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Josh Clinton

Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science

Polling expert who uses statistical methods to explain political processes. Co-directs the Vanderbilt Poll.


Clinton (Ph.D. Political Science, M.S. Statistics, and M.A. Economics from Stanford University) uses statistical methods to better understand political processes and outcomes. He is interested in: the politics in the U.S. Congress, public opinion, campaigns and elections, and the uses and abuses of statistical methods for understanding political phenomena. His peer-reviewed publications have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and the Annual Review of Political Science. He is an Editor-In-Chief for the Quarterly Journal of Political Science and he is currently serving on the Editorial Board of Journal of Public Policy. He is currently the Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and a Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Poll.

Media Appearances

  • Trump-Biden Was Worst Presidential Polling Miss in 40 Years, Panel Says

    The 2020 polls overstated Democratic support “in every type of contest we looked at: the national popular vote, the state-level presidential vote as well as senatorial and gubernatorial elections,’’ said Joshua D. Clinton, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University who led the review for the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

    May 13th, 2021

  • As COVID surges, Americans remain divided on the threat. What will it take to bring them together?

    Josh Clinton, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, also has explored how political differences influence attitudes toward the pandemic. Like Gadarian, he has found Republicans and Democrats have significantly different worldviews that do not appear to be changing amid the growing threat.

    November 19th, 2020

  • Coronavirus could push Americans to lobby for a social safety net like Europe’s, experts say

    Meanwhile, Joshua Clinton, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC that things would “probably revert back to normal” once the crisis was over. “There might be a slight shift, but I don’t think that you’ll see a grand shift in how people think about the structure of the state and the relationship of the state to their own lives,” he said. “Looking back historically at other events, it doesn’t seem to be the case that people’s exposure to government programs or government intervention really systematically shifts them in fundamental ways.”

    April 20th, 2020

  • Delay the November election? What voters think about coronavirus and the campaign.

    Sixty-eight percent of registered voters think the coronavirus outbreak will have a big impact on election turnout in the U.S., a new poll shows — and nearly 4 in 10 support delaying the November presidential election until the pandemic is under control.

    April 14th, 2020

  • Five States Have Already Canceled GOP Primaries. Here’s What You Should Know

    "The parties are private organizations and so they can do whatever they want," Joshua Clinton, co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University, told Fortune. "They're kind of a really unique institution in our society because on the one hand they're like private clubs, but on the other hand, they run our government."

    October 10th, 2019

  • Elizabeth Warren and the Myth of Momentum

    Elizabeth Warren enters the first Democratic debate tonight hoping to capitalize on some recent good headlines. She’s gained in polls, from an average of 6 percent in March to 12 percent today. Nate Silver observes that Warren’s rise has been at Bernie Sanders’s expense. Yesterday’s straw poll illustrates this trend. Warren was in sixth place in December, with 6 percent. Now, among progressive activists, she’s leading the field at 38 percent. Bernie is in second with 17 percent.

    June 26th, 2019

  • Vanderbilt poll: Most Tennesseans want Glen Casada to leave office, don't support vouchers

    In a statement on the poll results, Geer and fellow co-director Josh Clinton, also a political science professor, pointed to widening polarization in partisan politics in the state, an echo of what has taken place at the national level. “We’re seeing the beginnings of a potential fracture in terms of what direction the state wants to go,” Clinton said. “On one hand, our political leaders could go all in for issues that matter to the Republican base, but which may not be reflective of the views of independents and Democrats. Or they can maintain a more consensus-based approach to policies that voters support broadly.”

    June 6th, 2019

  • Vanderbilt Poll: Fewer Nashvillians view city as on the 'right track'

    “It’s interesting, but perhaps not unexpected, that we continue to see a decline in optimism about the city’s future, despite Nashville’s rise in a number of the key economic measures,”Josh Clinton, co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and political science director, said. "We are also likely seeing the ‘Amazon effect’ in the responses to the question about the use of taxpayer funds to keep or attract big business to the city.”

    April 30th, 2019

  • The Biggest October Surprise This October Is That There's No Surprise

    "We live in an era, with Trump in the White House, where every morning is a surprise." That's what Walter Shapiro, a columnist at Roll Call and political science lecturer at Yale who has covered the last ten presidential elections, told me late last week. I had just asked him about the spate of pipe bomb devices sent to prominent members of the press and political class known for disagreeing with President Donald Trump. As of Friday, ten days before the midterm elections that will determine the party sway of the House and Senate—and, depending on whom you ask, the future of the republic—at least 14 such packages had been discovered. (That morning, police arrested a 56-year-old registered Republican named Cesar Sayoc in connection with the suspicious packages, none of which had detonated or appeared to have caused harm. He was soon charged with at least five federal crimes.)

    October 30th, 2018

  • America's disturbing voter-turnout crisis: How inequality extends to polling place — and why that makes our country less fair

    Automatic voter registration isn’t the sexiest way to start a political revolution, but it may be the most effective. The United States lags behind the rest of the rich world in turnout, but it leads the rich world in disparity in turnout across income and education levels, which has profound effects on policy. This so-called "turnout skew" further biases policy towards the rich, even more than it already would be because of the structural advantages the rich enjoy. Bolstering turnout could lead to a self-reinforcing feedback loop in the opposite direction.

    March 19th, 2016


Ph.D., Stanford University

M.S., Stanford University

M.A., Stanford University

B.A., University of Rochester


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