System Down

Kevin Lewis

October 15, 2021

Midcentury Modern: The Emergence of Stakeholders in Democratic Practice
Kavi Joseph Abraham
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Since the 1960s, “the stakeholder,” or affected party, has emerged as a novel democratic subject whose participation in varied institutional sites -- from universities to government agencies, corporate boardrooms to international organizations -- is seen as necessary for the management of complex problems. However, few specifically attend to the stakeholder as a distinct political subject and consider its implications for democratic practice. This paper presents a genealogy of the stakeholder, documenting its appearance in corporate managerialism and US public administration and showing how racial mobilization, rapid technological progress, and the political rationality of systems thinking provided the conditions of possibility for its emergence. Though orienting democracy around stakeholders permits opportunities for participation in political life, I argue that this subject is predicated on a circumscribed form of participatory politics that erodes habits of discovering a common good, erases distinctions between individuals and corporate bodies, and amplifies the problem of expertise. 

Talking Shops: The Effects of Caucus Discussion on Policy Coalitions
Adam Zelizer
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Group discussion of legislation is a defining feature of parliaments and legislatures. However, there is little evidence that these conferences influence legislators' policy positions or the disposition of legislation. This article examines how, and to what extent, group discussion influences policy coalitions. It reports results from two field experiments in which state legislators spoke about randomly selected bills in a bipartisan caucus. Chosen bills received twice as much support from caucus members as unselected bills. Estimated effects are similar in magnitude within and across party lines. Discussion did not appear to affect bill-level outcomes such as bill content or bill passage, but power limitations make studying such policy-level outcomes infeasible. Qualitative data from the experiments suggest that reputation and reciprocity are key mechanisms underlying influence, but that partisan voters and media are obstacles to bipartisanship in a contemporary American legislature. 

Do Policy Makers Listen to Experts? Evidence from a National Survey of Local and State Policy Makers
Nathan Lee
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Do elected officials update their policy positions in response to expert evidence? A large literature in political behavior demonstrates a range of biases that individuals may manifest in evaluating information. However, elected officials may be motivated to accurately incorporate information when it could affect the welfare of their constituents. I investigate these competing predictions through a national survey of local and state policy makers in which I present respondents with established expert findings concerning three subnational policy debates, debates that vary as to whether Republicans or Democrats are more likely to see the findings as confirmatory or challenging. Using both cross-subject and within-subject designs, I find policy makers update their beliefs and preferences in the direction of the evidence irrespective of the valence of the information. These findings have implications for the application of mass political behavior theories to politicians as well as the prospects for evidence-based policy making. 

Do Elections Keep the Compassionate out of the Candidate Pool?
Scott Clifford, Elizabeth Simas & Justin Kirkland
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

Political candidates must possess not only a desire for a position in government, but also a tolerance for the electoral process typically required to attain it. Recent works suggest that this latter requirement may keep certain types of people out of the potential candidate pool. We contend that individuals high in empathic concern are one such type. While compassion for others may make certain aspects of public service attractive, it should also make some of the more negative features of political campaigns repellant. We find support for this theory among two national samples. Those higher in empathic concern were more likely to express nascent ambition when considering a political position that was appointed rather than elected. This work further illustrates how exploring the interaction of psychological dispositions and political institutions can contribute to our understanding of the behavior of politicians and the quality of representation. 

How Do Electoral Incentives Affect Legislator Behavior? Evidence from U.S. State Legislatures
Alexander Fouirnaies & Andrew Hall
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

A classic question about democratic elections is how much they are able to influence politician behavior by forcing them to anticipate future reelection attempts, especially in contexts where voters are not paying close attention and are not well informed. We compile a new dataset containing roughly 780,000 bills, combined with more than 16 million roll-call voting records for roughly 6,000 legislators serving in U.S. state legislatures with term limits. Using an individual-level difference-in-differences design, we find that legislators who can no longer seek reelection sponsor fewer bills, are less productive on committees, and are absent for more floor votes, on average. Building a new dataset of roll-call votes and interest-group ratings, we find little evidence that legislators who cannot run for reelection systematically shift their ideological platforms. In sum, elections appear to influence how legislators allocate their effort in important ways even in low-salience environments but may have less influence on ideological positioning. 

The Politics of Bank Opacity
Heng Yue, Liandong Zhang & Qinlin Zhong
Journal of Accounting and Economics, forthcoming

The distribution of power in the political system shapes the financial reporting opacity of banks. Specifically, banks located in states with senators on the Senate Banking Committee (BC senators) have greater abnormal loan loss provisions than banks in other states. The result is stronger for larger banks and banks with higher risk. In addition, BC senators have a negative effect on the likelihood of banks in their home states receiving enforcement actions, and, more importantly, this effect is stronger for more opaque banks. These findings suggest that politicians, regulators, and banks use opaque financial reporting to facilitate regulatory forbearance. Moreover, we show that opacity is a significant channel through which BC senators increase bank risk. During economic downturns, however, BC senators appear to promote bank opacity to encourage bank lending and create liquidity. Finally, the capital market does not penalize the reporting opacity of banks in states with BC senators. 

Was the “Deep State” Out to Get President Trump? Evidence from Campaign Contributions from F.B.I. Personnel
Anthony Nownes
Presidential Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Was the “deep state” truly “out to get” President Donald Trump during his presidency? This article addresses this question by examining the federal campaign contributing behavior of the deepest of allegedly “deep state” actors -- employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). Our findings, showing that F.B.I. employees contributed vanishingly low sums of money during the Trump years and that those who did make contributions tended to support President Trump, suggest that the F.B.I. was not out to destroy the president. 

Under the Microscope: Gender and Accountability in the US Congress
Jaclyn Kaslovsky & Jon Rogowski
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

We study how officeholder gender affects issue accountability and examine whether constituents evaluate women and men legislators differently on the basis of their policy records. Data from 2008 through 2018 show that constituents’ approval ratings and vote choices in US House elections are more responsive to the policy records of women legislators than of men legislators. These patterns are concentrated among politically aware constituents, but we find no evidence that the results are driven disproportionately by either women or men constituents or by issues that are gendered in stereotypical ways. Additional analyses suggest that while constituents penalize women and men legislators at similar rates for policy incongruence, women legislators are rewarded more than men as they are increasingly aligned with their constituents. Our results show that accountability standards are applied differently across legislator gender and suggest a link between the quality of policy representation and the gender composition of American legislatures. 

Point break: Using machine learning to uncover a critical mass in women's representation
Kendall Funk, Hannah Paul & Andrew Philips
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming

Decades of research has debated whether women first need to reach a “critical mass” in the legislature before they can effectively influence legislative outcomes. This study contributes to the debate using supervised tree-based machine learning to study the relationship between increasing variation in women's legislative representation and the allocation of government expenditures in three policy areas: education, healthcare, and defense. We find that women's representation predicts spending in all three areas. We also find evidence of critical mass effects as the relationships between women's representation and government spending are nonlinear. However, beyond critical mass, our research points to a potential critical mass interval or critical limit point in women's representation. We offer guidance on how these results can inform future research using standard parametric models. 

Crisis, Resilience, and Civic Engagement: Pandemic-Era Census Completion
Elaine Denny
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming

How do economic shocks and financial resilience shape civic engagement, especially for the economically insecure? I turn to the early months of the coronavirus pandemic for insights. In April 2020, with more than 23 million adults unemployed, the US government asked residents to participate in the constitutionally mandated decennial census. I test how variations in income shocks from the shutdown and sources of financial resilience predict disparities in census completion, a civic act designed to minimize participation barriers. First, I use nationally representative survey data to demonstrate that policies that protect the economically vulnerable from the full impacts of economic shocks also predict higher census completion rates. Then, I use Google Trends data to show that high unemployment search volume interacted with low resilience to predict depressed census completion. Findings shed light on how economic crises can widen participation gaps — with representation and resource consequences — and how policies that lessen acute economic shocks may reduce participation disparities. 

State Legislation Restricting and Enabling Local Governments in an Era of Preemption
Keith Boeckelman & Jonathan Day
State and Local Government Review, forthcoming

This paper assesses state efforts to both restrict and enable local government discretion by using data from Project Vote Smart's “Key Votes” database. The results show that state legislation, both successful and unsuccessful, is more likely to limit local autonomy than to enhance it, although both tendencies occur. Republican legislators are more likely to support efforts to restrict discretion than Democrats are. Further, preemption attempts are particularly evident on “hot button” issues, such as guns, sexuality and gender roles, and immigration, although such initiatives are not necessarily more likely to successfully become law, especially under conditions of divided government. 

Street-Level Responsiveness of City Governments in China, Germany, and the United States
Ekkehard Köhler, John Matsusaka & Yanhui Wu
University of Southern California Working Paper, August 2021

This paper presents evidence from parallel field experiments in China, Germany, and the United States. We contacted the mayor’s office in over 6,000 cities asking for information about procedures for starting a new business. Chinese and German cities responded to 36-37 percent requests; American cities responded to only 22 percent of requests. We randomly varied the text of the request to identify factors that affect the likelihood of receiving a response. American and German cities were more responsive to requests from citizens than foreigners; Chinese cities did not discriminate on this basis. Chinese cities were more responsive to requests from men than women; German cities did not discriminate on this basis and American cities had a slight bias in favor of women. Cities in all three countries were more responsive to requests associated with starting a construction business than a green business, but especially Chinese cities. Chinese cities were more responsive when the mayor was being considered for promotion than after a promotion decision, suggesting the importance of promotion incentives in China, but low responsiveness to green investment suggests limited incentives for environmental improvement. We argue that the response patterns are consistent with simple political economy theories of democracy and autocracy.


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