Teaching (and learning) Quantitative Analysis

I’ve spent the last few years teaching quantitative methods to undergraduate majors at Boise State. Ours is one of the few Political Science departments to require a two-course statistics sequence for our majors and we’re always seeking ways to improve the experience. As you might imagine, very few students become political science majors because they’re interested in quantitative analysis. However, we believe these research skills are essential for future political analysts to develop. A few years ago I embarked on an effort to experiment with my course delivery to help my students acquire quantitative analytic skills more easily. Here’s what Continue reading

Disavowing Strategy is a Strategic Move!

A friend on twitter sent me a message about a New York Times Op-Ed piece by a game theorist that ostensibly suggests real-world limitations of game theory. Yanis Varoufakis, economist, game theorist, and current Finance Minister of Greece opined that the delicate negotiations with Greece’s debt issues is a serious issue and the game theory world devoted to Poker and Black Jack is incapable of capturing the tense negotiations. Fundamentally, Varoufakis argues that Greece is not playing games at the negotiation table and they are not using some sort of psychological tricks or strategic moves to secure a better bargain Continue reading

A Comparative Perspective on Racial Polarization

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about the politicization of race and ethnicity lately. Most of this has surrounded the emerging national conversation on systemic racism present in America and its impact on racial minorities in the country. This is an important, necessary conversation, but I’ve been especially interested in the ways race is politicized in the US- some subtle, some quite overt. Literature from Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Anthropology and Ethnic Studies regularly address issues of race around the world. However, I am most familiar with the political science and economics scholarship on ethnic fractionalization in Continue reading

Faking a Prisoners’ Dilemma to Get Out of Trouble

Imagine you committed a crime alone and the police eventually figure out that you did it. You believe there is enough evidence against you for you to be convicted of the crime, and you will serve a long sentence. You have nothing to offer the police to reduce your sentence or avoid getting in trouble at all. So what could you do? You could make up an accomplice to reduce your sentence. In other words, you could create a prisoners’ dilemma. In the fake prisoners’ dilemma, as long as you confess, no matter what the fake accomplice does (stay silent Continue reading

The 2014 Election by the Numbers

Note: I acquired the data for this post on November 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm. A handful of election results were still not fully updated. In this post, I briefly describe the outcome of the House of Representatives elections. I only analyze elections where there was one Democrat on the ballot and one Republican on the ballot. In total, I analyze 355 House elections. Republicans won about 53.4% of the nationwide popular vote in the 355 House elections and won 59.7% of the seats. Republicans won 210 of the House seats. If the results were proportional to the Republican vote share, they would Continue reading

Divided Government Isn’t All Bad

The results of the midterm elections on November 4th have generated considerable hand-wringing in some circles over the Democrats’ loss of the Senate and the expected legislative gridlock that will result as in this piece in the Washington Post.  Political polarization and the gridlock that may result can harm countries that would benefit from necessary reforms because polarization decreases the chance of passing new legislation or reforming existing laws. This is what causes the hand-wringing: the prospects for solving policy problems such as immigration or infrastructure deficiencies in a way that is palatable to both Republicans or Democrats should decrease as Continue reading

It’s not always the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Military Deployments Edition


During the Russian invasion of Crimea, I previously mentioned that I, Julie VanDusky-Allen, and Michael Flynn, were working on a research project that examined the effect that hosting varying amounts of foreign (i.e. US) troops has on the defense spending of local and regional governments. Earlier this week, that article became available in Foreign Policy Analysis’ Early View. If you have taught game theory long enough, or if you have read enough anecdotes by people who have, one thing that you learn is that students, once they have learned and consumed the lessons from the Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD), seem to see it everywhere—even when it Continue reading

Voting Rights in the Wake of Shelby County v. Holder

In June 2013, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, where the Court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The contentious 5-4 decision eliminated the Justice department’s mandatory oversight of the electoral process in the Deep South. As a result, many individuals have openly expressed fear that the repeal of Section 4 will lead to the return of Jim Crow and new wave of voter suppression. Broadly speaking the Voting Rights Act was designed to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment, Continue reading

The Passivity of Political Science and Objective Science


I am in the midst of grading the first major written assignment for my introductory political science class and, as I grade these assignments digitally, I have my finger constantly pushing one key on my keyboard: That is, the key I programmed in Microsoft Word to automatically create a comment and write “Passive voice” within that comment. While it is no surprise that undergraduates opt for sub-optimal stylistic choices when engaging in formal writing, this problem does not end at the undergraduate level. Political Science graduate students engage in the passive voice throughout their writing and even many of our top Continue reading

What to Expect in Graduate School: A Primer

Editor’s Note: This post is co-authored with Andrew P. Owsiak, Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the University of Georgia, and is cross-posted at Relations International.  It also owes a debt to our colleagues in UGA’s Departments of International Affairs and Political Science that participated in the Graduate Student Professionalization seminar on September 12, 2014. Last week, we, along with several of our UGA School of Public and International Affairs colleagues, met with graduate students in our program to talk about graduate school expectations. For first year students, this was an introduction to graduate school. For those past their first Continue reading