December 14, 2007

Gentzkow, Glaeser and Goldin on how the press became informative

Abstract: A free and informative press is widely agreed to be crucial to the democratic process today. But throughout much of the nineteenth century U.S. newspapers were often public relations tools funded by politicians, and newspaper independence was a rarity. The newspaper industry underwent fundamental changes between 1870 and 1920 as the press became more informative and less partisan. Whereas 11 percent of urban dailies were “independent” in 1870, 62 percent were in 1920. The rise of the informative press was the result of increased scale and competitiveness in the newspaper industry caused by technological progress in the newsprint and newspaper industries. We examine the press coverage surrounding two major political scandals – Crédit Mobilier in the early 1870s and Teapot Dome in the 1920s. The analysis demonstrates a sharp reduction in bias and charged language in the half century after 1870. From 1870 to 1920, when corruption appears to have declined significantly within the United States, the press became more informative, less partisan, and expanded its circulation considerably. It seems a reasonable hypothesis that the rise of the informative press was one of the reasons why the corruption of the Gilded Age was sharply reduced during the subsequent Progressive Era.

Matthew Gentzkow, Edward L. Glaeser, and Claudia Goldin (2004), “The Rise of the Fourth Estate: How Newspapers Became Informative and Why It Mattered,” NBER Working Paper 10971. Available here.

December 13, 2007

Meade and Stasavage on the downsides of open decision making at the Fed

Abstract: Transparency in committee decision making may have clear benefi…ts by making committee members more accountable to outside observers, whether these observers are shareholders, voters, or market participants. While recent literature generally focuses on the advantages of transparency, in this paper we consider one potential cost: the possibility that publishing detailed records of deliberations will make members of a committee more reluctant to other dissenting opinions. Drawing on the literature on expert advisors with “career concerns”, we construct a model that compares incentives for members of a committee to voice dissent when deliberations occur in public, and when they occur in private. We then test the implications of the model using an original dataset based
on deliberations of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee, asking whether the FOMC’s decision in 1993 to begin releasing full transcripts of its meetings has altered incentives for participants to voice dissenting opinions. We …find evidence that transcript publication has stifl‡ed the FOMC’’s debate over short-term interest rates. Our fi…ndings have implications both for monetary policy institutions, as well as for more general debates about the effect of transparency in agency relationships.

Ellen Meade and David Stasavage (2008), “Publicity of Debate and the Incentive to Dissent: Evidence from the US Federal Reserve,” The Economic Journal, forthcoming. Available here.

Gomez, Hansford and Krause on Why Republicans Should Pray for Rain

Abstract: The relationship between bad weather and lower levels of voter turnout is widely espoused by media, political practitioners, and, perhaps, even political scientists. Yet, there is virtually no solid empirical evidence linking weather to voter participation. This paper provides an extensive test of the claim. We examine the effect of weather on voter turnout in fourteen U.S. presidential elections. Using GIS interpolations, we employ meteorological data drawn from over 22,000 U.S. weather stations to provide election day estimates of rain and snow for each U.S. county. We find that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than one percent per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5 percent. Poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican Party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections.

Brad T. Gomez, Thomas G. Hansford and George A. Krause (2007), “The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections,” The Journal of Politics 69:649-663. Available here.

December 08, 2007

Alvarez, Bailey and Katz on Voter ID and turnout

Abstract: Since the passage of the “Help America Vote Act” in 2002, nearly half of the states have adopted a variety of new identification requirements for voter registration and participation by the 2006 general election. There has been little analysis of whether these requirements reduce voter participation, especially among certain classes of voters. In this paper we document the effect of voter identification requirements on registered voters as they were imposed in states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and in the 2002 and 2006 midterm elections. Looking first at trends in the aggregate data, we find no evidence that voter identification requirements reduce participation. Using individual-level data from the Current Population Survey across these elections, however, we find that the strictest forms of voter identification requirements — combination requirements of presenting an identification card and positively matching one’s signature with a signature either on file or on the identification card, as well as requirements to show picture identification — have a negative impact on the participation of registered voters relative to the weakest requirement, stating one’s name. We also find evidence that the stricter voter identification requirements depress turnout to a greater extent for less educated and lower income populations, but no racial differences.

Michael Alvarez, Delia Bailey and Jonathan Katz, “The Effect of Voter Identification Laws on Turnout,” unpublished paper. Available here. Via The Monkey Cage.

Barreto, Nuno and Sanchez on voting ID requirements and minority turnout

In 2004 Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, which among other things, strictly enforced new requirements that identification be shown at the polling place before a citizen could vote. Similar laws have since been proposed and passed in many other states, typically related to charges of vote fraud, and often times tied into the divisive debate regarding undocumented immigrants. Changes like these to electoral laws are central to many long-standing theories in the political participation literature. However, very little is known about the effects of voter identification (ID) laws. Our manuscript analyzes the impact that new voter identification laws may have on both the participation rates of particular segments of the electorate, as well as on election outcomes in the United States.
Specifically, through the use of a unique dataset from the 2006 elections, we analyze the impact that voter identification laws have on immigrant and minority voters in California, New Mexico and Washington. Exit polls in each state asked voters to check which forms of identification they would be able to provide if voter ID laws were passed in their state. Controlling for age, income, and education, we find that immigrant and minority voters are significantly less likely to be able to provide multiple forms of identification, such as a copy of their original birth certificate, or a recent bank statement. In full, we asked respondents about their ability to provide approximately six unique forms of identification, and immigrant and minority voters were consistently less likely to have each form of identification. Because our data reflects the identification trends of actual voters, not just adult citizens, the findings go far to suggest that voter identification laws could immediately disenfranchise many Latino, Asian and African American citizens.

Matt Bareto, Stephen Nuno and Gabriel R. Sanchez, “Voter ID Requirements and the Disenfranchisement of Latino, Black and Asian voters,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via The Monkey Cage.

Heutel on crowding out, crowding in and charity

Abstract: A large literature examines the interaction of private and public funding of public goods and charities, much of it focusing on how public funding crowds out private funding: when governments increase funding of public goods, such as grants to charities, individuals may decrease voluntary contributions. This paper tests two new hypotheses. First, the crowding out effect could also occur in the opposite direction: in response to a change in the level of voluntary private contributions to a charity, the government may alter its level of funding. I show in a static model how crowding out can manifest in both directions, and that the order of movement between the individuals and the government affects the equilibrium level of private and government contributions. Second, with
asymmetric information about the quality of a public good, government funding may act as a signal about that quality. In this case, crowding in of private donations may be observed. I test for both of these phenomena using a large panel data set gathered from nonprofit organizations’ tax returns. I find evidence for both observations: government
grants respond to the level of private donations, and government grants crowd in private donations.

Garth Heutel, “Crowding Out and Crowding In of Private Donations and Government Grants,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Murtin on education and economic growth in the US

This paper proposes a model of long term economic development and assesses it on the United States 1840-2000. Because of a low cost of education, parents invest into children’s education and simultaneously diminish the number of their offspring. This trade-off generates a virtuous circle in which individual productivity, labor market participation and the share of the labor force in total population are rising, ultimately transforming a physical capital-based economy into a human capital-based economy. Overall, the model accounts for major traits of American economic development at the micro-economic level over the period, which are: the rapid spread of education, the continuous decrease in fertility and the associated rise in women participation to the labor market, the reduction in differential fertility across income groups, the growth in life expectancy, the Great Compression of income inequality in the course of the twentieth century, and intergenerational correlation of income. Macro-economic trends such as capital deepening in the nineteenth century, the ageing structure of the population, the rise in labor productivity and fast technological change, are also well captured. Counterfactuals show that the expansion of education has a comparable effect on the growth rates of labor and physical capital, and that inequality has a detrimental impact on output growth because it slows down the accumulation of human capital across generations.

Fabrice Murtin, “American Economic Development or the Virtues of Education,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 30, 2007

Mutz on the political consequences of 'in your face' television

Abstract: How do Americans acquire the impression that their political foes have some understandable basis for their views, and thus represent a legitimate opposition? How do they come to believe that reasonable people may disagree on any given political controversy? Given that few people talk regularly to those of opposing perspectives, some theorize that mass media, and television in particular, serve as an important source of exposure to the rationales for oppositional views. A series of experimental studies suggests that television does, indeed, have the capacity to encourage greater awareness of oppositional perspectives. However, common characteristics of televised political discourse—–incivility and close-up camera perspectives—–cause audiences to view oppositional perspectives as less legitimate than they would have otherwise. I discuss the broader implications of these findings for assessments of the impact of television on the political process, and for the perspective that televised political discourse provides on oppositional political views.

Available here.

Diane C. Mutz, “Effects of “In-Your-Face” Television Discourse on Perceptions of a Legitimate Opposition,” American Political Science Review 101:4, 521-635.

November 07, 2007

Edlin, Gelman and Kaplan on why it's rational to vote in large elections

Abstract: For voters with ‘social’ preferences, the expected utility of voting is approximately independent of the size of the electorate, suggesting that rational voter turnouts can be substantial even in large elections. Less important elections are predicted to have lower turnout, but a feedback mechanism keeps turnout at a reasonable level under a wide range of conditions. The main contributions of this paper are: (1) to show how, for an individual with both selfish and social preferences, the social preferences will dominate and make it rational for a typical person to vote even in large elections; (2) to show that rational socially motivated voting has a feedback mechanism that stabilizes turnout at reasonable levels (e.g., 50% of the electorate); (3) to link the rational social-utility model of voter turnout with survey findings on socially motivated vote choice.

Aaron Edlin, Andrew Gelman and Noah Kaplan, “Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others,” Rationality and Society 19: 293-314. Available here.

Via Andrew Gelman.

November 06, 2007

Shor, Berry and McCarty on estimating ideal points for state legislators

Abstract: Two major problems exist in applying ideal point estimation techniques to state legislatures. First, there has been a scarcity of available longitudinal roll call data. Second, even where such data exists, scaling ideal points within a single state su:ers from a basic defect. No comparisons can be made across institutions, whether to other state legislatures or to the US Congress. Our project is a solution to both of these problems. We use a new comparative data set of state legislative roll calls beginning in the mid-1990s to generate ideal points for legislators. We take advantage of the fact that state legislators sometimes go on to serve in Congress to create a common ideological scale between Congress and the various legislatures. These “bridge actors” are similar in concept to members of the House who go on to serve in the Senate, thereby providing the “glue” necessary to scale the House and Senate together. We use this approach for California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Using these bridge actors, we create a new state-federal congressional common space ideological scores. We conclude by using these common space scores to address important topics in legislative politics.

Boris Shor, Christopher Berry and Nolan McCarty (2007), “A Bridge to Somewhere: Mapping State and
Congressional Ideology on a Cross-Institutional Common Space,” unpublished paper. Available here. Via Statistical Modelling.

November 03, 2007

Egan on what is distinctive about lesbians, gays and bisexuals in American politics

Abstract: Lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) tend to affiliate with the Democratic Party and hold distinctively liberal views on a wide range of issues - including issues that have nothing to do with gay rights. But little is known about how LGBs acquire partisanship and form political attitudes, and theories of group political distinctiveness apply poorly to this case. Using pooled survey data that permits statistically powerful analysis of nationally representative samples of LGBs, this article documents two mechanisms that make LGBs politically distinctive: selection (LGBs are more likely to be brought up in environments associated with liberal views later in life) and conversion (the life event of adopting a gay identity is accompanied by the acquisition of a cohesive set of liberal beliefs). Less evidence is found for the explanation typically offered for LGB political distinctiveness: that gay people acquire distinctive political views through intra-group contact and acculturation.

Patrick J. Egan (2007), “Explaining the Distinctiveness of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals in American Politics,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 30, 2007

Liebell on Dover, science and education

Abstract: Although the debate over teaching evolution in public schools is not new, the discussion changed significantly with the introduction of intelligent design. Unlike creationism, intelligent design does not ground itself in any biblical tradition or reject all evolutionary change. Instead, intelligent design claims that Darwin’s theory of evolution – particularly natural selection and random mutation – cannot account for the complexity and beauty of life, and, therefore, there must be an “intelligent designer” responsible for the creation of living organisms. In 2004, a small, predominantly Christian, white, and economically modest school district in Dover, Pennsylvania passed a mandate requiring biology teachers to read a statement to their ninth graders. When the teachers refused, administrators cautioned students that Darwin’s theory of evolution was a “theory” and there were gaps in the evidence. A text was available in the school library – Of Pandas and People – that presented a different approach to human development: intelligent design. The reading of the statement was challenged by eleven families on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion. The U.S. District Court’s ruling – that the statement did violate the establishment clause – has been understood by the media, public officials, and academics as a triumph for secularism and science over religion and fundamentalism.

Susan Liebell (2007), Rethinking Dover: The Role of Science and Education in Liberal Society, unpublished paper. Available here.

October 23, 2007

Ananat and Washington on Segregation and Black Political Efficacy

Abstract: The impact of segregation on Black political efficacy is theoretically ambiguous. On one hand, increased contact among Blacks in more segregated areas may mean that Blacks are better able to coordinate political behavior. On the other hand, lesser contact with non-Blacks may mean that Blacks have less political influence over voters of other races. We investigate this question empirically. We find that exogenous increases in segregation lead to decreases in Black civic efficacy, as measured by an ability to elect Representatives who vote liberally and more specifically in favor of legislation that isfavored by Blacks. This tendency for Representatives from more segregated MSAs to vote more conservatively arises in spite of the fact that Blacks in more segregated areas hold more liberal political views than do Blacks in less segregated locales. We find evidence that this decrease in efficacy is driven by greater divergence between Black and non-Black political views in the most segregated areas. Because Blacks are a minority in every MSA, increased divergence by race implies that the mean Black voter viewpoint is farther away from the mean voter viewpoint. We offer suggestive evidence that this increased divergence is due to both lower “contact” and to selection of more conservative non-Blacks into more segregated MSAs. Thus, reduced Black political efficacy may be one reason that Blacks in exogenously more segregated areas experience worse economic outcomes.

Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat and Ebonya Washington (2007), “Segregation and Black Political Efficacy,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 17, 2007

Huber and Stanig on how compassionate conservatism hurts the secular poor

Abstract: We analyze how institutions that establish the level of separation of church and state should influence the political economy of redistribution. Our formal model describes how incentives for charitable giving, coupled with church-state institutions, create opportunities for the rich to form coalitions with the religious poor, at the expense of the secular poor. In our analysis, religion can limit redistribution — not because of the particular faith, belief or risk attitudes of religious individuals (as emphasized by others) — but rather because of simple material greed among the rich and the religious poor. We explore how church-state separation will mediate efforts by the rich to form electoral coalitions with the religious poor, as well as the implications for the size of government, charitable giving, and the welfare of various social groups.

John Huber and Piero Stanig (2007), “Redistribution through Taxes and Charity: The Cost of “Compassionate Conservatism” to the Secular Poor,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via Andrew Gelman.

October 16, 2007

Shipan on Senate Filibusters

Abstract: Although the selection of Supreme Court nominees is of tremendous importance to all presidents, the amount of time it takes presidents to select nominees varies dramatically across nominations. We argue that the timing of nominations is a function of the political constraints the president faces. We examine all Supreme Court nominations since 1882 and find that divided government, a newly-elected president, a nominee’s personal characteristics, and Senate rule changes increase the length of the nomination stage. Nomination decisions are abbreviated as the Senate nears the end of session and as the presidency’s institutional capacity has increased over time.

Charles R. Shipan (2006), “Choosing When to Choose: Explaining the Duration of Presidential Supreme Court Nomination Decisions,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 08, 2007

McCarthy and Poole on gerrymandering and political polarization

Abstract: Both pundits and scholars have blamed increasing levels of partisan conflict and polarization in Congress on the effects of partisan gerrymandering. We assess whether there is a strong causal relationship between congressional districting and polarization. We find very little evidence for such a link. First, we show that congressional polarization is primarily a function of the differences in how Democrats and Republicans represent the same districts rather than a function of which districts each party represents or the distribution of constituency preferences. Second, we conduct simulations to gauge the level of polarization under various “neutral” districting procedures. We find that the actual levels of polarization are not much higher than those produced by the simulations. We do find that gerrymandering has increased the Republican seat share in the House; however, this increase is not an important source of polarization.

Nolan McCarthy and Keith T. Poole (2007), “Does Gerrymandering Cause Polarization?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 04, 2007

Koger and Fowler on agenda setting in the Senate

Abstract: We analyze the influence of party and preferences on Senate agenda-setting. We find a significant majority party advantage in getting bills reported from committee, but otherwise little variation within parties based on preferences. In addition, our results suggest that Senate committees are more likely to report bills written by committee leaders and senior members, or bills with cosponsors. This suggests that Senate agenda-setters are sensitive to cues that bills are high-quality and relatively easy to pass.

Gregory Koger and James H. Fowler (2007), “Parties and Agenda-Setting in the Senate, 1973-1998,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Shipan on partisanship and voting for Supreme Court Nominees

Abstract: It is by now well known that ideological concerns have a major influence on senator’s votes over Supreme Court nominees. Much less is understood, however, about the effects of partisanship. This study investigates two aspects of partisanship – first, whether confirmation voting has become more partisan over time, even when controlling for other factors, such as ideology; and second, whether partisanship modifies the influence of ideology. The results demonstrate that partisanship has played an increasing role over time and that the effects of ideology are, to some extent, dependent on partisanship.

Charles R. Shipan (2007), “Partisanship, Ideology, and Senate Voting on Supreme Court Nominees,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 01, 2007

Abrajano and Singh on News, Immigration Reform, and Latinopolitical attitudes

Abstract: This paper explores whether an individual’s news source can explain their attitudes on immigration. We focus on the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S., since they have the option of accessing their news in English, Spanish or in both languages. Our audience influence hypothesis predicts that Spanish-language news will cover immigration in a more positive and informative manner than will English-language news. Thus, Latinos who use Spanish-language news may have a higher likelihood of possessing pro-immigrant sentiments than Latinos who only use English-language news. Content analysis of Spanish and English-language television news segments demonstrates that Spanish-language news does provide a more positive discussion of immigration than does English-language news. Analysis of Latino survey respondents indicate that those who use Spanish-language news hold more favorable views towards immigration than those who only use English-language news. Generational status also influences Latinos’ immigration attitudes, though its impact is not as great as one’s news source.

Marisa Abrajano and Simram S. Singh (2007), “Examining the Link between Issue Attitudes and News Source: The Case of Latinos and Immigration Reform,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Kang on race and democratic contestation

Abstract: As the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) passes its fortieth anniversary and soon faces constitutional challenges to its recent renewal, a growing number of liberals and conservatives once united in their unqualified support now share deep reservations about it. In this Article, I argue that the growing skepticism about the VRA and majority-minority districting is misguided by a simplistic and impoverished sensibility about the value of electoral competition in American politics. Electoral competition should be judged with reference to ultimate end states it is intended to produce - more democratic debate, greater civic engagement and participation, and richer political discourse - all of which are generated by a deeper first-order competition among political leaders that I describe as “democratic contestation.” In the Article, I offer democratic contestation, in place of electoral competition, as a basic value to be pursued in the law of democracy and as foundation for new theory that helps reconcile approaches to race, representation, and political competition. A theory of democratic contestation shifts the normative focus from the pluralist absorption about which groups get what from politics, to a new focus on the tenor and quality of democratic contestation among leaders.

When viewed through a theory of democratic contestation, the VRA is crucially pro-competitive in the broader sense of democratic contestation. By carving out safe majority-minority districts, the VRA breaks the discursive stasis of racial polarization in which politics by definition revolve around the single axis of race. A theory of democratic contestation reveals how majority-minority districts energize the process of democratic contestation and enable an internal discourse of ideas that moves beyond the racially polarized divide, otherwise impossible in the face of racial polarized opposition. A theory of democratic contestation thus demands a thorough re-evaluation of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in LULAC v. Perry and provides a new understanding of the renewed VRA going forward in the modern political world of national partisan competition.

Michael S. Kang (2008), “”Race and Democratic Contestation”,” Yale Law Journal, forthcoming. Available here.

September 25, 2007

Fryer and Holden on how to redistrict

Abstract: The United States Supreme Court has long recognized compactness as an important principle in assessing the constitutionality of political districting plans. We propose a measure of compactness based on the distance between voters in the same district relative to the minimum distance achievable - which we coin the relative proximity index. We prove that any compactness measure which satisfies three desirable properties (anonymity of voters, efficient clustering and invariance to scale, population density and number of districts) ranks districting plans identically to our index. We then calculate the relative proximity index for the 106th Congress, requiring us to solve for each state’s maximum compactness; an NP-hard problem. Using two properties of maximally compact districts, we prove they are power-diagrams and develop an algorithm based on these insights. The correlation between our index and the commonly-used measures of dispersion and perimeter is -.22 and -.06 respectively. We conclude by estimating seat-vote curves under maximally compact districts for several large states. The fraction of additional seats a party obtains when their average vote increases is significantly greater under maximally compact districting plans, relative to the existing plans.

Roland G. Fryer and Richard Holden (2007), “Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans,” unpublished paper.

Via Andrew Gelman (see here for Gelman’s sympathetic critique of the paper).

September 12, 2007

Schonhardt-Bailey on Congressional Debates about Partial Birth Abortion

Abstract: I employ automated content analysis to measure the dimensionality of Senate debates on the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and compare these results with the final vote. The underlying verbal conflict leading up to the final roll call vote contains two important dimensions: (1) an emotive battle over the abortion procedure itself, and (2) the battle over the constitutionality of the bill. Surprisingly, senators appear not to have voted along the first dimension of the verbal conflict, but rather along the second dimension. The analysis of the deliberations of senators not only enables us to understand the complexity of the arguments that is not captured in the vote, but it also uncovers (and measures empirically) the strategies employed by legislators to shape the relevant lines of conflict, and ultimately, the final content of the bill.

Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey (2008), “The Congressional Debate on Partial-Birth Abortion: Constitutional Gravitas and Moral Passion,” British Journal of Political Science (forthcoming). Available here.

September 06, 2007

Gelman and Baldessarri on How Partisanship is Changing

Abstract: Political polarization is commonly measured using the variation of responses on an individual issue in the population: more variation corresponds to more people on the extremes and fewer in the middle. By this measure, research has shown that - despite many commentators’ concerns about increased polarization in recent decades - Americans’ attitudes have become no more variable over the past two or three decades. What seems to have changed is the level of partisanship of the electorate.

We define a new measure of political polarization as increased correlations in issue attitudes and we distinguish between issue partisanship - the correlation of issue attitudes with party ID and liberal-conservative ideology - and issue alignment - the correlation between pairs of issues. Using the National Election Studies, we find issue alignment to have increased within and between issue domains, but by only a small amount (approximately 2 percentage points in correlation per decade). Issue partisanship has increased more than twice as fast, thus suggesting that increased partisanship is not due to higher ideological coherence. Rather, it is parties that are more polarized and therefore better at sorting individuals along ideological lines; the change in people’s attitudes corresponds more to a re-sorting of party labels among voters than to greater constraint on issue attitudes.

We conclude suggesting that increased issue partisanship, in a context of persistently low issue constraint, might give greater voice to political extremists and single-issue advocates, and amplify dynamics of unequal representation.

Andrew Gelman and Delia Baldessarri (2007), “Partisans Without Constraint: Political Polarization and Trends in American Public Opinion,” unpublished paper. Available here.

September 04, 2007

Williams and Gulati on Facebook and the Midterms

Abstract: As part of a 2006 election feature, Facebook created entries for all U.S. congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Candidates or their campaign staff then could personalize the profile with everything from photographs to qualifications for office. Facebook members could view these entries and register their support for specific candidates. They also received notification every time one of their Facebook friends registered support for a candidate. Facebook displayed the number of supporters for each candidate and calculated the percentage of ―votes‖ that candidate had in his or her race. According to Facebook, 2.64% of their users supported a candidate. All total, 1.5 million members (about 13% of the total user base) were connected either to a candidate or to an issue group.

This study investigates the extent of Facebook profile use in 2006, and analyzes which Congressional candidates were more likely to use them, with what impact on their vote shares. Of those running for the Senate, 32% posted content to their Facebook profile, with the Democratic and Republican candidates attracting an average of 2,146 supporters. Of those running for the House, 13% posted profiles with an average of 125 supporters among Democratic and Republican candidates. Democrats were more likely to post a profile and had more supporters as well. For House candidates, challengers, better-financed candidates, and candidates running in competitive races were the most likely to update their Facebook profile. Competitiveness of the race was the only variable to have a significant effect on whether or not a Senate candidate campaigned on Facebook. The candidates‘ Facebook support had a significant effect on their final vote shares, particularly in the case of open-seat candidates. Given that Facebook supporters may not draw from a candidate‘s eligible and registered voters and tend to overrepresent the 18 to 24 year old age demographic, we see this measure as a proxy for the underlying enthusiasm and intensity of support a candidate generates. In other words, the number of Facebook supporters is an indicator of a campaign resource that does matter, and is independent of the impact of other variables in our predictive model.

Christine B. Williams and Girish J. “Jeff” Gulati (2007), “Social Networks as Viral Campaigns: Facebook and the 2006 Midterm Elections,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via TechPresident.

August 30, 2007

Achen and Bartels on the Democratical Republick

We examine how the notion of popular sovereignty has animated the evolution of American political institutions. We argue that the triumph of democratic rhetoric at the Founding has left Americans with just one remedy in times of governmental failure, namely that reform should move toward greater democratization. More “democratic” institutions have generally emerged (1) when existing institutions have been strained by economic or political crises, (2) when powerful elites have discerned an immediate political advantage in “reform,” and (3) when new institutions could be established with only modest popular involvement. Initially, reform meant extending the franchise and reducing the role of political parties. With time, it has come to mean greater reliance on plebiscitary elements in government. The result has been a gradual ratcheting-up of democratic expectations, and attendant discontents. We illustrate this process in the evolution of the direct primary and the establishment of initiative and referendum procedures in the Progressive Era. We also explore a notable case of resistance to direct democracy: the repeated failure of Minnesota voters to approve a constitutional amendment establishing a statewide initiative and referendum process.

Chris Achen and Larry Bartels (2007), “Tumbling Down into a Democratical Republick,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Gelman and Cai on whether Democrats should move to the left

Abstract: Could John Kerry have gained votes in the recent Presidential election by more clearly distinguishing himself from George Bush on economic policy? At first thought, the logic of political preferences would suggest not: the Republicans are to the right of most Americans on economic policy, and so in a one-dimensional space with party positions measured with no error, the optimal strategy for the Democrats would be to stand infinitesimally to the left of the Republicans. The median voter theorem suggests that each party should keep its policy positions just barely distinguishable from the opposition.

In a multidimensional setting, however, or when voters vary in their perceptions of the parties’ positions, a party can benefit from putting some daylight between itself and the other party on an issue where it has a public-opinion advantage (such as economic policy for the Democrats). We set up a plausible theoretical model in which the Democrats could achieve a net gain in votes by moving to the left on economic policy, given the parties’ positions on a range of issue dimensions. We then evaluate this model based on survey data on voters’ perceptions of their own positions and those of the candidates in 2004. Under our model, it turns out to be optimal for the Democrats to move slightly to the right but staying clearly to the left of the Republicans’ current position on economic issues.

Andrew Gelman and Cexun Jeffrey Cai (2006), “Should the Democrats Move to the Left on Economic Policy?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

August 28, 2007

Fowler, Baker and Dawe on genes and political participation

Abstract: The decision to vote has puzzled scholars for decades. Theoretical models predict little or no participation in large population elections and empirical models have typically explained only a relatively small portion of individual-level variance in turnout behavior. However, these models have not considered the influence of genetic variation on voting. Matching public voter turnout records in Los Angeles to a twin registry, we study the heritability of political behavior in monozygotic and dizygotic twins. The results show that the decision to vote is significantly influenced by genetic factors. We also replicate these results with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and show that they extend to a broad class of acts of political participation. Our findings suggest that humans exhibit genetic variation in their tendency to participate in political activities and, more importantly, that biological evolution may play an important role in the development of mechanisms that help humans overcome social dilemmas.

James H. Fowler, Laura Baker, and Christopher T. Dawes (2007), “The Genetic Basis of Political Participation.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

Grose-Oppenheimer redux

The Grose-Oppenheimer paper on the electoral consequences of Iraq war casualties that I linked to last week is forthcoming in a revised version in Legislative Studies Quarterly. The revised version is available here.

August 27, 2007

Trounstine on modern-day machine politics

Abstract: For all intents and purposes political machines are a thing of the past in American cities. Yet certain characteristics of machines are familiar components of the modern political landscape – among others a lack of transparency in governing, patronage, favors and contracts awarded in exchange for campaign contributions. While scholars have noted the persistence of these practices, there has been little exploration of the modern version of one of the most pervasive machine characteristics – winning reelection. Is there a corollary to political machines in today’s city politics? Can politicians rely on machine style strategies to increase the probability that they will maintain power? In this paper I use case study and quantitative analysis to investigate the factors that increase the local incumbency advantage. I find that even controlling for demographics, economic stability, and factors that increase the attractiveness of holding office incumbents are more likely to seek reelection and to win in low-information elections with large municipal workforces.

Jessica Trounstine (2007), “Modern Machines: Patronage, Information, and Incumbency in Local Politics.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

August 24, 2007

Fowler, Johnson, Spriggs, Jeon and Wahlbeck on network analysis of Supreme Court opinions

Abstract: We construct the complete network of 28,951 majority opinions written by the U.S. Supreme Court and the cases they cite from 1792 to 2005. We illustrate some basic properties of this network and then describe a method for creating importance scores using the data to identify the most important Court precedents at any point in time. This method yields dynamic rankings that can be used to predict the future citation behavior of state courts, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and these rankings outperform several commonly used alternative measures of case importance.

James H. Fowler, Timothy R. Johnson, James F. Spriggs, Sangick Jeon, and Paul J.Wahlbeck (2007) “Network Analysis and the Law: Measuring the Legal Importance of Supreme Court Precedents” Political Analysis 15: 324-346. Available here.

August 21, 2007

Fowler and Kam on Altruism and Political Participation

Abstract: Scholars have recently extended the traditional calculus of participation model by adding a term for benefits to others. We advance this work by distinguishing theoretically a concern for others in general (altruism) from a concern for others in certain groups (social identification). We posit that both concerns generate increased benefits from participation. To test these theories, we use allocations in dictator games towards an unidentified anonymous recipient and two recipients identified only as a registered Democrat or a registered Republican. These allocations permit a distinction between altruism and social identification. The results show that both altruism and social identification significantly increase political participation. The results also demonstrate the usefulness of incorporating benefits that stem from sources beyond material self-interest into rational choice models of participation.

James H. Fowler and Cindy D. Kam (2007), “Beyond the Self: Social Identity, Altruism, and Political Participation,” Journal of Politics 69:811-825. Available here.

August 18, 2007

Cho and Fowler on Small World Networks in Congress

Abstract: We examine the social network structure of Congress from 1973-2004. We treat two Members of Congress as directly linked if they have cosponsored a bill together. We then construct explicit networks for each year using data from all forms of legislation, including resolutions, public and private bills, and amendments. We show that Congress exemplifies the characteristics of a “small world” network and that the varying small world properties during this time period are strongly related to the number of important bills passed.

Wendy K. Tam Cho and James H. Fowler (2007), “Legislative Success in a Small World: Social Network Analysis and the Dynamics of Congressional Legislation,” unpublished paper. Available here.

August 16, 2007

Grose and Oppenheimer on Iraq and the 2006 elections

Abstract: Was the partisan swing in the 2006 U.S. House elections distributed evenly across congressional districts? We argue and show that the partisan swing, measured as the increase in the Democratic vote share from 2004 to 2006, was not constant across districts. We find that the underlying partisanship of the district, the presence of scandal, the presence of a quality challenger, and the incumbency status of the seat all predicted variations in the Democratic swing percentage. We also test competing theoretical expectations regarding legislative representation and find that the Iraq war had a differential impact across districts based on the party of the legislator, whether legislators voted for the war, and based on the number of Iraq war casualties in the district. Republican members of Congress who served during the Congress authorizing the war in Iraq and who voted for the war had larger Democratic swings in their districts than those who did not. We also find that, among Republicans, for about every two Iraq war casualties among soldiers with hometowns in the congressional district, the Democratic swing increased by about one percentage point. Democrats, in contrast, faced no electoral reward or punishment contingent upon their votes on the Iraq war or based on the number of Iraq war casualties in their districts.

Christian Grose and Bruce Oppenheimer (2007), “The Iraq War, Partisanship, and Candidate Attributes: Explaining Variation in Partisan Swing in the 2006 U.S. House Elections,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Fordham on Democrats, Republicans and Cold War Spending

Abstract: The domestic politics of American military spending during the Cold War confronts scholars with an important but often overlooked puzzle: the two major parties appear to have switched positions on the issue. During the early Cold War era, Democrats were generally supportive of increased military spending while Republicans were critical. After the mid-1960s, Democrats increasingly tended to oppose larger military budgets, while Republicans more often favored them. This paper presents evidence about the process through which this change took place. It identifies several developments in the domestic and international environment that may have contributed to this party switch, and evaluates preliminary evidence about each of them.

Benjamin O. Fordham (2007), “The Evolution of Republican and Democratic Positions on Cold War Military Spending: A Historical Puzzle,” Social Science History forthcoming. Available here.

Chong and Druckman on Framing and Public Opinion

Abstract: What is the effect of democratic competition on the power of elites to frame public opinion? We address this issue first by defining the range of competitive contexts that might surround any debate over a policy issue. We then offer a theory that predicts how audiences, messages, and competitive environments interact to influence the magnitude of framing effects. These hypotheses are tested using experimental data gathered on the opinions of adults and college students toward two policy issues – the management of urban growth, and the right of an extremist group to conduct a rally. Our results indicate that framing effects depend more heavily on the qualities of frames than on their frequency of dissemination, and that competition alters but does not eliminate the influence of framing. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for the study of public opinion and democratic political debate.

Dennis Chong and James M. Druckman (2008), “The Influence of Democratic Competition on Public Opinion,” American Political Science Review, forthcoming. Available here.

August 07, 2007

DellaVigna and Kaplan on Media Bias

is media bias necessarily a problem? The effect of media bias depends on how the audience processes the information broadcast by the media. If the audience is aware of the media bias and filters it from the information, distortions in media reporting are unlikely to have large effects on voter beliefs (Bray and Kreps, 1987). In this rational world, media bias does not persuade voters. Other theories hold that, instead, media bias persuades voters. This may occur because voters do not sufficiently account for bias in the media (De Marzo, Vayanos, and Zwiebel 2003). This, in turn, may be a direct effect of the framing of news (Lakoff, 1987). Ultimately, understanding the impact of media bias on voter beliefs and preferences is an empirical task. In this chapter, we first review some of the papers that have provided a measure of this impact. Most of these papers indicate a large impact of the media. However, some of the findings can also be explained by self-selection of voters into preferred media. For example, right-wing voters are more likely to expose themselves to right-wing media, giving an impression that the right-wing media persuades them. Other studies provide evidence of an impact on self-reported voting, or stated voting in a laboratory experiment, as opposed to voting in actual elections. In the rest of the paper, we summarize the result of a natural experiment that addresses the question of the impact of media bias on political preferences. We draw on DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007) which examines the timing of the entry of Fox News in local cable markets, and considers the impact on voting. Relative to DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007), we present new results on turnout for US Senate elections, as well as a more general analysis of persuasion rates.

Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan (2007), “The Political Impact of Media Bias.” Available here.

Via Brendan Nyhan

DellaVigna and Kaplan on The Fox News Effect

Abstract: Does media bias affect voting? We analyze the entry of Fox News in cable markets and its impact on voting. Between October 1996 and November 2000, the conservative Fox News Channel was introduced in the cable programming of 20 percent of U. S. towns. Fox News availability in 2000 appears to be largely idiosyncratic, conditional on a set of controls. Using a data set of voting data for 9,256 towns, we investigate if Republicans gained vote share in towns where Fox News entered the cable market by the year 2000. We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns that broadcast Fox News. Fox News also affected voter turnout and the Republican vote share in the Senate. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure. The Fox News effect could be a temporary learning effect for rational voters, or a permanent effect for nonrational voters subject to persuasion

Stefano DellaVigna and Ethan Kaplan (2007), “The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122:1187-1234. Available here (sub required). Earlier version available here. Via Brendan Nyhan.
Via “Brendan

August 04, 2007

Gelman on Zorn and Gill

Andrew Gelman comments on the Zorn and Gill paper on the designated hitter rule.

My first thought is: this is amusing but why is it in a top political science journal? But, reading the article, I realize that it indeed has more general implications. In particular, if we can make the assumption that causality only goes in one direction here—that a change in the view on the designated hitter will not affect one’s political preferences—then this is a clean study, a way of estimating the coherence of political ideology into non-political areas.

More here.

July 16, 2007

Kenworthy, Barringer, Duerr and Schneider on the Democrats and Working Class Whites

Abstract: We explore defection of working-class whites from the Democratic party since the mid 1970s. Identification with the Democrats among this group fell by twenty percentage points in the late 1970s and the 1980s and has not changed since then. We consider the impact of compositional shifts and issues on this development and find that the latter played a far more important role. Working-class whites who turned away from the Democrats appear to have done so in part because their views shifted to the right on some issues, in part because they perceived the Democrats as shifting to their left on some issues, in part because some issues on which they were never aligned with the party’s positions increased in importance to them, and in part because they lost confidence in the Democrats’ ability to deliver on key issues. We conclude that material issues were a more important cause of the decline in Democratic identification than social/cultural ones. The lack of change in Democratic identification among working-class whites since the early 1990s appears to have been due to an increase in the importance of social/cultural issues and to a cohort effect.

Lane Kenworthy, Sondra Barringer, Daniel Duerr, and Garrett Andrew Schneider (2007). “The Democrats and Working-Class Whites.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

Romer and Romer on the contractionary effects of taxes

Abstract: This paper investigates the impact of changes in the level of taxation on economic activity. We use the narrative record — presidential speeches, executive-branch documents, and Congressional reports — to identify the size, timing, and principal motivation for all major postwar tax policy actions. This narrative analysis allows us to separate revenue changes resulting from legislation from changes occurring for other reasons. It also allows us to further separate legislated changes into those taken for reasons related to prospective economic conditions, such as countercyclical actions and tax changes tied to changes in government spending, and those taken for more exogenous reasons, such as to reduce an inherited budget deficit or to promote long-run growth. We then examine the behavior of output following these more exogenous legislated changes. The resulting estimates indicate that tax increases are highly contractionary. The effects are strongly significant, highly robust, and much larger than those obtained using broader measures of tax changes. The large effect stems in considerable part from a powerful negative effect of tax increases on investment. We also find that legislated tax increases designed to reduce a persistent budget deficit appear to have much smaller output costs than other tax increases.

Christina D. Romer, and David H. Romer (2007), “The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks,” NBER Working Paper No. 13264. Available here (via Marginal Revolution).

Birney, Shapiro and Graetz on Taxes and the Manipulation of Public Opinion

We examine the recent battle for federal estate tax repeal in order better to understand the role of public opinion in enacting legislation, particularly regarding low salience issues. In Part I, our analyses of the polling data show how the contours of public opinion were strategically interpreted in the policy debate. When the issue was framed as a matter of fairness, misperceptions of selfinterest and principled beliefs about fairness combined to yield apparently overwhelming support for repeal. However, when it was instead framed as a matter of priority, majorities supported estate tax reform options over repeal. In Part II, we examine how interest groups leveraged their findings about public opinion into messaging, coalition-building, and organized campaigns that dramatically changed the public image of repeal from extreme to mainstream, and moved it off the economic policy ideological spectrum. By selectively revealing, and threatening to influence, latent public opinion, interest groups could help clear and sow apparent minefields of public opinion. In relating our analyses to the literature, we show that the estate tax repeal cannot be explained by common political science theories, such as thermostatic, power elite, or latitudinal models of public opinion. We propose an alternative “running room” model, in which policy outcomes depend on howpoliticians’ perceptions about a potential public opinion backlash are manipulated—even when public opinion itself does not change.

Mayling Birney, Ian Shapiro and Michael J. Graetz (2007), “The Political Uses of Public Opinion. Lessons from the Estate Tax Repeal. Unpublished paper. Available here.

July 13, 2007

Hopkins and King on extracting meaning from text (with application to blogs)

Abstract: We develop two methods of automated content analysis that give approximately unbiased estimates of quantities of theoretical interest to social scientists. With a small sample of documents hand coded into investigator-chosen categories, our methods can give accurate estimates of the proportion of text documents in each category in a larger population. Existing methods successful at maximizing the percent of documents correctly classified allow for the possibility of substantial estimation bias in the category proportions of interest. Our first approach corrects this bias for any existing classifier, with no additional assumptions. Our second method estimates the proportions without the intermediate step of individual document classification, and thereby greatly reduces the required assumptions. For both methods, we also correct statistically, apparently for the first time, for the far less-than-perfect levels of inter-coder reliability that typically characterize human attempts to classify documents, an approach that will normally outperform even population hand coding when that is feasible. We illustrate these methods by tracking the daily opinions of millions of people about candidates for the 2008 presidential nominations in online blogs, data we introduce and make available with this article, and through evaluations in available corpora from other areas, including movie reviews, university web sites, and Enron emails. We also offer easy-to-use software that implements all methods described.

Daniel Hopkins and Gary King (2007), “Extracting Systematic Social Science Meaning from Text.” Unpublished paper (July 2007 version). Available here.

July 09, 2007

Levy and Temin on Institutions and Inequality in America

Abstract: We provide a comprehensive view of widening income inequality in the United States contrasting conditions since 1980 with those in earlier postwar years. We argue that the income distribution in each period was strongly shaped by a set of economic institutions. The early postwar years were dominated by unions, a negotiating framework set in the Treaty of Detroit, progressive taxes, and a high minimum wage – all parts of a general government effort to broadly distribute the gains from growth. More recent years have been characterized by reversals in all these dimensions in an institutional pattern known as the Washington Consensus. Other explanations for income disparities including skill-biased technical change and international trade are seen as factors operating within this broader institutional story.

Frank Levy and Peter Temin (2007), “Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America,” MIT Industrial Performance Center Working Paper. Available here.

July 07, 2007

Heaney and Rojas on Partisanship and the Anti-War Movement

Abstract: American social movements are often bitterly divided about whether their objectives are achieved better by working with one of the major political parties or by operating independently. These divisions are consequential for how social movements and political parties respond to one another. First, differing partisan attitudes shape the structure of activist networks, leading activists to join organizations with others who share their party loyalties or disloyalties. Second, partisan attitudes affect how activists participate in the movement, with strong partisans more likely to embrace institutional tactics, such as lobbying. Third, partisanship affects activists’ access to the institutions of government, such as Congress. Relying on surveys of antiwar activists attending large-scale public demonstrations in 2004 and 2005 and a Capitol Hill Lobby Day in September 2005, the authors argue that some activists integrate into
major party networks through the “party in the street,” an arena of significant party-movement interaction.

Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas (2007), “Partisans, Nonpartisans, and the Antiwar Movement in the United States,” American Politics Research 35:431-464. Available here.


Engel on the politics of attacking lawcourts

Abstract: How can we account for variation in politicians’ attacks on the courts? Why do more recent manifestations never seem to rise above rhetoric whereas nineteenth-century instances are characterized by measures taken to structurally weaken the federal judiciary? By investigating cases where anti-court actions are taken, i.e., jurisdiction stripping, court-stacking, judicial impeachment, etc., as well as cases where anti-court rhetoric is prevalent yet no disciplinary action follows, I develop a theory explaining this pattern. Rather than rely on norms of judicial supremacy as much of the current literature does, I suggest that rhetorical attack without follow-through is a rational strategy contingent on changes, over time, to extra-constitutional institutions, such as parties, that influence how constitutional institutions, such as the judiciary, are viewed by elected officials. While it is in the short-term electoral interest of members of Congress and the president to attack the undemocratic potential of the federal judiciary, exploiting the specter of a “countermajoritarian difficulty”, it is also in their long-term strategic interest to maintain judicial integrity and power as a potentially useful weapon with which to implement policy and ideological aims. Initial evidence is gathered from anti-Court rhetoric in the national party
platforms and special attention is paid to case selection and theory testing in the context of small-N research.

Stephen M. Engel, “Attacking the Court: A Theory of Political Contingency and Initial Findings Drawn from National Party Platforms,” unpublished paper. Available here.

July 06, 2007

Middleton and Green on whether MoveOn influences turnout

Abstract: One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a multi-state campaign organized by, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 41,654 voters in nine swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately seven percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.

Joel A. Middleton and Donald P. Green, “Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness of MoveOn’s 2004 Outreach Campaign,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Gelman, Shor, Bafumi and Park on income and voting

Abstract:We find that income matters more in “red America” than in “blue America.” In poor states, rich people are much more likely than poor people to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, but in rich states (such as Connecticut), income has a very low correlation with vote preference. In addition to finding this pattern and studying its changes over time, we use the concepts of typicality and availability from cognitive psychology to explain how these patterns can be commonly misunderstood. Our results can be viewed either as a debunking of the journalistic image of rich “latte” Democrats and poor “Nascar” Republicans, or as support for the journalistic images of political and cultural differences between red and blue states— differences which are not explained by differences in individuals’ incomes. For decades, the Democrats have been viewed as the party of the poor, with the Republicans representing the rich. Recent presidential elections, however, have shown a reverse pattern, with Democrats performing well in the richer “blue” states in the northeast and west coast, and Republicans dominating in the “red” states in the middle of the country. Through multilevel modeling of individual-level survey data and county- and state-level demographic and electoral data, we reconcile these patterns. Key methods used in this research are: (1) plots of repeated cross-sectional analyses, (2) varying-intercept, varying-slope multilevelmodels, and (3) a graph that simultaneously shows within-group and between-group patterns in a multilevel model. These statistical tools help us understand patterns of variation within and between states in a way thatwould not be possible from classical regressions or by looking at tables of coefficient estimates.

Andrew Gelman. Boris Shor, Joseph Bafumi, and David Park, “Rich state, poor state, red state, blue state: What’s the matter with Connecticut?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

July 02, 2007

Kazee on Walmart Welfare

One of the most notable changes in contemporary American social policy has been the shift in emphasis from the traditional welfare population to low-income workers and their families. I call this new network of antipoverty policies “Wal-Mart Welfare” for its implications for workers and their employers. What, then, explains variation in the level of support work support at the state level, and do employers play a role in these policy choices? This paper focuses on three policies that make up a state’s overall level of work support yet differ in significant ways: Medicaid, state earned income tax credits, and state minimum wages. In this preliminary analysis, I find that the politics of work support follow a predictable logic but that this not as simple as it first appears. Half of the states follow consistent patterns of high or low work support, while the other half offer limited support through an often unpredictable mix of policies. Regression analysis reveals that overall levels of work support are shaped largely by wealth and partisanship, though when the three policies are disaggregated, income is the only factor that consistently influences work support of all types. If employers play any role at all, it seems to be negative, which reflects divisions within the business community that are notoriously difficult to overcome. When isolated, the low-wage firms that are most likely to benefit from work support policies do not seem to be influencing policy choices. This suggests that historical, institutional, and ideological forces overwhelm the ability of low-wage firms to support government programs (at least on a large scale) even when they are in their material interest, and that policymakers don’t yet believe low-wage employers will mobilize in support of antipoverty programs in the future.

Nicole Kazee, “Wal-Mart Welfare?:State Antipoverty Policy and Low-Income Workers,” unpublished paper. Available here.

June 28, 2007

Zorn and Gill on the Politics of the Designated Hitter

Abstract: Since its introduction in 1973, major league baseball’s designated hitter (DH) rule has been the subject of continuing controversy. Here, we investigate the political and socio-demographic determinants of public opinion toward the DH rule, using data from a nationwide poll conducted during September 1997. Our findings suggest that it is in fact Democrats, not Republicans, who tend to favor the DH. In addition, we find no effect for respondents’ proximity to American or National League teams, though older respondents were consistently more likely to oppose the rule.

Zorn, Christopher, and Jeff Gill (2007), “The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2:189-203. Available here.

June 27, 2007

White on when race matters

Abstract: Building on previous research on the effects of racial priming on the opinions of White Americans, this paper engages the question of how exposure to racial cues in political messages shapes the opinions of African Americans. I argue that explanations of racial priming that focus exclusively on White Americans are insufficient to explain how racial cues influence the opinions of Black Americans, as they fail to account for the activation of in-group attitudes and mis-specify the role of explicit racial cues. In two separate laboratory experiments, I test the effects of explicitly racial, implicitly racial, and nonracial verbal cues on both Black and White Americans’ assessments of an ostensibly nonracial issue. The results point to important racial differences in the effectiveness of explicit and implicit racial verbal cues in activating racial thinking about an issue. Only frames that provide oblique references to race successfully activated racial out-group resentment for Whites. Among Blacks, explicit references to race most reliably elicited racial thinking by activating racial in-group identification, whereas the effect of implicit cues was moderated by the activation of negative representations of the in group. These findings not only demonstrate that racial attitude activation works differently for African Americans than for Whites but also challenge conventional wisdom that African Americans see all political issues through a racial lens.

Ismail K. White (2007), “When Race Matters and When It Doesn’t: Racial Group Differences in Response to Racial Cues,” American Political Science Review 101:339-354. Available here.

June 26, 2007

Mosher on Union Power and Inequality in the US

Abstract: Wage inequality, including the college/high school education premium, has increased substantially in the United States. A key part of the most widely accepted explanation for this is that skill-biased technological change accelerated during this time. This article suggests that the impact of skill-biased technological change was closer to constant in the second half of the twentieth century. This leaves a large unexplained decrease in the college/high school education premium in the 1940s and a large unexplained increase in the 1980s. The current article provides evidence that the upsurge and decline in union power during those respective periods provide a good explanation for these unexplained wage inequality changes.

James S. Mosher (2007), “U.S. Wage Inequality, Technological Change, and Decline in Union Power,” Politics and Society 35:225-263. Available (sub required) here.