Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Political Science Flunked American Politics 101

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  His overwhelming win in Indiana on May 3, 2016, makes him the presumptive nominee.

So far as I know, as of May 3, 2016, not a single political scientist has stepped forward to claim that he or she correctly forecast that Trump could, or would, win the Republican nomination.

Indeed, the opposite is true.  One after another wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and presented slide shows incorporating rigorous statistical analyses based on past voting behavior, “proving” that Trump would fall out of the race. As his poll numbers rose, the predictions that he would lose grew in number and volume.

How did so many get it so wrong?  (Although the economics profession largely missed the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession, at least a handful got it right.)  Political scientists are not likely to issue a mea culpa and tell you why.

Your friendly proprietor will give it a shot.  Here are some reasons.

Ideology.  About 80 percent or more of the profession favor “liberal” Democrats.  They are hostile to Republicans in general and appalled that a “bombastic” businessman such as Trump could win his party’s nomination and, horror of horrors, the presidency.

The profession is resistant to change.  Moreover, the industry is its own consumer.  Most political scientists write for other political scientists.  Only a small fraction writes in the popular media.  It’s hard to take a position way outside the normal range of professional consensus on a subject and get promoted, attract offers from other universities, and enjoy cordial relations with colleagues.  Those who present an extreme view are often ridiculed, called names and excluded from rewards and honors.

Poll analysts missed the lesson of the “Shy Tory Voter,” who told pollsters they would vote for Britain’s Labour Party, but then voted Conservative, giving David Cameron a big win.  This phenomenon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was duplicated by the shy Trump voter.

The only thing worse in political science, and in the academy more generally, than having predicted that Trump would win, is openly stating that Trump is one’s first choice (the subject of the next post)!

2 comments :

D Cooling said...

Political science is little better than leeches and bloodletting, from a social science perspective. And I say that as one who is ABD in political science. However, one political scientist did write an editorial saying the discipline has it wrong about the "invisible primary," that is the behind closed doors politicking for endorsements, etc, which usually creates the presumptive nominee long before the first votes are cast. If one had listened to what political science says about this process, we'd have Jeb Bush as a nominee.

Here's the link to the Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/02/26/the-real-reason-donald-trump-is-winning-no-one-thought-it-was-possible/

Intersted Party of One said...

What's the fuss. The U.S. government is the world's largest international business. Our current leader's executed great presidential campaigns and a naive, short sighted and abysmal record running the day to day U.S. business itself. In this complex world he simply didn't know what he was doing. Trump has demonstrated in the real world, not as a theorist that he can deal with that level of complexity brilliantly while still raising remarkable adult children. He doesn't have a beer with anyone because it kills brain cells and killed his brother. He gets it and millions of Americans have and will grasp that.This sense the electorate grasps is magnified by two of his qualties that even Hillary would admit she doesn't have when she steps to the podium, charisma and wit.