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AAPOR Report Assesses 2016 Election Polling Performance

After Donald Trump’s surprise win in the 2016 election, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), a COSSA governing member, convened a committee to review the performance of pre-election polling (AAPOR has convened such committees after the past several elections). The committee, chaired by Courtney Kennedy of the Pew Research Center, recently released An Evaluation of 2016 Election Polls in the U.S., outlining its findings and recommendations.

According to the committee, “While the general public reaction [to the election result] was that ‘the polls failed,’ we found the reality to be more complex – a position held by a number of industry experts… Some polls, indeed, had large, problematic errors, but many polls did not. Critically, the reasons for the polling errors are no longer a mystery.” Overall, the committee found the national-level polls were “generally correct and accurate by historical standards,” but that many of the state-level polls were flawed. According to the report, underestimation of Trump’s support in state polls was due to late changing voter preferences, not sufficiently adjusting for overrepresentation of college graduates, and potentially, voters’ misrepresentation of their support for Trump.

The committee cautions against using the 2016 election as reason to discount the importance of polling and survey research: “Well-designed and rigorously executed surveys are still able to produce valuable, accurate information about the attitudes and experiences of the U.S. public.” To improve the outcomes of polling ahead of future presidential elections, the committee recommends finding ways to direct more resources toward critical state polls, which are often under-funded. The complete report is available on AAPOR’s website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session, Begins Organizing

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since last week’s historic elections. Lawmakers are returning to a new reality that many did not see coming, with the election of Donald Trump as the next President and the Republicans maintaining a stronghold in both chambers of Congress.

Following the elections, Republicans maintain a narrowed majority in the House and Senate. The Senate margins sit at 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats, with a run-off race in Louisiana scheduled for December. In addition, and as expected, Republicans held onto control of the House, with 239 Republicans to 193 Democrats, though Democrats narrowed the margin by picking up 5 seats so far, with some still too close to call. Notable losses include Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth; Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and House appropriators Mike Honda (D-CA) and David Jolly (R-FL).

Three newly elected members of the House will be sworn in this week, rather than in January with the rest of their freshman class, because their seats have previously been vacated. This includes Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), who will fill the late Mark Takai’s seat, James Comer (R-KY), who will fill fellow Republican Ed Whitfield’s seat following his resignation in September, and Dwight Evans (D-PA), who will fill Chaka Fattah’s (D-PA) seat following his June resignation.

It will be some time before committee assignments for the 115th Congress will be made. Below is an early look at the committees of interest to the COSSA community and number of seats currently vacated following the elections.

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At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is what to do about the FY 2017 spending bills, which remain undone. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 9. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are split on the endgame strategy. Some Republicans are pushing to complete the appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year, thereby allowing the next Congress to start fresh, while others would like to punt them to 2017 so as to dodge any final negotiations with President Obama. Either way, Congress must take some form of action by December 9 to avoid a government shutdown.

Another task for the lame duck session is getting organized for next year. House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are holding leadership elections this week. While we expect Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to keep the Speaker’s gavel and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to remain as Minority Leader in the House, and Mitch McConnell to stay on as Majority Leader in the Senate, there could be some surprises as lawmakers battle for other positions.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2016 elections for the latest developments and analysis of what this all means for the social science research community.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

President-Elect Trump Begins Transition; Many Questions Remain for Science

Following a surprising victory on Nov. 8, businessman Donald Trump’s campaign will now focus on transitioning to the White House. More details have emerged about Trump’s goals for his presidency through a transition website, goals for his first 100 days in office, and a job posting for administration appointees.  Notably, President-elect Trump’s plan for his first 100 days includes a hiring freeze on federal employees and “a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.” Many uncertainties remain, including key administration appointments and more detailed policy proposals for the administration.

Before the election, President-elect Trump had not published any specific policy recommendations related to science, but included in his answer to the Scientific American questionnaire that scientific advances, including a viable space program, require long-term investment and stakeholder input. Other public statements, including about the National Institutes Health, have been less flattering. COSSA’s preliminary analysis of the Presidential candidates’ science and technology platforms can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

2016 Presidential Candidates’ Science Policy Platforms

Over the last year and a half, presidential candidates have provided hints as to what their science policy priorities would be if they were to win.

Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released details of her “Initiative on Technology and Innovation”, which includes commitments to grow the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the research budgets at the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While Secretary Clinton’s published positions related to science primarily focus on computer science and technology, in response to a questionnaire from the Scientific American, Secretary Clinton expanded her position on basic research, saying “I believe it is essential that we strengthen our research capacity, by funding talented young investigators, looking for ways to prioritize ‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects that have the potential to transform entire fields.”

Businessman and Republican nominee Donald Trump has not published any specific policy recommendations related to science, but included in his answer to the Scientific American questionnaire that scientific advances, including a viable space program, require long-term investment and stakeholder input. Other public statements, including about the National Institutes Health, have been less flattering.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson also provided responses to the Scientific American. Stein believes that most government-supported scientific efforts should be related to combating climate change. Alternatively, Johnson believes that the government should focus on funding basic research rather than advanced or applied research.

More analysis can be found in the Scientific American and Science Magazine.

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Posted in Issue 21 (November 1), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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