Tag: Michael LaCour

A Scandal in Political Science – An Update


Michael LaCour, a UCLA graduate student in political science, has been accused of faking results for a paper that he published in the journal Science. Two days ago, Science retracted the article.

Four days ago, in my Ricochet post, I explained why I believe LaCour has faked the results of a second paper. Much of my explanation was speculation. For instance, I described how the confidence intervals for his estimates of media slants didn’t follow the pattern that one would have expected. I said in that post that I would have given 10:1 odds that the results were fake; that is, I was about 90% sure that this second paper was also an instance of fraud.

A Scandal in Political Science


shutterstock_120810916Over the past few days a scandal has begun to plague political science. A UCLA graduate student, Michael LaCour, appears to have faked a data set that was the basis for an article that he published in the highly prestigious journal Science. I have examined a second paper by LaCour. As I’ll explain, I’m convinced that it also is the product of faked results.

The Science article purportedly showed that personalized, door-to-door canvassing is effective at changing political views. LaCour and his co-author, Don Green of Columbia University, enlisted members of an LGBT organization at UCLA to contact voters who had earlier indicated on a survey that they opposed gay marriage. The article shows, based on follow-up surveys, that the LGBT door-to-door canvassing had a significant effect in shifting voters toward pro-gay-marriage views.

Two graduate students at UC Berkeley, however, had significant difficulties in replicating the study. They called the private firm that LaCour had supposedly enlisted to conduct his survey. The firm, however, said that it did not conduct such a survey. LaCour had also reported to the grad students the name of an employee of the survey firm with whom he worked. The firm, however, said that it had no records of such an employee ever working at the firm.