Media Coverage Project

As part of my Mass Media and American Politics class (syllabus linked below), I tried something new this past semester (Fall 2021). I assigned students into groups and gave each group a topic to track in the media over the course of the semester. The topics were: Trump Immigration   COVID (including Delta variant and […]

Polar Poll, Fall 2021 edition

In Gov 2080 (Quantitative Analysis in Political Science), we usually design and field a poll of Bowdoin students. We did that again this Fall, and the results can be accessed below. Some highlights: Student government earns higher marks this fall, about 63 on a 0 to 100 scale, up from about 50 in previous years. […]

Enforcement of Election Laws

My recent article, “Federal Election Commission Divided: Measuring Conflict in Commission Votes Since 1990“, published at the Election Law Journal, looks at polarization in voting at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) between 1990 and 2018. The FEC is the federal agency tasked with enforcing and administering federal election laws. It has six commissioners, with no […]

Polar Poll 2021

In most years, I teach Gov 2080 (Quantitative Analysis in Political Science). We design and administer a poll to a sample of Bowdoin students, to see how polls get designed, implemented, and analyzed. This year we sampled 600 Bowdoin students and got 344 responses. The results are available to see below. One interesting finding. We […]

Counting Steps in 2020

In a previous post from 2019, I talked about comparing my step counts using my iPhone and my Fitbit. I’ve stopped looking at my iPhone data, but I track my Fitbit totals regularly. Below is a graph of my daily step counts through the middle part of December 2020. As you can see, my step […]

Candidate Issue Positions

Students in my Campaigns and Election course (Gov 2060) just read the following article about candidate issue positions in U.S. House elections: Stephen Ansolabehere, James Snyder and Charles Stewart. 2001. “Candidate Positioning in U.S. House Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 45(1):136-159. I’ve assigned this article many times over the years because it’s a great […]

One-person, one-vote

In my “Campaigns and Elections” class (Gov 2060), we talk a lot about the impact of voting rules on the style and structure of elections. One rule is the “one-person, one-vote” standard. We take for granted the one-person/one-vote standard, but it was only established as a constitutional principle in the 1960s.  We can see that […]

Trump Breaks the Statistical Model

In prior posts, I’ve shown estimates from a model predicting quarterly Trump approval. This is predicted using data on presidential approval from Truman through Obama. Using the estimated effect of economic growth, unemployment, and certain political conditions (e.g., positive or negative events for the president), we can use the model (on previous presidents) to estimate […]

More Data Trends

As I noted in a previous post, I’ve worked with students in my “Public Opinion and Voting Behavior” class to replicate and update trends in Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone. Here is one figure from his book, that looks at trends in employment in the law enforcement and legal professions. He uses these data to […]

Updating Data Trends

I’ve long assigned Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone, re-issued this month with a 20-year anniversary edition.  The book is a tour de force about changes in American civic life, but it is also rich with varied and vast empirical evidence.  In assigning the book, I ask students (in Gov 2050: Public Opinion and Voting Behavior) […]

What a Semester!

As we conclude the unexpected experiment in quickly transitioning to remote learning, I’m reflecting a lot on how things went, and I’m preparing for the likelihood of doing this in the Fall semester.  In both my classes, I did not incorporate any synchronous component, knowing that many students might have a lot of scheduling conflicts […]

Stress and Remote Learning

I’m showing here some more analysis of results from my “Polar Poll” of Bowdoin students.  I re-surveyed students last week, asking those who completed a survey in March to indicate their stress levels in the last 6 weeks.  This allows us to look at changes in stress levels from before and after Spring Break.  I’m […]

Polar Poll 2020

The results of this year’s “Polar Poll” (the student poll I field yearly with my students in Gov 2080: Quantitative Analysis in Political Science) are available here.  The link provides the marginal distributions for all of the questions we asked.  I’ll be digging into some additional analysis in the coming weeks, which I’ll post and […]

Offer of the College

It’s late March 2020, and as with nearly all colleges and universities across the country, Bowdoin has moved online for the rest of the semester.  And as we adapt, we try to do the normal things we usually do, to the best extent possible.  For students in Quantitative Analysis of Political Science (GOV 2080), this […]

Democratic Nomination Schedule

The presidential primaries are underway, and as I write voters are casting ballots in the “mini” Super Tuesday states.  I’ve long been interested in the pace of these nomination campaigns.  Below is a graph of the cumulative delegate counts awarded over the course of the primary/caucus schedule; I show this for Democrats in five cycles […]

Majors by Gender Identity

I looked recently at data from Bowdoin’s Office of Institutional Research.  In particular, I examined declared majors by student-reported gender identity.  These data as of fall 2019 are reported here.  I took the breakdowns by department and division and plotted them below. Government and Legal Studies not only has the most declared majors at the […]

The Department’s Curriculum

My department is about to go through it’s decennial review, and as part of the preparation for that, I have assembled the list of courses in the department that we have offered since 2009, when we had our last external review.  These courses are listed in this table.  I’ve split the courses by the subfields […]

Does Disclosure Chill Speech?

The title of this post is a big current question in campaign finance circles, in part because conservatives in recent years have pushed back on the goal of many liberals to expand disclosure laws to so-called dark money groups.  A recent tweet from a Texas Democratic congressman called out Trump donors from his district, causing […]

Partisanship and Ideology on Campus

As part of my Gov 3020 (Money and Politics) course, we fielded a poll of Bowdoin students in mid-September and asked them a few questions about campaign financing (more on that in a separate post).  We also asked about political ideology and preference in the Democratic nomination battle.  The poll went out to 500 randomly […]

Counting Steps

I love counting things, and my latest interest is the number of steps-per-day that I walk.  You often hear the claim that 10,000 steps is a good goal. For a number of years, I used my iPhone as a pedometer, but I know also that this is not a great option since I don’t carry my […]

When do political ads work?

This is the focus of a lot of my research.  One conditioning factor we think matters in whether an ad is successful or not is the prior knowledge and opinions that voters have of the candidates running.  Meaning, Hillary Clinton is unlikely to change a lot of minds with her political ads, but an unknown […]

More on Trump approval (updated Nov 2019)

In prior posts I’ve shown some results of a model predicting quarterly job approval for Trump.  The analysis uses quarterly approval of presidents prior to Trump to model the effect of lagged approval (e.g., Q4 of last year on Q1 of the next), the political context (i.e., divided or unified government), and economic factors (GDP […]

Measuring success in Government courses

I’ve been wondering: do our majors excel in our courses relative to other classes they take at Bowdoin? I used data from a recent graduating class and plotted the students’ GPA in their Government courses against their overall Bowdoin GPA.  I have suppressed the numeric labeling to make it clear that I’m not interested in […]

Ballot Questions in Maine, Polling Edition

Given my interest in ballot questions in Maine history, I’ve set out to collect as much polling data as possible on these questions.  Many poll results are posted to Ballotpedia and Wikipedia–aggregated from news coverage of the polls in recent election years–but I’ve also been fortunate to collect additional polls from my colleague, Chris Potholm, […]

Cost of Campaigns, 1888-2018

I’m giving some remarks this week at the 7th Circuit Bar Association’s symposium on “Revitalizing Article I.”  I’ll be talking a lot about political advertising, but I’ll start with some discussion of the cost of federal campaigns.  Here is a portion of my remarks with accompanying graphs. “I want to talk with you today about political […]

(More) Ballot Questions and Making Maps

My interests in ballot questions and map-making continue to collide.  Below is a map of 2016 advertising data on ballot questions.  The map plots ad totals for the 2015-16 election cycle at the level of the media market, which consist of collections of counties.  There are over 3,000 counties in the United States, but 210 […]

Ballot Questions and Making Maps

I’ve been working on some map-making skills in R, using the usmap package and ggplot.  This coincides with an interest of mine in variation across the states in the prevalence of ballot measures (i.e., direct democracy opportunities).  My attempt at mapping this is below, and relies on Ballotpedia classifications here and here. Getting a good […]

Absentee Voting Trends

I’ve been assembling some data on the percentage of voters across the states who vote early, before Election Day.  I’m calling them all absentee voters here, but early voting and absentee voting are technically different.  Still, pre-Election Day voting, in whatever form, is on the rise.  Here is a primer on early voting laws across […]

Maine Election for Governor in 2018

I’ve run some preliminary analysis of the results from the 2018 gubernatorial election in Maine, and there were a few interesting trends that popped out.  Below I show two graphs.  The first plots the Republican Shawn Moody’s margin (his vote % minus the winner’s, Democrat Janet Mills) against the incumbent governor’s margin from 2014. (The […]

Faith and Politics

I had the chance on Sunday, October 21 to chat with folks at First Parish Church in Brunswick, ME.  This is where I attend with my family, and it is a very historic church.  Along with my colleague, Andy Rudalevige, we talked about the intersection of faith and politics.  The video is long, over an […]

Ballot Questions in Maine, part 2

Another set of results from my upcoming talk.  The graph is a box plot of the distribution of outcomes in Maine ballot questions, by type.  I also show below the 5 closest votes in ~600 Maine ballot questions since 1909.  A few thoughts: In the graph below, bond questions and constitutional amendments pass with a […]

Ballot Questions in Maine

I’m giving a talk on campus on Thursday, October 4th entitled, “The Challenge of Direct Democracy: The History of Ballot Measures in Maine.”  Details are here.  I’ll post more about the data for the talk at a different time, but I’ve collected the statewide results for all ballot questions in Maine since 1909 (and since […]

Ideology at the Federal Election Commission

I’ll be presenting some new research at the American Political Science Association conference in Boston on August 30.  It involves some data I’ve collected on the Federal Election Commission.  The paper is here, and two relevant graphs are below.  The first shows the percentage of FEC votes that end in “deadlock,” where less than four […]

Plotting the liberal arts

When I was department chair, I regularly asked the Registrar during course registration for the number of students requesting seats in our courses during the various “rounds” of registration.  Round 1 is when students upload their first-choices for classes.  Round 2 gives students the chance to fill out their schedule by requesting space in courses […]

Trump approval (updated Jan 2019)

I’ve been playing around with some presidential approval data, inspired by Sides and Vavreck’s analysis in The Gamble.  They predicted Obama’s approval ratings over the course of his two terms, using data from Truman to Bush II.  The underlying question they ask is whether Obama’s actual approval at various points was higher or lower than […]

Approval of advisor and studying

File this as a head-scratcher.  In our 2018 poll of Bowdoin students, we asked them their opinion of their major or pre-major advisor (on a scale from 0 to 100).  We also asked them to indicate how many hours per week they spent studying and writing papers (in addition to class time) in their favorite […]

“Polar Poll” 2018 Results

Each time I offer Gov 2080 (“Quantitative Analysis in Political Science”), I work with students in the class to design and field a poll of Bowdoin students.  We pay careful attention to question wording and order, and we use the data to analyze the relationships between variables. This year’s results are here. We can have […]

Time for a New “Polar Poll”

Every year that I teach “Quantitative Analysis in Political Science,” I work with the students to design and field a poll of Bowdoin students.  The exercise is meant to give students exposure to the challenges of question wording and survey analysis.  We usually ask standard “feeling thermometer” questions of certain Bowdoin administrators or institutions, like […]

Teaching and Protests in 2003

I reflected recently on my first solo teaching gig: a mid-level course (with 170+ students) I offered as a grad student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, now 15 years ago.  The course was called “American Politics and Government,” and it was basically an Intro to American Government class for upperclassmen, mostly non-majors.  The […]

Tracking Exams

Over the years I have tried many different exam formats: the traditional in-class with blue book vs timed take-homes, for example.  In some years when I’ve done the more old-fashioned in-class exam, I’ve taken to noting on the back of completed exams the order of completion (i.e., the student done first is 1 and the […]

New Data Collection in Process

I study campaigns and elections, and in particular campaign advertising and election financing.  I devoted a fair amount of work in my dissertation to studying the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) reading of Advisory Opinions (AOs) on permissible electioneering and fund-raising.  In recent months, I’ve worked to collect all recorded votes at the FEC on those […]


I had the chance on September 18th to make some comments on redistricting and gerrymandering before a much longer (and fantastic) presentation from Moon Duchin of Tufts University.  My remarks and Moon’s can be seen in the video below.  My written comments are also here.

Convocation 2017

I had the great honor of speaking to the class of 2021 at Bowdoin College’s 216th Convocation Ceremony.  The title of the talk was: “Promoting Empiricism in the Age of Alternative Facts.”  My comments can be see below, beginning at about the 14:00 mark. The comments in written form are here.    

Jettisoned Papers

Sometimes you work hard on a paper (for a conference, perhaps), and can be happy with the results, but the paper never seems to find the light of day.  That can happen a lot, and for lots of different reasons: reviewers hated it; the results are just too weak; other papers take priority and revisions […]

Political Ideology at Bowdoin

As part of the “Polar Poll” of Bowdoin students that I run in my Quantitative Analysis in Political Science course, we asked students and faculty this spring to assess their political ideology on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being very liberal and 100 being very conservative.  The results are displayed below. (The […]

Presidential Approval

I’ve been playing around with some presidential approval data back to the post-war period.   The data are aggregated to quarters in each year, such that all available polls in a quarter produce an “average” approval rating from in- and out-partisans.*  The results are graphed below, which includes the first quarter of Trump’s presidency and all […]

Trusted Media

As part of my class on “Quantitative Analysis in Political Science,” we asked Bowdoin students to list all of the media that they trust to obtain reliable news about current events and politics.  We also asked them to self-identify on an ideology scale of 0 (very liberal) to 100 (very conservative). I counted up the […]