Findings

Fairly elected

Kevin Lewis

November 04, 2013

Beauty at the Ballot Box: Disease Threats Predict Preferences for Physically Attractive Leaders

Andrew Edward White, Douglas Kenrick & Steven Neuberg
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why does beauty win out at the ballot box? Some researchers have posited that it occurs because people ascribe generally positive characteristics to physically attractive candidates. We propose an alternative explanation — that leadership preferences are related to functional disease-avoidance mechanisms. Because physical attractiveness is a cue to health, people concerned with disease should especially prefer physically attractive leaders. Using real-world voting data and laboratory-based experiments, we found support for this relationship. In congressional districts with elevated disease threats, physically attractive candidates are more likely to be elected (Study 1). Experimentally activating disease concerns leads people to especially value physical attractiveness in leaders (Study 2) and prefer more physically attractive political candidates (Study 3). In a final study, we demonstrated that these findings are related to leadership preferences, specifically, rather than preferences for physically attractive group members more generally (Study 4). Together, these findings highlight the nuanced and functional nature of leadership preferences.

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Do Online Advertisements Increase Political Candidates’ Name Recognition or Favorability? Evidence from Randomized Field Experiments

David Broockman & Donald Green
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Internet advertisements are an increasingly common form of mass communication and present fresh opportunities for understanding enduring questions about political persuasion. However, the effects of online ads on electoral choice have received little scholarly attention. We develop a new field experimental approach for assessing the effects of online advertisements and deploy it in two studies. In each study, candidates for legislative office targeted randomly selected segments of their constituencies for a high volume of Facebook advertising. Recall of the ads, candidate name recognition, and candidate evaluations were measured with ostensibly unrelated telephone surveys after weeklong advertising campaigns. Voters randomly exposed to the ads were in some cases more likely to recall them but no more likely to recognize or positively evaluate the candidates they depicted. From a theoretical standpoint, these findings suggest that even frequent exposure to advertising messages may be insufficient to impart new information or change attitudes.

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Weather, Mood, and Voting: An Experimental Analysis of the Effect of Weather Beyond Turnout

Anna Bassi
University of North Carolina Working Paper, August 2013

Abstract:
Theoretical and empirical studies show that inclement weather on an election day reduces turnout, potentially swinging the results of the election. Psychology studies, however, show that weather affects individual mood, which -- in turn -- affects individual decision-making activity potentially beyond the simple decision to turn out. This paper evaluates the effect of weather, through its effect on mood, on the way in which voters who do turn out decide to cast their votes. The paper provides experimental evidence of the effect of weather on voting when candidates are perceived as being more or less risky. Findings show that, after controlling for policy preferences, partisanship, and other background variables, bad weather depresses individual mood and risk tolerance, i.e., voters are more likely to vote for the candidate who is perceived to be less risky. This effect is present whether meteorological conditions are measured with objective or subjective measures.

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Presidential Versus Vice Presidential Home State Advantage: A Comparative Analysis of Electoral Significance, Causes, and Processes, 1884-2008

Christopher Devine & Kyle Kopko
Presidential Studies Quarterly, December 2013, Pages 814–838

Abstract:
This article compares the electoral significance, causes, and processes associated with presidential versus vice presidential home state advantages. Our analysis of presidential election returns from 1884 through 2008 demonstrates that presidential candidates generally receive a large, statistically significant home state advantage. However, vice presidential home state advantages are statistically negligible and conditioned on the interactive effect of political experience and state population. Furthermore, the results indicate that the mobilization of new voters primarily accounts for presidential home state advantage, while vice presidential home state advantage is mainly due to the conversion of existing voters. Although home state advantages do occur in presidential elections, according to our analysis, a presidential or vice presidential home state advantage has not changed the outcome of any presidential election since 1884.

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Gender Differences in the Effects of Personality Traits on Voter Turnout

Ching-Hsing Wang
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines whether the Big Five personality traits have different effects on male and female turnout. Previous research has reported an association between personality traits and turnout, but their results have been inconsistent. Nevertheless, there is a solid evidence of gender differences in personality traits and past studies have not taken into consideration the option that personality-turnout relationship might be gender-differentiated. The current study empirically finds that conscientiousness and emotional stability can significantly increase female turnout, but have no effect on male turnout. Furthermore, openness to experience exerts opposite effects on male and female turnout. As openness to experience increases, men become more likely to vote, whereas women become less likely to cast their ballots. However, extraversion and agreeableness are not associated with turnout, regardless of gender. To sum up, this study provides robust evidence that the effects of personality traits on turnout vary by gender and suggests that any future study of the topic must include interaction between gender and personality in order to estimate the effect of personality on turnout in a more accurate manner.

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Viability, Information Seeking, and Vote Choice

Stephen Utych & Cindy Kam
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Existing research suggests that candidate viability influences strategic voting decisions among citizens. We argue that viability can influence electoral decision making beyond strategic considerations. We analyze original experimental data and novel observational data to examine viability’s impact on vote choice and information seeking. We conduct two mock primary election campaigns within the Dynamic Process Tracing Environment where we experimentally manipulate candidate viability. In both experiments, we find that subjects read more information about viable candidates, report more favorable ratings of viable candidates, and are more likely to vote for viable candidates. We demonstrate the generalizability of these results by assessing the relationship between viability, as measured with Gallup polls, and information seeking using observational data. There, we develop a unique measure of information seeking based on Google searches for the names of political candidates. These observational data reinforce the relationship between viability and information seeking.

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Exploiting Friends-and-Neighbors to Estimate Coattail Effects

Marc Meredith
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Federalist democracies often hold concurrent elections for multiple offices. A potential consequence of simultaneously voting for multiple offices that vary with respect to scope and scale is that the personal appeal of candidates in a high-profile race may affect electoral outcomes in less salient races. In this article I estimate the magnitude of such coattail effects from governors onto other concurrently elected statewide executive officers using a unique dataset of county election returns for all statewide executive office elections in the United States from 1987 to 2010. I exploit the disproportionate support that candidates receive from geographically proximate voters, which is often referred to as the friends-and-neighbors vote, to isolate variation in the personal appeal of candidates. I find that a one-percentage-point increase in the personal vote received by a gubernatorial candidate increases the vote share of their party's secretary of state and attorney general candidates by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points. In contrast, personal votes for a secretary of state or attorney general candidate have no effect on the performance of their party's gubernatorial candidate or other down-ballot candidates.

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Social Pressure, Descriptive Norms, and Voter Mobilization

Costas Panagopoulos, Christopher Larimer & Meghan Condon
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Several recent field experimental studies show that social pressure raises the likelihood of turning out to vote in elections. Ratcheting up social pressure to show subjects their own as well as their neighbors’ prior voting history significantly increases the effectiveness of direct mail messages. A key component in stimulating this effect seems to be the presence of individual vote history. When voters are presented with less specific turnout information, such as vote history for the community at-large, the effects on turnout often dissipate. Sensitizing voters to such descriptive norms appears to do little to stimulate participation. To address this contrast, this study presents results from a voter mobilization field experiment conducted in Hawthorne, CA prior to the November 2011 municipal elections. The experiment is a fully crossed 2 × 3 factorial study in which subjects were randomly assigned to one of six conditions, in which they receive no mailing, a mailing with individual vote history only, a mailing with individual vote history and a message emphasizing high (or low) community-level turnout from a previous election, and a mailing emphasizing high (or low) community-level turnout only. County voter files were used to randomly assign voters to treatment and control and to report the effects of each mailing on voter turnout. We find that only messages that included information about subjects’ own voting histories effectively mobilized them to vote.

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How Campaigns Promote the Legitimacy of Elections

Jennifer Wolak
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why do people see elections as fair or unfair? In prior accounts, evaluations of the election depend on people’s candidate preferences, where supporters of the winning candidate tend to call the election fair while those on the losing side feel it was unfair. I argue that perceptions of election fairness reflect not just the election outcome, but also the campaign process. Using a set of multilevel models and data from the 1996-2004 American National Election Studies, I explore the consequences of campaign experiences in shaping people’s evaluations of the fairness of a presidential election. I find that as campaign competition increases, people are less likely to translate their feelings about the candidates into their evaluations of the election. Rather than alienating citizens, competitive campaigns mitigate the effects of prior preferences in a way that promotes the legitimacy of elections.

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The Tuesday Advantage of Politicians Endorsed by American Newspapers

Fernanda Leite Lopez de Leon
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, October 2013, Pages 865–886

Abstract:
This article documents the electoral advantage of candidates who have a newspaper endorsement published on Election Day compared to other endorsed candidates. I provide evidence that this advantage is not driven by a selection effect, suggesting that it is instead explained by readers deciding how to vote based on endorsements read on Election Day. Moreover, candidates who have a different political orientation from their endorsing newspapers benefit more from this endorsement than other candidates. These results are based on a newly-compiled dataset matching county-level data of 826 endorsed candidates’ election results with newspaper and county characteristics.

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I've Got My Eyes on You: Implicit Social-Pressure Cues and Prosocial Behavior

Costas Panagopoulos
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Explicit social pressure has been shown to be a powerful motivator of prosocial behavior-like voting in elections. In this study, I report the findings of a randomized field experiment designed to study the impact of more subtle, implicit social-pressure treatments. The results of the experiment, conducted in the October 2011 municipal elections in Key West, Florida, demonstrate that even subtle, implicit observability cues can effectively mobilize citizens to vote, perhaps as much as explicit surveillance cues. The findings speak more broadly to our understanding of human decision making, and even evolution, and provide fodder for the claim that humans are evolutionarily programmed to respond to certain stimuli. I interpret the evidence to support the notion that evolutionarily charged impulses, like exposure to images that implicitly signal the potential for surveillance and observability, are sufficient to overcome powerful collective action incentives to free ride.

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Relative Losses and Economic Voting: Sociotropic Considerations or “Keeping up with the Joneses?”

Bryan Dettrey
Politics & Policy, October 2013, Pages 788–806

Abstract:
This article examines how pocketbook and sociotropic economic evaluations jointly affect economic voting behavior for those that have “fallen behind” in their personal financial conditions relative to aggregate economic performance. According to reference-dependent and relative loss theories, those who have fallen behind should be less likely to support the incumbent president. Alternatively, attributing personal financial conditions to the incumbent is cognitively complex and can conflict with core values, and the sociotropic version of voting is typically stronger than the pocketbook version. These approaches are tested, and the results show that the sociotropic version of economic voting predominates even among those who have fallen behind. The results are robust to controls for nongovernmental sources of variation in personal financial conditions. These results have important implications for democratic accountability in an age of economic inequality.

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What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning

Jared Barton, Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Candidates spend considerable resources campaigning. Prior research indicates campaigning affects voting decisions, but as with advertising generally, what element of campaigning persuades — the content or its delivery method — is not fully understood. Using a field experiment in a 2010 general election for local office, we identify the mechanism behind one campaign method: candidate door-to-door canvassing. We vary both the method of contact and the information conveyed by campaign materials. We find that voters are persuaded by personal contact with the candidate, and that personal contact apparently works by providing a costly signal of quality rather than through social pressure.

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Power through ‘Us’: Leaders’ Use of We-Referencing Language Predicts Election Victory

Niklas Steffens & Alexander Haslam
PLoS ONE, October 2013

Abstract:
Leaders have been observed to use distinct rhetorical strategies, but it is unclear to what extent such strategies are effective. To address this issue we analyzed the official election campaign speeches of successful and unsuccessful Prime Ministerial candidates in all 43 Australian Federal elections since independence from Britain in 1901 and measured candidates' use of personal (‘I’, ‘me’) and collective pronouns (‘we’, ‘us’). Victors used more collective pronouns than their unsuccessful opponents in 80% of all elections. Across all elections, victors made 61% more references to ‘we’ and ‘us’ and used these once every 79 words (vs. every 136 words for losers). Extending social identity theorizing, this research suggests that electoral endorsement is associated with leaders' capacity to engage with, and speak on behalf of, a collective identity that is shared with followers whose support and energies they seek to mobilize.

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Systematically Biased Beliefs about Political Influence: Evidence from the Perceptions of Political Influence on Policy Outcomes Survey

Bryan Caplan et al.
PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2013, Pages 760-767

Abstract:
Many scholars argue that retrospective voting is a powerful information shortcut that offsets widespread voter ignorance. Even deeply ignorant voters, it is claimed, can effectively punish incumbents for bad performance and reward them if things go well. But if voters' understanding of which officials are responsible for which outcomes is systematically biased, retrospective voting becomes an independent source of political failure rather than a cure for it. We design and administer a new survey of the general public and political experts to test for such biases. Our analysis reveals frequent, large, robust biases in voter attributions of responsibility for a variety of political actors and outcomes with a tendency for the public to overestimate influence, although important examples of underestimation also exist.

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Voting Squared: Quadratic Voting in Democratic Politics

Eric Posner & Glen Weyl
University of Chicago Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
Democratic institutions aggregate preferences poorly. The norm of one-person-one-vote with majority rule treats people fairly by giving everyone an equal chance to influence outcomes, but fails to give proportional weight to people whose interests in a social outcome are stronger than those of other people — a problem that leads to the familiar phenomenon of tyranny of the majority. Various institutions that have been tried or proposed over the years to correct this problem — including supermajority rule, weighted voting, cumulative voting, "mixed constitutions," executive discretion, and judicially protected rights — all badly misfire in various ways, for example, by creating gridlock or corruption. This paper proposes a new form of political decision-making based on the theory of quadratic voting. It explains how quadratic voting solves the preference aggregation problem, giving proper weight to preferences of varying intensity, and how it could be implemented as well as addressing concerns about its consequences for equity.

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The Effects of Social Media on Political Participation and Candidate Image Evaluations in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses

Daniela Dimitrova & Dianne Bystrom
American Behavioral Scientist, November 2013, Pages 1568-1583

Abstract:
Much academic debate has centered on the impact of new technologies on democracy. This study examines the effects of social media on political participation and candidate image evaluations in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Multivariate analyses show that social media have no effects on likelihood of caucus attendance but influence perceptions of candidate traits among the sample of Iowans drawn here. The study also addresses the role of traditional media as channels for political information during the caucuses.

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Tweeting Conventions: Political journalists' use of Twitter to cover the 2012 presidential campaign

Regina Lawrence et al.
Journalism Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study explores the use of Twitter by political reporters and commentators—an understudied population within the rapidly growing literature on digital journalism — covering the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions. In particular, we want to know if and how the “affordances” of Twitter are shaping the traditional norms and routines of US campaign reporting surrounding objectivity, transparency, gatekeeping, and horse race coverage, and whether Twitter is bursting the “bubble” of insider talk among reporters and the campaigns they cover. A sample derived from all tweets by over 400 political journalists reveals a significant amount of opinion expression in reporters' tweets, but little use of Twitter in ways that improve transparency or disrupt journalists' (and campaigns’) role as gatekeepers of campaign news. Overall, particularly when looking at what political journalists retweet and what they link to via Twitter, the campaign “bubble” seems at the moment to have remained largely intact.

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Combining forecasts: An application to elections

Andreas Graefe et al.
International Journal of Forecasting, January–March 2014, Pages 43–54

Abstract:
We summarize the literature on the effectiveness of combining forecasts by assessing the conditions under which combining is most valuable. Using data on the six US presidential elections from 1992 to 2012, we report the reductions in error obtained by averaging forecasts within and across four election forecasting methods: poll projections, expert judgment, quantitative models, and the Iowa Electronic Markets. Across the six elections, the resulting combined forecasts were more accurate than any individual component method, on average. The gains in accuracy from combining increased with the numbers of forecasts used, especially when these forecasts were based on different methods and different data, and in situations involving high levels of uncertainty. Such combining yielded error reductions of between 16% and 59%, compared to the average errors of the individual forecasts. This improvement is substantially greater than the 12% reduction in error that had been reported previously for combining forecasts.

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Mobilizing Latino Voters: The Impact of Language and Co-Ethnic Policy Leadership

Michael Binder et al.
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Building on evidence that Latino voters participate at higher rates when co-ethnic candidates appear on the ballot, we report the results from a field experiment examining whether co-ethnic policy leadership can produce similar mobilization in direct democracy elections. The study features a direct-mail campaign conducted during California’s 2010 statewide primary election aimed at mobilizing Latino voters. The experiment included variation in the language of the message sent to voters and the extent to it emphasized the pivotal role played by a prominent Latino official in placing the policy on the ballot. We find that mobilization messages are most effective when they target voters using their preferred language, at least for English-dominant Latinos. By contrast, our experiment yielded no evidence that co-ethnic policy leadership increased voter turnout, although we do show that female voters participate at higher rates when the mobilization campaign prominently features a high-profile female official. These divergent effects provide lessons for the study of ethnic political participation and for the design of effective mobilization campaigns aimed at boosting Latino turnout.

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Framing Political Messages to Fit the Audience’s Regulatory Orientation: How to Improve the Efficacy of the Same Message Content

Lucia Mannetti et al.
PLoS ONE, October 2013

Abstract:
This research investigates how the impact of persuasive messages in the political domain can be improved when fit is created by subliminally priming recipients’ regulatory focus (either promotion or prevention) and by linguistic framing of the message (either strategic approach framing or strategic avoidance framing). Results of two studies show that regulatory fit: a) increases the impact of a political message favoring nuclear energy on implicit attitudes of the target audience (Study 1); and b) induces a more positive evaluation of, and intentions to vote for, the political candidate who is delivering a message concerning immigration policies (Study 2).


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