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


Jochen Weber writes: As I follow your blog (albeit loosely), I figured I’d point out an “early release” paper from PNAS I consider to be “garbage” (at least by title, and probably by content). The short version is, the authors claim to have found the neural correlate of a person being “cognizant of” the outcome […]

No evidence that providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California decreases traffic safety

[cat picture] So. A reporter asked me what I thought of this article, “Providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California improves traffic safety,” by Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller, and Duncan Lawrence. It’s embargoed! so I’m not supposed to post anything on it until now. From the abstract: We examine the short-term effects of . […]

Probability and Statistics in the Study of Voting and Public Opinion (my talk at the Columbia Applied Probability and Risk seminar, 30 Mar at 1pm)

Probability and Statistics in the Study of Voting and Public Opinion Elections have both uncertainty and variation and hence represent a natural application of probability theory. In addition, opinion polling is a classic statistics problem and is featured in just about every course on the topic. But many common intuitions about probability, statistics, and voting […]

Hey, we’re hiring a postdoc! To work on survey weighting! And imputation!

Here’s the ad: The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Columbia Population Research Center are seeking a postdoctoral scholar with a PhD in economics, statistics, public policy, demography, social work, sociology, or a related discipline, to lead the development of survey weights and missing data imputations for the New York City […]

Never say die

Adam Levine, Jake Bowers, and Don Green write that they are launching a new website to facilitate research collaborations with NGOs and government agencies: New online matchmaking platform for research collaborations Today we’re announcing an exciting new opportunity for researchers interested in partnering with people from government and/or the nonprofit sector. Research4impact is a new […]

2 questions about HUD eligibility rules for federal housing programs

Daniel McCracken writes: At work, I came across a potentially serious flaw in how HUD uses statistics to determine eligibility for federal housing programs (and the amount of subsidy each household receives). It seemed like something you might be interested in or blog about, so I figured I’d pass it along. For background, here’s the […]

No Way Out

image Did you ever see that movie from the 1980s where Kevin Costner plays a Russian spy who has the job of investigating himself? The tension keeps building: he can’t give the job to anyone else, but the evidence keeps piling up pointing to himself. At some point, something’s gotta give. From a review at […]

Did Trump win because his name came first in key states? Maybe, but I’m doubtful.

The above headline (without the “Maybe, but I’m doubtful”) is from a BBC News article, which continues: One of the world’s leading political scientists believes Donald Trump most likely won the US presidential election for a very simple reason, writes Hannah Sander – his name came first on the ballot in some critical swing states. […]

Should the Problems with Polls Make Us Worry about the Quality of Health Surveys? (my talk at CDC tomorrow)

My talk this Thursday at CDC, Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 12:00 noon, 2400 Century Center, Room 1015C: Should the Problems with Polls Make Us Worry about the Quality of Health Surveys? Response rates in public opinion polls have been steadily declining for more than half a century and are currently heading toward the 0% mark. […]

How important is gerrymandering? and How to most effectively use one’s political energy?

Andy Stein writes: I think a lot of people (me included) would be interested to read an updated blog post from you on gerrymandering, even if your conclusions haven’t changed at all from your 2009 blog post [see also here]. Lots of people are talking about it now and Obama seems like he’ll be working […]

When do protests affect policy?

Gur Huberman writes that he’s been wondering for many years about this question: One function of protests is to vent out the protesters’ emotions. When do protests affect policy? In dictatorships there are clear examples of protests affecting reality, e.g., in Eastern Europe in 1989. It’s harder to find such clear examples in democracies. And […]

Age period cohort brouhaha

Hi everybody! In August, I announced a break from blogging. And this is my first new post since then. (not counting various interpolated topical items on polling, elections, laughable surveys comparing North Carolina to North Korea, junk science on pizza prices, etc) I’m still trying to figure out how to do this; I have a […]

How to attack human rights and the U.S. economy at the same time

I received this email from a postdoc in a technical field: As you might have heard, Trump signed an executive order today issuing a 30-day total suspension of visas and other immigration benefits for the citizens of Iran and six other countries. For my wife and me, this means that our visas are suspended; we […]

Let’s try to understand our own contradictions (what P. J. O’Rourke gets but Michael Lind doesn’t)

One way to understand the limitations of our own political attitudes is to recognize that other people think differently. Not just oppositely, but differently. To put it algebraically, suppose you believe A, B, C, D, E. OK, you won’t be surprised to hear that some people believe not-A, not-B, not-C, not-D, not-E. These are the […]

George Orwell on “alternative facts”

Paul Alper points me to this quote from George Orwell’s 1943 essay, Looking Back on the Spanish War: I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our […]

Quantifying uncertainty in identification assumptions—this is important!

Luis Guirola writes: I’m a poli sci student currently working on methods. I’ve seen you sometimes address questions in your blog, so here is one in case you wanted. I recently read some of Chuck Manski book “Identification for decision and prediction”. I take his main message to be “The only way to get identification […]

Looking for rigor in all the wrong places

My talk in the upcoming conference on Inference from Non Probability Samples, 16-17 Mar in Paris: Looking for rigor in all the wrong places What do the following ideas and practices have in common: unbiased estimation, statistical significance, insistence on random sampling, and avoidance of prior information? All have been embraced as ways of enforcing […]

“Estimating trends in mortality for the bottom quartile, we found little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically.”

Last year there was much discussion here and elsewhere about a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who noticed that death rates for non-Hispanic white Americans aged 45-54 had been roughly flat since 1999, even while the death rates for this age category had been declining steadily in other countries and among nonwhite Americans. […]

Come and work with us!

Stan is an open-source, state-of-the-art probabilistic programming language with a high-performance Bayesian inference engine written in C++. Stan had been successfully applied to modeling problems with hundreds of thousands of parameters in fields as diverse as econometrics, sports analytics, physics, pharmacometrics, recommender systems, political science, and many more. Research using Stan has been featured in […]

“If the horse race polls were all wrong about Trump, why should his approval rating polls be any better?”

A journalist forwarded the above question to me and asked what I thought. My reply is that the horse race polls were not all wrong about Trump. The polls had him at approx 48% of the two-party vote and he received 49%. The polls were wrong by a few percentage points in some key swing […]