Strongly Partisan

Kevin Lewis

October 23, 2009

Dominance, Politics, and Physiology: Voters' Testosterone Changes on the Night of the 2008 United States Presidential Election

Steven Stanton, Jacinta Beehner, Ekjyot Saini, Cynthia Kuhn & Kevin LaBar
PLoS ONE, October 2009, e7543

Background: Political elections are dominance competitions. When men win a dominance competition, their testosterone levels rise or remain stable to resist a circadian decline; and when they lose, their testosterone levels fall. However, it is unknown whether this pattern of testosterone change extends beyond interpersonal competitions to the vicarious experience of winning or losing in the context of political elections. Women's testosterone responses to dominance competition outcomes are understudied, and to date, a clear pattern of testosterone changes in response to winning and losing dominance competitions has not emerged.

Methodology/Principal Findings: The present study investigated voters' testosterone responses to the outcome of the 2008 United States Presidential election. 183 participants provided multiple saliva samples before and after the winner was announced on Election Night. The results show that male Barack Obama voters (winners) had stable post-outcome testosterone levels, whereas testosterone levels dropped in male John McCain and Robert Barr voters (losers). There were no significant effects in female voters.

Conclusions/Significance: The findings indicate that male voters exhibit biological responses to the realignment of a country's dominance hierarchy as if they participated in an interpersonal dominance contest.


Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans

Darren Schreiber, Alan Simmons, Christopher Dawes, Taru Flagan, James Fowler & Martin Paulus
University of California Working Paper, August 2009

We matched public voter records to 54 subjects who performed a risk-taking task during functional imaging. We find that Democrats and Republicans had significantly different patterns of brain activation during processing of risky decisions. Amygdala activations, associated with externally directed reactions to risk, are stronger in Republicans, while insula activations, associated with internally directed reactions to affective perceptions, are stronger in Democrats. These results suggest an internal vs. external difference in evaluative process that illuminates and resolves a discrepancy in the existing literature. This process-based approach to political partisanship is distinct from the policy-based approach that has dominated research for at least the past half century. In fact, a two parameter model of partisanship based on amygdala and insula activations achieves better accuracy in predicting whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican than a well established model in political science based on parental socialization of party identification.


Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study

William Landes & Richard Posner
Journal of Legal Analysis, Summer 2009, Pages 775-831

This paper analyzes the connection between ideology and voting of judges using a large sample of court of appeals cases decided since 1925 and Supreme Court cases decided since 1937. The ideological classifications of votes (e.g., liberal or conservative) are dependent variables in our empirical analysis and the independent variables include the party of the appointing President, the relative number of Republican and Democratic Senators at the time of the judge's confirmation, the appointment year, characteristics of the judge (e.g., gender, race and prior experience), and the ideological make-up of the judges on the court in which the judge sits as measured by the relative number of judges appointed by Republican and Democratic Presidents. We have a number of interesting results, including how a judge's voting is affected by the voting of the other judges he serves with. We find a political-polarization effect among Justices appointed by Democratic but not by Republican Presidents; that is, the fewer the judges appointed by Democratic Presidents, the more liberally they vote. With regard to court of appeals judges, we find a conformity effect: if the number of judges appointed by Republican Presidents increases (decreases) relative to the number appointed by Democratic Presidents, all judges in the circuit tend to vote more conservatively (more liberally).


Do a Law's Policy Implications Affect Beliefs About Its Constitutionality? An Experimental Test

Joshua Furgeson, Linda Babcock & Peter Shane
Law and Human Behavior, June 2008, Pages 219-227

Although a substantial empirical literature has found associations between judges' political orientation and their judicial decisions, the nature of the relationship between policy preferences and constitutional reasoning remains unclear. In this experimental study, law students were asked to determine the constitutionality of a hypothetical law, where the policy implications of the law were manipulated while holding all legal evidence constant. The data indicate that, even with an incentive to select the ruling best supported by the legal evidence, liberal participants were more likely to overturn laws that decreased taxes than laws that increased taxes. The opposite pattern held for conservatives. The experimental manipulation significantly affected even those participants who believed their policy preferences had no influence on their constitutional decisions.


The Polarizing Effect of News Media Messages About the Social Determinants of Health

Sarah Gollust, Paula Lantz & Peter Ubel
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Framing health problems in terms of the social determinants of health aims to shift policy attention to nonmedical strategies to improve population health, yet little is known about how the public responds to these messages. We conducted an experiment to test the effect of a news article describing the social determinants of type 2 diabetes on the public's support for diabetes prevention strategies. We found that exposure to the social determinants message led to a divergence between Republicans' and Democrats' opinions, relative to their opinions after viewing an article with no message about the causes of diabetes. These results signify that increasing public awareness of the social determinants of health may not uniformly increase public support for policy action.


Friendships Moderate an Association Between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology

Jaime Settle, Christopher Dawes, Peter Hatemi, Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler
University of California Working Paper, April 2009

Scholars in many fields have long noted the importance of social context in the development of political ideology. Recent work suggests that political ideology also has a heritable component, but no specific gene variant or combination of variants associated with political ideology have so far been identified. Here, we hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition towards seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal, but only if they are embedded in a social context that provides them with multiple points of view. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we test this hypothesis by investigating an association between self-reported political ideology and the 7R variant of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4), which has previously been associated with novelty seeking. Among those with DRD4-7R, we find that the number of friendships a person has in adolescence is significantly associated with liberal political ideology. Among those without the gene variant, there is no association. This is the first study to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification, and it highlights the importance of incorporating both nature and nurture into the study of political preferences.


The Daily Show and Perceptions of Government

Xiaoxia Cao & Paul Brewer
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, August 2009

This study examines the impact of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - which frequently portrays public officials from both parties at the federal and state levels as being corrupt, dishonest, and incompetent - on viewers' perceptions of government. Drawing on an internet survey, we found that frequent viewers of the show were more likely to consider the government as the most important problem facing the country than were those who watched the show less frequently. We discuss the implications of the finding for the health of the democratic system in the light of research on the consequences of political distrust and research into the political effects of The Daily Show.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Audience Attitude Change During the 2004 Party Conventions

Jonathan Morris
Political Behavior, March 2009, Pages 79-102

The intention of this analysis is to examine The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's coverage of politics and assess the persuasive power of the program's unique brand of humor. Evidence from a content analysis of The Daily Show's "Indecision 2004" coverage of the Democratic and Republican Party Conventions shows the program's humor was much harsher during the Republican Convention than it was during the Democratic Convention. While the humor in both conventions was heavily based on self-deprecation and the exploitation of conventional political stereotypes, the ridicule of Republicans focused much more on policy and character flaws. Humor pointed toward Democrats, on the other hand, tended to focus more on innocuous physical attributes. Analysis of panel data collected by the National Annenberg Election Survey during the 2004 national party conventions shows that exposure to The Daily Show's convention coverage was associated with increased negativity toward President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. These relationships remain significant even when controlling for partisan identification and ideology. Attitudes toward the Democratic ticket, John Kerry and John Edwards remained consistent.


A Candidate You Can Believe In? Voter Perceptions of Candidate Character in the 2008 Presidential Elections

Charles Prysby & David Holian
University of North Carolina Working Paper, August 2009

This study examines voter perceptions of the character traits of the presidential candidates in 2008. We find that voters were influenced by their perceptions of these traits. We find that perceptions of optimism and leadership were quite important in 2008. Optimism has not been investigated very much by previous research, so these findings suggest that more work might be done on this trait. Overall, Obama did better than McCain on trait perceptions. In particular, McCain had only a slight lead on leadership, which normally is a trait that the Republican candidate has a big advantage on.

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