Obama's Place in History

It's Inauguration Day, and our 44th president, Barack Obama, will be leaving office after serving two terms. As often happens with the end of an era, pundits and journalists start considering the president's legacy. Paul Djupe and I wrote an analysis for FiveThirtyEight of where Obama is likely to rank among historians and political scientists, particularly looking at the relationship between final job approval ratings and future scholarly rankings. We predict that he might land about 12th in the coming years, a slight improvement over where he was ranked a few years ago.

Trump and the War on Christmas

Recently Paul Djupe and I revisited our analysis of where people prefer Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays at FiveThirtyEight, updating it with 2016 data from PRRI. Because of the emphasis by the Trump campaign on being able to say Merry Christmas now that Trump is going to be president, we analyzed how states' views on the "War on Christmas" correlated with level of support for Trump. In both 2013 and 2016, it was the Midwest that most strongly preferred Merry Christmas over Happy Holidays, and it is in the Midwest where Trump outperformed his poll numbers. While not causal, we suggest that the "War on Christmas" is indicative of the cultural divides in American politics. 

Do Rights Claims Boost Tolerance?

In the most recent issue of Politics & Religion, Paul Djupe, Ted Jelen, and I have a piece that shows that when religious conservatives are prompted to consider rights claims to protect in-group religious freedom, they are likely to respond with increased tolerance for disfavored out-groups. The connection between rights claiming and rights extending is could have positive societal impacts. Previously, we had previewed these results at the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog

Legal Studies Certificate

After a couple years of planning, we have officially launched the 18-hour undergraduate Legal Studies Certificate at UC. I'm the Director of the program, and I'm really excited about invigorating the undergraduate study of law. I'm especially happy about our partnership with UC Law. You can find out more about the curriculum here.

We celebrated the launch of the Certificate with a great Constitution Day panel on September 19, featuring several area lawyers. 

Intolerance to Go Around

Last week my colleagues Paul Djupe, Jake Neiheisel, and I published a piece on political intolerance at FiveThirtyEight. Using data from a recent national survey, we show that there is a substantial amount of intolerance among the supporters of most presidential candidates, including Republicans and Democrats. While most of the attention has been focused on the Trump campaign (for many good reasons), there are no statistically significant differences between the supporters of any of the major candidates (save Kasich). While these supporters choose different groups as their least-liked, they don't differ in the amount of basic rights they would grant those they don't like.

So what does this mean for our politics? It is important to be on guard for candidates and political elites that encourage rather than dispel our worst traits, and it is even more important to design and maintain institutions to mitigate these flaws.

Source: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-...

Socialism and Religion in America

Paul Djupe and I wrote a piece for Five Thirty Eight today about how religion inhibits socialism in American party politics. We attribute this to two factors: values and mobilization. Using data from the Public Religion Research Institute, we find that socialist values are strong among those without religion (the Nones). But the problem is that Nones currently have fewer organizational resources to transfer values into politics. One big reason is that they do not go to church, the most widespread social organization in the U.S.

Here's our article: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-may-be-too-religious-to-embrace-socialism/

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays

During the holiday rush, I didn't update this blog, and then January was busy with traveling and work and life. But, just prior to Christmas Paul Djupe and I posted this fun piece at FiveThirtyEight about the regional differences in preferring that retailers say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays: "Where to Say 'Merry Christmas' vs. 'Happy Holidays'." Some of the results are surprising, especially for the South. The team at FiveThirtyEight did a great job, creating this cool map that was shared widely around Twitter.

Iowa Caucuses

The Iowa caucuses are an interesting approach to the American political process. When I was in college at Truman State, a few of us drove to Ottumwa, Iowa to witness a caucus first hand. Leading up to this year's event, Paul Djupe and I decided to investigate if there are any notable patters regarding when churches are used as caucus sites. We combined precinct location lists with demographic data, and we also emailed all of the Republican county chairs, who make the decisions regarding location. We wrote up our findings and analysis for Vox's, Mischiefs of Faction blog in a post titled: "When the Iowa caucus goes to church."

Trump, Anti-Islam, and Evangelicals

Today is my debut at FiveThirtyEight, where Paul Djupe, Jake Neiheisel and I have a short piece titled: "Republicanism Trumps Religion When It Comes to Anti-Muslim Sentiment." We join the chorus and write about Donald Trump and his anti-Muslim statements, though focus on how his rhetoric might play with evangelical Christians. Analyzing data from four national surveys conducted in 2015, both before and after the attacks in Paris, we find that anti-Muslim sentiment on the right is primarily the product of partisanship, not religiosity. Moreover, results from survey experiments suggest that it will take fellow partisans (or fellow evangelicals) to counteract Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric. Liberal critiques only fuel polarization and anti-minority sentiment.

The Blog

Hello. I must have thought about this 1,000 times.

But I have finally decided to launch this blog on my website. It will be a place where I highlight my research, engage with new scholarship, and discuss current events. I may also provide updates to other professional activities, such as the Book Review section of Politics & Religion, which I now edit, or UC's Legal Studies Program, which I now direct. I hope to provide updates at least once a week.

If it fails, well . . . at least I can say that I tried.