Author Archive | John Sides

Tomorrow We Move to the Washington Post. Here Is How to Follow Us.

postheaderWe will be debuting at the Washington Post tomorrow—Wednesday, September 25.  Soon thereafter, our current URL ——will redirect to their site.  We will also be establishing an archive at with our previous posts and will circulate that URL as well.

To follow us at the Post, you can do one or more of these things:

  1. The new URL at the Post is here.  By tomorrow there will be new content posted.

  2. Our new RSS feed is here.

  3. You can sign up for a daily email newsletter with our posts here.  You need to create a free account first.

  4. You can follow us on Twitter here.

  5. You can follow us on Facebook here.

As we’ve discussed, the mission of the blog is not going to change.  We look forward to the new opportunities we will have at the Post, and hope that you’ll continue reading us.

There is one casualty of the move, alas, and it is the orangutan pictured above.  He was never the perfect fit for this blog—being an ape, not a monkey—but we will miss him nonetheless.

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The Santorum Challenge to Romney: An Excerpt from The Gamble

Salon has an excerpt from The Gamble, Lynn Vavreck’s and my account of the 2012 election.  Here is one bit about how Santorum pulled off his victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri:
Santorum filled it by outhustling the other candidates in these states, despite his seat-of-the-pants campaign. He did so in part with a little outside help and in part with the shoe-leather campaigning that even an underfunded campaign can do (much as he did in Iowa). And with the other candidates doing far less to contest these states, the information his campaigning produced—via advertisements, voter contact, rallies, and local news—likely helped him persuade and mobilize voters. Santorum’s campaign benefited from the support of a super-PAC, the Red White and Blue Fund (RWBF), largely funded by wealthy businessmen William Doré and Foster Friess. Thanks to their support, RWBF actually aired more ads in Missouri and Minnesota than did any other candidate or affiliated super-PAC. In the three weeks before the two caucuses and the primary, RWBF aired 121 ads in Missouri (no other candidate aired any) and 193 ads in Minnesota (Romney’s super-PAC aired 150 and Paul aired 125). In Colorado, where Romney did advertise and Santorum did not, RWBF organized a phone bank to mobilize Santorum voters.

Santorum also did quite a bit of work himself. In the seven days before these primaries—from January 31 to February 6—Santorum held nine events in Colorado, twelve in Minnesota, and two in Missouri. He held more events in each state than did Gingrich, Paul, and Romney combined. Gingrich appeared only once in Minnesota and once in Colorado, virtually guaranteeing—or perhaps acknowledging—that he would not rebound from his defeat in Florida by winning in one of these states. Romney appeared only once in Minnesota, twice in Colorado, and not at all in Missouri.

Santorum’s campaigning did not much affect his national news coverage, but it did appear to affect his local news coverage. We tabulated the number of mentions that Romney and Santorum received during this seven-day period in both the national news media and the local news media in each state. Overall, Romney received about five times as many mentions as Santorum in the national news—as one might expect given that Romney was the front-runner and Santorum mostly an afterthought. But in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, Romney received roughly three times as many mentions. On the day before the caucuses and primary were held, Romney received only twice as many mentions. To generate even half as much local media attention as Romney was arguably an accomplishment for Santorum, a candidate who was polling in the single digits nationally and all but written off by many commentators.

The headline that Salon attached to this is “The Republicans almost went insane: Santorum really could have beaten Romney.”  That is unfortunate, since it is the opposite of what Lynn and I argue in the book.  We downplay the threats that both Gingrich and Santorum posed to Romney.

The book is available on Amazon here.  I will be posting more about it in the near future.  In the meantime, enjoy the excerpt.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.]

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Sociology Establishes an Open-Access Journal

I’m very pleased to see that Sociological Science is open for article submissions, and expects to start publishing articles early next year. The journal is designed to ameliorate several problems that beset academic publishing. It’s an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that promises a fast turnaround time in review. It’s common enough in some fields for authors to get stuck, literally for years, in Reviewer Hell….Sociological Science promises a 30 day up-or-down review process, with no “development” effort and no R&R process. They hope to accomplish this with a relatively large pool of Deputy Editors with authority to accept or reject articles.

As a properly open-access journal, they’ve chosen to fund themselves through submission and publication fees instead of signing up with a major journal publisher or soliciting institutional support from a university or a foundation. The fee schedule is graded by rank, so students pay least and full professors pay most. The incentive is that authors retain copyright on their work and everything published is available ungated and immediately.

That’s Kieran Healy over at Crooked Timber.  The model is similar to the new political science journal Research and Politics, which Erik has been helping to start and described in this post.  I’m glad to see this model being established in other disciplines.

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Federal Funding of Scientific Research Produces Unexpected Successes

Seven researchers, including two Nobel Prize winners, will be honored today at the second annual Golden Goose Award ceremony, celebrating researchers whose seemingly odd or obscure federally funded research turned out to have a significant impact on society.
The awardees will be honored at a ceremony on Capitol Hill, where they will receive their awards from a bipartisan group of Members of Congress.

From the press release.  The Golden Goose website is here. A short item at Inside Higher Ed is here.

Several months ago, I wrote a post called “Why Study Social Science” and said this:

…it’s very hard to determine the value of any research ahead of time.  It’s hard because any one research project is narrow.  It’s hard because you can’t anticipate how one project might inform later ones.  It’s hard because some funding goes to create public goods—like large datasets—that many others will use, and those myriad projects also cannot be anticipated.  It’s hard because some research won’t work, and we can’t know that ahead of time.

The Golden Goose awards illustrate what I meant, as does Robert Putnam’s story.  This is all the more reason why cherry-picking projects that sound “silly” (duck penises, etc.) is not a useful way to evaluate the efficacy of federal funding of scientific research.

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We Want a Syria Solution That’s Feasible and Legitimate. Here’s Why It’s Hard to Have Both.

This is a guest post by David Held, Professor of Politics and International Relations at Durham University, and Kyle McNally, a Researcher and PhD Candidate at Durham University.


There has been a great deal said, and written, about Syria in the last month.  A general consensus recognizes that there are no good options but that something must be done.  But the problem goes even deeper than this.  In many cases, the feasibility of a solution is inversely related to its legitimacy.  That is to say, for many options, the more likely the potential solution is to be implemented, the less legitimate it is, in global terms.

Take, for instance, the example of US military strikes. This is certainly feasible.  But were Obama to launch missiles into Syria, he would face widespread condemnation from the world community; such an action, it has been argued, would be a violation of international law and would undermine the credibility of the United Nations system.  In short, it lacks legitimacy.  By contrast, consider a military strike by an alliance such as NATO.  This would have more legitimacy, but it is not feasible given the opposition to military strikes among key NATO members.

There are options that would have more legitimacy: such as the creation of a safe zone for humanitarian aid delivery, peacekeeping forces on the ground, a political or diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration campaign to transition the country back into stability.  These would necessarily have to be a project initiated and implemented by the United Nations, so right away it’s clear these are not very feasible.

The challenge, therefore, is to find an option that does not compromise legitimacy for feasibility.  Perhaps by clever diplomacy or perhaps by a ‘rhetorical’ stumble, one such option may have presented itself last week, when the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, capitalized on what appeared to be a flippant remark made by John Kerry only hours earlier.  Kerry, with a tone of sarcasm, said that the Assad regime could avoid military strikes if they surrendered their stockpile of chemical weapons.

The US State Department quickly tried to back off this position and explained it as a ‘rhetorical argument’; however, the wheels of diplomacy were already in motion.  Russia quickly presented this to the Syrian government, who have since accepted the deal in principle.  With US-Russia agreement on the basic terms of the deal, the world now waits to see if Assad will cooperate and abide by the requirements they have set out.

Questions linger as to how this deal will be brokered into implementation—principally, questions over the use of force if Assad does not comply, and what role the UN Security Council will play in the end. As of now, this approach enjoys the legitimacy of the international community, strengthens international law, and at least for time being might even be feasible.

Beyond this, the civil war will continue to rage and the options here look even more dire. The truism that there is only a solution through politics remains.  Perhaps with the doors open to Moscow and Tehran, there is scope for more political manoeuvring, manoeuvring that might lead to a transformation of the Syrian regime and the ultimate removal of Assad. But this would still leave a war torn country bitterly divided with factions and jihadists still at war with each other, and armed greater than ever before.  Introducing democracy in such a context, while desirable in principle, is improbable and can even be dangerous; without the grassroots development of a culture of citizenship, democracy can simply magnify identity politics.

If a deal on Syria was to occur, and peace achieved, the conditions might be created for freedom to begin to flourish.  Infrastructures of freedom, embedding freedom of the press, association and expression, could begin to be built.  Civil society associations might be entrenched and activists encouraged to create links across sectarian divides on the many common issues all such people share: the need for security, subsistence, schooling, jobs and so on.  With such institutions in place a culture of politics might begin to flourish which separates ethnic and religious identities from constitutional structures and autonomous political processes. The separation of both rulers and ruled from the state – a critical condition of modern political structures which imposes the rule of law on all – could begin to be set in place. But we are a long way from here.

If the latest Russian-American deal on Assad’s chemical weapons sticks, diplomatic circles across the world may well celebrate this as a great victory.  Putin’s Russia will be emboldened in the international system and politicians will deliver polite speeches trying to take credit for the success.  Meanwhile, the killing fields remain undisturbed and in desperate search of an alternative politics – one that is both feasible and legitimate.

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Will the Media Treat Navy Yard Like Newtown?

This is a guest post by my GW colleague Danny Hayes.


In the aftermath of Monday’s deadly rampage at Washington’s Navy Yard, gun control will no doubt surge back into the news. But how long will it stay there?

If the months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre are any indication, the media are likely to lose interest quickly – unless gun control makes its way back onto the legislative agenda.

As has been documented elsewhere, news coverage after mass shootings follows a pattern. In a shooting’s immediate wake, gun control coverage spikes, before receding back into relative obscurity. This happened after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the 2012 attack at an Aurora, Co. movie theater.

But the pattern following Sandy Hook was different, and instructive. The graph below displays the number of stories that included the phrase “gun control” for each week since December 2012. The data come from a search of more than 500 outlets in the U.S. News & Wires database in Lexis-Nexis.


Like with other shootings, gun control coverage increased dramatically after the Newtown massacre, but tailed off within a few weeks. But in contrast to other cases, gun control arrived back on the front page in early January, when President Obama issued a series of executive actions intended to reduce gun violence.

The president’s influence, however immediate, was short-lived, as media attention fell off through the early spring. It was only in April – when a Senate bill to expand background checks failed to surmount a filibuster – that the issue gained prominence again.

Since the bill’s demise, gun control has largely disappeared from debates on Capitol Hill – and with it, the news. While advocates have continued to push for change at both the state and federal levels (with one group coincidentally on lobbying trip to Washington this week), the national media’s interest has continued to wane. Even Giffords’ nationwide tour in July failed to stop the slide.

This pattern suggests that only if Sen. Dianne Feinstein gets her way, with Congress taking up gun control legislation once again, will a renewed media debate over gun control occur. If political leaders in Washington decide the issue isn’t worth pursuing, the media are likely to turn their attention elsewhere – whether back to Syria, the next NSA intelligence-gathering revelation, or the looming battle over the debt ceiling.

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Ted Cruz Is Still Alienating Fellow Republicans

A few months ago, I wrote a couple pieces arguing that if Ted Cruz has presidential ambitions, he was doing himself no favors by taking on fellow Republicans.  I got a little pushback too.  So I thought this story was worth noting:

The staffer, whom two GOP sources identified as working for Representative John Culberson of Texas, went on to decry Cruz for holding events in Culberson’s district and telling his constituents that defunding Obamacare would be “easy”…
…A significant number in the room of about one hundred people applauded the woman’s remarks, but several GOP aides said it was not a standing ovation or an overwhelmingly positive response…
…On the other hand, it’s fair to say the staffer’s anger at Cruz carries a fairly broad base among House Republicans, many of whom view his Obamacare push as self-destructive to the party.

Just another data point.  We’ll see how relevant this becomes if Cruz runs in 2016.

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How to Manage Your Grad School Adviser

Most advisers are flawed people set in their peculiar ways, and so busy they feel like they are losing their minds. I am no exception. In light of this, I can’t underestimate the importance of “upward management” in your work–with me or any time in your career.

That’s Columbia political scientist Chris Blattman.  His post has further instructions and advice for the students would might want to work with him.  For example:

It’s always good to send concise written updates (a couple of paragraphs by email) in advance of a meeting and, for specific questions, to try to formulate them beforehand.

Inside Higher Ed picked on up this and tried to gin up some controversy.  But there didn’t seem like much to be found.  To me, Chris’s advice suggests how to make adviser-advisee relationships increasingly positive-sum: the more a student prepares in advance of the meeting, the more the adviser will learn and the better the feedback he or she can give.

Based on other workplaces I know something about either first- or second-hand—especially law firms—upward management seems useful as a general strategy.

[Note: That is not a photo of Chris Blattman. Also, those people are too good-looking to be Ph.D. students.]

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