Kevin Lewis

September 29, 2017

Did Nixon quit before he resigned?
Matthew Beckmann
Research & Politics, April 2017

On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon formally resigned the presidency; however, folklore hints Nixon informally quit fulfilling his duties well before then. As Watergate became less "a third rate burglary" than "high crimes and misdemeanors," rumors of President Nixon's wallowing, wandering, drinking, and mumbling swirled. Yet evidence for such assertions has been thin, and prevailing scholarship offers compelling reasons to believe Nixon's institutional protocols overrode his individual proclivities. This study offers a new, systematic look at Nixon's presidency by coding his public events and private interactions with top government officials during every day of his presidency. Contrary to our expectations, the results corroborate the rumors: Richard Nixon effectively quit being president well before he resigned the presidency. In fact, it turns out there was a defining moment when Nixon disengaged from his administration: on December 6, 1973, the day Gerald Ford was confirmed as Vice President.

An Experimental Test of How Americans Think about Federalism
Nicholas Jacobs
Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Fall 2017, Pages 572-598

The dominant perspective on federalism and American public opinion suggests that Americans simply do not consider federalism when making policy evaluations. Recently, however, several scholars have argued that even if Americans do not make legalistic or theoretical references to federalism, they often think intuitively about intergovernmental politics. This study presents the results of a three-part survey experiment designed to assess how readily individuals come to think about federalism when evaluating public policy. In general, individuals do not consider the intergovernmental implications of policy, even when asked to explicitly compare two levels of government. Overwhelmingly, individual preference for government activity obscures concerns for federalism in eight of nine substantive policy domains. Yet, this indeterminacy does not mean that public opinion is irrelevant for studies of American federalism. Rather, it is a highly malleable instrument that political elites can use to leverage public support for policies.

A Theory of Decisive Leadership
Douglas Bernheim & Aaron Bodoh-Creed
Stanford Working Paper, July 2017

We present a theory that rationalizes voters' preferences for decisive leaders. Greater decisiveness entails an inclination to reach decisions more quickly conditional on fixed information. Although speed can be good or bad, agency problems between voters and politicians create preferences among voters for leaders who perceive low costs of delay and have little uncertainty about idiosyncratic concerns, and hence who make decisions more rapidly than typical voters. Officials who aspire to higher office therefore signal decisiveness by accelerating decisions. In elections, candidates with reputations for greater decisiveness prevail despite making smaller compromises, and therefore earn larger rents from office holding.

Political Legacies
Christian Fong, Neil Malhotra & Yotam Margalit
Stanford Working Paper, August 2017

Politicians are widely perceived to lose significance upon leaving office. Yet media accounts often highlight politicians' legacies as a source of influence that endures even after they retire. This article assesses these contrasting views by investigating the substance, endurance, and significance of political legacies. We develop a theoretical account of legacies and their relevance to contemporary politics, emphasizing that in addition to "hard legacies" - concrete and enduring policy achievements - politicians often establish "soft" legacies - memories enshrined in the public's consciousness. Soft legacies can be, but are not necessarily, tied to the substance of one's hard legacy. We ground our theoretical account empirically by testing a series of observable implications using data from online discussion forums, original surveys of both citizens and political elites, thousands of former politicians' Wikipedia pages, and a randomized experiment. We find that establishing a lasting legacy is a key motivation of public officials. More generally, our findings provide substantial evidence that legacies influence contemporary policy debates long after a leader steps down.

Constraining Bureaucrats Today Knowing You'll Be Gone Tomorrow: The Effect of Legislative Term Limits on Statutory Discretion
Mona Vakilifathi
Policy Studies Journal, forthcoming

Do finite time horizons constrain a legislature's ability to control the bureaucracy? I argue that legislators subject to legislative term limits enact legislation with less statutory discretion today to ensure that their preferences are implemented by the bureaucracy tomorrow since most legislators will not be around to monitor the bureaucracy over the long term. Although past works suggest that legislative term limits decrease legislatures' rate of bureaucratic oversight, I find that term-limited legislatures use ex ante means of bureaucratic control to a greater extent by granting less statutory discretion to the bureaucracy.

Does Newspaper Coverage Influence or Reflect Public Perceptions of the Economy?
Daniel Hopkins, Eunji Kim & Soojong Kim
Research and Politics, forthcoming

Citizens' economic perceptions can shape their political and economic behavior, making those perceptions' origins an important question. Research commonly posits that media coverage is a central source. Here, we test that prospect while considering the alternative hypothesis that media coverage instead echoes public perceptions. This paper applies a straightforward automated measure of the tone of economic coverage to 490,039 articles from 24 national and local media outlets over more than three decades. By matching the 245,947 survey respondents in the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior to measures of contemporaneous media coverage, we can assess the sequencing of changes in media coverage and public perceptions. Together, these data illustrate that newspaper coverage does not systematically precede public perceptions of the economy, a finding which analyses of television transcripts reinforce. Neither national nor local newspapers appear to strongly influence economic perceptions.

Demand for New Cities: Property Value Capitalization of Municipal Incorporation
Carlianne Patrick & Christopher Mothorpe
Regional Science and Urban Economics, forthcoming

This paper investigates property value capitalization of municipal incorporation. Using detailed data from the metropolitan Atlanta area, our empirical strategy combines difference-in-differences hedonics with a relatively underutilized matching method from the class of monotonic imbalance bounding methods that approximates a fully blocked randomized experiment. We find that new city formation is positively capitalized into property values within the new city, increasing 4-5 percent in the two years following new city formation compared to the two years prior and 12-13 percent over the entire analysis period. The results also indicate that capitalization is stronger for parcels with greater potential for redistribution.

Partisan Gerrymandering and the Political Process: Effects on Roll-Call Voting and State Policies
Devin Caughey, Chris Tausanovitch & Christopher Warshaw
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

Recent scholarship has documented the advantages of a new measure of partisan gerrymandering: the difference in the parties' wasted votes, divided by the total number of votes cast. This measure, known as the efficiency gap (EG), can be calculated directly from aggregate vote totals, facilitating comparison of the severity of party gerrymandering across states and time. In this article, we conduct the first analysis of the EG's effects on legislative representation and policymaking in the states. We first show that the partisan outcome of legislative elections has important causal effects on the ideological representation of individual districts, the ideological composition of legislative chambers, and the conservatism of state policymaking. We then show that variation in the EG across state-years is associated with systematic differences in the ideological location of the median state legislator and in the conservatism of state policies. These results suggest that partisan gerrymandering has major consequences not only for who wins elections but for the political process as a whole.

How Gender Conditions the Way Citizens Evaluate and Engage with Their Representatives
Mia Costa & Brian Schaffner
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Scholars argue that women's presence in politics enhances symbolic representation, such as positive evaluations of one's representative and increased political engagement. However, there is little empirical evidence of these symbolic benefits from descriptive representation. With data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study panel survey, we examine how a change in the gender of a representative affects individuals' perceptions of that representative and likelihood to contact them. In general, we find that women express more positive evaluations of female representatives than male representatives, yet they are also less likely to contact female representatives. By contrast, the effect of an elected official's gender does not significantly affect how men evaluate or engage with that official. However, we also show that partisanship conditions these effects, perhaps due to the fact that gender stereotypes operate differently for Democrats than Republicans. For example, women rate female Republican legislators more positively than they do male Republican legislators, but neither women nor men rate Democratic legislators differently based on their gender. The findings provide strong evidence that gender matters when it comes to representation, but contrary to some conventional wisdom, female elected officials may actually enjoy some advantages in terms of their standing among constituents.  

Who is My Neighbor? The Spatial Efficiency of Partisanship
Nicholas Eubank & Jonathan Rodden
Stanford Working Paper, August 2017

Relative to its overall statewide support, the Republican Party has been over-represented in Congressional delegations and state legislatures over the last decade in a number of U.S. states. A challenge for courts is to determine the extent to which this can be explained by intentional gerrymandering vis-a-vis an underlying inefficient distribution of Democrats in cities. We explain the problem of spatial inefficiency in partisan support, and measure it by borrowing from the field of plant ecology, assessing the partisanship of the nearest neighbors of each voter in each U.S. state at the spatial scales relevant for Congressional delegations and both chambers of state legislatures. We demonstrate that as a result of urban-rural partisan polarization, much of the cross-state and cross-chamber variation in Republican advantage can be explained by the relative spatial inefficiency of Democrats. Moreover, our pure political geography approach to votes and seats provides a useful baseline against which to evaluate claims of partisan gerrymandering. We demonstrate that Republicans are often able to improve significantly on their underlying geographic advantage when they control the redistricting process, while Democrats are sometimes able to ameliorate it when they draw the lines.

Campaign Contributions from Corporate Executives in Lieu of Political Action Committees
Brian Kelleher Richter & Timothy Werner
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, August 2017, Pages 443-474

Limiting corporate participation in electoral politics is a central focus of campaign finance reform. In this spirit, individual candidates for office have prohibited corporate-linked political action committees (PACs) from contributing to their campaigns. On the surface, such no-PAC policies might seem like an effective way to keep corporate-linked monies out of electoral politics; however, they ignore the reality that corporate monies have a variety of ways to find their way into candidates' campaign accounts. We leverage these candidate-specific refusals to accept PAC monies to uncover concomitant spikes in the pattern of corporate executives' personal campaign contributions that are most pronounced for executives at firms with active PACs which contributed to the candidates in question. These results come from a newly constructed dataset that includes all CEO-firm-candidate contribution pairs for active S&P500 firms over an 18-year period and suggests that CEOs strategically act in lieu of their firms' linked PACs. 

Terror, War, and the Economy in George W. Bush's Approval Ratings: The Importance of Salience in Presidential Approval
Charles Ostrom et al.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

George W. Bush's presidency provides a fertile ground to further develop the standard model of presidential approval. In contrast to the vast presidential approval literature, early studies of Bush conclude economic conditions had no effect once the war in Iraq began. Rather than require a fundamental rethinking of presidential approval theories, we argue that approval models must take into account issue salience. When a factor is salient, it has a stronger effect. During the Bush presidency, with considerable over-time variation in the salience of the economy, terrorism, and the war in Iraq, each, in turn, powerfully affected Bush's approval. 

How the Unorganized Mass Public (Sometimes) Gets Represented in Regulatory Politics
Susan Miller, Christopher Witko & Neal Woods
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Many scholars have argued that because consumers are poorly organized, regulatory enforcement will tend to be lax and serve the interests of industry. Considering, however, that elections are one of the main mechanisms by which the public exerts control over policy, surprisingly few studies have examined how electoral incentives may spur the government to regulate vigorously on behalf of consumers. We argue that when the threat of electoral accountability is greater, regulatory activities will serve the interests of the public, even if they impose costs on industry. We test this theoretical expectation by analyzing state regulatory activity in the wake of exogenous storms and natural disasters, which provide us with important theoretical and causal leverage. We find that a more "pro-regulation" electorate and elected chief regulators acting in close proximity to elections are associated with pro-consumer regulatory action.


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