Findings

Campaign strategy

Kevin Lewis

February 03, 2017

The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it

Niclas Berggren, Henrik Jordahl & Panu Poutvaara

Journal of Public Economics, February 2017, Pages 79-86

Abstract:
Since good-looking politicians win more votes, a beauty advantage for politicians on the left or on the right is bound to have political consequences. We show that politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the United States and Australia. Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution. Our model of within-party competition predicts that voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism when they do not know much about candidates and that politicians on the right benefit more from beauty in low-information elections. Evidence from real and experimental elections confirms both predictions.

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Candidate Gender, Behavioral Style, and Willingness to Vote: Support for Female Candidates Depends on Conformity to Gender Norms

Joanna Everitt, Lisa Best & Derek Gaudet

American Behavioral Scientist, December 2016, Pages 1737-1755

Abstract:
This article explores the impact that women's and men's nonverbal forms of communication have on voters' evaluations of political figures. The results indicate that nonverbal cues employed by female and male politicians during political speeches trigger both leadership and gender stereotypes. Furthermore, these behaviors produce different reactions among male and female viewers. Our results indicate that while female politicians are not generally stereotyped as being less agentic (strong leaders, aggressive, tough, confident, or decisive) than men, when they are observed using agonic (assertive, expressive, or choppy) hand movements, their assessments drop. Men demonstrating the same behavior see their leadership assessments improve. Nonverbal cues have little effect on gender-based stereotypes linked to communal qualities such as being caring, sociable, emotional, sensitive, and family oriented, but do impact willingness to vote for a candidate. Women are more likely to receive votes particularly from male respondents if they are calm and contained. Male candidates are more likely to be supported by both women and men when they communicate using assertive nonverbal behaviors.

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Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election

Hunt Allcott & Matthew Gentzkow

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
We present new evidence on the role of false stories circulated on social media prior to the 2016 US presidential election. Drawing on audience data, archives of fact-checking websites, and results from a new online survey, we find: (i) social media was an important but not dominant source of news in the run-up to the election, with 14 percent of Americans calling social media their "most important" source of election news; (ii) of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared eight million times; (iii) the average American saw and remembered 0.92 pro-Trump fake news stories and 0.23 pro-Clinton fake news stories, with just over half of those who recalled seeing fake news stories believing them; (iv) for fake news to have changed the outcome of the election, a single fake article would need to have had the same persuasive effect as 36 television campaign ads.

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One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout

Alan Gerber et al.

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
A common feature of many models of voter turnout is that increasing the perceived closeness of the election should increase voter turnout. However, cleanly testing this prediction is difficult and little is known about voter beliefs regarding the closeness of a given race. We conduct a field experiment during the 2010 US gubernatorial elections where we elicit voter beliefs about the closeness of the election before and after showing different polls, which, depending on treatment, indicate a close race or a not close race. We find that subjects update their beliefs in response to new information, but systematically overestimate the probability of a very close election. However, the decision to vote is unaffected by beliefs about the closeness of the election. A follow-up field experiment, conducted during the 2014 gubernatorial elections but at much larger scale, also points to little relationship between poll information about closeness and voter turnout.

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The effects of ambiguous rhetoric in congressional elections

Kerri Milita et al.

Electoral Studies, April 2017, Pages 48-63

Abstract:
Ambiguity -- whereby candidates make deliberately unclear position statements on key issues -- has long been touted by pundits and political scientists as a smart campaign strategy. In this manuscript, two experiments suggest the usefulness of ambiguous rhetoric on salient issues is overstated. Voters rely on well-publicized partisan positions on political issues as heuristics, a factor that has often been overlooked by the existing literature. This means that an issue will inform a voter's decision even if the candidate speaks ambiguously on it. Further, while ambiguity does not change the voters' perceptions of the candidate's position relative to silence, it does raise the salience of the issue that candidate is attempting to minimize. Hence, for candidates who wish to hide unfavorable positions, silence is a better rhetorical strategy than ambiguity.

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Dual Screening During Presidential Debates: Political Nonverbals and the Volume and Valence of Online Expression

Dhavan Shah et al.

American Behavioral Scientist, December 2016, Pages 1816-1843

Abstract:
The impact of presidential debates on candidate evaluations remains an open topic. Research has long sought to identify the factors that matter most in citizens' responses to debate content, including what candidates say, how they say it, and the manner in which they appear. This study uses detailed codings of the first and third 2012 presidential debates to evaluate the impact of candidates' verbal and nonverbal behaviors on viewers' "second screen" response - their use of computers, tablets, and mobile devices to express their reactions to the viewing experience. To examine the relationship between candidates' on-screen behaviors and the social media response, we conduct generalized least squares regression (Prais-Winstein estimation) relating two data sources: (a) a shot-by-shot content analysis coded for rhetorical/functional, tonal, and visual elements of both candidates' behavior during the debates, and (b) corresponding real-time measures of the volume and valence of online expression about the candidates on Twitter. We find that the nonverbal communication behaviors of candidates - their facial expressions, physical gestures, and blink rate - are consistent, robust, and significant predictors of the volume and valence of public expression during debates, rivaling the power of memes generated by candidates and contributing more than rhetorical strategies and speech tone.

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Make America Tweet Again: A Dynamic Analysis of Micro-Blogging During the 2016 U.S. Republican Primary Debates

Ron Berman et al.

University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
The 2016 presidential election illustrated the growing role that micro-blogging sites such as Twitter play in electoral politics. In this paper we report an analysis of a unique dataset that characterizes how the substantive and affective content of Tweets evolved during the course of three pivotal Republican Primary debates leading up to the 2016 Presidential election. We find that as the debates progressed Tweets provided an increasingly backward-looking account of the debates, as original content gradually gave way to retweets of the most popular earlier posts. Moreover, whereas during the debate Tweets focused on a mix of substantive topics, the Tweets that had the longest staying power after the debates were those that focused on the more sensationalist news events, often through pictures and videos. As such, a user coming to Twitter after the debate was over would have encountered a different topical and emotional landscape than one who had been following the site in real-time, one more closely resembling a tabloid than a substantive discussion forum. We explore the potential implications of the findings for the role that micro-blogging sites may have on shaping voter opinion in elections.

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Role models revisited: Youth, novelty, and the impact of female candidates

Christina Wolbrecht & David Campbell

Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do female politicians serve as political role models? This paper is the first to employ panel data to examine whether the presence of non-presidential female candidates leads to an increased propensity for political engagement - specifically, discussion - among women. We hypothesize that younger people who are still learning and establishing political engagement habits will become more politically engaged when exposed to female role models. We do not find evidence of a role model effect overall or among co-partisans. We do find that younger women become significantly more likely to discuss politics when they experience a viable and new female candidate. Importantly, we only find this effect when the female candidate is not a current office holder, suggesting the novelty of female candidates may be key. We do not find a similar effect among older women.

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Conventional Wisdom: Political Learning During Presidential Nominating Conventions

Aaron Weinschenk

Presidential Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Debates about whether presidential nominating conventions are useful institutions in American politics have emerged in recent presidential elections. Are they needless events or do they serve an important democratic purpose? Do potential voters gain anything from the conventions? In this article, I use panel data collected around presidential conventions to examine how exposure to convention speeches impacts postconvention knowledge about the candidates, controlling for preconvention knowledge levels. I find evidence that campaign information generated during the presidential conventions increases knowledge about candidate positions, although the convention that occurs first in a presidential election appears to have a larger effect on knowledge gains than the convention that occurs second. I conclude that conventions have not outlived their usefulness but are instead important institutions that facilitate political learning and therefore enhance the democratic process.

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Do Voters or Politicians Choose the Outcomes of Elections? Evidence from the Struggle to Control Congressional Redistricting

Dahyeon Jeong & Ajay Shenoy

University of California Working Paper, November 2016

Abstract:
We test for whether political parties can exert precise control over the outcomes of legislative elections. We apply two tests for whether the party that previously held a majority is discontinuously likely to win enough seats to barely retain its majority. We apply these tests to high-stakes state elections that determine which party controls Congressional redistricting. Our tests show large discontinuities in both pre-election characteristics and the probability density of the election outcome at the threshold that determines control of the legislature. By channeling campaign funds to incumbent state legislators, the majority party almost guarantees it retains its majority.

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The Upside of the Long Campaign: How Presidential Elections Engage the Electorate

Kim Fridkin et al.

American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
We theorize that the "long campaign" provides the impetus to motivate people to engage in campaign politics. We rely on panel survey data from the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project to evaluate the impact of a long presidential campaign on citizens' political engagement. The panel provides us unique leverage to render the analysis fully dynamic and to minimize endogeneity issues because we determine temporal order for key concepts. We find that campaign contacts occurring during the primary significantly increase participation in the general election. We also find that exposure to advertisements during primaries translates to higher levels of voter engagement in the fall campaign. We demonstrate that attitudes toward primary and general election candidates are strongly related to voters' engagement in the fall campaign. Finally, we are able to explain how contacts, campaign information, and citizen attitudes toward candidates shape changes in levels of engagement across the primary and general election campaigns.

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The Generalizability of Social Pressure Effects on Turnout Across High-Salience Electoral Contexts: Field Experimental Evidence From 1.96 Million Citizens in 17 States

Alan Gerber et al.

American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior experiments show that campaign communications revealing subjects' past turnout and applying social pressure to vote (the "Self" treatment) increase turnout. However, nearly all existing studies are conducted in low-salience elections, raising concerns that published findings are not generalizable and are an artifact of sample selection and publication bias. Addressing the need for further replication in high-salience elections, we analyze a field experiment involving 1.96 million subjects where a nonpartisan campaign randomly sent Self treatment mailers, containing a subject's vote history and a comparison of each subject's history with their state median registrant's turnout behavior, in high-salience elections across 17 states in 2014. Sending the Self mailer increases turnout by 0.7 points or 2.2%. This effect is largely consistent across states, with somewhat larger effects observed in states with lower ex ante election salience. Our study provides precise evidence that social pressure effects on turnout are generalizable.

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Term limits and women's representation: A Democratic opportunity and a Republican dead-end

Valerie O'Regan & Stephen Stambough

Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

Abstract:
When legislative term limits were proposed, one expected impact was an increase in women's legislative representation. However, researchers have found that this logical solution is not as effective as many had hoped. Because of findings of a partisan gap in the pipeline of potential female candidates, we argue that studies must consider the partisanship of the female legislators when analyzing the effect of term limits on increasing the number of female state legislators. This study utilizes a cross-sectional time-series analysis of 49 states from 1990 to 2014. Our analyses suggest that Democratic women benefit from term limits while Republican women do not.

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How Competitive Should a Fair Single Member Districting Plan Be?

John Nagle

Election Law Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Partisan unfairness is easily detected when the statewide vote is equally divided between two parties. But when the vote is not evenly divided, even the determination of which party is disfavored becomes controversial. This article examines the ideal fair outcome in a two party single member district system when the statewide vote is not equally divided. It is shown that equal voter empowerment, implied by readings of the First Amendment (Shapiro v. McManus and Whitford v. Nichol), requires that the fraction of seats be proportional to the fraction of the statewide vote. However, strict proportionality conflicts with the single member district system, so alternative approaches are explored. Generalized party inefficiency and voter effectiveness are defined and shown to encompass many possibilities for an ideal fair seats-votes function. The best choice is fundamentally determined by the degree of geographical heterogeneity of voters of like mind. Based upon historical election results, it appears that a good approximation to a normative seats-votes function of the American system of single member districts should have competitiveness (aka responsiveness) roughly twice as large as proportionality. This is consistent with the method employed by the plaintiffs in Whitford v. Nichol. This method is also basically consistent with the claim of the plaintiffs in Shapiro v. McManus, although in this case gerrymandering is better exposed by examining symmetry.


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