Archive | Politics Everywhere

Partisanship Everywhere: Googling 47%

Data from Google Insights. States with smaller populations are less likely to have sufficient search volume given that Google calculates data based on samples (this includes some of the light blue states). Yet, the red-state blue-state divide seems to hold pretty well. The top ten states in terms of search volume were: New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Oregon, Connecticut. Not exactly swing states. The plot below shows the correlation between the projected Obama advantage and the Googling behavior in a state (measured by Google Insights index, on which more some other time).

The fact that aggregate search volume in swing states is not particularly high does not mean that individual swing voters were not looking for this information or that some percentage of voters do not change their minds based on the gaffe. Yet, in the aggregate this picture is at least consistent with the idea that partisan pre-dispositions drive search behavior for gaffes.

ps. Search terms were: “47 Romney” + “47 percent” + “forty-seven percent” + “Romney video” + “Mother Jones Romney” + “47%” + “video 47” + “Mitt 47” + “Romney 47” + “47 Mitt” If someone can help find a way to embed these maps into WordPress, that would be great.

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“Political Polling Has Reached Its End Point”

That’s according to Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, who cites a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that one of Mitt Romney’s improvised campaign appeals is making big inroads into Barack Obama’s base in electoral-vote-rich Michigan.

The PPP robo-poll of 500 Michiganders asked, ”In Michigan, do you think the trees are the right height, or not?”


“That’s right,” Scherer writes, ”2008 Obama voters are 17 points more likely to agree with Romney on the height of Michigan trees. It was a crossover vote play all along!” (Trees also polled well among women and young people.)

It would be fascinating to follow over the course of the campaign whether Michiganders bring their vote intentions into line with their, uh, spatial preferences or—as is more often the case—simply adopt the views of their favored candidate if and when they learn what those are. Alas, I don’t think PPP does robo-panel surveys; and in any case, political polling has reached its end point.

(Thanks to Chris Achen.)

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Politics in Everything: The Politics of Malicious Denunciations

The amusing letter that Andrew cites below is an example of a broader political phenomenon. Stathis Kalyvas’ The Logic of Violence in Civil War has already become a classic of the field – among its many interesting arguments is an account of malicious denunciations.

the practice of denunciation exists to some extent in all organized societies, though it is really at home under authoritarianism … political actors are often surprised and overwhelmed by the response they receive when they solicit denunciations … However, what political actors take time to realize is that many denunciations are malicious, and a significant proportion false … Ordinary people are liable to ignore “moral self-sanctions” and engage in activities that further their self-interest but injure others even under everyday “normal” circumstances, but the immense majority stop short of homocidal violence. By exchanging violence for denunciations, political actors assume the considerable moral and practical costs of ridding people of their personal enemies … The study of the Duesseldorf Gestapo files by Reihard Mann shows that a plurality of cases was used to resolve private conflicts. … Denunciations between spouses (and ex-spouses) got so far out of hand in Nazi Germany that in 1941 the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin sent a letter to all local Gestapo posts in which they requested that special attention be paid to denunciations between relatives – particularly married couples. (quotes strung together from pp.338-347, missing out on a lot of detail).

Kalyvas suggests that denunciation should be scarce in highly developed societies with “atomized lives and anonymous relationships” – it is most likely in contexts where people resent each other, and even hate each other, but can’t easily get away from each other.

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“Will you please have his place raided?”

From 1931:

Dear Sir:

My husband is in the habit of buying a quart of wiskey every other day from a Chinese bootlegger named Chin Waugh living at 317-16th near Alder street.

We need this money for household expenses. Will you please have his place raided? He keeps a supply planted in the garden and a smaller quantity under the back steps for quick delivery. If you make the raid at 9:30 any morning you will be sure to get the goods and Chin also as he leaves the house at 10 o’clock and may clean up before he goes.

Thanking you in advance,

I remain
yours truly,

Mrs. Hillyer


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Culture war: The rules

Could somebody remind me—-I have so much difficulty keeping track . . . poker and Nascar are all-American, but feed caps and PBR are inauthentic, they’re just for hipsters, right? I have a feeling that poker was inauthentic a few years ago, but now that the fad has peaked, poker-playing is normal again. How about MMA? That sure sounds all-American, but given that I’ve actually heard about it, maybe it’s just another example of upper-class slumming. On the upside, I have a feeling that if we wait a few years, gay rights will go downmarket enough that it will be ok to go to a pride march without forfeiting one’s credentials as a middle-American. $45 pasta, though: I think that will remain upper-class.

Background here (via Jay Livingston).

P.S. This discussion is appropriate for our blog because it relates to questions regarding social divisions that arise in discussions of politics.

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Obama nominates man to head World Bank; noted economist infers that Obama is a fake feminist

Via Felix Salmon, I encountered an article, “Obama’s Blunder at the Bank,” by my Columbia colleague Jagdish Bhagwati.

It’s a strange article. I know basically nothing about the World Bank, so my criticisms here are not of Bhagwati’s policy prescriptions but of his abilities to communicate with laypersons such as myself.

Bhagwati begins by criticizing Obama for not nominating a woman such as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Laura Tyson, or Lael Bainard: “What, then, does Obama’s choice tell us about the sincerity of his feminist rhetoric? Does he draw the line wherever it suits him?”

That just seems to me like a bizarre remark.
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Politics Everywhere British Edition: Tasty Snacks and Class Warfare

From the NY Times:

A sales tax of 20 percent on pasties and other takeout snacks…. announced last week as part of the government’s austerity budget, was aimed at closing a loophole that exempted hot, freshly baked takeout foods, like pasties, pies, toasted sandwiches and rotisserie chickens, from the point-of-sale tax known in Britain as the value-added tax. Under the new budget, which effectively becomes law immediately, the price of such items will henceforth include a value-added tax of 20 percent.

Having recently experienced the fact that there were two different prices being charged for my toasted sandwich at a Pret a Manger in London, one if I ate in (with tax) and one if I carried it out (without tax), I was at least sympathetic to the fact that this discrepancy in prices should probably be removed (especially in a rainy city!).

But here’s the rub. While the “pasty-tax” is only a peripheral part of the budget:

Mr. Osborne’s [the British minister of finance] central budget measure: cutting the top tax rate to 45 percent from 50 percent

Maybe good (or maybe bad!) economics, but cutting taxes for the rich while simultaneously raising the prices on the cheapest lunch options is probably not great politics. Hence, the birth of pasty-gate.

But it actually gets even better. After Osborne admitted that he couldn’t remember the last time he had a pasty, British Prime Minister David Cameron came to the rescue:

He boasted that he loved Cornish pasties in order to seize a public relations advantage after critics accused the Government of being out of touch with ordinary people. But his claims, at a Downing Street press conference, that he last ate a pasty at an outlet of the West Cornwall Pasty Company at Leeds station were quickly exposed as untrue. Network Rail revealed the West Cornwall outlet was closed down in March 2007 – five years ago to the month.

Apparently, the old adage is still true: you are what you eat. Or what you don’t eat, as the case may be.

[Photo Credit: AP via AJE]

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[Note: This post was updated to reflect the author’s lack of knowledge about whether the budget plan is good or bad economics! H/t to Andrew Gelman and Phil.]

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