Winner take all
Moral Values and Trump Voting
Harvard Working Paper, June 2017
Much recent public debate has focused on understanding voters' motives behind the election of President Trump. According to recent psychological research, people's moral values exhibit heterogeneity in the extent to which they emphasize universally applicable moral principles relative to "groupish" or "tribalistic" values such as in-group loyalty, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Donald Trump attempted to tap into the latter values. This paper uses a survey dataset on more than 180,000 Americans to document that the relative importance of "groupish" values at the county level is strongly correlated with (i) vote shares for Trump in the Presidential Election, (ii) the increase in vote shares between Trump and past Republican candidates, and (iii) votes for Trump in the Republican Primaries. These correlations exploit variation across counties within states or commuting zones, and hold conditional on socioeconomic factors such as local income, unemployment, inequality, social mobility, industry structure, education, crime rates, and racism. By exploiting variation in the timing of the measurement of people's values, the analysis provides evidence that the results are not driven by reverse causality.
Working Class Hero? Interrogating the Social Bases of the Rise of Donald Trump
Jeff Manza & Ned Crowley
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, April 2017, Pages 3-28
We present a political sociological analysis of the social bases of support for Donald Trump during the critical phase of his victory in the Republican nominating contest. In particular, we test the widely voiced hypothesis that a critical source of Trump’s support in the GOP primaries came from his appeal to working class and/or downwardly mobile and insecure middle class voters responding to a “populist” message. Drawing on both the ANES January 2016 pilot survey and exit poll data, we argue that Trump’s rise to the GOP nomination was facilitated by a broad-based appeal that centered on voters who have levels of education and income that are well above national and primary state averages.
Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates
Political Behavior, forthcoming
The conventional wisdom in the literature on women candidates holds that “when women run, they win as often as men.” This has led to a strong focus in the literature on the barriers to entry for women candidates and significant evidence that these barriers hinder representation. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that some disadvantages persist for Republican women even after they choose to run for office. In this paper, I investigate the aggregate consequences of these disadvantages for general election outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that Republican women who win close House primaries lose at higher rates in the general election than Republican men. This nomination effect holds throughout the 1990s despite a surge in Republican voting starting in 1994. I find no such effect for Democratic women and provide evidence that a gap in elite support explains part of the cross-party difference.
Gerrymandering Incumbency: Does Non-Partisan Redistricting Increase Electoral Competition?
John Henderson, Brian Hamel & Aaron Goldzimer
Yale Working Paper, May 2017
Many political advocacy groups, journalists, and scholars view decennial redistricting as a major force in weakening the representational link between voters and officeholders by helping insulate legislative incumbents from electoral defeat. Motivated by this concern, reformers in a number of states have proposed giving control over redistricting to 'politically-neutral' independent commissions. Freed from partisan and electoral pressures, independent redistrictors would be expected to draw districts without giving favor to parties or their incumbents. In this study, we analyze two novel datasets of alternative redistricting plans, to evaluate whether maps drawn by independent commissions are more electorally competitive than those produced by party-controlled legislatures, compared to the proposals that could have been adopted. We find that the redistricting process on the margin, helps sustain the electoral security of incumbents. Yet, counter to reformers' expectations, we find that independent redistrictors produce virtually the same degree of insulation as plans devised in legislatures or by politician commissions. Overall, our results suggest caution in overhauling state redistricting institutions to increase electoral competition: independent commissions may not be as politically-neutral as theorized.
Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes
Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi & Lindsay Nielson
Journal of Politics, April 2017, Pages 363-379
The proliferation of increasingly strict voter identification laws around the country has raised concerns about voter suppression. Although there are many reasons to suspect that these laws could harm groups like racial minorities and the poor, existing studies have been limited, with most occurring before states enacted strict identification requirements, and they have uncovered few effects. By using validated voting data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study for several recent elections, we are able to offer a more definitive test. The analysis shows that strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections. We also find that voter ID laws skew democracy toward those on the political right.
Peasants and Bankers: Education, Consumer Sentiment, and Presidential Approval
Delia Acevedo, Carlie Fogleman & Joseph Daniel Ura
Presidential Studies Quarterly, June 2017, Pages 230–244
We revisit the debate over the roles of the public's evaluations of experienced (retrospective) and expected (prospective) economic performance for presidential approval. We argue that formal education mediates the relationship between sentiment about the economy and judgments of presidential performance. An analysis of quarterly presidential approval across education cohorts for the period 1978 to 2008 shows that Americans with lower levels of education respond significantly to past economic performance in evaluating the president. Americans with higher levels of education evaluate presidents in terms of expected long-run economic performance. Aggregate presidential approval is influenced by responses to multiple economic signals.
The Politics of Potholes: Service Quality and Retrospective Voting in Local Elections
Craig Burnett & Vladimir Kogan
Journal of Politics, January 2017, Pages 302-314
By conditioning their support for political incumbents on observed performance outcomes, voters can motivate elected officials to represent their interests faithfully while in office. Whether elections serve this function in subnational US government remains unclear, however, because much of the existing research on retrospective voting in these contexts focuses on outcomes that are not obviously salient to voters or over which the relevant government officials have limited influence. In this study, we examine one outcome — the quality of local roads — that is both salient and unquestionably under the control of city government. Our analysis leverages within-city variation in the number of pothole complaints in one of America’s largest cities and shows that such variation can explain neighborhood-level differences in support for incumbents in two political offices — mayor and city council — across several electoral cycles.
Unemployment and voter turnout revisited: A brief note
Electoral Studies, forthcoming
This brief study revisits the issue of whether higher unemployment rates elicit an increase in the voter participation rate. Using a state-level panel dataset for all five of the Presidential election cycles of this century, it is hypothesized that, following Cebula (2008) and Burden and Wichowsky (2014), the higher the unemployment rate, the greater the degree to which eligible voters, whether unemployed or employed, show up at the polls, arguably because they are expressing the concerns and fears regarding prevailing economic policies and conditions and because by voting they are expressing the desire for changes to address those concerns and fears. The estimation implies that a one percentage point higher unemployment rate leads to a nearly 1.0% higher voter participation rate. This result is in principle compatible with and supportive of the hypothesis that higher unemployment rates motivate voters and the empirical finding of a positive voter turnout/unemployment rate association obtained in the studies by Cebula (2008) and Burden and Wichowsky (2014). Moreover, this finding is potentially important because it implies that elected officials are, to at least some degree, held accountable by the electorate for a weakly performing economy.
Faces of Bias in Politics: Evidence from Elite and Voter Conjoint Experiments on Gender
Dawn Teele, Joshua Kalla & Frances McCall Rosenbluth
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, May 2017
This paper considers three possible forms of bias underpinning female political under-representation in the U.S.: outright voter hostility; double standards; and voter expectations of “normal” family roles. Using data from three original surveys – a population survey of American voters and two rounds of surveys of American public officials – we use conjoint experiments with novel extensions to examine whether and when these biases operate against women. We find little evidence for outright hostility. Nor do we find evidence of double standards. Instead we find preferences for demographic characteristics such as being married and having children which are more likely to typify male politicians. These findings, which appear in both the elite and voter samples, suggest that even in a world in which people choose fairly when presented with similar options, women are likely to remain underrepresented because social expectations about family work are incompatible with the demands of the job.
Run for Your Life? The Effect of Close Elections on the Life Expectancy of Politicians
Mark Borgschulte & Jacob Vogler
University of Illinois Working Paper, May 2017
We use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the causal effect of election to political office on natural lifespan. In contrast to previous findings of shortened lifespan among US presidents and other heads of state, we find that US governors and other political office holders live over one year longer than losers of close elections. The positive effects of election appear in the mid-1800s, and grow notably larger when we restrict the sample to later years. We also analyze heterogeneity in exposure to stress, the proposed mechanism in the previous literature. We find no evidence of a role for stress in explaining differences in life expectancy. Those who win by large margins have shorter life expectancy than either close winners or losers, a fact which may explain previous findings.
Genes, Personality Traits, and the Sense of Civic Duty
Aaron Weinschenk & Christopher Dawes
American Politics Research, forthcoming
Political scientists have long known that the sense of civic duty is one of the strongest predictors of individual voter turnout, yet scholars are only just starting to study and understand the origins of this orientation. Recent genopolitics research has indicated that the sense of civic duty is heritable, and recent research in political psychology has illustrated that individual personality traits, many of which have a heritable component, shape feelings of civic obligation. In this article, we link these two lines of inquiry to better understand how individual differences shape the sense of civic duty. More specifically, we explore the relationship between personality traits, measured using the Big Five model; genes; and the sense of civic duty. We show that genetic factors account for between 70% and 87% of the correlation between civic duty and four of the Big Five personality traits. Overall, the results presented here expand our understanding of the process through which prosocial orientations, such as civic duty, are formed.
Candidate Choice Without Party Labels: New Insights from Conjoint Survey Experiments
Patricia Kirkland & Alexander Coppock
Political Behavior, forthcoming
In the absence of party labels, voters must use other information to determine whom to support. The institution of nonpartisan elections, therefore, may impact voter choice by increasing the weight that voters place on candidate dimensions other than partisanship. We hypothesize that in nonpartisan elections, voters will exhibit a stronger preference for candidates with greater career and political experience, as well as candidates who can successfully signal partisan or ideological affiliation without directly using labels. To test these hypotheses, we conducted conjoint survey experiments on both nationally representative and convenience samples that vary the presence or absence of partisan information. The primary result of these experiments indicates that when voters cannot rely on party labels, they give greater weight to candidate experience. We find that this process unfolds differently for respondents of different partisan affiliations: Republicans respond to the removal of partisan information by giving greater weight to job experience while Democrats respond by giving greater weight to political experience. Our results lend microfoundational support to the notion that partisan information can crowd out other kinds of candidate information.
Reassessing Public Support for a Female President
Barry Burden, Yoshikuni Ono & Masahiro Yamada
Journal of Politics, July 2017, Pages 1073-1078
We re-deploy a list experiment conducted a decade ago to reassess the degree to which the American public opposes electing a woman as president. We find that opposition has been cut in half from approximately 26% to 13%. In addition, opposition is now concentrated in specific sociodemographic categories rather than being evenly distributed. Newly developed statistical methods that permit multivariate analysis of list experiment data reveal that resistance has all but disappeared among Democratic-leaning groups in the electorate. These patterns appear to reflect the reduction of uncertainty among groups most favorable toward the recent success of Democratic women.
Hookworm Eradication as a Natural Experiment for Schooling and Voting in the American South
Political Behavior, forthcoming
Educational attainment is robustly associated with greater political participation, yet the causal nature of this finding remains contested. To assess this relationship, I leverage a natural experiment in the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission’s (RSC) anti-hookworm campaign, which exogenously expanded primary and secondary education in the early-twentieth century American South. I evaluate two RSC hookworm interventions: exposure to the campaign and proportion treated. I use genetic matching to control for observable factors that influenced the haphazard dispensing of treatment, and implement new matching methods for continuous campaign interventions. I also use a variety of methods to assess the robustness of the results to a number of alternative accounts. Throughout, I find a consistent positive effect of education on participation, suggesting additional evidence for a causal interpretation of the ‘education effect’.
Entertainment and the Opportunity Cost of Civic Participation: Monday Night Football Game Quality Suppresses Turnout in US Elections
Matthew Potoski & R. Urbatsch
Journal of Politics, April 2017, Pages 424-438
Raising the opportunity cost of people’s time may reduce their commitment to social obligations such as voting. Notably, entertaining sporting events can be strong civic distractions, as commentators throughout history have lamented. To consider sporting events’ influence on political behavior, this paper examines the effect of Monday Night Football games the day before US general elections from 1970 to 2014. More attractive games, such as those that feature more prominent and competitive match-ups or that feature local or high-scoring teams, may entice people to consume more entertainment and thus have less time to devote to civic affairs. When preelection football game quality increases from its 25th to 75th percentile, voter turnout falls by between 2 and 8 percentage points. These effects are somewhat weaker among those more interested in politics and do not appear in placebo tests on other political behaviors occurring before the preelection game.
Changing votes or changing voters? How candidates and election context swing voters and mobilize the base
Electoral Studies, August 2017, Pages 131–148
To win elections, candidates attempt to mobilize supporters and persuade swing voters. With what magnitude each operates across American elections is not clear. I argue that the influence of swing voters should depend upon change in the candidates across elections and that the consequences of changes in composition should depend upon the relative balance of campaign expenditures. I estimate a Bayesian hierarchical model on Florida electoral data for house, governor, and senate contests. Swing voters contribute on average 4.1 percentage points to change in party vote shares, while change in turnout influences outcomes by 8.6 points. The effect of swing voters is increasing in the divergence between the Democrat and Republican candidates. Candidates increasingly benefit from the votes of occasional voters as the relative balance of campaign spending increases in their favor. More broadly, the effects of swing voters and turnout are not constant features of American elections, instead varying across time and space in ways related to candidates and context.
How Republicans Won on Voter Identification Laws: The Roles of Strategic Reasoning and Moral Conviction
Pamela Johnston Conover & Patrick Miller
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming
Method: We use an original nationally representative survey to examine how partisan motivated reasoning, strategic reasoning, and moral conviction influence voter ID frame perceptions and policy support among partisans.
Results: For average partisans, strategic reasoning and moral conviction significantly influence frame perceptions and voter ID attitudes, though not always along predicted party lines. Motivated reasoning proves inconsequential.
Conclusions: Republicans have won the “framing war” over voter ID, largely neutralizing the Democratic voter suppression frame, even among average Democrats.
Second Screening Donald Trump: Conditional Indirect Effects on Political Participation
Shannon McGregor & Rachel Mourão
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Spring 2017, Pages 264-290
As second screening becomes more widespread, this study addresses its mediating role on the impact of TV news in political participation online and offline, and how this impact varies across groups. We expand the existing line of research by assessing the moderating role of support for Donald Trump on the established mediated model. Through a cross-lagged autoregressive panel survey design applied to the communication mediation model, our results support the link between second screening and political participation — but the mediating role of second screening is contingent upon attitudes towards Trump. For those who do not view Trump favorably, second screening during news leads to a decrease in political participation, both online and offline. As such, this article adds to the communication mediation model by suggesting that discussion and elaboration may not always be positive antecedents to political participation. When individuals disagree with the message dominating TV news and social media, deliberation via second screening leads to political disengagement.
When the Heat Is On: The Effect of Temperature on Voter Behavior in Presidential Elections
Jasper Van Assche et al.
Frontiers in Psychology, June 2017
Hot temperatures lead to heightened arousal. According to excitation transfer theory, arousal can increase both antisocial and prosocial behavior, depending on the context. Although many studies have shown that hot temperatures can increase antisocial behavior, very few studies have investigated the relationship between temperature and prosocial behavior. One important prosocial behavior is voting. We analyzed state-level data from the United States presidential elections (N = 761). Consistent with excitation transfer theory, which proposes that heat-induced arousal can transfer to other activities and strengthen those activities, changes in temperature and voter turnout were positively related. Moreover, a positive change in temperature was related to a positive change in votes for the incumbent party. These findings add to the literature on the importance of non-ideological and non-rational factors that influence voting behavior.