How Incivility on Partisan Media (De)Polarizes the Electorate
James Druckman et al.
Journal of Politics, forthcoming
Partisan media - typically characterized by incivility - has become a defining element of the American political communication environment. While scholars have explored the consequences of partisan media for political attitudes and behaviors, little work has looked at how variations in incivility moderate partisan media’s effects. Using a population-based survey experiment, we show that incivility affectively depolarizes partisans when it comes from an in-party source (e.g., MSNBC for Democrats, Fox News for Republicans). Incivility on out-party sources affectively polarizes the audience, however, and we show that the respondent’s degree of conflict aversion conditions these effects. Our results raise intriguing normative questions about the trade-offs between polarization and incivility and highlight how scholars must account for both levels of incivility and partisan slant when studying the effects of partisan media.
The Anti‐Democrat Diploma: How High School Education Decreases Support for the Democratic Party
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming
Attending high school can alter students' life trajectories by affecting labor market prospects and through exposure to ideas and networks. However, schooling's influence competes with early socialization forces and may be confounded by selection biases. Consequently, little is known about whether or how high school education shapes downstream political preferences and voting behavior. Using a generalized difference‐in‐differences design leveraging variation in U.S. state dropout laws across cohorts, I find that raising the school dropout age decreases Democratic partisan identification and voting later in life. Instrumental variables estimates suggest that an additional completed grade of high school decreases Democratic support by around 15 percentage points among students induced to remain in school by higher dropout ages. High school's effects principally operate by increasing income and support for conservative economic policies, especially at an individual's midlife earnings peak. In contrast, such schooling does not affect conservative attitudes on noneconomic issues or political engagement.
Informational Cues, Partisan-Motivated Reasoning, and the Manipulation of Conspiracy Beliefs
Adam Enders & Steven Smallpage
Political Communication, forthcoming
In this article, we examine the relationship between partisan-motivated reasoning and uncertainty-inducing official information cues with respect to conspiracy beliefs. We find that while partisanship matters when it comes to conspiracy beliefs, the uncertainty-inducing and countervailing nature of official cues can further inflame conspiracy beliefs when it is not in the political interest of individuals to subscribe to a given conspiracy theory. Contrary to expectations, we find that cueing Democratic self-identifiers with different types of official responses to conspiracy theories that implicate Republicans has no effect. However, such informational cues do significantly increase conspiracy beliefs among Republicans, even when a Republican is implicated in the conspiracy theory. Although partisan-motivated reasoning has a baseline effect on conspiracy beliefs, the extent to which these beliefs can further be manipulated appears asymmetric across party lines. Simply put, Republicans appear to be more susceptible to conspiratorial cues than Democrats.
Electoral fortunes reverse, mindsets do not
Theodore Samore et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2018
Conservatives and liberals have previously been shown to differ in the propensity to view socially-transmitted information about hazards as more plausible than that concerning benefits. Given differences between conservatives and liberals in threat sensitivity and dangerous-world beliefs, correlations between political orientation and negatively-biased credulity may thus reflect endogenous mindsets. Alternatively, such results may owe to the political hierarchy at the time of previous research, as the tendency to see dark forces at work is thought to be greater among those who are out of political power. Adjudicating between these accounts can inform how societies respond to the challenge of alarmist disinformation campaigns. We exploit the consequences of the 2016 U.S. elections to test these competing explanations of differences in negatively-biased credulity and conspiracism as a function of political orientation. Two studies of Americans reveal continued positive associations between conservatism, negatively-biased credulity, and conspiracism despite changes to the power structure in conservatives’ favor.
Why Echo Chambers Are Useful
Ole Jann & Christoph Schottmuller
University of Oxford Working Paper, November 2018
Why do people appear to forgo information by sorting into “echo chambers”? We construct a highly tractable multi-sender, multi-receiver cheap talk game in which players choose with whom to communicate. We show that segregation into small, homogeneous groups can improve everybody’s information and generate Paretoimprovements. Polarized preferences create a need for segregation; uncertainty about preferences and the availability of public information magnify this need. Using data from Twitter, we show several behavioral patterns that are consistent with the results of our model.
Intraparty Cleavages and Partisan Attitudes Toward Labor Policy
Political Behavior, forthcoming
Although one in every four jobs in the U.S. is considered low-wage - encompassing millions of jobs held by Republicans and Democrats alike - little is known about partisans’ views on policies that govern the workplace. This study examines the issue using two separate national surveys and administrative data to assess partisan attitudes toward two components of labor policy: (1) support for unionization; and (2) the role of labor unions in the workplace. The close association between labor unions and Democrats anticipates predictable attitudinal differences among partisans. However, this presupposes the absence of alternative policy reasoning. The results indicate that experience constitutes such an alternative: lower-income Republicans and Republicans from union households break from party cues and offer support for worker unionization - notably in low-wage industries including fast-food and retail - and see labor unions as important institutions that improve working conditions and job security. Democrats who come from union households offer more consistent and greater support for worker unionization than non-union Democrats, and like union Republicans, see unions as important institutions in the workplace. The results point to the importance of experience and the workplace for policy attitudes. The findings suggest that labor policy may constitute an important, if overlooked, domain with cross-cutting attitudinal cleavages based, to some extent, on one’s place in the labor market, rather than one’s place in partisan politics.
Costly Extremism: How High Voting Costs Deter Participation Among Moderates and Generate a Voting Population Dominated by Extremists
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, October 2018
This paper demonstrates that increasing participation costs deters participation among ideological moderates more so than among extremists. A theoretical model demonstrates that extremists are willing to pay higher participation costs to affect a given outcome, independently from differences in information and passion. The predictions of the model are tested in a series of laboratory experiments. In addition to traditional sessions which assign subjects numerical identities and utility functions, additional sessions leverage "home grown" pre-existing political identities in a controlled laboratory setting. Subjects indicate how much they would pay to affect how money is donated between non-profit organizations on opposing sides of political issues. The analysis finds that subjects with extreme preferences are willing to pay higher voting costs - especially when information and issue importance are at moderate levels. As a result, institutions that make voting more costly are generating a more polarized and extremist-dominated voting population.
The Grapes of Path Dependence: The Long-Run Political Impact of the Dust Bowl Migration
NYU Working Paper, November 2018
In this paper, we show that the migrations of millions of Okies from the central plains to California has a demonstrable effect on political outcomes to this day, even after accounting for other relevant geographic and demographic factors. After demonstrating this pattern at the electoral level, we leverage a decade's worth of survey data and show that Hispanics living in areas with large Okie migrations in the 1930s are much more likely to have conservative social values and, importantly, to vote and identify as Republicans. Put together, these results suggest that the historical legacies of migration can have a strong and sustained impact even after nearly a century after the fact.
Jon Eguia & Francesco Giovannoni
American Political Science Review, forthcoming
We provide an instrumental theory of extreme campaign platforms. By adopting an extreme platform, a previously mainstream party with a relatively small probability of winning further reduces its chances. On the other hand, the party builds credibility as the one most capable of delivering an alternative to mainstream policies. The party gambles that if down the road voters become dissatisfied with the status quo and seek something different, the party will be there ready with a credible alternative. In essence, the party sacrifices the most immediate election to invest in greater future success. We call this phenomenon tactical extremism. We show under which conditions we expect tactical extremism to arise and we discuss its welfare implications.
It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes
Calvert Jones & Celia Paris
Perspectives on Politics, December 2018, Pages 969-989
Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical - especially violent - forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.
My way or the highway: High narcissism and low self‐esteem predict decreased support for democracy
Marta Marchlewska et al.
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming
In two studies, we analysed the relationships between different types of self‐evaluation (i.e., narcissism and self‐esteem) and support for democracy. Support for democracy requires the ability to respect the views and opinions of others, even if one disagrees with them. Classic studies have linked support for democracy with high self‐evaluation, which should assume psychological security and, thus, the ability to trust others. However, not all forms of high self‐evaluation are secure. Narcissists have high feelings of self‐worth, but tend to be defensive: They are easily threatened by criticisms or conflicting views. We then expected that while support for democracy should be positively predicted by secure, non‐narcissistic self‐evaluation, it should be negatively predicted by narcissistic self‐evaluation. In two studies, conducted in the United States (Study 1, n = 407) and in Poland (Study 2, n = 405), support for democracy was positively predicted by self‐esteem and negatively predicted by narcissism. Study 2 additionally demonstrated that interpersonal trust mediated the effects of self‐esteem on support for democracy. We discuss the role of psychological predispositions in understanding support for democratic systems.
Exploring the effects of polls on public opinion: How and when media reports of policy preferences can become self-fulfilling prophesies
Research & Politics, November 2018
Recent work has suggested that media reporting about the public’s policy preferences may be self-reinforcing, contributing to greater policy conformity. This article presents additional evidence in support of this theory and adds new detail about the conditionality of these effects. Results from two experiments are described in which respondents are presented with excerpted news stories containing varying polling information about six separate issues. Findings indicate that (a) exposure to such poll results can elicit differences in support for the issue by as much as 10-15 percentage points; (b) the magnitude of these effects varies systematically and inversely in relation to overall attitudinal intensity levels for each issue; and (c) the opinions of specific subgroups referenced in polls matter, producing larger or smaller effects depending on how salient the group is to receivers of the information. Taken together, these results underscore why news reporting about public attitudes deserves greater attention as an important factor in the policy process.
Comedy as a Route to Social Change: The Effects of Satire and News on Persuasion about Syrian Refugees
Lauren Feldman & Caty Borum Chattoo
Mass Communication and Society, forthcoming
Using a pretest-posttest and delayed re-contact experimental design with a national sample, this study examines shifts in U.S. public attitudes about Syrian refugees after watching a topical satirical news segment on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, compared with a CNN news segment. To investigate synergistic effects between satire and news, the design varied whether the news and comedy segments were viewed alone or in sequence (news before comedy or comedy before news). The results show that all four treatments (news-only, comedy-only, news-comedy, comedy-news) significantly increased support for refugees from pre-test to post-test, and these effects were maintained after a two-week delay. However, the effects were significantly greater in the three comedy conditions relative to news-only. Finally, a serial mediation analysis demonstrated that perceived entertainment value is a positive mediator of comedy’s persuasive effects and serves as a buffer against negative indirect effects through message discounting and argument quality.