Party Pooper

Kevin Lewis

March 23, 2010

Revisiting the Divisive Primary Hypothesis: 2008 and the Clinton-Obama Nomination Battle

Todd Makse & Anand Sokhey
American Politics Research, March 2010, Pages 233-265

The 2008 Democratic primary was marked by divisiveness as notable as its historic candidates. And while Barack Obama won the general election, political scientists would be remiss in studying divisive primary effects only when they are electorally decisive. Accordingly, we examine this largely forgotten storyline, searching for these effects throughout different segments of the electorate. Our analysis pursues evidence at multiple levels, focusing on the illustrative case of Franklin County in the bellwether state of Ohio. First, we use aggregate data and ecological inference to ascertain levels of abstention and defection among Clinton supporters, noting patterns in precincts. Next, we analyze original survey data drawn from individuals observed displaying yard signs, examining rates of participation within this engaged population. Overall, the evidence suggests that the primary produced lasting effects in terms of turnout, defection, and other participatory acts - effects that might have cost Obama the presidency under different circumstances.


Minority Status, Ideology, or Opportunity: Explaining the Greater Retirement of House Republicans

Michael Murakami
Legislative Studies Quarterly, May 2009, Pages 219-244

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives tend to retire at a higher rate than Democrats - a fact with potentially important electoral and policy ramifications-but research on the possible explanations for this partisan disparity has been scarce. I test various explanatory hypotheses using multilevel statistical analyses and find that Republicans are more likely to retire - not because they have been the predominant minority party, had more political opportunities, or had different private-sector experiences, but because they harbor more conservative ideologies than their Democratic colleagues.


Cost Benefit Analyses versus Referenda

Martin Osborne & Matthew Turner
Journal of Political Economy, February 2010, Pages 156-187

We consider a planner who chooses between two public policies and ask whether a referendum or a cost benefit analysis leads to higher welfare. We find that a referendum leads to higher welfare than a cost benefit analysis in a "common value" environment. Cost benefit analysis is better in a "private value" environment.


Were Newspapers More Interested in Pro-Obama Letters to the Editor in 2008? Evidence From a Field Experiment

Daniel Butler & Emily Schofield
American Politics Research, March 2010, Pages 356-371

During the 2008 presidential election, the authors submitted letters to the editor at 100 major U.S. newspapers as part of a field experiment to test whether interest in the letter depended on which candidate the letter supported. The authors find, contrary to what charges of a liberal media bias would suggest, that newspapers expressed more interest in pro-McCain letters than pro-Obama letters. Furthermore, it was found that papers were most likely to be interested in letters supporting the candidate they did not endorse, a result that is consistent with the idea that editors seem to be using their gatekeeping powers to allow dissenting opinions to be heard.


The Macro Politics of a Gender Gap

Paul Kellstedt, David Peterson & Mark Ramirez
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

What explains the dynamic movement in the gender gap in public opinion toward government activism over the past 30 years? The thermostatic model of politics suggests that aggregate public opinion adjusts to liberal changes in public policy by preferring less government and to conservative changes in policy by preferring more government. Given the cross-sectional differences in policy preferences between men and women, we argue that the dynamic movement in the gender gap in policy preferences for more or less government spending is a function of asymmetrical responses by men and women to changes in public policy. We find that both men and women respond to changes in public policy by shifting their policy preferences in the same direction. But men appear more responsive to policy changes than do women. It is this asymmetrical response to changes in public policy that is responsible for the dynamics of the gender gap in policy preferences across time. Our results show that the gap increases when policy moves in a liberal direction, as men move in a conservative direction at a faster rate than women. In contrast, when policy moves to the right, the opinions of both men and women will respond by moving to the left, but the greater responsiveness among men will decrease the gap, bringing male preferences closer to the preferences of women.


The Calculus of Cosponsorship in the U.S. Senate

Brian Harward & Kenneth Moffett
Legislative Studies Quarterly, February 2010, Pages 117-143

We investigated why a legislator would be willing to vote "yea" on final passage of a bill but would choose not to cosponsor that bill. We tested a series of hypotheses regarding the cosponsorship decisions of individual senators, using a dataset that includes every major initiative that was introduced and received a floor vote in the Senate between 1975 and 2000. We found that senators are more likely to cosponsor bills when their preferences diverge from the Senate median but are closer to those of the bill's sponsor. Also, senators are more likely to cosponsor bills when they sponsor a higher number of bills overall, when they become more connected with colleagues, and when their constituents increase demand for legislation within particular policy areas. Senators are less likely to cosponsor bills if they received a higher percentage of the general election vote in their most recent election.


Priming Bush and Iraq in 2008: A Survey Experiment

Dan Cassino & Cengiz Erisen
American Politics Research, March 2010, Pages 372-394

Using a question-order experiment, half the respondents in a national RDD (random digit dial) likely voter survey taken just prior to the 2008 Presidential Primary election were primed to think about President Bush and the war in Iraq before making their candidate choice. Results show that the priming had a significant effect on their candidate choice, and that priming individuals to think about the war significantly aided the candidacy of eventual Democratic nominee Barack Obama, more than doubling his support, and hurt then Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani, cutting his support almost in half.


Direct Democracy, Public Opinion, and Candidate Choice

Daniel Smith & Caroline Tolbert
Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2010, Pages 85-108

We argue that the rich information environment created by ballot measures makes some policy issues more salient, shaping voters' positions on broad topics such as the importance of the economy. This in turn may affect candidate choice for national and statewide elected office. We theorize that the creation of state-specific issue publics may be the causal mechanism underlying this process. Using large-sample national survey data with robust samples from the 50 U.S. states, we test whether mass support for a specific policy - raising the minimum wage - is higher in states where the issue is on the ballot, whether being directly exposed to initiative campaigns elevates the importance of broad issues like the economy, and whether the economic-related ballot measures prime support for Democratic candidates. We find that exposure to minimum-wage ballot measure campaigns in 2006 modified support for the policy among partisan subsamples (with Democrats becoming more likely and Republicans less likely to support the measure), increased the saliency of the economy in general among these targeted populations, and primed support for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.


Media and Polarization

Filipe Campante & Daniel Hojman
Harvard Working Paper, January 2010

This paper provides a model of how media environments affect political polarization. We first develop a model of how media environments, characterized by their levels of accessibility and variety of content, interact with citizens' ideological views and attitudes and political motivation. We then embed it in a model of majoritarian electoral competition in which politicians react to those media-influenced views. We show how equilibrium polarization is affected by changes in the media environment, through two channels: the variety effect, whereby a decrease in media variety leads to convergence in citizens' views and hence to lower polarization; and the composition effect, whereby a lowering of barriers to media accessibility increases turnout and hence lowers polarization, since newly motivated voters are relatively more moderate. We take the model's predictions to the data, in the US context of the introduction of broadcast TV, in the 1940s and 1950s, and radio, in the 1920s and 1930s. We show that, consistent with the model's predictions, TV decreased polarization, and exposure to (network) radio was correlated with lower polarization. The evidence suggests that the variety effect was more important than the composition effect.


Voter migration as a source of electoral change in the Rocky Mountain West

Tony Robinson & Stephen Noriega
Political Geography, January 2010, Pages 28-39

Examining county-level voting patterns since 1992, this paper describes the rising strength of the Democratic Party in the Rocky Mountain West and explores domestic migration (voter mobility) as a cause of the electoral change. Other theories of electoral change (voter conversion, voter mobilization and generational replacement) are analyzed and found less significant than a voter migration theory. A spatial autoregressive model also presents evidence of significant contextual "neighborhood effects" contributing to electoral change in the region. Relying on IRS tax-filer migration data, Census data and voting results for all Western counties since 1992, this work finds a significant correlation between growing Democratic strength and in-migration of new voters who generally hail from more Democratic environments than the Western counties into which they are emigrating. The strongest correlations emerge in counties where the share of creative class occupations is also growing quickly. Migrating voters are building a new Western community - a community of creative classes, childless households and urban professionals who are more likely to vote Democrat than the rural conservatives they are increasingly outnumbering.


Feeling the Issue: How Citizens' Affective Reactions and Leadership Perceptions Shape Policy Evaluations

Tereza Capelos
Journal of Political Marketing, January 2010, Pages 9-33

This article examines how general feelings toward political actors shape the way citizens process information about policy issues. Images of political actors are prevalent shortcuts on which we rely during political decision making. A few studies go beyond the cognitive nature of these person-oriented heuristics and demonstrate that affective reactions toward a story protagonist generate swings in the evaluations of policy issues. This research borrows from the literature on persuasion, information processing, affective intelligence, and motivated reasoning to measure how affective responses to the image of a politician determine the way citizens evaluate policy proposals. In this study, an experiment is conducted wherein the name of a politician supporting two actual policy proposals is varied and the corresponding subjects' reactions to the policy content is measured. Findings suggest that the images projected by political candidates function as "gut-level" affective (emotional) shortcuts, such that when citizens dislike the source of the policy, they also adjust their policy evaluations downward. There is also evidence of differentiation in the way political images affect policy evaluation on the basis of political knowledge and trust.

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