“Who Likes Political Science?”

In 2009, Senator Tom Coburn proposed an amendment to HR 2847 which would prohibit the National Science Foundation from funding political science research. He claimed that political science “is really not science at all” and said that while political science professors might have some “interesting theories,” explaining modern politics is best left to “CNN, pollsters, pundits, historians, candidates, political parties, and the voters.” He further argued that since no political science had found the cure for cancer, it wasn’t worth funding because it hasn’t done anything to actually improve anyone’s lives.

I blogged about the absurdity of this argument last year. Fortunately, the amendment was defeated 62-36.

A new article in PS: Political Science and Politics discusses the factors that help explain why Senators voted in favor of this amendment. They found:

  • Partisanship was by far the largest factor. All other things being equal, Republicans were 56% likely to vote to cut funding to political science NSF research, while Democrats were only 6% likely to do so.
  • Senators who got a B.A. degree in political science in college were  13% less likely to vote to cut funding.
  • Senators from states with Top-50 Political Science Ph.D. programs in their universities were about 30% less likely to vote to cut funding.
  • Senators from states with higher levels of education and advanced degrees were 31% less likely to vote to cut funding.
  • Senators who were up for reelection that year were 24% more likely to vote to cut funding than those who had more than five years until their next election.

Good to know that those who got Political Science degrees in their youth thought well enough of their education to vote to continue funding valuable political science research.

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