Swung Voter

Kevin Lewis

January 08, 2010

Did Obama's Ground Game Matter? The Influence of Local Field Offices During the 2008 Presidential Election

Seth Masket
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2009, Pages 1023-1039

Imbued with unprecedented financial resources, the Obama 2008 presidential campaign established more than 700 field offices across the country, mostly in battleground states. To what extend did this form of campaigning actually affect the presidential vote? This article examines the county-level presidential vote in 2008 in eleven battleground states. The findings show that those counties in which the Obama campaign had established field offices during the general election saw a disproportionate increase in the Democratic vote share. Furthermore, this field office-induced vote increase was large enough to flip three battleground states from Republican to Democratic.


Incumbency Reconsidered: Prospects, Strategic Retirement, and Incumbent Quality in U.S. House Elections

Walter Stone, Sarah Fulton, Cherie Maestas & Sandy Maisel
Journal of Politics, January 2010, Pages 178-190

Fundamental questions about incumbent safety have been difficult to answer because of the absence of adequate measures of incumbent prospects and incumbent quality. If incumbents retire because they are vulnerable, high reelection rates do not necessarily mean that electoral accountability is absent. Moreover, if the electoral success of incumbents reflects their high quality, high reelection rates do not necessarily indicate pathology in the system. Using explicit measures of incumbent prospects and personal quality based on district informant ratings, we find evidence of strategic retirement by incumbents in the 1998 elections, when standard prospects measures show no evidence of strategic withdrawal by incumbents. We also find an impact of incumbent quality on vote share consistent with the idea that high quality incumbents are rewarded in the electoral process. Although many are skeptical about the implications of incumbent safety in House elections, our results suggest a more optimistic reconsideration of incumbent electoral security.


Black Voter Turnout in the 2008 Presidential Election

Tasha Philpot, Daron Shaw & Ernest McGowen
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2009, Pages 995-1022

Estimates of voter turnout indicate that African Americans cast ballots at unprecedented rates in the 2008 presidential election. Given the presence of the first Black major party presidential nominee, this should be no surprise. But were heightened interest, efficacy, and a sense of racial identity due to the candidacy of Barack Obama the main factors contributing to the surge in Black voter turnout? Using data from the 1984 and 1996 National Black Election Studies and the 2008 American National Election Study, which contains a stratified random over-sample of blacks, we argue that party mobilization was a critical force in boosting Black turnout. Attitudinal factors, in contrast, appear to have been less robust in this election than one would assume.


Using Experiments to Estimate the Effects of Education on Voter Turnout

Rachel Milstein Sondheimer & Donald Green
American Journal of Political Science, January 2010, Pages 174-189

The powerful relationship between education and voter turnout is arguably the most well-documented and robust finding in American survey research. Yet the causal interpretation of this relationship remains controversial, with many authors suggesting that the apparent link between education and turnout is spurious. In contrast to previous work, which has relied on observational data to assess the effect of education on voter turnout, this article analyzes two randomized experiments and one quasi-experiment in which educational attainment was altered exogenously. We track the children in these experiments over the long term, examining their voting rates as adults. In all three studies, we find that exogenously induced changes in high school graduation rates have powerful effects on voter turnout rates. These results imply that the correlation between education and turnout is indeed causal. We discuss some of the pathways by which education may transmit its influence.


Lingering Questions: The Fairness Doctrine and the 2008 Presidential Campaign Coverage in Western Pennsylvania

Matthew Beucker, Derek Lambert, Christopher Makely, Matthew McKeague, Katie Morgan & Mary Beth Leidman
Indiana University Working Paper, September 2009

The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the demise of the Fairness Doctrine caused measurable bias in the news coverage of the 2008 Presidential Campaign between Senator John McCain (R) and then Senator Barak Obama (D). The demographic area involved Western Pennsylvania and included the markets of Altoona and Johnstown as well as the Pittsburgh television stations; both their local as well as affiliated national network coverage. A group of ten recorders were assigned to time and evaluate news stories on specific channels shown during the evening news shows on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from October 1, 2008 through Election Day, November 4, 2008 (The evenings were chosen randomly and were based on the availability of the recorders.) The results indicate that while the McCain Campaign received more news coverage than the Obama Campaign, that there were more negative news stories about McCain. In addition, and not surprisingly, there was less coverage of the Campaigns on the smaller stations called "Local-Local" for the purposes of the study. In the final analysis, it was shown that although there was more coverage of the McCain Campaign there were also more stories that were shown which could be construed as negative. Also included was a sub-analysis of selected Campaign Advertisements broadcast. No definitive conclusions were reached as to whether or not the Fairness Doctrine and related Election Laws should be reinstated or broadened. However, several additional studies are suggested including a replication of this study for the 2012 and 2016 elections as well as the possibility of conducting this methodology in a different but demographically similar market.


The Christian Right Thesis: Explaining Longitudinal Change in Participation among Evangelical Christians

Ryan Claassen & Andrew Povtak
Journal of Politics, January 2010, Pages 2-15

Many attribute George W. Bush's strong campaign performance to Republican efforts to increase turnout among evangelical Protestants by stressing issues that focus on "moral values." However, most scholarly studies either focus on demonstrating that moral issues affected vote choice in recent elections or they focus on documenting longitudinal changes in party loyalty or political attitudes among Evangelicals. Our task is to add to this literature by examining long-term trends in participation among Evangelicals and comparing those trends to trends among other major religious denominations. We find that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the increase in Evangelical turnout appears to have been driven by social and demographic changes among Evangelicals rather than by a political strategy. In fact, controlling for social and demographic changes, we find more impressive turnout gains among other groups, such as black Protestants and the nonreligious.


Angry White Men: Individual and Contextual Predictors of Support for the British National Party

Robert Ford & Matthew Goodwin
Political Studies, February 2010, Pages 1-25

The British National party (BNP) is the most successful extreme right party in Britain's electoral history and is the fastest growing political party in twenty-first century Britain. This article presents the first ever individual-level analysis of BNP supporters, utilising a survey data set uniquely compiled for this purpose. We find that support for the BNP is concentrated among older, less educated working-class men living in the declining industrial towns of the North and Midlands regions. This pattern of support is quite distinct from that which underpinned the last electorally relevant extreme right party in Britain - the National Front (NF) - whose base was young working-class men in Greater London and the West Midlands. Extreme right voters in contemporary Britain express exceptionally high levels of anxiety about immigration and disaffection with the mainstream political parties. Multi-level analysis of BNP support shows that the party prospers in areas with low education levels and large Muslim minority populations of Pakistani or African origin. The BNP has succeeded in mobilising a clearly defined support base: middle-aged working-class white men anxious about immigration, threatened by local Muslim communities and hostile to the existing political establishment. We conclude by noting that all the factors underpinning the BNP's emergence - high immigration levels, rising perceptions of identity conflict and the declining strength of the cultural and institutional ties binding voters to the main parties - are likely to persist in the coming years. The BNP therefore looks likely to consolidate itself as a persistent feature of the British political landscape.


Mobilizing the Mobilized: The Electoral Recruitment Paradox

David Carl Kershaw
American Politics Research, forthcoming

The campaign mobilization literature argues that contacting will have the most influence on individuals who are socioeconomically or politically disadvantaged. Yet evidence persistently shows that the advantaged are disproportionately contacted. This paradox is explained once one recognizes that contacting during elections serves divergent goals that are tied to the election cycle and to election competitiveness. Broadly speaking, contacting in elections should be seen as having two participatory recruitment stages: a resource gathering stage - with resources coming from the advantaged - and a mass-mobilization stage - where every vote counts only when elections are competitive. This theory is supported with the 2000 Annenberg election data. In the resource gathering stage, income, education, and strong party identification increased the likelihood that an individual was contacted by the campaigns. In contrast, only income predicted mobilization stage campaign contact in nonbattleground states. Finally, a battleground state individual's likelihood of being contacted slightly decreased as income rose.


Strategic Redistricting

Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer
American Economic Review, forthcoming

We develop and analyze a model of strategic redistricting. Two parties choose redistricting plans to maximize their probability of winning a majority in the House of Representatives. We show that in the unique equilibrium parties maximally segregate their opponent's supporters but pool their own supporters into uniform districts. Ceteris paribus, the stronger party segregates more than the weaker one, the election outcome is biased in favor of the stronger party and against the party whose supporters are easier to identify. Finally, we incorporate policy choice into our redistricting game. When one party is in control of redistricting, the equilibrium policy choice is biased towards the policy preferences of the redistricting party's supporters. However, if the district level uncertainty is sufficiently small, this effect disappears and redistricting becomes policy neutral.


Voting behavior is reflected in amygdala response across cultures

Nicholas Rule, Jonathan Freeman, Joseph Moran, John Gabrieli, Reginald Adams & Nalini Ambady
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Voting to determine one's leaders is among the most important decisions we make, yet little is known about the brain's role in how we come to these decisions. Behavioral studies have indicated that snap judgments of political candidates' faces can predict election outcomes but that the traits that lead to these judgments differ across cultures. Here we sought to investigate the neural basis for these judgments. American and Japanese natives performed simulated voting judgments of actual American and Japanese political candidates while neural activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Candidates for whom participants chose to vote elicited stronger responses in the bilateral amygdala than candidates for whom participants chose not to vote. This was true regardless of either the participant's culture or the target's culture, suggesting that these voting decisions provoked the same neural response cross-culturally. In addition, we observed a participant culture by target culture interaction in the bilateral amygdala. American and Japanese participants both showed a stronger response to cultural outgroup faces than they did to cultural ingroup faces, however this was unrelated to their voting decisions. These data provide insight to the mechanisms that underlie our snap judgments of others when making voting decisions and provide a neural correlate to cross-cultural consensus in social inferences.

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