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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Alexander Wendt

In a periodic survey of faculty at more than 1,400 colleges and universities worldwide, Alexander Wendt was once again named as the most influential scholar in international relations over the past 20 years. Wendt is Ralph D. Mershon Professor of International Security at the Mershon Center.

The survey was part of the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project done by the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary in collaboration with Foreign Policy magazine. Wendt was also named for most influential scholar in international relations in the 2011 survey.

Wendt is author of Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge, 1999), widely cited for bringing social constructivist theory to the field of international relations. His book argues that international politics is determined not primarily by material concerns such as wealth and power, but by states' perceptions of each other as rivals, enemies, and friends. Social Theory of International Politics was named Best Book of the Decade by the International Studies Association in 2006 and has been translated into 10 languages.

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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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