This is a guest post submitted by Chris Barker, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Southwestern College
For the past three weeks, “Political Science Rumors” (PSR) has been on fire over a falsified data scandal involving Michael LaCour’s research showing that the presence of a gay canvasser changes how respondents report feeling about gays. The scandal has achieved national prominence, with stories running in the New York Mag, NPR, the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, and Buzzfeed. UCLA graduate student David Broockman (posting as “Reannon”) first broke the story on the PSR board in mid-December 2014, according to Jesse Singal. The moderator who runs PSR pulled the original Broockman post for undisclosed reasons; it has since been reposted to PSR. Through their initial reaction to the story, and through their continuing efforts to reconstruct what happened, PSR and its posters have become part of this story.
This is a guest post by former Duck of Minerva blogger Daniel Nexon. The views that he expresses here should not be construed as representing those of the International Studies Association, International Studies Quarterly, or anyone with an ounce of sanity.
We now have a lot of different meta-narratives about alleged fraud in “When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment in the Transmission of Support for Gay Equality.” These reflect not only different dimensions of the story, but the different interests at stake.
One set concerns confirmation bias and the left-leaning orientations of a majority of political scientists. At First Things, for example. Matthew J. Franck contrasts the reception of the LaCour and Green study (positive) with that of Mark Regnerus’ finding of inferior outcomes for children of gay parents (negative). There’s some truth here. Regnerus’ study was terminally flawed. LaCour and Green’s study derived, most likely, from fraudulent data. Still, one comported with widespread ideological priors in the field, while the other did not. That surely shaped their differential reception. But so did the startling strength of the latter’s findings, as well as the way they cut against conventional wisdom on the determinants of successful persuasion.