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another threat to NSF…

Wednesday May 9, 2012

Filed under: politics,statistics — jackman @ 10:50 am

Email arrived overnight with news that the National Science Foundation’s support of political science research might be under threat. Specifically,

APSA [the American Political Science Association] has learned that Representative Jeff Flake (AZ) may imminently introduce an amendment to the NSF appropriations bill now on the House floor (HR 5326: the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013) to defund the political science program at the NSF.

Flake is running for the AZ Senate seat opening up with Kyl’s retirement. The Republican primary in AZ is in September. Flake is drawing some opposition on his right flank, it would seem. Draw your own conclusions, perhaps sprinkle in the fact that Republican Senate aspirants find themselves in a “post-Lugar” environment, etc.

For what it is worth, Flake has a slightly more conservative voting history than we’d expect, even given that he’s in a seat that went for McCain over Obama by better than 60-40. Take out the McCain home-state effect and the “normal vote” for AZ-6 slides a little more Democratic, meaning that Flake is even a little conservative again, given the district’s presidential vote split. When you look at Flake in relation to other AZ House members (solid dots on the graph above), he’s roughly middle of the pack. This leads a little bit of credence to the “conservative, but conservative enough for the statewide Republican primary constituency?” hypothesis, and, in turn, why we’ve got some position-taking like what’re seeing.

Yesterday Flake got a vote up on the floor of the House, an amendment that he described as taking the NSF budget back to pre-stimulus levels (Congressional Record). It failed, with all Dems voting against it, but with Republicans splitting 121-112 in favor.

The roll call split Republicans pretty cleanly, with legislators’ ideal points a reasonable but not great predictor of Republican votes (area under the ROC curve is 0.945 for everyone, down to 0.858 for Republicans). The next graph shows the item-characteristic curve for the roll call, with ideal points and actual Yeas and Nays superimposed. There are plenty of mis-classifications: 22 Ayes predicted to vote Nay (prob < .5) and 25 Nays predicted to vote Yea (prob > .5), for a total of 20% mis-classified. So there is a bit more going on here than “ideology” among Republicans.

Note also that Coburn moved to kill political science funding at NSF back in 2009. I blogged on that at the time. See here (n.b., 5 Senate Dems supported Coburn’s amendment).

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