On my side
Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America
Michael Barber & Jeremy Pope
American Political Science Review, forthcoming
Are people conservative (liberal) because they are Republicans (Democrats)? Or is it the reverse: people are Republicans (Democrats) because they are conservatives (liberals)? Though much has been said about this long-standing question, it is difficult to test because the concepts are nearly impossible to disentangle in modern America. Ideology and partisanship are highly correlated, only growing more so over time. However, the election of President Trump presents a unique opportunity to disentangle party attachment from ideological commitment. Using a research design that employs actual “conservative” and “liberal” policy statements from President Trump, we find that low-knowledge respondents, strong Republicans, Trump-approving respondents, and self-described conservatives are the most likely to behave like party loyalists by accepting the Trump cue — in either a liberal or conservative direction. These results suggest that there are a large number of party loyalists in the United States, that their claims to being a self-defined conservative are suspect, and that group loyalty is the stronger motivator of opinion than are any ideological principles.
Economic Shocks and Clinging
Michael Strain & Stan Veuger
American Enterprise Institute Working Paper, January 2019
During his first campaign for president, Barack Obama was criticized when he argued that residents of towns with poor local labor markets “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustration.” We test empirically whether this is the case by examining the effect on social attitudes, as measured in the General Social Survey, of a local labor market’s exposure to import competition brought about by “the China shock,” from 1990 to 2007. We find that the economic effects of globalization do indeed change the attitudes of whites towards immigrants, minorities, religion and guns. More specifically, we find evidence of significant hardening of existing attitudes — that is, the impact of these import shocks appears concentrated in the tails of the distribution over attitudes.
An Asymmetrical “President-in-Power” Effect
Davide Morisi, John Jost & Vishal Singh
American Political Science Review, forthcoming
When political polarization is high, it may be assumed that citizens will trust the government more when the chief executive shares their own political views. However, evidence is accumulating that important asymmetries may exist between liberals and conservatives (or Democrats and Republicans). We hypothesized that an asymmetry may exist when it comes to individuals’ willingness to trust the government when it is led by the “other side.” In an extensive analysis of several major datasets (including ANES and GSS) over a period of five decades, we find that in the United States, conservatives trust the government more than liberals when the president in office shares their own ideology. Furthermore, liberals are more willing to grant legitimacy to democratic governments led by conservatives than vice versa. A similar asymmetry applies to Republicans compared with Democrats. We discuss implications of this asymmetrical “president-in-power” effect for democratic functioning.
Are Small Donors Polarizing? A Longitudinal Study of the Senate
Alex Keena & Misty Knight-Finley
Election Law Journal, forthcoming
Current campaign finance law in the United States does little to redress biases in the donor population. One solution proposed by reformers is to expand the donor base to include a broader and more diverse subset of the population. Yet studies on the effects of “small” money in elections suggest that these reforms may polarize politicians. We conduct a longitudinal study of the effects of campaign finance on ideological sorting in the U.S. Senate in order to understand whether money from small donors causes ideological extremism or whether senators adopt polarizing positions as a strategy for raising money from small donors. The Senate provides a unique window into this question, because senators serve six-year terms and thus enjoy periods of time when they are not immediately accountable to their supporters. We find that a senator's receipts from small donors in previous elections have no effect on their future behavior. Rather, causality appears to flow from the politicians to the donors. Senators' voting behavior leading up to reelection has a significant effect on the money raised from small donors during the reelection at the end of the term. These results suggest that further polarization is not an inevitable consequence of campaign finance reforms that aim to improve equality in representation by expanding access to campaign contributions.
Patriotism and Nationalism, Left and Right: A Q‐Methodology Study of American National Identity
Kristin Hanson & Emma O'Dwyer
Political Psychology, forthcoming
In the current polarized U.S. political environment, what it means to be a “true American” is increasingly contested. Researchers often look to conceptualizations of patriotism and nationalism to account for national identity; but the extent to which these measures capture current understandings of American identity beyond left and right political divides is unknown. In a novel application of Q‐methodology, this study investigates the relationship between patriotism and nationalism measures and participants’ subjective understandings of their national identity. Forty‐seven U.S. citizens representing a wide range of ideological positions constructed American identity profiles by ranking 56 statements taken from patriotic and nationalistic operationalizations. The two extracted profiles revealed national identities largely along left/right ideological, not patriotism/nationalism, lines. Further analysis indicated that the political left and right also differently interpret items within patriotism and nationalism measures. These findings highlight the intertwining of American national identity and political ideology; they also cast doubt on the ideological independence and descriptive value of patriotism and nationalism measures.
Effects of Divisive Political Campaigns on the Day-to-Day Segregation of Arab and Muslim Americans
William Hobbs & Nazita Lajevardi
American Political Science Review, forthcoming
How have Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies affected Arab and Muslim American behavior? We provide evidence that the de facto effects of President Trump’s campaign rhetoric and vague policy positions extended beyond the direct effects of his executive orders. We present findings from three data sources — television news coverage, social media activity, and a survey — to evaluate whether Arab and Muslim Americans reduced their online visibility and retreated from public life. Our results provide evidence that they withdrew from public view: (1) Shared locations on Twitter dropped approximately 10 to 20% among users with Arabic-sounding names after major campaign and election events and (2) Muslim survey respondents reported increased public space avoidance.
School Teasing and Bullying After the Presidential Election
Francis Huang & Dewey Cornell
Educational Researcher, forthcoming
In response to media reports of increased teasing and bullying in schools following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we investigated its prevalence with a Virginia school climate survey completed by approximately 155,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students in 2013, 2015, and 2017. Survey results were mapped onto presidential election results for each school division’s locality. In localities favoring the Republican candidate, there were higher adjusted rates of students reporting that (a) they had experienced some form of bullying in the past year (18% higher) and (b) “students in this school are teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity” (9% higher). For these two outcomes, there were no meaningful differences prior to the election. These results provide modest support for educator concerns about increased teasing and bullying since the 2016 presidential election in some schools and warrant further investigation.
Political parties and mortality: The role of social status and personal responsibility
Viji Diane Kannan et al.
Social Science & Medicine, February 2019, Pages 1-7
Previous research findings across a variety of nations show that affiliation with the conservative party is associated with greater longevity; however, it is thus far unclear what characteristics contribute to this relationship. We examine the political party/mortality relationship in the United States context. The goal of this paper is two-fold: first, we seek to replicate the mortality difference between Republicans and Democrats in two samples, controlling for demographic confounders. Second, we attempt to isolate and test two potential contributors to the relationship between political party affiliation and mortality: (1) socioeconomic status and (2) dispositional traits reflecting a personal responsibility ethos, as described by the Republican party. Graduate and sibling cohorts from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study were used to estimate mortality risk from 2004 to 2014. In separate Cox proportional hazards models controlling for age and sex, we adjusted first for markers of socioeconomic status (such as wealth and education), then for dispositional traits (such as conscientiousness and active coping), and finally for both socioeconomic status and dispositional traits together. Clogg's method was used to test the statistical significance of attenuation in hazard ratios for each model. In both cohorts, Republicans exhibited lower mortality risk compared to Democrats (Hazard Ratios = 0.79 and 0.73 in graduate and sibling cohorts, respectively [p < 0.05]). This relationship was explained, in part, by socioeconomic status and traits reflecting personal responsibility. Together, socioeconomic factors and dispositional traits account for about 52% (graduates) and 44% (siblings) of Republicans' survival advantage. This study suggests that mortality differences between political parties in the US may be linked to structural and individual determinants of health. These findings highlight the need for better understanding of political party divides in mortality rates.
The O'Reilly factor: An ideological bias in judgments about sexual harassment
Sander van der Linden & Costas Panagopoulos
Personality and Individual Differences, March 2019, Pages 198-201
Liberals and conservatives are known to differ in the extent to which they prioritize moral concerns about harm, justice, and particularly, in-group loyalty. Accordingly, here we evaluate ideological differences in the context of an important societal issue: sexual harassment. In a national US sample (N = 1000) participants were asked how big of a problem sexual harassment is in the United States and, following random assignment to one of two conditions, whether they think a prominent liberal (Harvey Weinstein, n = 500) or conservative (Bill O'Reilly, n = 500) should go to jail following sexual harassment accusations. Main results reveal two clear findings; 1) conservatives are generally less concerned about sexual harassment in society and 2) while the probability of condemning Weinstein or O'Reilly was about equal among liberals, conservatives were significantly and substantially more likely to condemn the out-group (Weinstein) than they were to condemn their own in-group (O'Reilly). These findings uncover an important ideological asymmetry in judgments about sexual harassment.
An ideological asymmetry in the diffusion of moralized content on social media among political leaders
William Brady et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming
Online social networks constitute a major platform for the exchange of moral and political ideas, and political elites increasingly rely on social media platforms to communicate directly with the public. However, little is known about the processes that render some political elites more influential than others when it comes to online communication. Here, we gauge influence of political elites on social media by examining how message factors (characteristics of the communication) interact with source factors (characteristics of elites) to impact the diffusion of elites’ messages through Twitter. We analyzed messages (N = 286,255) sent from federal politicians (presidential candidates, members of the Senate and House of Representatives) in the year leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election — a period in which Democrats and Republicans sought to maximize their influence over potential voters. Across all types of elites, we found a “moral contagion” effect: elites’ use of moral-emotional language was robustly associated with increases in message diffusion. We also discovered an ideological asymmetry: conservative elites gained greater diffusion when using moral-emotional language compared to liberal elites, even when accounting for extremity of ideology and other source cues. Specific moral emotion expressions related to moral outrage — namely, moral anger and disgust — were impactful for elites across the political spectrum, whereas moral emotion expression related to religion and patriotism were more impactful for conservative elites. These findings help inform the scientific understanding of political propaganda in the digital age, and the antecedents of political polarization in American politics.
Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes: A seemingly culturally universal and potentially evolved human tendency to hold extreme preferences and values
Biodemography and Social Biology, December 2018, Pages 114-122
Positive psychologists have observed, based on large cross-cultural data, that “most people are happy” and “life is pretty meaningful.” Evolutionary and behavior genetic considerations suggest, however, that the human tendency to hold “extreme” opinions significantly above or below the scale midpoint may be more universal. Analyses of all relevant questions in the 2014 General Social Survey (n = 266 questions and 2,538 respondents) and Wave 6 of the World Values Survey (n = 138 questions and 79,805 respondents in 59 countries) show that, no matter what question one asks anywhere in the world, humans hold “extreme” opinions in nearly all (94.6%) cases, and the observed effect is both highly statistically significant (mean t = 29.44) and large (mean d = .80).
Partisan Bias in Economic News Content: New Evidence
American Politics Research, forthcoming
Claims that the mainstream media are biased in favor of the Democratic Party are commonplace. However, empirical research has yielded mixed results and neglected potential bias in the dynamics of media behavior. This article contributes to this literature by using time series analyses of the dynamics in media tone based on more than 400,000 stories on inflation and unemployment from top-circulating American print media and the Associated Press newswire. The results suggest there is bias in favor of Democratic presidents. Media tone in unemployment and inflation coverage is more favorable during Democratic presidencies after controlling for economic performance. Tone is also generally more responsive to negative, short-term changes in economic conditions during Republican presidencies. In other words, bias is stronger with worsening economic conditions.
Inattention and belief polarization
Kristoffer Nimark & Savitar Sundaresan
Journal of Economic Theory, March 2019, Pages 203-228
Disagreement persists over issues that have objective truths. In the presence of increasing amounts of data, such disagreement should vanish, but it is nonetheless observable. This paper studies persistent disagreement in a model where rational Bayesian agents learn about an unobservable state of the world through noisy signals. We show that agents (i) choose signal structures that are more likely to reinforce their prior beliefs and (ii) choose less informative signals when their prior beliefs are more precise. For sufficiently precise beliefs, agents choose completely uninformative signals. We call the former the confirmation effect and the latter the complacency effect. Taken together, the two effects imply that the beliefs of ex ante identical agents over time can cluster in two distinct groups at opposite ends of the belief space. The complacency effect holds uniformly when information cost is proportional to channel capacity, but not when cost is proportional to reduction in entropy.
Personality moderates the relationship between uncertainty and political violence: Evidence from two large U.S. samples
Personality and Individual Differences, March 2019, Pages 102-109
Acts of political violence have negative consequences for intergroup relations, peaceful democratic participation, and increase mistrust and unrest between political groups and factions within society. A growing literature points to the role of uncertainty in driving political violence, but existing studies tend to rely on student and online convenience samples or macro-level indicators of uncertainty. This paper investigates the generalizability or the relationship between uncertainty and political violence and seeks to uncover whether this relationship is homogeneous in the population or contingent on individual differences in personality. In two large samples of the U.S. adult population (total n = 4806), the relationship between uncertainty and political violence is shown to depend on the trait of openness to experience. For those with low levels of openness, there is a strong and replicable relationship between uncertainty and political violence. This is not the case for those with high levels of openness. This interaction is robust to inclusion of a range of demographics factors, and shows how the combination of low openness and high uncertainty is a high-risk mix for political violence not only in a limited part of the population, but across groups and issue cleavages.
What Goes with Red and Blue? Mapping Partisan and Ideological Associations in the Minds of Voters
Stephen Goggin, John Henderson & Alexander Theodoridis
Political Behavior, forthcoming
To what extent do voters grasp “what goes with what” among key political objects as they attempt to understand the choices they face at the ballot box? Is recognition of these associations limited to only the most informed citizens? We design a novel conjoint classification experiment that minimizes partisan boosting and allows for the relative comparison of attribute effect when mapping voter associative networks, the cluster of attributes linked to parties and ideological labels. We ask respondents to ‘guess’ the party or ideology of hypothetical candidates with fully randomized issue priorities and biographical details. There is remarkable agreement among both high- and low-knowledge voters in linking issues to each party and ideology, suggesting this minimalist form of associative competence is more widely held in the mass public than perhaps previously thought. We find less agreement about biographical traits, which appear to pose greater informational challenges for voters. Notably, nearly identical issue priorities and traits are associated with party and ideology, indicating these two dimensions are largely fused in the minds of today’s American voters.
Are There Long-Term Effects of the Vietnam Draft on Political Attitudes or Behavior? Apparently Not
Donald Green, Tiffany Davenport & Kolby Hanson
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming
The Vietnam draft lottery exposed millions of men to risk of induction at a time when the Vietnam War was becoming increasingly unpopular. We study the long-term effects of draft risk on political attitudes and behaviors of men who were eligible for the draft in 1969–1971. Our 2014–2016 surveys of men who were eligible for the Vietnam draft lotteries reveal no appreciable effect of draft risk across a wide range of political attitudes. These findings are bolstered by analysis of a vast voter registration database, which shows no differences in voting rates or tendency to register with the Democratic or Republican parties. The pattern of weak long-term effects is in line with studies showing that the long-term economic effects of Vietnam draft risk dissipated over time and offers a counterweight to influential observational studies that report long-term persistence in the effects of early experiences on political attitudes.