Results tagged “Obama”

 Posted by  Thomas Niblock

Two days after Senator Obama’s historic victory, the President-Elect has begun assembling the men and women who will guide his decision-making for the next four years. These decisions are among the most important a president can make, and they should be informed by a thorough appraisal of the issues, domestic and foreign, that an Obama administration will likely face. Here are a few to consider:

Regarding Russia. Yesterday, Russian President Medvedev threatened to place ground-to-ground missiles on its western border, install electronic jamming mechanisms to counter new U.S. antimissile systems in Eastern Europe, and end plans to disable Russian nuclear weapons. Is he bluffing?
 
Regarding Afghanistan. Yesterday, Afghan President Karzai demanded that the U.S. end civilian casualties after a U.S. air strike allegedly killed 39 people at a wedding. NATO forces in Afghanistan routinely use air power to assist counter-insurgency operations. This reduces the number of NATO soldiers killed, which lessens political pressure on host governments to withdraw their forces, but the use of air power under such pressing battlefield conditions and difficult terrain may result in the unintentional deaths of civilians at times. How should these competing priorities be reconciled?
 
Regarding Guantanamo Bay. During the campaign, Senator Obama pledged to close the U.S. detention facility located there. Roughly 255 detainees remain incarcerated in the facility. Some are hardened terrorists; others are likely innocent. Among the innocent are about a dozen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who are believed to face persecution if they are returned to China. What should be done with them?
 
Regarding labor unions. The highest priority for labor unions, one of the Democratic Party’s strongest supporting groups, is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to organize without a secret ballot election in the workplace. Given that secret ballot elections are accepted everywhere else in American democracy, why should union organizing be any different?
 
Regarding campaign finance reform. Senator Obama’s historic victory was enabled by historic fundraising, which would have been impossible if not for a historic decision to forgo public financing of the general election campaign. Is it reasonable to expect future presidential candidates to do the same? 
 

The writer is a second year graduate student in public policy and international relations in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from Nevada, Iowa.  His blog on religion and politics can be found at http://thomasniblock.blogspot.com/.

Down But Not Out

 Posted by  Thomas Niblock

Debate impressions from Robertson Hall on the Princeton University campus

To begin tonight’s debate, Senator McCain expressed his sympathy for Nancy Reagan, who fell and broke her pelvis last week. The former First Lady is undergoing painful physical therapy, but she is reportedly “in good spirits”.
 
It’s an apt metaphor for Senator McCain’s campaign. He was spirited and forceful in tonight’s debate, criticizing Senator Obama’s economic and social policies and keeping the Illinois Democrat on the defensive for most of the evening. Still, Senator McCain’s presidential aspirations are suffering right now.
 
Senator Obama did well. He does a good job of agreeing on agreeable points, such as school vouchers, with his opponent. It reinforces his campaign theme of finding common ground with the other side and makes him seem more presidential. After all, bringing both sides together, adopting the best ideas from each, and crafting policies in the nation’s interest is what presidents do. Senator Obama’s performance tonight will convince some in the wandering center that he is up to the challenge.
 
For the first time in three debates, the abortion question emerged. The moderator tried to ask it without really asking it, using Supreme Court nominations as a proxy, but he was not nearly as circumspect as Rick Warren in the Saddleback Civil Forum On National Leadership , who asked the profoundly simple question, “When does life begin?”
 
The abortion question is perhaps the most frustrating issue in American politics. On no other issue is so much demanded and so little returned. Neither candidate can alter the policy, except through marginal changes. Yet the question remains of foundational importance, which is why audiences, like the one in Robertson’s basement, revere it so (the room was silent as both candidates talked).
But it is not abortion that will decide this election. It is the economy, which leads McCain’s supporters to pray for recovery and Obama’s to pray for recovery in time. In 20 days, we’ll have our answer.
 
 
The writer is a second year graduate student in public policy and international relations in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from Nevada, Iowa.  His blog on religion and politics can be found at http://thomasniblock.blogspot.com/.

Is It Over?

 Posted by  Larry Bartels

Historically (since 1948), about 75-80% of the margin in a typical October poll has lasted until Election Day. If that holds true this year, the current best forecast of the popular vote based on the polls is that Sen. Obama will win by about 6 points.

Historically, best guesses of this sort have been off by an average of about 5 points. Part of that, about 1 point, is due to pure sampling error in the polls. The rest, about 4 points, is due to other sources of error -- most importantly, changes in voters' preferences between the poll and Election Day. Compilations of many polls (such as pollster.com) average out most of the pure sampling error in individual polls, so the relevant average error is probably about 4 points.

Statistical theory suggests that if Sen. Obama is ahead by 6 plus or minus 4, his current chance of winning (the popular vote) is a little over 90%. This calculation ignores (at least) three important factors. First, there is a fairly strong tendency for late shifts in preferences to favor the incumbent party when the economy is strong and the out-party when the economy is weak; that makes Sen. Obama's position stronger than it looks in current polls. Second, there is more uncertainty than usual this year about who will actually turn out to vote, suggesting that the polls may be more wrong than usual; however, given the pattern of new registrations and the apparent strength of the two campaigns' voter mobilization efforts, Sen. Obama seems more likely to benefit than to lose support from unexpected turnout. Third, the possibility that undecided white voters may, in the end, be unable to bring themselves to vote for Sen. Obama on racial grounds makes his position somewhat more precarious than it would otherwise be. It is very difficult to estimate the importance of the racial factor (that is, the extent to which racial antipathy is not already reflected in current polls), but my guess is that this is less important than the other two factors, both of which seem likely to work in Sen. Obama's favor.

These comments were also posted today in Ezra Klein's blog on The American Prospect.

Race in the Race

 Posted by  Larry Bartels

You may have noticed that one of this year’s presidential candidates is African-American. How will that affect the election outcome?

A major new survey conducted by Knowledge Networks for Stanford, the Associated Press, and Yahoo examined prospective voters’ racial prejudices from several different angles. AP’s Ron Fournier reports that “Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama’s support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice,” but goes on to add that “in an election without precedent, it’s hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.”
 
Back in February some of my starry-eyed liberal friends argued that race would not be an issue, since the people unwilling to vote for an African-American candidate would already be voting Republican anyway. That sounded optimistic to me, so I pulled out the data from the 2004 National Election Study survey and examined the relationship between racial attitudes and voting behavior.
 
The NES survey asked respondents to rate “blacks” and “whites” on a 100-point “feeling thermometer.” I somewhat arbitrarily decided that people who rated blacks more than 10 points lower than whites on the feeling thermometer—despite the presumed social undesirability of expressing “racist” feelings—would be pretty unlikely to vote for a black presidential candidate. The proportion of Kerry voters for whom that was true: 17%. Uh-oh.
 
On the other hand, 9% of Bush voters in 2004 rated blacks more than 10 points higher than whites on the NES feeling thermometer. By my logic, those people should be pretty likely to support a black candidate, given the chance. Still, adding together these off-setting effects implied a 3.7% drop in the Democratic presidential vote. That is a huge potential swing in the contemporary electoral context—probably insurmountable except in a year in which the “fundamentals” (the economy, incumbent tenure, presidential approval, organization, and campaign funds) seem to be heavily stacked in favor of the Democrats.
 
Incidentally, I hear with some regularity that racism will depress Obama’s performance among “downscale white voters.” But the Kerry voters I identified as likely defectors from Obama due to racial antipathy were not particularly “downscale.” They were only slightly poorer and slightly less educated than other Kerry voters. What they were, mostly, is older. One interpretation of that difference is that older people simply feel less constrained about expressing racial antipathy. Another, more hopeful interpretation is that racial antipathy really is less prevalent among younger people. In the latter case, the generation gap in vote intentions evident in recent polls should be attributed not only to the obvious generational contrast between a Reaganesque Republican and a Kennedyesque Democrat, but also to evolving attitudes toward blacks and whites in American society.
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The mission of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School is to promote empirical research on democratic processes and institutions.  That broad mandate has attracted a diverse collection of faculty, students, and visitors pursuing a wide variety of research topics. However, the American electoral process has been a recurrent focus of interest for many of the scholars associated with CSDP and a frequent topic of conferences, colloquia, and other events sponsored by the Center.  As the 2008 campaign unfolds, we thought it might be helpful and fun to collect the election-related research, analyses, and offbeat insights of our extended scholarly community, both for our own edification and as a resource for others interested in how political scientists are thinking about the election.  We welcome contributions, comments, and suggestions. For more about the people and activities of CSDP, please visit our website, http://www.princeton.edu/~csdp/. To post a comment, click the "speech bubble."

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