Attachment parenting

Wow– when I first saw this photo of the new Time magazine, I figured that this had to be the European edition, as it would never fly for more prudish American tastes.  Apparently I’m wrong.  Now, this is one attention-getting cover:

Anyway, Slate’s Hannah Rosin has a really interesting take on attachment parenting to go with it:

I have rehearsed my objections to the breastfeeding cult at great length in the past, in my Atlantic story, “The Case Against Breast-Feeding,” and more broadly against attachment parenting in a recent Slate discussion of Elisabeth Badinter’s book, The Conflict.  There is the very basic objection that it is virtually impossible to do what the advocates say is best for your baby and have a job, which the vast majority of American mothers have these days. In the Time magazine story, which is largely a profile of attachment guru William Sears, he answers this objection by arguing that attachment parenting is perfect for working mothers because as soon as they get home they can instantly rebond with their babies by strapping them up in a sling and then sleeping with them the whole night. Voila! Instant maternal bliss!

But this leads to my second and more profound problem with it. Attachment parenting demands not just certain actions you take with your baby but also certain emotional states to accompany those actions. So, it’s not just enough to breast-feed but one has to experience “breast-feeding induced maternal nirvana.” And it’s not enough to snuggle you have to snuggle enough to achieve a spiritual high. As Badinter has said, once women were just expected to tolerate their babies, Betty Draper style, but now they are expected to experience “jouissance,” loosely translated as “orgasm.” And this is what makes the movement truly oppressive.

I love my kids and certainly like to spend time with them and am all for breastfeeding, but I do think attachment parenting is a bit over the top.  That said, if this is how you want to parent, more power to you.

Obama’s cost/benefit on gay marriage

Naturally, I read all sorts of stuff on Obama and gay marriage yesterday.   My favorite is John Cassidy’s because it’s almost exactly what I had been thinking (and since he’s already written it up so nicely):

Obama’s stance in 2008 was a product of careful cost-benefit analysis, and so, I would wager, was his reversal yesterday. This was primarily about internal Democratic politics. Confronted with an enthusiasm deficit (think about those empty seats in Ohio) and a dollar deficit (think about Karl Rove and his super-duper Super PAC), Obama needed to fire up his base, gin up some more campaign contributions, and head off a damaging row. (Supporters of same-sex marriage were threatening to stage a floor fight at the Democratic Convention.) In saying the words “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he accomplished all of these things at some political cost nationally, but one that he and his advisers evidently decided was bearable…

Why then did he change course? To repeat, I suspect it came down to cost-benefit analysis. Because of the internal dynamics of the Democratic Party, the costs of sticking with his previous position of supporting civil unions but opposing gay marriage had become too high. Faced with the threat of an embarrassing battle at the Convention in Charlotte, a story in today’s Times makes clear, the President and his advisors had already acknowledged that he would have to change course sometime before September. The only question was when. Turning necessity into an opportunity, they decided to try and get ahead of the game.

Not surprisingly, I also really like John Sides‘ very political-sciencey take.  Short version: please, you are way overestimating how this will impact the election outcome.  Slightly longer:

3) What percentage of people really make the decision about whether to vote based on the candidates’ positions on a single issue?  And what percentage of voters are truly persuadable in terms of the candidate they support?  Why would these voters make a decision about whom to vote based on Obama’s position on gay marriage?  Are these “marginal” voters the kinds of people who are likely to follow the news closely enough to know Obama’s position?  If particular groups of voters might be turned on/off by the president’s announcement, what fraction of the electorate do those voters comprise?  Are those voters located in battleground states?  If so, in what proportion?

My prediction is that, once these factors are put together and doing the math—small changes in attitudes among small numbers of voters, etc., etc.—it’s not likely that Obama’s announcement will be a significant factor in November.  In the meantime, if pundits want to speculate, these are the questions they should ask and answer.

And, he even runs some numbers:

Now imagine a world in which every person who opposes same-sex marriage now “somewhat favors” it.  How much would Obama’s vote share increase?  4.7 points.

On a quasi-related note– really interesting Will Saletan piece that looks at the evolution of society’s views on gay marriage.

And, finally, the least related note–  the reporter from Mischpacha— an Orthodox Jewish magazine– seemed incredulous that I didn’t say that this whole thing doomed Obama.  As for the mission of Mischpacha?  “Mishpacha aims to deliver timely analysis of world events that impact Jewish people and to provide informative and compelling features in a format suitable to readers striving to live by Torah standards.”

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