This MPSA roundtable session on “MPSA Roundtable: The Path to Full”, hosted by the Midwest Women’s Caucus and chaired by Tiffany Barnes of the University of Kentucky, features James Adams of University of California, Davis, Leslie Schwindt-Bayer of Rice University, and Miki Kittilson of Arizona State University, Tempe.
This panel examines the path to full professorship by facilitating a discussion of the participants’ journeys to become full professors.
Highlights from the discussion include important points in the transition between the associate and full professor levels, including the importance of career mentoring during this time, and advice on moving from the associate to full professor level. Questions discussed during the roundtable address what it means to be a full professor, what this looks like at different institutions, and what being a full professor means to each of the panelists.
Topics of discussion include:
New opportunities for longer term or higher risk projects.
On the morning of Nov. 8, 2016, many Americans went to bed confident that Hillary Clinton would be elected the nation’s first female president.
Their confidence was driven, in no small part, by a pervasive message that Clinton was ahead in the polls and forecasts leading up to the election. Polling aggregation sites, such as Huffington Post’s Pollster and The New York Times Upshot blog, reported that Clinton was virtually certain to win. It soon became clear that these models were off the mark.
Since then, forecasters and media prognosticators have dissected whatwent wrong. The finger-pointing almost inevitably landed on public opinion polling, especially at the state level. The polls, critics argued, led modelers and the public to vastly overestimate the likelihood of a Clinton win.
So why was the 2016 election so shocking? The big reason wasn’t the polls, it was our expectations.
In the last few years, members of the public have come to expect that a series of highly confident models can tell us exactly what is going to happen in the future. But in the runup to the 2016 election, thesemodels made a few big, problematic assumptions.
For one, they largely assumed that the different errors that different polls had were independent of one another. But the challenges that face contemporary polling, such as the difficulty of reaching potential respondents, can induce small but consistent errors across almost all polls.
When modelers treat errors as independent of one another, they make conclusions that are far more precise than they should be. The average poll is indeed the best guess at the outcome of an election, but national polling averages are often off by around 2 percentage points. State polls can be off by even more at times.
In addition, polling aggregators and public polling information have been flooded by a deluge of lower-quality surveys based on suboptimal methods. These methods can sometimes produce accurate estimates, but the processes by which they do so is not well-understood on theoretical grounds. There are lots of reasons to think that these methods may not produce consistently accurate results in the future. Unfortunately, there will likely continue to be lots of low-quality polls, because they are so much less expensive to conduct.
Research out of our lab suggests yet another reason that the polls were shocking to so many: When ordinary people look at the evidence from polling, just as with other sources of information, they tend to see the results they desire.
During the 2016 election campaign, we asked Americans to compare two preelection polls – one where Clinton was leading and one where Trump was ahead. Across the board, Clinton supporters told us that the Clinton-leading poll was more accurate than the Trump-leading poll. Trump supporters reported exactly the opposite perceptions. In other studies, we saw the same phenomenon when people were exposed to poll results showing majorities in favor of or opposed to their own views on policy issues such as gun control or abortion.
What polls really say
So, what does this all mean for someone reading the polls in 2018?
You don’t have to ignore the results – just recognize that all polling has some error. While even the experts may not know quite which way that error is going to point, we do have a sense of the size of that error. Error is likely to be smaller when considering a polling average instead of an individual poll.
It’s also a good bet that the actual result will be within 3 percentage points for an averaging of high-quality national polls. For similarly high-quality state polls, it will likely be within more like 5 percentage points, because these polls usually have smaller sample sizes.
What makes a high-quality poll? It will either use live interviewers with both landlines and cellphones or recruit respondents using offline methods to take surveys online. Look for polls conducted around the same time to see whether they got the same result. If not, see whether they sampled the same kind of people, used the same interviewing technique or used a similar question wording. This is often the explanation for reported differences.
The good news is that news consumers can easily find out about a poll’s quality. This information is regularly included in news stories and is shown by many poll aggregators. What’s more, pollsters are increasingly transparent about the methods they use.
Polls that don’t use these methods should be taken with a big grain of salt. We simply don’t know enough about when they will succeed and when they will fail.
By Daniel Fisher, Project Director, National Humanities Alliance
As campuses across the country fill with the renewed energy of the fall semester, it is a good time to pause to reflect on how we make the case for the value of the humanities at institutions of higher education. The question is particularly pressing in light of newly-released data from the Pew Research Center that shows that roughly six-in-ten Americans (61 percent) believe U.S. higher education is “headed in the wrong direction.” Among a range of concerns, 73 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats believe that students are not being prepared to succeed in the workplace.
While the Pew survey was not focused on the humanities specifically, its results highlight the challenges that advocates for the humanities in higher education face today. To combat concerns about preparation for the workforce, we can and should show that studying the humanities cultivates critical skills that have led to success in a wide range of career paths—with strong earnings and high levels of job satisfaction. It is also important to show that the benefits of studying the humanities extend beyond the market—facilitating engaged citizenship and a life well-lived.
At the same time, the Pew survey results point to a more general need to reframe the conversation about the value and direction of higher education: to make the claim that higher education institutions serve not just individual students but also, and increasingly, their surrounding communities. Case-making for the humanities should include rich examples of how publicly-oriented humanities projects enrich life in the U.S.: building and strengthening communities; creating innovative and practical learning experiences for students and people of all ages and backgrounds; and broadening our understanding of ourselves, our nation, and our world.
To highlight the public impact of the humanities in higher education, the National Humanities Alliance recently launched Humanities for All: a website that documents the past 10 years of publicly engaged humanities research, teaching, and programming in universities and colleges across the U.S. The website presents a cross-section of over 1,400 projects, searchable, sortable, and illustrated with 51 in-depth profiles. When viewed together, these initiatives illustrate the broad impact of the humanities beyond higher education.
Humanities for All not only seeks to broaden narratives about the humanities in higher education but also to deepen the practice of public engagement in the humanities. We at NHA have a stake in encouraging more of this work, which provides more opportunities for members of the public to have humanities experiences and appreciate the significance of the humanities in higher education. In addition, when integrated into coursework, engaged humanities projects can provide meaningful and practical learning experiences that prepare students for the workforce. To this end, we present these examples as a resource for all who would like to begin or deepen their practice of public engagement.
Examples of engagement abound in Political Science and International Relations, all of which can inform our humanities case-making and practice.
Consider “The United States and the Middle East: Using the Lessons of History to Engage Policymakers” an in-class production of a policy brief on US involvement in the Middle East directed by Annie Tracy Samuel at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga which was sent to local senators and representatives.
Another example is “The Great Society Congress” an online exhibit from the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress which partnered with the University of Georgia, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Virginia, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, the University of Kansas, West Virginia University, New York University, the University of Delaware, Indiana University, the University of South Carolina-Columbia, Middle Tennessee State University, National Archives and Records Administration, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, and the United States Senate Historical Office.
We encourage you to visit Humanities for All to explore engaged humanities projects like these. To help us present the breadth of the field, Humanities for All also welcomes users to contribute new examples of publicly engaged humanities work in the U.S. via the website’s submissions portal. More broadly, we would appreciate your consideration: How can Humanities for All inform your humanities case-making and practice?
About the Author: Daniel Fisher is a project director and postdoctoral fellow at the National Humanities Alliance Foundation. Prior to joining NHA, he held fellowships at the École Biblique and the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. He holds a B.A. from McGill University, an M.A. from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught and co-curated a publicly-engaged research-driven exhibition. Fisher can be reached at email@example.com.
Affective polarization – the mutual partisan antipathy expressed by both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. – has increased dramatically over the last 30 years. Both real-life political processes and their reflections in social media offer anecdotal evidence for this conjecture, as demonstrated by declining civility in political debates. Systematic evidence for this disturbing trend also comes from the ANES time series, as documented by Iyengar, Sood, and Lelkes (2012).
What are the root causes of this process? One of the most influential approaches to affective polarization emphasizes the changing social compositions of the two parties (Mason 2018). Over the last decades, sorting rendered Democrats and Republicans relatively homogeneous and distinct on a number of non-ideological dimensions, from religious affiliation to place of residence. For example, whereas both conservatives, moderates, and even some liberals once identified with the Republican party, now the vast majority are conservative. While Democrats once included highly religious as well as secular adherents, most fundamentalists have now departed for the Republicans.
However, we think another dimension is most important. Race/ethnicity now cleaves the parties more neatly than ever, and not simply because Democrats and Republicans disagree in their attitudes about race itself. In fact, whites are sorting out of the Democratic party at a significant rate while minorities are standing pat. Figure 1 presents evidence in this regard using the American National Election Studies time-series data starting from 1952. The growing racial gap between the two parties is evident. As the share of Whites among self-identified Democrats is rapidly decreasing (outpacing demographic changes in the country as a whole), the Republican Party remains overwhelmingly White. Our conjecture is that it is these changes in race and ethnicity that drive most of the affective polarization we have witnessed over the last 30 years.
If we are correct we would expect that American voters have begun to develop much more highly racialized mental images of political parties. Furthermore, these racialized images should be much more politically consequential than partisan schemas linked to religion, class, or other dimensions.
To explore this possibility, we conducted two survey studies based on interviews with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers. In the first study, we relied on implicit methods to measure respondents’ associations between the two major parties on the one hand and Blacks and Whites on the other hand. Specifically, we used a timed image sorting task similar in architecture to the well-known implicit association test (IAT). However, unlike the standard IAT our task did not include an affective component – instead, it simply measured the strength of associations between racial and partisan groups via objective reaction times (transformed into the IAT D-scores according to the respective guidelines).
Figure 2 presents the results. On average, respondents’ racialized schemas about partisan coalitions were consequential. White respondents who thought of the Democratic Party as Black reported clear affective preference for the Republican Party. Furthermore, this effect was moderated by racial resentment: racialized schemas about the two parties were consequential for those high in racial resentment but not for the racially liberal respondents.
In the second study, we asked explicit questions about supporters of the two parties. Specifically, we wanted our respondents to tell us their best guess about the race/ethnicity of “the typical Democrat/Republican.” We found that even in the MTurk sample, which is known to be more liberal than the U.S. general population, as much as 25% of respondents thought of the modal Democratic voter as Black or African American. This is clearly a misperception: even though the Democratic Party indeed draws a substantial share of its electoral support from minority groups, Whites still comprise the plurality of Democratic supporters.
As with implicit schemas, explicit ones were politically consequential. Even controlling for issue positions and demographics, respondents who perceived themselves to “match” with one of the two parties in terms of race exhibited significantly more polarized partisan feelings than those who did not feel they matched one or both of the parties in terms of race. Moreover, partisan identity matching with other groups, namely religious denomination and social class, had almost no effect on affective polarization. Results are presented in Figure 3.
Our findings have important implications for the study of affective polarization and for the subfield of American political behavior more generally. We suspect that Americans now see the partisan coalitions in racial terms and that these racialized images are highly consequential for how people feel toward the parties. In comparative politics, the “ethnicization” of political parties is associated with a host of negative system-level outcomes, such as bad governance and political instability. If the process that we highlight continues, the American political system may experience problems much worse than Twitter brawls between fans of Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity.
About the Authors: Nicholas A. Valentino is a Research Professor at the Center for Political Studies and a Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. Kirill Zhirkov is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Valentino and Zhirkov received the Best Paper in Political Behavior award for their study “The Images in Our Heads: Race, Partisanship and Affective Polarization” presented at the 2017 MPSA conference.
References Iyengar, Shanto, Gaurav Sood, and Yphtach Lelkes. 2012. “Affect, not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization.” Public Opinion Quarterly 76 (3): 405–31.
Mason, Lilliana. 2018. Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This constellation should be a diverse set of faculty, staff and peers who will get students out of their comfort zones and challenge them to learn more – and more deeply – than they thought they could. Students should begin to build this network during their first year of college.
Those are some of the key takeaways from a new Elon University Poll of a nationally representative sample of more than 4,000 U.S. college graduates with bachelor’s degrees. These are points two of us plan to explore more deeply as co-authors of a forthcoming book on mentoring in college.
The Elon University Poll and the Center for Engaged Learning examined the nature and qualities of relationships that matter most for college students. The poll found that graduates who had seven to 10 significant relationships with faculty and staff were more than three times as likely to report their college experience as “very rewarding” than those with no such relationships. Similar effects were found for peer relationships in college.
The first year of college is crucial in establishing the foundation for these relationships, which will not only influence students’ time in college but a large part of the rest of their lives. In the Elon Poll, 79 percent of graduates reported meeting the peers who had the biggest impact on them during their first year of college. And 60 percent reported meeting their most influential faculty or staff mentors during that first year.
The classroom is the most common place that students say they encountered both influential faculty members and peers.
This Elon Poll builds on a rich body of research on the power of relationships with peers, faculty, advisers and other mentors, and how those relationships influence student learning, a sense of belonging and achievement.
For instance, in the landmark 1977 work “Four Critical Years,” Alexander Astin of UCLA noted that “student-faculty interaction has a stronger relationship to student satisfaction with the college experience than any other student involvement variable.” Another pioneering researcher, Vincent Tinto of Syracuse University, documented how the most effective undergraduate experiences “enable the faculty and staff to make continuing, personal contact with students.” Sociologists Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs offered this sage message after their 10-year examination of students at Hamilton College: “Spend your time with good people. That’s the most important thing.”
Relationships make a big difference
Following up on a 2014 Gallup-Purdue national survey, the Elon Poll found that more than 80 percent of respondents reported their most important faculty or staff relationship formed in college was with someone who made them excited about learning, cared about them as a person and encouraged them to pursue their dreams.
Having even a very small number of meaningful relationships made a big difference. Forty-six percent of respondents with just one or two significant faculty or staff relationships rated college as “very rewarding,” as compared to just 22 percent of those with no such relationships. Similarly, 48 percent of respondents with one or two significant peer relationships rated college as “very rewarding,” as compared to 25 percent who lacked those types of connections. When it comes to relationships in college, quality matters more than quantity.
These findings make plain that the best undergraduate education – for all students at all types of institutions — is one in which students form sustained relationships with peers, faculty, staff and other mentors.
What colleges and universities do matters
Unfortunately, not all students form the kind of relationships that are key to a rewarding college experience. Indeed, the Elon Poll suggests that some who are the first in their family to attend college often don’t have as strong of a mentoring constellation as those with at least one parent who attended college.
Significantly, 15 percent of first-generation graduates reported zero influential relationships with faculty or staff while in college, as compared to only 6 percent of those with a college-educated parent. And 29 percent of graduates with a college-educated parent reported more than seven significant relationships with faculty or staff, compared to 17 percent for first-generation students.
Students have an important role in building these constellations, but so do colleges and universities.
Initiatives like Elon University’s Odyssey Scholars program for first-generation students put faculty, staff and peer mentors in place from the start of college. Odyseey Scholar director Jean Rattigan-Rohr reports an 89 percent four-year graduation rate for the two most recent groups of scholars. This rate exceeds the rate for the student body as a whole. Similarly, but at a much bigger institution, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP) at the University of Texas at Austin provides peer mentoring and expert advising to at-risk incoming students. Thanks in part to these relationships, more TIP students have GPAs above 3.0 than their non-TIP peers.
Since contact with faculty early on is critical for all students, the Elon Poll reinforces existing scholarship that urges colleges to place their best teaching faculty in first-year classes. A study of some two dozen colleges and universities demonstrates that frequent and meaningful student-faculty interactions significantly improves student motivation and achievement.
You can find mentors in many places
The poll also found that not all of the most influential mentors are professors. Notably, one-third of our respondents identified a staff member – that is, an administrator, student life worker or support staff – rather than a professor as their most influential mentor.
Every staff person on a college campus – from gardeners and janitors to secretaries and office assistants – shapes the learning environment and many have significant contact with students. In an effort to recognize and celebrate the contributions these personnel make to students’ lives, Georgetown alumnus Febin Bellamy founded Unsung Heroes in 2016. The program should remind students to look in unexpected places for people who can make a difference in their lives.
Find your people
Establishing a network of mentors takes a sense of purpose and initiative. Granted, forming relationships with mentors and peers may come more easily to some students than others. But a constellation of mentors does not need to have dozens of people in it. Instead, a few positive relationships with peers, faculty and staff will make a powerful difference for the college experience and beyond.
To make this happen, students should make simple gestures to connect with potential mentors. Talk with a faculty member after class. Invite a professor to have coffee. Ask an advanced student in your major for advice. Small steps like these can uncover mutual interests and shared passions and, ultimately, lead to the kinds of relationships that make a big difference in college – and for a lifetime.
By Chapman Rackaway of the University of West Georgia
How involved should political party leaders get in primary elections? Should a President endorse a primary candidate, despite standards of public party neutrality? Party organizations were once used to determine nominees internally in caucuses or conventions, with elite leaders choosing nominees they believed best represented the party. Primary elections disrupted that process. Now the general public, even those not loyal to the party, could help choose nominees. Outsiders such as, say, Donald Trump, can contest and even win party nominations over the wishes of party leaders. In the Primary Era, party leaders and elites have generally chosen to remain publicly silent (if often supportive behind-the-scenes) during nomination contests. The involvement of President Donald Trump in Republican primaries this year is thus an important development.
Whether it’s a prominent celebrity, organized interest, or popular elected official, candidates love to get endorsements. The value of an endorsement might seem minimal, but sometimes they matter. Not all endorsements are created equal. Primary elections put parties in a difficult place: party elites, focused on general election success, value electability. When party leaders do have primary influence, as Democrats do in Presidential nominations with superdelegates, losing candidates complain of the system being “rigged” against them. Bernard Sanders’ supporters made that very complaint after his 2016 loss to Hillary Clinton. Party organizations can struggle to unify behind nominees after divisive primaries, making the safest option in primaries non-participation.
No sitting President has before endorsed candidates in party primaries. But Donald Trump’s involvement in two gubernatorial primaries – Georgia and Kansas – show us the power of the endorsement and what it means for the parties.
In Georgia, a five-way open contest for the open Republican nomination produced no majority winner and a July runoff between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Cagle would normally have been considered a near-lock to succeed in the runoff against Kemp. Cagle only needed to activate the same 39% of voters and win another eleven percent among supporters of the also-rans to secure the nomination. Cagle appeared in polls to be well ahead of Kemp when one of the also-ran candidates, Clay Tippins, released a recording where Cagle admitted to playing politics with another candidate. Cagle had supported a bill he would normally not to force the candidates running from state Senate seats into a difficult vote. The Tippins recording hurt Cagle, bringing his lead down to single digits. When Trump endorsed Kemp a week before the vote, though, he surged from a near-tie to an almost forty percentage point victory.
Leading candidates in runoffs rarely lose, about as rarely as party leaders publicly involve themselves in a race. As Hans Hassell shows in “Party Control of Party Primaries: Party Influence in Nominations for the US Senate” (2015), party leadership tend to get their favored candidates nominated but do so behind-the-scenes. Trump not only endorsed a candidate but supported the candidate seen as less-comfortable with Georgia’s GOP leadership.
A day before the Kansas primary, the President endorsed another sitting Secretary of State seeking a governorship, Kris Kobach. Trump’s endorsement of Kobach was expected because Kobach and Trump have a history of mutual support. Kobach was an early supporter of Trump’s 2016 campaign, served on the President’s ill-fated Election Assistance Commission, was under consideration for a cabinet post, and has had Donald Trump Jr. host fundraisers for him.
Trump’s Kobach endorsement was noteworthy because it was given where an incumbent governor was running. Not only did Trump violate the norm against elected and party leadership insinuating themselves in primaries, Trump again went against established party leadership.
Trump’s support didn’t have the massive impact on Kobach’s vote total as it appeared to have with Kemp. Pro-Trump voters were likely already aligned with Kobach, and he won a narrow victory over incumbent Jeff Colyer.
Regardless of the outcome of the Kansas gubernatorial primary, the result for parties is the same: party elected officials are now actively engaged in primary endorsements. The norm of party neutrality in primaries has been violated. Candidates will see Kemp’s and Kobach’s success and want the President or another high-ranking party leader to endorse them in their primary. The idea of a party that waits for the public to decide their nominee and then rallies to support that nominee has been retired. Trump’s precedent may open the door to more primary endorsements, changing the role of the party in nomination contests irretrievably. How will parties respond to the increased demand for their favor during their primaries? The answer could have long-reaching implications for future primaries.
About the author: Chapman Rackaway serves the University of West Georgia as Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science where he teaches classes in Political Parties, Political Campaign Management, Interest Groups and Lobbying, and Campaign Finance. You can also find Rackaway on Twitter and his website.
Kevin R. Anderson is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University where he teaches courses in American government, political theory and African American politics. Anderson was recently honored as the 2018 Distinguished Faculty member for the Eastern Illinois University Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College.
Here we ask him a few questions about his experiences:
Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career? The most influential scholar in terms of my research and teaching is Adolph Reed Jr. I first met him as an undergraduate at the Ralph Bunche Institute and his insights into race and American Political Thought helped shaped the questions that I came to explore in Graduate School. The nuance of his perspective on urban politics, African American Electoral Politics and African American Political Thought (showcasing democratic impulses within minority groups) inspired me to think of the differences among African Americans as essential to understanding political behavior across groups. This insight became the foundation of my dissertation, my first book, and continues to provoke research questions that I seek to answer.
Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated? My writing process is to begin with a central question and then commit to working everyday until I believe I have covered every aspect of that first question. Once I review the literature, I try to start with a series of smaller questions that I think contribute to the research question and then I start writing at the same time of the day (early afternoon), on the same computer, and for the same amount of time (approximately two hours) in order to develop a routine. I find that this method tends to keep me consistently thinking about the research and focused on getting as much of it written as possible.
Words of wisdom for first-time MPSA conference attendees? My advice to first-time attendees at the MPSA? Feel free to explore panels and talks that you are curious about beyond your specific area of interest. Listening to scholars presenting and debating research in a subfield is not only illuminating but it can spark insights into your own research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and participate in the discussions, as they help to establish the context of the research presented and give you a guide to understanding the essential questions that contemporary research is trying to answer.
By Chapman Rackaway of the University of West Georgia
Political scientists and pundits alike face a contradictory challenge in the concept of the “wave” election. Journalists use the term commonly, and 2018 is no exception. The hashtag #bluewave is a constant presence on political Twitter feeds, and a search reveals hundreds of news articles discussing the likelihood of Democrats benefitting from just such as wave. What constitutes a wave election is a complicated matter, however, and needs some definition. Is a wave election simply when one party does appreciably better than the other? Is a specific seat gain enough to call an election a wave? Insinuated in tweets and stories about a 2018 blue wave is a sense that voters nationwide have gravitated intentionally towards Democrats with the specific goal of resisting the presidency of Donald Trump. Political science can help us bust that myth, and see that national intent during midterm elections does not exist. Democrats may do very well nationwide in 2018, but that does not mean that a national wave of support is why Democrats look to succeed.
We know some basic evidence from the discipline that puts the wave talk in perspective. First of all, incumbents are rarely vulnerable, but Jacobson (2015) shows that the incumbency advantage has been eroding recently. Still the best opportunity for Democrats to make gains in Congress or in state legislative seats is for a large number of Republicans to retire. In Congress, at least, Democrats can rely on a higher level of Republican exposure than in the last six election cycles. A total of forty-four GOP incumbents are retiring from Congress, the highest since 31 left before the 2012 elections. And Democrats have a much lower exposure rate in the House, with only twenty departures as of early August.
The Senate also looks good for Democrats, with the need to take just two Republican seats away to wrest majority control. Of the seven races listed as “toss-up” by RealClearPolitics, four are held by Democrats while three are Republican. A tied chamber is certainly possible but the Senate seems “wave-proof” in 2018.
State legislative races also can factor into a “wave” election, and again Republicans have a high level of exposure. Republicans hold majorities in 31 state legislatures, compared with fourteen Democrat-controlled assemblies and four are split between the two parties (Nebraska’s non-partisan legislature is not included here). Governing magazine rates ten GOP chambers as leaning or tossups, and Democrats have seven chambers leaning with no tossups.
Democrats have a target-rich environment, and have performed very well in special elections which Smith and Brunell (2010) show yield some predictive power. Turnout for adherents to the in-power party tends to drop off in midterm elections, too, which should hurt Republicans. Previously local-first races into a nationalized environment (see Abramowitz and Webster 2016). Add a divisive President with a lower approval rating than other recent Presidents at their midterm to mobilize Democrats, and together, the anecdotes suggest the components of a wave.
But one important factor suggests that the Democratic wave will not happen: negative partisanship. We know that the nature of partisan identification has been changing for some time, and while support for one’s own party has remained stable, the disapproval voters feel towards the opposing party has increased. Independents, long considered the swinging gate in between the parties upon which elections have hinged, are the key to Democratic success and the least likely group to vote. Calling an election a wave must mean that there is a surge of support behind it, and those support surges do not happen in the current partisan environment. Instead of getting a boost from independent and leaning-partisan swing voters who cast ballots for the opposing party in the previous election, partisans today must do a better job of mobilizing their base.
For Democrats to approximate a wave in 2018, they need to register more voters, and across the country most state-level registrations of new voters has been flat. A wave of anti-Trump resistance will not flood former leaning-Republican voters to embrace local-level Democratic candidates. Republicans do not trust Democrats (and vice versa) while independents are unreliable saviors. If Democrats do have great success in the 2018 elections, it will come instead from a methodical, state-by-state process of registering and mobilizing base Democratic voters.
Calling successful elections “waves” does a disservice to the voting public, advancing a narrative of the electorate’s motivations that does not sync with their real preferences and behaviors. Wins happen in politics, waves stay on the water.
About the author: Chapman Rackaway serves the University of West Georgia as Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science where he teaches classes in Political Parties, Political Campaign Management, Interest Groups and Lobbying, and Campaign Finance. You can also find Rackaway on Twitter and his website.
Post by Royal G. Cravens, Bowling Green University This post originally appeared on the Wiki Education blog.
Dr. Royal G. Cravens, III is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Bowling Green State University. He recently participated in our Wikipedia Fellows pilot, an opportunity for subject-matter experts to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia. Dr. Cravens is a member of the Midwest Political Science Association, one of the three associations that collaborated with us in this pilot. Here, he shares what he’ll take with him from the experience.
Remember that time when Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, discouraged college students from citing Wikipedia articles in their research or term papers? Admittedly, it was more than a decade ago, but the ramifications for Wikipedia in higher education continue. I was an undergraduate pursuing a degree in Political Science, a reading- and writing-intensive field. Since that time, many college professors have banned Wikipedia citations in their syllabi for the same reason Wales discouraged students from using them in the first place, concerns over reliability.
Based on this and a previous experience using Wikipedia to locate information for a research project, I was somewhat surprised and intrigued when I learned of an opportunity to work with Wiki Education in my capacity as a college professor. I was partially motivated by curiosity, but I also saw an opportunity to contribute my knowledge to our collective conscious in a new way. Now that the Wikipedia Fellows pilot is over (although I will admit my editing days are not), my reflection on this experience leads me to highlight two related points about Wikipedia. One is its capacity as a learning tool and the second is its potential to amplify marginalized voices in the academy.
To my first point, and I am late to the game in realizing this, Wikipedia is an educational tool. During this Fellowship, I learned about the myriad ways Wikipedia is being used in higher education classrooms across the country. Under the guidance of an instructor and with assistance from the Wiki Education team, students are making contributions to bodies of knowledge which shape popular understandings of both complex and mundane topics in ways traditional journal articles might not. They interact with each other and with strangers in an online community built upon shared interest in a topic.
In my experience, however, Wikipedia editors rarely stop at one topic. Instead, there appears to be a shared curiosity and appreciation for knowledge which leads editors to form massive lists of pages which they ‘watch’ or make contributions to on a regular basis. I, personally, found myself contributing information about events in history, individual biographies, and places I have lived. When information was incorrect or lacking, I felt a responsibility to edit, correct, or add what I knew – all with proper citation, of course!
The infectious and cross-disciplinary nature of editing was a reoccurring topic that I and the other Fellows discussed in our weekly conversations. To me, this is the great contribution of Wikipedia to higher education: the inspiration to remain a life-long learner in a social and political environment which seeks to undermine facts and erect barriers to higher education.
In proceeding to my second point, I feel the need to clarify something. I am not advocating the abandonment of traditional academic publications. I now realize, however, that those sources can be used to reach audiences far beyond academe. However, to quote Uncle Ben from Spider Man “with great power comes great responsibility.” The power of Wikipedia to reach a massive audience and influence popular understanding of numerous topics is still only harnessed by a relatively unrepresentative cross-section of society. (I use the preceding quote to illustrate another point. Wikipedia articles more often than not contain correct information, however, they are not as thorough as academic journals. Uncle Ben’s Wikipedia entry notes that this quote is often attributed to the character, but this is not the original source.)
This leads to my second point. During this fellowship, I learned that Wikipedia editors are not representative of the general public and that this has ramifications for the visibility of minority groups and information about them in open-access forums. One of my goals for this Fellowship was to increase the reliability of information related to LGBT politics, my own research focus being LGBT political behavior. In reflecting on this experience, it is now apparent to me that Wikipedia provides a platform to amplify minority scholarship.
In the academic age of @WomenAlsoKnow (website here), @POCAlsoKnowStuff (website here), and @LGBTscholars, it is more important than ever to recognize the contributions of those scholars (and their research agendas) whom the academy has long marginalized. I must say, however, this is not the same as #promoteyoself – a popular movement to encourage marginalized scholars to promote their own work. Although I encourage scholars to promote their own work, for the purposes of Wikipedia editing, scholars should use their knowledge and resources to cite underrepresented authors and edit/create pages related to underrepresented topics. Only then can the full power of Wikipedia be brought to bear in enhancing the voice and scholarship of underrepresented people.
It is my final assessment that Wikipedia has been underutilized by people like me – early-career scholars with perspective on minority populations and underrepresented research agendas. We could do better in making open-access information, with which the general public is more likely to interact, more representative and complete. As I previously stated, I will continue as a Wikipedia editor and hope to incorporate Wikipedia editing as a component of my future classes. I encourage those who share my curiosity and desire to magnify the voices of marginalized scholars and topics to join me.
To see the Wikipedia articles this Fellows cohort improved, click here. To learn more about how you can get involved as a Wikipedia Fellow, click here.