Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Politics & Polls #28: Katha Pollitt on The Women’s March on Washington

January 26th, 2017, 7:17pm by Sam Wang


Hailed as one of the largest protests in American history, the Women’s March on Washington gathered hundreds of thousands of people in the District and millions in sister marches around the world. In episode #28 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I discuss the march and reproductive rights with Katha Pollitt, a columnist for The Nation.

Link to P&P #28: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls28

Previous P&P #27: Rebuilding the Democratic Party. (a description is here)

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics

Can the speech rights of government employees be restricted?

January 25th, 2017, 8:19am by Sam Wang


Federal agencies have come under pressure to stop communicating about the science of climate change. The National Park Service has recently deleted social-media communications about carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of global warming.

However, it turns out that there are First Amendment issues. A public employee is allowed to speak publicly or share information with the media, if that information is not secret or classified, and if that person speaks as a citizen and not as a representative of the government. Amanda Marcotte reports.

Update: commenter Pechmerle, a lawyer, points out that the Supreme Court has, in a series of leading cases, laid out a balancing test between the government’s legitimate interests in confidentiality vs. the employee’s right to speak out. It’s a three-part test:

(1) The speech is a matter of “public concern,”
(2) The employee spoke as a private citizen and not a public employee (i.e., speech is not pursuant to “official duties”), and
(3) The employee’s speech interest outweighs the agency’s interest in efficiency and effectiveness.

Note particularly the word “outweighs” in factor (3). Such balancing tests get fleshed out, over time, slowly and painfully, as lower court cases face specific fact situations. The good news is that the ACLU has already announced that it stands ready to assist any federal employee faced with improper suppression of his/her speech.

You can donate to the American Civil Liberties Union here.

→ 14 CommentsTags: President

Readings for the Inauguration…and the day after

January 19th, 2017, 10:40pm by Sam Wang


Dissent is a patriotic act, when you are trying to make a nation better, or prevent it from becoming worse. For why protest matters, see Eugene Robinson and Sarah Jaffe. Practically speaking, protest by itself does not achieve a goal, but as Jaffe argues, protest is a vital part of democracy, and is way for those who feel strongly to discover that they are not alone. It is a first step before later, practical actions (see Indivisible, the ACLU, the Brennan Center, Evan McMullin, and other links in the right sidebar).

Needless to say, the best outcome would be if the worst fears expressed about the new Administration never came to pass. It could happen if the press faces up to the threat they face (see Josh Marshall), if progressives rise to the occasion (see Indivisible), and if conservatives of conscience make it clear that many issues, such as equal justice for all and freedom of expression, transcend party (see Evan McMullin). If these three groups succeed, it would be a testament to Churchill’s statement that Americans can be relied upon to do the right thing, after trying all the alternatives.

In the meantime, here are some of the fears: essays by Masha Gessen, Timothy Snyder, Aleksandar Hemon, and Sarah Kendzior. Krugman points out that the incoming administration isn’t ready, which may slow things a bit and suggests a different, perhaps less threatening, kind of failure. My analysis of President Trump’s record-low approval ratings suggests a surprisingly weak presidency.

→ 5 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #27: Who Will Rebuild the Democratic Party? (spoiler: you)

January 19th, 2017, 2:37pm by Sam Wang


In episode #27 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I interview leading political scientist Theda Skocpol about her recent article in Vox: “A Guide to Rebuilding the Democratic Party from the Ground Up.” In the piece, Skocpol outlines how the Democratic Party can be rebuilt from the ground up, beginning at the state and local levels.

Link to P&P #27: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls27

Previous P&P #26: Indivisible. (a description is here)

→ 1 CommentTags: U.S. Institutions

I’m joining The American Prospect!

January 17th, 2017, 6:52pm by Sam Wang


I’m pleased to announce that I have agreed to join The American Prospect as a contributing editor. As many of you may know, the Prospect has a history of taking on political writers at the start of their careers: Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Josh Marshall, Jamelle Bouie, and others. It is an honor to join the latest generation of contributors, especially at a pivotal time in history. By the way, you should support the Prospect by subscribing or donating.

I will continue to write here. I’ll use the Princeton Election Consortium to post more technical analyses, kick around data-in-the-public-interest ideas for my new class, and go into depth on matters of statistics, law, and elections.

My first piece at the Prospect[Read more →]

→ 3 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

A New Project on Partisan Gerrymandering

January 17th, 2017, 9:09am by Sam Wang



This is a big year for partisan gerrymandering. Recently, star litigator Paul M. Smith has cleared the decks for voting-rights cases in the courts. That’s just one move of many that assures that voting rights will be in the spotlight in the coming Supreme Court term.

The effects of partisan gerrymandering are plain in the graph above. Up until and including the election of 2010, seats the U.S. House were related to the national vote as indicated by the shaded gray zone. The redistricting of 2010 led to a jump of about a dozen seats away from recent historical trends. The suddenness of this change, along with my statistical analysis (Stanford Law Review) reveals how this jump arose from partisan redistricting efforts in a handful of states. The jump comes from the fact that more advantage was gained by one side (NC, PA, OH, MI, VA) than the other (IL, MD). This net change can vary by decade, and depends on who controls the legislative process.

Today, I am pleased to announce that starting in 2017, I will take my work on partisan gerrymandering to a new level. I am now looking for full-time help for the next one to two years. [Read more →]

→ 19 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Preventing 2017 America from becoming like 1934 Germany: A watchlist

January 15th, 2017, 7:30am by Sam Wang


In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has an excellent piece pointing out the true threats to U.S. democracy, which transcend partisan concerns. As patriotic Americans, can we recognize these threats, separately from policy outcomes we like or dislike? What bright-line events would be difficult to remedy by sitting passively until the next election? [Read more →]

→ 17 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #26: Indivisible!

January 12th, 2017, 10:03am by Sam Wang


Since the election, Democrats have struggled with how to respond to a Donald Trump presidency. But one group is starting to get some traction – the authors of an online guide that is going viral: “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.”

In episode #26 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I discuss Indivisible with two of its co-authors: Ezra Levin and Angel Padilla, former Democratic Congressional staffers. In 2010, they saw the impressive power of Tea Party activists as they swept through the halls of Congress. Ezra and Angel describe how those staffers occupied offices, yelled through mail slots, and even spat on one of them. They recommend that Democrats take a page from the Tea Party book – minus the spitting of course.

Link: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls26

→ 5 CommentsTags: House · Politics · Senate · U.S. Institutions

House ethics rules change reversed…by citizen phone calls

January 3rd, 2017, 3:32pm by Sam Wang


On the first day of the new Congress, the House Republican Conference reversed its proposed rules change, in which an independent ethics commission would have been weakened. However, a public onslaught of phone calls was able to stop the change.

Always remember: phone calls are most effective, far more than email. Look up your Congressman/woman here. Or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Representative or Senator.

→ 12 CommentsTags: House

The “Indivisible” guide makes its national debut

January 3rd, 2017, 8:29am by Sam Wang


In today’s NYT, the Indivisible guide makes its national debut. Essential reading for the opening of the new Congress. Might help give Democrats some backbone that may need reinforcing.

→ 5 CommentsTags: U.S. Institutions