Party Hard

Kevin Lewis

August 04, 2010

Activists and Conflict Extension in American Party Politics

Geoffrey Layman, Thomas Carsey, John Green, Richard Herrera & Rosalyn Cooperman
American Political Science Review, May 2010, Pages 324-346

Party activists have played a leading role in "conflict extension" - the polarization of the parties along multiple issue dimensions - in contemporary American politics. We argue that open nomination systems and the ambitious politicians competing within those systems encourage activists with extreme views on a variety of issue dimensions to become involved in party politics, thus motivating candidates to take noncentrist positions on a range of issues. Once that happens, continuing activists with strong partisan commitments bring their views into line with the new candidate agendas, thus extending the domain of interparty conflict. Using cross-sectional and panel surveys of national convention delegates, we find clear evidence for conflict extension among party activists, evidence tentatively suggesting a leading role for activists in partisan conflict extension more generally, and strong support for our argument about change among continuing activists. Issue conversion among activists has contributed substantially to conflict extension and party commitment has played a key role in motivating that conversion.


Polls and Elections Using Approval of the President's Handling of the Economy to Understand Who Polarizes and Why

Gregory McAvoy & Peter Enns
Presidential Studies Quarterly, September 2010, Pages 545-558

The authors utilize data from nearly 200 surveys conducted during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations to evaluate whose presidential evaluations polarize and why. Specifically, assessments of the president's handling of the economy among high-, middle-, and low-education Democrats, independents, and Republicans are considered. The authors find only weak evidence that education moderates partisan evaluations of the president. Throughout the period of analysis, there are more similarities across partisan groups than differences. However, midway through Bush's first term in office, polarization becomes pronounced. Statistical analysis suggests that this pattern arises because Republicans no longer incorporated economic information into their evaluations, as they did during the Clinton presidency.


The Electoral Costs of Party Loyalty in Congress

Jamie Carson, Gregory Koger, Matthew Lebo & Everett Young
American Journal of Political Science, July 2010, Pages 598-616

To what extent is party loyalty a liability for incumbent legislators? Past research on legislative voting and elections suggests that voters punish members who are ideologically "out of step" with their districts. In seeking to move beyond the emphasis in the literature on the effects of ideological extremity on legislative vote share, we examine how partisan loyalty can adversely affect legislators' electoral fortunes. Specifically, we estimate the effects of each legislator's party unity - the tendency of a member to vote with his or her party on salient issues that divide the two major parties - on vote margin when running for reelection. Our results suggest that party loyalty on divisive votes can indeed be a liability for incumbent House members. In fact, we find that voters are not punishing elected representatives for being too ideological; they are punishing them for being too partisan.


Divisive Primaries and Incumbent General Election Performance: Prospects and Costs in U.S. House Races

Gregg Johnson, Meredith-Joy Petersheim & Jesse Wasson
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Do divisive primaries hurt incumbents? If so, does the electoral calendar condition their effects? Potential challengers are predatory and estimate their electoral chances before running against an incumbent, meaning electoral prospects influence both primary divisiveness and general election performance. However, divisive primaries may waste precious campaign resources and damage the primary winner's reputation. The evidence suggests that although divisive primaries generally hurt incumbents and help challengers as electoral prospects theory predicts, these effects wane and eventually disappear the closer the primary is to the general election.


Congressional Parties and the Mobilization of Leadership PAC Contributions

Eric Heberlig & Bruce Larson
Party Politics, July 2010, Pages 451-475

Traditionally, observers have characterized leadership political action committees (LPACs) as tools used by political entrepreneurs to build personal coalitions supporting their power and policy goals. We argue that political context - namely, competition for control of the House and the advancement structures created by the parties - shapes the way House members use LPAC contributions to advance their careers. As congressional parties have become more oriented towards attaining majority status since the GOP takeover in 1995, LPAC contributions should have shifted towards helping the party win majority status rather than building individual coalitions. We use rare events logit to estimate the probability of incumbent to candidate contributions in the 1990, 1998 and 2004 election cycles. Our evidence shows that Democratic, but not Republican, LPAC contributions have generally become more party-centred as party margins have tightened.


Does an EMILY's List Endorsement Predict Electoral Success, or Does EMILY Pick the Winners?

Rebecca Hannagan, Jamie Pimlott & Levente Littvay
PS: Political Science & Politics, July 2010, Pages 503-508

Women's political action committees (PACs)-those committees founded by women to raise money for women candidates-have been and will likely continue to be an important part of American electoral politics. In this article, we investigate the impact of EMILY's List, because it is the standard bearer of women's PACs and is commonly cited as crucial to women's electoral success. Empirical studies of EMILY's List impact to date have largely assumed causal inference by using traditional linear models. We use a propensity score-matching model to leverage on causality and find that an EMILY endorsement helps some candidates and hurts others. Our findings set the stage for further and more nuanced investigations of when, where, and how EMILY's List can enhance the likelihood of electoral success for women.


Constituents' Responses to Congressional Roll-Call Voting

Stephen Ansolabehere & Philip Edward Jones
American Journal of Political Science, July 2010, Pages 583-597

Do citizens hold their representatives accountable for policy decisions, as commonly assumed in theories of legislative politics? Previous research has failed to yield clear evidence on this question for two reasons: measurement error arising from noncomparable indicators of legislators' and constituents' preferences and potential simultaneity between constituents' beliefs about and approval of their representatives. Two new national surveys address the measurement problem directly by asking respondents how they would vote and how they think their representatives voted on key roll-call votes. Using the actual votes, we can, in turn, construct instrumental variables that correct for simultaneity. We find that the American electorate responds strongly to substantive representation. (1) Nearly all respondents have preferences over important bills before Congress. (2) Most constituents hold beliefs about their legislators' roll-call votes that reflect both the legislators' actual behavior and the parties' policy reputations. (3) Constituents use those beliefs to hold their legislators accountable.


Convergence and divergence in state political behavior, 1970-2004

John Dinan & Jac Heckelman
Social Science Journal, September 2010, Pages 689-698

In view of the ongoing debate about the degree and direction of political polarization in the U.S., we assess whether the 50 states are converging or diverging in their behavior in state and federal elections. We find that states are diverging in their behavior in federal elections but converging in their behavior in state elections. Previous scholars have shown the need to distinguish between the degree of polarization of elites and ordinary citizens. Our findings demonstrate the further need to distinguish between trends in partisan polarization at the federal and state level.


Is the party over? The decline of party activism and membership across the democratic world

Paul Whiteley
Party Politics, forthcoming

The decline of party activism and membership in European democracies has been well documented, but not effectively explained. This article examines the state of party membership and activism across a wide spectrum of democratic countries and shows that membership is in decline in most of them. It tests two rival explanations of the decline using a cross-sectional multi-level analysis of data from the ISSP Citizenship survey of 2004. One hypothesis is that the decline is due to 'state capture', or excessive state regulation brought about by an ever-closer relationship between parties and the state which has the effect of stifling voluntary activity at the grassroots level. A second suggests that parties are being undermined by the growth of relatively new forms of participation, notably cheque book participation, and consumer and Internet participation. These provide alternative outlets for political action outside traditional forms of participation such as party involvement. There is evidence to support the first of these hypotheses, but not the second.


WFB: The Gladiatorial Style and the Politics of Provocation

Michael Lee
Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Summer 2010, Pages 217-250

William F. Buckley afforded conservatives of all stripes a provocative rhetorical style, a gladiatorial style, as I term it. The gladiatorial style is a flashy, combative style whose ultimate aim is the creation of inflammatory drama. I claim that conservatives encountered Buckley's potent arguments about God, government, and markets and the gladiatorial style simultaneously. The theatrical appeal of Buckley's gladiatorial style inspired conservative imitators with disparate beliefs and, over several decades, became one of the principal rhetorical templates for the performance of conservatism.


The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever "Get It"?

David Redlawsk, Andrew Civettini & Karen Emmerson
Political Psychology, August 2010, Pages 563-593

In order to update candidate evaluations voters must acquire information and determine whether that new information supports or opposes their candidate expectations. Normatively, new negative information about a preferred candidate should result in a downward adjustment of an existing evaluation. However, recent studies show exactly the opposite; voters become more supportive of a preferred candidate in the face of negatively valenced information. Motivated reasoning is advanced as the explanation, arguing that people are psychologically motivated to maintain and support existing evaluations. Yet it seems unlikely that voters do this ad infinitum. To do so would suggest continued motivated reasoning even in the face of extensive disconfirming information. In this study we consider whether motivated reasoning processes can be overcome simply by continuing to encounter information incongruent with expectations. If so, voters must reach a tipping point after which they begin more accurately updating their evaluations. We show experimental evidence that such an affective tipping point does in fact exist. We also show that as this tipping point is reached, anxiety increases, suggesting that the mechanism that generates the tipping point and leads to more accurate updating may be related to the theory of affective intelligence. The existence of a tipping point suggests that voters are not immune to disconfirming information after all, even when initially acting as motivated reasoners.


Are Governors Responsible for the State Economy? Partisanship, Blame, and Divided Federalism

Adam Brown
Journal of Politics, July 2010, Pages 605-615

In the United States, voters directly elect dozens of politicians: presidents, governors, legislators, mayors, and so on. How do voters decide which politician to blame for which policy outcomes? Previous research on gubernatorial approval has suggested that voters divide policy blame between governors and the president based on each office's "functional responsibilities" - requiring that responsibilities are clear cut, which is seldom true. Using data from four surveys, I show that voters actually divide responsibility for economic conditions in a partisan manner, preferring to blame officials from the opposing party when problems arise.


Party Identification, Issue Attitudes, and the Dynamics of Political Debate

Logan Dancey & Paul Goren
American Journal of Political Science, July 2010, Pages 686-699

This article investigates whether media coverage of elite debate surrounding an issue moderates the relationship between individual-level partisan identities and issue preferences. We posit that when the news media cover debate among partisan elites on a given issue, citizens update their party identities and issue attitudes. We test this proposition for a quartet of prominent issues debated during the first Clinton term: health care reform, welfare reform, gay rights, and affirmative action. Drawing on data from the Vanderbilt Television News Archives and the 1992-93-94-96 NES panel, we demonstrate that when partisan debate on an important issue receives extensive media coverage, partisanship systematically affects - and is affected by - issue attitudes. When the issue is not being contested, dynamic updating between party ties and issue attitudes ceases.

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