Jacob Christensen

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Archive for July, 2008

Hanging on the Telephone

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According to the Pew Research Center, the differences between voters with traditional landline phones and voters with mobile phones are minimal:

Pollsters are continuing to monitor changes in telephone use by the U.S. public, since most surveys are still conducted using only landline telephones. Growing numbers of Americans are reachable only by cell phone, and an even larger number who have both a landline and a cell phone may be “functionally cell-only” because of their phone use habits. The latest Pew Research Center national survey, conducted June 18-29 with a sample of 2,004 adults including 503 on a cell phone, finds that the overall estimate of voter presidential preference is modestly affected by whether or not the cell phone respondents are included. Barack Obama holds a 48% to 40% lead in the sample that includes cell phones, and a 46% to 41% advantage in the landline sample. Estimates of congressional vote are the same in the landline and combined samples.

and:

The cell-only and cell-mostly respondents in the Pew poll are different demographically from others. Compared with all respondents reached on a landline, both groups are significantly younger, more likely to be male, and less likely to be white. But the cell-only and cell-mostly also are different from one another on many characteristics. Compared with the cell-only, the cell-mostly group is more affluent, better educated, and more likely to be married, to have children, and to own a home.

Finally, a technical note (the thing which interests political scientists):

The more serious challenge to survey research posed by cell phones is the declining absolute numbers of certain types of respondents, most notably the young. In recent Pew Research Center surveys, only about 10% of respondents in landline samples are under age 30, which is roughly half of what it should be according to the U.S. Census. Young voters reached on landlines share many of the characteristics of the cell-only group, especially in terms of political views. That is why statistical weighting of the landline samples helps to correct for the absence of the cell-only. But the shortfall of young respondents in absolute numbers means that pollsters are limited in their ability to analyze differences within this age group.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 31st, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Israeli PM Ehud Olmert will be resigning. Sort of. Lisa Goldmanwho also blogs – lists his possible successors as Kadima leader:

Come September, Kadima will choose a new leader from the following candidates: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; Minister of Security (and former head of the Shin Bet) Avi Dichter; and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (former IDF Chief of Staff).

Tzipi Livni is known for her integrity, but lacks experience in coalition building. Avi Dichter lacks experience in foreign affairs and in domestic politics. Shaul Mofaz failed the officer’s examination several times when he was in the IDF; he is known as a man lacking in both humor and compassion – as well as experience. Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, the head of the Likud Party, was widely considered one of the worst prime ministers in Israel’s history when he was voted out of office in 1999. Unfortunately his replacement, Labor party leader Ehud Barak, managed to trump Bibi in the disastrous leadership department.

You’ll need a strong dose of Jewish humour to cope with that one, methinks.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 31st, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Politics

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Admissions Reviewed

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KOT released the numbers for applications and admissions to post-secondary education programmes in Denmark yesterday. If we look at the numbers for political science (Copenhagen, Århus, Odense)/social science (Roskilde)/public administration (Ålborg), the numbers for 2007 and 2008 are as follows:

  Appliciations   Admissions  
  2007 2008 2007 2008
Copenhagen 344 279 213 215
Odense 104 65 80 62
Roskilde 662 449 636 507
Ålborg 126 67 139 75
Århus 271 232 235 228

Note that I have only included first-preference applications.1 In any event, applications are down some 15-20% in Copenhagen and Århus, 32% in Roskilde, 37% in Odense and a staggering 46% in Ålborg. Copenhagen and Århus have managed to keep up admissions, but unless something happens next year, political science/public administration programmes at the smaller universities could very soon be facing a severe economic crisis.

  1. Also, programmes in Roskilde are organised differently – public administration is not as big as you might be led to believe by these numbers []

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 31st, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Political science etc.

Tagged with ,

There Are Bloggers and There Are …

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This is one of those times when I declare that I’m not a feminist, but …

… this is how the New York Times introduces its coverage – in the Fashion and Style Section, no less – about a conference for non-male bloggers:

For two days last week, many of the men’s bathrooms at the Westin St. Francis Hotel here were turned into women’s bathrooms. The stalls on the second floor were lined with note cards featuring nurturing messages like “You are perfect.” Nearby, women were being dusted with blush and eye shadow, or having the kinks in their necks massaged.

There was a lactation room, child care, and onesies for sale emblazoned with the words “my mom is blogging this.” No doubt they were.

Via Bitch Ph.D.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Politics

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Paradise Lost: Swedish Edition

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Andreas Bergh is, for once, lost for words – or at least he has gone out of steam after systematically rejecting the main arguments in Dan Josefsson’s essay about the Swedish welfare state, published in last Sunday’s DN.

What finally brought Bergh to the brink of desperation was this quote, attributed to Stefan Svallfors, professor in sociology in – yep – Umeå (I quote a bit more of the text below):

Stefan Svallfors tror att regeringens introduktion av begreppet “utanförskapet” är ett medvetet försök att förmå också svenskarna att börja tänka i termer av “vi” och “dem”, snarare än i termer av olika samhällsklasser.
– När man talar om utanförskapet säger man att det finns två stora grupper i Sverige; de som jobbar och de som inte jobbar.
Stefan Svallfors är dock tveksam till om försöket att installera denna nya skiljelinje blir framgångsrikt.
– Jag tror inte att svenskar i gemen uppfattar sjukskrivna och arbetslösa som så fundamentalt annorlunda än de själva. De som har jobb idag vet att de kan bli arbetslösa eller sjuka i morgon.
Stefan Svallfors håller med Stefan Carlén1 om att det i viss mån går att förändra människors värderingar bakvägen genom att ändra på reglerna i trygghetssystemen.

A summary for non-Scandinavian readers:

Svallfors believes that the government’s use of the term utanförskap (which could roughly be translated to social exclusion) is a conscious attempt to get the Swedes to think in terms of insider and outsider groups rather than in terms of social classes – any talk about social exclusion implies that the population can be divided in two groups: Those who work and those who do not.2 While Swedes generally have not seen recipients of sickness benefits and unemployment benefits as fundamentally different from themselves, Svallfors agrees with Stefan Carlén that it is to some degree possible to change people’s valuation of the welfare state by changing the rules in the social insurance programmes.

Right.

First of all, I will have to say that I glanced through Josefsson’s essay without finding anything of real interest or at least anything new. From a publisher’s point of view, it is yet another example of DN’s peculiar line of having the editorial page and the review section scream at each other, rather than engage in a critical discussion of political and social topics.

Second, the present government’s long-term goals are fair game in the political and public debate and it is easily possible to find cases where the Conservative Party’s commitment to social equality can be more than questioned. The way Vårdval Stockholm was organised and what is in effect a drive to phase out rented housing are in my opinion deeply problematic.3

But basically, we should read Josefsson’s piece as a case of left-wing political propaganda rather than an analysis of government policies, so the real question is: Why is the demonising of the Conservatives endemic in Swedish left-wing, including Social Democratic, propaganda?

First of all, Sweden is unusual among Western countries as party competition is fundamentally uni-dimensional and class-based. And: What is most obvious about Swedish political debate to a Dane is its high degree of polarisation. I’ve dabbled quite a bit in political history and to me the Swedish Social Democrats of 2006 sounded more like their Danish counterparts of 1926 than the Danish Social Democracy of the 1990s or 2000s. A bit strange, given that Sweden is supposed to be egalitarian and consensus-oriented, but there you go.4

So what the Social Democrats are doing, is following a model which has served the party very well for most of the last 80 years: Fighting the old conservative elite in rhetoric, while adopting a wide range of pragmatic economic policies in practice.

But what about the changes to the social insurance systems? Well, you will find a case of a country which introduced cuts in benefits (especially with regard to the period it was possible to claim benefits) and all kinds of activation measures with the goal of fighting long-term unemployment. The country is Denmark and, yes, the policies were adopted by a Social Democratic government. And no: There are absolutely no indications that support for the Danish welfare state has collapsed – as opposed to support for the Danish Social Democrats which has gone through the floor. There may be a reason why the Swedes sound so altmodisch to my Danish ears.

One final observation: I suspect that Josefsson comes out of a tradition which basically sees the welfare state as redistributive. In this perspective, the success of welfare state programmes depends on the number of people who receive benefits, not the impact on the growth of the overall economy. It may sound bizarre but in this perspective having 10 per cent of the adult population on unemployment benefits with a 1 per cent growth-rate is seen as more just than having 3 per cent on benefits with a 3 per cent growth-rate, and Cuba is a better place to live than Ireland.

Oh, and why did I give this post the heading “Paradise Lost”? Because many on the Swedish left still long for the days when Sweden was a modern industrial state envied by the world (or at least the progressive world) and the welfare state could be expanded without limits. But as any competent economic historian will be able to tell you, the 1960s and 1970s are long gone and so is the economic and social basis of the old welfare state.

  1. Economist at the Union of commercial employees []
  2. Or tax-payers and social parasites, if you prefer more blunt language []
  3. This in no way means that I find the Social Democrats’ insistence on keeping a 1930s-style Soviet style system rent regulation in place just remotely appropriate or successful []
  4. And let’s face it: There are class divisions in Swedish society []

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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Sigh… :-(

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Universities have students, not pupils for the love of God.

Or maybe this is really just another sign that Danish education politicians and bureaucrats have finally managed to take academia out of the universities.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 4:03 pm

links for 2008-07-30

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Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Posted in delicious.com

Pupils

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The grouchy copy-editor would like to note that universities have students, not pupils.

And: Could journalists please refrain from using the phrase “gider ikke” (“can’t be bothered with”) before they have discussed possible rational explanations of behaviour. Or should I say before bothering with discussing rational explanation of people’s behaviour?

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 9:26 am

Posted in General

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Admissions

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Holy schlamoly: Political science in Århus not only admitted all applicants with a first preference, they also report empty places.

The numbers:

  • Copenhagen (Political science and public administration): 279 first preference applicants for 215 places.
  • Århus (Political science and public administration): 232 first preference applicants, all admitted.
  • Odense (Political science and public administration): 65 first preference applicants, all admitted.
  • Roskilde (Social science, incl. international programme) 449 first preference applicants, 502 admitted.
  • Ålborg (Public administration): 67 first preference applicants, 75 admitted (incl. second preference and others).

Source: Linked document.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 30th, 2008 at 1:08 am

Posted in Political science etc.

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Anything Else You Want Us Not to Research?

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The Times Higher Education tells us

Academics have no “right” to research terrorist materials and they risk being prosecuted for doing so, the vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham has told his staff.

Never mind primary sources.

HT: BoingBoing.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 29th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

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