Last August, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a report on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Prepared by some of the nation’s leading statisticians, including two former U.S. Census Bureau directors, the report concluded that the decision was “inconsistent with” what the Bureau is supposed to be doing.
Continuing with the 2020 census as planned “would be like creating a population registry without asking everyone if it was okay,” said Don Dillman, a member of the National Academies committee, regents professor of sociology, deputy director for research and development in the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University, and a founder of one of the first university-based telephone survey research centers. The impact of doing so “worries me a lot,” he added.
As the committee reviewed many of the materials that recent lawsuits have turned up, Dillman “really started wondering if the citizen question was put there to identify people.” Not knowing what would be done with information gathered from answers to the question and administrative sources, as well as being unsure about the real motivation behind adding the question, also made him anxious about the scope of its impact. “If it’s really a registry,” Dillman said, “I don’t know where it would start — and where it would end.”
In the months after Washington voters approved legalized marijuana in 2012, Clayton Mosher, a sociology professor at Washington State University Vancouver, noticed what he believed to be unnecessary safety concerns.
Years after sales began, Mosher believes the apprehension has been proven to be unwarranted.
“We’re only four years out, but I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of negative outcomes,” Mosher said. “We’ve done a really good job in our state, I think.”
Mosher, who has studied marijuana policy for roughly 30 years, recently released his new book “In the Weeds,” coauthored with Scott Akins of Oregon State University. The book traces the evolution of society’s views on the drug and how it has affected policy.
The book tackles the effects, medical applications and possible harms of marijuana. “If the sky was going to fall, it probably would’ve fallen by now,” Mosher said, “Legalization didn’t create marijuana, and we’ve seen some positive effects of this.”
Polls show more Americans are concerned about climate change than they used to be. That much is evident in surveys done by researchers at Yale University and George Mason University. For instance, in March of 2015, 63 percent of Americans believed climate change was happening and 52 percent reported being worried about it. By December of 2018, belief had jumped to 73 percent — and 69 percent were worried.
In that shift, Erik Johnson sees the hand of politics. Johnson is a professor of sociology at Washington State University, where he studies environmental movements. A few years ago, he got interested in the question of whether support for environmental policy might go up as Gen Xers and millennials began to take over from older generations. Basically: When old people die, is it good for environmental policy support?
But that turned out to be the wrong question entirely. “As we got into it, we started to figure out that age cohorts don’t matter,” Johnson told me. Instead, the stats said that shifts in support for environmental spending — whether people believed it should go up or down — were more strongly correlated with things like politics and economics.
Last month, Johnson published research that tracked American support for environmental spending over time. Since 1973, public support for increased environmental spending has tended to grow during Republican administrations and decline during Democratic ones. Which means Americans are more likely to want the government to take more environmental action when the person in the White House is less likely to have environmentalism as a core focus of his policy.
WSU sociology professor Erik Johnson has what looks like a surefire way to hurt support for government spending to protect the environment: Elect a Democratic president.
While the finding may seem counterintuitive, Johnson said Democratic administrations appear to mobilize Republican opposition that is less volatile when the GOP controls the White House.
Johnson teased apart the opinions of more than 20,000 people over more than four decades and saw that support for environmental spending consistently plummeted during the administrations of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats all.
Johnson made his discovery using a statistical analysis that looked at poll respondents in terms of their age, the time period in which they were surveyed and the cohort of similarly aged people. Support for environmental spending consistently declines as people get older and one’s cohort has only a modest effect on his or her environmental views. But one’s relative support for the environment changes dramatically depending on which party is in the White House.
Three Washington State University faculty have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.
Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, was elected for her “distinguished contributions to research on life course development focusing on how adolescents transitioning into adulthood is impacted by different social relationships and economic resources.”
The new WSU fellows are among 416 members who will be awarded for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications on Feb. 16 during the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. They will be formally announced Thursday in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science.