Friday, November 9, 2007

RNC Votes to Sanction Early States

G.O.P. to Punish 5 States for Early Votes

Published: November 9, 2007
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (AP) — The Republican Party said Thursday that it would deprive New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming of half their delegates to the national convention because they planned to hold their presidential nominating contests on dates earlier than the party’s rules allow.

Click here for the full article.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Michigan court rules January 15 primary unconstitutional

From today's Detroit Free Press:

Scramble on to keep primary in January
Judge rules law setting up election is unconstitutional
By Dawson Bell

Backers of Michigan's Jan. 15 presidential primary said Wednesday they hope to find a way, in court or in the state Legislature, to hold the election despite a judge's ruling earlier in the day that the law establishing the primary was unconstitutional.
The Legislature could address the issue today.

Click here for the full article.

This might be bad news for Michigan Republicans, who were planning to use the January 15 primary even though the RNC has said it will strip them of some delegates because the date violates national party rules. The DNC has not officially ruled on the Jan 15 date, because Michigan Democrats have never indicated to the DNC that they plan to use the date. According to the DNC and the Michigan Democratic Party, Michigan Dems have always planned on holding caucuses on February 9. The MDP Executive Committee met last night and was supposed to have voted on whether to support the January 15 date, but the vote was tabled so they can take more time to decide what to do. The law sets a deadline of November 14 for when the state party chairs must tell the Secretary of State if they are using the January 15 primary.... so maybe we will know something by then.

The lawsuit that prompted the court's ruling was filed in part by Mark Grebner, the longtime voter file vendor in the state. Grebner has also collaborated on academic projects. His problem with the law is that it suppresses public access to information about what party's ballot a voter chooses. This is valuable info since Michigan does not require a voter to select a party when they register to vote. It would be really valuable for my own research, since without party ID on the voter file it is really hard to tell who is a Dem and who is a Rep in Michigan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Video of Forum on Presidential Nomination Calendar

Streaming video of yesterday's CCPS Forum on the Presidential Nomination Calendar is available via C-Span here. It was an interesting panel that was definitely worth watching. Congratulations to Jim Thurber, the CCPS staff, and especially Alicia Prevost, who was instrumental in planning and organizing the panel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Does Hillary Clinton Overcome Gender Stereotypes?

One of the major challenges that women candidates confront when running for office is the way that they are stereotyped by the public. Political science research tends to demonstrate that women candidates are viewed as more compassionate and passive than their male counterparts. These perceptions tend to persist even when women candidates work to portray themselves as tough and aggressive. The problem this may pose for women candidates is that citizens may prefer their politicians have more "masculine" traits, particularly politicians running to be president in a post-9/11 climate.

That is why a recent Pew report stood out so much to me. By this account, Hillary Clinton appears to have overcome gender stereotypes by a wide margin, at least among Democrats. As the figure here shows, two-thirds of Democrats associate Clinton with the personality trait of "tough." This far outpaces any other candidate in either party. And not only has Clinton claimed the "tough" personality trait, but she also seems to not be linked to the traits that women candidates are generally stereotyped with. Only one-third of Democrats associated Clinton with "compassionate," 28% with "down-to-earth," and 22% with "friendly."

Of course, it is not neccessarily a good thing to be "tough" but not also "compassionate" or "down-to-earth." After all, President Bush attempted to soften his image by calling himself a "compassionate conservative" and much of Bill Clinton's success was attributed to his "down-to-earth" personality. It also may not be all that notable that Hillary Clinton has managed to eschew traditional gender stereotypes. After all, people tend to use stereotypes to draw conclusions about candidates they know little about. But Clinton is well-known by the public, so they need not rely on stereotypes when evaluating her. Nevertheless, it may still be significant that Hillary Clinton has managed to project such a "tough" image, as it may make it more difficult for opponents to raise doubts about her.

Special Event Announcement - CCPS Forum on the Presidential Nominating Calendar

James A. Thurber, Director of the Center for Congressional and
Presidential Studies invites you to a Forum on the Presidential
Nominating Calendar

Monday, October 29, 2007
4:00 PM
HC-8 in the U.S. Capitol Building (Please note the new location.)

The presidential primary campaign season is in full swing, but the
dates of the first primaries and caucuses are still uncertain. As
states continue to jockey for calendar positions in violation of
national party rules, we propose a discussion on what role, if any,
Congress should play in bringing order to the presidential nominating
system. Panelists Include:

Rep. David Price, D-NC and co-chair, DNC Commission on Presidential
Nomination Timing and Scheduling

Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI and sponsor of HR 1523, "Interregional
Presidential Primary and Caucus Act of 2007"

Dotty Lynch, CBS News Political Consultant and Executive-in-Residence,
American University

David Norcross, chair, RNC Standing Committee on the Rules

Professor James A. Thurber
Director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
American University

Space is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, October 26 to
Andrew Maletz at

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stephen Colbert: the savior of democracy?

Continuing our completely serious and academic coverage of Stephen Colbert's candidacy in the South Carolina primary, Dr. Schaffner's post yesterday contained an implication that is worth exploring. Perhaps it's only worth exploring for those of us who are taking the political science master's comprehensive exam here at AU next week (as the recent studying for this exam is the only reason I am able to draw upon this literature), but I digress.

Summarizing a part of the Pew study, Dr. Schaffner pointed out that viewers of Colbert's show (and the Daily Show) on average are both younger and have more formal education than the wider population. Viewers of Colbert's show also scored better on the political knowledge test than other survey respondents. Further down in the study, we discover evidence for something we probably already assumed - that the audience of comedy news shows tends to be more Democratic than Republican. So the Pew study indicates a significant correlation between level of political knowledge and watching Colbert's show. We know that this correlation is positive - higher levels of knowledge are associated with the regular watching of the program. This begs the question, however - what is the causal relationship here? Which is the dependent variable? Do people watch Colbert's show because they are more politically aware, or are they more politically aware because they watch Colbert's show?

Dr. Schaffner (whether intentionally or not) seems to imply the former - that young, educated people watch Colbert's show because they are political informed. Politically informed citizens are more likely to consume news in general - they are more interested in it, and their interest puts them in the position to receive this information more often. These comments are in line with the narrative of the Pew study (after a quick review of it), as it also implies this causal relationship.

To someone who is busily studying for the Voting Behavior question on a poli sci master's comp, these implications loudly smack of...(drum roll please)...John Zaller, God of information processing (here is his book, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion). It's all part of Zaller's RAS model, which is a model that explains how individuals process information and form opinions (in my opinion, his model really only explains why people respond to survey questions the way they do - which is interesting and useful, but not necessarily generalizable to the greater opinion-forming process - but that's a post for another day). The first two axioms are relevant here. Zaller says that the first step to information processing is reception: the greater a person's level of cognitive engagement with an issue, the more likely they are to receive political messages concerning it. In other words, if a person is politically engaged, they are more likely to put themselves in the path of political messages - ie, more likely to turn on news, open a newspaper, read a blog, etc. Sounding familiar? Zaller's second axiom is also relevant: the resistance axiom says that, upon receiving political messages, people will resist arguments that are inconsistent with their political predispositions, but only when they know how to connect the messages to the predispositions. This has an interesting implication for Colbert's show specifically, because we could consider it to have a double message. For those who are knowledgeable enough to "get" Colbert's jokes, they receive his intended message of cynicism and criticism, and they watch it because they are inclined to agree. For those not knowledgeable in this area, they could conceivably receive the same messages that they would receive watching the shows that Colbert intends to mock.

Anyway, what if the causal relationship goes the other way? What if Colbert's viewers are more politically informed because they watch his show? I am a member of the "MySpace Generation" (though I prefer Facebook) who freely admits that often the Daily Show and Colbert Report are my only sources of news. And that admission is from someone who lives in DC and works in and studies politics. Of course, I have literature to site here as well. Matthew Baum suggests in his article "Sex, Lies, and War: How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public" that "soft news" could be "democratizing" our political process. Baum does not mention comedy news shows in his description and definition of soft news - the article was published in 2002, using data from previous years, so it would have been too early for the rise in popularity of these shows. However, what else would we call shows like the Colbert Report? Baum's main definition of soft news is programming that people watch to be entertained. I would consider Colbert's show to fit this bill. After explaining the characteristics and pervasiveness of soft news, Baum shows that exposure to soft news is positively and significantly associated with attentiveness to political events (he looks specifically at foreign crises). His theory is that by reducing the cognitive costs of receiving and accepting (to use Zaller's terms) political messages, soft news is able to inform people who would otherwise not be informed. Hence the title of this post: are people like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart saviors of democracy, informing the masses with their humorous, yet still educational, programming? Or are people who are already educated flocking to these programs precisely because of their political awareness?

I have no doubt that any one of the staff members of CCPS would be more than happy to discuss this conundrum...say, with candidate Colbert, live on the Colbert Report? Just a thought....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do South Carolina Primary Voters Live in Colbert Nation?

With Stephen Colbert officially announcing that he will run in both parties' South Carolina primaries, it is time to consider whether his run will produce anything more than just laughs.

If we assume that the Colbert constituency is roughly equivalent to his regular viewers, then we may be able to get a little insight into what this group is like using a recent Pew report.

In this survey, 16% of respondents reported that they regulalry watch "...shows like the Colbert Report or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Interestingly, 31% of this group has a college degree and one-in-four is under the age of 30. Thus, Colbert/Daily Show watchers appear to have slightly more formal education than the population and they are significantly younger. They also tend to be much more politically informed than American citizens more generally. Pew asked respondents 23 questions about politics and while only about one-third of Americans got at least 15 of those questions right, more than half of the Colbert/Daily Show audience scored that highly.

So, Colbert's potential constituency is younger citizens with high levels of political knowledge (his audience is also slightly more male than the population). On one hand, we know that younger Americans are much less likely to vote than their older counterparts. This pattern is even more pronounced in primary elections. On the other hand, high levels of political knowledge are often associated with higher levels of political activity, including an increased propensity to vote. Perhaps more important is the fact that citizens who know more about politics tend to feel more strongly about it as well. This leads to perhaps the biggest hurdle that Colbert faces in trying to pick up South Carolina delegates for either (or both) parties' conventions: will his viewers, who likely care more about politics than others, really be willing to cast their ballots for a candidate whose candidacy is largely a joke?

Military Donors

By way of Hotline, there is an interesting story in the Houston Chronicle today examining how much money the presidential candidates have raised from donors affiliated with the military. The Chronicle notes that Ron Paul has raised more than any other candidate from military donors, while Barack Obama places second. I would hesitate to draw any conclusions from where the small amount of military donations have gone, but it is an interesting read and a good example of the kinds of questions you can investigate with FEC data.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Does Ron Paul Have Momentum?

One of the big stories out of the presidential campaign last week was Ron Paul's 3rd quarter fundraising total--somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million (official numbers come out next week). While this amount doesn't quite compare with the piles of dough being raked in by Clinton and Obama, it is roughly the same as what once-frontrunner John McCain reportedly raised during the same period. The fact that Paul was able to raise such a sum during this 3-month period gives him the type of credibility with the news media that a candidate like Kucinich has always struggled to attain. If you want evidence of this, simply turn your attention to the National Journal's Campaign 2008 website. Every other week, the experts at National Journal rank the candidate's from the Democratic or Republican field. A few weeks ago, the experts had essentially banished Paul to the bottom of the ratings. But this week, they have placed him up at #5, just behind John McCain and above Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback (the experts have banished Kucinich and Gravel from the Democratic ratings altogether). In ranking Paul fifth, the National Journal notes, "Look who's crashing the party! His $5 million is impressive because no one on the GOP side is raising BIG bucks."

But is Paul really a force to be reckoned with in this race? Apparently he is in cyberspace, at least. Following the most recent Republican debate, Paul's supporters apparently flooded the media's online polls which, as a result, overwhelmingly showed him winning the debate, despite the fact that he actually received the least amount of air time of any candidate on the stage (some outlets took down their polls because of this activity). Nobody doubts that Paul's supporters are as web savvy as any candidate's followers on the Republican side. But to build on his impressive showing in 3rd quarter fundraising and make a real splash with the traditional media, Paul will have to make a move in the polls somewhere. I'd say his best shot is in New Hampshire, which has a libertarian tradition. There may be some New Hampshire Republicans who were unwilling to support Paul when they thought he had little shot at succeeding. But now that Paul has shown he can at least raise some dough, will those Republicans give him some support in the polls? The polling over the next couple of months should tell us all we need to know. (Of course, his first hurdle is just being listed at all on the graphics).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

4 Dems Back Out of Michigan Primary

More changes to the primary calendar happened yesterday when 4 Democrats - Edwards, Obama, Richardson, and Biden - withdrew their names from Michigan's January 15 primary ballot. See Kit Seelye's acticle in the New York Times for quotes from the Clinton camp on why she is keeping her name on the ballot, along with Chris Dodd:

This means that at least for the Democrats, the January 15 primary in Michigan is meaningless, and the Michigan Democratic Party is now more likely to hold its originally planned party-run caucus on February 9.

Yesterday's action in Michigan could also make it more likely that New Hampshire and Iowa will stay put on their currently assigned dates, January 22 for New Hamshire and January 14 for Iowa. New Hampshire and Iowa's decision to move might depend on what happens with Michigan Republicans, and if they decide to use the January 15 primary or hold their own party-run process later that does not run afoul of the rules.

The legislation that moved Michigan's primary to January 15 (in violation of both DNC and RNC rules) includes a provision that requires the secretary of state to cancel the primary if no political party uses the election for the purpose of selecting delegates for its national convention - which seems to mean that parties cannot use the election as a "beauty contest." Each political party state chair must report to the Michigan Secretary or State by November 14 whether they will use the January 15 primary for selecting delegates. Will Michigan Republicans stand on their own against Iowa and New Hampshire?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Primary Calendar Still Changing

There are rumors that Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada could all be moving to an earlier date in the calendar. It is no surprise that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner wants to keep his hand hidden until the last possible moment, to prevent more states from leapfrogging ahead, but NH party leaders were quoted saying they expected the primary to be moved to January 8 (from its current Jan 22 date). This would be one week before Michigan's January 15 primary, which would bring New Hampshire into compliance with its own state laws.

But a January 8 date for New Hampshire would likely cause Iowa to move to an earlier date (from its current Jan 14), since Iowa law says that the caucuses must occur at least a week before any other contest. A January 1 caucus date would bring Iowa into compliance with its state law, but it is unlikely that Iowa party leaders will choose to hold caucuses on the holiday. Instead, the likely date disucssed last weekend (as reported in yesterday's Hotline's Wake-Up Call) was January 3 - a Thursday, which will give just enough distance before New Hampshire, but will still be in the calendar year of the election.

Would anyone even notice at this point if Nevada moved its Democratic caucusus too? Well the Hotline reported yesterday that Nevada Dems migt move a week earlier from the prime spot given to them by the DNC, to January 12. If that happens, it makes it even more likely that Iowa will move to an earlier date such as January 3, 4 or 5.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

National Survey Results Released Tomorrow

American University will announce the results of a national survey assessing the public's perception of the FDA and of prescription drug safety.

The event will be held at the National Press Club on Thursday, September 20, from 9:30-10:30AM. American University, in partnership with The Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies, will announce national survey results on the public's perception of the FDA and prescription drug safety. The forum is the second event in a series of four.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Partisanship and Health Care Concerns

Hillary Clinton's health care plan announcement was big news this week and based on the recent national survey sponsored by CCPS, it should be. We asked respondents how important health care issues would be when considering who to support in the 2008 Presidential election. 19% of our sample said that it would be one of the two most important issues and an additional 45% said it would be very important. But what is even more important for Clinton is that Democrats, whose votes she needs to win to get the nomination, are much more concerned about the issue than Republicans. The question about the importance of this issue breaks down as follows:
While only one in ten Republicans said that the issue would be one of the two most important to their 2008 vote, about one in four Democrats said the same. In fact, combining the two categories, fewer than half of Republican respondents even listed the issue as at least very important, while nearly 85% of Democrats said the issue was at least very important to them.

The bottom line? You may not need a health care plan to win the Republican nomination, but it certainly seems important to Democratic voters.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Americans Strongly Dissatisfied With Health Care System

As part of the Dialogue on Prescription Drug Safety that CCPS is conducting this Fall, we commissioned a telephone survey of 800 American adults on health care and drug safety issues. We will release more on this survey later this week, but I thought I'd go ahead and post about one of our findings--the American public's widespread dissatisfaction with the health care system. We asked respondents the following question:

Generally speaking, is the current health care system meeting the needs of most Americans?

With the follow up:

(IF YES/NO, ASK:) And do you believe STRONGLY or NOT SO STRONGLY that the current
health care system (IS/IS NOT) meeting the needs of most Americans?

And received the following responses:


So, over half of Americans feel STRONGLY that the health care system is not meeting the needs of most Americans, indicating that not only are citizens dissatisfied, but they have definite feelings in that direction. By contrast, only 16% feel strongly that the system is meeting the needs of most Americans.

We also asked respondents how important healh care issues would be in deciding who to support in the 2008 presidential race. 19% said that it would be one of the two most important issues, and another 45% said it would be very important. Among this 64% of respondents, displeasure with the health care system is especially high, with nearly 72% of this group feeling strongly that the health care system is not meeting the needs of most Americans.

Which citizens are most likely to feel strongly that the health care system is not meeting the needs of most Americans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those most dissatisfied with the health care system tend to be women and Democrats. However, what may be telling is that those Americans who have had more experience with the health care system recently are also more likely to feel strongly that it is not meeting the needs of most Americans. Respondents who had taken a prescription drug during the previous year were 10% more likely to feel strongly dissatisfied with the health care system than those who had not (60.5% to 50.3%). The same pattern holds for the 40% of Americans who reported that they or an immediate family member suffers from a life threatening illness. This group was 63.7% likely to feel strongly that the health care system was not meeting Americans' needs while only 54.2% of those who did not report a life threatening illness in their family felt the same. At least in our survey, familiarity with the health care system does appear to lead to lower ratings of how that system is working.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New Lobbying Data

August 14th was the filing deadline for lobbying disclosures for the first six months of 2007. Our good friends at Open Secrets now have updated lists for the top lobbying firms, organizations, and contracts. And by "top" I mean in terms of money - there are many ways to define the "top" firms, etc. Using dollar amounts is simply the easiest, but not necessarily the best. Perhaps that is a post for another day.

The top spender so far in 2007 is, surprise surprise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This massive group has been number one on the list of top spenders 8 out of the 10 years that this data has been collected, and has been near the top in all 10. The Chamber spent $21,160,000 in the first 6 months of 2007, with its largest contract going to Johnson, Madigan, Peck et al. The Chamber spent almost twice as much as the second organization on the list for 2007 (General Electric, 11,920,000). Rounding out the top five are the Pharmaceutical Researchers & Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association and Amgen, Inc. (a biotech company that I had never previously heard of). It's not surprising, then, that the Chamber has maintained it's top position on the list of top spenders overall (from 1998-2007). These lists can be found here.

Total expenditures for the top lobbying firms in 2007 are close to those of the top groups/organizations. Patton Boggs is clearly the leader in this category, spending $17,330,000 so far in 2007. This power firm has held this top position for the last 4 years (previously Cassidy & Associates held the top spot, but both firms have always been on the list). Patton Boggs is also number one overall, expending $249,452,000 over the ten years profiled. However, PB does not have quite the lead over its colleagues as the Chamber does - the difference in expenditure amounts among the firms on this list is much smaller than the differences on the groups/organizations list. So far in 2007, Akin, Gump et al spent $15,120,000, putting them 2nd on the list. The top five for 2007 also contains Oglivy Government Relations (another firm I had never heard of), Cassidy & Associates and Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. The rest of the list can be found here.

The most potentially interesting data is that on the Top Contracts for 2007, but I will have to save my commentary on that for another day.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Live Blogging from the APSA Meeting (Post #2)

Arthur Lupia gave an interesting presentation earlier on what is a compelling topic. The bottom line, your stocks aren't doing as well as you think they are, but you don't realize that because the news media isn't connecting the dots for you. You can read the paper here...very interesting.

Live blogging from the APSA meeting in Chicago...

CCPS fellow Maryann Barakso has been named to the executive council of the Political Organizations and Parties section of APSA. Congratulations to Maryann.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee votes to sanction Florida

After an impassioned speech by Donna Brazile in defense of the Democratic Party's rules, the RBC voted to find Florida's delegate selection plan to be non-compliant. This means that the state Democratic Party will be barred from participating in the January 29 primary. Instead, the state party will have to hold caucuses on some date later than February 4.

Florida's defense: the problems with holding caucuses

Representatives of the Florida Democratic Party are here to plead their case before the RBC, begging forgiveness for not being able to stop the state legislation that changed the date of the primary to January 29, and asking permission to be granted an official waiver from the calendar rule. If the RBC finds the Florida plan in non-compliance, the Florida state party will be forced to hold caucuses sometime after the opening of the window (February 5). The FL state party is arguing that it would be really hard to pull together caucuses - they have to find caucus locations, staff the caucus locations, educate Democratic voters about the caucus process, and print ballots (and we know how good those Floridians are at printing ballots...) If the state party has to hold caucuses, turnout will be much lower than it would in the state run primary, and voters will be confused. A similar situation occurred in Arizona in 2000, when John McCain was running for president and the Republicans in the state helped move the date of the primary to February 2, in the hopes of giving their homestate senator a momentum boost. But February 2 was before the opening of the DNC window, and so the RBC told the AZ Democratic party that they had to hold their own contest (which was a party-run primary) at a later date. They did, and turnout was much lower than any state-run primary, even though Arizona Democrats introduced the use of Internet voting. Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler have a great paper that goes over some of the issues involved in the 2000 Arizona primary (with a specific focus on the effects of Internet voting)

Florida has some ballot issues that are supposed to be on the Jan. 29 primary ballot, and low turnout could effect those measures.

The Florida Dem Party makes a strong argument that the DNC should not be disenfranchising Florida voters by boycotting the Jan. 29 primary and forcing a caucus at a later date. But at the same time, there has to be a point at which the leapfrogging to the front of the calendar stops.

Congressional influence: while this a DNC committee meeting, and Congress has no real role in the presidential nominating process (it is run by the national political parties and the state legislatures), the influence of Congress can be seen in the room. Staffers are in the audience from Senator Reid's office (he represents Nevada - one of the new "early" states, and Reid very much wants to protect the new importance of Nevada's place in the calendar) and Senator Levin's office (from Michigan - another state that wants to move early, like Florida).

Florida's effect on New Hampshire

A few words from guest blogger Marc Schloss, another former RBC staff member: What will Florida mean for New Hampshire, should the RBC allow Florida to hold its first determining step on January 29? Will NH Secretary of State Gardner move up the date of their primary regardless of today's actions? That is the question. Therefore, why not allow a very important southern state to the Democratic Party to move up? Well, then what stops North Carolina, Georgia, etc? The 1,000 lb gorilla in the room though as always in NH. As it seems, NH may move up, as may Iowa and therefore, regardless of whether Florida moves up, we may very well have a nominee before candidates have an oportunity to go to Joe's Stone Crab on Miami Beach.
The RBC does have rules though. By allowing Florida to hold it's primary before the window the RBC is essentially allowing to say the rules apply to all, except, well Florida. This is a dangerous precedent to an already frightfully early nominating process.

DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

Today I'm posting from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) meeting, where the committee members are expected to vote on whether to punish Florida for scheduling its primary before the opening of the authorized "window." A front page story in today's Washington Post describes what is expected to happen here today: DNC May Deny Florida Slots at '08 Convention

The RBC has some well-known and influential members, including Harold Ickes (top advisor to Hillary Clinton's campaign, former deputy chief of staff to Bill Clinton, Donna Brazile (Al Gore's campaign manager), Don Fowler (former DNC chair and former SC Dem Party chair), James Roosevelt Jr (FDR's grandson and the longtime chair of the RBC, and Alexis Herman (former Secretary of Labor). The full DNC is likely to follow whatever the RBC recommends.

The RBC is responsible for approving each state's Delegate Selection Plan. The committee holds several meetings during the year before a presidential election to review each state's plan and approve or deny various waivers to the extensive rules for selecting delegates. (Here is a link to the 2008 Delegate Selection Rules). The rules cover everything from when a state can hold its primary or caucus (which is typically the first stage of a state's delegate selection process) to the break down of men and women in a state's delegation (it must be equally divided between men and women).

Blogger's full disclosure: I was a DNC staff member during the 2004 presidential election cycle, and I served as a staff member to this committee. My first job was to advise the state democratic parties on preparing their delegate selection plans, so that they would be in compliance with the rules, and then my second job was to advise the RBC members on how they should vote on a state's plan or waiver request.

Right now, the RBC is hearing the requests for waivers from various delegate selection plans. Most of the requests are pretty routine - a state might have a deadline for applying for a delegate position that is earlier than the deadline specified by the national party rules. But the hot topic today is how to deal with violations of the calendar rule. Currently the rules specify that any state holding a primary or caucus before February 5 (except Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina - the 4 states the get special permission to hold early contests) wil be penalized. The RBC staff has reccommended that the Florida waiver request be denied and that their plan be found non-compliant with the rules. That means the Florida Democratic Party would be forced to hold a seperate nominating contest and not participate in the January 29 state primary.

Next up is the discussion of what to do with Florida.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Calendar Craziness

For anyone who has been following the continuously changing presidential nominating calendar, this week has not been disappointing. Michigan has become the latest state to announce plans to leapfrog earlier - all the way to January 15, before New Hampshire's currently scheduled date (Jan 22) and Florida's (Jan 29). On Tuesday, The Washington Post provided this graphic showing the ripple effects this could have on the other early states:

A quick primer for those who may not understand what all the fuss is about. The attempts by Michigan, Florida, South Carolina and other states to move to the front of the calendar (called "frontloading," since it loads the primaries and caucuses at the front of the nominating calendar) is against the rules of the Democratic and Republican parties. Both parties have attempted to ease frontloading by creating rules that protect the status of Iowa and New Hampshire at the front of the calendar - the first caucus and primary in the nation. The DNC voted last year to add Nevada and South Carolina to the front of the calendar, to inject some diversity into the lineup of the "first in the nation" states. So the DNC rules allowed those four early states - IA, NV, NH, SC - to hold their primaries and caucuses in January, then any othre state could choose a date on or after February 5. But then the Florida legislature decided to move the state's primary to January 29, and then South Carolina Republicans decided to move their primary to January 19. These moves might cause New Hampshire to move to January 8, and Iowa to January 1 - or even into December (although the Iowa governer has said he won't do that).

The DNC is holding a meeting of its Rules and Bylaws Committee on Saturday morning, where they will decide what to do with these overly ambitous states. The current rules that govern the delegate selection process for the Dem's 2008 nomination ( - I'll try to find and post an official DNC link to the rules and other official docs) specifically call for sanctions against candidates who campaign in states that violate the official opening of the calendar (Feb 5). But it is pretty clear that some states don't care about the threatened sanctions... so the DNC is trying to decide what to do.

The meeting is on Saturday, August 25, 10:00 am at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Comment: ethics reform

Dr. Thurber wrote an editorial that appeared in the Financial Times yesterday. You can read it here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Satisfied Customers?

There has been some recent attention to the fact that Fred Thompson's impending campaign is largely being driven by the fact that Republicans are mostly not satisfied with the candidates they presently have to choose from. For example, a July CBS/New York Times Poll asked citizens that expect to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries whether they were "generally satisfied with the candidates now running" or if they wished they had "more choices." While 61% of potential Democratic primary voters were satisfied with their choices, only 36% Republicans were satisfied with their field of candidates. 60% of Republicans wish they had more choices.

(One interesting note regarding the Democratic numbers is that 68% of Democratic women are satisfied with the choices while only 52% of men feel the same way. That is a pretty substantial gender gap.)

To get some perspective on these numbers, I did a little searching over previous campaigns. The first thing I discovered is that this question has not been asked all that frequently in the past, particularly during the year before the election. Curiously, I could locate no questions on this leading up to the 2000 nomination campaigns.

Nevertheless, it is worth taking a look at what was available.

The only time I could find this asked of Republican voters in a previous campaign was the lead up to the 1996 election. Robert Dole, Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm, Richard Lugar, Arlen Specter, Pete Wilson, and Alan Keyes were among the candidates who were in the race at some point during 1995. In November, 1995, 57% of Republicans were satisfied with the candidates while 39% wanted more choices. So, Republicans were far more pleased with their choices then than they are right now. Then again, a year later, Bob Dole would lose the general election decisively.

The figure here compares the satisfaction percentages for Democrats for this year with those in 1991 and 2003. Note that Democrats are far more pleased with their choices this year than they were at roughly similar points in 1991 and 2003. In fact, in 1991, Democrats were not the least bit pleased with their choices--nearly 2 of every 3 Democrats were wishing for more choices in October of that year. This was not surprising since few well-known candidates had come forward to challenge an incumbent president with high approval ratings. In the end, an Arkansas governor captured the nomination and most Democrats ended up being fairly satisfied with their choice.

Perhaps the 1991 Democratic numbers and the 1995 Republican figures demonstrate why one shouldn't make too much of the present dissatisfaction that Republicans have with their choices. After all, a lot can change in the course of a year.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Public Opinion on the Parties

As promised, I've got more from the recent Pew data release. Examining how citizens feel about the political parties can be a fairly important endeavor not just for understanding how things stand now, but also to get a sense of which party is presently favored heading into the 2008 elections.

The figure below presents the percentage of the public that has a favorable rating of both the Demcoratic and Republican parties. The series runs from July 1992 through the most recent Pew survey (July 2007).

The percentage of the public that has a favorable view of the Republican Party has steadily dropped from a high of 63% in April, 2003 to the 39% that presently rate the party favorably. In fact, the 39% for July, 2007 is the lowest rating for the entire period. The previous low for Republicans was 44% in January, 1999 (this was when the party was suffering backlash from the impeachment of President Clinton). While the Democratic Party is doing a bit better than Republicans with 51% presently holding a favorable impression, they are also near their own low point for the period. The previous low mark for the Democratic Party's favorability ratings was 47% just a year ago (July, 2006). Thus, even though Democrats are doing a bit better than Republicans in the public's eye, neither party is particularly popular with the public when compared with views of the past 15 years.

It is also informative to get a sense of stong feelings toward the parties. To do this, we can plot the percentage of the public that has very favorable or very unfavorable feelings toward the parties. First, let's take a look at those who feel very unfavorable.

Generally, over the past 15 years, only a small share of the public (between one-in-four and one-in-five) has had a strong distaste for one or both of the parties. However, in the most recent polling, those taken since the 2004 election, at least one-in-three have had a very unfavorable impression of one party or the other. Republicans are clearly more unpopular among those with strong feelings. In the July, 2007 survey, just over one in every five adults (22%) had a very unfavorable view of the Republican Party. The very unfavorable ratings for the Republican Party have been hovering in the 20-25% range ever since President Bush's second inauguration in January, 2005.

Finally, it is instructive to look at the percent of the public that has a very favorable view of each party. Those with very favorable views are somewhat less common than those with very unfavorable views. In the July, 2007 poll, only 7% reported a very favorable view of the Republican Party and 13% had a very favorable view of Democrats. The 7% for Republicans matches, again, their previous low point during this series, which occurred in February, 1999. The Decline has been fairly steady from the 18% that held a very favorable view of the Republican Party in December, 2002. The percentage of Americans feeling very favorable toward the Democratic Party has remained fairly stable around 15% for most of this series.

So, what to make of this. Well, these findings largely confirm what Pew has told us in an earlier report--American public opinion appears to be swinging back in the direction of the Democratic Party. This obviously helped Democrats capture Congress in 2006, and many political onlookers think that it is likely to propel them into the White House in 2008. Of course, it is still far too early to make predictions on the presidential campaign, but things do appear to be better for the Democrats right now than they are for Republicans. But my use of the word "better" is important. Neither party is doing particularly well with the public. The percent having very favorable feelings toward both parties is down, and the percent having very unfavorable views is up. Democrats may be doing better, but neither party is particularly popular with a significant share of the public. Does this mean that the public is ready for a Bloomberg run? What I'd really like to see is what percentage of the public has unfavorable (or very unfavorable) views toward both parties (the information released by Pew doesn't give that information). This would be the potential constituency for a Bloomberg candidacy.

Another interesting thing that these poll results lead one to consider is how the Democratic-controlled congress will act when they return from the August recess. Do they force a showdown with the president over Iraq, the budget, funding for infrastructure, etc.? At this point, the president has little to lose. His approval ratings probably can't go much lower and he isn't running for reelection (nor does he seem particularly attached to any of the Republicans who are running). Democrats, on the other hand, risk driving up their unfavorable ratings and diminishing the advantage they currently enjoy over Republicans. According to Pew, the public is relatively split on how far Republicans should go in challenging Bush's policies in Iraq. 29% think they are going too far, 38% say they are not going far enough, and 24% say they are about right in how far they have gone. So, do they mount a serious challenge to Bush (one that involves war funding), and risk the backlash that could result? Do they continue to bring up votes for timelines and blame Republicans and Bush for obstructing their efforts to end the war? I have to say that, strategically, based on these poll numbers, the Democrats have some choices to make and it will be interesting to see what they do.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Supreme Court and the Debates: New Pew Survey Report Out

I'm a big fan of most of Pew's projects, but particularly the Research Center for the People and the Press. The survey reports produced by Pew tend to be some of the most detailed and informative you will find anywhere. When I was writing the sixth edition of my textbook on political parties and elections, I frequently turned to Pew for data to illustrate points I was making in the book. (As a political scientist who is always excited to get his hands on some data, I am also particularly fond of the fact that Pew tends to put its raw data online within 6 months or so of completing the survey (typically, lag times for getting survey data run much longer)).

Well, Pew released a report on a new national survey this week and there are some very interesting findings in the report. One of the things that Pew asked about were the debates, and specifically the CNN/YouTube debate held recently. They asked a general question about whether respondents prefer debates where journalists ask questions or where "regular people" do the asking. The question, of course, assumes that journalists are not "regular people." I am sure we can all agree with that assumption, right? Ok, I'm just joking! Both my parents are journalists...and they are, more or less, "regular people." In any event, by a margin of 68% to 17%, the American public prefers debates where journalists are not the ones asking the questions. I've never seen this specific question asked before, so it was pretty interesting to see how overwhelmingly popular the town hall/YouTube format is with the public. Hopefully we'll see more such debates in the future, as we should be tailoring the format to appeal to the citizens we are trying to engage in the process.

While the findings on the presidential debates were interesting, another part of the survey that stood out the most for me was what Pew found when it asked citizens about the Supreme Court. The percentage of the public with favorable views of the Supreme Court is down from previous surveys. Pew highlights the difference between this survey, in which 57% viewed the Court favorably, and a January poll where the Court's favorability rating was 71%. That is a substantial drop, but there may be something about asking the question in January that leads to more favorable responses (post-holiday warmth or, more likely, the federal government is coming off an extended holiday, so it hasn't done anything to upset people in a few weeks). So, just to be conservative, let's compare favorability ratings now to those given at this time last year. In fact, there appears to be a significant drop in favorability ratings for the court even if you compare ratings from last July. At that time, 63% viewed the Court favorably. Interestingly, this drop is driven in equal amounts by Democrats AND independents--favorability ratings among each of those groups dropped by 8% during the past year.

Of course, it is also important to note that there are a lot of people out there who are fairly uninformed about the court's recent activity, and some of them even admit it. When asked what their opinion was of the court's recent decisions, one in five respondents admitted that they haven't heard enough about them and another 16% said they didn't know what they their opinion was. When capturing attitudes about the Supreme Court, it is good to keep in mind that a lot of these opinions are formulated based on what small bits of Supreme Court news coverage citizens are actually exposed to.

These are just the highlights from the report. There are tons of interesting things to look at in toplines, and I'm hoping to post more about those this weekend.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Congress Passes Lobbying Reform

Given that the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute is housed by CCPS and CCPS is directed by one of the nation's authorities on lobbying reform (Jim Thurber), we take a particular interest in lobbying. So it is worth noting that today an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate passed the lobbying reform bill that also easily passed in the House of Representatives earlier this week. The bill includes several provisions that Professor Thurber advocated for when he testified in front of the Senate's Committee on Rules and Administration in February 2006 (link).

The White House has not yet indicated whether the President will sign the legislation. Stay tuned.

Introducing: the Supremes

By way of introduction and explanation of this post, allow me to explain the irony behind me working for the Center for Congressional and Presidential studies. Astute readers may realize that our center focuses on only two of the three branches of our federal government. The judiciary branch is conspicuously left out. This is of course fine for an academic center - you have to specialize in something, and what would we call ourselves if we studied all three branches? But it underlines a common tendency in many of my political science professors and colleagues - a tendency to ignore that pesky third branch of government. The judicial branch is best left to people who went to law school, and plus it's hard to get quantitative data out of studying cases, briefs or justices. Without numbers, you can't possibly engage in legitimate research, can you? Better to leave the judicial branch to lawyers and law reviews. This is the sentiment that I sense from many in my chosen academic field. I, however, have always considered the judicial branch to be one of my main academic interests - even if the focus won't do me any good when I'm on the job market. I therefore will frequently defend it's relevancy to the topics studied by this center and addressed in this blog. Sometimes, the Washington Post helps me out.

This article first caught my eye because of the headline: "Courtin' the Left and Right: Roberts Scare Seizes the Trail." I like the Post. I respect it greatly as a news source, and love living in a city now with such a good newspaper. But come on now, anonymous copy editor that wrote that headline, could you be any more cheesy and insensitive to boot? Anyway, the article summarizes the fallout among Members of Congress, presidential candidates, and political pundits after Chief Justice John Roberts had a seizure over the weekend.

First of all, many Supreme Court justices have served under much worse medical conditions than Roberts (Roberts' own predecessor, William Rehnquist, served while receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments for thyroid cancer). As the article points out, Roberts is a "young whelp" compared to many of his fellow justices. This episode just serves to stir speculation, however unjustified, about what would happen if another vacancy opened up during Bush's presidency. The article's author predicts "all out war" if such a vacancy occurred, and the statements from Senators Schumer and Specter certainly support this prediction. Neither the article or the Senators, however, make any distinctions among justices in this speculation. In other words, it would be a much bigger deal if a justice from the liberal bloc on the Court (Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens, or Breyer), or if the current "swing vote" (Kennedy - though proving not to be as much of a swing as O'Connor was) were to retire. If Bush were replacing Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, or Alito, much less would be at stake.

Also interesting is the conviction that Sen. Specter conveys - like the country was hoodwinked by Roberts and Alito, and they won't be tricked again! Our colleague at AU offers some interesting analysis on this.

No matter what happens during the rest of Bush's term, the next President will likely have several opportunities to influence the Supreme Court's future decisions for decades to come. It's amazing how small of a campaign issue this has been so far. Presidents' terms of 4 or 8 years are relative flashes in the pan compared to the average term of a Supreme Court justice (approx. 25 years). And no matter how you slice it, in the end these justices have the final say on any policy, if they choose to do the saying. Perhaps as the campaign wears on, more will be said about this awesome judicial appointment power. For now, the speculation is mostly left to Supreme Court nerds like myself and SCOTUSblog (who have compiled lists of potential new nominees).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Public weighs in on Clinton/Obama debate

A new national poll by Rasmussen Reports took a look at where people stood on last week's mini-debate between Clinton and Obama. If you recall, the question asked at the CNN/Youtube debate was whether Obama or Clinton would meet with world leaders of rogue nations during his/her first year without setting any preconditions. Media commentators (and others, like myself) thought that Clinton had landed a blow by highlighting her experience with the answer to the question last week. After Obama said that he would meet with these world leaders, Clinton voiced the following reply:

CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.
I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.
And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.
And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

Later in the week, Clinton called Obama's promise to meet with these leaders without preconditions "irresponsible and frankly naive."

The immediate perception was that Clinton had successfully used the question to highlight the difference between her experience and that of Obama. Yet, this latest survey suggests that more Americans side with Obama on this one. When asked whether the next president should meet with leaders of nations like Syria, North Korea, and Iran "without setting any preconditions," 42% agreed with the statement, 34% disagreed, and 24% were not sure. Support for Obama's position is even more significant among Democrats (55% of Democrats agreed). Give Obama credit, he did not really back down from what he said at the debate. In fact, he criticized Clinton's position as not being very distinct from the current policy favored by the Bush White House. And if this latest survey is correct, his willingness to stick to what he said at the debate may have been the right choice (politically, at least; no judgement here on whether it would make for good foreign policy).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More on American Ideology...

I want to elaborate a bit on my post on ideology from last week. Jim Stimson (UNC), one of the best public opinion scholars out there, is studying this question of how Americans often mislabel their own ideology.

One of Stimson's major contributions to the public opinion field has been the development of his "mood" index. Essentially, Stimson's measure of mood uses survery data that asks citizens their positions on a range of issues. Stimson combines these responses and creates a measure of the percentage of Americans who want policy to move in a more liberal direction. In a recent presentation, Stimson demonstrated how the American electorate appears to be far more liberal according to his "mood" index than they are when they are asked to describe their own ideology. The image below, taken from the presentation, demonstrates how these two measures track over the past half century.

There are two notable patterns in this figure. First, note the large gap between the percentage of citizens who consider themselves liberal (blue line) and the percentage who answer a variety of policy questions in a liberal way (red line). This gap persists throughout the period examined.

A second point is that while there was always a gap between these two measures, they generally moved in the same direction during this period. During the 1970s, both measures declined; during the 1980s, both measures were on the rise. However, this pattern has reversed a bit since the mid-1990s. Note that while "mood" is moving in a substantially more liberal direction in recent years, the percentage of Americans who call themselves liberal is continuing to decline (though at a modest rate).

The fact that the two measures do not appear to even move in the same direction in recent years really illustrates the disconnect between how citizens identify their own ideology when asked whether they are liberal, moderate or conservative and the way they actually behave when asked about specific policy issues. How pollsters and political scientists deal with this problem is another question.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is it Time for a New Terminology for American Ideology?

One of the questions asked at the CNN/You Tube debate on Monday that stood out for me was asked of Hillary Clinton. The questioner asked Clinton whether she would consider herself liberal. Clinton's response was this:

"...Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, [liberal] has been turned up on its head and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century. I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.
I consider myself a modern progressive, someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family."

The underlying point here is that no Democratic presidential candidate can call themselves a "liberal" and still expect to win the general election; Republicans have been far too successful in adding a negative connotation to the term. Many citizens who probably are "liberals" also shy away from the label since it generally takes on a negative connotation. In the latest CBS/NY Times poll, only 15% of respondents considered themselves "liberal" and 31% called themselves a "conservative." At the same time, 48% labeled themselves as a "moderate."

CCPS is currently putting together a survey on health care issues. We are allowed only a limited number of questions, so one of the first cuts I suggested was the ideology question. While you will get some debate from scholars such as Morris Fiorina, I tend to agree that the electorate is fairly polarized along party lines at the present. This means that party and ideology are highly correlated, much more than they were when you had a substantial number of conservative southern Democrats (most of them have now relocated into the Republican Party). If made to choose, I'd rather use the party identification question, because I think it will give a better sense of ideology since "liberals" who do not like the "liberal" label will still admit to being a Democrat. That is why in the same survey you have only 15% of the public admitting to being a "liberal," you have over 30% identifying with the Democratic Party. On the other side, slightly more citizens claim the "conservative" label than admit to identifying with the Republican Party. This shows just how much of a problem the ideology questions poses to pollsters and political scientists. "Conservative" and "liberal" are not just polar opposites on the ideological scale, they are unequal in their social acceptability. Consider two people on an ideological scale, person A is about the same distance to the left of center as person B is to the right of center. The problem is that because of the loaded nature of the term "liberal," person A is not as likely to use the "liberal" label to define him/herself as person B is to choose the "conservative" label. Thus, even if you have an equal number of people to the left as you ahve to the right, that will not be reflected in the ideological self placement question presently used by pollsters.

Some studies use answers to a series of questions about policy issues to place respondents on an ideological scale in addition to asking them to place themselves. These studies find that a lot more people actually answer policy questions in a liberal way than admit to being a liberal. For a really interesting breakdown of present-day American ideology using responses to policy question, see the comprehensive study conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press here.

Unfortunately, survey questions cost money and in most cases it is not feasible to ask 10 policy questions just to come up with a respondent's ideology. Thus, because "liberal" has become such a loaded term, it may be time for a new vernacular when it comes to describing American political ideology. I'm not sure what the new terminology should be, but in many other countries, terms such as "left," "center," or "right" are used instead of "liberal," "moderate," or "conservative." While it would certainly take some getting used to for politicians, pundits, journalists, and the public, the new terminology may provide a more meaningful way for people to think about their own ideology and a better way for pollsters to measure the concept.

Monday, July 23, 2007

EPAAI Pictures, Part I

Jennifer Singleterry, Haley Adams, and Claudia Thurber enjoy the sunshine in front of our hotel the first night of EPAAI.

Max Glass, Murphy Hebert and Stephanie Johnson chat with Professor Thurber in front of the hotel.

Dr.'s Sheridan (left) and Thurber (right) pose with Christine Gould of CropLife International. Christine was a student of Dr. Sheridan's and also took the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute in the U.S. before graduating from AU and moving to Brussels to work for CropLife.

Jennifer Singleterry, Angela Cavallucci, and Brian O'Laughlin enjoy one of Belgium's finer delicacies - waffles.

The group relaxes at a cafe before having lunch with an MEP.

EPAAI: Summer 2007

CCPS ran the second installment of its European Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute in Brussels, Belgium on June 24th-30th. Fourteen students participated in the institute - all graduate-level students in political science, public policy, or public administration. The course was taught by Dr. Thurber and Dr. Jerry Sheridan, who is the head of AU Abroad's program in Brussels and an economic scholar focused on the EU. I was fortunate enough to go along as the teaching assistant for the course. I think all would consider the week a resounding success.

In the next few days, I will be posting a few entries relating our time and work in Brussels. First, a general summary of our schedule, speakers, and activities follows.

Most of us arrived over the weekend (three sans luggage, but that's another story), and our first outing was an optional day trip to Bruges. It is a wonderfully-preserved 13th Century town, home to beautiful architecture, canals, and some impressive art collections. Dr. Sheridan gave the group a tour of the town in the morning, and left us with the afternoon to explore. Back in Brussels, we had our opening EPAAI dinner at Le Grande Cafe right off the Grande Place, sampling a traditional Belgian dish called chicken waterzooi. We had a good time getting to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere - which was a good thing, because we hit the ground running the next day, hearing five speakers in a row.

John Vassallo, Senior Counsel and European Affairs Director, GE Europe
Kristian Schmidt, Deputy Chef du Cabinet, EU Commissioner Kallas
Dr. Jamie Shea, Political Director of the Cabinet of the Secretary
Marcel Claes, CEO, Amcham Belgium
Jose Lalloum, Chairman, European Public Affairs Consultancies Association

Eva Grut, Senior Director, Pfizer Public Affairs Europe
George Parker, Brussels Bureau Chief, the Financial Times
Stefan Krawczyk, Deputy Regional Director for Europe, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry
Michelle O'Neill, Public Affairs Officer, Honeywell

Wilfred Aspinall, founder, European Link
Christine Gould, Plant Biotechnology, CropLife International
Daniel Mulaney, Office of the US Trade Representative, US Mission to the EU
Ambassador C. Boyden Grey, U.S. Ambassador to the EU
Edward Thomas & Anita Kelly, Amcham EU

David Bushong, APCO Worldwide
Bill Newton Dunn, Member of the European Parliament
Jorn Fleck, Transatlantic Policy Network
Stephane Ducable, Microsoft Europe

Jeremy Rand, Bureaucrat, General Secretariat of the (EU) Council
Catherine Van Reeth, Corporate Public Affairs Manager, InBev Corporation
Tour of Cantillon Brewery (a small, organic brewery in Brussels)

After our brewery tour, we went our separate ways; some to return to the U.S. and back to work/school, and some to travel further in Europe. More to come later...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My "Conversation" with Survey USA

I was at a friend's house this weekend and the phone rang. After looking at the caller id, my friend decided not to answer. However, I noticed that the caller was a familiar name: it was Survey USA. Since a lot of my research focuses on public opinion, the call from Survey USA was intriguing enough for me to ask my friend if I could answer it. Survey USA has gained notoriety in recent years for their methodology--they use automated calls that ask respondents to push buttons on their phones to answer questions asked by a recorded voice (see a more extensive discussion of their methodolgy here; see a Slate article on how their method stacks up here). Overall, the method (Interactive Voice Response) has been shown to produce fairly accurate estimates of support for candidates during election campaigns.

Two main concerns with the method deal with the selection of the appropriate interviewee within a household and the fact that the automated method precludes any interaction or clarification during the survey. Well, on the first point, the fact that I answered my friend's phone points to the type of in-house selection problems faced by Survey USA. I am not the person or household that they randomly selected to participate in the survey, and there was no way for the computer to know that (I have no land line, so I wouldn't even be in their sampling frame). Survey USA does nothing to make sure a particular person (male/female, head of household, etc.) is on the phone at the beginning of the survey. During my interview, they asked some basic information (gender, race, age), which they will use to weight the responses. The concern that some have, however, is how well that weighting actually accounts for these in-house selection effects. Of course, all surveys have to use weighting to overcome selection problems, so this may simply be a matter of degree.

In a recent Public Opinion Quarterly article, Mark Blumenthal (of notes:

"Yes, IVR studies appear to push the envelope with respect to in-house selection and demographic weighting, but they are extending similar compromises already made by conventional surveys. What evidence do we have that respondents obtained through an inbound IVR study are more biased than those obtained on the phone with live interviewers? The vote validation studies we have available show that the IVR studies are consistent with, and possibly superior to, surveys done with live interviewers."

I think Blumenthal's point is on the mark, and for what they aim to do (quickly capturing public opinion in a cost efficient way), the IVR technology works great.

But after taking the survey, I'd say that one problem that may have been overlooked a bit to this point is that IVR surveys may be more prone to satisficing. Satisficing (see Jon Krosnick's work on this) occurs when a respondent is essentially just answering questions without thinking much about them (probably because he/she just wants to finish the survey). Because IVR means that respondents are pushing buttons rather than verbalizing answers, I expect that the method would be even more prone to satisficing. After all, how many times have you been guiding yourself through an automated menu on the phone and accidentally hit the wrong button because you weren't really listening that carefully? Would this be less likely to happen if you were talking to a human? In the survey I took, I was asked a series of questions about each candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (whether I felt positive, negative, or neutral toward the candidate). As we were going through the list, I was getting into a pretty good groove with pressing the buttons until one candidate came along for whom I almost pressed the wrong button. I would expect that this happens a lot with IVR, since it is a lot easier to cut off a computer by pressing a button than it is to cut off a human being who is asking you a question. Also, the process of verbalizing a response likely requires more cognitive work than simply pressing a button on a phone (I'm not sure precisely what the cognitive science says on this, but I'm just hypothesizing that this is the case). It is worth noting that there was no apparent way to go back to a question if you accidentally hit the wrong button.
Thus, as a way of capturing more involved attitudes, I'm not sure the method is nearly as useful yet. The questions that can be asked are too limited and the method is probably too prone to satisficing, particularly if the survey was extended to capture more detailed attitudes.

Nevertheless, the nice thing about the Survey USA poll is that it was quick and I come from a generation that (for better or worse) is very comfortable interacting with computer voices. I think that IVR offers a quick economical way to take a snapshot of public attitudes on a limited range of questions. For example, Survey USA will be calling me (well, my friend) back at 9pm tonight to get a quick reaction about the Democratic Debate. Because they do not need to employ human interviewers to do this, the feat will not be that difficult (finding enough people who actually watch the debate is another matter, however). While the detail of the interview will be lacking, it is still great for political scientists to have an idea of who viewers thought won or lost a debate before the media's spin takes hold. Thus, different survey methodologies are well suited to performing different tasks, and I think that the more options we have to choose from the better. Just as long as we are well-aware of the limitations inherent in each method.

UPDATE (7/24/07): has posted about the initial results from this survey here. It appears that impressions of Biden increased markedly after the debate, but that hasn't changed the fact that Clinton remains the person that respondents believe would make the best president.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CCPS Research Update: How Women Govern

This begins what we hope will be a regular feature on the blog--updating readers on research being conducted by scholars associated with CCPS.

Maryann Barakso, a Research Fellow with CCPS, has a very interesting article out in the most recent edition of Politics & Gender. Barakso looks at the rules that women's interest groups use to govern themselves. Research shows that women tend to desire more consensus-oriented approaches to decision making, so Barakso expected to find that groups formed by women would be more likely to adopt democratic rules that encourage participation from their members. However, she finds no such thing. Rather, women's organizations appear little different from other groups with regard to how they are structured. According to Barakso's analysis, "Contrary to expectations, many women’s organizations are quite undemocratic and this is particularly true of most organizations founded since 1960."

So, who are the most and least democratic organizations according to Barakso? Here are the top 3 and bottom 3 on Barakso's "Internal Democracy Index":

Most Demcocratic Organizations:
Coalition of Labor Union Women
National Organization for Women
International Women's Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation

Least Democratic Organizations:
National Black Women's Health Project
Women in Film and Video
Women in Government

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hillary Clinton's High Unfavorable Ratings

I received an email today that, in part, discussed Hillary Clinton's relatively high unfavorable ratings. This is one of the points that Clinton '08 doubters often focus on, arguing that a candidate with unfavorable ratings so high will have a hard time winning a national election. (Charles Franklin has posted some nice historic data on her unfavorable ratings on his blog and at

One thing I was curious about is whether a different Democratic nominee would be able to win the votes of those who view Clinton unfavorably. So, I took a look at the most recent data I could get my hands on quickly. The national survey was conducted by Pew in early December (2006). One nice thing about the data is that they broke down favorability ratings on a 4 point scale (very/mostly favorable, very/mostly unfavorable). Here is the breakdown for Clinton in that survey:

Very Favorable: 21.3%
Mostly Favorable: 33.9%
Mostly Unfavorable: 19.8%
Very Unfavorable: 25.1%

Now, let's look at how those ratings break down along party lines:

Very Favorable: 5%
Mostly Favorable: 14.3%
Mostly Unfavorable: 31.3%
Very Unfavorable: 49.5%

Very Favorable: 14.0%
Mostly Favorable: 40.3%
Mostly Unfavorable: 22.1%
Very Unfavorable: 23.7%

Very Favorable: 40.4%
Mostly Favorable: 45.0%
Mostly Unfavorable: 8.3%
Very Unfavorable: 6.3%

Unfortunately, the survey didn't include any other Democratic candidates that I could compare Clinton's numbers with, but I'm not submitting this post for publication in a journal, so what the heck! We aren't too interested in Republicans here, because in the last few elections they have been very loyal in voting for their presidential candidates. Thus, no Democrat is likely to capture much of that vote. Clinton's unfavorables among Democrats is about 15%, which may be a little higher than one would expect. But, a little further investigation into that 15% reveals that they are mostly Democrats who identify themselves as conservatives or moderates and reside in the South or the Midwest. This is not a loyal Democratic constituency. Nevertheless, just over half of this 15% reported that they voted for John Kerry in 2004, so the Clinton camp may be concerned about at least part of that 15%.

The most important group are those identifying themselves as independents, since that is likely to be the swing vote in the election. About 46% of that group gives Clinton an unfavorable rating. However, public opinion research shows consistently that many people like to think of themselves as independents even if they loyally support one party or the other. Fortunately, the Pew survey added a question asking citizens which party they leaned towards. Here are how Hillary's favorables/unfavorables break down among independents who did and did not lean toward one party or the other:

Independents Leaning Republican:
Very Favorable: 8.3%
Mostly Favorable: 16.6%
Mostly Unfavorable: 32.5%
Very Unfavorable: 42.7%

Independents Leaning Democratic:
Very Favorable: 21.0%
Mostly Favorable: 53.7%
Mostly Unfavorable: 15.5%
Very Unfavorable: 9.9%

Independents Not Leaning Toward Either Party:
Very Favorable: 15.7%
Mostly Favorable: 37.1%
Mostly Unfavorable: 20.0%
Very Unfavorable: 27.1%

This gives us some interesting insight into Clinton's numbers. Note that there are roughly equivalent numbers of leaning Republicans who have favorable views of Clinton as there are leaning Democrats who have unfavorable views. Thus, they mostly cancel each other out. Clinton supporters might be somewhat concerned that leaning Republicans are more likely to have very unfavorable feelings than leaning Democrats are to fall into the very favorable category. Clinton would surely also like to have fewer unfavorables in the non-leaning independents category, but I hestitate to make too much of that group since it is a mishmash of voters that are not nearly as likely to vote as the other groups.

Based on this crude analysis, I'd say that Clinton does not appear to have high unfavorable ratings among any group that would otherwise want to vote Democratic. In other words, most people who give Clinton an unfavorable rating are probably not going to vote for any Democratic nominee and most of those who view her favorably would probably vote for nearly any Democrat anyway. All of this could change, of course. Pundits often use Clinton's high favorables and unfavorables to note that Clinton is a polarizing figure, but I think that what this analysis indicates is that there is little remarkable about these ratings. Views toward Clinton are polarized, but so is the American political climate more generally. I'd bet that any Democratic nominee will end up with favorables/unfavorables like Clinton's a year from now; Clinton's long history in the public eye just helped her get there first.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Speaking of Framing...

Immigration is a good example of an issue that is ripe for framing, because there are so many different aspects that either side can stress. There are also a lot of nuances to the issue that can be used by political elites. Frank Luntz has conducted some of his famous focus groups on the issue and has been telling Republicans how to talk about the issue. One of the words Luntz has been instructing Republicans to use is "amnesty," and I'm sure you've heard House Republicans pushing this frame. Well, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey recently used a little experiment to help us get a sense of how well the "amnesty" terms works for Republicans. You can find the report here: Essentially, the people at Pew randomly asked half of the survey respondents a question about whether illegal immigrants should be provided a way to gain citizenship while the other half was asked if they should be provided with amnesty (see the full questions here:

Interestingly, the findings from this poll reveal similar patterns that my co-author and I find in the paper we wrote for the recent framing conference hosted by CCPS (you can view that paper here: Essentially, the Republican frame works, but it really only works for certain groups--mainly Republicans. The Pew report demonstrates that 64% of "conservative Republicans" favored a way to citizenship for illegals, but only 44% favored it when the "amnesty" frame was invoked. That represents a major shift in opinion on the issue. On the other hand, the "amnesty" frame only decreased support for a path to citizenship by 8% among "moderate and liberal Republicans" and "Independents" and 4% among Democrats. This is similar to what we found when looking at the use of the "death tax" frame. The frame worked, but mostly just on Republicans. This is because Republican citizens tend to be more open to arguments and frames being advanced by Republican elites and Democratic citizens tend to filter out those messages. The messenger is sometimes just as important as the message.

We may view this as a good thing in one sense since it means that Republicans won't be easily led astray by Democratic frames, nor will Democrats be fooled by Republican frames. But it also leads to a question debated at the recent conference. That is, which attitudes are the "true" attitudes or opinions? Are Republicans 64% in favor or 44% in favor of giving illegal immigrants an opportunity to become citizens? Or is there even such a thing as "true attitudes?"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Issue Framing Conference

Last month, I hosted a conference on issue framing that was sponsored by CCPS. We were honored to have an all-star cast of framing scholars attend and present their work. Information about the conference and copies of the papers presented are available here:

We took video of the presentations and we are still working on converting that to an electronic format and posting it on the site. Stay tuned for details on that front.

There was a lot of interesting discussion at the conference. One striking thing really stood out for me--we had some of the most prolific researchers studying issue framing at the conference and they spent much of the time debating how we should even define the concept of framing. If we are able to post the video online, I'll definitely point everyone to that debate. Really great exchange.

Overall, all the papers were really well developed and we are hoping to produce an edited volume from these works. I encourage you to explore the papers before they have to be chopped down to book chapter length. There is a lot of great stuff there.

Welcome to the CCPSBlog

We at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies have begun this blog as a forum for informing the public about programs and research being conducted at the center, but also as a way for CCPS faculty and staff to post about all things congressional, presidential, and political oriented. Enjoy!