From Political Behavior


Does Economic Inequality Depress Electoral Participation? Testing the Schattschneider Hypothesis

Frederick Solt

June 2010


Nearly a half-century ago, E.E. Schattschneider wrote that the high abstention and large differences between the rates of electoral participation of richer and poorer citizens found in the United States were caused by high levels of economic inequality. Despite increasing inequality and stagnant or declining voting rates since then, Schattschneider's hypothesis remains largely untested. This article takes advantage of the variation in inequality across states and over time to remedy this oversight. Using a multilevel analysis that combines aspects of state context with individual survey responses in 144 gubernatorial elections, it finds that citizens of states with greater income inequality are less likely to vote and that income inequality increases income bias in the electorate, lending empirical support to Schattschneider's argument.

Taking Threat Seriously: Prejudice, Principle, and Attitudes Toward Racial Policies

 Christina Suthammanont , David A. M. Peterson , Chris T. Owens  and Jan E. Leighley

 June 2010


Drawing from group theories of race-related attitudes and electoral politics, we develop and test how anxiety influences the relative weight of prejudice as a determinant of individuals' support for racial policies. We hypothesize that prejudice will more strongly influence the racial policy preferences of people who are feeling anxious than it will for people who are not. Using an experimental design we manipulate subjects' levels of threat and find significant treatment effects, as hypothesized. We find that individuals' racial policy attitudes are partially conditional on their affective states: individuals who feel anxious report less support for racial policies than those individuals who do not feel anxious, even when this threat is stimulated by non-racial content. More broadly, we conclude that affect is central to a better understanding of individuals' political attitudes and behaviors.



From Political Research Quarterly


Gender and the Perception of Knowledge in Political Discussion

Jeanette Morehouse Mendez  and Tracy Osborn

June 2010


Differences in knowledge about politics between men and women have the potential to affect political discussion. We examine differences in the perception of political knowledge between men and women and the effects these differences have on how often men and women talk about politics. We find both men and women perceive women to be less knowledgeable about politics and men to be more knowledgeable, regardless of the actual level of knowledge each discussion partner holds. This perceptual knowledge gap could have ramifications for discussion as political participation, since people turn to those they perceive to be experts to gather political information.

The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Women's Political Engagement: Does Party Matter?

Beth Reingold and Jessica Harrell

June 2010


Recent research raises doubts about whether the presence of women contesting or occupying prominent public office enhances women's political engagement. Taking into account both gender and party congruence between politicians and constituents, the authors find that it is primarily female candidates of the same party who enhance women's interest in politics. The stronger impact of party-congruent (over party-incongruent) female candidates can be attributed to either greater visibility or agreement on substantive issues. Party matters, but rather than obscuring the role of gender in electoral politics, it enhances our understanding of how, or under what conditions, it works.

Reducing the Costs of Participation: Are States Getting a Return on Early Voting?

Joseph D. Giammo and Brian J. Brox

June 2010


The authors address the puzzle of why governments have implemented methods of early voting when those methods appear not to have an effect on turnout. Using an aggregate analysis, the authors find that early voting seems to produce a short-lived increase in turnout that disappears by the second presidential election in which it is available. They also address whether the additional costs to government are worth the negligible increase in participation. They conclude that these reforms merely offer additional convenience for those already likely to vote.

Balance or Dominance? Party Competition in Congressional Politics

Suzanne M. Robbins and Helmut Norpoth

June 2010


With a pioneering application of probability models in political science, Stokes and Iversen established "the existence of forces restoring party competition." Whatever the margin of victory in a given election, the partisan vote subsequently tends to return to the point of equal division. The authors introduce an expanded test of electoral equilibrium that allows for effects of major realignments and regional differences, using congressional elections since 1828. They find that the vote division gravitates to the mean but that the mean vote, in most periods of American history and in several regions, departs significantly from the point of equal division and in some instances is prone to a pronounced drift. Hence, during much of their lifetime, many Americans do not experience, in congressional elections, party competition that gives the opposition much of a chance to win.

The Electoral Benefits of Distributive Spending

Jeffrey Lazarus and Shauna Reilly


Prior studies search for evidence that distributive spending influences Congress members' vote shares but find limited evidence. The authors argue that Democratic and Republican members each benefit from different types of distributive projects. Democrats benefit from delivering spending projects (what most people think of as "pork") to their constituents, while many Republican members benefit from delivering contingent liabilities (in which the federal treasury underwrites a private entity's financial risk). Empirical tests using data from U.S. House elections between 1984 and 2002 generally confirm these hypotheses, with one exception: only Republicans in relatively conservative districts gain from contingent liabilities. This result is further explored in the text.

Carving Voters Out: Redistricting's Influence on Political Information, Turnout, and Voting Behavior

Jonathan Winburn and Michael Wagner

June 2010


This article examines how the splitting of counties into multiple congressional districts affects citizens' abilities to recall House candidates, turnout, roll off their congressional vote, and cast straight-ticket ballots. We demonstrate that while voters living in the "short end of the split" are less likely to recall their House candidates, they do behave similarly at the ballot box to voters drawn into districts containing their natural community of interest. Our results suggest the Supreme Court's traditional focus on population equality across congressional districts might be more appropriately administered in concert with respect for natural communities of interest such as counties.


 From Politics & Society


Winner-Take-All Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of Top Incomes in the United States

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

June 2010


The dramatic rise in inequality in the United States over the past generation has occasioned considerable attention from economists, but strikingly little from students of American politics. This has started to change: in recent years, a small but growing body of political science research on rising inequality has challenged standard economic accounts that emphasize apolitical processes of economic change. For all the sophistication of this new scholarship, however, it too fails to provide a compelling account of the political sources and effects of rising inequality. In particular, these studies share with dominant economic accounts three weaknesses: (1) they downplay the distinctive feature of American inequality --namely, the extreme concentration of income gains at the top of the economic ladder; (2) they miss the profound role of government policy in creating this "winner-take-all" pattern; and (3) they give little attention or weight to the dramatic long-term transformation of the organizational landscape of American politics that lies behind these changes in policy. These weaknesses are interrelated, stemming ultimately from a conception of politics that emphasizes the sway (or lack thereof) of the "median voter" in electoral politics, rather than the influence of organized interests in the process of policy making. A perspective centered on organizational and policy change --one that identifies the major policy shifts that have bolstered the economic standing of those at the top and then links those shifts to concrete organizational efforts by resourceful private interests --fares much better at explaining why the American political economy has become distinctively winner-take-all.