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Political Conformity: Event-Study Evidence from the United States
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming
We propose that individuals are more politically active in more like-minded social environments. To test this hypothesis, we combine administrative data from the Federal Election Commission and the United States Postal Service. We identify 45,000 individuals who contributed to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and who changed residences either before or after the 2012 election cycle. We examine whether living in an area with a higher share of Democrats causes higher contributions to Obama. We find that conformity effects are economically significant. Additionally, we conduct counter-factual analysis that show that these affects are important to understand geographic polarization.
The Authoritarian Left Withdraws from Politics: Ideological Asymmetry in the Relationship between Authoritarianism and Political Engagement
Christopher Federico, Emily Fisher & Grace Deason
Journal of Politics, July 2017, Pages 1010-1023
In this article, we argue that authoritarianism will be associated with reduced political interest and participation to a greater extent among those who identify with the left rather than the right because left-leaning politics - which challenges the status quo - threatens more instability and flux. Using data from the United States, we provide evidence for this first hypothesis. Using multinational European data, we also provide support for a second hypothesis that this interaction would be more evident in "Westernized" contexts, where the traditional left-right difference is clearly defined, than in Eastern European countries, where its meaning is less distinct; and we conceptually replicate the authoritarianism results using a measure of support for "conservation" values favoring security, conformity, and tradition. Together, these results suggest that the lower visibility of left-wing authoritarianism relative to its counterpart on the right may be due in part to greater withdrawal from politics among left-leaning authoritarians.
Trends in First Names Foreshadowed Hillary Clinton's Electoral Defeat
Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution, 2017
I examine trends in the popularity of first names around the years of USA presidential elections, showing that the names 'Hillary' and 'Hilary' decreased abruptly by more than 90% in popularity following the 1992 election of Hillary Clinton's husband Bill. I show that this outcome is unique to the 1992 election, and argue that it may evidence a "dislike" for Hillary Clinton's public image among both Democratic and Republican voters, which may have eventually contributed to Hillary Clinton's losing the 2016 presidential election.
When outgroup negativity trumps ingroup positivity: Fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees place greater value on rival losses than own-team gains
Steven Lehr, Meghan Ferreira & Mahzarin Banaji
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming
Much research suggests that ingroup positivity is more central than outgroup negativity. We argue that this conclusion is incomplete as a description of the totality of intergroup emotions. In 4 studies, we use a novel measure of willingness to pay for intergroup gains and losses to examine the intergroup emotions of fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Results indicate that pleasure from a powerful rival's losses can outstrip that from gains of one's own group (Studies 1-2), and these patterns extend into domains not immediately relevant to the competition (Studies 3-4). A reversal in the competitive position of the two teams in the 2012-2013 season allowed us to examine whether fluctuations in competitive status moderated this pattern (Studies 3-4). Indeed, fans of the rival teams frequently valued outgroup losses more than ingroup gains, and this effect was particularly strong when one's own team was behind in the rivalry.
Investigating the origins of political views: Biases in explanation predict conservative attitudes in children and adults
Larisa Hussak & Andrei Cimpian
Developmental Science, forthcoming
We tested the hypothesis that political attitudes are influenced by an information-processing factor - namely, a bias in the content of everyday explanations. Because many societal phenomena are enormously complex, people's understanding of them often relies on heuristic shortcuts. For instance, when generating explanations for such phenomena (e.g., why does this group have low status?), people often rely on facts that they can retrieve easily from memory - facts that are skewed toward inherent or intrinsic features (e.g., this group is unintelligent). We hypothesized that this bias in the content of heuristic explanations leads to a tendency to (1) view socioeconomic stratification as acceptable and (2) prefer current societal arrangements to alternative ones, two hallmarks of conservative ideology. Moreover, since the inherence bias in explanation is present across development, we expected it to shape children's proto-political judgments as well. Three studies with adults and 4- to 8-year-old children (N = 784) provided support for these predictions: Not only did individual differences in reliance on inherent explanations uniquely predict endorsement of conservative views (particularly the stratification-supporting component; Study 1), but manipulations of this explanatory bias also had downstream consequences for political attitudes in both children and adults (Studies 2 and 3). This work contributes to our understanding of the origins of political attitudes.
Roots of the Radical Right: Nostalgic Deprivation in the United States and Britain
Justin Gest, Tyler Reny & Jeremy Mayer
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming
Following trends in Europe over the past decade, support for the Radical Right has recently grown more significant in the United States and the United Kingdom. While the United Kingdom has witnessed the rise of Radical Right fringe groups, the United States' political spectrum has been altered by the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump. This article asks what predicts White individuals' support for such groups. In original, representative surveys of White individuals in Great Britain and the United States, we use an innovative technique to measure subjective social, political, and economic status that captures individuals' perceptions of increasing or decreasing deprivation over time. We then analyze the impact of these deprivation measures on support for the Radical Right among Republicans (Conservatives), Democrats (Labourites), and Independents. We show that nostalgic deprivation among White respondents drives support for the Radical Right in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Partisanship and Perceptions of Party-Line Voting in Congress
Logan Dancey & Geoffrey Sheagley
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
This paper explores public perceptions of congressional partisanship in an era of polarized parties. We use data from a module on the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) that asks respondents about the voting behavior of their legislators. Our results show that individuals underestimate the extent to which legislators from their own party vote the party line - even when primed with information about high levels of party-line voting in Congress - while fairly accurately perceiving levels of unity in the opposing party. We also find evidence that this perceptual gap endures, and at times widens, at higher levels of political knowledge and in the presence of elections. Finally, in a separate experiment, we explore how voters respond to differential levels of party-line voting by a hypothetical legislator. The combined results from the experiment and CCES module suggest voters' perceptions often align with what allows them to have the most favorable impression of their party's senators or unfavorable impression of the other party's senators. The results suggest that biases in how voters process information about levels of partisanship in Congress may limit accountability in meaningful ways.
False Polarization and False Moderation: Political Opponents Overestimate the Extremity of Each Other's Ideologies but Underestimate Each Other's Certainty
Craig Blatz & Brett Mercier
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming
Past research finds that people hold moderate views on political issues while believing others are extreme. This false polarization has been demonstrated across a variety of different attitude dimensions and is explained by naive realism, the belief that one holds an unbiased view of reality. We argue that because people believe they see the world objectively, they should be very certain about their opinions, more certain than others expect. In three studies, we tested this false moderation of attitude certainty hypothesis and attempted to replicate past research on false polarization of attitude stance and perceived ideology of others. All three studies revealed a false moderation effect on judgments of certainty. Additionally, we replicate the finding that people false polarize others' ideology but do not find evidence for false polarization of specific stance.
The Limits of Partisan Prejudice
Yphtach Lelkes & Sean Westwood
Journal of Politics, April 2017, Pages 485-501
Partisanship increasingly factors into the behavior of Americans in both political and nonpolitical situations, yet the bounds of partisan prejudice are largely unknown. In this paper, we systematically evaluate the limits of partisan prejudice using a series of five studies situated within a typology of prejudice. We find that partisan prejudice predicts suppression of hostile rhetoric toward one's own party, avoidance of members of the opposition, and a desire for preferential treatment for one's own party. While these behaviors may cause incidental or indirect harm to the opposition, we find that even the most affectively polarized - those with the strongest disdain for the opposition - are no more likely to intentionally harm the opposition than those with minimal levels of affective polarization.
U.S. Senators on Twitter: Asymmetric Party Rhetoric in 140 Characters
American Politics Research, forthcoming
The U.S. Senate is a party-polarized institution where divisive political rhetoric stems from the partisan divide. Senators regularly chastise political opponents, but not all senators are equally critical. Research finds that elite party polarization is asymmetrical with greater divergence by Republicans, so I expect Republican senators to mimic that trend with higher levels of partisan rhetoric. To assess the variance in partisan rhetoric, I catalogue senators' Twitter activity during the first 6 months of the 113th and 114th Congresses, and find that Republicans are more likely to name-call their Democratic opponents and to make expressions of intraparty loyalty, particularly when they are the minority party.
Retirement, Consumption of Political Information, and Political Knowledge
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming
Democratic societies depend on citizens being informed about candidates and representatives, to allow for optimal voting and political accountability. As the Fourth Estate, news media have a crucial role in this context. However, due to selective exposure, media bias, and endogeneity it is not a priori clear if news consumption increases voter information. Focusing on the increase in leisure time that is associated with retirement, this study investigates whether changes in the consumption of political information affect campaign-related knowledge. For that purpose, I use survey data pertaining to the 2000, 2004, and 2008 US presidential elections. Instrumenting with eligibility for old age benefits, the results show that retirement improves respondents' performance in answering knowledge questions. The effect is mostly driven by additional exposure to newscasts and newspapers. There is also evidence of increasing polarization due to retirement.
Why Partisans Do Not Sort: The Constraints on Political Segregation
Jonathan Mummolo & Clayton Nall
Journal of Politics, January 2017, Pages 45-59
Social divisions between American partisans are growing, with Republicans and Democrats exhibiting homophily in a range of seemingly nonpolitical domains. It has been widely claimed that this partisan social divide extends to Americans' decisions about where to live. In two original survey experiments, we confirm that Democrats are, in fact, more likely than Republicans to prefer living in more Democratic, dense, and racially diverse places. However, improving on previous studies, we test respondents' stated preferences against their actual moving behavior. While partisans differ in their residential preferences, on average they are not migrating to more politically distinct communities. Using zip-code-level census and partisanship data on the places where respondents live, we provide one explanation for this contradiction: by prioritizing common concerns when deciding where to live, Americans forgo the opportunity to move to more politically compatible communities.
Party Animals: Asymmetric Ideological Constraint among Democratic and Republican Party Activists
Robert Lupton, William Myers & Judd Thornton
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
Existing literature shows that Republicans in the mass public demonstrate greater ideological inconsistency and value conflict than Democrats. That is, despite a commitment to the conservative label and abstract belief in limited government, Republican identifiers' substantive policy attitudes are nonetheless divided. Conversely, Democrats, despite registering lower levels of ideological thinking, maintain relatively consistent liberal issue attitudes. Based on theories of coalition formation and elite opinion leadership, we argue that these differences should extend to Democratic and Republican Party activists. Examining surveys of convention delegates from the years 2000 and 2004, we show that Democratic activists' attitudes are more ideologically constrained than are those of Republican activists. The results support our hypothesis and highlight that some of the inconsistent attitudes evident among mass public party identifiers can be traced to the internal divisions of the major party coalitions themselves.
Crime and Partisanship: How Party ID Muddles Reality, Perception, and Policy Attitudes on Crime and Guns
Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz & Joshua Dyck
Social Science Quarterly, June 2017, Pages 443-454
Objective: In this article we theorize that partisanship is such a strong filter of information that it can affect how individuals make sense of their lived environment and how the geographic experience informs policy attitudes. As a result, although "independents" tend to be less politically knowledgeable and have less developed policy opinions, their policy attitudes on gun control are more informed by their lived experience than partisans.
Methods: We use data from an original survey of American adults about crime and gun control linked to crime statistics from the FBI.
Results: We find that stronger partisanship leads to resistance to information from the lived environment in the development of policy attitudes about gun control.
Conclusion: Democrats and Republicans have very different views about guns and, generally, these priorities are relatively unaffected by contextual experience; however, gun policy attitudes of independents are highly correlated with the level of gun crime in their geographic context.