Turnout, Lakatos, and Case Studies


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A few months ago, I published an article on inequality, institutions and turnout in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations that criticised an earlier piece in the same journal. The journal has granted the original author the right to a reply, which seems only fair. I was, however, slightly surprised that I would have the right to respond to that reply. Where does it stop? Anyway, a very short article with the fancy title ‘Lakatos reloaded‘ has been submitted and accepted and will appear in one of the next issues of the BJPIR.

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Does inequality depress turnout (or what you shouldn’t do with time-series cross-sectional data)?

The US might face unprecedented levels of turnout in tomorrow’s election, but historically, the non-voters are the biggest camp in American politics. One intriguing explanation for this well-known fact is that low turnout could be a consequence of the very high (by any standard) levels of income inequality: because voters lack experience with universalistic institutions, they are less likely to adopt norms and values that foster participation in elections. This is the gist of an article that appeared recently (by social science standards) in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. While the thesis is interesting enough, I did not find the evidence (design, operationalisation, statistical model) particularly convincing and consequentially embarked on a major replication exercise. As it turned out, there are indeed major problems with the original analysis, including a rather problematic application of the ever popular time-series cross-sectional approach (aka Beck&Katz). Last week, my own article on the (non-)relationship between inequality and turnout has finally appeared in the BJPIR. If you don’t have access to the journal, you can still download the preprint version (“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True?”) from my homepage. And if you in turn find this rather unconvincing, you can download the replication data for the various inequality/turnout models and do your own analysis. Enjoy.
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