Social scientists have been as focused on the American presidential election as intently as all Americans and big proportion on the world at large. And as that impulse rippled through academe, Social Science Space was there to examine some of the wavelets lapping at social science’s shore.
The Year of Trump
Last year, before Brexit was really a word or Trump a potential global leader, linguist Ruth Wodak saw her book The Politics of Fear — The Politics of Fear – What Right- Wing Populist Discourses Mean be published by SAGE Publishing (the parent of Social Science Space). In our article “Interpreting Trump Through the Politics of Fear,” Social Science Space editor talked with Wodak about how the Doanld would have figured if her book had just come out a year or so later.
Some academics, like political scientists Emily Beaulieu and Kathleen Searles, focused on gender differences in political outcomes, as their article “#WomenAlsoKnowStuff (Even About Politics)” demonstrates – and which could broadly be seen as being about and hence were more about Hilary Clinton’s candidacy. But most of the quick-turnaround research this year focused on Donald Trump. That was the case for Brenda Major and her colleagues, who, as our Pacific Standard friend Tom Jacobs detailed in “Explaining Donald Trump’s Hold on Many White Voters,” looked at the trends in primary campaigning to come up with a real-time picture of racial resentment among voters.
We turned to a U.S. senator, Bob Graham, and his co-author Chris Hand to explain “What Trump’s Veep Choice Can Teach Us About Coalitions.” This article, a chapter from the pair’s book America, the Owner’s Manual: You Can Fight City Hall—and Win, examined Indiana governor, and current GOP vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence’s actions in the wake of his state’s law that some saw of creating conditions to legally oppose gay rights.
Our blogger Howard J. Silver, who spent years lobbying for social science in Washington, D.C., took the opportunity offered by the election to detail some of the history behind America’s favorite interactive sport. His articles — “A Short History of Contested Presidential Elections,” “How Much Do Campaigns (and Debates) Really Matter?” and “Vice Presidents: American Politics’ Vestigial Organ” – make fine primers for those wanting an election-night primer on what’s happened in the past as a guide to what’s happening now.
What Does Research Say?
Besides the sheer spectacle of this election, the campaign has thrown up myriad fascinating questions about the evolving political landscape of the United States, the apparent triumph of polarization and the disappearance of a middle ground, and even what will the legacy be of America’s first African-American president. And so Social Science Space and the The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science teamed up to present a webinar on “Elections in America” with noted political scientists Larry Bartels, Lynn Vavreck and Gary Jacobsen. Listen to the recorded version of their hour-long chat HERE.
Not all the things that appeared on Social Science Space necessarily had the words “Trump” or “Clinton” in them. In “Voters Demand Facts But Do They Want Them?” Nick Chater used the results of the Brexit campaign to answer that question.
Ivor Crewe, meanwhile, has spent his career on the subject of psephology, or the study of elections. The president of Britain’s Academy of Social Sciences and the master of Oxford’s University College sat down with our Social Science Bites podcast crew to discuss polling in particular, explain the focus on the reason for the results, not the results themselves. While his talk occurred a political lifetime ago – the upcoming elections were IndyRef and the U.S. midterms – the conversation is as valid as the day it was recorded. Listen to it HERE.
And lastly, not all who studied elections survived to witness this one. We close by recalling the late Philip Converse, who was, as one eulogist wrote, “responsible for an extraordinary number of foundational works in the behavioral study of politics.” For more on an academic whose influence is felt every time a pundit starts talking about the electorate, take a look at “Probing the ‘Informed’ Voter: Philip Converse, 1928-2014.”