As a teaser for our March essay dialogue (launching on March 4) on the legacy of Roe v. Wade and the long-term trajectories of reproductive movements, we’ve asked Christina Wolbrecht, Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, to comment on abortion and the partisan gender gap. Her full essay on this topic was published at Mischiefs of Faction.
The Roe decision, forty years ago this year, sparked a heated political battle over reproductive rights that continues to this day. Among the consequences, many believe, was the emergence of the partisan gender gap, the tendency of women to identify with the Democratic party and to support Democratic candidates to a greater extent than do men. This belief is not an accident: The women’s movement (specifically NOW), fearing a loss of political influence following the failure to achieve ERA ratification, first drew attention to the gender gap in presidential elections and sought to link it to the parties’ positions on women’s issues, such as abortion and the ERA, in the early 1980s. The expectation that abortion drives the gender gap remains popular; this past Fall, well-known FiveThirtyEight polling analyst Nate Silver attributed the on-going gender gap in presidential elections to Roe and abortion specifically.
As intuitively appealing as such claims may be, the association between abortion and the gender gap has been directly contradicted by three decades of social science research. I take a closer look at the partisan gender gap and the question of whether abortion is the culprit in a blog post on the political science blog, Mischiefs of Faction.
Last week I was talking with Joe Kahne about the presidential debates. I was expressing my deep concern about the willingness of candidates to make inaccurate statements during debates. We were both musing about how debates could be fact checked in real time. Joe came up with a great idea that would bring an innovation from football into politics: the challenge flag.
In NLF games, coaches are given two red flags to throw if they want to challenge a referee’s call. When a coach throws a flag, the call is reviewed. If the ref made the right call, the coach loses a time out. If the ref made the wrong call, the call is corrected and the coach isn’t charged a time out. If the coach makes two correct challenges, they get a third challenge flag to throw.
Joe suggested that each candidate receive a few challenge flags. The flags are limited, so you wouldn’t want to throw it willy-nilly. But, if something was off enough and important enough, out could come the flag. The statement would be immediately fact checked. It would be like a presidential debate game show! If the statement turned out to be correct, the candidate throwing the flag would look silly. If the statement turned out to be incorrect, we would have real time calling out of candidate falsehoods. And, think of the excitement of waiting for the flag…
Joe’s idea would likely increase the accuracy for candidate statements and viewership of the debates—that’s a democratic win-win.
(For more on Joe’s idea, see his Huffington Post blog post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-kahne/teachers-debate-moderators_b_2026666.html)
It’s a real pleasure to read so many interesting essays on Ground Wars—books are meant to be used, and the discussions hosted here on Mobilizing Ideas show some of the many ways in which I hope the argument and research I’ve presented in my book will be put to use in different contexts.
All the essays confirm the main thesis advanced in Ground Wars. It goes basically like this—
1) American political campaigns today face a specific combination of increased media fragmentation, low and uneven interest in politics, and a high degree of partisan polarization that makes field operations—primarily pursued in the form of canvassing and phone banking—particularly appealing to campaign strategists.
2) Experimental research has shown that personalized contacts are particularly effective ways of mobilizing “lazy partisans” and may even help persuade some of the (rare) swing voters. Continue reading
What do DJ LAZ (AKA, Miami’s “Pimp with the Limp”), the Food Network, #Eastwooding, TampaBay.com, your smart phone, and a neighbor knocking on your door have in common?
Each one is a key part of how President Obama’s re-election campaign plans to win on November 6. The formula is simple: reach each of us where we are, engage us with a message based in values and shared experiences, and motivate us to take action.
This strategy is apparent in actions big and small. Obama won’t win because of Twitter, but a recent moment shows just how seriously the campaign is taking the need to meet people where they are with a values-based message. Continue reading
In Rasmus Kleis Nielsen’s recently published Ground Wars, the author provides a detailed account of the continued importance of people power in American politics. Using data collected from ethnographic research with two Democratic campaigns for the House of Representatives in 2008, the author tells the story of how the Democratic party runs its field operations, working with individual volunteers and part-timers to get their candidates elected (or not, as is the case with one of the two case studies in the book). The book provides an interesting account of the political Left in America. However, it leaves the reader very curious to understand how the two cases presented fit within the apparatus of the Democratic Party, as well as into the broader spectrum of politics in America today. As we look towards the upcoming election, big questions arise about how the field will be managed and the ground war fought this year for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Thanks to research conducted by a handful of scholars including Nielsen, we know a decent amount about how field operations work on the political Left and how the Democratic ground war has changed in the past ten years. Continue reading
Rasmus Klies Nielsen’s Ground Wars brings refreshing focus to the role interpersonal communication can play in even the most high-tech, high dollar, high-profile 2012 electoral campaign. This is an important reality check for those who think it’s all simply a matter of who can buy the best ads.
There is, however, another aspect to this question that I’d like to highlight: the difference in whether one employs interpersonal communication as yet another marketing technique or whether it is used to engage people in organizing to become active participants in the political process. This distinction is of particular significance for Democrats who cannot rely on the network of gun clubs, evangelical churches, right to life groups, and tea party chapters that so successfully provided the grassroots base for an ascendant conservative movement over the course of the last 30 years. Continue reading
In Ground Wars, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen makes an important contribution in revealing and analyzing an important trend in political campaigning that has taken shape over the last two decades: the increasing investment in face-to-face political communication through field efforts. Nielsen describes how over-saturation in advertising markets, media fragmentation, and signature social science field experiments have lead to candidates at all levels of office engaging in “ground wars” fought by volunteers and paid canvassers going door-to-door to identify the partisan affiliations of and deliver messages to voters—all in the hope of bringing sympathizers to the polls on election day. In light of these findings, Nielsen shows how much political communication scholars have overlooked in focusing so much attention on television advertising and press coverage. Continue reading
In his recent book Ground Wars Rasmus Kleis Nielsen[i] offers an insightful look inside the workings of the Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) effort of Democratic candidates for US-congress during the campaign in 2008. This detailed account of the goals, methods and actual practices of GOTV efforts is in and of itself interesting but it also offers insights to a much deeper and more decisive question present day campaigners face. Namely, how do campaigns and candidates effectively reach their potential voters in an age of abundant media choices, fragmented audiences and information saturation? Personalized GOTV efforts, as described by Nielsen in his book, might offer a temporary answer. But an answer, as he will probably be the first to state, whose actual effectiveness over time, varying campaign contexts, and different countries has yet to be proven. Continue reading