This Week in Political Science

This Week in Political Science

Sep 13 '11

ANATOMY OF THE 9/11 RALLY EFFECT. The increase in support for the president and government in the wake of crisis is known as a “rally effect.”  Political scientists Marc Hetherington and Michael Nelson quantified the rally effect after 9/11 (gated, ungated), concluding that: <blockquote>First, of all the recorded rally effects, it is the largest. Bush’s approval rating soared in the Gallup Poll from 51% on September 10 to 86% on September 15.1 This 35-point increase nearly doubles the previous record, the 18-point boost triggered by his father’s launch of Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. Second, the further increase in Bush’s approval rating to 90% on September 22 represents the highest rating ever recorded for a president (Morin 2001). Third, the September 11 rally effect has lasted longer than any in the history of polling.</blockquote>

The 9/11 rally contradicted previous research, which suggested that members of the Presidents party rally in greater numbers to their leader. The authors found that after 9/11, “Democrats and Independents rallied in much greater numbers than Republicans to rally in response to the War on Terrorism.” This was in part because of  what Hetherington and Nelson identify as: “the hesitancy of Democratic leaders to criticize the president’s conduct of the War on Terrorism.” These factors helped then President Bush to reap historic electoral victories in 2002, the first midterm election since 1934 where the sitting president’s party actually gained seats in both houses.

9/11, US, AND THEM. After 9/11,  public opinion researchers Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam sought (gated, ungated) to see what underlying attitudes and beliefs best helped to explain support amongst the American public for the growing war on terror.  Leaders pushed what Kinder and Kam call ethnocentrism, defined as “the commonplace human tendency to partition the social world into virtuous in-groups and nefarious out-groups.” Kinder and Kam point to the rhetoric of leaders like President Bush, who framed terrorists as an out group when he gave a speech imploring that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” The authors reasoned: <blockquote>Support for the war on terrorism, undertaken against a strange and shadowy enemy, should come disproportionately, we propose, from Americans possessed of an ethnocentric turn of mind.</blockquote>

Utilizing a natural experiment (the fact that a American National Elections Study panel survey was fielded the year before  and after 9/11 attacks), they find that: <blockquote>American support for the war on terror is indeed derived in a significant way from ethnocentrism. Americans who believe their own group to be superior to others are also inclined to say that we should be spending more on homeland security, on keeping our borders impregnable, and on building a strong national defense. They want foreign aid cut. They think President Bush has been effective in responding to the terrorist attacks and in managing relations with other nations, and they evaluate him warmly.</blockquote>

Kinder and Kam concluded from the natural experiment that the relationship between ethnocentrism and political attitudes was stronger after 9/11 than before it, and helped drive support for the growing scope of anti terror efforts.

LIBYAN INSURGENCY. Political scientists Mitchell Seligson and Edward Muller showed (gated, ungated) that income inequality, conditional on “the repressiveness of the regime, governmental acts of coercion, intensity of separatism, and level of economic development.” helps to spur political violence and insurgency movements. Libya’s reliance on fossil fuel extraction and exports likely benefited a wealthy elite and created substantial inequality (though data is few and far between). Libya also illustrates the importance of other factors Seligson and Muller identify, including a repressive regime that pushes citizens to the breaking point. In a prescient statement, the authors wrote: <blockquote>…political rights must either be granted fully, in which case the government is allowing for the real possibility of being voted out of power, or not be granted at all, in which case the government must enforce a degree of totalitarian control over the populace that is costly to maintain and is probably inherently at odds in the long run with a capitalist economic system.</blockquote>

Gaddafi is certainly paying the costs of totalitarian control as insurgents have removed his repressive regime from power.

THE FUTURE OF THE EURO. In 1996, political economist Barry Eichengreen characterized (gated) the European monetary union as having: <blockquote>an Excessive Deficit Procedure limiting the freedom to borrow of governments participating in the European monetary union. One justification is to prevent states from over- borrowing and demanding a bailout which could divert the European Central Bank from its pursuit of price stability.</blockquote>

Eichengreen predicted that there would be no relationship between monetary union and restraints on borrowing by sub-central (EU member states’) governments. He concluded with this dire note: <blockquote>The implications for the EU are direct. That EU member states control their own taxes should strengthen the hand of authorities seeking to resist pressure for a bailout. But in the longer run, borrowing restraints may weaken the financial position of Brussels, transferring bailout risk from the member states to the EU itself.</blockquote>

Further: <blockquote>Our results suggest that the more dependent sub-central governments are on financing by the central government, the more likely is a bailout in the event of a financial crisis, and the greater is the incentive for sub-central jurisdictions to engage in excessive borrowing.</blockquote>

If policy makers had heeded what Eichengreen wrote in 1996, perhaps the world economy would be on sounder footing today.