September 29, 2008 | 8:37 AM Michael Tesler
The "Bradley effect" or "Bradley-Wilder effect" immediately became part of the popular political vernacular after this year's New Hampshire primary. These terms describe the phenomenon whereby black candidates--most notably Tom Bradley, Douglas Wilder and David Dinkins--perform significantly poorer at the ballot box then in pre-election polls. The gap is thought to result from white voters telling pollsters (especially African-American interviewers) they are willing to vote for black candidates, but then voting their racial prejudices behind the curtain. When Barack Obama lost in spite of his large leads in all the polls, political commentators assumed this process had once again reared its ugly head.
A new study out of Harvard by Daniel J. Hopkins (forthcoming), however, suggests that the Bradley effect is a thing of the past. His key finding is that there was a significant disparity between the poll numbers and actual vote tallies of African-Americans seeking statewide offices before the mid 1990s, but that black candidates' vote shares are in line with what we'd expect from the polls since then. Perhaps more importantly, Hopkins's analysis of the 2008 primary indicates that Barack Obama slightly outperformed his poll numbers.
If there is one thing I've learned in studying the impact of race in this election, though, it's that it's often difficult to make predictions from applying extant racial voting literature. The novelty of Obama's general election campaign simply makes it hard to say a priori whether this unbiased trend Hopkins documents will continue into November or if it will activate considerations that originally produced the Bradley effect in the 1980s.
Yet even if some respondents are merely supporting Obama in the polls for social desirability purposes, there is a real chance that this Bradley effect could be offset by the cell phone effect. As many know, almost all national surveys are conducted on landline respondents only. Despite the fact that roughly 15 percent of the population and about one-third of 18-24 year olds are thought to only be reachable by cell phone, their absence up until very recently did not introduce discernable bias into polling numbers. Prior to this summer, earlier comparisons of landline and cell phone respondents by Pew Research Center, for example, "indicate that when data from both the landline and cell samples are combined and weighted to match the U.S. population on selected demographic measures, the results for key political measures (such as presidential approval, Iraq policy, presidential primary voter preference, and party affiliation) are virtually identical to those from the landline survey alone." Or in other words, no bias existed
because cell-onlies and landliners from the same demographic groupings have similarly distributed opinions.
Last week, however, Pew released its third comparative study
of the summer showing that similarly situated landliners and cell-onlies substantially differ in their rates of support for Obama Cell only respondents under thirty, for instance, favor Obama over McCain by 35 percentage points, compared to only a 13 point Obama edge for landliners in this age group. As a result, adding in cell-phone responders with their parallel landline surveys increases aggregate support for Obama by 2 to 3 points.
Pew's cell-only samples were unfortunately conducted on sample sizes much smaller than typical surveys. This necessarily limits the statistical confidence we can put in these results. Nevertheless, we should be much more confident in this evidence of under-support in polls for Obama then the endless media speculation about over-support due to a Bradley effect that may very well no longer exist.
September 26, 2008 | 1:33 PM Paul Ong
For me, the United States is a nation of immigrants, both ideologically and demographically. My parents, grandfathers, and numerous other relatives crossed the Pacific Ocean in search of the Golden Mountain. They and others born abroad have shaped American politics, both as objects and subjects. The nation has welcomed and rejected their presence, and has been consumed by rabid xenophobia during its darkest moments. Immigrants, however, are not just victims. They are also actors with the potential to swing electoral outcomes, and this has caught the eyes of politicians and the political parties.
The demographic numbers are compelling. According to data from the 2007 American Community Survey, one in seven adults in the U.S. is foreign-born, and one in three in California (15% and 35% respectively). Of course not all immigrant adults are eligible to vote. Only a minority (44%) has naturalized at the national level; consequently, immigrants comprise less than 8% of those eligible to register to vote. Despite this fall off, there are 15.5 million potential voters, a significant number in a tight election. The naturalization rate in this state is comparable (45%), but because of the disproportionately larger number of immigrants in this state, they make up 19% of those eligible to register, roughly 4.3 million.
One intriguing fact is the ethnic composition of naturalized adults. Much attention has been given to Latinos, who comprise about a third of all naturalized adults (32% nationally and 36%in California). Their growth over the last two decades, along with the increasing numbers of American-born Latinos, has transformed this group into a constituency that neither political party can ignore. Less publicized is the number of naturalized Asians, who make up 31% of the nation's and 42% of the state's adult immigrant citizens. Latinos were yesterday's political sleeping giant, and Asians today claim that moniker and are on the verge of awakening.
Despite the acknowledged importance of immigrants in electoral politics, numerous barriers hinder full participation. Too many have not become citizens, thus remaining ineligible to register. Moreover, naturalized immigrants are less likely to register and to vote than U.S.-born citizens, as evident in the 2006 election. Community organizations are taking up the challenge of encouraging, facilitating and promoting political engagement by immigrants through naturalization programs, registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts. Greater incorporation of the foreign-born population, however, should be a national goal because we are a nation of immigrants.
September 26, 2008 | 10:31 AM Ryan Enos
Single? Would you rather be dating in a Red State or a Blue State?
Red staters are more romantic than Blue Staters - they will buy you flowers and take you to a drive-in movie.
Blue staters might take you to a liquor store and, in a blue state rather than a red state, you are slightly more likely to end up at a dog racing track.
The culture war can actually be a lot of fun. For example, bowling alleys per capita, at the state level is correlated with Bush vote in 2004, but miniature golf courses is negatively correlated - meaning the more miniature golf courses in your state, the more your state voted for Kerry in 2004.
Surprised? Comforted to have your world view confirmed? I have a whole list of these correlations between businesses and Presidential vote, but a word of caution first. These are simply correlations. All it means is that two phenomenon tend to vary together. Positive correlation means that as one variable goes up, the other tends to go up, and when one goes down, so does the other. Negative correlation means they vary in opposite directions: when one goes up, the other goes down. We hear about correlations all the time: carbon dioxide positively correlated with global warming, obesity correlated with heart disease, education correlated with earnings, and recently, IQ correlated with Presidential success.
The distinction that must be emphasized is between correlation and causation. Just because two variables are correlated, does not mean that one causes the other. An example of this distinction can be found in the debates about global warming. There is no doubt that carbon dioxide emissions are correlated with global warming. The question is more complicated when it comes to causality - to my knowledge, we cannot prove that carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming (the responsible public policy when faced with overwhelming correlational evidence and grave consequences is a different matter though). In fields like medicine, causation is easier to establish because of the use of controlled experiments. Medical science can establish that a particular drug causes lower blood pressure. In political science, causation is more difficult to establish - although experiments are increasingly employed to establish causation. When causation cannot be established - it is sometimes the case that the correlation is spurious, meaning that one variable really has no direct causal effect on the other variable, but the variables are associated because both variables are also correlated with a third variable. An example would be Diet Coke and obesity. Diet Coke, I don't think, can cause you to be obese. But obesity is correlated with attempts to lose weight, so yes, Diet Coke consumption is correlated with obesity, albeit spuriously.
So, some caution is in order when looking at simple correlations - going back to the original examples, it is hard to imagine how liquor stores could cause a state to vote Democrat (at least in this day and age), so the correlation is probably spurious. But spurious correlations are so much fun, so here we go:
Voting for Kerry in 2004 was correlated per capita by state with:
dog racing tracks
interior design schools
miniature golf courses
Voting for Bush in 2004 was correlated per capita by state with:
cellular phone stores
drive-in movie theaters
used car dealers.
While it can certainly provide for a good conversation starter that the more used car salesmen in your state, the more likely it is to vote Republican, the correlation is certainly spurious. However, not all of these correlations are of no practical interest. For example, from a scientific perspective, that there are more cellular phone stores in red states does not prove anything, but it could be a point of departure for political scientists that study political polling. This is because there is a considerable debate about the accuracy of telephone polls that still almost exclusively call land line phones in an increasingly cellular world.
That these correlations do not show causality, also does not mean that they do not have predictive power. If two variables are correlated, one can predict the other. So, assuming 2004 is similar to other years (it might not be), the more shoe stores in your state, the more Democratic your state is and the more likely it is to vote for Obama this November. If you're curious, New Hampshire, as of 2002, had the most shoe stores per capita, while Alaska had the least.
This power of prediction varies depending on the strength of correlation - the shoe store correlation, is strong by social science standards, but not that strong (.36), so the predictive power of shoe stores on Presidential vote is weak. This simply reflects that shoe stores probably don't have that much to do with Presidential vote. The strongest correlations with red states were cellular phone stores and radio stations. For blue states: art schools and libraries.
It should be noted that the types of business establishments for this list were chosen because I thought they looked fun. I did not know the correlations before choosing the list. I did not consciously choose any that I thought would prove a correlation with one party or another. I have to admit that I was most surprised by the correlation of operas and Bush vote. I think this means that there are lot of opera companies out there that I don't know about. I also have to admit that I was hoping that the number of circuses per capita would be correlated with one of the two parties - it didn't matter which one. How great would that be? Unfortunately, from a comedic perspective, it looks like the circus is equal opportunity for red and blue states.
September 26, 2008 | 9:27 AM Tim Groeling
First off, I'd like to compliment Lynn and Ryan on their recent posts on why McCain is being damaged as a candidate by the current focus on the economy (Ryan
). Ryan correctly argues that McCain wants to postpone tomorrow's scheduled debate because he desperately wants to maximize the salience and impact of the foreign-policy centered debate. And Lynn notes that any time spent focusing on the economy now is only helping advantage Obama--a point that seems underlined by Obama's recent gains in the polls.
So why is McCain talking about the economy at all? Unfortunately for him, his campaign agenda is not truly under his control. Or rather, while McCain might prefer to be talking about something--anything--other than the economy right now, failing to address it would likely be more damaging than doing nothing at all (although maybe better than addressing it in a foolish way...). McCain is doing damage control and trying to ride out the crisis in order to fight another day.
The reason why McCain is being forced to talk about the economy, of course, is that McCain doesn't control events, the media, or very much else outside of his campaign bus. In the absence of any dominating story or event, McCain would have an opportunity to try to shift public attention to a topic of his choosing, but the current economic meltdown has changed that (at least for the immediate future). If McCain chose to make a major foreign policy speech today, he would be blasted for failing to address the "real" issue facing the country, and the speech itself would receive relatively little coverage (outside of attacks for having chosen to speak on the topic).
Turning once again to UCLA's Communication Studies Archive, let's see exactly how the news landscape has shifted under McCain's feet since the start of August. To give a quick sense of the change, I first search for mentions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Economy in our index of news and public affairs television programs (n=24,529 total mentions).
A quick check of this chart shows the degree to which the economy had been pushed from the headlines until recently, and the degree to which it has come roaring back in the last 10 days.
To get a sense of the economic rhetoric associated with the current crisis, I then ran a search for mentions of "Recession" or "Depression" in the Archive's index.
As one can readily see, the use of these alarming terms has exploded in the last two weeks, with 90 mentions per day being common this week.
Finally, I ran a search of how often terms are being tied together in the media, either by journalists or the candidates themselves. To do so, I searched for instances where the words Obama or McCain appeared within 50 words of the terms Economy or Iraq.
The results again show that while Iraq was a major topic of concern for the candidates--particularly during the party conventions and shortly afterward, it has now been pushed away almost completely by coverage of the economy (note that the day after the L.A. Metrolink crash had no such stories and is blank on the chart).
Ultimately, McCain has no real choice here, at least in the short term: he can either talk about the economy (and try to appear to be doing something about it) or risk having other people talk about him AND the economy. "Riding the tiger" of economic news might not be the most fun for McCain, but he probably wouldn't enjoy being mauled, either.
September 25, 2008 | 8:42 AM Lynn Vavreck
Everyone's talking about the economy. Everyone including John McCain - and if there's one person in America right now who shouldn't be talking about our economic woes, it's John McCain. McCain said today, "the economy is about to crater" while simultaneously an ABC News/Washington Post poll reported that Barack Obama had surged ahead with a 9-point lead and that most Americans think Obama will better resolve the nation's economic woes.
Using terminology from The Message Matters (forthcoming from Princeton University Press), McCain is an insurgent candidate who needs to focus the election off of the economy and on to some other issue on which he is closer than Obama to most voters - and on which Obama is committed to an unpopular position. Hmm. Not an easy task. Obama, on the other hand, is what I call a clarifying candidate - merely clarifying the fact that the other party is responsible for the current economic mess.
Why does McCain face this tough insurgent job? He is a member of the party that brought about this period of economic decline. Everyone knows the state of the nation's economy predicts election outcomes quite well. The table below uses a variety of models to generate predictions and compares them to actual outcomes. You'll see that the models often correctly predict the winning party (although they do a lousy job at predicting the point estimates). The models miss in three years (or four if you count 2000): 1960, 1968, and 1976. All very close elections. Let's take a look.
The structure, the state of the nation's economy, is a powerful predictor of election outcomes. But, the relationship is not perfect. And in a year with so many "firsts" maybe history isn't such a good guide.
Still though, if you were McCain, you'd have to be willing to take a big risk if you thought Obama wouldn't benefit from the nation's economic situation. Assuming McCain's campaign is smart enough to realize this historical trend, what can McCain learn from the candidates in the past who have overcome the structural conditions? How have previous candidates beaten economically advantaged candidates? To answer this question, I read every campaign stump speech, newspaper article in the New York Times and Washington Post, and watched every campaign ad made in the last 50 or so years.
In 1960, John Kennedy made the entire election into an all-out battle with the Russians. They had more missiles than us, their kids were smarter, and they were going to beat us to the moon. Because Americans feared the communists and because Nixon was a part of the administration that brought about the "gaps" - Kennedy was able to leverage this dimension and win by a very narrow margin. In 1968, Richard Nixon talked mainly about making the streets safe again and reducing crime. People were frightened in the late sixties - there was violence everwhere (in Vietnam, on college campuses, in city centers) and people did not feel safe walking in their own neighborhoods after dark. Nixon leveraged this fear and the correlation between crime and race to refocus the election off of the economy and on to safety, crime, and although implicitly, race. He also wins by a very narrow margin. And, finally, in 1976 Jimmy Carter ran as a Washington outsider reminding voters that Gerald Ford had been appointed to the Vice Presidency and the Presidency - and, that he pardoned Richard Nixon. Watergate loomed large over the 1976 election, and Ford didn't help his chances by reminding voters that "our long national nightmare is over." Kennedy, Nixon (1960), and Carter (1976) leveraged dimensions on which their opponents were weak. These candidates were not predicted to win based on the nation's economy, but they refocused the election off of the economy and on to something else on which they had an advantage. They had great insurgent issues.
What is McCain's insurgent issue? He is spending an awful lot of time talking about the economy, which can only help Obama. Let's look at the candidates since 1952 in McCain's position who campaigned on the economy even though it advantaged the other party: George McGovern, George H.W. Bush (1992), and Bob Dole. Bush and Dole talked mainly about tax cuts and McGovern talked mostly about tax reform. Of these candidates, only Bush was a member of the incumbent party - and in fact, he was the actual incumbent candidate. Talking about the economy when it helps the other guy is not a great insurgent issue. No insurgent candidate in the last half-century has beaten the predicted economic winner by talking about the economy more than anything else.
So, when McCain says he wants to postpone Friday's debate until a compromise and a deal is reached to bailout the nation's struggling, "cratering" economy - I say, "I'll bet he does." Any time McCain is talking about the economy he is not talking about his insurgent issue, which means he is not making progress toward refocusing the election off of the economy and on to his issue. Unfortunately, the dramatic manner in which he suspended his campaign and shuffled off to Washington only underscores the importance of the economy as an issue in this election.
And yes, Barack Obama is black. And yes, John McCain is a bi-partisan legislator and a maverick - but - John McCain is a Republican and his party will be blamed for the crater into which he has just crawled. History tells us there is only one way out: stop talking about the economy and make this election about something else - something on which McCain holds an advantage vis-�-vis Obama and something on which Obama is committed to his unpopular position. With fewer than 50 days left, McCain has his work cut out for him.
September 25, 2008 | 8:25 AM Ryan Enos
Is John McCain afraid to debate?
Yes, in a manner of speaking.
Well, okay, since it's John McCain, I'll call it a strategic redeployment. McCain has a very good reason for trying to avoid the upcoming debate.
John McCain has a problem, he does not want to talk about what everyone else wants to talk about. He desperately needs to change the subject. Friday's debate is supposed to be about foreign policy. But I'll bet my fabulous graduate student salary that the economy is going to come up.
A bad economy hurts the party incumbent in the White House. There is overwhelming evidence in political science for this and smart politicians know it too. This has nothing to do with whose fault a bad economy might be. It has nothing to do with McCain in particular. Voters just reward the incumbent party for a good economy and punish the incumbent party for a bad economy. That is one reason that McCain has been so quickly running away from his party. But he can't stop being a Republican and assuming McCain will not single-handedly turn the economy around by some extraordinary legislative feat, what can he do to keep the economy from hurting him? He has to change the subject.
In an excellent forthcoming book, Lynn Vavreck, who also blogs here, demonstrates that it is not only the state of the economy that matters to Presidential candidates, but whether candidates talk about it. Voters reward incumbents for a good economy and punish them for a bad economy, so a successful politician should have a pretty straightforward strategy. If the economy is good, the incumbent party wants to talk about the economy, the challenger wants to talk about anything else. If the economy is bad, the roles are reversed, the challenger talks about the economy and the incumbent tries to talk about anything else.
Vavreck demonstrates that whether or not presidential candidates follow this simple formula can explain a lot about who wins or loses every four years. Candidates that are hurt by the economy, incumbents during a bad economy and challengers during a good economy, need to put voters minds on something else. In a sense, they need to create a distraction. Of course, not all politicians are equally successful at creating this distraction. The distraction for George H.W. Bush, during the recession year campaign of 1992 was 'Family Values'. Unfortunately for him, Bill Clinton's campaign came up with the simple, yet catch slogan of 'It's the economy stupid'. In 2000, facing Al Gore running in the incumbent party during a strong economy, George W. Bush successfully changed the topic to remind people of the scandal and partisan rancor of the Clinton years.
So, McCain wants to talk about anything but the economy. The natural conversation changer for McCain is to talk about foreign policy. This is a subject on which voters trust Republicans generally and him particularly. A debate about foreign policy was, of course, an excellent opportunity to make voters pay attention to something other than the economy. McCain wanted this debate - foreign policy is his home court. Unfortunately for McCain, that darn near collapse of global financial markets is getting in his way. When the current President comes on in prime-time to warn of a 'serious financial crisis', it is hard to get voters to concentrate on anything else. If voters were not worried about the economy before, now that Dancing with the Stars has been interrupted, everybody is paying attention.
During a debate that is supposed to be about foreign policy, if Obama talks about the economy, McCain will look out of touch if he tries to move the debate away from that topic. So, McCain, the experienced strategist that he is, is not running away, he is choosing to fight when the conditions are more in his favor.
September 24, 2008 | 6:15 PM Mark A. R. Kleiman
If you'd asked me last weekend, I would have predicted that some version of bill to create a Toxic Paper Disposal agency would be signed into law this week or next. Like the prospect of a hanging, the prospect of a financial melt-down should have managed to concentrate the minds of the players. (Richard Neustadt defined a "crisis" as "a situation in which something can happen.")
Now, I'm not so sure. The stock of trust in Washington -- both trust among the participants in national politics and the trust the citizens have in the politicians -- has been badly worn down: first by Nixon, then by Gingrich, now by Bush and Cheney. There may not be enough trust left to allow a deal to go through.
Lots of people (and not just Democrats) don't trust the Bush Administration not to treat the bailout, as it treated the war in Iraq, as an opportunity for looting the Treasury and enriching its friends. And some of the same people don't even trust the Treasury and the financial-industry leadership when they say that there's a real catastrophe in the offing if nothing is done. ("Where is the financial panic? Right next to the WMDs.") The Paulson "Blank Check" bill, and especially its unreviewability clause, was an especially unfortunate move in this context, because it forced people to think about power grabs and Dick Cheney.
Lots of people (an overlapping but not identical set) also don't trust financial-services executives not to use their superior knowledge and their lobbying muscle to turn the crisis and the bailout into one more opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. Not to do so would, after all, violate their deepest principles.
And -- this is the part I didn't guess up front -- the Democrats don't trust the Republicans not to double-cross them by allowing a bailout to pass (thus satisfying the Republicans' paymasters) while mostly voting against "the Bush-Pelosi bailout" and running as populists.
Most of all, no one trusts John McCain to do anything except pursue John McCain's best political interests. I have no idea whether Patrick Ruffini
reflects the thinking of the McCain camp, but someone who chose Sarah Palin as a running-mate simply can't be trusted not to throw a "Hail Mary" pass as his otherwise losing campaign grinds toward its end. And Mitch McConnell is already laying the basis for the double-cross by expressing serious questions
. Nothing in this NYT liveblog of yesterday's hearings
makes me more confident that something will pass. John Cole thinks
Paulson told a whopper right to start with.
At minimum, Harry Reid should announce right now that no Toxic Paper bill will reach the Senate floor unless both Presidential candidates have signed on as sponsors. A more subtle play would be to tell the Republicans, and the bankers, that he will offer a bill without some of the more New Dealish provisions, but that if it doesn't get at least X Republican co-sponsors including McCain he will drop that one and write something that they'll like even less. (The Dodd bill is clearly on the "less New Dealish" side; maybe Barney Frank can provide the "bad cop" bill.)
There's no clear evidence from polling
about what the voters want. (About two-thirds want the government to Do Something, but about the same proportion expect that the taxpayers will get the shaft.) If a bailout passes, there will no way to show that the world would have come to an end otherwise, and -- relieved of fear -- the voters will be able to give full vent to their (well-justified) rage at a world in which the people who ran Lehman into the ground
are walking away with $2.5 billion in bonuses.
The apparent refusal of the European and Japanese central banks
to participate in a bailout that assertedly is needed to prevent a worldwide financial collapse raises questions about how dire they think the situation is. Or perhaps they're simply trusting that the U.S., as the largest single player, can be stuck with the entire burden. (That sort of thinking is an aspect of every coalition effort; Mancur Olsen called it "the exploitation of the great by the small; it's one reason every American should hope for the quick emergence of a United States of Europe.) Perhaps a rule forbidding the GPA buy assets from foreign-owned firms, unless their home governments contribute to the fund, might change the political calculus abroad. In the meantime, that refusal is only going to deepen the outrage among U.S. taxpayers, and is in fact a good reason for Congress to drag its feet a little, until the pressure on the foreign central banks grows great enough that they're willing to make their pro rata
contribution to the project.
So as between the financial-services sector and the rest of us, as between Democrats and Republicans
, and as between the U.S. and the rest of the OECD, we have a six-way game of Chicken, where any player can try to profit by stubbornness, but where if enough players get stubborn we could actually see the disaster everyone wants to avert. The Democrats have one huge tactical advantage; they can always pass a bill and send the Members and Senators home, daring Bush to veto it. That gives him what the accident lawyers call the Last Clear Chance to avoid the wreck. (Or -- grim thought -- it's possible that the Last Clear Chance was really Paulson's, and that he blew it by offering the Blank Check. How could he possibly have published that draft without first confirming that the Hill would hold still for it?)
That raises a serious question: Is there a way to kick this can down the road past the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, without having the system melt down in the meantime? I wish I had a clue about the answer.
September 24, 2008 | 5:29 PM Michael Tesler
There is understandably much attention devoted to the bigger impact race will undoubtedly have in this election than in the all white contests of the past. Much less has been said, however, about the greater role another form of prejudice will likely play. Despite the fact that they are all Christian, the figure above shows that (even with controls in place for relevant ideological and demographic factors) attitudes towards Muslims have a much bigger impact on evaluations of Obama than President Bush, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Indeed, all else being equal, moving from least favorable to most favorable increases one's evaluation of Obama by nearly thirty percentage points.
One should proceed with extreme caution, however, in interpreting the relevance of these results for the current campaign. A number of questions arise about the robustness of this relationship. The biggest cause for pause is that the data used in this plot are now over a year old. It is quite possible that in the early stages of the primary campaign Americans were evaluating Obama on different criteria then they are now. Partisan and ideological predispositions may now be brought much more heavily to bear on evaluations than they were in August 2007 because he is the figure head of the Democratic Party.
The second objection is that the relationship between Obama evaluations and Muslim favorability could simply be an artifact of the greater role of racial resentment alluded to in my previous post. After all, it would make sense that those harboring prejudicial views against blacks would also be less inclined to like Muslims. Indirect evidence indicates that this is not that big of a concern, though. Previous surveys show that the correlation between racial resentment and opinions of Muslims is not strong enough to significantly weaken the result shown above. Or in other words, any effect of Muslim favorability on Obama support is mostly independent of racial evaluations.
The most interesting question in my opinion is whether Obama activated attitudes towards Muslims because respondents think he's Muslim, or if his name alone is enough to make such considerations salient. I have to get really indirect to provide an interpretation on this one. Respondents were asked if they thought Obama was a Muslim for the first time in March 2008. As might be expected, there was a large educational disparity in the percentage of respondents who knew Obama was a Christian. 73 percent of college graduates, for instance, answered correctly compared to only 37 percent with a high school education or less (http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1277
). The effect of Muslim favorability on Obama evaluations, however, is nearly identical for college and non-college grads. This suggests that any enhanced impact of religious attitudes might
(and I stress might) not be solely attributable to mistaken beliefs about Obama's religious affiliation. His name alone could be enough to activate attitudes about Muslims.
As preliminary as this analysis is, it indicates that pollsters and the media should not only pay attention to race but religious attitudes as well.
September 22, 2008 | 5:40 PM Gary Orfield
As the first presidential debate nears, I hope that the foreign policy discussion goes to fundamental issues. On the war, McCain has tried to frame it as a debate about who was right on the military surge. We really need a debate on the entire issue of the war and the U.S. position in the world. The staggering economic and diplomatic costs of violating our principles and any reasonable concept of international law, or just war ethics by unilaterally starting a war on a country that had not attacked us, was no significant threat to us, and, as it turned out, wasn't even developing the weapons we accused them about - that should be a central issue. What is the serious evidence about whether it has diminished or actually increased terrorism?
Beyond that, if it is our mission to make our nation and our allies safe in the world and to spread democracy, we must be able to win the confidence of our allies and to convince the discontented around the world not only that we will resist aggression but that we have powerful ideas and values that offer them a better path to realizing their dreams. In that sense, the current administration has thrown away decades of hard-won credibility and bipartisanship, multinational efforts against totalitarian and fascist regimes, and made ourselves seem as a go-it-alone bully that obeys no rules, that is hostile to the world's second largest religion, and thinks it can do whatever it wants wherever it wants. I think that there must be a serious debate over how the U.S. can win back what it has lost in the past eight years and how it can build much stronger international alliances and institutions.
The current world financial crisis makes it totally obvious that the world's dominant economic institutions are international and that nation states cannot adequately control them and that the U.S. position as being the world's best market and safe haven for money from insecure economies and political systems across the world have been lost in a period of reckless deregulation that may now cost us and our grandchildren as much as the war and will encourage nations and investors across the world to put their money somewhere else. How can we get rules for business that work internationally and how can we regain the credibility we had as the great center of well-run capitalism, with institutions that can be trusted and regulation that keeps them honest and transparent?
The third international question I'd like to see discussed is migration. All over the world there is massive migration and the U.S. would be facing a future of aging and shrinking population like Japan and much of Europe if it were not for massive immigration. Yet we have what can only be seen as a chaotic policy, creating economic union with Mexico and Central America, using undocumented workers in the millions with almost no sanctions on employers, threatening milllions of workers and their families without documents but with American citizen kids, and trying to solve it with a giant wall along one of the world's longest borders , a wall separating people who have millions of close family contacts and where the economic difference on opposite sides of the border are among the most drastic in the world. We've heard a lot of doubletalk and obfuscation about this--what is the long-term vision for immigration policy in a country where Latinos are the largest minority and are interwoven into every aspect of our economic life? What are the domestic social consequences and the effect on our standing in Latin America of the current raids and attacks on immigrant workers?
September 22, 2008 | 9:55 AM Paul Ong
Life during the weeks leading up to the presidential election can be boring, and frustrating, for me as a Californian, as well of the millions residing outside the critical battleground states. When past elections and current polls can predict whether the state will go McCain or Obama, we are reduced in strategic importance, taken for granted because of the unconditional loyalty given to one candidate, or deemed beyond salvation because of unwavering support for the other. The national candidates don't visit or phone often. When they do, it is to tap our accounts. You can't blame the campaigns for acting rational given the "winner takes all" procedure within the Electoral College system, but there are consequences.
It is not simply a matter of feeling slighted. Swing states skew the political issues bubbling to the top. They and their worries are the media darlings, while the rest are delegated to the back pages. Non-swing residents are the large majority, but our concerns take a back seat. We also feel ineffective at home, as if door-to-door campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts here will have very little meaningful impact on the national outcome. A few thousand votes in one direction or another will not tip the scale. This dampens political activism and civic engagement, and trivializes the canvasser's pitch that "every vote counts."
So, how does one remain politically active? We can contribute to the battle in the states up for grabs. Many are taking time off to do the essential out-of-state grunt work. Of course, we can also donate money knowing that much of it will be spent strategically elsewhere. We can turn our attention and energy to politics in our backyard. While not as glamorous as presidential campaigns, we can take solace in the over used clich� that "all politics is local."
Ameliorating the limitations of living outside the swing states is possible, but the palliative solutions do not satisfy me. Our system should give every voter an equal stake in the outcome and encourage all to participate as fully as possible. Moving away from the current "winner takes all" procedure in 48 states and the District of Columbia can help. Direct popular vote or electing Electoral College representatives by Congressional districts, or some other scheme, would be an improvement. Some alternatives are easier to implement than others, and there is the unavoidable problem of political gaming when one party pushes for reform only in selective states, such as an effort here in California. Fair structural change requires a national transformation. Those of us in the majority non-swing states constitute the people with a vested interest in pursuing such an agenda. In a debate about how a president should be chosen, we are very relevant.