Free E-chapters available from The Gamble by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck

Princeton University Press has never shied away from trying new things when it comes to academic publishing and our latest venture, The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election by Lynn Vavreck and John Sides is no exception. That Princeton University Press would publish a book of analysis by two top notch political scientists isn’t news, but the way we’re doing it certainly is.


Anyone who follows politics and particularly Election 2012 knows that political pundits are everywhere. But you probably also know that their analysis is often either based on anecdotes and personal experience or seems biased toward one political party’s views. This is all the more reason we need objective, scholarly analysis by accomplished political scientists. However, a typical political science book from an academic press about the 2012 election might appear two to three years from now, well after interest in the election has faded.


“Political scientists have much to offer all of us in understanding how voters make choices, what impact campaigns have on elections, the role of big money, and the role of political parties and interest groups in elections, among other issues. And yet nearly all the work is published years after the elections take place,” notes Chuck Myers, Executive Editor and Group Publisher of the Social Sciences at Princeton University Press


So, we are pushing the limits of academic publishing by releasing several free e-chapters from the book as they are completed. The result is peer-reviewed scientific analysis in real-time and a chance to inject a dose of reality into a discourse too often dominated by speculation and folklore.


Download THE GAMBLE: “The Hand You’re Dealt” here:

Download THE GAMBLE: “Random, or Romney?” here:


THE GAMBLE gives political science a voice in the ongoing conversation about this campaign,” says Sides. “It brings hard data to bear and casts doubt on a lot of commentary and conventional wisdom.”


“If you want to understand what’s happening in this election, you have to understand the data,” explains Vavreck. “We have great partners in YouGov and General Sentiment providing us with mountains of data that we can analyze to help readers understand what really mattered and what did not.”


The first two e-chapters of THE GAMBLE“The Hand You’re Dealt” and “Random or Romney”—begin to tell the story of the 2012 presidential election.


“The Hand You’re Dealt” describes the lay of the land at the end of 2011, as we enter into the election year. Sides and Vavreck explain why President Obama may be better positioned than a weak economy would typically predict.


“Sixty years of economic and election data tell us this should be a close election for President Obama, but his general likability and the public’s inclination to blame his predecessor for the economic downturn are making him more popular than we might expect given the slowly growing economy,” explains Vavreck. “People just generally like President Obama, and in a close election, that could make all the difference.”


“Random or Romney” challenges the “anyone but Romney” myth. It demonstrates that, despite the surges of candidates like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich during the fall of 2011, by the eve of the Iowa caucus Mitt Romney was well-positioned to win. And in contrast to commentators who emphasized Romney’s problems with conservatives, Sides and Vavreck show that conservative Republicans had more favorable views of Romney than did moderate Republicans—suggesting that he would ultimately be able to unite the party, as in fact he has.


“What most people don’t understand is that Romney went into the primaries popular and stayed popular. He was already a familiar candidate to the media, so they tended to pay more attention to the other candidates whenever they did something noteworthy. The news coverage helped the other candidates surge in the polls, but their temporary surges didn’t mean Romney was disliked within the party,” says Sides. “Another myth is that Romney needed help in mobilizing the base. The data tell us that this is not really true.”


“The Hand You’re Dealt” and “Random or Romney” are now available at Princeton University Press’s website and through online retailers. Additional chapters that discuss the rest of the GOP primary, the summer campaign, the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate, and the conventions will be available closer to the election. In total, four chapters from THE GAMBLE will be released prior to the publication of the physical book in September 2013, and Sides and Vavreck hope that this early material starts a dialogue with readers.


Myers expands on this novel publishing program, saying, “We hope that the finished book will benefit from the comments of our readers, taking advantage of ‘the cloud’ to improve the analysis and the presentation of the story of the 2012 presidential election.”


The book’s web site:


About the Authors:


Lynn Vavreck and John Sides are authoritative voices on voting behavior and campaign effects in political science. Vavreck (, @vavreck) is Associate Professor of Political Science and Communication Studies at UCLA and is author of The Message Matters and co-author of Campaign Reform: Insights and Evidence, & The Logic of American Politics. In 2003, she helped start an online survey research company that became YouGov/America, and in 2010 she co-founded Model Politics, a political blog dedicated to bringing data to bear on contemporary questions. She has been interviewed in the media on campaigns, elections, and media research.


Sides (, @monkeycageblog), an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, is a leading authority on public opinion and voting behavior in the United States and abroad. He is co-author of Campaigns and Elections: Rules, Reality, Strategy, Choice and is co-founder of and contributor to The Monkey Cage, an award-winning blog about politics and political science. He is also an occasional contributor to the 538 Blog at the New York Times and Wonkblog at the Washington Post. His writing has appeared at the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Review, Salon, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera, the Washington Monthly, the American Prospect, and Bloomberg View and he has been interviewed in the media numerous times in recent years.


  1. Finally, a quantitative approach to the mess that is American politics. I am so sick of the theater, smoke and mirrors, and distractions that the American media is so famous for. It will be nice to receive relevant, quantitative analysis. Even the intro begins with a tangible figure for the reader.

    I can’t wait to dive into these free chapters, and I will definitely buy this book when it is fully released. Even if I end up hating the book, it will still encourage similar publishing practices. I have to say, just skimming and looking at the figures presented, I’m already on board. The Salient Events spreadsheet at the end of “The Hand You’re Dealt” is especially interesting.