Reports in Review - Summer 2007

Report of the Month:

Dramatic Shift to the Democrats

Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Washington, D.C., March 22, 2007.

If we can believe this survey, support for the Republican Party has dropped drastically since 2002, with only 35 percent oriented toward the GOP today compared with 43 percent five years ago. The Democrats, meanwhile, are much more popular, with support rising from 43 percent in 2002 to 50 percent today. More independents lean toward Democrats, but true party partisans are as divided as ever.

Some of the most dramatic shifts are visible when comparing the 1990s to today, especially in support for gay rights, government help for the needy, and religiosity. You see key socially conservative positions peaking in 1999, right before the election of George W. Bush, and a decline since then: for instance, 55 percent said prayer was a daily part of their lives in 1999, compared with 45 percent today. The Gingrich revolution of 1994 seems to be another peak, this time for fiscal conservatives: only 57 percent of those surveyed thought "government should care for those who can't care for themselves" in 1994, compared to 69 percent today – admittedly still a pretty dismal number. The shift is equally dramatic when it comes to support for the government giving the needy food and shelter: from 59 percent in 1994 to 69 percent today.

Support for unions has remained strong over the years, but there was a slight dip in support from 2002, with 68 percent showing support now versus 74 percent in 2003. A big surprise is the steady growth in support for affirmative action since the mid-90s, when only 58 percent thought women, blacks, and other minorities should get a boost in securing jobs. Today 70 percent do. And a whopping 19 percent of Generation Y-those born from 1977 on-say they are at least agnostic if not totally a-religious. Even the boomers aren't so skeptical, with 11 percent at least agnostic. This report is full of such surprises and worth a browse.

– Abby Scher

Other Reports in Review:

Questioning the President's Power

Background on Executive Privilege
Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law, March 23, 2007.

Condoleezza Rice says she will ignore Congress's subpoena calling her to testify about the Bush Administration's notorious claim that Saddam Hussein had secured uranium in Niger. And in their investigation of the firing of U.S. Attorneys last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Karl Rove's emails to the Justice Department. But the Administration repeatedly claims executive privilege in refusing to cooperate.

If you want to sort out claims and counterclaims about the various forms of executive privilege, this short briefing paper will help you even though it does not examine any of the cases now in the news. While the Supreme Court recognized the constitutionally rooted Presidential privilege as a way to protect candor in decision-making in the White House and "the supremacy of each branch in its own assigned area," it still told the Nixon Administration it could only keep direct communication with the president secret. Congress's power to investigate the executive branch and the pursuit of justice in the courts could also trump Presidential privilege, according to the Supreme Court. Later, a circuit court confirmed that it didn't cover people in the Justice Department who were not communicating with the President, and that it was not an absolute privilege even in relation to the president.

The Bush Administration has also been pushing "deliberative process privilege" with roots in common law, not the Constitutional separation of powers of the three branches of government. This would cover staff's policy-making debates that come before a decision, but, while recognized by the Supreme Court, it does not hold when there is the possibility of misconduct. So Congress often overrides it in its investigations.

When national security is involved, the courts give the executive branch more latitude to keep secrets, but Congress has aggressively asserted the power of its intelligence committees to have access to the information. George Washington even ceded to Congress's first request for information related to a military defeat in 1791.

– Abby Scher

Labor Rights as Human Rights

Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart's Violation of U.S. Workers' Right to Freedom of Association
Human Rights Watch, New York, May 2007.

Wal-Mart is the world's largest employer, and Human Rights Watch studied its egregious anti-union activities and illegal conduct as "a case study in what is wrong with U.S. labor laws." But this 200-page report goes beyond corporate misconduct to evaluate the system of labor rights both domestically and internationally.

Discounting Rights argues that Wal-Mart (and other scofflaws) should be sanctioned not only because they violate U.S. labor law but also because they violate the right to freedom of association guaranteed by international law. A worker's ability to organize is a basic human right that the United States should defend, Human Rights Watch argues, because it is party to international treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As the premier non-governmental watchdog of international human rights violations, Human Rights Watch knows the territory.

Its analysis of U.S. labor law describes a system weakened by anti-labor interests and skewed in favor of employers. For example, while the National Labor Relations Board must ask for an injunction when evidence exists of serious union misconduct, it is not required to do so when the evidence focuses on management. The report illustrates how to construct an exposé of labor violations using a human rights frame.

–Pam Chamberlain

Is a Liberal Arts Education Too Liberal?

The "Faculty Bias" Studies: Science or Propaganda?
By John Lee, JBL Associates, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, November 2006.

On behalf of the coalition Free Exchange on Campus, JBL Associates looked into the recent claims that U.S. universities are left-leaning and thus not welcoming of conservative views, students, or faculty. These accusations stem from eight studies largely conducted by conservative groups such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Their "scientific" ammo arms conservatives like David Horowitz to demand that state legislatures pass his so-called Academic Bill of Rights, which would essentially force U.S. universities to hire the professors whose politics he likes.

JBL Associates, a postsecondary education policy research and analysis firm, analyzed the research strategies used in the eight studies to see just how legitimate they are. The conclusion: "None of the eight reports meets all of the minimum research standards for a valid research study."

It seems that the bias in the equation is not located in the higher education community but in the authors of the studies themselves. Along with methodological flaws, the most common error was mistakenly assuming that a correlation indicated causation. In other words, an academic department with a majority of registered Democrats on its faculty does not necessarily lead to the systematic exclusion of conservative ideas or to preventing conservatives from getting promotions.

Unfortunately, this propaganda masked as research has been used as material in the editorials and commentary of conservative pundits, and it is thanks to the publication of these "scientific" studies that state legislatures invite groups such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to testify. Fortunately, JBL's study pulls the rug out from under proposals like the Academic Bill of Rights and exposes their authors for the ideologues they really are.

–Michelle Iorio and Nathan Stopper

Abstinence Programs A Bust

Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., April 2007.

Why the Left is Attacking Abstinence Programs
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Beverly LaHaye Institute, May 2, 2007.

A recent government-sponsored study won the attention of Janice Shaw Crouse, policy director of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, since it decisively shows that abstinence-only education "had no overall impact on teen sexual activity."

Mathematica Policy Research evaluated four programs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and found that regardless of the children's age and socioeconomic status, program intensity, and availability of other sex education services, the programs were a bust.

For the study, youth were randomly assigned either to the program group - their school's abstinence program - or to the control group, which did not participate in any abstinence program. Following up on both groups four to six years later, researchers found "no differences in rates of unprotected sex" between the groups, and striking similarities in the median age of first sexual intercourse, and number of sexual partners. They found the programs are effective in building awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, although 25% of adolescents have an STD.

Although authorized and funded by Congress, Crouse dismisses the study as "based on flawed methodology" and an example of the Left's effort to push their own "sex-is-no-big-deal" and "sex-without-consequences" agendas by undermining the programs. With a bit of "flawed methodology" of her own, Crouse overlooks the possibility of any "intervening variables" in arguing that the abstinence programs must work because teen sexual activity and teen birthrates have dropped since the programs won federal support ten years ago - now to the tune of $87.5 million a year.

–Michelle Iorio

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