Counting votes

Kevin Lewis

May 29, 2020

The Neutral Partisan Effects of Vote-by-Mail: Evidence from County-Level Roll-Outs
Daniel Thompson et al.
Stanford Working Paper, May 2020


In response to COVID-19, many scholars and policymakers are urging the U.S. to expand voting-by-mail programs to safeguard the electoral process. What are the effects of vote-by-mail? In this paper, we provide a comprehensive design-based analysis of the effect of universal vote-by-mail — a policy under which every voter is mailed a ballot in advance of the election — on electoral outcomes. We collect data from 1996-2018 on all three U.S. states who implemented universal vote-by-mail in a staggered fashion across counties, allowing us to use a difference-in-differences design at the county level to estimate causal effects. We find that: (1) universal vote-by-mail does not appear to affect either party’s share of turnout; (2) universal vote-by-mail does not appear to increase either party’s vote share; and (3) universal vote-by-mail modestly increases overall average turnout rates, in line with previous estimates. All three conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media.

Moving Forward or Backsliding: A Causal Inference Analysis of the Effects of the Shelby Decision in North Carolina
Nadine Suzanne Gibson
American Politics Research, forthcoming


The Voting Rights Act created a method of oversight called “preclearance,” which was designed to prevent changes in state and local voting laws that may negatively affect minority groups. Following the ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, however, preclearance is no longer enforced. This study assesses the impact of recently implemented local voting restrictions on turnout across various demographic and political subgroups in North Carolina. Unlike other states, preclearance in North Carolina was implemented at the county level. Two approaches to the regression discontinuity-design are used to estimate de facto minority disenfranchisement. This study finds that the removal of Section 5 preclearance negatively affected Democratic primary turnout, but did not affect Democratic vote share. Secondary effects resulting in the removal of Section 5 preclearance may be responsible for disproportionately lower levels of overall turnout in formerly covered counties in 2016. Ultimately, the data suggest minimal effects on minority turnout rates.

Losing Elections, Winning the Debate: Progressive Racial Rhetoric and White Backlash
Richard Hanania, George Hawley & Eric Kaufmann
Columbia University Working Paper, May 2020


Recent years have seen liberals moving sharply to the left on issues related to race and gender, the so-called “Great Awokening,” accompanied by commentary arguing that this has led to a popular backlash against the left. Through a preregistered survey, this study polls a representative sample of white Americans to test the effect of a Democratic candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, arguing for programs designed to help blacks and declaring the significance of white privilege in American life. Our results show that statements about white privilege decrease support for the candidate, with an effect size that is about equal to a one standard deviation shift to the right in ideology. The effect is concentrated among moderates and conservatives. Advocating reparations and affirmative action has a similar but smaller effect. At the same time, arguing for reparations actually increases support for such policies, and discussing white privilege may decrease some aspects of white identity among conservatives. The results indicate that taking more liberal positions on race causes white voters to punish a Democratic candidate. However, there is no evidence for the hypothesis that white Americans move to the right in response to such rhetoric or develop stronger feelings of white identity.

Latinos por Trump? Latinos and the 2016 Presidential Election
Álvaro Corral & David Leal
Social Science Quarterly, May 2020, Pages 1115-1131

Methods: We analyze the 2016 and 2012 American National Election Study, Pew's 2016 and 2012 National Survey of Latinos, the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, and various media polls.

Results: The data indicate that (1) Trump improved on Romney among key groups of Latinos (Protestants, low income, and the third generation) but lost ground among others; (2) Clinton underperformed Obama across multiple dimensions; and (3) many Latino undecided voters and third‐party supporters broke late for Trump.

Framing Automatic Voter Registration: Partisanship and Public Understanding of Automatic Voter Registration
Christopher Mann, Paul Gronke & Natalie Adona
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Automatic voter registration (AVR) is a recent innovation in voter registration in the United States, passed by 18 states plus DC in the last 4 years. AVR has generally escaped partisan polarization about election reform, having passed in Republican and Democratic controlled states. Using a survey experiment in the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we investigate effects of source cues about support of AVR from different party elites and from election administrators on the public’s expectations about AVR’s impact on turnout, voter fraud, fairness, and election problems. Our experimental results show an asymmetric partisan effect. When AVR is endorsed by Democratic leaders, Republicans (and independents) expect AVR to reduce the fairness and legitimacy of elections, while Democrats are generally resistant to partisan cues.

Are Minority and Women Candidates Penalized by Party Politics? Race, Gender, and Access to Party Support
Bernard Fraga & Hans Hassell
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Racial/ethnic minorities and women continue to be underrepresented in public office in the United States. Here, we evaluate the role of general election political party support for women and minorities in structuring these inequalities, as a key part of general election success is support from party networks. With detailed data on party support and the demographics of congressional candidates, we use two difference-in-differences strategies to leverage within-district and candidate-constant change over time. Thus, we are able to separate the effect of race/ethnicity and gender from other factors we demonstrate to be associated with party support. We find that, all else equal, Democratic and Republican minority nominees do not receive less support than their white counterparts. We also find that white women receive more party support from Democrats than Democratic men or minority women in the general election and that this support is more responsive to changes in electoral competitiveness. These findings suggest that party elites may provide additional support to candidates from underrepresented groups in the general election to broaden their appeal to voters.

Assessing the efficacy of early voting access on Indian reservations: Evidence from a natural experiment in Nevada
Jean Schroedel et al.
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming


An emergency legal injunction in Nevada granted two Indian reservations on-site early voting locations in the 2016 general election. These locations were two of four remote reservations participating in an academic survey to examine Native attitudes toward government and voting. The granting of only two locations out of the four creates reasonable conditions to treat the four cases as a natural experiment in on-site early voting. These cases also add to very limited existing knowledge about factors affecting voting behavior on Indian reservations and the impact of early voting sites in rural locations. We find that on-site early voting substantially increased voter turnout in the general election on the two reservations that received access in comparison to the two without satellite voting. We find little evidence that the reservations that received the voting sites were particularly likely to have high turnout in 2016. These findings provide supportive evidence that reducing the cost of voting by providing convenient locations and longer periods to cast a ballot increases voter turnout, including in groups with limited means to vote and low government trust.

The Electric Telegraph, News Coverage and Political Participation
Tianyi Wang
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, April 2020


How does timely access to national news shape political outcomes? Using newly digitized data on the growth of the telegraph network, the paper studies the impact of the electric telegraph on political participation in the mid-19th century America. I use proximity to daily newspapers with telegraphic connection to Washington to generate plausibly exogenous variation in access to telegraphed news from Washington. I find that access to Washington news with less delay increased presidential election turnout. Effects were concentrated in regions least connected to Washington prior to the telegraph. For mechanisms, I provide evidence that newspapers facilitated the dissemination of national news to local areas. Text analysis on historic newspapers shows that the improved access to news from Washington led newspapers to cover more national political news, including coverage of Congress, the presidency, and sectional divisions involving slavery. The results suggest that the telegraph made newspapers less parochial, facilitated a national conversation and increased political participation.

The Behavioral Consequences of Public Appeals: Evidence on Campaign Fundraising from the 2018 Congressional Elections
Shu Fu & William Howell
Presidential Studies Quarterly, June 2020, Pages 325-347


Whereas the preponderance of studies on public appeals evaluates their impacts on mass public opinion, we investigate behavioral responses — in particular, the willingness of donors to contribute to candidates for public office. As appeals, we identify and code the online messages from all 2018 candidates for Congress, winners and losers alike, about both Donald Trump himself and his signature policy initiative, immigration reform; and as behavioral responses, we track candidates’ daily itemized fundraising totals. What Republican candidates for Congress say about Trump, we find, bears significantly on their ability to raise money. In the immediate aftermath of complimenting the president, Republicans secured a modest increase in fundraising; when they criticized him, however, they promptly suffered a substantial decline. We do not observe comparable evidence for Democratic candidates. Our findings are robust to a wide variety of measurement and modeling strategies, and expand our understanding of the political stakes of public appeals.

The power shield: Powerful roles eliminate gender disparities in political elections
Brian Pike & Adam Galinsky
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


Are women less likely to win elections than men? Past analyses of U.S. elections have found little evidence of gender bias, leading some scholars to declare: “When women run, women win.” However, across many professional domains, women face disparate outcomes in achieving leadership positions. The current research resolves this puzzle through a novel theoretical perspective and methodological advances. Theoretically, we propose that power frees women from restrictive gender norms, reducing gender bias. Thus, gender bias likely exists in politics but is more pronounced for lower-power candidates and less pronounced for higher-power candidates. Because incumbent candidates have more power and challenger candidates less power, we predicted incumbent women would be shielded from gender bias and achieve electoral parity with incumbent men. Conversely, we predicted challenger women would face particularly strong gender bias and disparate outcomes. Methodologically, we resolve prior scope-of-analysis limitations by analyzing every governor and U.S. senator election since women’s suffrage (1920). Further, we developed a novel bootstrapping method that resolves regression assumption violations inherent in statistical analyses of candidate-level measures. Analyses revealed 2 important findings. First, our comprehensive dataset revealed that, contrary to past research, women were less likely to win elections than men overall. Second, we found evidence for a power shield effect: Male challengers were three times more likely to win than female challengers, men were 25% more likely than women to win open-seat races, but female incumbents fared just as well as male incumbents. These results suggest that some gender differences may be power differences in disguise.


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