Political distancing

Kevin Lewis

April 10, 2020

Party Sub‐Brands and American Party Factions
Andrew Clarke
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Scholars and pundits have long noted the dominance of the American two‐party system, but we know relatively little about new, endogenous institutions that have emerged within the two major parties. I argue that ideological factions provide party sub‐brands, which allow legislators to more precisely define their partisan type and capture faction‐specific resources. To support this claim, I analyze new data on nine ideological factions in the House of Representatives (1995–2018). I find that (1) faction voting is distinct, suggesting a product ripe for party sub‐branding, and (2) joining a faction changes the ideological composition of a candidate's donor base — conditional on the strength of the faction's institutions. Party sub‐branding is effective only when factions possess organizational features that induce coordinated and disciplined position taking (e.g., whips, PACs, membership restrictions). These results suggest that, even within highly polarized parties, American political ideology is more than a dichotomous choice, and factions target niche markets of political donors as a means of blunting financial instruments of party power.

Anti-Intellectualism, Populism, and Motivated Resistance to Expert Consensus
Eric Merkley
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

Scholars have maintained that public attitudes often diverge from expert consensus due to ideology-driven motivated reasoning. However, this is not a sufficient explanation for less salient and politically charged questions. More attention needs to be given to anti-intellectualism — the generalized mistrust of intellectuals and experts. Using data from the General Social Survey and a survey of 3,600 Americans on Amazon Mechanical Turk, I provide evidence of a strong association between anti-intellectualism and opposition to scientific positions on climate change, nuclear power, GMOs, and water fluoridation, particularly for respondents with higher levels of political interest. Second, a survey experiment shows that anti-intellectualism moderates the acceptance of expert consensus cues such that respondents with high levels of anti-intellectualism actually increase their opposition to these positions in response. Third, evidence shows anti-intellectualism is connected to populism, a worldview that sees political conflict as primarily between ordinary citizens and a privileged societal elite. Exposure to randomly assigned populist rhetoric, even that which does not pertain to experts directly, primes anti-intellectual predispositions among respondents in the processing of expert consensus cues. These findings suggest that rising anti-elite rhetoric may make anti-intellectual sentiment more salient in information processing.

Political Beliefs affect Compliance with COVID-19 Social Distancing Orders
Marcus Painter & Tian Qiu
University of Kentucky Working Paper, April 2020

Social distancing is vital to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. We use geolocation data to document that political beliefs present a significant limitation to the effectiveness of state-level social distancing orders. Residents in Republican counties are less likely to completely stay at home after a state order has been implemented relative to those in Democratic counties. We also find that Democrats are less likely to respond to a state-level order when it is issued by a Republican governor relative to one issued by a Democratic governor. These results are robust to controlling for other factors including time, geography, local COVID-19 cases and deaths, and other social distancing orders. We conclude that bipartisan support is essential to maximize the effectiveness of social distancing orders.

Political isolation in America
Byungkyu Lee & Peter Bearman
Network Science, forthcoming

This study documents historical trends of size and political diversity in Americans’ discussion networks, which are often seen as important barometers of social and political health. Contrasting findings from data drawn out of a nationally representative survey experiment of 1,055 Americans during the contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election to data arising from 11 national data sets covering nearly three decades, we find that Americans’ core networks are significantly smaller and more politically homogeneous than at any other period. Several methodological artifacts seem unlikely to account for the effect. We show that in this period, more than before, “important matters” were often framed as political matters, and that this association probably accounts for the smaller networks.

Moral Values and Voting
Benjamin Enke
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

This paper studies the supply of and demand for moral values in recent U.S. presidential elections. Using a combination of large-scale survey data and text analyses, I find support for the hypothesis that both voters and politicians exhibit heterogeneity in their emphasis on universalist relative to communal moral values, and that politicians’ vote shares partly reflect the extent to which their moral appeal matches the values of the electorate. Over the last decade, Americans’ values have become increasingly communal – especially in rural areas – which generated increased moral polarization and is associated with changes in voting patterns across space.

Was There a Culture War? Partisan Polarization and Secular Trends in US Public Opinion
Delia Baldassarri & Barum Park
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

According to many scholars of public opinion, most of the fast-growing divides between Democrats and Republicans over the last few decades have taken place on moral issues. We find that the process of issue partisanship — the sorting of political preferences along partisan lines — properly accounts for public opinion dynamics in the economic and civil rights domains. However, when it comes to moral issues, the prominent change is a partisan secular trend, in which both Democrats and Republicans are adopting more progressive views, although at a different rate. While Democrats are early adopters of progressive views, Republicans adopt the same views at a slower pace. This secular change can be easily (mis)interpreted as a sign of polarization since, at the onset of the process, the gap between party supporters broadens because of the faster pace at which Democrats adopt progressive views, and only toward the end, the gap between partisan supporters decreases.

The Epistemics of Populism and the Politics of Uncertainty
Richard Bronk & Wade Jacoby
BYU Working Paper, February 2020

This paper discusses epistemic aspects of populism – especially its link with radical uncertainty and the tribal construction of facts – that have so far received relatively little attention. We argue that populism is less a backward-looking phenomenon feeding off existing grievances than a narrative-based reaction to an increasingly unsettled future. Many economic factors isolated as causes of populism – especially rapid technological innovation, deregulation, and the globalisation of networks – entail a high degree of indeterminacy in social systems; and the corresponding uncertainty facing voters is a catalyst for many of the pathologies of populism isolated in the literature. In particular, uncertainty undermines the credibility of experts, while the disorientation and anxiety it induces increase reliance on simple narratives to structure expectations. The paper explores the role of narrative entrepreneurs, the relationship between narratives and power, and the dynamics of narrative coups designed to create alternative facts and perform a new reality.

When in Danger, Turn Right: Covid-19 Threat Promotes Social Conservatism and Right-Wing Presidential Candidates
Maciej Karwowski et al.
University of Wrocław Working Paper, March 2020

The recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forms an enormous challenge for the world's economy, governments, and societies. Drawing upon the Parasite Model of Democratization (Thornhill, R., Fincher, C. L., & Aran, D. (2009), parasites, democratization, and the liberalization of values across contemporary countries, Biological Reviews, 84(1), 113-131) across two large, preregistered experiments conducted in the USA and Poland (total N = 1,237), we examined the psychological and political consequences of this unprecedented pandemic. By manipulating saliency of COVID-19, we demonstrate that activating thinking about coronavirus elevates Americans' and Poles' anxiety and indirectly promotes their social conservatism as well as support for more conservative presidential candidates. The pattern obtained was consistent in both countries and it implies that the pandemic may result in a shift in political views. Both theoretical and practical consequences of the findings are discussed.

Geographic Divides and Cosmopolitanism: Evidence From Switzerland
Rahsaan Maxwell
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Large cities are cosmopolitan environments where people embrace inter-national connections whereas small towns, villages, and the countryside are more likely to prioritize the maintenance of national traditions. These geographic divides are at the center of contemporary politics but we do not know why they exist. One possibility is that cities make people more cosmopolitan while smaller areas make people less cosmopolitan. However, credibly measuring geographic effects is difficult because people sort across geography in ways that are correlated with political attitudes. I address these methodological challenges with longitudinal data from the Swiss Household Panel. My central result is that evidence of contextual effects is limited and unlikely to account for the broad geographic divides. Instead, sorting is likely to be the most important explanation for spatial polarization over cosmopolitanism. These findings have several implications for our understanding of geographic divides.

From Personal to Partisan: Abortion, Party, and Religion Among California State Legislators
David Karol & Chloe Thurston
Studies in American Political Development, forthcoming

The parties’ polarization on abortion is a signal development. Yet while the issue has been much discussed, scholars have said less about how it reveals the unstable relationship between legislators’ personal backgrounds and their issue positions. We argue that the importance of personal characteristics may wane as links between parties and interest groups develop. We focus on the case of abortion in the California State Assembly — one of the first legislative bodies to wrestle with the issue in modern times. Drawing from newly collected evidence on legislator and district religion and Assembly voting, we show that divisions on abortion were chiefly religious in the 1960s — with Catholics in both parties opposing reform — but later became highly partisan. This shift was distinct from overall polarization and was not a result of district-level factors or “sorting” of legislators by religion into parties. Instead, growing ties between new movements and parties — feminists for Democrats and the Christian Right for the Republicans — made party affiliation supplant religion as the leading cue for legislators on abortion, impelling many incumbents to revise their positions. Archival and secondary evidence further show that activists sent new cues to legislators about the importance of their positions on these issues. Showing how personal characteristics became outweighed by partisan considerations contributes to understanding of party position change and polarization, as well as processes of representation and abortion politics.

Media Competition and News Diets
Charles Angelucci, Julia Cagé & Michael Sinkinson
NBER Working Paper, February 2020

News media operate in two-sided markets, offering bundles of content to readers as well as selling readers' attention to advertisers. Technological innovations in content delivery, such as the advent of broadcast television or of the Internet, affect both sides of the market, threatening the basic economic model of print news operations. We examine how the entry of television affected local newspapers as well as consumer media diets in the United States. We develop a model of print media and show that entry of national television news could adversely affect the provision of local news. We construct a novel dataset of U.S. newspapers' economic performance and content choices from 1944 to 1964. Our empirical strategy exploits quasi-random variation in the timing of the entry of television in different markets. We show that the entry of television was a negative shock for newspapers, particularly evening newspapers, in both the readership and advertising markets. Further, we find a drop in the total quantity of news printed, in particular original reporting, raising concerns about the provision of local news.

The Implied Truth Effect: Attaching Warnings to a Subset of Fake News Headlines Increases Perceived Accuracy of Headlines Without Warnings
Gordon Pennycook et al.
Management Science, forthcoming

What can be done to combat political misinformation? One prominent intervention involves attaching warnings to headlines of news stories that have been disputed by third-party fact-checkers. Here we demonstrate a hitherto unappreciated potential consequence of such a warning: an implied truth effect, whereby false headlines that fail to get tagged are considered validated and thus are seen as more accurate. With a formal model, we demonstrate that Bayesian belief updating can lead to such an implied truth effect. In Study 1 (n = 5,271 MTurkers), we find that although warnings do lead to a modest reduction in perceived accuracy of false headlines relative to a control condition (particularly for politically concordant headlines), we also observed the hypothesized implied truth effect: the presence of warnings caused untagged headlines to be seen as more accurate than in the control. In Study 2 (n = 1,568 MTurkers), we find the same effects in the context of decisions about which headlines to consider sharing on social media. We also find that attaching verifications to some true headlines — which removes the ambiguity about whether untagged headlines have not been checked or have been verified — eliminates, and in fact slightly reverses, the implied truth effect. Together these results contest theories of motivated reasoning while identifying a potential challenge for the policy of using warning tags to fight misinformation — a challenge that is particularly concerning given that it is much easier to produce misinformation than it is to debunk it.

Out of sync, out of society: Political beliefs and social networks
Won-tak Joo & Jason Fletcher
Network Science, forthcoming

Who is more likely to be isolated from society in terms of political beliefs? To answer this question, we measure whether individuals’ beliefs are “out of sync” — the extent to which their views differ with their contemporaries — and examine how the level of synchronization is associated with the size of important-matter and political-matter discussion networks. The results show that people with weaker belief synchronization are more likely to have smaller important-matter discussion networks. However, additional analyses of political-matter discussion networks show that weaker belief synchronization is associated with smaller networks only among those without a high school diploma and even provides some advantage in maintaining larger networks for the college-educated. Overall, the results imply that political beliefs that are “out of sync” correspond to the individual being “out of society,” whereas the aspects of “out of society” are quite different among educational groups.

The Effects of the Mating Market, Sex, Age, and Income on Sociopolitical Orientation
Francesca Luberti, Khandis Blake & Robert Brooks
Human Nature, March 2020, Pages 88–111

Sociopolitical attitudes are often the root cause of conflicts between individuals, groups, and even nations, but little is known about the origin of individual differences in sociopolitical orientation. We test a combination of economic and evolutionary ideas about the degree to which the mating market, sex, age, and income affect sociopolitical orientation. We collected data online through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk from 1108 US participants who were between 18 and 60, fluent in English, and single. While ostensibly testing a new online dating website, participants created an online dating profile and described people they would like to date. We manipulated the participants’ popularity in the mating market and the size of the market (i.e., the number of ideal partners in the market) and then measured participants’ sociopolitical attitudes. The sociopolitical attitudes were reduced to five dimensions via Principal Components Analysis (Sociosexuality, Benevolent Sexism, Wealth Redistribution, Nonconforming Behaviors, and Traditional Family Values). Both manipulations affected attitudes toward wealth redistribution but were largely not significant predictors of the other dimensions. Men reported more unrestricted sociosexual attitudes, and more support for benevolent sexism and traditional family values, than women did, and women supported wealth redistribution more than men did. There was no sex difference in accepting nonconforming behaviors. Younger people and people with lower incomes were more liberal than older people and people with higher incomes, respectively, regardless of sex. Overall, effects were largely not interactive, suggesting that individual differences in sociopolitical orientation may reflect strategic self-interest and be more straightforward than previously predicted.

Selective Exposure and the Authoritarian Dynamic: Evidence From Canada and the United States
Robert Hinckley & Allison Harell
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2020, Pages 151-172

This study explores to what extent selective exposure to political messages can produce political (in)tolerance among authoritarians and non-authoritarians. Drawing on a selection-exposure experiment embedded within an online survey conducted in the United States (N = 1978) and Canada (N = 1673), we explore how authoritarians and non-authoritarians react to framing around civil liberties controversies. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a message about a controversial group. In the forced-choice condition, participants were randomly assigned a political or non-political message. In a second condition, participants were given a choice of which message to read more about. The results show that authoritarians who are politically knowledgeable generally avoid messages that promote free speech by consuming non-political information. While messages about the dangers of free speech have the potential to produce more intolerance among authoritarians, we found that this effect was limited to those who are the least likely to consume them when given a choice. By contrast, we found that messages about the risk posed by free speech produced intolerance among non-authoritarians for whom threat-related cognitions were already chronically accessible. The effects of pro-civil liberties messages were limited to unthreatened non-authoritarians. Hence, we conclude that in the contemporary information environment selective exposure can increase polarization around a civil liberties controversy by producing attitude change but this occurs mainly among non-authoritarians.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid! Motivated Intergroup Emotion Regulation
Liat Netzer, Eran Halperin & Maya Tamir
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Group-based emotions can shape group members’ behaviors and intergroup relations. Therefore, we propose that people may try to regulate emotions of outgroup members to attain ingroup goals. We call this phenomenon “motivated intergroup emotion regulation.” In four studies, conducted in both hypothetical and real-world contexts, we show that deterrence and reconciliation goals influence how fearful or calm people want outgroup members to feel, respectively. We further show that such motivated intergroup emotion regulation can guide behavior toward the outgroup, influencing how outgroup members feel (Studies 1, 2, and 4) and behave (Study 4). We demonstrate how affiliation with the ingroup, which renders ingroup goals more salient, shapes what ingroup members want outgroup members to feel (Studies 3 and 4) and subsequently how outgroup members feel and behave (Study 4). Finally, we discuss how motivated intergroup emotion regulation might contribute to understanding motivation in emotion regulation, group-based emotions, and intergroup relations.


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