Partisan Outlook

Kevin Lewis

September 11, 2009

Partisanship and Economic Behavior: Do Partisan Differences in Economic Forecasts Predict Real Economic Behavior?

Alan Gerber & Gregory Huber
American Political Science Review, August 2009, Pages 407-426

Survey data regularly show that assessments of current and expected future economic performance are more positive when a respondent's partisanship matches that of the president. To determine if this is a survey artifact or something deeper, we investigate whether partisanship is associated with behavioral differences in economic decisions. We construct a new data set of county-level quarterly taxable sales to examine the effect of partisanship on consumption. Consumption change following a presidential election is correlated with a county's partisan complexion, a result consistent with partisans acting outside the domain of politics in accordance with the opinions they express in surveys. These results support an expansive view of the role of partisanship in mass politics and help validate surveys as a method for studying political behavior.


Southern Disillusionment with the Democratic Party: Cultural Conformity and "the Great Melding" of Racial and Economic Conservatism in Alabama during World War II

Glenn Feldman
Journal of American Studies, August 2009, Pages 199-230

This essay explores growing disillusionment with the national Democratic Party in the southern United States, disillusionment that led to third-party movements such as the Dixiecrats and George Wallacism, and eventually southern allegiance to the modern Republican Party. The essay focusses on Alabama during the first half of the 1940s, where a "Great Melding" between economic conservatism and racial conservatism came to maturity. The melding resulted in a cross-class and pan-white alliance in a state that had experienced periodic plain-white challenges to business and planter elite dominance. It also resulted in the use by economic conservatives of white supremacy and allied conservative norms on gender, class, religion, and militaristic hyper-patriotism to suppress future working-class insurgency, and set the stage for a more formal southern disassociation from the Democratic Party and eventual conversion to Republicanism.


Legislative Diversity and Social Tolerance: How Multiparty Systems Lead to Tolerant Citizens

Kris Dunn, Salomon Orellana & Shane Singh
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, August 2009, Pages 283-312

This article argues that individuals in countries with a more diverse political discourse express high levels of social tolerance relative to those in low-discourse countries. Political systems with more parties facilitate the consideration of a broader range of issues, including those relevant to the interests of marginalized groups, and greater exposure to these issues increases individually-held levels of social tolerance. Using data from the World Values Survey and other sources, we demonstrate that the number of parties in the legislature is positively related to social tolerance. Our results are robust across several model specifications.


Individualism, conservatism, and radicalism as criteria for processing political beliefs: A parametric fMRI study

Giovanna Zamboni, Marta Gozzi, Frank Krueger, Jean-Reneacute Duhamel, Angela Sirigu & Jordan Grafman
Social Neuroscience, October 2009, Pages 367-383

Politics is a manifestation of the uniquely human ability to debate, decide, and reach consensus on decisions affecting large groups over long durations of time. Recent neuroimaging studies on politics have focused on the association between brain regions and specific political behaviors by adopting party or ideological affiliation as a criterion to classify either experimental stimuli or subjects. However, it is unlikely that complex political beliefs (i.e., "the government should protect freedom of speech") are evaluated only on a liberal-to-conservative criterion. Here we used multidimensional scaling and parametric functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify which criteria/dimensions people use to structure complex political beliefs and which brain regions are concurrently activated. We found that three independent dimensions explained the variability of a set of statements expressing political beliefs and that each dimension was reflected in a distinctive pattern of neural activation: individualism (medial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction), conservatism (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), and radicalism (ventral striatum and posterior cingulate). The structures we identified are also known to be important in self-other processing, social decision-making in ambivalent situations, and reward prediction. Our results extend current knowledge on the neural correlates of the structure of political beliefs, a fundamental aspect of the human ability to coalesce into social entities.


Belief Overkill in Political Judgments

Jonathan Baron
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2009

When people tend toward a political decision, such as voting for the Republican Party, they are often attracted to this decision by one issue, such as the party's stance on abortion, but then they come to see other issues, such as the party's stand on taxes, as supporting their decision, even if they would not have thought so in the absence of the decision. I demonstrate this phenomenon with opinion poll data and with an experiment done on the World Wide Web using hypothetical candidates. For the hypothetical candidates, judgments about whether a candidate's position on issue A favors the candidate or the opponent are correlated with judgments about other positions taken by the candidate (as determined from other hypothetical candidates). Although this effect is small, it is greater in those subjects who rarely make conflicting judgments, in which one issue favors a candidate and another favors the opponent. In a few cases, judgments even reverse, so that a position that is counted as a minus for other candidates becomes a plus for a favored candidate. Reversals in the direction of a candidate's position are more likely when the candidate is otherwise favored. The experiment provides a new kind of demonstration of 'belief overkill,' the tendency to bring all arguments into line with a favored conclusion.


Symbolic threat and social dominance among liberals and conservatives: SDO reflects conformity to political values

Kimberly Rios Morrison & Oscar Ybarra
European Journal of Social Psychology, October 2009, Pages 1039-1052

Three studies tested the effects of symbolic threat to group values and strength of ingroup (political party) identification on social dominance orientation (SDO), a measure of tolerance for social hierarchies. In Studies 1 and 3, conservative participants were made to feel as though their group's values were either threatened or not threatened by liberals prior to completing the SDO measure. In Studies 2 and 3, liberal participants were made to feel as though their group's values were either threatened or not threatened by conservatives prior to completing the SDO measure. Results demonstrated that high ingroup (political party) identification was associated with high SDO scores for threatened conservatives, and with low SDO for threatened liberals. These findings suggest that in response to symbolic threat, SDO can shift in directions consistent with protecting the ingroup's identity.


Minority Party Gains Under State Legislative Term Limits

Richard Powell
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Spring 2008, Pages 32-47

The term limits movement of the 1990s was largely driven by Republican-led groups as part of a larger strategy to unseat entrenched Democratic incumbents in Congress and state legislatures. Likewise, many political scientists predicted that, as the traditional minority party, Republicans would benefit from term limits by eliminating the Democrats' incumbency advantage. However, other studies provided reasons to be skeptical of these predicted gains. No empirical study has yet examined the accuracy of these predictions. This study seeks to fill this void by utilizing multivariate data analysis to study the impact of term limits on the partisan composition of state legislatures from 1990 to 2004. The findings suggest that, holding other factors constant, Republicans have not gained representation at the state legislative level under term limits as was predicted.


Measuring party support: Leaners are not independents

John Richard Petrocik
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Many Americans, especially middle class and better educated ones, call themselves independent and citizens who choose the better candidate regardless of party affiliation. Their numbers seem to have increased in recent decades to nearly 40% of the electorate. The description and estimate are misleading. Very few Americans lack a party preference. Our largely unchanged high levels of party voting and the willingness of most "independents" to acknowledge a party preference after a bit of probing indicates that independence is more a matter of self-presentation than an accurate statement about our approach to elections, candidates, the parties, and politics in general. Most of the independents in national surveys and most of the increase in their numbers are contributed by "leaners" (those who initially describe themselves as independents but then acknowledge a preference for either the Democrats or Republicans). Leaners are partisans. Characterizing them as independents underestimates the partisanship of Americans and leads to inaccurate estimates of party effects and the responsiveness of the electorate to short-term electoral forces. The frequent treatment of leaners as independents in The American Voter Revisited contributes to this all-too-common misconception.


Party Coalitions and Interest Group Networks

Matt Grossman & Casey Dominguez
American Politics Research, September 2009, Pages 767-800

We analyze affiliation networks of interest groups that endorse the same candidates in primary elections, donate to the same candidates in general elections, and voice support for the same legislative proposals. Patterns of interest group ties resemble two competing party coalitions in elections but not in legislative debate. Campaign endorsement and financial contribution ties among interest groups are consistently correlated but legislative ties do not follow directly from electoral alliances. The results challenge the consensus in the emerging literature on the expanded party organization; interest groups have distinct incentives to join together in a party coalition in elections but also to build bipartisan grand coalitions to pursue legislative goals. We also modify conventional views on party differences. The Democratic coalition is not fractured into many small constituencies. The Democratic campaign and legislative networks are denser than equivalent Republican networks, with a core of labor organizations occupying central positions.

Cable News, Public Opinion, and the 2004 Party Conventions

Jonathan Morris & Peter Francia
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

In this study, the authors test for the presence of bias during Fox News and CNN's coverage of the 2004 national party conventions. The content analysis demonstrates that Fox News's coverage was more favorable to the Republican Party than it was to the Democratic Party, while CNN's coverage was more impartial. The authors also use panel data from the National Annenberg Election Survey to show how opinion change toward the 2004 presidential candidates was associated with exposure to cable television coverage of the national party conventions. These findings highlight the evolving role of the cable news media in presidential campaigns and elections.


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