Findings

We polarize, you decide

Kevin Lewis

January 27, 2012

Idealistic advice and pragmatic choice: A psychological distance account

Shai Danziger, Ronit Montal & Rachel Barkan
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In 6 studies, we found that advice is more idealistic than choice in decisions that trade off idealistic and pragmatic considerations. We propose that because advisers are more psychologically distant from the choosers' decision problem, they construe the dilemma at a higher construal level than do choosers (Trope & Liberman, 2003, 2010). Consequently, advisers are more influenced by idealistic considerations that are salient at a high-level construal, whereas choosers are more influenced by pragmatic considerations that are salient at a low-level construal. Consistent with this view, Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that compared with choosers, advisers weigh idealistic considerations more heavily and pragmatic considerations less heavily, place greater emphasis on ends (why) than on means to achieve the end (how), and generate more reasons (pros) in favor of acting idealistically. Studies 3 and 4 provide converging support for our account by demonstrating that making advisers focus on a lower construal level results in more pragmatic recommendations. In Study 3, we manufactured more pragmatic recommendations by priming a low-level implementation mind-set in a purportedly unrelated task, whereas in Study 4 we did so by reducing advisers' psychological distance from the dilemma by asking them to consider what they would choose in the situation. The results of Study 4 suggest advisers do not spontaneously consider self-choice. Finally, in Studies 5 and 6, we demonstrate the choice-advice difference in consequential real-life decisions.

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International polarity and America's polarization

Joseph Bafumi & Joseph Parent
International Politics, January 2012, Pages 1-35

Abstract:
There is a growing consensus that the United States is undergoing a period of political polarization, particularly among elites. The causes of this polarization remain under-researched. We argue that shifts in the international distribution of power influence America's polarization. To demonstrate the argument, this article analyzes changes in power and polarization quantitatively and qualitatively from 1945 to 2005. A key finding is that greater relative power on the world stage substantially increases polarization and some of its correlates, like income inequality. The argument also measures the extent of international influence on domestic polarization and makes novel predictions on when and why polarization will fall.

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Change We Can Believe In: Using Perceptions of Changeability to Promote System-Change Motives Over System-Justification Motives in Information Search

India Johnson & Kentaro Fujita
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
People are motivated to defend and rationalize the status quo, a phenomenon known as system justification. We propose the existence of a second, countervailing system-level motivation: system-change motivation, which is concerned with bettering the status quo over time. The opportunity to receive diagnostic information about the status quo pits the two system-level motives against each other. Whereas system justification promotes a preference for positive information about the status quo, system-change motivation promotes a preference for negative information about the status quo. In three experiments, we found that people preferred negative over positive feedback about the status quo when it was presented as being changeable. Our findings are the first to suggest the operation of a system-change motive.

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Ethnocentrism as a Short-Term Force in the 2008 American Presidential Election

Cindy Kam & Donald Kinder
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Faced with a choice between John McCain and Barack Obama, voters in 2008 were swayed by the familiar play of factors - party identification, policy preferences, and economic conditions - but also, we find, by ethnocentrism, a deep-seated psychological predisposition that partitions the world into ingroups and outgroups - into "us" and "them." The effect of ethnocentrism was significant and substantial, and it appeared over and above the effects due to partisanship, economic conditions, policy stances, political engagement, and several varieties of conservatism. Two features of Obama were primarily responsible for triggering ethnocentrism in 2008: his race and his imagined Muslim faith. As such, we demonstrate that ethnocentrism was much more important in 2008 than in the four presidential elections immediately preceding 2008, and we show that it was much more important in the actual contest between Senator McCain and Senator Obama than in a hypothetical contest between Senator McCain and Senator Clinton.

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The Gerrymanderers Are Coming! Legislative Redistricting Won't Affect Competition or Polarization Much, No Matter Who Does It

Seth Masket, Jonathan Winburn & Gerald Wright
PS: Political Science & Politics, January 2012, Pages 39-43

Abstract:
Redistricting received substantial attention in the popular media in 2011, as states redrew state legislative and congressional district boundaries. Many reformers continue to argue for a de-politicization of the redistricting process, claiming that partisan redistricting is responsible for declining electoral competition and increasing legislative polarization. Our analysis of evidence from state legislatures during the last decade suggests that the effects of partisan redistricting on competition and polarization are small, considerably more nuanced than reformers would suggest, and overwhelmed by other aspects of the political environment.

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Electoral Institutions and Legislative Behavior: The Effects of Primary Processes

Michael Alvarez & Betsy Sinclair
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Electoral institutions can affect the voting behavior of legislators who are elected through those institutions. In this article, the authors apply social network theory to study patterns of legislative choices under different primary election systems, and this approach leads the authors to study how electoral institutions affect legislative behavior differently than most previous research - that is, they focus on how electoral institutions affect the interactions between legislators. The authors use data on legislative voting behavior from the California State Assembly and exploit the changes that have been implemented in California's primary elections process over the past two decades. Specifically, they hypothesize that legislators who were elected during the years in which a nonpartisan blanket primary was used in California (1998 and 2000) will be more centrally networked and more likely to compromise with other legislators. They find evidence to support their hypothesis: legislators elected under the nonpartisan blanket primary are more likely to agree with other legislators. Electoral institutions, especially primary elections, have important effects on legislative behavior. The authors' results have implications for highly polarized state legislatures.

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Incumbent positioning, ideological heterogeneity and mobilization in U.S. House elections

Michael Ensley
Public Choice, April 2012, Pages 43-61

Abstract:
This article examines whether the need to mobilize citizens pushes incumbents to the ideological extremes in U.S. House elections. We test whether incumbents are more ideologically extreme as the ideological heterogeneity of the district increases and if turnout increases as incumbents become more extreme. These tests combined with the observation that divergence decreases with competitiveness suggest that candidates balance the need to attract swing voters with the need to mobilize supporters. The results also suggest that the growth in elite polarization is linked to the growing ideological heterogeneity in the electorate.

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Legislative Coalitions, Polarization, and the U.S. Senate

Daniel DiSalvo
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2011

Abstract:
In recent years, scholars have marshaled a vast amount of evidence to show that the congressional parties are increasingly polarized. However, David Mayhew demonstrated that most standard legislative enactments in the second half of the twentieth century passed with the support of large majorities of both parties. This article investigates whether the partisan polarization of the past two decades has crept into the temple of consensual lawmaking that hitherto characterized Senate action on final passage votes. The findings reveal that unilateral votes by one party are better explained by unified government than the rise of partisan polarization. In that light, the import of polarization may be overstated. Institutional features of the political system, coupled with the electoral incentives of lawmakers, offset ideological polarization at the final passage stage of important legislation.

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Ambivalence Reduction and Polarization in the Campaign Information Environment: The Interaction Between Individual- and Contextual-Level Influences

Young Mie Kim et al.
Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines how the campaign information environment influences individuals' ambivalence reduction and polarization. Based on the 2008 presidential television campaign advertising data and individuals' electoral behavior data in 2008 designated market areas nationwide, this study utilizes multilevel modeling to better understand the interactions between the effects of individual-level predispositions and that of the contextual-level campaign information environment. The findings of the study indicate that the campaign information environment does matter in ambivalence reduction and polarization. Individuals living in a media market where the volume of campaign advertising is relatively high are less ambivalent and more polarized in candidate evaluations. The patterns appear to be amplified among partisans, suggesting the campaign information environment functions as a "motivator." The partisan bias of the ads in a media market, however, exerts only limited influence. The implications for the functioning of democracy are discussed.

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Thermostatic Voting: Presidential Elections in Light of New Policy Data

Jørgen Bølstad
PS: Political Science & Politics, January 2012, Pages 44-50

Abstract:
Existing studies imply a model of "thermostatic voting" - a phenomenon characterized by negative feedback from government policy to election outcomes, suggesting that a party's success in setting policy diminishes its electoral prospects. This phenomenon could give politicians an incentive to constrain the fulfillment of public demands, which would conflict with the notion of electoral accountability, which also forms part of the theoretical framework in question. This article addresses this paradox and provides new data that expand an existing time series of American policy liberalism. Employing the new data, the article identifies thermostatic voting in American presidential elections, but in light of the analysis, certain empirical features are also identified that reduce the possible incentive to withhold promised policy changes.

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Through the Looking Glass, Darkly: What has Become of the Senate?

Sarah Binder
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2011

Abstract:
Some twenty years ago, Richard F. Fenno, Jr. published "The Senate Through the Looking Glass" - a particularly illuminating and trenchant assessment of the state of the Senate. Listening to senators debate whether to allow television cameras into the chamber, Fenno concluded that the Senate was still capable of thoughtful deliberation and consensual decision-making. In this article, I take a Fenno-inspired peek through the looking glass at the contemporary Senate, using a recent parliamentary dispute to probe senators' views about their institution. The view is unusually dark. Two decades after Fenno's assessment, rising partisanship has made the Senate nearly ungovernable - leaving a chamber that struggles to fulfill its most basic constitutional duties.

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Cognitive Biases and the Strength of Political Arguments

Kevin Arceneaux
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Competition in political debate is not always sufficient to neutralize the effects of political rhetoric on public opinion. Yet little is known about the factors that shape the persuasiveness of political arguments. In this article, I consider whether cognitive biases influence the perceived strength of political arguments, making some arguments more persuasive than others. Lessons from neurobiology and recent political psychology research on emotion lead to the expectation that individuals are more likely to be persuaded by political arguments that evoke loss aversion via a fearful response - even in the face of a counterargument. Evidence from two experiments corroborates this expectation. I consider the normative implications of these empirical findings and potential avenues for future research.

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The Impact of Health Care and Immigration Reform on Latino Support for President Obama and Congress

Gabriel Sanchez, Jillian Medeiros & Shannon Sanchez-Youngman
Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, February 2012, Pages 3-22

Abstract:
At the start of their term, the Obama administration pledged to reform two failing policy systems in the United States: immigration and health care. The Latino populations' attitudes toward these two critical policy areas are particularly relevant due to the large foreign born population in the Latino community and the large number of Latinos who lack health insurance. Yet studies have not examined what factors shape Latino approval ratings and whether support for health and immigration reform affect Latino approval ratings of the current administration. We use the 2009 Latino Decisions survey and find that the foundations of Latino approval ratings are political in nature, with support for health and immigration policy reform driving support of the current administration. Given the vital role the Latino electorate played during the 2008 election, the success of these two policy reform efforts may have major implications for the 2012 elections.

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Hanging With the Filibuster Pivot

Randall Strahan
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2011

Abstract:
This essay takes Richard Fenno's concept of the senatorial career and Keith Krehbiel's generalization about the importance of the pivotal 60th senator as points of departure for an account of a day spent on Capitol Hill with Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) in July 2010. The goal of the essay is to describe a day in the career of a senator who took full advantage of opportunities presented by being the pivotal senator on a major piece of legislation.

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Putting on the Brakes or Pressing on the Gas? Media Attention and the Speed of Policymaking

Michelle Wolfe
Policy Studies Journal, February 2012, Pages 109-126

Abstract:
Media attention is fundamental to the policy process and policy change in punctuated equilibrium theory. In this literature, media attention is usually conceptualized as fomenting or contributing to shifts in attention, positive feedback, and large-scale policy change. This article extends how we understand the role of the media and punctuated equilibrium by arguing that media coverage can also contribute to negative feedback and stability in the political system. Media attention should also slow down the speed of policymaking and the momentum for policy change as new policy participants and problem definitions enter the debate. Using event history analysis, this article tests the effects of media coverage on the length of time it takes legislation, once introduced, to become law for public laws from the 109th U.S. Congress (2005-06). Findings provide support for media attention "putting the brakes" on policymaking. Controlling for other factors, the speed of bill passage slows down as media attention increases. This effect decays over time for high levels of media coverage.

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Disagreement and the Avoidance of Political Discussion: Aggregate Relationships and Differences across Personality Traits

Alan Gerber et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social networks play a prominent role in the explanation of many political phenomena. Using data from a nationally representative survey of registered voters conducted around the 2008 U.S. presidential election, we document three findings. First, we show that during this period, people discussed politics as frequently as (or more frequently than) other topics such as family, work, sports, and entertainment with frequent discussion partners. Second, the frequency with which a topic is discussed is strongly and positively associated with reported agreement on that topic among these same discussion partners. Supplementary experimental evidence suggests this correlation arises because people avoid discussing politics when they anticipate disagreement. Third, we show that Big Five personality traits affect how frequently people discuss a variety of topics, including politics. Some of these traits also alter the relationship between agreement and frequency of discussion in theoretically expected ways. This suggests that certain personality types are more likely to be exposed to divergent political information, and that not everyone is equally likely to experience cross-cutting discourse, even in heterogeneous networks.

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The Electoral Risks of Senate Majority Leadership, or How Tom Daschle Lost and Harry Reid Won

Andrea Hatcher
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2011

Abstract:
Senate majority leaders risk electoral defeat despite advantages of incumbency. In 2010, according to conventional wisdom, Harry Reid seemed likely to lose re-election, as had his predecessor. Nevertheless, he won a decisive victory. This paper seeks to answer the basic question - how did Reid escape electoral defeat? - as a means of elucidating the conditions under which Senate majority leaders lose re-elections. This research can be couched in a broader study of Senate majority leadership that understands the role as one that balances the constraints of multiple constituencies of state, party, Senate, and president. In these terms, and based on the cases of Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, I hypothesize that Reid's electoral victory was no surprise in light of his state's ideological position and support of President Barack Obama. As a rule, a Senate majority leader faces an electoral threat when he opposes a president that his state has supported, but gains electoral security when he serves a president his state has supported.

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A Gender Gap in Policy Representation in the U.S. Congress?

John Griffin, Brian Newman & Christina Wolbrecht
Legislative Studies Quarterly, February 2012, Pages 35-66

Abstract:
In the first article to evaluate the equality of dyadic policy representation experienced by women, we assess the congruence between U.S. House members' roll-call votes and the policy preferences of their female and male constituents. Employing two measures of policy representation, we do not find a gender gap in dyadic policy representation. However, we uncover a sizeable gender gap favoring men in districts represented by Republicans, and a similarly sizeable gap favoring women in districts represented by Democrats. A Democratic majority further improves women's dyadic representation relative to men, but having a female representative (descriptive representation) does not.

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Exile Politics and Republican Party Affiliation: The Case of Cuban Americans in Miami

Chris Girard, Guillermo Grenier & Hugh Gladwin
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objectives: We test the hypothesis that exile politics - measured by support for anti-Castro policies - contribute to the overwhelming preference for the Republican Party among South Florida's Cuban Americans.

Methods: Logistic regression is used to analyze six surveys conducted in South Florida between 1995 and December 2008.

Results: Among Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County, measures of exile politics account for a recent downward shift in Republican registration, as well as for much of the variation in Republican registration by race and age. Also, measures of exile politics partly explain differences between Cubans and non-Cubans with regard to partisan preference.

Conclusion: Although some scholars argue that domestic issues have taken a back seat in guiding party preferences for Miami's Cubans, a decline in support for anti-Castro policies appears to have created a greater opening for domestic concerns in the 2008 election cycle.

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What the Filibuster Tells Us About the Senate

Eric Schickler & Gregory Wawro
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2011

Abstract:
We argue that even as the Senate filibuster poses serious governance challenges in today's Congress, it persists because most senators prefer to maintain the minority's right to obstruct. We consider what this rank-and-file support for the filibuster tells us about the nature of individual senators' preferences and about the Senate as an institution. We believe that continued support for the filibuster underscores the importance of personal power and publicity goals, the ability of rules to provide "political cover" for legislators, and the role of shared understandings about the appropriate use of rules and about the Senate's place in the political system. Where nineteenth-century senators propagated a set of beliefs that limited the legitimate use of obstruction, today's senators have developed an alternative set of beliefs that bolsters the institutional role of the filibuster. Under these circumstances, reform will likely require substantial pressure from outside the institution rather than emerging from within the Senate.

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Government versus Opposition at the Polls: How Governing Status Affects the Impact of Policy Positions

Kathleen Bawn & Zeynep Somer-Topcu
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We argue that governing status affects how voters react to extreme versus moderate policy positions. Being in government forces parties to compromise and to accept ideologically unappealing choices as the best among available alternatives. Steady exposure to government parties in this role and frequent policy compromise by governing parties lead voters to discount the positions of parties when they are in government. Hence, government parties do better in elections when they offset this discounting by taking relatively extreme positions. The relative absence of this discounting dynamic for opposition parties, on the other hand, means that they perform better by taking more moderate positions, as the standard Downsian model would predict. We present evidence from national elections in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, 1971-2005, to support this claim.


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