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The Niskanen Center’s The Science of Politics podcast features up-and-coming researchers delivering fresh insights on the big trends driving American politics today. Get beyond punditry to data-driven understanding of today’s Washington with host and political scientist Matt Grossmann. Each 30-45-minute episode covers two new cutting-edge studies and interviews two researchers.
 
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Democrats have full control of government but the Senate filibuster is blocking large agenda items. How likely is reform and what would it look like? What does the filibuster's resilience say about the role of partisanship in policymaking? Sarah Binder of George Washington University and the Brookings Institution has long been tracking the filibust…
 
Biden is abruptly shifting immigration and refugee policies from Trump, facing new blowback. Are public views rooted in anti-Latino racism or a broader American ethos? Mark Ramirez finds that anti-Latino attitudes are pervasive because Latinos are stereotyped as not living up to American values; these attitudes predict policy opinions and helped el…
 
Advocates and legislators often want to generate media attention for their preferred legislation, but that does not help pass bills in Congress. Mary Layton Atkinson finds that media coverage focuses on legislation with partisan conflict and emphasizes process over policy substance. That tells voters that Congress is dysfunctional and full of extre…
 
Some Republican voters supported the January 6th storming of the capitol, raising fears that the U.S. will continue to escalate violent extremism, moving everyday partisans toward endorsement of violence against their political opponents. Nathan Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason find that partisanship leads a sizeable minority of Americans to support viole…
 
Violent right-wing extremism again came to America's attention in the Capitol insurrection, including organized militia groups and white supremacists. How did these movements build support, radicalize, and evolve out of the alt-right? Sam Jackson tracks the growth of the militia movement and its involvement in right-wing politics, helping to explai…
 
Will Trump do lasting damage to American democratic institutions? He has repeatedly broken norms during his presidency and tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election. How much is the US undergoing democratic backsliding and what did his presidency reveal about the strength and limits of our institutions? Brendan Nyhan is an organizer of Bri…
 
President-elect Joe Biden is choosing his cabinet, prioritizing government experience and diversity. President Trump instead appointed corporate executives and left many positions unfilled. But maybe the differences are not as stark as they first appear. Christina Kinane finds that presidents can manage vacancies and use interim appointments to gui…
 
Trump shrunk Democrats’ advantage with Latino voters this year. Why do Latino voters usually support Democratic candidates by large margins and why did they swing toward Trump in 2020? Gabriel Sanchez finds that Latino voters were highly engaged this year but less focused on immigration, meaning traditional divisions on the economy were more salien…
 
2021 will feature closely divided Congress and a new president. Will Congress compromise to get anything done? Frances Lee finds that majority parties in Congress still achieve about half their agenda—no more or less than usual. When they fail, it’s just as likely due to intra-party conflict than to the opposition party. And when they succeed, it’s…
 
What can the 2020 election teach us about polling and politics? On the afternoon after Election Day, Matt Grossmann hosts the first-ever live edition of the Science of Politics podcast with G. Elliott Morris, data journalist at The Economist to discuss where exactly the models went wrong (and what they got right). Together, they review early result…
 
Interest groups on both sides were ready for battle when President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barret to the Supreme Court. As Republicans vote to confirm her, how will voters respond? Jonathan Kastellec finds that interest groups have polarized the debate: starting earlier in nomination battles, with groups now fighting over nominee ideology rather …
 
As Election Day approaches, Trump intimidation efforts are increasing and Americans in both parties are worried that the other side could use unfair tactics to sway the election. Why does the public fail to serve as a check on anti-democratic practices? Matt Graham finds that only a small fraction of voters prioritize democratic principles over par…
 
National politics gets all the attention, but many important decisions--from police reform to housing development to tackling inequality--are made by local governments. Which voices are heard in local decision-making? Jesse Rhodes finds that local elected officials are ideologically much closer to White residents in their communities than Black or …
 
The Republican Party runs populist culturally conservative campaigns, but its policymaking mainly benefits the already well-off. In a time of rising economic inequality, how do they get away with that? Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson find that Republicans have to ramp up the outrage stoking due to their lack of broad policy appeals. The Republican Pa…
 
Today, Black Americans are the strongest Democratic constituency and White Southerners are the strongest Republican group—but it used to be the other way around. The usual story places 1960s civil rights policymaking at the center of the switch, but an important prior history in the North and the South made it possible. Keneshia Grant finds that th…
 
Billions of dollars in donations will flow to candidates this year. Citizens suspect all that money buys the donors' influence. But just how different are donors’ views in each party from those of citizens? Neil Malhotra finds that Republican donors are more conservative than Republican citizens on economic issues but Democratic donors are more lib…
 
The Supreme Court finished its term with a flood of momentous decisions, tacking to the center with Chief Justice John Roberts crafting most of the majorities and the Court agreeing with public opinion nearly all of the time. Is the Court worried about its public non-partisan stature? And does it need to be? Alison Higgins Merrill finds that suppor…
 
Protests over police brutality have gripped the nation. But how do racial minorities in highly policed communities think about political action and mobilize to fight unfairness, when they are facing force and indignities that often lead to withdrawal? Vesla Weaver finds complicated but negative attitudes toward police. Overpolicied communities are …
 
Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 and now could lose the Senate this year. Their fortunes seem tied to Trump and his agenda, but new research suggests they would be better off trying to distinguish themselves from him and his policies. Sarah Treul finds that votes to repeal Obamacare cost Republicans seats in Congress in 2018. They did …
 
Protests are heating up over police brutality in the middle of a presidential election year. Can protests change election outcomes or the future of the parties? New research suggests that protests do leave their mark--and the Trump protest era has been quite active. Daniel Gillion finds that liberal protests help Democrats win elections, stimulatin…
 
Joe Biden is about to select his vice-presidential running mate, having pledged to choose a woman. Will the pick change his chance of victory or the future of the Democratic Party? New research suggests running mates may not have the direct influence that most expect—but they do send strong signals about presidential candidates and their parties. C…
 
President Trump has consolidated Republican support in Congress and the wider party network, despite a lot of initial concerns. Whatever became of the Never Trump movement that arose in the 2016 campaign? And who, if anyone, is still resisting Trump within the Republican Party? Steven Teles and Robert Saldin find that public intellectuals and forei…
 
Donald Trump is trying to link the COVID-19 pandemic to fear of immigration. There is precedent for linking infectious disease to that issue and winning elections as a result. When an Ebola outbreak came to U.S. public attention just before the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans were able to use it to their political advantage. Claire Adida finds …
 
Many African-Americans see themselves as conservatives and hold conservative policy positions. But Black voters overwhelmingly identify as Democrats and vote for Democratic candidates. Why can't Republicans increase their Black voter support despite rising conservatism? Ismail White and Chryl Laird find that African-Americans live in segregated soc…
 
The COVID-19 coronavirus has upended American’s lives and heightened our anxieties. That’s likely to have a lot of political consequences. How do Americans respond to imminent threats and how does our anxiety change how we seek information, who we trust, and what policies we support? Bethany Albertson and Shana Gadarian find that Americans seek inf…
 
How did concerns about Hillary Clinton dominate voters' concerns in 2016, despite the scandal- & gaffe-prone campaign of Donald Trump? Did media coverage and social sharing doom Clinton? And can we expect a similar pattern in 2020? Jonathan Ladd finds that citizens heard a succession of negative things about Trump, but remembered the one big scanda…
 
Michael Bloomberg is setting records for television advertising spending in the 2020 presidential primaries and we expect more records in the general election. The last two cycles have seen Democrats out-advertise Republicans, but how many votes did it earn them? Erika Franklin Fowler and Michael Franz find that the 2018 cycle was still dominated b…
 
Americans have lost faith in our political and community institutions. Our leaders are increasingly performing for the crowd, rather than improving the institutions they inhabit. Eitan Hersch finds that Americans say they are spending time on politics, when they are just watching from the sidelines and commenting online. Yuval Levin finds that even…
 
Americans dislike the two major parties, which are fighting more and compromising less. But Does that open the way for the rise of third parties and the huge institutional changes necessary to bring it about? Lee Drutman finds that a new multi-party system is the only way out of our cycle of polarization and democratic decay. He sees opportunities …
 
The emerging consensus is that Donald Trump won the 2016 election by divisively appealing to voters’ views on race and immigration. But Justin Grimmer and Will Marble find that Trump gained votes over Romney among low-education white voters, largely independents and moderates, who had centrist views on race and immigration. In contrast, John Sides …
 
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage. Christina Wolbrecht of Notre Dame and Kevin Corder of Western Michigan take the opportunity to review women's vote turnout and choice over time, tracking gender differences and similarities. They find that women increasingly vote at higher rate…
 
Black turnout was down in 2016, costing Hillary Clinton pivotal votes and raising questions about whether post-Obama Democrats can mobilize Black voters. We know President Trump is angering and mobilizing a lot of White Democrats but that may not translate the same way for Black voters. Davin Phoenix finds that Black Americans express less anger th…
 
Republican and Democratic politicians offer very different agendas and proposals, but do they translate into real differences in outcomes? John Holbein finds that party control of government does not have any near-term impact across dozens of social and economic outcomes. But Jacob Grumbach finds that recent party control is associated with big cha…
 
Although the 2020 presidential candidates are investing huge shares of their time and resources in Iowa and New Hampshire, new research suggests early-state momentum may not matter much in our nationalized presidential race. John Sides finds that Donald Trump dominated media coverage well before election results in 2016, crowding out his opponents.…
 
The House is moving toward impeachment. What are the electoral risks for Democrats in pursuit and Republicans in defense of President Trump? We learn from research on the role of the impeachment of Bill Clinton on the 1998 and 2000 elections and compare how things look today for Trump. Gary Jacobson finds that other factors overwhelmed impeachment …
 
Most policymaking occurs in federal agencies, rather than Congress, and interest groups know that’s where the action is. That’s led many to fear that agencies are captured by regulated industries and can’t make good policy. But Rachel Augustine Potter finds that agencies strategically propose complicated rules and design short rulemaking periods wh…
 
Republicans have gained a lot of electoral ground in the states, while building an impressive infrastructure of conservative organizations to push policy rightward. But have they succeeded? Alex Hertel-Fernandez finds that organizations of conservative legislators, advocacy groups, and think tanks jointly shifted state policy and neutered their pol…
 
Americans mistrust services provided by the public sector, even though they increasingly rely on government programs. Amy Lerman finds that citizens perceive public services as inefficient and lower quality, causing them to misperceive good services as private and opt out of public services. Suzanne Mettler finds that Americans increasingly rely on…
 
When and why do presidential debates change voter views? How, if at all, did they help Donald Trump last time? Ethan Porter finds that the post-debate commentary changes voter views as much as the debate itself, with Fox and MSNBC viewers getting quite different impressions--but not enough to change who they support. Patrick Stewart finds that cand…
 
Conventional wisdom holds that Trump won the 2016 election by appealing to voters left behind in Obama's economy and may win re-election based on a stronger economy in 2020. But new research casts doubt on both stories. Sean Freeder finds that the effect of economic performance on the president's re-election has been declining since the 1980s becau…
 
Our geographic divides are central to contemporary politics, including the election of Donald Trump. Election maps show dense liberal cities in a sea of sparsely-populated Red, advantaging Republicans in our geographic electoral system. Why are Democrats concentrating in cities? Jonathan Rodden finds increasingly concentrated left parties around th…
 
White liberals are quickly moving leftward on racial issues in what has been called “The Great Awokening.” Zach Goldberg finds that white liberals are greatly increasing their perceptions of discrimination, their tolerance of academic identity politics, and their support for immigration and affirmative action, coaxed along by rising liberalism in s…
 
Despite a broad field of qualified women and minority candidates, two white men are now leading the Democratic presidential field. Even after supporting women for Congress, why are Democrats shying away this time? Neil Visalvanich finds that neither party discriminates against women or minority candidates in congressional races, with Democratic Par…
 
Atop Democratic primary polls, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are re-igniting a debate about whether moderates are more electable. Are voters pushing the candidates to the extremes or just looking for moderate alternatives? Andrew Hall finds that moderate candidates are more likely to win general elections, but that they are running for office less o…
 
Obamacare substantially increased American health coverage, but now some states and the Trump administration are acting to curtail benefits. Do Obamacare exchanges and Medicaid help stimulate new voters or even help Democrats win? Jamila Michener finds that Medicaid mobilizes voters, but only if it is well-administered and effective. States, counti…
 
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