Who Punishes Extremist Nominees? Candidate Ideology and Turning Out the Base in U.S. Elections
Andrew Hall & Daniel Thompson
Stanford Working Paper, November 2017
Political observers, campaign experts, and academics alike argue bitterly over whether it is more important for a party to capture ideologically moderate swing voters or to encourage turnout among hardcore partisans. The behavioral literature in American politics suggests that voters are not informed enough, and are too partisan, to be swing voters, while the institutional literature suggests that moderate candidates tend to perform better. We speak to this debate by examining the link between the ideology of congressional candidates and the turnout of their parties’ bases in U.S. House races, 2006–2014. Combining a regression discontinuity design in close primary races with survey and administrative data on individual voter turnout, we find that extremist nominees — as measured by the mix of campaign contributions they receive — suffer electorally, largely because they decrease their party’s share of turnout in the general election, skewing the electorate towards their opponent’s party. The results help show how the behavioral and institutional literatures can be connected. For our sample of elections, turnout appears to be the dominant force in determining election outcomes, but it advantages ideologically moderate candidates because extremists appear to activate the opposing party’s base more than their own.
Partisan Dynamics in Presidential Primaries and Campaign Divisiveness
American Politics Research, forthcoming
Observers have noted that the Republican and Democratic primaries differ substantially, with Republicans typically having an easier time selecting their nominee. Previous research has suggested that this may be attributable to Republican Party homogeneity and delegate allocation rules that winnow candidates faster, but there is little empirical evidence on how these factors influence the primary process. Rather than predicting overall vote share or the nominee, I examine the temporal dynamics of each party’s primary campaigns. I show that Republican candidates are over-rewarded for winning elections, while Democrats are rewarded for performing well overall. The result is that late in the campaign, Republicans are much more likely to exit as compared with Democrats, and there is little evidence that these dynamics have changed over time. I conclude that the Republican Party produces systematically shorter and less divisive primaries as a result of its faster and more efficient winnowing process.
Trump, Condorcet and Borda: Voting paradoxes in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming
The organization of US presidential elections makes them potentially vulnerable to the “voting paradoxes” identified by social choice theorists but rarely documented in real-world elections. Using polling data from the 2016 Republican presidential primaries we identify two possible cases: Early in the pre-primary (2015) a cyclical majority may have existed in Republican voters’ preferences between Bush, Cruz and Walker. Furthermore, later polling data (January-March 2016) suggests that while Trump (who achieved less than 50% of the total Republican primary vote) was the Plurality Winner, he could have been beaten in pairwise contests by at least one other candidate and may have been the Condorcet Loser. The cases confirm the empirical relevance of the theoretical voting paradoxes and the importance of voting procedures.
Swing voting in the 2016 presidential election in counties where midlife mortality has been rising in white non-Hispanic Americans
Usama Bilal, Emily Knapp & Richard Cooper
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming
Understanding the effects of widespread disruption of the social fabric on public health outcomes can provide insight into the forces that drive major political realignment. Our objective was to estimate the association between increases in mortality in middle-aged non-Hispanic white adults from 1999 to 2005 to 2009–2015, health inequalities in life expectancy by income, and the surge in support for the Republican Party in pivotal US counties in the 2016 presidential election. We conducted a longitudinal ecological study in 2764 US counties from 1999 to 2016. Increases in mortality were measured using age-specific (45–54 years of age) all-cause mortality from 1999 to 2005 to 2009–2015 at the county level. Support for the Republican Party was measured as the party's vote share in the presidential election in 2016 adjusted for results in 2008 and 2012. We found a significant up-turn in mortality from 1999 to 2005 to 2009–2015 in counties where the Democratic Party won twice (2008 and 2012) but where the Republican Party won in 2016 (+10.7/100,000), as compared to those in which the Democratic Party won in 2016 (−15.7/100,000). An increase in mortality of 15.2/100,000 was associated with a significant (p < 0.001) 1% vote swing from the 2008–2012 average to 2016. We also found that counties with wider health inequalities in life expectancy were more likely to vote Republican in 2016, regardless of the previous voting patterns. Counties with worsening premature mortality in the last 15 years and wider health inequalities shifted votes toward the Republican Party presidential candidate. Further understanding of causes of unanticipated deterioration in health in the general population can inform social policy.
The electoral strategies of a populist candidate: Does charisma discourage experience and encourage extremism?
Journal of Theoretical Politics, forthcoming
I model an election between a populist candidate with little government experience and high charisma and a mainstream candidate with much government experience and low charisma. Taking a step back in time, I also model the career choices of this populist candidate: he must consider how much governing experience to acquire before running for high office, and then he must decide how extremist his campaign platform should be. The model finds two major trade-offs that are unfortunate for the median voter: candidates who are attractive in terms of their high charisma will be unattractive in terms of their low experience and high extremism. The model also finds that popular discontent, coming from an economic or political crisis, makes an inexperienced outsider more likely to win an election with an extremist agenda; this helps explain the recent ‘rise of populism’ identified by several authors around the world. This theory is also able to explain numerous empirical findings: I connect the model to the literature from different academic approaches (behavioral, comparative, and institutional) and different geographical regions (the United States, Latin America, and Europe). Special reference is made to four prominent outsiders: Donald Trump, Hugo Chávez, Alberto Fujimori, and Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Choice vs. Action: Candidate Ambiguity and Voter Decision Making
Yanna Krupnikov & John Barry Ryan
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2017, Pages 479-505
A rich literature argues that electoral incentives lead candidates to take ambiguous positions on issues. Furthermore, empirical research suggests that ambiguity does not repel — and may actually attract — voters. This work, however, equates choosing a candidate with paying the costs of voting for that candidate. We reconsider the relationship between candidate ambiguity and candidate preference moving beyond candidate choice and considering turnout as well. Integrating political science with research on consumer decision-making and psychology, we argue that many who select an ambiguous candidate do not translate that choice into an actual vote for that candidate. We test this argument using three experiments which incorporate costly voting and other electoral conditions heretofore absent from research on ambiguity.
When Increased Turnout Matters: Simulating the Partisan Impact of Full Turnout in Senate and Gubernatorial Elections
Edward Burmila & Nathaniel Birkhead
Politics & Policy, December 2017, Pages 1024–1050
What if everyone voted? There is consensus that increased turnout generally, but not always, benefits Democrats, but recent evidence suggests that it is unlikely to change election outcomes considering the paucity of close races. For the first time, we examine this question using gubernatorial races along with Senate races from 2008 and 2010, estimating the behavior of nonvoters based on individual-level data from known voters. We find that the substantive effect of full turnout is understated, particularly in close gubernatorial races. As these races determine partisan control of executive branches, we demonstrate that full turnout would result in more politically meaningful changes than suggested in previous research focusing only on Senate or presidential elections. While the empirical consequences of increased turnout are well understood, our findings suggest that the substantive effects continue to be understated.
Visual Information and Candidate Evaluations: The Influence of Feminine and Masculine Images on Support for Female Candidates
Nichole Bauer & Colleen Carpinella
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
Existing research debates the extent to which feminine and masculine stereotypes affect voters’ impressions of female candidates. Current approaches identify how descriptions of female candidates as having feminine or masculine qualities lead voters to rely on stereotypes. We argue that extant scholarship overlooks a critical source of stereotypic information about female candidates — the role of visual information. This manuscript explores the conditions under which voters use feminine and masculine visuals to evaluate female candidates. Drawing on theories of information processing and stereotype reliance, we develop a framework that explains when visual information will affect how voters evaluate female and male candidates. We argue that visual information that is incongruent with stereotypes about a candidate’s sex will affect candidate evaluations while visuals congruent with stereotypes about candidate sex will not. We test these dynamics with an original survey experiment. We find that gender incongruent masculine visuals negatively affect evaluations of a female candidate’s issue competencies and electoral viability.
Looks and Sounds Like a Winner: Perceptions of Competence in Candidates’ Faces and Voices Influences Vote Choice
Journal of Experimental Political Science, Winter 2017, Pages 229-240
Voters are more likely to support candidates whose faces and voices are perceived as competent. However, what is the simultaneous influence of these two characteristics? Here this question is examined with an observational study and an experiment. In the observational study, subjects rated the facial competence of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The most and least competent faces identified were paired with recordings of competent (i.e., lower pitched) and incompetent (i.e., higher pitched) voices to create simulated candidates. For the experiment, a separate set of subjects voted between randomly generated pairs of these simulated candidates. The results show that candidates with competent faces or competent voices won more votes, but the influence of facial competence was nearly three times that of vocal competence.
Why Should the Republicans Pray for Rain? Electoral Consequences of Rainfall Revisited
Yusaku Horiuchi & Woo Chang Kang
American Politics Research, forthcoming
Existing studies — most importantly, Gomez, Hansford, and Krause — provide empirical support for an idea often embraced by popular media: The vote share of the Republican Party (as the percentage of total votes) increases when it rains, because the magnitude of decrease in turnout is larger among Democratic vis-à-vis Republican supporters. Considering the compositional nature of aggregated data, we show that the alleged Republican advantage derives in part from an increase in the number of votes for the Republican Party. Based on the extensive literature of psychology and related fields, we provide a possible interpretation of this counter-intuitive empirical finding. Methodologically, our evidence suggests that researchers must be alert when using rainfall as an instrument to estimate the causal effects of voter turnout on electoral outcome.
Female Candidate Emergence and Term Limits: A State-Level Analysis
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
This study examines term limits to determine the effect they have on female candidate emergence in state legislatures. Initial research finds a negative relationship between term limits and female representation. I offer a candidate-level theory and empirical approach to reevaluate how term limits affect female representation overtime. I argue term limits create an incentive structure that favors female candidates since the incumbency advantage is lessened. To test this theory, I set up a quasi-natural experiment with term limits as the treatment in a difference-in-differences test. Furthermore, I also run logistical regression analysis using candidate-level data from all fifty states from 1990 to 2000. I find women are more likely to run for office in open seats created by term limits. Last, this pattern holds for both Republican and Democratic female candidates.
Costly Values: The Limited Benefits and Potential Costs of Targeted Policy Justifications
Erik Peterson & Gabor Simonovits
Journal of Experimental Political Science, Winter 2017, Pages 95-106
Can politicians use targeted messages to offset position taking that would otherwise reduce their public support? We examine the effect of a politician’s justification for their tax policy stance on public opinion and identify limits on the ability of justifications to generate leeway for incongruent position taking on this issue. We draw on political communication research to establish expectations about the heterogeneous effects of justifications that employ either evidence or values based on whether or not constituents agree with the position a politician takes. In two survey experiments, we find small changes in support in response to these types of messages among targeted groups, but rule out large benefits for politicians to selectively target policy justifications toward subsets of the public. We also highlight a potential cost to selective messaging by showing that when these targeted messages reach unintended audiences they can backfire and reduce a candidate’s support.
Show Me the Money: 'Dark Money' and the Informational Benefit of Campaign Finance Disclosure
University of Southern California Working Paper, October 2017
Campaign finance disclosure is under threat. While the Court continues to uphold mandatory disclosure, it has also eviscerated much of the legal justification for it. Simultaneously, gaps in the legal framework mean that some campaign activity is subject only to voluntary disclosure – consider “dark money” groups and unregulated Internet campaign advertising. In upholding the parts of the campaign finance regime that mandate disclosure, the Court has assumed that disclosure provides valuable policy information to voters, but it has not considered non-policy information that voters learn about candidates from the choice to disclose more than is legally required. This article provides new survey and experimental evidence that voters value disclosure of campaign finance information and will reward voluntary disclosure while punishing candidates supported by dark money groups. Voluntary disclosure signals transparency and thus trustworthiness. The importance of the second kind of information has not been previously recognized and suggests a role for voluntary as well as mandatory disclosure.
Testing Overall and Synergistic Campaign Effects in a Partisan Statewide Election
Daron Shaw, Christopher Blunt & Brent Seaborn
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
Although studies based on field experiments and large-N surveys have enhanced our understanding of how campaigns affect U.S. elections, few of these projects have (1) considered the synergistic effects of distinct aspects of the campaign, (2) focused on statewide, partisan elections, or (3) considered the durability of any estimated campaign effects. We rely on a massive field experiment from the 2014 Texas gubernatorial campaign to assess the individual, synergistic, and collective impact of a variety of outreach modes on the electorate. The data demonstrate some durable synergistic and overall campaign effects on voters’ attitudes toward the sponsoring candidate, with lesser effects on turnout. In addition, while the results indicate that television is rightly considered the most effective mover of voters, radio and Internet advertising also have notable effects and may, in fact, deliver a better return on investment.
Status Quo Bias in Ballot Wording
Michael Barber et al.
Journal of Experimental Political Science, Winter 2017, Pages 151-160
We examine the role of status quo bias in the ballot wording of social issues that affect the rights of minority groups. We test the salience of this framing bias by conducting an experiment that randomly assigns different ballot wordings for five policies across survey respondents. We find that status quo bias changes the percent of individuals who vote for the ballot measure by 5–8 percentage points with the least informed individuals being the most affected by status quo bias.
Effects of Equivalence Framing on the Perceived Truth of Political Messages and the Trustworthiness of Politicians
Thomas Koch & Christina Peter
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2017, Pages 847–865
Recent studies in psychology have shown that the framing of a message affects judgments about its truth, as negatively framed statements are perceived as more trustworthy than formally equivalent, positively framed statements. The current work examines this effect in the contexts of political communication and public opinion. The results of three experiments show that equivalence framing affects both the perceived truth of political messages and the trustworthiness of its source, and that one cause of this effect is that recipients have learned to associate negativity with news and positivity with persuasive communication through media exposure. Consequently, we find that positively framing statements can lead recipients to feel that the source is trying to persuade them, which triggers reactance, reducing the perceived truth of the message and the trustworthiness of the source.
Reducing the Undervote With Vote by Mail
Andrew Menger, Robert Stein & Greg Vonnahme
American Politics Research, forthcoming
We study how ballot completion levels in Colorado responded to the adoption of universal vote by mail elections (VBM). VBM systems are among the most widespread and significant election reforms that states have adopted in modern elections. VBM elections provide voters more time to become informed about ballot choices and opportunities to research their choices at the same time as they fill out their ballots. By creating a more information-rich voting environment, VBM should increase ballot completion, especially among peripheral voters. The empirical results show that VBM elections lead to greater ballot completion, but that this effect is only substantial in presidential elections.
Timing the habit: Voter registration and turnout
Enrijeta Shino & Daniel Smith
Electoral Studies, forthcoming
Does registration timing impact whether an individual becomes a habitual voter? We argue that those registering in near proximity to a presidential election are more likely to vote in the upcoming election compared to those who register at other times during an election cycle because they seek an immediate return on their investment, but they are less likely to become habituated to vote in subsequent mid-term and primary elections. We suggest that this is because last-minute registrants, many of whom were registered through voter registration drives, were not focused on long-term electoral payoffs. Leveraging Florida's statewide voter files, we use logistic regression and propensity score weighting with county fixed-effects to evaluate if the timing of voter registration has significant short- and long-term turnout effects in high- and low-salience elections, controlling for party registration and an array of demographic factors. We find that the timing of registration does affect turnout, as last-minute registrants are not equally likely to vote in ensuing elections.
How Much GOTV Mail is Too Much? Results from a Large-Scale Field Experiment
Donald Green & Adam Zelizer
Journal of Experimental Political Science, Winter 2017, Pages 107-118
This study evaluates the turnout effects of direct mail sent in advance of the 2014 New Hampshire Senate election. Registered Republican women were sent up to 10 mailings from a conservative advocacy group that encouraged participation in the upcoming election. We find that mail raises turnout, but no gains are achieved beyond five mailers. This finding is shown to be consistent with other experiments that have sent large quantities of mail. We interpret these results in light of marketing research on repetitive messaging.