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The opposite reaction to terror September 22, 2011

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, Political behavior , comments closed

Norwegian newspapers today report the following: A month after the terror at Oslo and Utøya, a group of researchers from the University of Bergen repeated three of the survey questions they asked Norwegians as part of the International Social Survey Programme, right after the terror in Madrid in 2006.  They were amazed at what they found. Norwegians are more sceptical, not less, towards extending police powers of surveillance.

They asked the following questions (english translations from ISSP documentation):

Suppose the government suspected that a terrorist act was about to happen. Do you think the authorities should have the right to…

This constitutes a clear drop in support for security measures that invade privacy and civil liberties, quite the opposite of what we  would expect. (more…)

Experiment on election prediction markets August 5, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, Political behavior , comments closed

I’ve recently become involved (as a participant) in an interesting experiment performed by PhD student Sveinung Arnesen at the University of Bergen in which we are asked to predict the election result through a market model, buying and selling fictive “shares” in the outcome based on our own evaluations. This is based on prior experiments like Iowa Electronic Markets experiments by the University of Iowa in connection with American Presidential Elections, and the work of Robin Hanson.

Participants have been recruited through the political party organizations (at least I was), and appear to only have the option of buying or selling “stock” in our own party and/or government coalition. I assume part of the reason why we are restricted to our own party is the need for keeping the results secret to avoid incentives for strategic attempts at driving up the predicted value.


Racism paving the way to government? March 1, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political behavior , comments closed

The so called “long campaign” before the Norwegian parliamentary election is well under way, and once again it appears that immigration will be a central topic. In the aftermath of a controversy over whether or not to allow islamic headdress (hijab) with Norwegian police uniforms, the populist right-wing party Fremskrittspartiet has started campaigning about the so called secret “Islamization” of Norwegian society. If they succeed in keeping this a hot topic throughout the campaign, previous experience shows they might gain  much in terms of votes. (more…)

Rethinkning voter rationality December 22, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Political behavior, Political economy , comments closed

A very interesting paper by Andrew Gelman and a few more, linked to in a post at The Monkey Cage, proved to be very much to my liking. They look at the act of voting from a rational actor perspective, but leave the premise that “rationality” is equal to “selfishness”. That means they give the voter a preference for the good of everyone else, thereby showing that voting can be a rational act.

What’s the logic behind this? Well, if you sum up the benefit every member of society would get from an election outcome, the number could become quite big, compensating for the low likelihood that your vote is the one that will decide. Thus if the cost of voting is rather low, it might still be worth it. This actually sounds rather reasonable. Perhaps voting might be rational.

The perceived benefit society could get from voting is of course limited by how much you actually believe candidates will follow through their policies. Also, the benefit of voting might have to be discounted by a factor reflecting to what degree you believe the election will be fair. This might explain why the big proportion of the voters that don’t participate still aren’t necessarily selfish either.

It gives me solace to know that I now have a scientific vay to explain that people that vote aren’t stupid and people in general aren’t necessarily selfish.

Fishkin vs. Hibbing – do people really want to decide? December 4, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : My master thesis, Political behavior, Political Theory , comments closed

The following is part of the ongoing research for my master (graduate) thesis.

“Society is like a ship, and everyone must be prepared to take the helm.”
(Henrik Ibsen, An enemy of the people,my translation.)

Those of us who hold deliberation (in any form) to be an important prerequisite for informed decision making, would also be interested in the topic of how deliberative functions in society can be improved.

James Fishkin has been one of the most quoted political scientists concerned with the topic of deliberation. He’s a normative scientist, concerned with the benefits that can be reaped from encouraging more democratic debate throughout the population. He has proposed new democratic institutions, such as deliberative opinion polls, or more grandly the thought of a universal “Deliberation Day” (Ackerman & Fishkin 2003). But both of these rest on one very important assumption, that  “[…]most citizens would be glad of the opportunity to play a serious role in important historical events” (Fishkin 1991:9). And this is an assumption Fishkin seems to take lightly. But is it realistic? (more…)

Who votes for Fremskrittspartiet? October 27, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political behavior , comments closed

Norwegian media today references a survey conducted by Norstat for Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK) that shows that voters for the Norwegian party Fremskrittspartiet (The Progress Party) are more diverse than voters of other Norwegian parties. This corresponds quite well with a paper I wrote for a class in advanced statistics, analyzing the FrP voter based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS).

I analyzed the FrP voters according to the so-called “FrP code” presented by Norwegian Author Magnus Marsdal in the influential book FrP-koden. He claims that the success of FrP can be explained by the tension between a left-oriented cultural elite and a group of disgruntled voters identifying themselves with working class values. These are perceived to have little education and a low income, to be xenophobic and sceptical to the government and people in power. Marsdal employs mostly univariate analysis and anecdotal evidence to support these claims. I performed a regression analysis, testing these and a few other hypotheses, concluding that both low education, low age, scepticism to government and scepticism to immigration seems to increase probability of voting FrP. However, the tests of statistical reliability indicate that there are groups of voters that are very poorly predicted by these indicators, appraently voting FrP for some other, unexplained reasons. (more…)

Picking apart a quantitative analysis October 3, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, Political behavior , comments closed

Kai Arzheimer posted on his blog a not yet published paper he wrote along with Elizabeth Carter of Keele University. The paper picks apart another paper on effects that contribute and don’t contribute to the electoral support of Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France, especially the volume of immigration.

My interest in the paper is not so much the substantial content as the nice reminder it was to me as an aspiring political scientist to still keep a critical eye towards papers that at first eyesight appear to have a thorough empirical basis. I don’t think I’d have noticed the flaws these two scientists did.

The paper is well worth a read for anyone interested in quantitative methods.

Read Kai Arzheimer’s post and both papers here.