Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Political Science category.

Steven Pinker on torture

I’ve recently been thinking about that expression, “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.” Linguist and public intellectual Steven Pinker got into some trouble recently when it turned out that he’d been offering expert advice to the legal team of now-disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. I would not condemn Pinker for this. After all, everybody […]

Hey—the New York Times is hiring an election forecaster!

Chris Wiggins points us to this job opening: Staff Editor – Statistical Modeling The New York Times is looking to increase its capacity for statistical projects in the newsroom, especially around the 2020 election. You will help produce statistical forecasts for election nights, as part of The Times’s ambitious election results operation. That operation is […]

Fitting big multilevel regressions in Stan?

Joe Hoover writes: I am a social psychology PhD student, and I have some questions about applying MrP to estimation problems involving very large datasets or many sub-national units. I use MrP to obtain sub-national estimates for low-level geographic units (e.g. counties) derived from large data (e.g. 300k-1 million+). In addition to being large, my […]

Is it true that “Most polls misrepresent the Democratic electorate” and that this “skews the results”?

Someone pointed me to this post in the Monkey Cage, a political science blog that I participate in. The post was about non-representativeness of political polls, and it had one good point and one bad point. Overall I think the claims in the post were overstated. Before getting into the details I’ll copy out the […]

New Democratic Primary Debate Rules

They have all these weird rules now about number of donors, polls, etc. It’s just a mess. We need something simpler. How bout this: Current poll average (in percentage) + (favorability – unfavorable rating)/2 + net worth (in billions) + age/50 + (# major pundits who like you)/5 + (# facebook likes)*(# twitter followers)/(#people who […]

External vs. internal validity of causal inference from natural experiments: The example of charter school lottery studies

Alex Hoffman writes: I recently was discussing/arguing about the value of charter schools lottery studies. I suggested that their validity was questionable because of all the data that they ignore. (1) They ignore all charter schools (and their students) that are not so oversubscribed that they need to use lotteries for admission. (2) They ignore […]


This is from January 2018, but still: Six in 10 Americans, 61%, say they now have a favorable view of [George W. Bush] . . . nearly double the 33% who gave him a favorable mark when he left the White House in January 2009. . . . His mark is lower than Barack Obama’s […]

Postdoctoral research position on survey research with us at Columbia School of Social Work

Here it is: The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work, the Columbia Population Research Center, and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy are seeking a postdoctoral scholar with a PhD in statistics, economics, political science, public policy, demography, psychology, social work, sociology, or a […]

Measuring Fraud and Fairness (Sharad Goel’s two talks at Columbia next week)

MONDAY DSI TALK One Person, One Vote Abstract: About a quarter of Americans report believing that double voting is a relatively common occurrence, casting doubt on the integrity of elections. But, despite a dearth of documented instances of double voting, it’s hard to know how often such fraud really occurs (people might just be good […]

“Would Republicans pay a price if they vote to impeach the president? Here’s what we know from 1974.”

I better post this one now because it might not be so relevant in 6 months . . . Bob Erikson answers the question, “Would Republicans pay a price if they vote to impeach the president? Here’s what we know from 1974.” The conclusion: “Nixon loyalists paid the price—not Republicans who voted to impeach.” This […]

“Some call it MRP, some Mister P, but the full name is . . .”

Jim Savage points us to this explainer, How do pollsters predict UK general election results?, by John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times. It’s bittersweet seeing my method described by some person I’ve never met. Little baby MRP is all grown up! Being explained by the Financial Times—that’s about as good as being in the Guardian […]

Should we be suspicious of the vote counting in Bolivia?

I recently was sent two documents regarding the recent Bolivian presidential election. 1. Andrés Castro pointed me to this report from the Organization of American Stats reporting audit results from the election. The conclusions of this report are pretty harsh. For example: Given all the irregularities observed, it is impossible to guarantee the integrity of […]

No, Bayes does not like Mayor Pete. (Pitfalls of using implied betting market odds to estimate electability.)

Asher Meir points to this amusing post from Greg Mankiw, who writes: Who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump? A clue can be found using Bayes Theorem. Here is the logic. Let A be the event that a candidate wins the general election, and B be the event that a candidate wins his […]

My talk at Yale this Thursday

It’s the Quantitative Research Methods Workshop, 12:00-1:15 p.m. in Room A002 at ISPS, 77 Prospect Street Slamming the sham: A Bayesian model for adaptive adjustment with noisy control data Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University It is not always clear how to adjust for control data in causal inference, […]

Ballot order effects in the news; I’m skeptical of the claimed 5% effect.

Palko points us to this announcement by Marc Elias: BREAKING: In major court victory ahead of 2020, Florida federal court throws out state’s ballot order law that lists candidates of the governor’s party first on every ballot for every office. Finds that it gave GOP candidates a 5% advantage. @AndrewGillum lost in 2018 by .4% […]

I (inadvertently) misrepresented others’ research in a way that made my story sound better.

During a recent talk (I think it was this one on statistical visualization), I spent a few minutes discussing a political science experiment involving social stimuli and attitudes toward redistribution. I characterized the study as being problematic for various reasons (for background, see this post), and I remarked that you shouldn’t expect to learn much […]

Call for Paper proposals for the American Political Science Association: Symposium on Forecasting the 2020 American National Elections

Ruth Dassonneville and Charles Tien write: Even though elections are seemingly increasingly unstable, and voters’ behaviour seems fickle, the outcomes of US elections have historically been quite predictable. First, election outcomes seem systematically correlated with election fundamentals, such as the state of the economy, and incumbency. Second, what happens in the run-up to the election, […]

Hey! Participants in survey experiments aren’t paying attention.

Gaurav Sood writes: Do survey respondents account for the hypothesis that they think people fielding the survey have when they respond? The answer, according to Mummolo and Peterson, is not much. Their paper also very likely provides the reason why—people don’t pay much attention. Figure 3 provides data on manipulation checks—the proportion guessing the hypothesis […]

When Prediction Markets Fail

A few years ago, David Rothschild and I wrote: Prediction markets have a strong track record and people trust them. And that actually may be the problem right now. . . . a trader can buy a contract on an outcome, such as the Democratic nominee to win the 2016 presidential election, and it will […]

Australian polls failed. They didn’t do Mister P.

Neil Diamond writes: Last week there was a federal election in Australia. Contrary to expectations and to opinion polls, the Government (a coalition between the Liberal (actually conservative) and National parties, referred to as LNP or the Coalition) was returned with an increased majority defeating the Australian Labor Party (ALP or Labor, no “u”). Voting […]