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

Retired computer science professor argues that decisions are being made by “algorithms that are mathematically incapable of bias.” What does this mean?

This came up in the comments, but not everyone reads the comments, so . . . Joseph recommended an op-ed entitled “We must stop militant liberals from politicizing artificial intelligence; ‘Debiasing’ algorithms actually means adding bias,” by retired computer science professor Pedro Domingos. The article begins: What do you do if decisions that used to […]

No, this senatorial stock-picking study does not address concerns about insider trading:

Jonathan Falk writes: As you have tirelessly promoted, a huge problem with NHST is that “insignificant” effects on average can mask, via attenuation bias, important changes in subgroups. Further, as you have somewhat less tirelessly pointed out, you need much bigger samples to reliably see anything in subgroups, particularly when (ok.. you’re back to your […]

Flaxman et al. respond to criticisms of their estimates of effects of anti-coronavirus policies

As youall know, as the coronavirus has taken its path through the world, epidemiologists and social scientists have tracked rates of exposure and mortality, studied the statistical properties of the transmission of the virus, and estimated effects of behaviors and policies that have been tried to limit the spread of the disease. All this is […]

No, It’s Not a Prisoner’s Dilemma (the second in a continuing series):

The prisoner’s dilemma is the original counterintuitive hot take. Some social scientists and journalists just looove that dilemma because of how delightfully paradoxical it can be. But some situations that are described as prisoner’s dilemmas aren’t really. I discussed one such example in my article, Methodology as ideology: Some comments on Robert Axelrod’s “The Evolution […]

What do Americans think about coronavirus restrictions? Let’s see what the data say . . .

Back in May, I looked at a debate regarding attitudes toward coronavirus restrictions. The whole thing was kind of meta, in the sense that rather than arguing about what sorts of behavioral and social restrictions would be appropriate to control the disease at minimal cost, people were arguing about what were the attitudes held in […]

17 state attorney generals, 100 congressmembers, and the Association for Psychological Science walk into a bar

I don’t have much to add to all that’s been said about this horrible story. The statistics errors involved are pretty bad—actually commonplace in published scientific articles, but mistakes that seem recondite and technical in a paper about ESP, say, or beauty and sex ratio, become much clearer when the topic is something familiar such […]

Postdoc at the Polarization and Social Change Lab

Robb Willer informs us that the Polarization and Social Change Lab has an open postdoctoral position: The Postdoctoral Associate will be responsible for co-designing and leading research projects in one or more of the following areas: political polarization; framing, messaging, and persuasion; political dimensions of inequality; social movement mobilization; and online political behavior. This looks […]

Understanding Janet Yellen

I don’t know anything about Janet Yellen, the likely nominee for Secretary of the Treasury. For the purpose of this post, my ignorance is OK, even desirable, in that my goal is to try to understand mixed messages that I’m receiving. Two constrasting views on the prospective Treasury Secretary First, here’s Joseph Delaney: So, I […]

A very short statistical consulting story

I received the following email: Professor Gelman, My firm represents ** (Defendant) in a case pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of **. This case concerns [a topic in political science that you have written about]. I’ve reviewed your background and think that your research and interests, in particular your statistical background, […]

Greek statistician is in trouble for . . . telling the truth!

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Catherine Rampell, which tells this story: Georgiou is not a mobster. He’s not a hit man or a spy. He’s a statistician. And the sin at the heart of his supposed crimes was publishing correct budget numbers. The government has brought a relentless series of criminal […]

Mister P for the 2020 presidential election in Belarus

An anonymous group of authors writes: Political situation Belarus is often called the “last dictatorship” in Europe. Rightly so, Aliaskandr Lukashenka has served as the country’s president since 1994. In the 26 years of his rule, Lukashenka has consolidated and extended his power, which is today absolute. Rigging referendums has been an effective means of […]

Is vs. ought in the study of public opinion: Coronavirus “opening up” edition

I came across this argument between two of my former co-bloggers which illustrates a general difficulty when thinking about political attitudes, which is confusion between two things: (a) public opinion, and (b) what we want public opinion to be. This is something I’ve been thinking about for many years, ever since our Red State Blue […]

What went wrong with the polls in 2020? Another example.

Shortly before the election the New York Times ran this article, “The One Pollster in America Who Is Sure Trump Is Going to Win,” featuring Robert Cahaly, who on election day forecast Biden to win 235 electoral votes. As you may have heard, Biden actually won 306. Our Economist model gave a final prediction of […]

The rise and fall and rise of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in international development

Gil Eyal sends along this fascinating paper coauthored with Luciana de Souza Leão, “The rise of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in international development in historical perspective.” Here’s the story: Although the buzz around RCT evaluations dates from the 2000s, we show that what we are witnessing now is a second wave of RCTs, while a […]

Can we stop talking about how we’re better off without election forecasting?

This is a public service post of sorts, meant to collect some reasons why getting rid of election forecasts is a non-starter in one place.  First to set context: what are the reasons people argue we should give them up? This is far from an exhaustive list (and some of these reasons overlap) but a […]

Lying with statistics

As Deb Nolan and I wrote in our book, Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks, the most basic form of lying with statistics is simply to make up a number. We gave the example of Senator McCarthy’s proclaimed (but nonexistent) list of 205 Communists, but we have a more recent example: One of the supposed […]

What happens to the median voter when the electoral median is at 52/48 rather than 50/50?

Here’s a political science research project for you. Joe Biden got about 52 or 53% of the two-party vote, which was enough for him to get a pretty close win in the electoral college. As we’ve discussed, 52-48 is a close win by historical or international standards but a reasonably big win in the context […]

UX issues around voting

While Andrew’s worrying about how to measure calibration and sharpness on small N probabilistic predictions, let’s consider some computer and cognitive science issues around voting. How well do elections measure individual voter intent? What is the probability that a voter who tries to vote has their intended votes across the ballot registered? Spoiler alert. It’s […]

Stop-and-frisk data

People sometimes ask us for the data from our article on stop-and-frisk policing, but for legal reasons these data cannot be shared. Other data are available, though. Sharad Goel writes: You might also check out stop-and-frisk data from Chicago and Seattle. And, if you’re interested in traffic stop data as well, see our Open Policing […]

What would would mean to really take seriously the idea that our forecast probabilities were too far from 50%?

Here’s something I’ve been chewing on that I’m still working through. Suppose our forecast in a certain state is that candidate X will win 0.52 of the two-party vote, with a forecast standard deviation of 0.02. Suppose also that the forecast has a normal distribution. (We’ve talked about the possible advantages of long-tailed forecasts, but […]

Where can you find the best CBD products? CBD gummies made with vegan ingredients and CBD oils that are lab tested and 100% organic? Click here.