Studying international forest interventions and their impacts

Post developed by Katie Brown and Arun Agrawal.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

Center for Political Studies (CPS) faculty associate and Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) Arun Agrawal studies environmental policy.

Professor Agrawal and the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) program he coordinates just received a grant of 1.9 million pounds (about $3.2 million) over four years from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Agrawal’s proposed research seeks to improve measurement of the outcomes of forest investments. Forest investments try to minimize the negative impacts of forest-related changes: by influencing land use, agriculture, institutions, migration, and commodity production. Substantial forest investments have occurred in the past few years, driven in part by concerns about climate change and the role of land changes in contributing to global emissions. Assessing the impacts of these programs, therefore, and improving their effectiveness is urgent. As Agrawal explains, “there is a lack of rigorous and generalizable empirical analyses of the effectiveness of past forest investments. Existing knowledge is often anecdotal, based on non-systematically selected indicators, usually supported only by information from a small number of unrepresentative cases, and through studies without rigorous counterfactual analysis.”

With this grant, Agrawal and his collaborators will methodically study the impact of forest investments with empirical data and quantitative analysis. In particular, Agrawal will seek answers to three key questions:

  1. What is the impact of specific types of forest interventions across different policy and governance contexts?
  2. Where and under what conditions do forest interventions deliver positive impacts?
  3. Which forest interventions have resulted in more positive impacts and why?

The research will focus on Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, and Nepal, using these countries to generate rigorous, valid, reliable, and generalizable findings.

Does Public Broadcasting Matter?

Post developed by Katie Brown and Stuart Soroka.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

Public broadcasting is often lauded for its ability to inform citizens. Yet, few empirical studies have tested this common notion. Professor of Communication Studies and Political Science, and Center for Political Studies (CPS) researcher Stuart Soroka – along with Blake Andrew, Toril Aalberg, Shanto Iyengar, James Curran, Sharon Coen, Kaori Hayashi, Paul Jones, Gianpetro Mazzoleni, June Woong Rhee, David Rowe, and Rod Tiffen – test this idea in a recent paper in the British Journal of Political Science.

Specifically, the paper asks: does exposure to public versus commercial news influence citizens’ knowledge of current affairs? The researchers were particularly interested in whether public news had a different relationship with knowledge than for-profit news. To answer this question, they conducted a cross-national survey in six countries: Canada, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The survey gauged citizens’ news consumption with viewing frequency questions and political knowledge with factual items.

Overall, exposure to public broadcasting correlates more strongly with political knowledge than does exposure to commercial broadcasting. As the graph below shows, however, this varies by country. Indeed, watching public broadcast news in Italy even has a negative correlation with knowledge. In the UK, the general trend is even more pronounced, with private TV having a negative relationship with knowledge. Country-level data suggest that differences come down to the independence of public broadcasters, the amount of public (versus commercial) financing, and audience share.

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The authors ultimately conclude that, “Public broadcasting has an important role in supporting full citizenship.” That said, “the more Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) come to resemble their commercial counterparts in terms of dependence on advertising revenue, the less distinguishable their effect on citizens becomes.”

Does Presidential Party Impact Inflation Estimates?

Post developed by Katie Brown and Cassandra Grafström

So-called “inflation truthers” – who claim that inflation is actually much higher than reported in the United States – have made recent news waves. Mainstream financial news organizations have debunked the charges of inflation truthers with the simple math of averages. But what if the truthers are just looking in the wrong place? That is, what if there is systematic bias not in reported inflation, but in projected inflation?

Enter the work of Cassandra Grafström, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Political Science and affiliate of the Center for Political Studies (CPS). Grafström, along with Christopher Gandrud of the Hertie School of Governance, conducted research to trace potential partisan biases in inflation estimates.

In a paper which is forthcoming in Political Science Research and MethodsGandrud and Grafström began with a widely accepted notion that under more liberal governments, the Federal Reserve tends to predict higher inflation. Why? Democratic administrations tend to try to lower unemployment, which causes higher inflation. Under more conservative governments, on the other hand, the Federal Reserve predicts lower inflation. Yet there exists little empirical support for these ideas. Instead, most work on inflation comes from the field of economics, with a focus on comparing federal predictions with money market predictions.

To test these commonly held ideas, Grafström and Gandrud looked at the Federal Reserve’s predictions across time. The authors took Presidential party and actual monetary and fiscal policies into account. They found that, regardless of actual monetary and fiscal policies, under more liberal presidents, the Federal Reserve over-estimates inflation while under more conservative presidents, the Federal Reserve under-estimates inflation.

In the graph below, perfect predictions would create an error of 0. Points above the line correspond to over-estimation and points below the line correspond to under-estimation. The graph shows that when a Democrat is president, estimate errors tend to be above the line, while Republican errors tend to fall below the line.

Errors in Inflation Forecasts Across Time by Presidential Party

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Grafström and Gandrud also wondered if control of Congress plays a role. To test this, they considered the joint influence of presidential party and the majority party in Congress. As the graph below shows, presidential party drives the trend. Interestingly, a Republican controlled Congress makes the original results stronger. That is, with a Democratic president and Republican Congress, there is greater over-estimation of inflation. Likewise, with a Republican president and Republican Congress, there is greater under-estimation of inflation. The graph below illustrates these findings (0 would again represent a match between predicted and actual inflation)

Errors in Inflation Forecasts Across Time by Presidential and Congress Majority Parties

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Given the clear links between presidential partisanship and inflation forecasts, the authors worry that this likely translates into biased monetary and fiscal policies. That is, over-estimated inflation under Democratic presidents may lead to more restrictive monetary and fiscal policies. On the other hand, under-estimated inflation under Republican presidents may lead to more expansive monetary and fiscal policies. In both cases, the policy changes would be based on forecasts biased by flawed but accepted rules of thumb about inflation under Democrat vs. Republican presidents.

Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat?

Post developed by Vincent HutchingsHakeem Jefferson, and Katie Brown.

The following post elaborates on a presentation titled “Out of Options? Blacks and Support for the Democratic Party” that was delivered at the 2014 World Congress of the International Political Science Association (IPSA).

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

In 2012, Barack Obama received 93% of the African American vote but just 39% of the White vote. This 55% disparity is bigger than vote gaps by education level (4%), gender (10%), age (16%), income (16%), and religion (28%). And this wasn’t about just the 2012 or 2008 elections, notable for the first appearance of a major ticket African American candidate, Barack Obama. Democratic candidates typically receive 85-95% of the Black vote in the United States. Why the near unanimity among Black voters?

Vincent Hutchings, Professor of Political Science and Research Professor in the Center for Political Studies (CPS), and Hakeem Jefferson, Ph.D. candidate in the department of Political Science and CPS affiliate, set out to answer this question.

Hutchings and Jefferson especially sought to shed light on the “Black Utility Heuristic.” First proposed by Michael Dawson, the Black Utility Heuristic holds that Blacks tend to assess what is in the best interests of their racial group as a proxy for judging what are the best political decisions for them individually. So, given the widespread perception that the Democratic Party is best for African Americans, many Blacks support this party even if – in the case of the middle-class and social conservatives – it might not be in their individual interests to do so. But despite the reliance on this theory by numerous scholars, there exists little empirical support that it can account for Blacks’ lopsided support for the Democratic Party.

Using American National Election Studies (ANES) data, Hutchings and Jefferson tested the Black Utility Heuristic against other potential explanations for the near-unanimous support among Blacks for the Democratic Party.

The 2012 ANES pre-election survey includes 511 Black respondents. Using this survey, the authors report that 90% of African Americans identify as Democrats and 55% strongly so, compared to 39% and 11% of Whites. Yet, when the authors looked at a 7-point measure of ideology, only 47% of Blacks identify as liberal while 45% identify as conservative in the United States.

Given the mismatch between political ideology (measured using the liberal-conservative continuum) and partisanship, the authors turned to other ways to measure political ideology: egalitarianism, moral traditionalism, and ideal role of government. On egalitarianism and size of government, Blacks were indeed considerably more liberal than Whites; there was not significant difference between the groups on morality.

Despite the ideological underpinnings of these questions, they only weakly correlate with the standard measure of political ideology. The strongest correlation was between egalitarianism and political ideology – at just 0.18 Among Blacks, this correlation jumps to 0.42 for Whites. (Correlation coefficients give a measure of fit between two variables. If the two variables move up and down in concert, this is a perfect correlation of 1; if there is no connection the correlation is 0.) Further, support for bigger government was the only ideological measure that was a statistically significant predictor of partisanship, which may suggest a need to rethink how we conceptualize and measure ideology as it pertains to African Americans.

So could the Black Utility Heuristic offer the best explanation of the overwhelming support for Democratic candidates among Black voters? To test this, the authors looked at the connection between believing that what happens to other African Americans affects the survey respondent’s own life and Democratic affiliation. This connection was not significant, directly countering Dawson’s Black Utility Heuristic. On the other hand, an alternative measure assessing the importance of in-group racial identity predicted identifying as a Democrat among Blacks.

Hutchings and Jefferson thus conclude that African Americans do not vote Democrat because of their ideological identity as liberals, or because of notions of linked fate. Instead, strong support for activist government and the importance of in-group racial identity seems to drive this trend.

A fisher people’s association in the Philippines

Post by Rosemary Sarri.

This post was written by Center for Political StudiesSchool of Social Work and Women’s Studies Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri, after her visit to the Philippines in the spring of 2014.

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A fishing project in the Philippines

As covered in an earlier post, the population of the Philippines has skyrocketed from just 26,272,000 people in 1960 to 98,734,000 people in 2014, a growth rate of 254%. The limited size and resources of the Philippines limits employment opportunities for the adult population. Even professionals educated as teachers, nurses, physicians, and other health workers struggle to find work. Today, nearly 50% of the adult population is employed overseas in the Middle East, several Asian countries, and the United States. Young parents often leave their children with extended family and work overseas for many years.

Fishing is an important occupation in the Philippines for men and women. I visited a cooperative fishing community in Rizal Province and was impressed by the active participation of local community people in developing the fishing industry in Laguna Lake, home to fishing ponds for developing and testing fish for a variety of purposes. Several in this community were active in advancing legislation to promote the industry in a variety of ways.

The response to the weed menace of water lilies showcases the creativity and ingenuity of this community. They now cut the water lilies, dry them, and make them into a variety of projects such as mats for sleeping, slippers, and bags. They also have promoted the planting of mangroves along the ocean coasts of the Philippines to control water damage from typhoons.

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A mat woven with dried water lilies

The fisher people’s association shows one avenue for securing better employment for the Philippines’ growing population. Another activity of the fisher people is the promotion of the planting mangroves in many the shoreline communities. These mangroves have been shown to be effective in reducing the water damage that these communities suffer because of typhoons.

Andreadis seeks to bring ANES model to elections in Greece

Post developed by Katie Brown and Ioannis Andreadis.

Ioannis Andreadis, a member of the Political Science faculty at Aristotle University of Thessalonikistudies elections in Europe. With a grant from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Andreadis was recently in residence at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies (CPS) to learn more about the American National Elections Studies (ANES).

andreadisAndreadis started his academic career in 2007, after working as a computer scientist in his hometown’s municipality. His research focuses on elections, but the lack of a centralized database of election history in Greece presents obstacles to his work. With this in mind, Andreadis is interested to create a Greek version of the ANES – not only for the benefit of his own work, but for the benefit of other political scientists. Andreadis also plans to develop a centralized repository so that the data themselves can be easily disseminated to researchers.

A Greek version of the ANES faces some special challenges. Funding is limited in light of the country’s recent financial crisis. But this challenge has led to methodological innovation. Instead of relying on traditional data collection methods such as phone surveys, Andreadis has been developing web-based questionnaires. In 2007, 2009, and 2012, Andreadis ran such a web-based survey for the Hellenic (Greek) Candidate Study, and in 2012 he used his web survey infrastructure to collect data for a voter study which was organized as a mixed mode survey.

Andreadis’ efforts are also part of the True European Voter project, a COST Action to track election data across time and across Europe. Participating countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to his interests in adapting ANES to the Greek political realm, Andreadis also combines his computer programming skills and interest in elections. Anreadis both designs and studies Voting Advice Applications (web-based platforms that aim to inform citizens about the electoral process, with emphasis on the positions of candidates and parties on issues related to electoral competition). In particular, Andreadis created and oversees the Voting Advice Application HelpMeVote, which was used by more than 480,000 voters during the May 2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections. HelpMeVote has also been used in Albania, Iceland, and during the 2014 elections for the European Parliament.

CPS and ANES are thrilled to have have had Andreadis visit, and look forward to the progress of his initiatives in support of election studies and political science research in Greece and beyond.

Can racial prejudice demobilize white voters?

Post developed by Katie Brown and Spencer Piston.

The 2008 election in the United States featured the first black major party presidential candidate in U.S. history – Barack Obama. Obama won in a historic election. But was his victory margin narrower than it could have been? In particular, did racial prejudice erode Obama’s vote share among those whites expected to vote for him: strong Democrats?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

Center for Political Studies (CPS) affiliate and Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan Spencer Piston explored this question with co-author Yanna Krupnikov (Northwestern University) in a recent article published in Political Behavior.

The researchers identify a gap in the field. Where previous work focuses on the connection between prejudice and vote choice, few studies have considered the relationship between prejudice and turnout on Election Day.

The researchers evaluate the relationship between racial prejudice, strength of party identification, and turnout. They are especially interested in a situation in which a white voter, high in racial prejudice, is faced with a black candidate from her party. How will the voter vote? In this scenario, racial prejudice is pitted against party identification.

Examining 2008 data from the American National Election Studies and replicating their analyses with survey data from a wave of a 2007-2008 Associated Press-Yahoo! News-Stanford University study, the authors find that highly partisan and prejudiced voters often address the tension embodied in a black candidate from their party by not turning out to vote. Interestingly, the authors also test if this group would instead vote for the white Republican presidential candidate John McCain. They would not. This is because they cannot compromise on race or partisanship. Unable to compromise, they instead choose not to vote.

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These findings have significant implications for American elections. The authors conclude, “Racial prejudice undermines black candidates’ efforts to mobilize strong partisans.”

Spencer Piston will join Syracuse University in the fall as an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Local to Global: Capacity-Building Workshops in Qatar

Post developed by Katie Brown and Michael Traugott, with input from Ghaydaa Yehia Fahim Ali. 

In 2008, Qatar University formed a partnership with the University of Michigan‘s Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Center for Political Studies (CPS) to develop a world-class public opinion research organization at Qatar University, the Social And Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI).  The partnership includes, among other activities, collaboration on organizational structure, recruitment and hiring, design of technical facilities, research, and analysis. As part of the cooperation, University of Michigan researchers also run training workshops in Qatar several times per year. Participants for the workshops come not only from Qatar University, but other private and public organizations from Qatar and throughout the Gulf region. Topics for the workshops have included research design, questionnaire design, cognitive interviewing, data analysis, and sampling.  The workshops are structured as lectures, with group exercises integrated into the flow. Between days, participants complete thought exercises to spur discussion the next day.

Photograph from first training workshop of 2014

This year, SESRI hosted three workshops.  In the first workshop, which was delivered by ISR researchers Nancy BurnsTed BraderKenneth ColemanAllen Hicken, and Ashley Jardina, trainees were introduced to key SPSS concepts and notions of hypothesis design and formulation. Causal inferences and random sampling were key areas of discussion. 

Traugott and Lepkowski shake hands with a workshop participant at “commencement”

Michael Traugott of CPS and James Lepkowski of ISR’s Survey Research Center (SRC) traveled to Qatar to administer the second workshop, a course on sampling and weighting methods and techniques. Arriving Friday, the team took the weekend to adjust to the eight-hour time change and set up for the training. Monday through Thursday, sessions ran from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with a break in the middle for lunch and prayers.

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Lepkowski interacts with workshop participants

Materials from sampling courses previously taught by Lepkowski were adapted with consideration of language and culture. Courses are taught in English with an Arabic translator on hand, while all materials are available in both languages. Technical terms associated with social science concepts and principles were provided in a glossary, in which some terms were accompanied by animations created by Rafael Nishimura to illustrate the ideas with video. Furthermore, all exercises were designed to be completed in Excel for reasons of accessibility. At the end of the course, Excel spreadsheets with key formulas were provided to all participants.

Traugott returned in May, along with Elizabeth GerberAnn Lin, and Monica Bhatt to facilitate a workshop on policy evaluation and spur debate on the purpose of evaluation in public policy, the primary components of policy and program evaluation, and methods of designing preliminary, defensible program evaluations. Workshop materials were tailored to ensure local relevance, including the identification of public policy issues in the cases of Qatar’s traffic woes and evaluations of changes to the education system in Qatar.

The workshop series has caught the attention of the Qatari press. The Qatar Tribune wrote that “The trainees who came from backgrounds in statistics and other diverse fields found the workshops to be useful in introducing them to concepts outside their direct frame of work.”

More than 100 beginner and intermediate-level researchers benefited from the workshops this year, which continue to grow in popularity. More information about the workshops can be found here.

 

Gawad Kalinga: a Partial Hope for Overpopulation in the Philippines

Post by Rosemary Sarri.

This post was written by Center for Political StudiesSchool of Social Work and Women’s Studies Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri, after her visit to the Philippines in the spring of 2014.

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Manila slum from a car window

The island country of the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world with a growth rate of 1.89% per year. The population skyrocketed from just 26,272,000 people in 1960 to 98,734,000 people in 2014, a growth rate of 254%. Tremendous cost has accompanied this explosive growth. Most of the population live below the poverty line and reside in urban or metropolitan areas which are extremely crowded. The slums of Manila have become almost inhuman places in which to reside. Because the land prevents the creation of a subway system, the country primarily relies on motor vehicles for transportation, creating terrible pollution that tripled in recent years.

Recently, some local non-profit organizations have organized efforts to foster community development. One of these organizations is Gawad Kalinga, established by a small group of benefactors to work with the people of the slums to provide them with land, food, and housing.

I visited one of their projects in Cavite Province, located a short distance from Manila. They emphasize the restoration of community empowerment and training for gainful employment and active citizenship. Gawad Kalinga gives priority to dismantling the pattern of despair and abandonment that overwhelms the lives of the very impoverished.

Gawad Kalinga believes moving people out of the slums is essential to eradicating poverty. The project that I visited in Cavite provides brightly painted single or duplex housing for about 45 families with a community center, health center, an informal education center and a grocery store. The residents learn to care for their own facilities. Overall the community survey indicated that they received good health care and education for their children. Employment of the men in nearby communities is strongly encouraged, but many, especially women, wanted more assistance in obtaining employment.

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Buildings of Gawad Kalinga

While Gawad Kalinga is making strides in the right direction, birth control and family planning are issues that probably deserve more attention. Families in the community have a median of three children. And over-population is a country-wide problem. The strong influence of the Catholic Church since its colonization by Spain resulted in strong opposition to most methods of contraception or birth control. In 2012, this influence started to wane as the government began to address over-population with the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. Yet, a recent community survey by the Philippine School of Social Work at The Philippine Women’s University indicates that 69% of Filipinos rely on “natural methods” of family planning or abstinence. Despite a national campaign for vasectomy, few Filipinos opted for the procedure.

Gawad Kalinga embodies the Philippines’ overpopulation problems, both as a solution to the inhuman living conditions of Manila’s slums, a partial answer to unemployment woes, and an underscoring of the country’s population problem.

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Sarri with some of the women residents of Gawad Kalinga

 

How ANES impacts the university classroom

Post developed by Katie Brown and Deborah Schildkraut.

ANES65thThis post is part of a series celebrating the 65th anniversary of the American National Election Studies (ANES). The posts will seek to highlight some of the many ways in which the ANES has benefited scholarship, the public, and the advancement of science. Do you have ideas for additional posts? Please contact us by email (cps-center@umich.edu) or Twitter (@umisrcps).

In this post, we consider the impact of ANES on teaching.

First, we hear from Tufts University Professor of Political Science Deborah Schildkraut, who shares her experience using ANES in the classroom. From Schildkraut:

ANES impacts my teaching in two key ways. First, I use raw ANES data in my lectures.Second, the research I rely on as I teach and that I think is really meaningful for my students includes:

All take advantage of the time series to help demonstrate both the importance of fundamentals and the role of particular events in shaping attitudes, behaviors, and election outcomes. And all are written at a level that combines sophisticated methods but approachability such that undergrads can engage with them.

Second, in a 1977 grant proposal to the American National Science Foundation (NSF), ANES founder Warren Miller outlined the current and potential use of ANES in teaching. This excerpt from the proposal encapsulates his analysis and vision:

The election data are even more widely used in activities related to teaching. Reports from the same roster of political scientists who were questioned about research use of the data indicate that the data were being used for teaching purposes in some 480 courses taken by more than 18,000 students… Given the reasonably short history of the systematic use of quantitative data by political science students in meeting course requirements, we were surprised to discover that three-quarters of the students using the data were actually undergraduates.

The hand typed table below from the 1977 proposal details the use of ANES (then called the Michigan Election Study) in the university classroom.

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Miller then concluded, “The election studies promise to play an increasingly significant role in undergraduate teaching.” Professor Deborah Schildkraut’s use of ANES nearly forty years after the 1977 proposal demonstrates the continued reach of ANES in the classroom.