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Why This Blog?

- November 20, 2007

Why are we writing this blog? Here is a probably-not-exhaustive set of reasons, in rough order of importance.

1) To publicize political science research. Political scientists have been relatively slow in progressing to the blogosphere. Within our general area of the academy, the prevalence of economists is perhaps most noteworthy—among others, Gary Becker, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, Dani Rodrik, and Mark Thoma. The folks at Crooked Timber, including our colleague Henry Farrell, span various disciplines, including philosophy, economics, political science, and sociology. (Henry is also owed a significant debt of gratitude for his advice and guidance to us as we began to conceive and then establish this blog.)

Among political scientists in particular, there are the aforementioned Henry Farrell, Daniel Drezner, Jim Johnson, Simon Jackman, Marc Lynch, and the folks at Polysigh. Several blogs oriented around statistical methods (including Andrew Gelman’s and the Social Science Statistics Blog) and law (Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog and the Empirical Legal Studies Blog) also deal with topics within political science.

Of course, there are others we have not listed, but even if all of these blogs were itemized, political scientists would be under-represented. This is particularly true in our areas of study, which focus on public opinion and mass political behavior, both in American politics and in comparative perspective.

The consequence, as Henry Farrell has written in response to a comment by Ezra Klein, is that political science research gets short shrift from the media, the policy community, and the types of people who read academically-oriented blogs. We want to extend what Henry does at his Political Science Weblog, which is post abstracts to interesting papers. Our model is Marginal Revolution, which is perhaps the most important inspiration for this blog. We will post abstracts and links to articles, papers, and books, along with comments that summarize our own reactions and/or discuss the work’s importance. We will occasionally highlight our own work, but will try to steer clear of wanton self-promotion. We will occasionally invite guest bloggers for temporary residence. Readers are always welcome to suggest new work that we might highlight. Ultimately, we hope that this blog will gain political science research greater attention and currency.

2) To provide informed commentary on political events and issues. Don’t read anything too self-important in the word “informed.” All we mean by that is that we will draw upon extant research, as well as our own data analyses, to speak to contemporary politics. Here, we are inspired in part by Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin’s work at Pollster.com. The main difference is that whereas Pollster.com serves mainly to collect and aggregate polls of Americans and to comment on issues within the domain of polling, we intend a broader scope, including topics unrelated to polling or elections or American politics. We will also try to be more directly engaged in testing and perhaps contesting propositions from journalists or commentators, much as Morris Fiorina has done in his book-length take-down of the red-blue state notion and the “culture war.” Ultimately, we want contemporary discourse about politics centered as much as possible on the best kinds of evidence.

3) To think aloud. Seth Roberts, another source of inspiration for this blog, has written “Because I blog about my thoughts, I have more of them. I blog, therefore I think.” Thus, we envision short posts about items we have read or less than fully baked ideas that have occurred to us. Perhaps these posts will ultimately illuminate only our own intellectual shortcomings. But even if no one leaves comments or provides feedback or explains why we’re wrong, it will be useful just to write.

4) To indulge our non-academic interests. We don’t presume that everyone will be fascinated by our idiosyncratic pursuits. But we want the blog to have a “personality” that extends beyond political science.

Of course, as the blog develops, its purposes may change somewhat in response to both our own interests and those of our readers. At any point in time, we certainly welcome feedback that anyone may offer. Thanks for reading, and please come back soon.