TEXT SIZE A A A

Findings Banner

Friday, February 1, 2013

Electoral math

 

Is There a Secret Ballot? Ballot Secrecy Perceptions and Their Implications for Voting Behaviour

Alan Gerber et al.
British Journal of Political Science, January 2013, Pages 77-102

Abstract:
Do people believe the votes they cast are truly secret? Novel items added to a nationally representative survey show that 25 per cent of respondents report not believing their ballot choices are kept secret and over 70 per cent report sharing their vote choices with others. These findings suggest that standard models of candidate choice should account for the potential effects of doubts about ballot secrecy. Consistent with this view, regression analysis shows that social forces appear to have a greater effect on vote choices among people who doubt the formal secrecy of the ballot. This analysis supports the broader claim that the intended benefits of institutional rules may not be realized if people's perceptions of these rules differ from their formal characteristics.

----------------------

The Physiology of Political Participation

Michael Gruszczynski et al.
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political involvement varies markedly across people. Traditional explanations for this variation tend to rely on demographic variables and self-reported, overtly political concepts. In this article, we expand the range of possible explanatory variables by hypothesizing that a correlation exists between political involvement and physiological predispositions. We measure physiology by computing the degree to which electrodermal activity changes on average when a participant sequentially views a full range of differentially valenced stimuli. Our findings indicate that individuals with higher electrodermal responsiveness are also more likely to participate actively in politics. This relationship holds even after the effects of traditional demographic variables are taken into account, suggesting that physiological responsiveness independently contributes to a fuller understanding of the underlying sources of variation in political involvement.

----------------------

The Vicious Cycle: Fundraising and Perceived Viability in US Presidential Primaries

James Feigenbaum & Cameron Shelton
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, January 2013, Pages 1-40

Abstract:
Scholars of presidential primaries have long posited a dynamic positive feedback loop between fundraising and electoral success. Yet existing work on both directions of this feedback remains inconclusive and is often explicitly cross-sectional, ignoring the dynamic aspect of the hypothesis. Pairing high-frequency FEC data on contributions and expenditures with Iowa Electronic Markets data on perceived probability of victory, we examine the bidirectional feedback between contributions and viability. We find robust, significant positive feedback in both directions. This might suggest multiple equilibria: a candidate initially anointed as the front-runner able to sustain such status solely by the fundraising advantage conferred despite possessing no advantage in quality. However, simulations suggest the feedback loop cannot, by itself, sustain advantage. Given the observed durability of front-runners, it would thus seem there is either some other feedback at work and/or the process by which the initial front-runner is identified is informative of candidate quality.

----------------------

Representative Bureaucracy and Partisanship: The Implementation of Election Law

Martha Kropf, Timothy Vercellotti & David Kimball
Public Administration Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Studies of representative bureaucracy argue that public administrators hold attitudes that are generally representative of the public and will implement policy in accordance with those attitudes. However, studies of representative bureaucracy generally have not considered the partisanship of local administrators. Many local election officials affiliate with a political party, and there is concern that partisan officials will manipulate election procedures to help their party. The authors analyze a survey of local election officials about their attitudes toward provisional voting. Findings show that Democratic local election officials have significantly more positive attitudes toward provisional voting programs in highly Democratic jurisdictions and significantly less positive attitudes in highly Republican jurisdictions. No such relationship occurs for Republican administrators. In addition, positive attitudes toward provisional voting are associated with more provisional votes being cast and counted in the 2004 presidential election. This work questions whether representative bureaucracy - when it concerns partisanship - is always a desirable outcome.

----------------------

Alvin Greene? Who? How Did He Win the United States Senate Nomination in South Carolina?

Joseph Bafumi et al.
Election Law Journal, December 2012, Pages 358-379

Abstract:
Alvin Greene surprised the political world when he handily defeated Vic Rawl for the United States Senate nomination in the 2010 Democratic Primary in South Carolina. Greene had not run a campaign during the primary and appears to have been almost completely unknown prior to his victory. Greene's win over Rawl, who had served eight years in the South Carolina House, was previously a circuit judge, and had in fact run a legitimate primary campaign, raised a variety of questions about how Greene could have managed to generate so much voter support. In light of lingering concerns that Greene's victory was due to malfeasance of some sort, we analyze both ballot-level and precinct-level voting data with an eye toward determining whether the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary in South Carolina appears problematic. We find that voting patterns in Greene's victory over Rawl do not exhibit unusual peculiarities and in fact are consistent with the types of regularities observed in American elections. Rawl is white and Greene is black, and this difference played a major role in Greene's victory. While this victory may have been a surprise, voters in the Greene vs. Rawl primary appear in retrospect to have behaved similarly to voters in other elections in the United States, thus lending legitimacy to Greene's win.

----------------------

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Why Bo Didn't Fetch Many Votes for Barack Obama in 2012

Matthew Jacobsmeier & Daniel Lewis
PS: Political Science & Politics, January 2013, Pages 49-59

Abstract:
In "The Dog that Didn't Bark: The Role of Canines in the 2008 Campaign," Diana Mutz (2010) argues that dog ownership made voters significantly less likely to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. We examine this claim further. Although President Obama has owned a dog since shortly after his 2008 election, we argue that Bo's presence most likely did little to improve his owner's chances of being reelected in 2012. Rather, the apparent significance of dog ownership uncovered by Mutz is due largely to key variables being omitted from the analysis. Using the same data, we show that Obama didn't so much have trouble with dog owners in 2008 as he had trouble with conservative, rural, Southern whites, who, for reasons we examine, are more likely than other Americans to own dogs. Accordingly, we suspect that Bo failed to boost Obama's vote tally in 2012. While we recognize the tongue-in-jowl tone of portions of Mutz's article, this tale is an important one, and is consistent with recent research linking racial attitudes to levels of support for Barack Obama. We also argue that while scholars are often wise to include control variables such as "South" in studies of political attitudes and behavior, it is important to consider the variety of politically relevant characteristics that such variables may be capturing.

----------------------

Estimating Partisan Bias of the Electoral College Under Proposed Changes in Elector Apportionment

A.C. Thomas et al.
Statistics, Politics and Policy, December 2012, Pages 1-13

Abstract:
In the election for President of the United States, the Electoral College is the body whose members vote to elect the President directly. Each state sends a number of delegates equal to its total number of representatives and senators in Congress; all but two states (Nebraska and Maine) assign electors pledged to the candidate that wins the state's plurality vote. We investigate the effect on presidential elections if states were to assign their electoral votes according to results in each congressional district, and conclude that the direct popular vote and the current electoral college are both substantially fairer compared to those alternatives where states would have divided their electoral votes by congressional district.

----------------------

Is the Effect of Education on Voter Turnout Absolute or Relative? A Multi-level Analysis of 37 Countries

Mikael Persson
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, forthcoming

Abstract:
While it is well established that education is positively correlated with voter turnout at the individual level, the increased educational levels in most western countries have not caused increased voter turnout at the aggregate level. The relative education model suggests one explanation: education is only a proxy for social status and has no direct causal effect. The individual-level effect of education is conditional on the level of education in the environment. Whereas previous research on the relationship between relative education and voter turnout has largely focused on the U.S. case, this article uses comparative survey data on voter turnout to test the relative education model. It combines data from the CSES and ESS covering about 275,000 individuals in 173 country-years in 37 countries. The analysis applies a definition of relative education operationalized as each individual's education rank position in relation to the level of education of those born in the same five-year cohort in the same country. The results show that relative education has a much larger effect on voter turnout than absolute education. Moreover, relative education has a stronger effect when aggregate turnout is low.

----------------------

Beliefs Don't Always Persevere: How Political Figures Are Punished When Positive Information about Them Is Discredited

Michael Cobb, Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent research has extended the belief-perseverance paradigm to the political realm, showing that negative information about political figures has a persistent effect on political opinions even after it has been discredited. However, little is known about the effects of false positive information about political figures. In three experiments, we find that discrediting positive information generates a "punishment effect" that is inconsistent with the previous literature on belief perseverance. We argue people attempt to adjust for the perceived influence of the false claim when the information is discredited. In this case, when trying to account for the effects of discredited positive information about a politician, people overestimate how much correction is needed and thus end up with a more negative opinion. (By contrast, people underestimate how much correction is needed to adjust for false negative information, leading to belief perseverance.) These results suggest that bogus credit claiming or other positive misinformation can have severe repercussions for politicians.

----------------------

How Much Is Minnesota Like Wisconsin? Assumptions and Counterfactuals in Causal Inference with Observational Data

Luke Keele & William Minozzi
Political Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political scientists are often interested in estimating causal effects. Identification of causal estimates with observational data invariably requires strong untestable assumptions. Here, we outline a number of the assumptions used in the extant empirical literature. We argue that these assumptions require careful evaluation within the context of specific applications. To that end, we present an empirical case study on the effect of Election Day Registration (EDR) on turnout. We show how different identification assumptions lead to different answers, and that many of the standard assumptions used are implausible. Specifically, we show that EDR likely had negligible effects in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. We conclude with an argument for stronger research designs.

----------------------

Citizen Forecasts of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

Michael Miller et al.
Politics & Policy, December 2012, Pages 1019-1052

Abstract:
We analyze individual probabilistic predictions of state outcomes in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Employing an original survey of more than 19,000 respondents, we find that partisans gave higher probabilities to their favored candidates, but this bias was reduced by education, numerical sophistication, and the level of Obama support in their home states. In aggregate, we show that individual biases balance out, and the group's predictions were highly accurate, outperforming both Intrade (a prediction market) and fivethirtyeight.com (a poll-based forecast). The implication is that electoral forecasters can often do better asking individuals who they think will win rather than who they want to win.

----------------------

Advertising Effects in Presidential Elections

Brett Gordon & Wesley Hartmann
Marketing Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Presidential elections provide both an important context in which to study advertising and a setting that mitigates the challenges of dynamics and endogeneity. We use the 2000 and 2004 general elections to analyze the effect of market-level advertising on county-level vote shares. The results indicate significant positive effects of advertising exposures. Both instrumental variables and fixed effects alter the ad coefficient. Advertising elasticities are smaller than are typical for branded goods yet significant enough to shift election outcomes. For example, if advertising were set to zero and all other factors held constant, three states' electoral votes would have changed parties in 2000. Given the narrow margin of victory in 2000, this shift would have resulted in a different president.

----------------------

Event-related potential evidence suggesting voters remember political events that never happened

Jason Coronel, Kara Federmeier & Brian Gonsalves
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Voters tend to misattribute issue positions to political candidates that are consistent with their partisan affiliation, even though these candidates have never explicitly stated or endorsed such stances. The prevailing explanation in political science is that voters misattribute candidates' issue positions because they use their political knowledge to make educated but incorrect guesses. We suggest that voter errors can also stem from a different source: false memories. The current study examined event-related potential (ERP) responses to misattributed and accurately remembered candidate issue information. We report here that ERP responses to misattributed information can elicit memory signals similar to that of correctly remembered old information - a pattern consistent with a false memory rather than educated guessing interpretation of these misattributions. These results suggest that some types of voter misinformation about candidates may be harder to correct than previously thought.

----------------------

Candidate strategies in primaries and general elections with candidates of heterogeneous quality

Patrick Hummel
Games and Economic Behavior, March 2013, Pages 85-102

Abstract:
I consider a model in which candidates of differing quality must win a primary election to compete in the general election. I show that there is an equilibrium in which Democrats choose liberal policies and Republicans choose conservative policies, but higher quality candidates choose more moderate policies than lower quality candidates. In this equilibrium, higher quality candidates choose more moderate policies if they have a larger quality advantage or there is less uncertainty about the median voterʼs ideal point in the general election, and the candidates in a given primary choose closer policies to one another when there is a smaller quality difference between the candidates in a primary. I further show that if the candidates have policy motivations, then a low quality candidate may strategically choose to enter a primary even if running for office is costly and the candidate will lose the primary election with certainty in equilibrium.

----------------------

Counterframing Effects

Dennis Chong & James Druckman
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Electoral campaigns and policy debates are dynamic processes that unfold over time. In the contest for public opinion, each side tries to frame issues to its advantage, but success also depends on developing effective responses to opposition frames. Surprisingly, scholars have paid little attention to the dynamics of counterframing. In this article, we explore how the timing and repetition of counterframes affect their success. Using an over-time experiment, we test several hypotheses that the best counterframing strategy is contingent on the nature of audiences. Our results show that counterframing effects depend on the extent to which people hold strong or weak opinions. Thus, a uniformly successful communications strategy may be impossible as tactics that are effective on those with weak attitudes may be counterproductive on those with stronger viewpoints. We conclude with a discussion of normative and practical implications.

----------------------

Positive Social Pressure and Prosocial Motivation: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment on Voter Mobilization

Costas Panagopoulos
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political scientists are increasingly exploring the psychological underpinnings of voting behavior using field experimental techniques. Research in psychology demonstrates that positive reinforcement - what I describe as positive social pressure - motivates prosocial behavior. A distinctive feature of the current study is the focus on key subgroups of voters, namely unmarried women and minorities. Attention to these voter subgroups allows us to build upon findings reported in previous studies that leave questions about the generalizability of the reported effects of positive social pressure to key demographic subgroups of voters largely unanswered. This article reports the results of a large-scale randomized field experiment designed to investigate the impact of positive social pressure on voter turnout. The experiment was conducted during the November 2009 gubernatorial election in New Jersey, and the results suggest positive social pressure mobilizes voters. Moreover, the effects appear to be robust across subgroups of voters, including minorities and unmarried women, and both lower- and higher-propensity voters.

----------------------

Voting Technology, Vote-by-Mail, and Residual Votes in California, 1990-2010

Michael Alvarez, Dustin Beckett & Charles Stewart
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine how the growth in vote-by-mail and changes in voting technologies led to changes in the residual vote rate in California from 1990 to 2010. In California's presidential elections, counties that abandoned punch cards in favor of optical scanning enjoyed a significant improvement in the residual vote rate. We also conduct the first analysis of the effects of the rise of vote-by-mail on residual votes. Regardless of the election, increased use of the mail to cast ballots is robustly associated with a significant rise in the residual vote rate.

----------------------

Understanding the consequences of consequentiality: Testing the validity of stated preferences in the field

Christian Vossler & Sharon Watson
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study pursues the external validation of stated preference methods by comparing survey responses from verified voters with the outcome of a parallel public referendum on a conservation and preservation program to be funded by a local property tax surcharge. The majority of respondents were unaware of the upcoming referendum, and the experimental design allows us to control for referenda-related information effects as well as respondents' perceptions regarding the consequentiality (i.e. the potential policy impact) of their survey votes. We find the survey under-predicts "yes" referendum votes at the precinct-level. These differences go away, however, if we focus only on respondents who perceived their survey vote to be consequential. Negative hypothetical bias among inconsequential survey respondents is also evident in the estimation of willingness to pay, and controlling for consequentiality increases construct validity.

----------------------

Union Membership and Political Participation in the United States

Jasmine Kerrissey & Evan Schofer
Social Forces, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines the effect of union membership on civic and political participation in the late 20th century in the United States. We discuss why and how unions seek to mobilize their members and where mobilization is channeled. We argue that union membership affects electoral and collective action outcomes and will be larger for low socioeconomic status individuals. Statistical analyses find that union membership is associated with many forms of political activity, including voting, protesting, association membership, and others. Union effects are larger for less educated individuals, a group that otherwise exhibits low levels of participation. Union membership is not associated with outcomes distant from union political agendas, such as general volunteering and charitable giving, suggesting that unions generate political capital rather than generalized social capital.

----------------------

Democracy Undone. Systematic Minority Advantage in Competitive Vote Markets

Alessandra Casella & Sébastien Turban
NBER Working Paper, November 2012

Abstract:
We study the competitive equilibrium of a market for votes where voters can trade votes for a numeraire before making a decision via majority rule. The choice is binary and the number of supporters of either alternative is known. We identify a sufficient condition guaranteeing the existence of an ex ante equilibrium. In equilibrium, only the most intense voter on each side demands votes and each demands enough votes to alone control a majority. The probability of a minority victory is independent of the size of the minority and converges to one half, for any minority size, when the electorate is arbitrarily large. In a large electorate, the numerical advantage of the majority becomes irrelevant: democracy is undone by the market.

----------------------

Candidate Cues and Voter Confidence in American Elections

Greg Vonnahme & Beth Miller
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, forthcoming

Abstract:
A primary objective of election administration is ensuring voter confidence. Logically, this entails meeting two conditions: procedures should insure that elections are fair and accurate, and voters should be aware of the procedures. Yet American election procedures such as ballot access and design, post-election audits and recounts, voter registration, and polling place operations are complex and highly decentralized. Given the complexity of the information environment and the relatively limited information most voters have about politics, what (if any) connection is there between election administration and voter confidence? We consider whether candidates fill the gap between election administration and voter confidence in elections. We test several hypotheses using an experimental design with multiple measures of voter confidence. The results show that candidates have a significant effect on voter confidence.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM