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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Erik Nisbet

Study finds different topics bedevil the left and right

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New research suggests that liberals, as well as conservatives, can be biased against science that doesn’t align with their political views.

The study found that people from both the left and right expressed less trust in science when they were presented with facts that challenged specific politicized issues.

For conservatives, climate change and evolution were the issues that led them to lose some trust in science. For liberals, it was hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and nuclear power.  The results challenge recent books and articles that claim conservatives alone have difficulty dealing with scientific fact.

"Liberals are also capable of processing scientific information in a biased manner," said Erik Nisbet, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication and political science at The Ohio State University.  "They aren't inherently superior to conservatives."

The researchers caution that the results shouldn't be interpreted to create a false balance in which each side could be seen as equally wrong on all issues.

"Our point is there is evidence of bias on both sides, although the bias may appear on different issues,” said co-author R. Kelly Garrett, also an associate professor of communication at Ohio State.

For example, "liberals may be biased about some issues, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong about humans causing climate change," Nisbet said. "You can’t say our study supports the climate denialism movement."

The study, also co-authored by graduate student Kathryn Cooper, appears in the March 2015 issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

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Richard GuntherIn 2012, President Barack Obama carried Ohio by 2 percentage points – yet Republicans won 62 of 99 state House seats and 12 of 16 congressional seats.

In 2014, four winners in the Ohio Senate, 14 in the Ohio House, and one U.S. Congressman, Bob Gibbs, faced no opponent in the general election.

How could one party gain such a large majority of seats, with so many of them uncontested, in what many regard as the quintessential swing state?

One word: gerrymandering.

After each census conducted every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau decides the number of Congressional representatives each state will get. In 2010, Ohio lost two representatives due to its loss of population. As a result, it had to redraw its congressional and state legislative districts.

In Ohio, districts are drawn by the Apportionment Board, composed of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and two members of the legislature from each party.

After Republicans swept state elections in 2010, they did what one might expect a political party to do: They draw the legislative districts to benefit themselves. Rather than a swing state, Ohio became known as one of the worst states for political gerrymanding in the country.

Watching this process was Mershon affiliate Richard Gunther, international coordinator of the 21-country Comparative National Elections Project.

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kertzerj250

Joshua Kertzer (PhD, political science, 2013) was awarded a 2014 Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, the nation’s highest honor for doctoral dissertations. Kertzer’s dissertation, “Resolve in International Politics,” was selected from 71 nominees representing 25 disciplines in the social sciences. He was presented the award on December 4 during the CGS annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Kertzer’s dissertation, which was supported by a grant from the Mershon Center, examines the concept of resolve, which is a commonly used but insufficiently understood independent variable in international relations.

He describes resolve as “an interaction between situational stakes and dispositional traits,” and uses a range of different methods to explain why certain types of actors are more sensitive to the costs of fighting, while others are more sensitive to the costs of backing down. Kertzer’s faculty advisor was Richard Herrmann, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science and former director of the Mershon Center.

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Daniel Sui

Study shows limits of 'liberation technology' in advancing change

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The serious air pollution problem in China has attracted the attention of online activists who want the government to take action, but their advocacy has had only limited success, a new study has revealed.

Instead, much of the online conversation has been co-opted by corporations wanting to sell masks, filters and other products and by government officials advancing its own environmental narrative, the study finds.

Researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed about 250,000 posts on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter) that discussed the pollution problem in the country.

They concluded that online activists did force the Chinese government to take some actions to tackle the pollution problem. But they also found that business and government dominated much of the conversation and used it to their own advantage.

"Social media has been touted as a 'liberation technology' for citizens, but we found the story wasn’t so straightforward in China," said Daniel Sui, co-author of the study and professor of geography at Ohio State. "Along with the positive gains brought by social media, there were negatives.

Sui conducted the study with Samuel Kay and Bo Zhao, both graduate students at Ohio State at the time of the study. Their findings appear online (article available here) in the journal The Professional Geographer.

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