New Scholarship: Poli Sci Fi

By Meredith Conroy

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Today on the blog we are featuring new scholarship from Boise State political science professors Michael Allen and Justin Vaughn. Their new edited volume entitled Poli Sci Fi: An Introduction to Political Science though Science Fiction (Routledge), brings together a series of thoughtful, provocative, and entertaining essays to explain fundamental political science theories and concepts through science fiction. The 16 chapters are organized into six different parts, with each part covering a core topic of political science, such as political institutions, behavior, and identity. Moreover, each chapter concludes with a set of readymade discussion questions, making it an easy to adopt text for political science faculty who want to liven up their course with the use of film, literature, and television.

I asked Michael and Justin a few questions about this innovative and exciting book. Below are their responses.

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Politics, Groups, and Identities: Virtual Special Issue

By Meredith Conroy

The WPSA journal, Politics, Groups, and Identities (PGI) has published a virtual special edition accessible to everyone, for free, for an entire year. The articles are all focused in one way or another on gender and politics.

Myself, along with my co-authors Sarah Oliver, Ian Breckenridge-Jackson, and Caroline Heldman, are pleased to be apart of this virtual edition with our article, “From Ferraro to Palin: Sexism in coverage of vice presidential candidates in old and new media.” This article contributes to the scholarship on the topic of media bias in election coverage where women are in the race. While there is some scholarship that suggests women who run for congressional seats are seeing fewer differences in their coverage from their male opponents, this improvement may not follow for women who run for executive office. In our article, we direct our attention to women who have been nominated to the vice presidency. While there are only two instances in our country’s modern history, Ferraro in 1984, and Palin in 2008, we find that we can draw important conclusions from their experiences. Furthermore, our analysis advances the field in that we look not only at print media coverage of the candidates, but also at the political news blogs, for Palin in 2008. We expect these findings to be especially relevant as coverage of political contests continues to move online, and the number of political blogs that attract considerable readership continues to grow.

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Featured New Scholarship: Gender and Political Psychology

By Meredith Conroy

As you may have seen announced this month from around the web, the current issue of Politics, Groups and Identities is a special issue, featuring scholarship on gender and political psychology. You can presently access the current issue for free, and we encourage you to do so. The special issue features seven original articles that look at political ideology and the gender gap, sex differences in intergroup anxiety related to political deliberation, political incorporation differences between latinas and latino men, sex differences in attitudes about race, Affirmative Action and voting for women, sources and effects of feminine stereotypes, and the explicit role of attitudes about women in voting for women. From this issue, I decided to feature the article “Who Stereotypes Female Candidates? Identifying Individual Differences in Feminine Stereotype Reliance,” by Nichole M. Bauer.

Subfield: Gender and Politics

Research Question: What individual level characteristics affect whether a voter relies on feminine stereotypes to evaluate women running for political office? The scholarship on the role of feminine stereotypes on women’s electoral chances is immense. More and more, the view is that public attitudes about women are changing, and that stereotypes about women as being better suited to the home are family life, have gone the way of the cassette tape (or the dodo). Yet one need only log on to Facebook, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for president, to recognize that stereotypes about women in politics persist and abound, usually to the detriment of politically ambitious women. In her article, Bauer suggests that its neither that the public has overcome stereotype reliance, or still relies on stereotypes time and time again, but instead it is more likely that certain individuals rely on stereotypes about women, while others do not. Bauer’s goal, then, is to identify the variables that lead some individuals to rely on stereotypes. Her main independent variables are attention to politics, and party identification, strength of partisanship, and voter sex. Her main dependent variable is a measure of feminine stereotyping, which asks respondents to place a candidate on a scale ranging from zero to seven on  measure of (1) strong-weak, (2) harsh-lenient, (3) hard-soft, (4) cold-warm, and (5) distant-caring, where the former is a more masculine assessment of the candidate and the latter is a more feminine assessment of the candidate.

Method: Bauer uses a survey experimental design to assess the degree to which differences in individual characteristics influences the degree to which individuals rely on feminine stereotypes. Respondents were asked to consider a female and a male for a congressional seat, who were otherwise identical.

Findings: Bauer finds that those voters who are less attentive to the news, more politically knowledgeable, non-partisan, or weak partisans, and men are more likely to rely on feminine stereotypes. Furthermore, those who do rely on stereotypes are less supportive of female candidates. Bauer’s recognition that stereotype reliance varies from individual to individual is an important one. In this article she does an excellent job of identifying some of the sources of stereotype reliance. As she notes, the seemingly contradictory findings re: attention to news, and political knowledge, are confounding. Furthermore, subsequent research may seek to identify the mechanisms underlying those variables identified as contributing to feminine stereotype reliance.

Featured scholarship: A Federal Army, Not a Federalist One: Regime Building in the Jeffersonian Era

by Julia Azari

Our featured piece is by William Adler and Jonathan Keller, and it addresses Thomas Jefferson’s approach to the national military. It appeared in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Policy History.

Subfield: American politics

Research question: How did Thomas Jefferson’s administration “remake” the national military to serve its values and aims? A strong national military was at odds with Jefferson’s suspicions of centralized government. The authors note that Jefferson had considerable capacity to redirect American public policy according to his own priorities, but that the military was left “very much intact.”

Methods: Qualitative, historical

What’s here for non-specialists: The main audience for this article will no doubt be students of American political development, especially those with an institutional focus. Adler and Keller use Stephen Skowronek’s political time thesis as their main theoretical framework, and they identify Jefferson’s adaptation, rather than complete transformation, of the military, as an example of the limitations that all presidents, even those who serve at “reconstructive” moments, face.

This argument should be of interest to scholars of institutional change and institution-building as well; the unique institution of the American presidency provides a potentially useful basis for comparing the relative capacity of political actors to change or dismantle institutions. In other words, if American presidents have limited to capacity to change institutions, are there other institutional actors – in the United States or elsewhere – who have the ability to do so? Under what conditions is institutional transformation possible? Scholars of the contemporary presidency may also find Adler and Keller’s argument useful. One of their arguments is that Jefferson’s ideology “proved remarkably flexible” when it came to the real demands of governing. This seems like a promising framework for understanding more recent presidents, who take office after running on big ideas but often find their plans thwarted by entrenched institutions and interests. The Jefferson case study produces insights that could be very valuable for those studying later presidential transitions.