Looking for the next election

Kevin Lewis

March 24, 2017

Taste-Based Discrimination Against Nonwhite Political Candidates: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Evan Soltas & David Broockman

Stanford Working Paper, February 2017

We exploit a natural experiment to study voter taste-based discrimination against nonwhite political candidates. In Illinois Republican presidential primary elections, voters do not vote for presidential candidates directly. Instead, they vote delegate-by-delegate for delegate candidates listed as bound to vote for particular presidential candidates at the Republican nominating convention. To maximize their support for their preferred presidential candidate, voters must vote for all that candidate’s delegates. However, some delegates’ names imply they are not white. Incentives for statistical discrimination against nonwhite delegates are negligible, as delegates have effectively no discretion, and taste-based discrimination against them is costly, as it undermines voters’ preferred presidential candidates. Examining within-presidential-candidate variation in delegate vote totals in primaries from 2000–2016, we estimate that about 10 percent of voters do not vote for their preferred presidential candidate’s delegates who have names that indicate the delegates are nonwhite, indicating that a considerable share of voters act upon racially-discriminatory tastes. This finding is robust to multiple methods for measuring delegate race, to controls for voters’ possible prior information about delegates, to ballot order, and to other possible confounds we consider. Heterogeneity across candidates and geographies is also broadly consistent with taste-based theories.


Which Candidates Can Be Mavericks? The Effects of Issue Disagreement and Gender on Candidate Evaluations

Emily Vraga

Politics & Policy, February 2017, Pages 4–30

As approval ratings of the U.S. Congress remain depressed, many candidates present themselves as mavericks, willing to counter their party on issues. Yet disagreeing with one's party can be a risky decision and one that is not equally viable for all politicians. In particular, female candidates often face a hostile political climate that privileges “masculine” traits over feminine traits, which may tie female candidates to their party's platform. An experimental study manipulating issue disagreement for a female versus male candidate demonstrates that the female candidate consistently faces harsher penalties in terms of candidate evaluations and voting intentions for disagreeing with her party on multiple issues. Implications for candidate behavior, campaign strategies, and political decision making are discussed.


Presidential Debates in the Age of Partisan Media: A Field Experiment

Kimberly Gross, Ethan Porter & Thomas Wood

George Washington University Working Paper, February 2017

To investigate media effects in political campaigns, we administered a field experiment around the first general election presidential debate of 2016. In this three-wave study, subjects were randomly incentivized to watch the debate and post-debate television coverage on Fox News or MSNBC. We find that post-debate coverage has strong effects on performance evaluations, with subjects' perceptions moving in the direction of the partisan slant of the channel they were assigned to watch on. Though these effects evolve over time, with subjects coming to express beliefs more in line with the media consensus, they do not disappear altogether. Moderate partisans were still affected by the post-debate coverage a week later. The effects we observe are limited to debate evaluations; at no point do we observe partisan media affecting vote choice. Our results offer evidence that media effects can persist over time, but are confined to candidate evaluations.


Ideological Heterogeneity and the Rise of Donald Trump

Edward Carmines, Michael Ensley & Michael Wagner

The Forum, February 2017, Pages 385–397


In the days after the 2016 election, a variety of explanations has been offered to explain Donald Trump’s unique ascendancy in American politics. Scholars have discussed Trump’s appeal to rural voters, his hybrid media campaign strategy, shifts in voter turnout, Hillary Clinton’s campaign advertising strategy, economic anxiety, differences in sexist and racist attitudes among Trump voters and so forth. Here, we add another key factor to the conversation: Trump’s appeal to a smaller, often ignored, segment of the electorate: populist voters. Building upon our previous work – demonstrating that while American political elites compete across a single dimension of conflict, the American people organize their attitudes around two distinct dimensions, one economic and one social – we use 2008 American National Elections Study (ANES) data and 2016 ANES primary election data to show that populist support for Trump, and nationalist policies themselves, help us to understand how Trump captured the Republican nomination and the White House.


Matching Pennies on the Campaign Trail: An Empirical Study of Senate Elections and Media Coverage

Camilo García-Jimeno & Pinar Yildirim

NBER Working Paper, February 2017

We study the strategic interaction between the media and Senate candidates during elections. While the media is instrumental for candidates to communicate with voters, candidates and media outlets have conflicting preferences over the contents of the reporting. In competitive electoral environments such as most US Senate races, this can lead to a strategic environment resembling a matching pennies game. Based on this observation, we develop a model of bipartisan races where media outlets report about candidates, and candidates make decisions on the type of constituencies to target with their statements along the campaign trail. We develop a methodology to classify news content as suggestive of the target audience of candidate speech, and show how data on media reports and poll results, together with the behavioral implications of the model, can be used to estimate its parameters. We implement this methodology on US Senatorial races for the period 1980-2012, and find that Democratic candidates have stronger incentives to target their messages towards turning out their core supporters than Republicans. We also find that the cost in swing-voter support from targeting core supporters is larger for Democrats than for Republicans. These effects balance each other, making media outlets willing to cover candidates from both parties at similar rates.


Cumulative and Long-Term Campaign Advertising Effects on Trust and Talk

Melissa Gotlieb et al.

International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Spring 2017, Pages 1-22

Most studies of political advertising have failed to consider that advertising effects may build up across multiple election seasons or extend past Election Day. This study investigates the short-term and long-term effects of both same-cycle and multi-cycle exposure to campaign advertising on political and social trust and modes of political talk. Using survey data and campaign advertising data, we test the effects of ad volume and ad negativity. We find effects of both same-cycle and cumulative exposure to advertising. Some are fleeting effects, but the majority of them are sustained or sleeper effects, emerging long after the campaign has ended. These results suggest that scholars should extend their focus beyond same-cycle effects measured during or just after a single campaign.


Metaphorical Accounting: How Framing the Federal Budget Like a Household's Affects Voting Intentions

Paul Thibodeau & Stephen Flusberg

Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Political discourse is saturated with metaphor, but evidence for the persuasive power of this language has been hard to come by. We addressed this issue by investigating whether voting intentions were affected by implicit mappings suggested by a metaphorically framed message, drawing on a real-world example of political rhetoric about the federal budget. In the first experiment, the federal budget was framed as similar to or different from a household budget, though the information participants received was identical in both conditions. When the federal budget was described as similar to a household's, people considered the personal finances of a presidential candidate more relevant — a finding we replicated in a larger, pre-registered study. In a follow-up experiment, we presented participants with a more explicit rhetorical argument and found a similar effect, moderated by political affiliation. These studies illuminate how metaphorical comparison affects cognition for important real-world issues, sometimes in unintended ways.


Implicit Candidate-Trait Associations in Political Campaigns

Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz, Joseph Vitriol & Christina Farhart

Political Psychology, forthcoming

While the study of political attitudes has incorporated implicit processes in its theoretical models, the predominant approach to candidate-trait perception focuses exclusively on explicit processes. Our novel, dual-process approach to candidate perception sees voters as holding both conscious, explicit impressions of candidate traits and automatic, implicit candidate-trait associations that cannot be measured using traditional self-report techniques. We examine implicit candidate-trait associations for the first time using data from a three-wave online panel conducted in the last month of the 2012 U.S. presidential election. First, we demonstrate that implicit candidate-trait associations exist. Second, we show that implicit associations of warmth and competence with the candidates predict explicit candidate evaluations, economic evaluations, and vote choice, above and beyond conventional political science controls and explicit trait perceptions. Finally, we find that these effects are strongest among nonpartisans and partisans with conflicted feelings about their party's nominee. We suggest future directions for implicit political cognition research, including trait perception.


The racialization of electoral fairness in the 2008 and 2012 United States presidential elections

Jacob Appleby & Christopher Federico

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

President Obama’s historic status as the nation’s first African American president has led to a “spillover” of racialization in the form of a strengthened relationship between racial attitudes and beliefs and judgments about policies he is associated with. We argue that even basic perceptions of the fairness of the presidential election became racialized in 2008 and 2012. Consistent with this, data from two national surveys revealed that Whites high in racial resentment and racial-stereotype endorsement were less likely to believe the 2008 and 2012 elections were conducted fairly, especially among those for whom the election result was unwelcome, that is, Republicans and conservatives. We find that this result is specific to years that Obama was on the ballot, suggesting a unique role for Obama’s candidacy in boosting the impact of racial attitudes and beliefs.


Memory for Positive and Negative Political TV Ads: The Role of Partisanship and Gamma Power

Alyssa Morey

Political Communication, forthcoming

Despite generating widespread contempt, political TV ads play an important informational role in the lives of citizens. This study examines effects of Ad Type (Positive, Negative, and Comparison) on recognition memory for candidate issue positions. Potential moderators (Ad Sponsor Partisanship X Viewer Partisanship, Ad Type X Viewer Ideology, Ad Type X Viewer Partisanship) of political ad memory are explored, and electroencephalography (EEG) recordings are used to examine whether semantic processing (indexed as brain activity in the gamma band frequency range) mediates main or moderated effects of Ad Type on Memory. Results reveal a significant interaction between Ad Type and Partisanship, with Republicans remembering more from positive relative to negative ads (significant), and Democrats remembering more from negative ads (marginally significant). A direct effect of Gamma on Memory highlights the considerable potential that EEG (in general) and the gamma frequency band (in particular) may hold for the study of message processing.


Which Women Can Run? Gender, Partisanship, and Candidate Donor Networks

Danielle Thomsen & Michele Swers

Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Recent scholarship rejects campaign finance as a cause of women’s underrepresentation in Congress because women raise as much money as men running in similar races. We argue that campaign finance still impacts which women can make a run for office because candidates have to build their own donor networks. Using a unique dataset that includes primary and general election candidates for the U.S. House in 2010 and 2012, we examine the gender composition of candidates’ donor networks. We find that candidates’ ideological views are very important to contributors. Donors, particularly Democrats, also exhibit a gender affinity effect in which men give more to male candidates and women favor female candidates. Furthermore, female Democratic donors seem to value the election of women, especially liberal Democratic women, over other traditional predictors of giving, such as incumbency and competitiveness. Meanwhile, Republican male and female donors do not focus on candidate gender, and female Republican donors prefer conservative candidates. Thus, the existing partisan donor pools are friendlier to the emergence of liberal female Democrats than Republican women.


Social Desirability Bias in the 2016 Presidential Election

Samara Klar, Christopher Weber & Yanna Krupnikov

The Forum, February 2017, Pages 433–443

Partisanship is a stable trait but expressions of partisan preferences can vary according to social context. When particular preferences become socially undesirable, some individuals refrain from expressing them in public, even in relatively anonymous settings such as surveys and polls. In this study, we rely on the psychological trait of self-monitoring to show that Americans who are more likely to adjust their behaviors to comply with social norms (i.e. high self-monitors) were less likely to express support for Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential Election. In turn, as self-monitoring decreases, we find that the tendency to express support for Trump increases. This study suggests that – at least for some individuals – there may have been a tendency in 2016 to repress expressed support for Donald Trump in order to mask socially undesirable attitudes.


Polarization, Number of Parties, and Voter Turnout: Explaining Turnout in 26 OECD Countries

Allan Wilford

Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Methods: Using Comparative Manifesto Project data from 26 democracies, this study develops a measure of party systems that interacts party polarization and number of parties to explain turnout.

Results: Findings show that the composition of the party system as a whole is a key determinate of a voter's propensity to vote. Highly polarized systems with few parties spur individuals to vote, while low levels of polarization and many parties reduce incentives to vote.


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