Running On It

Kevin Lewis

September 24, 2021

The Mixed Effects of Candidate Visits on Campaign Donations in the 2020 Presidential Election
Boris Heersink, Nicholas Napolio & Jordan Carr Peterson
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Recent scholarship on the effect of candidate visits in presidential elections has found that appearances by candidates appear to mobilize both supporters and opponents. Specifically, in the 2016 presidential election, donations to campaigns of the visiting presidential candidates increased, but -- in the case of Republican nominee Donald Trump -- so did donations to his opponent, Hillary Clinton. In this paper, we extend this research by assessing the effect of visits on campaign donations by presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2020 election. We find evidence that visits by Donald Trump and Kamala Harris had strong mobilizing and counter-mobilizing effects, increasing donations to both campaigns. We find weak evidence that visits by Joe Biden increased contributions to his campaign, but we do not find evidence that his visits had a counter-mobilizing effect, and we find no evidence that visits by Mike Pence affected donations in either direction.

Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Mitchell Kilborn & Arjun Vishwanath
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians' reliance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by expanding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and nonrepresentative candidates an electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator's funding status on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identification strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financing are more extreme and less representative of their districts than nonpublicly financed candidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demonstrating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actually damage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institutions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond to new campaign financing structures. 

Do Voters Know Enough to Punish Out-of-Step Congressional Candidates?
Brandon Marshall & Michael Peress
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Traditional democratic norms suggest that accountability requires voters to be able to accurately perceive the positions of candidates for office. When asked to place congressional candidates on an ideological spectrum, voters show a surprisingly high level of both inaccuracy and variation in the policy positions of candidates. In this article, we investigate three theories of candidate placement to determine the possible sources for voter inaccuracy of candidate positions: the assimilation and contrast theory, the partisan cheerleading theory, and the information theory. We develop an instrumental variables approach for distinguishing between the competing theories. We find some evidence for assimilation and contrast among low knowledge voters and little support for cheerleading. We also find evidence that the actual position of the candidate has a detectable but small effect on voters’ perceptions of that candidate, limiting the extent to which House candidates are held individually accountable for the positions they take. Instead, we find evidence that voters cue off of the positions of the party’s other candidates, suggesting that candidates for a political party are held collectively accountable. 

Did exposure to COVID-19 affect vote choice in the 2020 presidential election?
Marco Mendoza Aviña & Semra Sevi
Research & Politics, August 2021 

An important body of literature shows that citizens evaluate elected officials based on their past performance. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the conventional wisdom in both media and academic discourse was that Donald Trump would have been a two-term president absent an unprecedented, global force majeure. In this research note, we address a simple question: did exposure to COVID-19 impact vote choice in the 2020 presidential election? Using data from the Cooperative Election Study, we find that Trump’s vote share decreased because of COVID-19. However, there is no evidence suggesting that Joe Biden loses the election when no voter reports exposure to coronavirus cases and deaths. These negligible effects are found at both the national and state levels, and are robust to an exhaustive set of confounders across model specifications. 

The Super-Predator Effect: How Negative Targeted Messages Demobilize Black Voters
Christopher Stout & Keith Baker
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

This article assesses whether messages that are framed to denigrate a politician or political entity in the eyes of a particular group – defined here as negative targeted messages – decreases Blacks' enthusiasm to vote. It also explores why such messages are effective at demobilizing Black voters. Using a survey experiment implemented on a nationally representative sample, the authors find that Blacks are less enthusiastic about voting when presented with evidence of racism within their preferred political party. Whites and Latinxs do not respond similarly to the same stimulus. The findings also demonstrate evidence that the effectiveness of negative targeted messages towards Blacks is driven by the treatment's ability to alter perceptions of party empathy. Overall, the results suggest that targeted negative messages can be effective at depressing Black turnout. However, parties may be able to counter this negative messaging with evidence of outreach to minority communities to demonstrate a greater sense of empathy. 

Disparities in Poll Closures in the Age of COVID-19: A Case Study of Wisconsin
John Curiel & Jesse Clark
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 arose during the presidential primary process and spring elections for states across the U.S. One of the consequences of the pandemic on election administration was the closure of polling locations due to resource constraints and public health concerns. We aim to measure the extent to which disparities in electoral access and participation arose given polling place closures during the April 7, 2020, Wisconsin spring election. We run a spatial probit analysis on the probability of poll closures given population density and nonwhite populations of a given area using poll coordinate data provided by the Wisconsin Electoral Commission. We follow up to take advantage of the exogenous nature of poll closures to measure the impact of closure costs within the counties of Milwaukee and Dane via a multilevel logit analysis of turnout by mode. We find that the pandemic led to a series of poll closures that systematically impacted racial minorities and areas of high population density. Further, these poll closure costs as measured in increased distance to and size of polls are associated with reduced voter turnout, especially within Milwaukee County. We conclude that disparate access to polling places and costs of poll closures present challenges that must be overcome for purposes of election legitimacy and social cohesion. 

Gasoline in the Voter’s Pocketbook: Driving Times to Work and the Electoral Implications of Gasoline Price Fluctuations
Sung Eun Kim & Joonseok Yang
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Gasoline prices are often a heated topic during presidential election campaigns in the United States. Yet, presidents have limited control over gasoline prices. Do voters reward or punish the president for changes in gasoline prices? Why might voters blame the president for an outcome beyond direct presidential control? This study addresses these questions by testing the effects of gasoline prices on pocketbook retrospection by voters. To capture the personal economic burden of gasoline prices, we rely on average driving times to work, given the inelastic nature of gasoline consumption for commuting. The results provide evidence for pocketbook voting: constituencies with longer average driving times to work are more likely to hold the president accountable for gasoline price increases. These findings have broader implications regarding electoral accountability and rationality in voting. 

Candidate Extremism and Voter Roll-Off in US House Elections
Michael Miller
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Growing evidence suggests that extreme candidates perform worse, in part because their party’s share of turnout declines. But does candidate ideology affect the decision of whether to abstain in a House race among voters who already turned out in the presidential election? I examine the relationship between candidates’ ideology and voter abstention in the House contest, reporting two main results. First, fewer voters abstain in elections featuring more ideologically polarized House candidates. A consideration of party effects reveals more nuance, however: In most cases, roll-off is lower when extreme candidates run, but the effect of an extreme Republican is substantially larger than that of an extreme Democrat. Further analysis suggests that decreased roll-off is probably due to extreme candidates mobilizing out-partisans. My results suggest that allowing for the possibility of voter abstention is an important theoretical addition to understanding the behavioral effects of extremist candidates. 

Clashes Involving National Popular Vote, Hare (“RCV”), Maine, Alaska
Richard Potthoff
Political Science & Politics, forthcoming

Apparently unnoticed by its advocates, a prominent effort to improve the troubled US presidential-election system -- the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) -- is on a collision course with another effort at electoral change -- “ranked-choice voting” (RCV, known previously by less ambiguous names). The NPVIC is a clever device intended, without constitutional amendment, to elect as president the nationwide popular-vote winner (i.e., the plurality-vote winner) rather than the electoral-vote winner. Election results in 2000, 2016, and 2020 enhanced its support. However, the (constitutional) ability of even one state to replace its plurality voting with another voting system causes the popular-vote total posited for the NPVIC to be undefined, thereby rendering the NPVIC unusable. Maine and Alaska recently switched from plurality voting to RCV for presidential elections. Consequently, tangled results and turmoil could occur with the NPVIC. To improve presidential elections, replacing plurality voting with other systems appears to be more sensible than pursuing the NPVIC. 

Reexamining the Effects of Electoral Competition on Negative Advertising
Kevin Banda
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Prior research suggests that campaigns become more negative when the election environment becomes more competitive. Much of this research suffers from data and design limitations. I replicate and extend prior analyses using a much larger number of cases. Using advertising data drawn from 374 U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns contested from 2000 through 2018, I find evidence that electoral competition encourages candidates to engage in more negative advertising campaigns and that incumbency status conditions these effects. Incumbents of both parties use more negative messaging strategies as competition increases. The effects of competition among challengers and open seat candidates is mixed. These results add to what we know about campaign advertising behavior and suggest that researchers should take care to avoid ignoring important contextual factors that underlie candidates’ strategic choices. 

The Electoral Impact of Military Experience: Evidence From U.S. Senate Elections (1982–2016)
David Richardson
Armed Forces & Society, forthcoming

The belief that a military veteran candidate receives an electoral benefit at the polls based on a history of military service remains a widely held assumption in American politics. However, this assumption of a veteran electoral bonus has rarely been studied by scholars and the limited literature displays mixed results. This article presents the findings of a new study that addresses the mixed results in the literature and presents evidence that demonstrates that certain types of military veteran candidates do gain a veteran bonus in congressional elections. This advantage over nonveterans is conditioned by party, the type of race, and the nature of military service. By analyzing general election races for the United States Senate over 34 years (1982–2016), the study uncovers support for Democratic candidates with military service receiving an electoral bonus at the polls. This electoral bonus is most widely enjoyed by Democratic veterans in open Senate races and with experience in deployed warzones. The key findings suggest that previous conclusions in the literature with respect to establishing a veteran bonus in congressional elections should be reexamined to expand the time period of analysis, restructure the characterization of military experience beyond a binary variable, and include both House and Senate elections. 

Don't You Forget About Me: Straight-Ticket Voting and Voter Roll-Off in Partisan and Nonpartisan Elections
Megan Remmel & Chera LaForge
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

Voter roll-off occurs when voters cast their vote for top-of-the-ballot races while failing to vote for lower-level races. Scholars have examined behavioral and structural reasons for voter roll-off. This article examines one potential structural reason for voter roll-off, the presence or absence of straight-ticket voting, which allows voters to cast a single vote for all members of their preferred political party. In recent years, many states have removed the option of straight-ticket voting, partially to ensure voters carefully consider each race on the ballot. We test whether the removal of straight-ticket voting discourages voter roll-off by encouraging them to cast a vote for each race on the ballot. We find voter roll-off only slightly decreases for all lower-level races and ballot measures when states eliminate straight-ticket voting.


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