Monday, April 26, 2010

MPSA roundup

Well, I'm back from the Midwest Political Science Association.  While I blogged nothing, I Tweeted quite a bit, enjoying the challenge of summarizing conference papers in 140 characters or less.  Just thought I'd mention a few papers I saw -- hopefully they'll be up on the conference website shortly.
  • Eitan Hersh analyzed the differences between caucus attendees and primary voters and found basically none.  There are no differences in terms of ideological extremism or any other political variable he examined, and his N (using CCES data) was quite high, meaning that if a difference was there, he should have detected it.  This seems pretty surprising, given that caucus turnout is usually around a tenth that of primary turnout and given the higher participation barriers for caucuses.  Hersh suggests that the sorts of people who go to caucuses simply have a higher threshold for meetings, but aren't extreme in other dimensions.
  • Robert Boatright is following up on his research on the primarying of incumbents with an interesting paper on the effects of getting primaried.  The paper is a fascinating read if for no other reason than its portrayal of the complexity of studying the effects of primaries.  Do primaries weaken incumbents in the general election, or do weak incumbents just invite primary challenges?  Does a primary challenge cause an incumbent to change her roll call votes, or does shifting roll call behavior lead to primary challenges?  There are huge causality and endogeneity issues here.  Boatright makes a valiant attempt to wade through some of this, dividing up hundreds of congressional primary challenges by type: being challenged from the extremes, being challenged from the center, being challenged due to scandal or old age, etc.  He does find some modest effects, and generally in the expected directions.  He also finds that Democratic incumbents seem to suffer the effects of primary challenges more than Republican incumbents do.  However, basically none of these results is statistically significant.  I sympathize with this work -- Boatright is doing us a real service here, but it looks frustrating.
  • Jordan Ragusa shows us a few interesting things about the career paths of senators.  First, the percentage of senators with prior experience in the House has been increasing steadily over the past half century.  Second, senators with former House experience tend to be more partisan than "indigenous" senators.  Ragusa argues that the career socialization in the more partisan House tends to train politicians as partisan, and they take that training with them into the Senate.
Beyond that, I had a bunch of productive meetings and saw many old friends.  I finally met Brendan Nyhan -- we enjoyed a limo ride and some deep dish pizza along with a large group of devastatingly cool political scientists.

No comments: