Model voter

Kevin Lewis

October 22, 2012

Obama's Reelection Prospects under "Bread and Peace" Voting in the 2012 US Presidential Election

Douglas Hibbs
PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2012, Pages 635-639

According to the Bread and Peace Model postwar, American presidential elections should be interpreted as a sequence of referendums on the incumbent party's record during its four-year mandate period. In fact, postwar aggregate votes for president are well explained by just two objectively measured fundamental determinants: (1) weighted-average growth of per capita real disposable personal income over the term, and (2) cumulative US military fatalities due to unprovoked, hostile deployments of American armed forces in foreign wars. No other outside variable systematically affects postwar aggregate votes for president.


Does higher voter turnout among the poor lead to more equal policy representation?

Patrick Flavin
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

The belief that elected officials are most responsive to the opinions of the wealthiest members of society is often assumed but has only recently begun to be tested. This paper examines a common explanation for why this disparity in political representation occurs: wealthy citizens vote at much higher rates than citizens with low incomes. Utilizing variation across states in voter turnout levels among the rich and poor, there is little evidence that increased voting among citizens with low incomes improves representation of their political opinions in the Senate. These findings cast doubt on the proposition that increased voter turnout among the poor is an avenue for promoting greater political equality in the United States.


An Empirical Assessment of the Georgia Voter Identification Statute

M.V. Hood & Charles Bullock
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming

Voter identification (ID) policies, especially those of the photo ID variety, have been hotly contested over the last few years. The primary concern surrounding these statutes amounts to lower turnout, especially among certain groups in the electorate, such as racial/ethnic minorities. In 2007, the way was cleared for Georgia to implement a new statute requiring registrants to present a government-issued photo ID to vote. Using population data on registrants from two election cycles coupled with information on a subgroup of registrants known to lack photo ID, we conduct a policy impact analysis of the Georgia voter ID law. We find that the new law did produce a suppression effect among those registrants lacking proper ID. Substantively, the law lowered turnout by about four-tenths of a percentage point in 2008. However, we find no empirical evidence to suggest that there is a racial or ethnic component to this suppression effect.


Random and Systematic Error in Voting in Presidential Elections

Sean Richey
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Condorcet's theory of voting rests on the crucial proposition that voting errors are random and not systematic. Using Lau and Redlawsk's voting correctly measure, I test whether voting error is systematic or random in presidential elections from 1972 to 2004. I show that errors are systematically skewed toward Republican candidates. I also show that the level of skew of incorrect voting has led to the incorrect candidate being elected in three out of the last nine elections. In addition, I find that greater skew in Republican campaign spending increases skew of incorrect votes toward Republican candidates.


Tall claims? Sense and nonsense about the importance of height of US presidents

Gert Stulp et al.
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

According to both the scientific literature and popular media, all one needs to win a US presidential election is to be taller than one's opponent. Yet, such claims are often based on an arbitrary selection of elections, and inadequate statistical analysis. Using data on all presidential elections, we show that height is indeed an important factor in the US presidential elections. Candidates that were taller than their opponents received more popular votes, although they were not significantly more likely to win the actual election. Taller presidents were also more likely to be reelected. In addition, presidents were, on average, much taller than men from the same birth cohort. The advantage of taller candidates is potentially explained by perceptions associated with height: taller presidents are rated by experts as 'greater', and having more leadership and communication skills. We conclude that height is an important characteristic in choosing and evaluating political leaders.


History and Primary: The Obama Reelection

Helmut Norpoth & Michael Bednarczuk
PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2012, Pages 614-617

Democrat Barack Obama is going to defeat Republican Mitt Romney by a comfortable margin in the 2012 presidential election. This forecast comes from a statistical model that uses the primary performance of the candidates and a cycle in presidential elections to predict the presidential vote. In plain English, Obama has history on his side as well as the fact that he was unchallenged in the primaries. The model, called The Primary Model because of its heavy reliance on primaries, covers elections from 1912, the beginning of presidential primaries. Since 1952, however, only the New Hampshire Primary is used; we justify the choice of New Hampshire at some length.


What Happens to Incumbents in Scandals?

Shigeo Hirano & James Snyder
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, October 2012, Pages 447-456

One key role of elections is to allow voters to remove politicians who perform poorly in office. We analyze the extent to which incumbents who are involved in relatively serious political scandals lose elections. More importantly, we assess the relative importance of primary and general elections in removing such incumbents. How often do incumbents involved in relatively serious scandals lose in the primary election? How often do they lose in the general election? How often is it the case that the primary election was probably necessary in order to remove the incumbent - i.e., would the incumbents in "safe districts" have been re-elected in the general election if they did not lose in the primary? We find that that incumbents in scandals are more likely to face a serious primary challenger compared to other incumbents. This relationship is even stronger when the incumbent represents a "safe district" - i.e., a district where she would probably have won the general election. Our estimates suggest that primary elections have an important role in removing incumbents in otherwise "safe districts."


Voluntary voting: Costs and benefits

Vijay Krishna & John Morgan
Journal of Economic Theory, forthcoming

We compare voluntary and compulsory voting in a Condorcet-type model in which voters have identical preferences but differential information. With voluntary voting, all equilibria involve sincere voting and positive participation. Thus, in contrast to situations with compulsory voting, there is no conflict between strategic and sincere behavior. When voting is costless, voluntary voting is welfare superior to compulsory voting. Even when voting is costly, participation rates are such that, in the limit, the correct candidate is elected - that is, information fully aggregates. Because it economizes on costs, voluntary voting is again welfare superior to compulsory voting.


Aggregating Information by Voting: The Wisdom of the Experts versus the Wisdom of the Masses

Joseph McMurray
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

This article analyzes participation and information aggregation in a common-value election with continuous private signals. In equilibrium, some citizens ignore their private information and abstain from voting, in deference to those with higher-quality signals. Even as the number of highly informed peers grows large, however, citizens with only moderate expertise continue voting, so that voter participation remains at realistic levels (e.g. 50 to 60 percent, for simple examples). The precise level of voter turnout, along with the margin of victory, are determined by the distribution of expertise. Improving a voter's information makes her more willing to vote, consistent with a growing body of empirical evidence, but makes her peers more willing to abstain, providing a new explanation for various empirical patterns of voting. Equilibrium participation is optimal, even though the marginal voter may have very little (e.g. below-average) expertise, and even though nonvoters' information is not utilized.


For the Win! The Effect of Professional Sports Records on Mayoral Elections

Michael Miller
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Voters are more likely to reelect incumbents when political outcomes are positive. Although most scholars assume this is because voters explicitly credit politicians for good outcomes, this article investigates whether some voters simply opt for the status quo when they feel happy.

Methods: To distinguish these two voting models, I propose professional sports records as a proxy for electorate happiness unrelated to political performance. I test the impact of sports performance on incumbent mayoral elections in 39 American cities from 1948 to 2009.

Results: Winning sports records boost incumbents' vote totals and likelihoods of reelection, exceeding in magnitude the effect of variation in unemployment. In contrast, sports records following elections display no such relationship.

Conclusion: Retrospective voting is partly driven by feelings of happiness unrelated to political appraisal. However, I argue that the implications for democratic accountability are not as dire as many authors claim.


Validation: What Big Data Reveal About Survey Misreporting and the Real Electorate

Stephen Ansolabehere & Eitan Hersh
Political Analysis, Autumn 2012, Pages 437-459

Social scientists rely on surveys to explain political behavior. From consistent overreporting of voter turnout, it is evident that responses on survey items may be unreliable and lead scholars to incorrectly estimate the correlates of participation. Leveraging developments in technology and improvements in public records, we conduct the first-ever fifty-state vote validation. We parse overreporting due to response bias from overreporting due to inaccurate respondents. We find that nonvoters who are politically engaged and equipped with politically relevant resources consistently misreport that they voted. This finding cannot be explained by faulty registration records, which we measure with new indicators of election administration quality. Respondents are found to misreport only on survey items associated with socially desirable outcomes, which we find by validating items beyond voting, like race and party. We show that studies of representation and participation based on survey reports dramatically misestimate the differences between voters and nonvoters.


Corruption and Voter Participation: Evidence from the US States

Monica Escaleras, Peter Calcagno & William Shughart
Public Finance Review, November 2012, Pages 789-815

The literature on voter turnout focuses on the determinants of the electorate's vote supply. There is growing recognition, however, that the demanders of votes - candidates, political parties, and interest groups - have strong incentives to invest resources in mobilizing support on Election Day. The authors test the hypothesis that corruption rents increase the value of holding public office and, hence, elicit greater demand-side effort in building winning coalitions. Analyzing a pooled time-series data set of public officials convicted of misusing their offices between 1979 and 2005, we find, after controlling for other influential factors, that governmental corruption raises voter turnout rates in gubernatorial elections.


Statistical detection of systematic election irregularities

Peter Klimek et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9 October 2012, Pages 16469-16473

Democratic societies are built around the principle of free and fair elections, and that each citizen's vote should count equally. National elections can be regarded as large-scale social experiments, where people are grouped into usually large numbers of electoral districts and vote according to their preferences. The large number of samples implies statistical consequences for the polling results, which can be used to identify election irregularities. Using a suitable data representation, we find that vote distributions of elections with alleged fraud show a kurtosis substantially exceeding the kurtosis of normal elections, depending on the level of data aggregation. As an example, we show that reported irregularities in recent Russian elections are, indeed, well-explained by systematic ballot stuffing. We develop a parametric model quantifying the extent to which fraudulent mechanisms are present. We formulate a parametric test detecting these statistical properties in election results. Remarkably, this technique produces robust outcomes with respect to the resolution of the data and therefore, allows for cross-country comparisons.


Televised Attacks and the Incumbency Advantage in State Supreme Courts

Melinda Gann Hall
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, forthcoming

This project evaluates whether televised attack advertising has detrimental effects on the electoral performance of state supreme court justices seeking reelection. I examine this question by estimating theoretically specified models of vote shares that include all televised messages for incumbents and challengers in 76 partisan and nonpartisan elections in 19 states from 2002 through 2006. I also rely on Campaign Media Analysis Group advertising data and campaign finance measures to disentangle the effects of advertising from campaign spending. Results show that attacks have deleterious effects on the incumbency advantage but only in nonpartisan elections. In this regard, the preference for nonpartisan elections among many reform advocates has rendered some concerns about the pernicious effects of negativity into self-fulfilling prophecies. More broadly, these findings demonstrate the powerful force of institutional arrangements in shaping democratic politics and highlight striking similarities between state supreme court elections and elections to other important offices in the United States.


Just ignore or counterattack? On the effects of different strategies for dealing with political attacks

Luciana Carraro et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, October 2012, Pages 789-797

During political races, candidates have to decide how to deal with the negative remarks from opposing candidates: just ignore or counterattack? In two studies, we investigated some of the consequences of this choice. In Study 1, participants were presented with a political candidate who systematically attacked his opponent and with the reactions of the attacked candidate: across conditions, the attacked candidate only focused on his political program or counterattacked. Results showed an overt condemnation of the choice to counterattack but a higher spontaneous conformity toward the candidate who counterattacked. Study 2 replicated and extended these results indicating that the gender of the attacked candidate did not affect the results. Moreover, Study 2 showed that conformity toward the attacked candidate was positively related to the predicted chances of winning the election. Results are discussed in relation to their theoretical and applied implications.


Movers, Stayers, and Registration: Why Age is Correlated with Registration in the U.S.

Stephen Ansolabehere, Eitan Hersh & Kenneth Shepsle
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, October 2012, Pages 333-363

Age is among the strongest predictors of political participation, yet it is also among the least well understood. We offer a probability model of participation in the U.S. voter registration system - the first step in the voting process. In this model, people have a constant probability of registering to vote at any given time and a constant probability of moving. A strong relationship between age and participation arises simply as a byproduct of the rules of the registration system, namely that participation is voluntary and that it is residentially based. Specifically, the probability that someone is registered increases over time (and thus with age) even when the probability of becoming registered is constant. A new, national random sample of 1.8 million voter registration records is employed to test the model. The model provides a theoretical foundation for the relationship between age and participation, identifies the functional form of that relationship, and solves a puzzle about the nature of participatory bias.


Should Candidates Smile to Win Elections? An Application of Automated Face Recognition Technology

Yusaku Horiuchi, Tadashi Komatsu & Fumio Nakaya
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Previous studies examining whether the faces of candidates affect election outcomes commonly measure study participants' subjective judgment of various characteristics of candidates, which participants infer based solely on the photographic images of candidates. We, instead, develop a smile index of such images objectively with automated face-recognition technology. The advantage of applying this new technology is that the automated process of measuring facial traits is by design independent of voters' subjective evaluations of candidate attributes, based on the images, and thus allows us to estimate "undiluted" effects of facial appearance per se on election outcomes. The results of regression analysis using Japanese and Australian data show that the smile index has statistically significant and substantial effects on the vote share of candidates even after controlling for other covariates.


Narrowing the field in elections: The Next-Two rule

Steven Brams & Marc Kilgour
Journal of Theoretical Politics, October 2012, Pages 507-525

We suggest a new approach to narrowing the field in elections, based on the 'deservingness' of candidates to be contenders in a runoff, or to be declared one of several winners. Instead of specifying some minimum percentage (e.g., 50) that the leading candidate must surpass to avoid a runoff (usually between the top two candidates), we propose that the number of contenders depends on the distribution of votes among all candidates. Divisor methods of apportionment proposed by Jefferson and Webster, among others, provide measures of deservingness, but they can prescribe a runoff even when one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. We propose a new measure of derservingness, called the Next-Two rule, which compares the performance of candidates to the two that immediately follow them. It identifies as contenders candidates who are bunched together near the top. We apply the Next-Two rule to several empirical examples.

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