Kevin Lewis

November 16, 2012

Presidential "Going Bipartisan" and the Consequences for Institutional Approval

Brandon Rottinghaus & Kent Tedin
American Behavioral Scientist, December 2012, Pages 1696-1717

Although scholars have described how legislative efforts to spur bipartisanship fare, we have little knowledge about how bipartisanship can affect political opinions with their rhetoric or the most impactful message for opponents to respond. Using President Obama's bipartisan speech to the GOP House Issues Conference in 2010, we look at the effect of the one-sided message on President Obama's favorability rating. We then pair this message with three competing messages of varying partisanship to determine the degree of change (if any). The results show that the President's one-sided message is effective, but if met with a competitive bipartisan message from the opposition party, approval of the President by all partisan groups increases even more. However, if the President's bipartisan message frame is met using a partisan message from the opposition party, the President's approval declines among all partisans, and approval of the Republicans in Congress increases but only for Republican identifiers.


The Responsiveness of Direct and Indirect Elections

Steven Rogers
Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2012, Pages 509-532

Previous research argues the Seventeenth Amendment made Senate elections more responsive. To make this claim, existing work compares the vote-seat relationships of direct and indirect elections before and after the Seventeenth Amendment. I argue this approach is problematic because it does not account for regional variation and compares elections from different time periods using presidential instead of Senate vote. I overcome these problems by simulating indirect elections using state legislatures' partisan compositions to evaluate the responsiveness of direct and indirect elections after the Seventeenth Amendment. With this counterfactual approach, my findings suggest direct elections are not necessary for electoral responsiveness.


The Effects of Legislative Term Limits on State Fiscal Conditions

Jeff Cummins
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Advocates of term limits argued that term limits would help reduce out-of-control government spending by removing veteran legislators who became acclimated to the prospending environment in our nation's capitals. However, previous research shows that term limits may increase spending, which could jeopardize state fiscal health. The primary purpose of this article is to examine whether states with term limits encounter more fiscal problems than non-term-limited states. I suggest that the short-term fiscal outlooks and loss of experienced legislators produced by term-limit turnover lead to poor fiscal conditions. Myopic legislators may avoid tough fiscal decisions, while inexperienced legislators may be ill-equipped to develop sound fiscal policy. Analysis of budget data on U.S. states from 1983 to 2008 reveals that legislative turnover decreases budget balances. Results further show that these effects do not appear in the upper chamber, perhaps because state senates have more experienced legislators than the lower chamber.


Incumbent and Party Vulnerabilities in the House of Representatives

Jing Lin & Jeff Stonecash
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, October 2012

The conventional portrait of House elections is that they are overwhelmingly constituted of incumbents who are increasingly safe. Yet the evidence does not support that picture. Widespread incumbency and electoral volatility can much more easily coexist than the conventional wisdom has suggested. Many Members are indeed vulnerable, which makes party control vulnerable as well.


Keeping Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer? Information Networks in Legislative Politics

Nils Ringe, Jennifer Nicoll Victor & Justin Gross
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

The authors contribute to the existing literature on the determinants of legislative voting by offering a social network-based theory about the ways that legislators' social relationships affect floor voting behaviour. It is argued that legislators establish contacts with both political friends and enemies, and that they use the information they receive from these contacts to increase their confidence in their own policy positions. Social contacts between political allies have greater value the more the two allies agree on policy issues, while social contacts between political adversaries have greater value the more the two adversaries disagree on policy issues. To test these propositions, we use social network analysis tools and demonstrate how to account for network dependence using a multilevel modelling approach.


How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote: The Effect of Legislator Credit Claiming on Constituent Credit Allocation

Justin Grimmer, Solomon Messing & Sean Westwood
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Particularistic spending, a large literature argues, builds support for incumbents. This literature equates money spent in the district with the credit constituents allocate. Yet, constituents lack the necessary information and motivation to allocate credit in this way. We use extensive observational and experimental evidence to show how legislators' credit claiming messages - and not just money spent in the district - affect how constituents allocate credit. Legislators use credit claiming messages to influence the expenditures they receive credit for and to affect how closely they are associated with spending in the district. Constituents are responsive to credit claiming messages - they build more support than other nonpartisan messages. But contrary to expectations from other studies, constituents are more responsive to the total number of messages sent rather than the amount claimed. Our results have broad implications for political representation, the personal vote, and the study of U.S. Congressional elections.


National News Attention to the 106th Senate

Brian Fogarty
Politics, forthcoming

Scholars have established that the national news media focus their attention on important actors in Congress such as party leaders, committee chairs and influential senators. However, researchers have yet to consider whether the median voter and filibuster pivot - salient actors in the legislative process - receive differential coverage by the news media. Examining the 106th Senate, I demonstrate that having a positive probability of being the median voter in the chamber affects the attention garnered from the national press. However, there is no significant difference observed for filibuster pivots.


Political Conditions and the Electoral Effects of Redistricting

Seth McKee
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Redistricting can have considerable electoral consequences because it undermines the incumbency advantage. Numerous voters are drawn into districts with a different incumbent seeking reelection. With regard to vote choice, these redrawn constituents rely more on their partisanship and prevailing political conditions because they lack familiarity with their new representative. Macropartisanship, the aggregate party identification of the electorate, is an excellent barometer of the political climate and hence the partisan direction guiding voters. Because redrawn constituents have at best a tenuous bond with their new incumbent, partisan tides have more influence on their vote choice. Analyses of the 1992 and 2002 U.S. House elections show that higher district percentages of redrawn constituents significantly reduced the vote shares of southern Democratic representatives in 1992 and Democratic incumbents regardless of region in 2002. Given the stated behavioral implications associated with redistricting, these findings speak to the political conditions occurring at the time of these respective elections: a Republican realignment picking up steam in the South in 1992 and a short-term national GOP tide in the first post-9/11 midterm.


Who Wants a Deliberative Public Sphere?

Michael Evans
Sociological Forum, December 2012, Pages 872-895

Democratic theorists and social scientists suggest that a deliberative public sphere would be good for democracy by maximizing emancipatory possibilities and providing broad legitimacy to political decision making. But do ordinary Americans actually want a deliberative public sphere? I examine this question in the context of four contentious "religion and science" debates. Through a multidimensional evaluation exercise with 62 ordinary respondents, I find that evaluation of public representatives in these debates tends to favor open-mindedness and ongoing debate. Further, respondents explicitly discount elected representatives who participate in public debate precisely because they are seen as violating deliberative norms through their affiliation with electoral politics. Respondents want a deliberative public sphere. However, this desire reflects an understanding of the public sphere and institutional politics as disconnected arenas with incompatible rules and objectives, raising multiple questions for democratic theory and for political sociology.


Is Money in Politics Harming Trust in Government? Evidence from Two Survey Experiments

Michael Sances
MIT Working Paper, September 2012

Campaign finance policy in the United States is founded on key assumptions about how voters use information about money to evaluate candidates and institutions. In one view, voters use information about campaign contributions as informative signals of a candidate's policy views, leading to better informed voters; in another view, contributions signal the potential for government corruption, leading to more cynical voters. Despite the prominence of these views in theoretical and policy debates, empirical evidence is scarce. To circumvent issues with existing observational studies, and to speak more directly to policy debates, I present the results of two survey experiments where I randomly vary voters' information about money in politics in mock election campaigns. My results support the view that campaign contributions allow voters to better place candidates on an ideological spectrum. In contrast, I find only limited evidence that contributions depress voters' trust in government.


To tweet or not to tweet: Exploring the determinants of early adoption of Twitter by House members in the 111th Congress

Rolfe Daus Peterson
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

The adoption of communication forms like Twitter presents students of congressional behavior an interesting case to examine the intersection of technology and politics. Twitter represents a social media venue that provides an immediate and direct link between the Member of Congress (MC) and constituents, which entails a benefit and a potential risk. In this paper, I examine Twitter use in the 111th Congress in order to better understand congressional early adoption of new technology. The primary question addressed is what systematic determinants shape the decision to adopt Twitter as a component of an MC's media strategy. Using data collected from MC Twitter accounts and the 2008 congressional election, I find partisan, cohort, and ideological determinants on early Twitter adoption. Republicans are more likely to use Twitter even in multivariate analysis; ideological extremism influences the use of Twitter. In contrast to past technologies, district demographics have no systematic effect on the early adoption of Twitter.


District Complexity and the Personal Vote

Amber Wichowsky
Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2012, Pages 437-463

Incumbents tend to win with higher margins in less ideologically constrained districts. I argue that incumbents are advantaged by this electoral landscape in part because they work harder to cultivate a personal vote. Utilizing data on earmarks, I find that despite winning with a larger margin of victory, these incumbents act much like their colleagues who narrowly escaped electoral defeat. By more accurately measuring perceptions of electoral vulnerability, we also see stronger evidence linking district marginality to distributive politics. Such incentives appear to stem not from the risks of position taking, but from the weaker party attachments among constituents.


Turnout and Incumbency in Local Elections

Jessica Trounstine
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

It is well established that incumbents win reelection at high rates. But we know less about the ways in which institutional variation affects the incumbency advantage. Using data from more than 4,000 cities, evidence in this article indicates that institutions generating low-participation environments increase the proportion of city council incumbents who run for reelection and the proportion who win. These low-turnout environments are shown to have spending patterns that benefit particular subgroups in the population who have good reason to participate even when the costs are high.


Rhetoric and Reality? Unilateralism and the Obama Administration

Christopher Kelley
Social Science Quarterly, December 2012, Pages 1146-1160

Objectives: The objectives of this article are to examine the concept of presidential unilateralism in the Obama administration. The research to date suggests that unilateralism in a presidency occurs once the political conditions for a president become unstable - drop in public opinion, loss of congressional support, etc. This article argues that the Obama administration came to office with the assumption that those conditions would naturally occur, thus began to prepare to act unilaterally from the outset.

Methods: This article uses official White House memoranda coupled with an examination of presidential signing statements to support the argument.

Results: President Obama made it difficult to track the use of the signing statement by discontinuing use of the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents in the first days of the administration as well as a redesign of the White House website to make it hard to determine which signing statements made constitutional challenges to provisions of law and which did not, all without drawing much attention from the public, the press, or the Congress.

Conclusions: Obama has governed very much like his predecessors, where acting unilaterally is concerned. He has continued to use the signing statement much like his predecessors with an eye toward keeping his actions hidden from public view.


Protest and Congressional Behavior: Assessing Racial and Ethnic Minority Protests in the District

Daniel Gillion
Journal of Politics, October 2012, Pages 950-962

Although minority protest is often characterized as an effective form of political participation, previous research has been unsuccessful in establishing a direct link between protest activity and congressional support for minority interests. However, the shortcoming of the existing literature is related to an analytical focus at the aggregate level, where only the passage of congressional legislation and national-level protest events are considered. By linking district-level minority protest actions to individual roll-call votes on race, I hypothesize that minority activism can indicate constituency preferences and inform legislators' votes. This analytical approach provides a more nuanced understanding of the influence that citizens' behavior has on congressional policy. Using protest data and congressional roll-call votes from the 87th to the 101st Congress, the empirical analysis demonstrates that representatives are attuned to the social conditions of their district and use minority protest as an informative cue that shapes their congressional voting behavior.


The two faces of congressional roll-call voting

Stephen Jessee & Sean Theriault
Party Politics, forthcoming

Most analyses of congressional voting, whether theoretical or empirical, treat all roll-call votes in the same way. We argue that such approaches mask considerable variation in voting behaviour across different types of votes. In examining all roll-call votes in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 93rd to the 110th Congresses (1973-2008), we find that the forces affecting legislators' voting on procedural and final passage matters have exhibited important changes over time, with differences between these two vote types becoming larger, particularly in recent congresses. These trends have important implications not only on how we study congressional voting behaviour, but also in how we evaluate representation and polarization in the modern Congress.


The Teleprompter Presidency: Comparing Obama's Campaign and Governing Rhetoric

Jeremiah Olson et al.
Social Science Quarterly, December 2012, Pages 1402-1423

Objectives: Are the skills presidents require to be elected the same skills they will need once they assume office? Is there a change in rhetoric between presidential campaigning and presidential governing? The objective of this article is to examine those questions.

Methods: We compare candidate Barack Obama's campaign speeches with his governing speeches to determine if his rhetoric on the campaign trail provides the basis for his later governance. We compare speeches on certainty, positivity, and inclusiveness.

Results: We find that, in general, Obama's campaign and governing rhetoric are consistent, suggesting that he used the rhetoric of the campaign to help build a basis for governance. We find no statistical difference in the level of certainty or inclusiveness that he used before or after taking office.

Conclusions: We conclude that most differences between presidential campaign rhetoric and governing rhetoric, at least in the case of Barack Obama, seem to be caused by the specifics of the political environment.


Appointee Confirmation and Tenure: The Succession of U.S. Federal Agency Appointees, 1989-2009

Matthew Dull et al.
Public Administration Review, November/December 2012, Pages 902-913

This article analyzes the confirmation and tenure of 2,300 Senate-confirmed, presidential appointees to U.S. government agencies between 1989 and 2009, linking patterns of appointee confirmation and tenure to institutional politics, appointee independence, and agency context. Consistent with prior research, the authors find that nominees of new, powerful, and popular presidents enjoy expedited Senate confirmation. Contentious congressional committee oversight, by contrast, tends to delay confirmation and reduce tenure. Agency heads and positions insulated from removal, such as for fixed-term positions and inspectors general, increase tenure. Extending empirical research, the analysis highlights program- and agency-level variations that speak to the many contingencies shaping appointee politics. Appointee positions associated with national security and broad statutory discretion receive expedited confirmation. Agencies with more professionals are associated with increased tenure, whereas agencies with more appointees among managers see shorter tenures. The results speak to scholarship on appointee politics and to public knowledge about the role of appointments in American government.


Who Rebelled? An Analysis of the Motivations of the Republicans Who Voted Against Speaker Cannon

Susan Miller & Peverill Squire
American Politics Research, forthcoming

One of the most important events in U.S. congressional history is the 1910 revolt against Speaker Cannon. The rebellion had myriad ramifications for the inner workings of the House of Representatives and dramatically altered the chamber's power structure. Despite its significance, we do not have a clear understanding of the character of the revolt and why the 42 Republican insurgents revoked their allegiance to Cannon and their party. Did the insurgents rebel because of their strong progressive ideals or for more pragmatic reasons, such as political survival or retribution? Using data gathered from Cannon's personal papers and other sources, we systematically explore disparate explanations credited for the revolt. For the progressive core of the insurgency, our analysis indicates that policy differences drove their behavior. These early insurgents were later joined by a group of less progressive members who appear to have supported the rebellion for electoral and retaliative reasons.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.