Experiments Workshop – Undergraduate Session

The Experiments Workshop is hosting a special undergraduate session February 9.

Angie AcquatellaAfrica Map
Title: Assessing the Impact of Maps on Foreign Aid Allocation Decisions

Foreign aid donors allocate billions of dollars of foreign aid each year. Scholars and practitioners question how effective current aid allocation practices are, and have suggested that providing donors with more accessible information will facilitate better decision-making. This project uses a lab experiment to understand how foreign aid allocation decisions change when subjects rely on high-resolution maps of foreign aid as opposed to the standard approach of using spreadsheets or relying on personal stories.

James E. BarrAIM-9_hitting_QF-4B_at_Point_Mugu_1974ington IV
Title: The Effect of Playing First Person Shooter Games on Support for Drone Strikes

This study examines the effect of video games on attitudes towards drone strikes in the Middle East. I argue that playing first person shooter games can desensitize people to civilian casualties of drone strikes. I find support for my hypothesis based on a survey experiment with a large undergraduate sample.

Spring 2015 Comparative Politics Workshop

February 6: Amy Liu, “The Language of Growth: A New Measure of Linguistic Heterogeneity”

March 6: Xiaobo Lü, “Does Performance Matter? Evaluating the Institution of Political Selection along the Chinese Administrative Ladder” (with Pierre Landry and Haiyan Duan)

April 3: Steven Brooke, “Islamist Social Service Provision, State Corporatism, and Authoritarian Durability in Egypt”

May 1: Joe Amick, “Non-Monetary Determinants of Vote Selling”

Melodrama, but little mystery, in Texas election results

Run by Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, the department hosted a post-election roundtable November 7, featuring Henson, professor Daron Shaw, Richard Murray from the University of Houston, and Mark Jones from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.


Henson and Josh Blank, the Texas Politics Project manager of polling and research, wrote the following analysis in the wake of the election:

The inevitable post-election finger-pointing among Democrats and chest-thumping among Republicans is unlikely to subside anytime soon given the margins of the GOP’s victories in Texas last week.

Amid all the noise, a deceptively simple central question underlies the results: Was the Republicans’ boat in Texas floated higher by the national tide that swamped Democrats almost everywhere else in the country, or was there something particular to Texas — partisan change, a particularly strong GOP campaign and/or candidates, an especially disastrous Democratic effort — that produced such large wins for Texas Republicans, and such favorable margins among important sub-groups?

A fair-eyed look at the numbers — set apart from the fault-finding and crowing of campaign advisers and consultants — suggests that 2014 was defined by relatively modest Republican success at increasing turnout coupled with Democratic failures that, while notable, don’t portend any large-scale shift in the underlying bases of Democratic support. While campaigns mattered, of course, Texas Democrats outperforming their 2010 effort would have been a far bigger surprise than their eventual 20-point losses — especially in light of Democratic troubles this year in places far more favorable to them than Texas, like Colorado, Virginia and even Massachusetts.

Low turnout combined with an electoral environment that favored Republicans defined the election in Texas, as it did most everywhere else. Turnout decreased across the state by about 4 points from 2010, according to early reports. A broad explanation for the Democrats’ decline in fortunes is based on the well-founded observation that low-turnout electorates tend to favor GOP candidates because of the unevenness with which different groups within the Democratic and Republican coalitions vote. Simply put, a decrease in turnout is likely to be concentrated in the Democratic Party, especially among the groups most likely to vote Democratic: young people, minorities and unmarried women. Another common structural observation is also based on years of political science research: Midterm elections always favor the party that doesn’t hold the presidency, and the sixth year of a president’s tenure is roundly known to be bad for his party.

Most post-game analyses of the 2014 Texas elections have understandably focused on the drubbing suffered by the Democrats and the GOP’s relative success among women and Hispanic voters. To recap, according to exit polling, Republican Greg Abbott won 54 percent of the female vote while Democrat Wendy Davis won 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. The female vote margin remained essentially unchanged from 2010, but the change in the Hispanic vote seems to represent a major backslide for Texas Democrats, who won that group by 23 points four years ago (compared with 9 points this year).

Texas Democrats’ poor performance is reflected in the numbers no matter how you slice them, and to such a broad extent that it’s fair to consider the extent to which Texas Democrats added some mass of their own to the gravity that pulled Democrats down nationwide. Democrats increased their 2010 vote count in only 14 of Texas’ 254 counties, and eight of those were counties where fewer than 11,000 votes were cast. (In Travis County, of their lone bright spots, Democrats increased their vote total by about 26,000 votes.) Compared with 2010, when Rick Perry beat Bill White, Democrats this year lost 1,080 votes per county on average and 274,000 votes overall. Most notably, they lost 76,000 votes in Harris County, 12,000 in Dallas and 3,000 in Bexar (their top three vote-getting counties in 2010). The number of Democratic voters in the counties with the top 10 vote counts in 2010 fell by an average of about 5,700 votes, meaning that on a percentage basis, the raw vote count in these counties was just on the negative side of stagnant. They also failed to increase their vote count in any of the top 10 counties that saw the most Hispanic growth between 2010 and 2014. Not exactly the stuff “destiny” is made of.

But what of the triumphalist accounts of the Republican victory? Looking at the same measures, Republicans saw an average increase in vote count in their top 10 counties of about 3.5 percent, or 1,882 votes per county. Their results were also dragged down by dismal turnout in Harris County, where the Republican vote count decreased by over 30,000. But their vote count increased noticeably in Republican strongholds like Tarrant (9 percent), Collin (15 percent) and Denton (11 percent) counties. More broadly, the GOP saw modest (206 votes on average) though widespread (149 counties) gains across all counties, picking up roughly 54,000 votes more than their 2010 totals. This added up to a good night for a hegemonic party with all the advantages, but still suggests that much of the work was done by plummeting Democratic turnout.

Falling turnout also provides context for the ongoing discussion about where Hispanic voters landed. To begin with, for all the drama surrounding whether Abbott would win more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republicans’ improved performance among the demographic — 38 percent voted for Perry in 2010, while 44 percent voted for Abbott — shouldn’t elicit too much surprise. Much of the pre-election polling suggested that the Hispanic share of the likely voter pool was not breaking strongly toward the Democrats. But any decisive reading of the result should be tempered by the large margin of error associated with the exit polling of subgroups, particularly Hispanics.

The vote count also encourages tempering any interpretation of these results as a decisive shift in the party allegiance of Hispanics. Of the top 10 counties with the most Hispanic growth between 2000 and 2010, Democrats lost roughly 10,000 votes from their 2010 haul — but Republicans also lost roughly 4,000. These numbers are more indicative of continued low Hispanic turnout than of any significant shift in partisan preferences among Hispanics, including one toward Republicans. The ambiguity of these results certainly agree with a large body of polling data suggesting that the attitudes of Hispanics as a group often put them between the two parties, depending on the issue set, rather than squarely in one camp.

The GOP’s 20-point victory margins on Nov. 4 are not the stuff of heroic epics (“how the Republicans triumphed!”) or of high tragedy (“oh, woeful be the intertwined fates of Battleground Texas and Wendy Davis!”). In fact, they’re not even mystery material. Republican candidates entered this election season with significant and deeply rooted advantages in partisanship, organization and resources, which they ably and predictably exploited. Democratic efforts to overcome these advantages faced long odds from the outset, and were likely hindered by strategies informed by an excess of optimism in the face of a grim national environment and grimmer fundamentals within the state.

All of this was relatively predictable — much less so, as it turns out, than the impact of these election results on the looming legislative session.

Graduate Student Conference Brings Together Country’s Emerging Scholars

Organized by graduate students Connor Ewing and Robert Shaffer, earlier this month the Department of Government hosted a graduate conference in public law, a two-day conference that brought together leading emerging scholars from around the country. Graduate student-driven and national in scope, the conference was an unprecedented event.

In addition to the department’s own students, including Ewing and Shaffer, Alex Hudson, Anthony Ives, Margaret Moslander, Henry Pascoe, Thomas Bell, and Christina Noriega, the conference drew students from Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Washington University, Notre Dame, UW-Madison, Columbia, Toronto, Michigan, UC-Berkeley, UC-San Diego, the Claremont Graduate University, and FLASCO in Mexico.

Faculty discussants included Gary Jacobsohn, Zach Elkins, H.W. Perry, Jeff Tulis, Dan Brinks, Jeffrey Abramson, Sandy Levinson, Paula Newberg, and Lawrence Sager. Mariah Zeisberg, from the University of Michigan, delivered the keynote address.

Graduate Student Public Law Conference, Fall 2014

Connor Ewing, Gary Jacobsohn, and Robert Shaffer (left to right) talk during the Graduate Conference in Public Law, held at The University of Texas at Austin, October 30-November 1, 2014.

Thematically, the conference was noteworthy for the breadth of contributions and the diversity of disciplines from which participants came, spanning an array of academic departments and law schools. The conference bridged the intersection of political science and law, and public policy too. Bridging interdisciplinary gaps was a motivating factor behind the conference. Shaffer and Ewing, in 2013, launched a public law lunch series with a goal of strengthening connections between the Government Department, Law School, and LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the conference was part of expanding those efforts and extending their reach outside of the university.

The conference also brought together students and faculty approaching the law from different perspectives. “One of the exciting parts of the conference is that we could bring theory- and empirically-oriented people together onto the same panels, and get them into direct dialogue with one another,” Shaffer said.

Clark Center Hosting Annual ANZSANA Conference

The Edward A. Clark Center of Australian and New Zealand Studies will host the annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Studies Association of North America. The Association, whose members share interests in Antipodean history, politics, society, literature, economics, and law, will engage in a two-day series of panels in which members share research and discuss issues germane to Australian and New Zealand Studies.

The conference kicks off with a welcome reception on Thursday, February 6, 6:30 pm at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center’s Carillon Restaurant. Conference panels will take place on Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8 in the Julius Glickman Conference Center located in the College of Liberal Arts building. A three-course dinner, featuring a special keynote speaker, will be held on Friday in the Carillon Restaurant’s upstairs private dining room. To see the conference program go to the Clark Center’s website: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/cas/.

Those interested in attending are asked to register and pay a fee of USD $175.00 no later than January 30. This payment includes a one-year ANZSANA membership as well as breakfast and lunch on both Fridayand Saturday. The formal banquet dinner will cost an additional $50. You may register and pay online at http://www.anzsana.net/.

South Asia Institute Spring 2014 Seminar Series

South Asia Institute Spring 2014 Seminar Series:

Main Theme: Conflict and Recovery in South Asia

Meyerson Conference Room

(William C. Hogg Building, Room 4.118)

3:30-5:00 PM

January 23, 2014

Afghanistan’s Uncertain Future: Transitioning to War or Peace?

Dr. Andrew Wilder, United States Institute of Peace

February 6, 2014

Balochistan: The State versus the Nation

Dr. Frederic Grare, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

February 13, 2014

Caught Between the Lines: Geopolitics, Colonial Cartography, and Pakistan

Dr. Tayyab Mahmud, Seattle University School of Law

February 27, 2014

The Politics of Difference and the Reach of Modernity in Post-Conflict Nepal

Dr. William Fisher, Clark University

March 27, 2014

Understanding – and Combating – Evolving Threats from Al-Qaida and its Affiliates

Dr. Alexander Evans, United Nations

April 10, 2014

Democracy in Pakistan: National Security Challenges

Zahid Hussain, Author and Journalist

April 17, 2014

Refugees, Militants, and the Politics of ‘Post-Conflict’ in Azad Kashmir

Dr. Cabeiri Robinson, University of Washington

American Politics Speaker Series – Douglas Rivers, Morris Fiorina and David Brady

The American Politics Speaker Series today hosted three distinguished scholars from Stanford. Discussing partisanship, presentations included “Are Leaning Independents Just Deluded or Dishonest Weak Partisans?” and “Short-run Volatility in Candidate Preference, Party ID, Ideology, and Response Rates.” They are pictured below with Daron Shaw.


Now What? The 2012 Elections, the 2013 Session, and Beyond

Thu, November 8, 2012 • 10:15 AM – 3:45 PM • The Capitol Extension Auditorium

The Texas Politics Project Speaker Series and the Texas Tribune present “Now What?  The 2012 Elections, the 2013 Session, and Beyond,” a panel discussion featuring a diverse group of campaign consultants, recent agency heads in policy areas central to the state’s future, and leading political reporters from around the state for frank discussions with Evan Smith and James Henson about the 2012 elections and their implications for Texas when the 83rd Legislature comes to town.

10:30-11:45 AM: Inside Baseball: a Post-Election Analysis with Texas Political Strategists.

Moderated by Evan Smith.

JORDAN BERRY, Berry Communications;


ED ESPINOSA, EE Strategic Consulting;

JASON JOHNSON, J2 Strategies.

1:00-2:15 PM: A Conversation about Competing Priorities Facing The 83rd Legislature.
Moderated by James Henson.

ROBERT SCOTT, former Commissioner of Education;

DEIRDRE DELISI, former chairwoman, Texas Transportation Commission;

TOM MASON, former manager, Lower Colorado River Authority;

THOMAS SUEHS, former executive commissioner, Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

2:30-3:45 PM: From the 2012 Elections to the 2013 Session.

Moderated by James Henson.

TIM EATON, The Austin American Statesman;

PATTI HART, The Houston Chronicle;

GROMER JEFFERS, JR., The Dallas Morning News;

ROSS RAMSEY, The Texas Tribune.

Admission is free and the event is open to the public.  The event will be recorded for later use by the Texas Politics Project and the Texas Tribune. Go to the Texas Tribune website to RSVP: http://www.texastribune.org/events/2012/nov/08/the-2012-election-and-its-implications-for-the-83rd-legislative-session/

Rapoport Center Fall Speaker Series

The Rapoport Center is pleased to announced the fall Human Rights Happy Hour Speaker Series, which is part of a workshop entitled “Human Rights, Law, and Democracy,” co-taught by Rapoport Center co-director Professor Dan Brinks and his colleague in government Professor Zach Elkins.

This semester, the series takes a comparative turn, bringing in speakers who work primarily on rights and rights protection at the domestic rather than international level.  The talks will address the institutional infrastructure that is meant to support rights, such as courts and judges, as well as social movements that seek to use a rights discourse to advance their cause.  The series will also include theoretical presentations on the uneasy place of multiculturalism within a liberal rights framework and on the way in which US constitutional practices informed early constitutionalism in Latin America.  The speakers conform a distinguished roster of scholars working on issues central to the realization of rights and democracy across the world.

We invite you to join us for any or all of the talks, which will all take place on Tuesday afternoons from 3:45-5:45 in the Sheffield Room (TNH 2.111) at the Law School.  They are free and open to the public.

September 25, 2012

James Gibson

Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Citizenship and Democratic Values, Washington University in St. Louis
“Electing Judges: The Surprising Effects of Campaigning on Judicial Legitimacy”

October 16, 2012

Mala Htun
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico
“Politics of Inclusion: Women, Afrodescendants, and Indigenous Peoples in Latin America”

October 23, 2012

Clifford Carrubba
Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Politics, and Economics, Emory University
Matthew Gabel
Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis
“The Politics of Compliance with International Courts: A General Theory with Evidence from the European Court of Justice”

November 6, 2012

Jonathan Miller
Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School
“Borrowing a Constitution: The U.S. Constitution in Argentina and the Heyday of the Argentine Supreme Court (1853-1930)”

November 13, 2012

Keith Banting
Professor of Political Studies and Policy Studies and Queen’s Chair in Public Policy, Queen’s University
“Is There Really an International Backlash Against Multiculturalism Policies? New Evidence from the Multiculturalism Policy Index”

Further information on the speakers can be found online at:


Brownlee Book Workshop

On Monday, August 13, starting at 9:30am, the department will host a book workshop in Batts 5.108. The manuscript is called The Arab Spring: The Politics of Transformation in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s a collaborative work by Jason Brownlee, Andy Reynolds (UNC), and Tarek Masoud (Harvard-Kennedy School).

The authors convened a group of commentators last November in Chapel Hill and now have a contract with Oxford University Press. The workshop in Austin will be the last big opportunity for constructive criticism.

Participants include Brownlee, Reynolds, and Masoud, as well as Jack Goldstone (George Mason), Dan Slater (U. Chicago), and, by Skype, Nic van de Walle (Cornell) as discussants.