Author Archives: MassPoliticsProfs

Some aren’t ready for Hillary

Professor O’Brien and Professor Ubertaccio are quoted in a piece by Scott Conroy in Real Clear Politics: Not Ready for Hillary: The Rationale for Elizabeth Warren

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ProfessorU discusses the Democratic Convention on Greater Boston

Professor Ubertaccio discusses the outcome of the Democratic Convention and the race for Massachusetts Governor with Adam Reilly of WGBH’s Greater Boston.

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Shenna Bellows, The Future of Maine Politics?

As election year heats up MassPoliticsProfs wants to bring insight into what is going on in other New England states and fortunately our colleagues at colleges throughout the region are the best possible resource. Today we are pleased to welcome a guest post on Maine politics from our friend Prof. Karl Trautman. He is the chairperson of the Social Science Department and an instructor of political science at Central Maine Community College. He does a weekly podcast at Prof. Trautman’s latest book is The Underdog in American Politics: The Democratic Party and Liberal Values.

In her bones, she probably knows she will not win. She is a highly intelligent woman. But Shenna Bellows, the Democrat who is trying to deny Republican Susan Collins a fourth term in the US Senate, is doing something refreshing. She is strengthening the Maine Democratic Party at its roots by running an energetic and creative campaign.

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Endorsements That Matter: The Boston Mayor’s Race

One of the many blessings of the annual New England Political Science Association meeting is that it offers a chance for emerging scholars to present their work. Once again we are pleased to present a blog post based on the work of young scholars studying under the tutelage of the first-rate faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, this time on the efficacy of endorsements in the Boston mayor’s race.

Cameron Roche is a PhD graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He is an Assistant Director of the Umass Poll and is a research assistant on the NSF Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES), working under the direction of Professor Brian Schaffner.  His research interests include:  American Politics, Congressional Elections, and Political Psychology.  He can be reached at

Keith Lema is a Fulbright Scholar and graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He was a Political Science and Economics dual major and member of Phi Beta Kappa.  He was an undergraduate research assistant for Umass Poll.

The 2013 Boston mayoral election between Marty Walsh and John Connolly, provided politics-junkies with quite a close finish.  While Connolly led his opponent for most of the campaign, his good fortune faded by the end of October. On October 30th, UMass Poll became the first organization to predict a Walsh victory outside of the margin of error.  A few days later, Suffolk University released a poll confirming Walsh’s newly acquired lead.  Less than a week later, Connolly was congratulating Walsh over the phone and preparing his concession speech.  To further understand this outcome, we looked to media groups for their narrative surrounding the election.

Most media outlets issued similar accounts of the election. They consistently credited Walsh as the “union” candidate who beat Connolly because of his superior ground game.  Certainly, Walsh’s relationship with unions provided an influx of money, organization, as well as boots on the ground for his campaign.  However, UMass Poll data revealed evidence of a more nuanced narrative about Walsh’s win over Connolly: our analysis shows that endorsements also played a critical role in Walsh’s victory.

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Political Scientists Love Puzzles

At the recent New England Political Science Association annual meeting some of the most interesting work was presented by Matthew MacWilliams. Matthew was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He is a PhD candidate (ABD) at the University of Massachusetts. His current academic research interests include election forecasting using social media metrics, campaign communications, social media, political behavior, the Supreme Court, the politics of climate change, the politics of health care reform, interest group lobbying of the judiciary, campaign finance, and political campaigns. He was nominated in the fall of 2013 for a distinguished teaching award at the University of Massachusetts. We are pleased to have him guest today, with a provocative post questioning the new conventional wisdom about the lack of effectiveness of political television commercials – like those we’ve already seen in the Scott Brown-Jeanne Shaheen contest. Also keep an eye out for the launch later this month of Matt’s blog HashtagDemocracy.

Political scientists do love puzzles. They are the grist of our academic research mills. But sometimes puzzles that question academic orthodoxy, especially orthodoxy arrived at through seemingly airtight statistical analyses, are left unexamined.

Take for instance the orthodoxy that political commercials don’t matter. This scholarly assertion has grown over the ivy covered walls of academe and blossomed into a new conventional wisdom, voiced in a recent article by Sasha Issenberg in The New Republic, that Senate “Democrats should not be too worried about the inbound negative ads” attacking them this year.

That’s one puzzling whopper of a recommendation that may have taken the findings of academic studies a bit further than is warranted.

Posted in New Hampshire Politics, U.S. Politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

In Defense of Horse Trading Behind Closed Doors

Today we welcome a guest post from our friend Professor Ray LaRaja. He is an associate professor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and associate director of the UMass Poll. Prof. La Raja is author of Small Change: Money, Political Parties and Campaign Finance Reform and editor of New Directions in American Politics. He serves on the Academic Advisory Board of the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, DC. and is founding editor of The Forum, an electronic journal of applied research in American politics.  

A common trope in the media is that legislative deal-making is nefarious, especially when done ‘in secret’.  The most recent media harrumphing in the Herald and Commonwealth Magazine comes to light after a ham-fisted attempt by a legislator to thwart the building of a Cape Cod oyster farm — which was not even in his own district — by slipping in an eccentric amendment to a large bill.  Presumably he was doing it as a favor to the leadership that was lobbied by rich beachfront owners near Popponesset Island (like the Kraft family) who could not win their cause in the court system.   The amendment was imprudent overreach, and kudos to the journalist who helped pull back the veil.  At the same time, however, the media should not disparage wholesale the practice of horse-trading, which is etched into the very fabric of the Commonwealth’s Constitution.

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Whither Republican Women in New England?

New England has contributed a number of important centrist Republican women to Congress – Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, Rep. Margaret Heckler of Massachusetts, Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut to name just three. This breed of Republican women, however, is becoming an endangered species. So argues our guest contributor today, Professor Laurel Elder of Hartwick College, located in upstate New York. She is the author, with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, of The Politics of Parenthood: Causes and Consequences of the Politicization and Polarization of the American Family as well as numerous academic articles on women’s under-representation in U.S. political institutions.

For those interested in seeing women one day reach parity with men in elected office, recent trends in New England state legislatures should be watched closely and with considerable concern.

Posted in New England Politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The 15% Rule and Vibrant Political Parties

In today’s Boston Globe Professor Ubertaccio and Professor Cunningham publish an op-ed arguing that the 15-percent rule at party caucuses contributes to democracy. The profs bolster their conclusion with four reasons that the caucuses serve the Massachusetts political system well — and unlike Rick Perry, they even remember all the reasons. Click on the link and read the Globe op-ed piece.

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Money Trumping Democracy

Today we are pleased to welcome a guest post. John Nichols is the Washington correspondent for the Nation magazine, and Robert McChesney is a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-­Champaign. They will discuss their new book, “Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America,” at 7 p.m. at the Old South Meeting House in Boston.  The Old South Meeting House is located at 310 Washington St., Boston (at the intersection with Milk Street).

By John Nichols and Robert McChesney

There can no longer be any question that free and fair elections — what we were raised to believe was an American democratic birthright — are effectively being taken away from the people.

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It’s Walsh v. Connolly

Professor U discusses the Boston mayoral race on NECN with a mention of Michael Dukakis.

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