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On Supreme Court, Does 9-0 Add Up to More Than 5-4?

Michael Salamone
Michael Salamone

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a remarkable number of unanimous decisions last term, and in their public remarks the justices seemed unanimous in saying that unanimity was a good thing. But is it?

Michael F. Salamone, a political scientist at WSU, has designed experiments to test whether the public is more apt to accept unanimous decisions than divided ones.

Related research citing Salamone’s work concluded that “the idea that 5-4 decisions pose a serious problem of credibility or legitimacy [for the court] remains an unproven hypothesis.”  How hard, then, should the justices work to achieve unanimity?

Read more about Salamone’s research in the ABA Journal; also in the New York Times (subscription required).

The Ruling on Peyote that Helped Hobby Lobby Win

Carolyn Long
Carolyn Long

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby decision, Carolyn Long, associate professor of the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at WSU Vancouver, explained the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the basis of the court’s ruling.

RFRA was adopted after a 1990 Supreme Court decision denied unemployment benefits to two Native American men who used peyote in a religious ritual.

Hear Professor Long on The Takeaway with John Hockenberry.

A call for civility by candidates and supporters

Sam Reed
Sam Reed

Former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed embodied the term “civility;” it is even included in the title of a professorship in Reed’s honor at Washington State University. Reed’s alma mater created an endowment to fund the Sam Reed Distinguished Professorship in Civic Education and Public Civility to honor Reed’s 12 years in statewide office, which came after stints as Thurston County auditor and assistant secretary of state.

Reed is a Republican who repeatedly won elections in Democratic-leaning Washington through moderate views and a fair, even-handed approach to his job. He concluded his tenure in 2012 with a statewide trek that he dubbed the “civility tour.” His message to local community leaders: When supporting candidates through endorsements or financial contributions, do so on the condition that they practice the values of civility, respect and bipartisanship. What was good advice in 2012 still stands in 2014.

Read more from the editorial board of the Yakima Herald-Republic

Senior wins Boren Award to study Mandarin in Taiwan

Thomas G. Taylor, a senior studying social sciences through the WSU Global Campus, has received a Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program (NSEP) to study the Mandarin language in Taiwan during the 2014-15 academic year.

He is one of 165 Boren recipients out of 868 applications from students in 38 disciplines nationwide. The new Boren Scholars represent 25 disciplines at 90 institutions in 36 states.

Taylor’s degree program includes concentrations in political science, sociology, and history.

He is WSU’s 13th Boren Scholar since 2001; the designation is for awardees who are undergraduates. WSU has also had two graduate student Boren Fellows since 2000.

NSEP reports that among this year’s winners, China is the most requested destination and Mandarin the second most popular language.

Learn more about this distinguished scholarship and others

Explaining perceptions of advertising tone

Travis Ridout
Travis Ridout

With midterm elections only 6 months off, it appears that many political groups are moving away from negative attack ads. Experts believe this change could be a response to new trends in voter response.

Research by Travis Ridout, associate professor of political science at WSU, and a colleague at Wesleyan University suggests the tone or volume of a political ad is not the key consideration in whether an ad will resonate with the audience. Their 2012 analysis found the strategic framing of an ad matters more than its perceived negativity.

For example, an ad touting a candidate’s foreign politics expertise during an overseas crisis will resonate more with voters than a candidate criticizing his or her opponent’s lack of foreign expertise at a time of peace.

More about political advertising