POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH - FEBRUARY 2010
From Political Psychology
Predicting Election Outcomes from Positive and Negative Trait Assessments of Candidate Images
Kyle Mattes, Michael Spezio, Hackjin Kim, Alexander Todorov, Ralph Adolphs and R. Michael Alvarez
Conventional wisdom, and a growing body of behavioral research, suggests that the nonverbal image of a candidate influences voter decision making. We presented subjects with images of political candidates and asked them to make four trait judgments based solely on viewing the photographs. Subjects were asked which of the two faces exhibited more competence, attractiveness, deceitfulness, and threat, which are arguably four of the most salient attributes that can be conveyed by faces. When we compared our subjects' choices to the actual election outcomes, we found that the candidates chosen as more likely to physically threaten the subjects actually lost 65% of the real elections. As expected, our findings support the conclusions of Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, and Hall (2005) by showing a positive correlation between the competence judgments and the real election outcomes. Surprisingly, attractiveness was correlated with losing elections, with the effect being driven by faces of candidates who looked politically incompetent yet personally attractive. Our findings have implications for future research on negative political communication, as they suggest that both threatening first impressions and fleeting impressions of attractiveness can harm a candidate's electoral chances
From The American Political Science Review
Personality and Political Attitudes: Relationships Across Issue Domains and Political Contexts
Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling and Shang E. Ha
Previous research on personality traits and political attitudes has largely focused on the direct relationships between traits and ideological self-placement. There are theoretical reasons, however, to suspect that the relationships between personality traits and political attitudes (1) vary across issue domains and (2) depend on contextual factors that affect the meaning of political stimuli. In this study, we provide an explicit theoretical framework for formulating hypotheses about these differential effects. We then leverage the power of an unusually large national survey of registered voters to examine how the relationships between Big Five personality traits and political attitudes differ across issue domains and social contexts (as defined by racial groups). We confirm some important previous findings regarding personality and political ideology, find clear evidence that Big Five traits affect economic and social attitudes differently, show that the effect of Big Five traits is often as large as that of education or income in predicting ideology, and demonstrate that the relationships between Big Five traits and ideology vary substantially between white and black respondents.
From Public Opinion Quarterly
Perceptions about the Amount of Interracial Prejudice Depend on Racial Group Membership and Question Order
David C. Wilson
Few studies have attempted to examine how racial group membership may interact with survey context to influence responses to questions about race. Analyzing over 9,000 respondents from split-ballot experiments embedded in national polls, this research examines the extent to which question order interacts with one's self-reported racial group to influence beliefs about the amount of interracial prejudice that exists between Blacks and Whites. The results show that in-group members (e.g., Blacks) tend to view out-group members (e.g., Whites) as having more dislike toward their in-group (e.g., Whites dislike Blacks) only when the in-group is asked about first--a contrast. When in-group members (e.g., Blacks) are evaluated after out-groups (e.g., Whites), they will view their in-group's dislike as similar to that of the out-groups--an assimilation. The results serve to remind survey researchers and practitioners of the careful attention that must be paid to context and response biases.
From The British Journal of Political Science
The Political Conditionality of Mass Media Influence: When Do Parties Follow Mass Media Attention?
Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Rune Stubager
Claims regarding the power of the mass media in contemporary politics are much more frequent than research actually analysing the influence of mass media on politics. Building upon the notion of issue ownership, this article argues that the capacity of the mass media to influence the respective agendas of political parties is conditioned upon the interests of the political parties. Media attention to an issue generates attention from political parties when the issue is one that political parties have an interest in politicizing in the first place. The argument of the article is supported in a time-series study of mass media influence on the opposition parties' agenda in Denmark over a twenty-year period.
From Political Behavior
How Explicit Racial Prejudice Hurt Obama in the 2008 Election
Some commentators claim that white Americans put prejudice behind them when evaluating presidential candidates in 2008. Previous research examining whether white racism hurts black candidates has yielded mixed results. Fortunately, the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama provides an opportunity to examine more rigorously whether prejudice disadvantages black candidates. I also make use of an innovation in the measurement of racial stereotypes in the 2008 American National Election Studies survey, which yields higher levels of reporting of racial stereotypes among white respondents. I find that negative stereotypes about blacks significantly eroded white support for Barack Obama. Further, racial stereotypes do not predict support for previous Democratic presidential candidates or current prominent Democrats, indicating that white voters punished Obama for his race rather than his party affiliation. Finally, prejudice had a particularly large impact on the voting decisions of Independents and a substantial impact on Democrats but very little influence on Republicans.
From Politics & Policy
The Anti-Immigrant Fervor in Georgia: Return of the Nativist or Just Politics as Usual?