Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Vox steps up its political science game

Vox continues to develop its strategy for spreading political science knowledge to a wider audience, and recently took the interesting step of commissioning a poll to conduct some rough analysis on a timely model of political psychology. While many mass media organizations conduct polling, rarely are they constructed explicitly around an academic theory.

This Vox feature uses large-n data to both test a model of voter behavior and preferences, and to interpret recent current events in Republican politics:
If the research were right, then we'd expect people who scored highly on authoritarianism to express outsize fear of "outsider" threats such as ISIS or foreign governments versus other threats. We also expected that non-authoritarians who expressed high levels of fear would be more likely to support Trump. This would speak to physical fears as triggering a kind of authoritarian upsurge, which would in turn lead to Trump support.
Needless to say, taking a step beyond aggregating and analyzing political science models to actively extending them is really cool, and I hope the feature does well and prompts further projects along these lines.

Aside: Apropo of nothing, while reading this story I was struck by how well the 'new atheist' movement seems to fit into the high-authoritarian group. Indeed, one of the policy preferences most highly correlated to authoritarian inclinations ("Imposing extra airport checks on passengers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent in order to curb terrorism") is a major hobbyhorse of Sam Harris.

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