Omar Wasow


Princeton Martin Luther King Day Keynote

For the full program, visit Princeton’s Media site:

Vox: Could Violent Anti-Trump Protests Help GOP?

Sparked by recent anti-Trump protests that escalated to violence, Matthew Yglesias reviews recent research on the political consequences of violent protest and references my work:

Princeton professor Omar Wasow has a relevant paper that examined county-level voting patterns in the 1960s. What he found is that exposure to nonviolent protests pushed people to vote for the more liberal presidential candidate, while exposure to violent ones pushed people to vote for the more conservative candidate.

For more, see:

Nightline Investigates #AirbnbWhileBlack

Nightline recently investigated allegations of racial discrimination in the “sharing economy” following the rise of the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag on Twitter. While some prior research has focused on the role anonymity in reducing bias, I argue that the key issue in this case is whether transactions are automatic or optional. Though Uber and Airbnb are often thought of as similar kinds of online marketplaces, Uber’s matchmaking happens without much input from either party while Airbnb grants hosts significant control of whether to accept a particular guest. Here’s the relevant passage:

“On a service like Airbnb where you’re not necessarily automatically matched, the host has some discretion about accepting you or rejecting you. It invites the kind of discrimination that we’ve seen for a long time in accommodations,” Omar Wasow, an assistant politics professor at Princeton University, told “Nightline.” “The internet is not a utopia. It reflects the same kinds of social biases that we see in the real world.”

Wasow, who focuses on race and technology, argues that on-demand sites and apps have the potential to reduce subtle and not-so-subtle forms of discrimination.

For example, Uber has been credited by some for making it easier to hail a taxi for people of color. The key may be the app’s interface, which makes it harder for drivers to refuse passengers on the basis of their race or their destination.

“What’s nice about what’s happening on Uber is there’s no discretion for the driver or the passenger in this kind of instant matchmaking to say, ‘I don’t want that type of person to be driving me,'” Wasow said. “And so the instant matching has the effect of reducing the individual discretion where those sort of implicit biases may come to play a role in the judgment of the passenger and the driver.”

See the article and video segment, here:

MSNBC: What’s next in fight for fair policing?


As a guest on the Melissa Harris-Perry show, we debated law enforcement accountability. Quoting @RevSekou, I argued “We’ve moved from the age of Obama to the age of Ferguson” and that the President has become quite marginal on issues of criminal justice reform. See more: MSNBC: What’s next in fight for fair policing?

Do protest tactics matter?

My research on the political consequences of black-led nonviolent and violent protests was written up in The Washington Post, New York Magazine and The Week.

Race as a ‘Bundle of Sticks’ featured on Vox

My co-authored work on research designs that allow scholars to estimate effects of race has been featured in Vox:

…quantitative researchers should acknowledge that any one person’s racial identity is more like a collection of many different factors — from skin color, to neighborhood, to language, to socioeconomic status.

See more: Finally, a way to research race that reflects how complicated it is

What’s the relationship between critical acclaim and Oscar nominations? Practically none.

Reading David Carr’s piece on Why the Oscars’ Omission of ‘Selma’ Matters, I was struck by this passage:

The movie was completed near the end of the year, and the screeners came late and somewhat sporadically. Perhaps that partly explains why “Selma,” which was second to “Boyhood” in critical acclaim as measured by Metacritic, received just two nominations, for best picture and best song.

This got me wondering, was Selma an outlier?

Curious to assess the relationship between critical commentary and nominations, I quickly collected some small data and plotted the relationship among films nominated in the major categories:

So, is Selma an outlier? David Carr appears to have missed one other film, Two Days, One Night, that rated slightly higher than Selma on Metacritic and received only one nomination. That said, both films appear to have gotten a raw deal when you compare critical reception to Academy Award nominations. More broadly, there doesn’t appear to be much correlation between what critics like and recognition by the Academy.

As to the plot, there’s lots of room for improvement so I’ve posted the data and code below.

# List of films drawn from:
# Number of Oscar nominations taken from above and wikipedia
# Fractional Oscar nominations (e.g., 8.75, 9.25 instead of 9) done to prevent overlapping labels
# Metacritic scores taken from individual film pages on meteoritic

# Possible improvements:
# - List of films with Metacritic scores above ~69 with zero nominations
# - Other data (say budget or date of release)
# - Collecting larger sample of films (e.g., prior years)
# - Excluding technical academy awards to make results more comparable

raw_txt = "Film, Metacritic_Score, Oscar_Nominations
Boyhood, 100, 6
Two Days One Night, 92, 1
Selma, 89, 2
Birdman, 88, 8.75
Grand Budapest Hotel, 88, 9.25
Whiplash, 88, 5
Imitation Game, 72, 8
American Sniper, 72, 6
Interstellar, 74, 5.25
Foxcatcher, 81, 5
Inherent Vice, 81, .75
Gone Girl, 79, 1.25
Nightcrawler, 76, .75
Theory of Everything, 72, 4.75
Still Alice, 72, 1
Wild, 76, 2
Into the Woods, 69,3
#The Judge, 48 ,1
#The Judge dropped due to way outlying Metacritic Score

raw_data = textConnection(raw_txt)
raw = read.table(raw_data, header=TRUE, comment.char="#", sep=",")

summary(lm(Oscar_Nominations~Metacritic_Score, data=raw))

p <- ggplot(raw, aes(x=Metacritic_Score, y=Oscar_Nominations, label=Film))

p + geom_text() + scale_y_continuous("Oscar Nominations", limits=c(0,10), breaks=c(0,2,4,6,8,10)) + scale_x_continuous("Metacritic Score", limits=c(68,100)) + theme(axis.text=element_text(size=14), axis.title=element_text(size=14)) + geom_smooth(method=lm, se=TRUE)

dev.copy(device=pdf, "metacritic_oscars.pdf", width=10, height=6)

# To post to twitter, I converted .pdf to png outside of R

News at Princeton Covers King Day speech

News at Princeton covered my Martin Luther Kind Day keynote. A couple quotes:

“Mercer County is like a rich country and a developing country mashed together within one border, and Mercer County is not unique,” Wasow said. “Almost anywhere we go in America, the differences in the quality of life for white Americans and black Americans would be similar or even worse.”

Today’s problems may be easily identified through such racial disparities, but they aren’t necessarily best addressed through solutions that center on race, Wasow said. “One of the great challenges of our times is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions,” he said.

Wasow pointed to the criminal justice system, and particularly the war on drugs, as an area where eliminating racially discriminatory laws and practices hasn’t created a truly just system.

“Advancing racial equality within such a highly punitive system offers only a Pyrrhic victory,” Wasow said. “It is not enough to have racial justice in enforcement. We need justice in how our laws are enforced. And we need laws that are actually just.”

2014 Martin Luther King Day Keynote

Princeton University commemorates the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with an annual King Day celebration. I’m honored and humbled to be the keynote speaker for this year’s gathering on Monday, January 20th.

The event will take place in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall and is free and open to the public. It begins with musical selections at 1 p.m.

For more information, see: King Day celebration schedule

Chronic fatigue syndrome activists launch ‘uprising’ from their beds

My wife was profiled on Al Jazeera America this week about her struggle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Here’s how she describes the experience:

“I would describe it like being a broken battery, where every time you try to charge me, you know, I maybe fill to 5 percent,” she said. “I think the thing that is really hard to understand about this illness is just how much it takes away from you and how so many of the basic things that make one feel like a human being just become impossible.”

It’s a debilitating disease and a complicated topic. The great thing about Al Jazeera Tonight is that they generally spend 8-9 minutes on a subject as compared the 3-4 minutes typical on regular news shows. As a result, there’s a lot more room to delve in.

See the full article and videos

Profile in The Daily Princetonian

The Daily Princetonian graciously ran a profile of me and my atypical path to the academy.

At the heart of the piece is the question: why leave the exciting world of internet entrepreneurship to become a scholar? Part of my answer:

“As much as I loved technology and social media, I realized there were questions that weren’t going to get answered in a startup.”

Today: Online Security Holes

Jersey Boy

Princeton mug

I’m thrilled (and not a little bit in awe) to say that in the fall I will be joining the Department of Politics at Princeton. In the 2012-2013 academic year I’ll be there with a post-doctoral fellowship and, in the fall of 2013, I’ll begin teaching as an Asst. Professor.

It’s Academic

I am going on the academic job market this fall and now have a separate site for anyone interested in my work in African American studies and political science. The URL for the other site is:

Is Obama losing black voters?

In today’s Huffington Post, Rebecca Carroll looks at Pres. Obama’s sagging support in the black community. I’m quoted toward the end:

“At the heart of the debate is the absence of a clear black policy agenda for the post-civil rights era,” says Omar Wasow, co-founder of and a Ph.D candidate in African American Studies at Harvard University. “And, whether President Obama wins or loses in 2012, that debate is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.”

World War 3.0? Colbert and I Discuss Cyberwar

I come on at about 4:45.

TV Highlight Reel: Two Minutes, Six Shows

Omar Wasow’s TV Highlights from Omar Wasow on Vimeo.

It’s a Small World Wide Web is back from the dead and my 1998 piece on Facebook precursor SixDegrees is resurrected:

Sixdegrees, as the name implies, is a site built around the idea that everyone in the world can be connected to everyone else by no more than six intermediate friends, relatives and acquaintances. Though sites riffing off of the same concept have been on the Net for years, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and the variations thereof were never serious attempts to map the human interconnections of the world. Sixdegrees, on the other hand, set out to build a human genome project for the business card set.

Du Bois Institute Fellows Announced

I am privileged to be among the the Fall Fellows of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute announced in today’s Harvard Crimson.


What would you say to the teacher who changed your life? @jenbrea movingly gives thanks in this video:


I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton. I received a PhD in African American Studies, an MA in Government and an MA in Statistics from Harvard University. Previously, I co-founded and the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School. I can be reached at owasow -at- gmail -dot- com.

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