Sunday, September 26, 2010

In another national survey (Internet) just after the election itself, Sniderman and Stiglitz (2008) thoroughly explore racial prejudice and 2008 vote choice. They find that American voters do not hesitate “to make frankly derogatory comments about blacks.” For example, about one out of five whites surveyed described “most blacks” as “violent”; essentially the same fraction also described them as “boastful”; almost one out of three said they were “complaining.” Overall, the investigators ranked 10% of respondents as high scorers on a prejudice index (built from five items). Among Republicans, variation in this prejudice index does not significantly relate to declared votes for Obama. However, among Democrats, the effect is significant and strong; for those in the bottom third on the prejudice index, 95% voted Obama; but for those in the top third the percent drops to 62, for a difference of minus 33 points. This large defection appears partially offset by voters who view blacks with “esteem.” Considering those in the bottom third on this esteem index, 77% voted Obama; but for those in the top third the percentage rises to 96, for a difference of +19 points. (Relatedly, Craemer et al. [2009] report that some white voters may have come to a psychological closeness to Obama, enabling them to vote for him.)
Using these above differences, as reported in Sniderman and Stiglitz (2008), we go on to take the positive esteem number (+19) from the negative prejudice number (−33), implying a 14-point loss among Democrats. While that calculation suggests to us a substantial racial cost, translation of that number into a precise vote estimate remains uncertain, and the authors themselves do not offer any such calculation. However, that task is carried out by Aistrup, Kisangani, and Piri (2009) in their analysis of a pre-convention survey from the South. In a logistic regression model, with the dependent variable vote intention for McCain or Obama, and under extensive controls (e.g., ideology, party identification, SES), they find racial resentment has a strong impact. For example, among Democrats, when the race resentment index shifts upward one standard deviation, the probability of a McCain vote increases from about 40% to 58%. Unfortunately for our purposes, this survey confines itself to one part of the country.
-Lewis-Beck, Michael S, Charles Tien, and Richard Nadeau.  "Obama's Missed Landslide: A Racial Cost?" in PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 43. No. 1 (published online January 15, 2010).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Having had the filibuster wielded against them so effectively in the 103rd Congress, Democrats, now in the minority, made full use of their prerogatives under Senate rules; major legislation frequently encountered extended debate-related problems. The minority Democrats because increasingly adept at using extended debate and the Senate’s loose amending rules in combination to get their issues onto the Senate agenda. By threatening or actually offering their bills as often non-germane amendments to whatever legislation the majority leader brought to the floor and using extended debate to block a quick end to debate, Democrats forced Republicans to consider a number of issues they would rather have avoided–most prominently the minimum wage, tobacco taxes, campaign finance reform, and managed care (Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking, 107)
Sinclair, Barbara.  Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the U.S. Congress (CQ Press: Washington, D.C.), 2000. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Manual Labor

I am not a manual labourer and please God I never shall be one, but there are some kinds of manual work that I could do if I had to.  At a pitch I could be a tolerable road-sweeper or an inefficient gardener or even a tenth rate farm hand.  But by no conceivable amount of effort or training could I become a coal-minter; the work would kill me in a few weeks (Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 32-33).

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