Holding office

Kevin Lewis

March 22, 2019

Yea or Nay: Do Legislators Benefit by Voting Against Their Party?
Christopher Donnelly
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

This article asks whether legislators are able to reap electoral benefits from opposing their party on one or more high‐profile issues. Using data from a national survey in which citizens are asked their own positions on seven high‐profile issues voted on by the U.S. Senate, as well as how they believe their state's two senators have voted on these issues, I find that senators generally do not benefit from voting against their party. Specifically, when a senator deviates from her party, the vast majority of out‐partisans nonetheless persist in believing that the senator voted with her party anyhow; and while the small minority of out‐partisans who are aware of her deviation are indeed more likely to approve of and vote for such a senator, there are simply too few of these correctly informed citizens for it to make a meaningful difference for the senator's overall support.

How Private Politics Alters Legislative Responsiveness
James Druckman & Julia Valdes
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, January 2019, Pages 115-130

Private politics occurs when citizens and activists seek policy change outside the democratic legislative process. This includes boycotting companies and/or buycotting products so as to influence market practices (e.g., increased wages, more attention to environmental impact). The rise of private politics complicates our understanding of democratic responsiveness — legislators may be less incentivized to respond to citizens' preferences. This occurs because legislators receive less credit for policy change and may view themselves as less necessary for policy-making. We present a survey experiment with state legislators to explore how legislators react to private politics. We find that a constituent communication that references private politics vitiates legislative responsiveness. In particular, Republicans become less likely to say they would take policy action or move their positions. Moreover, reference to private politics decreases the likelihood of constituent engagement among both Republican and Democratic legislators. Our results accentuate the importance of considering private politics in conversations about how democracies work.

Public positions, private giving: Dark money and political donors in the Digital Age
Stan Oklobdzija
Research & Politics, February 2019

Dark money — campaign funds raised by 501(c)(4) designated non-profit corporations whose donors are exempt from disclosure — has become an increasingly large fraction of outside spending in American elections at both the state and the federal level. This paper makes use of the only publicly available donor list for a dark money group in existence today — that of “Americans for Job Security,” who contributed $11 million to two conservative-leaning ballot initiative campaigns in California during the 2012 elections. In comparing the ideological scores of donors of this dark money group to traditional donors to the two conservative propositions, I find a strong liberal tilt of donors to Americans for Job Security — indicating a social pressures motivation behind concealing one’s donation via a dark money group. These results also show disclosure laws have an effect on a donor’s calculus to contribute to a political cause.

Asymmetric Accountability: An Experimental Investigation of Biases in Evaluations of Governments’ Election Pledges
Elin Naurin, Stuart Soroka & Niels Markwat
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Governments often fulfill election pledges to remain in power; yet, it is unclear how pledge fulfillment and breakage actually affect public support for government. This article explores the tendency for governments to be penalized for unfulfilled pledges more than they are rewarded for fulfilled pledges. In two large-scale highly realistic online survey experiments (N = 13,000, 10,000), performed at the beginning and middle of a government’s term in office, respondents are presented with a range of (real) election pledges. We find that broken pledges often are more important to government evaluations than fulfilled pledges, and that pledge fulfillment can produce decreases in support from nonsupporters that more than offset the marginal gains among supporters. Findings provide valuable evidence on asymmetries in political behavior, and a unique account of the “cost of ruling,” the seemingly inevitable tendency for governments to lose support during their time in office.

Non-Party Government: Bipartisan Lawmaking and Party Power in Congress
James Curry & Frances Lee
Perspectives on Politics, March 2019, Pages 47-65

Majority leaders of the contemporary Congress preside over parties that are more cohesive than at any point in the modern era, and power has been centralized in party leadership offices. Do today’s majority parties succeed in enacting their legislative agendas to a greater extent than the less-cohesive parties of earlier eras? To address this question, we examine votes on all laws enacted from 1973–2016, as well as on the subset of landmark laws identified by Mayhew. In addition, we analyze the efforts of congressional majority parties to pass their agendas from 1985 to 2016. We find that enacting coalitions in recent congresses are nearly as bipartisan as they were in the 1970s. Most laws, including landmark enactments, continue to garner substantial bipartisan support. Furthermore, majority parties have not gotten better at passing their legislative programs. Contemporary congressional majorities actually fail on their agenda items at somewhat higher rates than the less-cohesive majority parties of the 1980s and 1990s. When majority parties succeed on their agenda priorities, they usually do so with support from a majority of the minority party in at least one chamber and with the endorsement of one or more of the minority party’s top leaders.

Postpolitical Careers: How Politicians Capitalize on Public Office
Maxwell Palmer & Benjamin Schneer
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Former government officials have many different opportunities to cash in on their public service, but most academic research and government ethics regulations focus on lobbying. We argue that this focus understates the extent and diversity of employment opportunities available to former officials. Using a new data set of officeholders in American government (members of Congress, governors, members of the cabinet, executive branch officials, and ambassadors), we show that, with the exception of members of the House, former officials are more likely to join boards of public companies than they are to work as registered lobbyists. Furthermore, former officials join boards more quickly and face fewer ethics regulations compared to lobbyists. Increasing restrictions on lobbying also appears to push former officials toward alternative employment such as board service. Our findings demonstrate the breadth of the labor market for former politicians and suggest fruitful new avenues for research on political careers.

Natural Disasters, Moral Hazard, and Special Interests in Congress
Carol Kaplan, Jörg Spenkuch & Haishan Yuan
University of Maryland Working Paper, December 2018

We exploit the precise timing of natural disasters to provide empirical evidence on the connection between electoral accountability and politicians’ support for special interests. We show that, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the evening news substantially reduce their coverage of politics. At the very same time, members of Congress become more likely to adopt the positions of special-interest donors as they vote on bills. Our findings are consistent with standard theories of political agency, according to which politicians are more inclined to serve special interests when, for exogenous reasons, they are less intensely monitored.

How Web Comments Affect Perceptions of Political Interviews and Journalistic Control
David Clementson
Political Psychology, forthcoming

People are often exposed to polarized viewpoints in web comment sections. Inspired by attribution theory and framing theory, this article tests the effects of comments that frame a politician or a journalist as triggering evasiveness in a media interview. We compare attributions ascribing deceptiveness to the politician versus external attributions implicating the media situation. In the first experiment, comment sections affect perceptions of evasiveness, credibility of the politician relative to the journalist, and people’s attitudes toward the politician and journalist. A second study replicates, and voters type comments which largely reflect the comments to which they were exposed. Also, perceptions of external control by the journalist affect perceptions of the politician. The article extends attribution theory and framing theory via commonly encountered online exposure which affects people’s perceptions of politicians as deceptive relative to their journalistic arbiters.

Political Competition and Public Procurement Outcomes
Rasmus Broms, Carl Dahlström & Mihály Fazekas
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

This article asks if low political competition is associated with more restricted public procurement processes. Using unique Swedish municipal data from 2009 to 2015, it demonstrates that when one party dominates local politics, noncompetitive outcomes from public procurement processes are more common. What is most striking is that the risk of receiving only one bid, on what is intended to be an open and competitive tender, considerably increases with long-standing one-party rule. The article contributes to a significant body of work on the detrimental effects of low political competition, and the results are particularly interesting from a comparative perspective because Sweden — an old democracy with a meritocratic bureaucracy, characterized by low levels of corruption and clientelism — is a highly unlikely case in which to find such tendencies.

Cyberattacks at the Grass Roots: American Local Governments and the Need for High Levels of Cybersecurity
Donald Norris et al.
Public Administration Review, forthcoming

This article examines data from the first‐ever nationwide survey of cybersecurity among American local governments. The data show that these governments are under constant or near‐constant cyberattack, yet, on average, they practice cybersecurity poorly. While nearly half reported experiencing cyberattacks at least daily, one‐third said that they did not know whether they were under attack, and nearly two‐thirds said that they did not know whether their information systems had been breached. Serious barriers to their practice of cybersecurity include a lack of cybersecurity preparedness within these governments and a lack of adequate funding for it. The authors make recommendations to local governments to improve their cybersecurity practice and to scholars for additional research into local government cybersecurity, an area that, to date, has largely been neglected by researchers from the social sciences and computer science.

The Big Five and Southern Legislative Distinctiveness
Joel Turner, Jeffrey Kash & Scott Lasley
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Previous research has found that southern state legislators demonstrate more progressive ambition than their nonsouthern counterparts. This presents an interesting puzzle with regard to why this difference exists. In this article, we apply the Five‐Factor Model (conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion) to investigate whether regional personality differences exist that can help explain why southern legislators exhibit greater levels of progressive ambition than nonsouthern legislators.

Methods: Data from a national survey of state legislators are analyzed using ordinal regression.

Results: Our findings show that higher levels of extraversion and openness among the legislators are directly related to greater levels of political ambition. More specifically, southern legislators appear to possess disproportionately higher levels of extraversion and openness than their nonsouthern counterparts. This helps explain the greater levels of progressive ambition they express.

State Policy Outcomes and State Legislative Approval
Stefani Langehennig, Joseph Zamadics & Jennifer Wolak
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Does the public’s approval of their state legislature reflect their satisfaction with the outputs of state government? Using survey responses from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we consider the roots of public approval of state legislatures. We find that people are more likely to voice approval of their state legislature when it produces policy outcomes that correspond with their interests. Liberals view their state legislature more positively when policy outputs are liberal, while conservatives evaluate their state legislature more favorably when policy outcomes are conservative. These effects are the most pronounced among those who are the most knowledgeable about state politics. Using panel data from 2012 to 2014, we also show that changes in state policy liberalism are associated with changes in state legislative approval. Even though we have reasons to be pessimistic about the quality of citizens’ assessments of state government, our results demonstrate that citizens evaluate their state legislatures based on the policy outcomes they provide.


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