Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mosques and Americanism – Part 2

As a quick follow-up to my previous post, the Monkey Cage blog recently provided a link to this interesting press release from www.muslimamericansurvey.org. The press release discusses the findings of a recent public opinion survey on Muslims in America. The two “bottom-line” findings are that 1) Muslims who are more religiously active (i.e. attend their Mosque more often) are also more likely to be involved in American politics and 2) non-Muslims who are very religiously active are 18% more likely than those who are not religiously active to believe that Islam is compatible with American politics.

The survey and CNN write-up is available here: http://www.muslimamericansurvey.org/pdf/march82011.pdf

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/03/09/barreto.muslim.religion/index.html

Nativism and Islam in America

I spent most of graduate school reading and writing about American nativism, the attitude that a uniquely American culture, tradition, or way of life is being threatened by something distinctly “foreign.” Although the target has changed throughout American history, there has always been a distinct strain of nativist attitudes in the United States. For most of the 1980s-2000s, for example, American nativism was predominantly concerned about the threat posed by Hispanic immigrants.

There seems to be some anecdotal evidence, however, that the target may be shifting from Hispanic immigrants to Muslim immigrants and the religion of Islam specifically. For example, Rep. Peter King of New York was on the news this weekend advocating a congressional hearing on the “radicalization of Muslim Americans”, saying that “something from within” the Muslim community threatening the United States. There was also a rather amusing satirical skit on the Daily Show early this month, where the host (Aasif Mandvi) argues that a Muslim version of “The Cosby Show” (the “Qu’Osby Show”) would be useful for breaking down anti-Muslim stereotypes in the U.S. Then there was the whole controversy late last year about the plans for a Mosque near the 9/11 Ground Zero site.

Again, this is all anecdotal at this point. I would be interested, though, to see if this is a trend that will continue or if it’s merely a short phase after which Hispanic immigrants will re-emerge as the primary focus of nativist concerns in the United States.

Random sampler

  • Even though Kentuckians are some of the most socially conservative in the United States, only 25% of Kentuckians support SB 6, the hard-line immigration bill recently passed by the KY Senate. In contrast, 64% support the KY House’s approach in cracking down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.
  • I love the HBO miniseries John Adams. So this is very funny. They spoof a number of scenes and lines from the miniseries.
  • Another political scientist on The Daily Show with John Stewart.
  • My friend and colleague here at Centre College has posted a series of summaries on different parts of David Brooks’ forthcoming book The Social Animal. Brooks will be visiting Centre to deliver a convocation address later this spring. The first post is available here.

The benefits of bilingualism

My wife and I have met with a surprising degree of success in raising our two-year-daughter to speak English and Spanish. I was thus very pleased to learn about some recent neuroscience research findings on the benefits of bilingualism:

Learning to juggle two languages in the brain is a skill that probably deserves credit for bilinguals’ cognitive advantages — although, researchers emphasize, this doesn’t mean they learn any better than people who speak only one language. But it does keep the brain more nimble, allowing bilingual people to multitask better, pick out key information faster and more effectively ignore surrounding distractions.

The full article is available here:

http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews/health/la-he-bilingual-brain-20110227,0,7811530.story

Partisanship and ideology amongst Government / International Studies majors at Centre

My “Parties and Voting Behavior” course last fall designed and conducted a survey of the political attitudes and opinions of the Centre student body. Responses from 52 Government of International Studies majors were included. Here are a few interesting findings:

  • 44% of Government/Int Studies majors are Democrats or Independents who lean Democrat (meaning they usually vote Democrat)
  • 12% are pure Independents
  • 44% are Republicans or Independents who lean Republican

Looks like we have a pretty even partisan balance, although it’s a little less even when it comes to ideology:

  • 47% of Government/Int Studies majors describes themselves as politically liberal
  • 18% say that they’re ideologically moderate
  • 35% claim conservative ideology

Also, a whopping 94% say that they’ve either studied abroad or plan to by the time they graduate.

Interestingly, another 45% report that they’ve “run the flame” while at Centre…

A brief clarification on partisanship and the economy

In one of my classes earlier this week we discussed how political partisanship is the single best predictor for how people vote in the United States. Generally-speaking, 90% of Republicans vote for Republican candidates, and 90% of Democrats vote for Democratic candidates (at least, that’s the way it’s been since the 1980s or so…). It was also noted, though, that economic conditions are also the single largest determinant of the outcome of American national elections. It’s easy to mix these concepts together, as I have occasionally done, and claim that the economy is the most important factor in explaining why people vote they way they do. So just to clarify:

  • Political partisanship is the strongest, but not exclusive, predictor of people’s vote choices.
  • The state of the economy is the strongest, but not exclusive, predictor of the outcome of American national elections.

And just to make it confusing, some political scientists have argued that individual-level partisanship is at least partially responsive to national economic conditions. In that way, it could be said that the economy at least partially explains vote choices among those who have weak or shifting partisan attachments.

Predicting voting patterns based on demographics

New York Times statistician Nate Silver recently posted this brief introduction to predicting someone’s voting based on their demographic characteristics:

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/in-politics-demographics-are-not-destiny/

This is a very simple, but substantive, introduction to how “behavioralist” American political scientists (like myself) try to understand the political world and why people think and behave they way they do, politically-speaking.