Ballot boxed in

Kevin Lewis

March 29, 2019

Strategic Spending: Does Politics Influence Election Administration Expenditure?
Zachary Mohr et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Recently, election administration has been an important part of the national and global conversation about the results of elections. The important issue of election administration spending has not been examined extensively, and the influence of politics on election administration spending levels has not been examined in the United States. While theories of voter turnout and policy preference suggest that politics should influence election administration spending levels in the counties that administer elections, to our knowledge, there has been no evidence produced to support a partisan election administration expenditure effect. This research finds that Republican county commissions in North Carolina spend significantly less on election administration once the county electorate is a sufficient Republican majority. The article presents a novel model and method for estimating election administration spending and calls for additional research to examine the outcomes of these significant differences in spending on election administration.

Examining the Effects of Partisan Redistricting on Candidate Entry Decisions
Ryan Williamson
Election Law Journal, forthcoming


Redistricting has been a highly contentious topic in American politics for many decades. The many instances of politicians exploiting the redistricting process to achieve a partisan goal have been widely chronicled. Nonpartisan redistricting plans serve to keep politicians from taking advantage of the process for their own advantage, and they therefore ostensibly serve to increase competition, which in turn improves representation. However, the effect of nonpartisan plans on elections is not entirely clear. I seek to adjudicate competing conclusions about the effect of nonpartisan plans by evaluating the effect of different redistricting methods on quality candidate emergence. I find that, relative to commissions, partisan plans produce fewer quality candidates, more uncontested elections, and fewer open seats.

The Impact of Partisan Gerrymandering on Political Parties
Christopher Warshaw & Nicholas Stephanopoulos
University of Chicago Working Paper, February 2019


The relationship between votes and seats in the legislature lies at the heart of democratic governance. In recent years, a number of innovative approaches have been developed to measure partisan advantage in the translation of votes to seats. However, there has been little previous work on the downstream effects of partisan gerrymandering on the health of political parties. In this study, we conduct a comprehensive examination of the impact of partisan advantage in the districting process on an array of downstream outcomes. We find that gerrymandering impedes numerous party functions. These results hold no matter how partisan advantage is measured and at both the congressional and state house levels. Candidates are less likely to contest districts when their party is victimized by gerrymandering. Candidates that do choose to run are more likely to have weak resumes. Donors are less willing to contribute money. And ordinary voters are less apt to support the targeted party. These results indicate that gerrymandering has long-term effects on the health of the democratic process beyond simply costing or gaining parties seats in the legislature.

Of Two Minds, But One Heart: A Good “Gut” Feeling Moderates the Effect of Ambivalence on Attitude Formation and Turnout
Eric Groenendyk
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Popular psychological accounts argue that successful candidates address their appeals to citizens’ “hearts” rather than their “heads.” Yet research on campaigns shows that candidates win elections by getting voters to think about particular issues - especially issues that create ambivalence in the minds of opposition supporters. This article helps to reconcile these “heart‐centered” and “head‐centered” accounts of preference formation during campaigns. An original experiment and ANES data analyses (1980-2004) show that a “good gut feeling” toward a candidate helps citizens to overcome the paralyzing effect of ambivalence on attitude formation and turnout. And, since turnout is most tenuous among those with lower income, this is where the effect is most pronounced. Since Democratic candidates rely disproportionately on support from these lower‐income voters, it is particularly important that they inspire positive affect among latent supporters.

Descriptive Representation and the Political Engagement of Women
Jennifer Wolak
Politics & Gender, forthcoming


When women are represented on the campaign trail and in elected office, women in the electorate have been shown to report greater engagement in politics. However, most evidence of the effects of descriptive representation on women's empowerment is drawn from surveys from the 1980s and 1990s. I update these studies to consider how women candidates and officeholders affect the political knowledge, interest, and participation of other women in the electorate. Using responses from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from 2006 to 2014, I find that both men and women are more politically knowledgeable when represented by women in Congress and in state government. Considering political engagement, I find little evidence that women are more politically interested or participatory when residing in places with more female officeholders or candidates. Women's political presence as candidates and officeholders does not uniquely encourage other women to engage in political life.

The distorting effects of racial animus on proximity voting in the 2016 elections
Carlos Algara & Isaac Hale
Electoral Studies, April 2019, Pages 58-69


While the use of racial appeals by the 2016 Trump campaign is indisputable, researchers are actively debating their precise role in influencing voter behavior in the election. We seek to expand upon existing research which finds that racial animus electorally benefited the Trump campaign. We examine to what extent those benefits also materialized for GOP candidates down-ballot and whether racial animus distorted ideological proximity voting in the 2016 election. We find that racial animus among voters helped Republicans at multiple ballot levels and that higher levels of racial animus distorted spatial voting among voters ideologically closest to the Democratic candidate.

Voting Can Be Hard, Information Helps
Melody Crowder-Meyer, Shana Kushner Gadarian & Jessica Trounstine
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming


Many U.S. elections provide voters with precious little information about candidates on the ballot. In local contests, party labels are often absent. In primary elections, party labels are not useful. Indeed, much of the time, voters have only the name of the candidate to go by. In these contexts, how do voters make decisions? Using several experiments, we find that voters use candidates’ race, ethnicity, and gender as cues for whom to support - penalizing candidates of color and benefiting women. But we also demonstrate that providing even a small amount of information to voters - such as candidate occupation - virtually erases the effects of candidate demographics on voter behavior, even among voters with high levels of racial and gender prejudice.

Direct Democracy and Women's Political Engagement
Jeong Hyun Kim
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


What are the conditions that promote gender equality in political participation? In this article, I propose that the presence of direct democracy expands gender equality in political participation by signaling the system's openness to women's voice, confirming their political competency, and highlighting their stake in political decisions. To test this argument, I leverage a quasi‐experiment in Sweden in the aftermath of the introduction of universal suffrage, where the type of municipal political institutions was determined by a population threshold. My findings lend strong support to the effect of direct democracy on the political inclusion of women. I find that the gender gap in electoral participation was smaller in municipalities using direct democracy than in similarly sized municipalities that only had representative institutions.

If you ask, they will come (to register and vote): Field experiments with state election agencies on encouraging voter registration
Christopher Mann & Lisa Bryant
Electoral Studies, forthcoming


We address the frequent critique that voter registration is a barrier to participation in the US. Institutional reforms to voter registration produce only small impacts on participation. We show the registration barrier can be reduced without changing laws or administrative processes using official communication seeking to change individual political behavior. In collaboration with state election agencies in two states, we conducted large-scale field experiments using low cost postcards aimed at increasing registration among eligible but unregistered citizens. The experiments find statistically and substantively significant effects on registration and turnout in subsequent elections. The research partnership with election officials is unusual and important for understanding electoral participation. Further, the population targeted for registration is broader than prior experiments on voter registration in the US. The results provide important insights about voter registration as a barrier to political participation, plus practical guidance for election officials to reduce this barrier.

Who Reveals, Who Conceals?: Candidate Gender and Policy Transparency
David Niven, Alexis Straka & Anwar Mhajne
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Do women candidates in the United States more openly provide the specific details of their policy preferences and make clear their political ideology? Previous research supports all manner of conflicting expectations regarding gender and campaign communication strategies. Here, with an eye toward offering evidence on the degree to which candidates make clear their issue positions, we consider how more than 1,300 candidates running in the 2016 elections from fifteen randomly chosen states answered voter guide questions. We do so both to better understand the murky theoretical relationship between gender and communication styles and to offer insight into the practical realities of how women run for office. Ultimately our findings support the notion that women run for office differently, offering less transparency of their issue positions than men. The implication, consistent with a theory of conditional political ambition, is that women weigh more seriously the decision to run for office and, thus, run more sophisticated campaigns when they do pursue office.

Party crashers: Interest groups as a latent threat to party networks in congressional primaries
Cory Manento
Party Politics, forthcoming


Recent research asserts that coalitions of party leaders, interest groups, and activists will cooperate to support the nomination of mutually acceptable candidates in primary elections. In this article, I utilize an original data set containing FEC contributions and expenditures data for 1648 candidates who ran in open seat primary elections for the US House from 2006 to 2016 to measure the extent and effects of coordination among interest groups and party organizations. I find that Democratic-aligned interest groups and party leaders coordinate more often and with a more positive substantive effect than their Republican counterparts. Moreover, I provide evidence that, with the advent of super PACs in the second half of the 2010 primary cycle, a small number of interest groups can act as a latent threat to broader coalitions that unite behind a candidate using independent expenditures to outspend the broader coalitions. This increased resource parity has tangible representational consequences.

Threat, Mobilization, and Latino Voting in the 2018 Election
Tyler Reny, Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta & Vanessa Cruz Nichols
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, December 2018, Pages 573-599


Throughout the 2016 US presidential campaign and the first 2 years of his presidency, Donald Trump has repeatedly dehumanized immigrants in pursuit of more restrictive immigration policies. Despite the common perception that this threat should increase the political mobilization of Latino voters, existing research has yielded mixed findings. In this article, we argue that attention has to be paid to both threatening climate and mobilization. We examine Latino voting in the 2018 midterm election using both aggregate election data from 2014 and 2018 as well as a large 10-week tracking poll (n=2767) of Latinos during the last 2 months of the 2018 election. We show that, compared to 2014, the number of ballots cast by Latinos increased substantially. Using the tracking poll, however, we show that threat alone did not appear to be sufficient to mobilize Latino voters in the 2018 election. It is threat combined with mobilization, rather, that increased Latino voting. We discuss implications for future Latino political participation in the US.


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