Friends and Enemies in the Fourth Estate

Kevin Lewis

October 12, 2009

Believe Me, I Have No Idea What I'm Talking About: The Effects of Source Certainty on Consumer Involvement and Persuasion

Uma Karmarkar & Zakary Tormala
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract: This research explores the effect of source certainty-that is, the level of certainty expressed by a message source-on persuasion. The authors propose an incongruity hypothesis, suggesting that source certainty effects depend on perceived source expertise. In three experiments, consumers receive persuasive messages from sources of varying expertise and certainty. Across studies, low expertise sources violate expectancies, stimulate involvement, and promote persuasion when they express certainty, whereas high expertise sources violate expectancies, stimulate involvement, and promote persuasion when they express uncertainty. Thus, nonexpert (expert) sources can gain interest and influence by expressing certainty (uncertainty).


What Can a President Learn from the News Media? The Instructive Case of Richard Nixon

Christopher Karpowitz
British Journal of Political Science, October 2009, Pages 755-780

Abstract: This study examines the media diet of Richard Nixon, whose exposure to the news consisted almost entirely of a White House-produced daily news summary. Nixon staffers repeatedly asserted that the summary was the most effective way to give the president a comprehensive, objective account of the previous day's reporting. While the summaries covered a wide range of media sources, analysis of the framing and filtering done by the White House raises doubts about the assertion that summaries were an effective substitute for first-hand consumption of the news. Nixon's handwritten marginal notes reveal that the summaries provoked reactions in the president that had important implications for his conduct of the presidency.


Who Cleans Up When the Party's Over? The Decline of Partisan Media and Rise of Split-Ticket Voting in the 20th Century

Tim Groeling & Erik Engstrom
University of California Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: While scholars have studied the composition and impact of the partisan press during their 19th-century height, the political impact of the gradual decline of these partisan papers remains relatively under-examined. The unnoted vitality and endurance of partisan newspapers (which continued to constitute a majority of American newspapers until the 1960s) represents a huge hole in our understanding of partisan communication in the post-war era. As a consequence of this omission, scholars have ignored a potentially vital contributing factor to changing patterns of partisan voting. This paper sets out to examine this relationship by constructing a quadrennial database of newspaper party self-identification from 1932 to the 2004 for 66 key counties across the country. We then match these data to county-level presidential and congressional vote totals. Based on these data, we describe the decline of explicitly partisan newspapers over time and find evidence that the rise of non-partisan news helps explain the rise of ticket-splitting and decline of consistent partisan voting.


Illegal Immigration and Media Exposure: Evidence on Individual Attitudes

Riccardo Puglisi, Giovanni Facchini & Anna Maria Mayda
Georgetown Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: Illegal immigration has been the focus of much debate in receiving countries, but little is known about what drives individual attitudes towards illegal immigrants. To study this question, we use the CCES survey, which was carried out in 2006 in the United States. We find evidence that — in addition to standard labor market and welfare state considerations — media exposure significantly affects public opinion on illegal immigration. Controlling for education, income and ideology, individuals watching Fox News are 9 percentage points more likely than CBS viewers to oppose the legalization of undocumented immigrants. We find an effect of the same size and direction for CNN viewers, while instead individuals watching PBS are more likely to support the Senate proposal. Ideological self-selection into different news programs is a crucial factor, but cannot entirely explain the correlation between media exposure and attitudes about illegal immigration.


Presidential Saber Rattling and Public Approval

Dan Wood
Texas A&M University Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: Presidential saber rattling has become an increasingly important tool of foreign policy leadership. However, there is little understanding of the causes and consequences of presidential saber rattling for either domestic or foreign policy. This study examines the linkages of presidential saber rattling to public approval of presidential job performance. It finds that presidents significantly affect their own approval ratings through threatening rhetoric directed toward other nations. It also finds that presidents use saber rattling strategically to bolster their own domestic support. The work asserts that presidential saber rattling affects public approval by sparking human emotions, such as nationalism, pride, patriotism, anxiety, and perhaps anger. Interestingly, the work finds that saber rattling evokes the greatest support, not from the president's fellow partisans, but from those in the opposing political party. The results suggests that emotions trump ideology and party identification in evaluations of presidential job performance.


Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Value Orientations: A New Twin Study of Political Attitudes

Carolyn Funk, Kevin Smith, John Alford, Matthew Hibbing, Peter Hatemi, Robert Krueger, Lindon Eaves & John Hibbing
Virginia Commonwealth University Working Paper, August 2009

"...we find evidence for a sizeable heritable component to people's basic orientations to the social and political world. Contrary to much past thinking in the political behavior literature about the origins of core beliefs, our findings suggest at most a weak role for shared environmental factors such as those stemming from a shared family upbringing in determining this set of value orientations. Instead, there is a substantial role for both genetic influences and unique environmental experiences. The pattern of findings is surprisingly consistent across all five measures of value orientations considered here — the Wilson-Patterson index of liberal-conservative ideology, self-identification of ideology, right-wing authoritarianism, egalitarianism, and a new index of bedrock social orientations called the society works best index."


Public Preferences for Bipartisanship in Congress

Laurel Harbridge & Neil Malhotra
Stanford Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: Does a bipartisan image improve citizens' perceptions of Congress and its members? If so, why has partisan polarization presumably increased (and bipartisan cooperation declined) in Congress since the 1970s? To address these questions, we unpack the "electoral connection" by exploring the mass public's preferences for bipartisanship in Congress via two original survey experiments in which we manipulated characteristics of individual members and Congress as a whole. We find that a bipartisan image improves perceptions of Congress as an institution among citizens across the partisan spectrum. However, there exists heterogeneity by strength of party identification with respect to evaluations of individual members. Independents and weak partisans are more supportive of members that espouse a bipartisan image, whereas strong partisans are less supportive. Hence, people with strong attachments to a political party support the abstract notion of bipartisanship in the aggregate but not when evaluating individual members. This empirical pattern helps us understand why members in safely partisan districts continue to engage in partisan conflict even though partisanship damages the collective reputation of the institution, as well as why members from competitive districts attempt to project a bipartisan image.


The Partisan Face of Political Representation in the U.S.

David Barker & Christopher Carman
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, August 2009

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the sources of variance in what style of representation citizens prefer in the United States. We hypothesize that, because Democrats tend to be more egalitarian and humanistic than do Republicans, that Democrats are more likely to prefer "constituent-based" (a.k.a. delegate-style) representation, while Republicans are more likely to prefer "conscience-based" (a.k.a. trustee-style) representation. Using a nationally representative survey experiment embedded within the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we find support for this hypothesis.


Playing for Your Own Audience: Extremism in Two-Party Elections

Gábor Virág
Journal of Public Economic Theory, October 2008, Pages 891-922

Abstract: This paper considers a two-party election with a single-dimensional policy space. We assume that each voter has a higher probability of observing the position of the party he is affiliated with than the position of the other party, an assumption that is consistent with the National Election Studies (NES) electoral data set. In equilibrium, the two parties locate away from the median, because the voters who dislike a party's platform observe its policy choice with a lower probability, and its own audience like policy choices that cater to its taste. As the asymmetry in voter information or the cost of voting increases, the parties adopt more extreme platforms, while if there are fewer extreme voters the opposite effect occurs. Making voters more symmetrically informed about the two parties' platforms increases the welfare of society, while asymmetric information acquisition by the voters is worse than no information acquisition at all.


Turkey Farms, Patronage, and Obama Administration Appointments

Gabriel Horton & David Lewis
Vanderbilt Working Paper, September 2009

Abstract: In this paper we use new data on over 1,000 persons appointed to positions in the first six months of the Obama presidency to expand our understanding of presidential appointments and modern patronage practices. We use systematically collected appointee biographical data to determine which agencies receive appointees with fewer qualifications and more extensive campaign experience or political connections. We finds that presidents tend to place patronage appointees in those agencies that are less central to the president's agenda, with the same political ideology as the president, and where appointees are least able to hurt agency performance. We conclude that the controversial role of patronage in the modern presidency embodies the deeper conflict that emerges from a need for both presidential accountability and broader government performance.

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