Tag Archives: politics

How To Increase Voter Turnout in Communities Where People Have Not Usually Participated in Elections

Mobilizing Inclusion Cover
Melissa Michelson
Melissa R. Michelson is in Menlo College's department of political science. With Lisa Garcia Bedolla, she is the author of Mobilizing Inclusion: Redefining Citizenship through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns.

Voter turnout among members of different groups of Americans varies widely, with Latinos and Asians generally lagging behind other groups. Blacks usually fall in between, with turnout usually ahead of other minorities but behind whites—although black participation surged in 2008 and 2012 in response to the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. Additional segments of the American public also vote less than they might, including lower-income citizens and youth.

Low levels of voting matter, because election results are supposed to reflect the preferences of all Americans. In addition, recent trends indicate that Latinos, if they vote at their full potential, have considerable capacity to influence election outcomes, increasingly at the national as well as state and local level. Getting out the Latino vote was a crucial part of the Obama 2012 reelection strategy, and activists striving to boost Democratic Party prospects in Texas are spending tens of millions of dollars registering eligible Latinos. Understanding how to motivate voting by Latinos and other under-engaged citizens is thus of concern to candidates and parties as well as scholars.

How Can Reluctant Voters Be Mobilized?


To Understand Elective Officeholding by Minorities, Look at Who Runs for Election, Not Just Who Wins

In 2011, @kissmei'mpolish created a graphic to compare the overall US demographics (in the outer arc) with the demographics of the House (middle ring) and Senate (inner ring). Click to see more on Graphic Sociology.
Paru Shah
Paru R. Shah is in the department of political science at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee. She is studying racial and ethnic candidate emergence and political ambition and currently serves on her local school board.

In some ways, the United States has made great progress toward including men and women from minority backgrounds in elective offices. A black president sits in the White House; the 113th Congress includes two Asian American and two Latino Senators along with 44 black and 30 Latino members of the House. More than one thousand minorities sit in state legislatures, 13 percent of the total; and the ranks of black and Latino mayors have also swelled. Yet despite this progress, gains for minorities in U.S. elective offices have failed to keep up with the presence of racial and ethnic minorities in the national population—and the shortfall is growing.

What explains this gap in representation? Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, social scientists have investigated minority underrepresentation from a demand perspective—that is, they have asked how the attitudes and behaviors of voters influence the chances of minority candidates to win elections and take office. However, minorities cannot win elections if they do not run, so my research also focuses on the prior, critical issue of the supply of minority candidates. To what degree is representational imbalance due to too few minority contenders? (more…)

Why Taming Corporation Promotion of Dangerous Consumer Products Is Vital to improving Public Health

Image from Robert VerBruggen via Flickr Creative Commons
Nicholas Freudenberg
Nicholas Freudenberg is in the department of public health at the University of New York School of Public Heath and Hunter College. He is the co-author of Training new community health, food service, and environmental protection workers could boost health, jobs, and growth. 

Chronic diseases and injuries are the leading causes of premature death and preventable illnesses in the United States and around the world. Injuries cause many unnecessary deaths among young adults and children. Traffic crashes hurt 50 million worldwide each year, and firearms and alcohol are also leading threats. Meanwhile, half of all Americans suffer from chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that account for seven out of every ten deaths and eat up three-quarters of health care dollars. By 2030, chronic diseases will cause more than three quarters of deaths worldwide, costing some $47 trillion over the next two decades.

Conventional wisdom attributes the growth of injuries and chronic illnesses to seemingly inevitable causes such as population aging and changing lifestyles. Such forces are at work, of course, but it is the task of public health scientists like me to probe more deeply.

A closer look reveals that many unnecessary injuries and chronic health problems are spurred by what might be dubbed the “corporate consumption complex” – a network of consumer products companies, financial institutions, trade associations, and public relations firms that deliberately urges people to buy unhealthy foods and unsafe products. In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned that the military industrial complex posed a danger to our democracy and well-being. Today, the consumption complex constitutes a similarly grave threat. (more…)

Why Politically Active Billionaires Threaten the Health of Democracy

Billionaires - Reflections on the Upper Crust

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Darrell M. West focuses on governance, technology innovation, and policymaking in the United States. He is especially interested in the role of money in politics and how technology affects public policymaking.

The richest one percent own about one-third of all assets in America and about four-fifths of assets around the world – and wealth concentration is growing. Sharply skewed financial resources lead not only to lives of luxury amid want; they also afford the ultra-rich extraordinary influence over elections, public policy, and governance. In my new book Billionaires, I take a close look at the growing political clout of billionaires and the ways in which they have pioneered activist forms of politics and philanthropy. What does billionaire political activism mean for the health of democracy – here in the United States and across the globe?


In Dealing with Iran, the Best Option for Israel is to Strike First—Diplomatically

[Israel] courtesy of Edoardo Costa via flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Steven Weber works at the intersection of technology markets, intellectual property regimes, and international politics. 

Searching for a solution to curb Iran’s nuclear military ambitions, the United States is leading international negotiations likely to come to a head before long. As these discussions have proceeded, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken almost every opportunity to express consternation over the possibility of any agreement enshrining a nuclear détente between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has good reason for concern, because, as seen from Jerusalem, a truly comprehensive deal that would fully and irreversibly dismantle Iran’s potential to develop nuclear weapons does not seem plausible. From Netanyahu’s perspective, the partial deals appear as fool’s bargains, likely merely to postpone and complicate inevitable military action against Iran’s nuclear complex.

For anyone worried that an Israeli military strike against Iran would unleash an incalculable risk of conflicts in Middle East and world politics, this sounds like bad news. Even if a newly negotiated agreement between the United States and Iran comes packaged with some mild sweeteners for Israel, it probably would not be enough to compensate for what Israel views as an existential threat from a hostile Iranian regime. From this perspective, Israel’s best current move is to play the spoiler, to search for ways to undermine evolving diplomacy, and if that move fails, send the Israeli Air Force to bomb Iran.

New Measures Reveal the True Impact of America’s Anti-Poverty Programs


This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Jane Waldfogel carries out research on a range of topics including the measurement of poverty, food insecurity, work-family policies, the effects of the Great Recession on parents and children, and inequality in school readiness and school achievement, both within the United States and across countries.

Half a century ago, President Lyndon Johnson launched America’s War on Poverty; yet by the 1980s President Ronald Reagan famously declared that “we waged a war on poverty and poverty won.” To back up this claim, conservatives point to official U.S. statistics showing that the percentage of Americans living in poverty, around 15%, has changed very little over the decades.

But the official poverty measure is outdated – so I teamed up with several colleagues to produce estimates using a more accurate one. When we use the improved measure, it turns out that U.S. social programs and taxes have had a powerful effect on reducing poverty since the mid-1960s. Back then, government programs did little to alleviate poverty, but today public programs and taxes cut the percentage of people living in poverty by almost half, from the 28.7% it would be without government efforts to 16% after public programs are included. Far too many Americans continue to have inadequate incomes, but U.S. policies have helped millions avoid poverty. (more…)

How Passers-by and Policymakers View Beggars in American Communities

Photo courtesy of Eric Parker via flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Shai Dromi focuses on the ways beliefs about morality shape social life. His current research focuses on the emergence and institutionalization of long-distance humanitarianism.

Many municipalities across the United States have taken measures to keep homeless people and panhandlers out of sight in public spaces. Legislators and government officials justify such steps as necessary to protect the public against unsafe or provocative conduct by “street people.” But some previous studies suggest that many Americans who have frequent interactions with street beggars see them in more benign and nuanced ways. To learn more, I did interviews and collected questionnaire responses from passers-by who recounted their reactions to recent interactions with beggars. My methods allowed me to tap the meanings these interactions hold for people who pass beggars on the street – meanings not usually captured in quantitative studies. (more…)

The Changing Relationship of Congress and the Federal Judiciary

Photo by John Marino via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Bruce Peabody is a Professor of Political Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. His  areas of expertise include judicial independence, the separation of powers, changing conceptions of American heroism, and the intersection of popular culture and problems in the U.S. political system.

Relationships between members of the United States Congress and the judiciary are shifting, as Democrats and Republicans alike reassess whether the courts are political allies or foes in this highly polarized era. My research tracks what members of the House of Representatives have had to say about judges and the judiciary in recent years—specifically, I have teamed up with a colleague to analyze public statements published on official House websites from 2010 to 2014, a pivotal and contentious period in recent politics. (more…)

Make the First Two Years of College Free—A Cost-Effective Way to Expand Access to Higher Education in America

Photo by Tulane Public Relations via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Sara Goldrick-Rab is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is an expert on higher education policy especially its relation to finance, financial aid, degree completion, and underrepresented populations such as low-income individuals and people of color.
Nancy Kendall is an Associate Professor of Education Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She specializes in comparative, international, and global education policy.

Almost half a century ago, the U.S. federal government expanded financial aid to college students to make college more affordable—but today the odds of getting a degree are more tightly linked to family income than ever before. Getting a college degree remains a good investment, but the current distribution of federal and state financial aid dollars leaves many families of modest means out in the cold. Between 1992 and 2004, the odds that a high school graduate who took at least Algebra II would decide not to go to college went up among all income-groups except the very wealthiest. Sadly, students from families of modest means have also become more likely to drop out from public colleges and universities—leaving with debts, not degrees. (more…)

Why Meeting the Global Warming Challenge Is So Difficult

Photo by John LeGear via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.

Bryan Brophy-Baermann is an Assistant Professor and Chair of Social Sciences Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lesley University. His research focuses on environmental politics and policy and foreign policy.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its Fifth Assessment Report, presenting the latest accumulation of scientific evidence about the threat of global warming and calling for urgent actions to meet the threat. Earlier reports have pointed in the same directions, but the political, economic, and simple human obstacles to facing and coping with the dangers of global warming remain today as they were twenty-five years ago on the eve of the Intergovernmental Panel’s First Assessment Report. People in the United States and across the globe are no more likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically in 2014 or soon thereafter than they were in 1990. Modern political and economic systems are not geared to cope with this sort of challenge. And there is an enduring collective action problem: no single individual or organization, not even a few working together, can execute necessary solutions. Most must learn to act together, or the game is over—the causes and dire effects of increasing global warming simply will not be handled in time. (more…)