6 episodes

Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen?

In each episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield takes a deep look at the people who are trying to change the world, chronicling their successes but also exploring the limits of change. The primary subject areas are politics, sociology, technology, and business.

Theory of Change podcast Matthew Sheffield

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Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen?

In each episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield takes a deep look at the people who are trying to change the world, chronicling their successes but also exploring the limits of change. The primary subject areas are politics, sociology, technology, and business.

    Theory of Change #6: Editorial cartoons in the age of the meme (Nick Anderson and Nate Beeler)

    Theory of Change #6: Editorial cartoons in the age of the meme (Nick Anderson and Nate Beeler)

    The internet and the explosion of free political content that it created has had a dramatic effect on the media industry.

    One sector of journalism that’s been particularly harmed in recent years is editorial cartooning. Ten years ago, most major-city daily newspapers employed artists to draw their takes on the news of the day. Now, however, the ranks of editorial cartoonists have shrunk drastically.

    That’s why several of America’s top editorial cartoonists have joined together to form their own media outlet called Counterpoint.com dedicated solely to gathering high-quality artists from both sides of the political spectrum and presenting their work to the public.

    In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield is joined by Nick Anderson, one of Counterpoint’s co-founders who formerly worked at the Houston Chronicle. He's also joined by Nate Beeler, a veteran cartoonist who draws at Counterpoint after previously working at the Columbus Dispatch.

    During the conversation, they talk about Counterpoint, the newspaper industry, and cartooning during the age of the internet meme.

    The two artists also discuss why cartoonists expressing their opinions seem to face more anger from political opponents than people who write or speak their opinions.

    • 42 min
    Theory of Change #5: Can we trust opinion polls? (With Courtney Kennedy of the Pew Research Center)

    Theory of Change #5: Can we trust opinion polls? (With Courtney Kennedy of the Pew Research Center)

    If you read, listen or watch the news today it’s impossible to avoid public opinion polls. They are literally everywhere. The president’s approval rating, what people think about impeachment, even what the best fast food restaurant is.

    But as omnipresent as opinion surveys are, a lot of the math and science that goes into them is relatively unknown to many people. There are also a lot of questions about how polls work and how they should work. Why do most polls include more Democrats than Republicans? Do political “independents” actually exist?

    There are also a lot of misunderstandings about opinion surveys. Many people, think that they got the 2016 presidential election wrong. But that’s not quite true. In fact, the national polls did a pretty good job of predicting what the vote would be. But some of the state polls, did get it wrong, and the Constitution awards the presidency to the candidate with the most Electoral College votes—not the popular vote.

    To get to the bottom of these issues, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield spoke with Courtney Kennedy, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. In the conversation, Kennedy talks at length about the profusion of survey research companies and the rise of polling aggregation operations like those at the FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics, and the New York Times.

    While she is skeptical about some pollsters’ practices, she also wonders whether it make sense to lump low-quality polls with those from organizations with much stricter standards.

    She also warns that trying to create election forecasts that assign a candidate’s percentage chance of winning based on polls may actually suppress voter turnout.

    Kennedy also discuss how polling operations have had to change how they conduct research in light of the rise of spam phone calls. One surprising change that the Pew Research Center has made is to go old-school by recruiting poll respondents via letters in their mailboxes.

    • 45 min
    Theory of Change #4: Has Trump really changed the GOP all that much?

    Theory of Change #4: Has Trump really changed the GOP all that much?

    There’s been a lot of commentary about how Donald Trump is changing the Republican Party. There’s even a cottage industry of former Republicans who often write about how Trump has ruined the GOP they once knew and loved.

    But according to Bruce Bartlett, a former senior White House economic adviser to President Bush 41, most of what today’s Trump skeptics point to as something new in the party was there long ago. Bartlett had a falling out with the GOP in the early 2000s when he realized that its leaders were not interested in the fiscal conservatism that they promised on the campaign trail.

    That took him on a long road, one which led to him becoming a progressive. In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield talks with Bartlett about his ideological journey and also his thoughts on today’s political situation.

    According to the former libertarian economist, Democrats don’t take politics seriously enough to invest in the political infrastructure that conservatives spent decades building up. The net effect is that American politics continues drifting rightward, even though most Americans do not actually support cutting the government.

    • 50 min
    Theory of Change #3: Sanders vs Warren and the battle over how to make change, feat. Carl Beijer

    Theory of Change #3: Sanders vs Warren and the battle over how to make change, feat. Carl Beijer

    As the actual voting in the Democratic presidential primary gets closer, the race is becoming tighter, both numerically and emotionally.

    Some wealthy Democratic donors appear to be panicking as the candidate they’ve gravitated toward, Joe Biden, has had trouble in debates and also demonstrated significant problems appealing to the small-dollar donors that have become so important in Democratic presidential campaigns.

    Additionally, the informal truce between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders has started to unravel a bit as the Massachusetts senator has pulled into either first or second place depending on the survey. While the candidates themselves aren’t going after each other, some of their supporters are sparring with increasing frequency.

    The key point of contention for these further-left candidates revolves around a subject that this show is named after—their theories of change.

    Both candidates have called for significant expansion of the federal government, more regulations on big business, and also for higher taxes on wealthy people. But how can such big promises be achieved when the Senate is dominated by small states that elect Republicans?

    Sanders says he can solve the problem by activating the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the political system because they believe both parties mostly advocate for the same policies. And it’s true that surveys of these “unlikely voters” reveal them to be more economically liberal than those who do vote. At the same time, however, the term “socialism” has proven unpopular with many Americans. In a survey conducted earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found that 33% of Democratic respondents said they negative opinion of socialism. Independents are even more skeptical.

    Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, seems to be focusing first on winning the nomination rather than completely overhauling the American economic system. Polls have shown that Democratic loyalists seem to like her over Sanders, but her left-wing critics argue that Warren’s less sweeping solutions won’t solve the problems that she and Sanders agree exist.

    With Joe Biden running out of steam with each passing day, the debate over how to make change between Warren and Sanders is likely to become only more significant within the Democratic presidential contest. Carl Beijer, a socialist writer, joins Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield to discuss the emerging contest between the two candidates and what it means for Democrats in 2020. Beijer also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Warren, Sanders, and Joe Biden in a general election against Donald Trump.

    • 59 min
    Theory of Change #2: How do you impeach a president? (With Lee Miringoff of Marist)

    Theory of Change #2: How do you impeach a president? (With Lee Miringoff of Marist)

    How do you impeach a president? As a legal matter, it's all very simple. But as a political matter, it's anything but.

    Impeaching and removing a president has never been done before in the American political system. Even impeachment trials themselves are extremely rare in the history of the Republic. Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached while Richard Nixon resigned before he was likely to have been removed by the Senate.

    That means it's historically very historically significant that House Democrats have decided to begin the impeachment process.

    In the short term, however, it's unclear what might happen. As my guest in this episode, Lee Miringoff of the Marist Poll, discusses, there's a real wildcard: public opinion.

    As he found out in his latest survey, Americans are growing more supportive of the House's impeachment investigation but they also seem to prefer that Trump's fate be decided at the ballot box in 2020 as he runs for re-election. That could change, of course, if different facts come out about what the administration did with Ukraine.

    One thing adding to the uncertainty in all this is how it might affect the 2020 Democratic nominee. With all the focus that impeaching Trump is going to generate, it could very well make it difficult for whoever Democrats pick to capture public attention. Trump could also use impeachment to movitvate his own core voters--before this all got started, there were several reports that the president was hoping Democrats would try to impeach him in conjunction with the Russia scandal he just emerged from.

    We also don't know how the vanishingly small number of true political independents are going to respond.

    The net effect could also be close to zero. We live in hyper speed news cycle and leaders of both parties in Congress have vowed to move impeachment quickly. So who knows? One person who might is Lee Miringoff.

    • 53 min
    Theory of Change #1: Why has GOP control of numerous state governments had few real results?

    Theory of Change #1: Why has GOP control of numerous state governments had few real results?

    Republicans have taken control of dozens of state governments since the mid-1990s. But despite having complete authority in many state legislatures and governors’ mansions, GOP elected officials have not managed to accomplish much. That’s the argument of Red State Blues: How the Conservative Revolution Stalled in the States, a new book by Michigan State University political scientist professor Matt Grossmann.

    He joins Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield to discuss his survey of scores of academic studies (plus his own research) into why the state-level conservatives have been mostly unable to pursue large-scale change agendas. Also discussed are the few states where GOP governors succeeded at making big budget cuts, only to see them overturned post-haste, including at the hands of fellow Republicans.

    What does all this mean for conservatives? And are there any implications for liberals or socialists? Join us as we discuss.

    • 56 min

Customer Reviews

gcecilia 2234 ,

Awesome podcast on public opinion!

Super interesting topics with great guests!

Keep it up!

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