PSR Interviews #8 (audio): Realism, Utopianism and Human Rights – Paul Raekstad

“We should, however, be wary of the moralist mistake of largely ignoring concrete questions of power and political agency when reflecting on political values and vision. It’s no accident that so much of the most historically influential political theory, from the work of Adam Smith to anarchism, a great deal of feminism and Marxism, has been realist.” – says Dr Paul Raekstad. How can the realist utopian political theory that can reform capitalist society?

Listen to a short interview, based on a PSR article: Realism, Utopianism and Human Rights by Dr Paul Raekstad.

Paul Raekstad has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam, and will shortly be taking up a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh. His work focuses on envisioning and achieving free, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economic institutions.

Production: Eliza Kania (PRS/Brunel University London)

Podcast #12: Realism, Utopianism and Human Rights – Paul Raekstad

How can the realist utopian political theory that can reform capitalist society? “My article shows that realists don’t oppose utopianism in general, discusses the value of realist utopianism and considers why many political theorists misunderstand what realism demands” – says Dr Paul Raekstad.

Listen to a podcast, based on a PSR article: Realism, Utopianism and Human Rights by Dr Paul Raekstad.

Paul Raekstad has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam, and will shortly be taking up a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh. His work focuses on envisioning and achieving free, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economic institutions.

Production: Eliza Kania (PRS/Brunel University London)

PSR Interviews #2: An Introduction to Multilevel Regression and Post-Stratification – an interview with Chris Hanretty

MRP is a model-based technique, so if you have a really poor model of the opinion you’re examining, that’s going to hurt you” – claims Prof. Hanretty.Hopefully, everyone using MRP will have at least some substantive knowledge of the demographic and geographic determinants of public opinion” – he adds. In this interview, the author explains complexities, the potential and flaws of multilevel regression and post-stratification. A fuller analysis of this emerging technique can be found in Prof. Hannerty’s PSR article.

Political Studies Review: How would you describe the basic idea behind multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) technique?

Chris Hanretty: There are two basic steps in MRP: (1) you learn about voter opinions from a large national sample, and in particular, the opinions of certain types of voters; (2) and you go look up other sources of information (often a census or something similar) to find out how many voters of each type there are in each area. If I know (on the basis of my national sample and some model) that 55-64-year-old men with a high school education are very likely to vote Conservative, and if I know how many such men there are in a particular seat, then that gets me part of the way to understanding how that seat as a whole will vote. I just need to repeat the exercise for all the different voter types implicit in my model.

That’s the idea in a nutshell. In practice, it’s more complicated, and often a lot of the added value comes not from knowing information about individual voter types, but information about the types of the area they live in. The single best predictor of Conservative vote share in a seat is the Conservative vote share in the last election. MRP really benefits from having these predictors alongside demographic predictors, but I lead with the demographic picture because that’s much more intuitive.

You wrote that MRP has been developing for the past 15–20 years. It has made it possible to pose and answer questions related to public opinion in small areas that have not been possible before. How was this method popularised, and what influenced its development? Is it becoming a prevalent statistical technique?

I think Andrew Gelman at Columbia has been an outstanding popularizer of MRP. I think technical and software developments have always played their part. There are now a lot more packages which allow researchers to estimate multilevel models of the kind used in MRP.

The major benefit of MRP seems that it allows avoiding the need for surveys at a sub-regional level. Are there any other benefits?

For me, it’s hard to see past that benefit. If you want to know about constituency opinion in the UK, it’d be impossible to field a standard 1,000 person survey in all those seats. No company has that polling capacity. Maybe for some contexts – say, US states – you could think about conducting state polls and aggregating those. But then you’d have to think about varying dates of fieldwork, different weighting targets in those states – urgh, it makes me shudder to think of it.

What are the possible limitations of this method?

MRP is a model-based technique, so if you have a really poor model of the opinion you’re examining, that’s going to hurt you. Hopefully, everyone using MRP will have at least some substantive knowledge of the demographic and geographic determinants of public opinion.

Maybe for some contexts – say, US states – you could think about conducting state polls and aggregating those. But then you’d have to think about varying dates of fieldwork, different weighting targets in those states – urgh, it makes me shudder to think of it.

Another limitation is that you might not always have the post-stratification data you need. You might want to create estimates just for adult citizens, but your national census office might only release breakdowns for the adult population. There’s often a tension between what you want to include in the model and what’s available from official statistics.

What are other contributions your article brings to the field you’d like to highlight?

I’m just happy to have some code out there which takes people through the whole process. Written descriptions of procedures in peer-reviewed journals are obviously important, but additional documented code is the cherry on the cake!

MORE

Article: Hannerty C. (2020), An Introduction to Multilevel Regression and Post-Stratification for Estimating Constituency Opinion, Political Studies Review 2020, Vol. 18(4) 630–645.

ABOUT

Professor Christopher Hannerty – Professor of Politics at Royal Halloway, University of London.

His research areas concern representation and the politics of the judiciary. More

Twitter Political Studies Review @PolStudiesRev

Questions and production: Eliza Kania, Brunel University London

Podcast #11: Can You Engage in Political Activity Without Internet Access? The Social Effects of Internet Deprivation – Ryan Shandler

To what extent can you engage in political activity in the modern age without Internet access? Has Internet access become so important to daily functioning, that people are incapable of exercising basic civil rights when access goes down? The growing dependence on Internet access to fulfil basic civil functions is threatened by increasing personal and societal cyber vulnerability.

In their research authors explore the extent to which citizens are able, or unable, to engage in specific political activities in the absence of Internet connectivity – listen to a podcast by Ryan Shandler, based on a PSR article: Can You Engage in Political Activity Without Internet Access? The Social Effects of Internet Deprivation by Ryan Shandler, Michael L Gross and Daphna Canetti.

Ryan Shandler is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Haifa School of Political Sciences under the supervision of Professors Michael Gross and Daphna Canetti.

Ryan’s research focuses on Internet age theories of political participation and the socio-political effects of cyber-terrorism. 

Production: Eliza Kania (PRS/Brunel University London)

Podcast #10: Politics and Science as a Vocation: Can Academics Save us from Post-Truth Politics? – John Boswell, Jack Corbett, Jonathan Havercroft

In an apparently post-truth era, the social science scholar, by disposition and training committed to rational argumentation and the pursuit of truth, appeals as the ideal bulwark against excessive politicization of facts and expertise. In this article, we look to the experience of four prominent social scientists who have recently left the academy to enter politics with the aim of using their academic expertise to reshape policy. We use these cases to explore fundamental dilemmas derived from a close reading of Max Weber’s seminal vocation essays of a century ago. “- listen to a podcast by Dr John Boswell, Prof. Jack Corbett and Dr Jonathan Havercroft, based on a PSR article: Politics and Science as a Vocation: Can Academics Save us from Post-Truth Politics?

John Boswell is Associate Professor in Politics at the University of Southampton. His research and teaching interests centres around contemporary issues and themes in democratic governance and public policy. My research is generally qualitative and interpretive in nature, and I also have an interest in writing and teaching on methodological matters in this tradition.

Jack Corbett is Professor of Politics, Departmental Research Director at The University of Southampton. His research focuses on how actors manage the dilemmas of democratic governance.

Jonathan Havercroft is Associate Professor in International Political Theory within Politics & International Relations at the University of Southampton. His current research projects include work on the ethical dimensions of international norms, theories of political affect, and the role of agreement in democratic theory and practice. 

Production: Eliza Kania (PRS/Brunel University London)

Issue 4/2020: Special Issue: The Puzzle of National Preference Formation and the Study of the Euro Crisis and other articles

The whole issue 4/2020 can be found here.

CONTENTS

special issue: The Puzzle of National Preference Formation and the Study of the Euro Crisis

ARTICLES

State of the Art

Early Results

Professional Section: Methods