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POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH - JULY 2010

From the American Journal of Political Science

Constituents' Responses to Congressional Roll-Call Voting

Stephen Ansolabehere and Philip Edward Jones

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Do citizens hold their representatives accountable for policy decisions, as commonly assumed in theories of legislative politics? Previous research has failed to yield clear evidence on this question for two reasons: measurement error arising from noncomparable indicators of legislators' and constituents' preferences and potential simultaneity between constituents' beliefs about and approval of their representatives. Two new national surveys address the measurement problem directly by asking respondents how they would vote and how they think their representatives voted on key roll-call votes. Using the actual votes, we can, in turn, construct instrumental variables that correct for simultaneity. We find that the American electorate responds strongly to substantive representation. (1) Nearly all respondents have preferences over important bills before Congress. (2) Most constituents hold beliefs about their legislators' roll-call votes that reflect both the legislators' actual behavior and the parties' policy reputations. (3) Constituents use those beliefs to hold their legislators accountable.


The Electoral Costs of Party Loyalty in Congress

Jamie L. Carson, Gregory Koger, Matthew J. Lebo and Everett Young

July 2010

ABSTRACT

To what extent is party loyalty a liability for incumbent legislators? Past research on legislative voting and elections suggests that voters punish members who are ideologically "out of step" with their districts. In seeking to move beyond the emphasis in the literature on the effects of ideological extremity on legislative vote share, we examine how partisan loyalty can adversely affect legislators' electoral fortunes. Specifically, we estimate the effects of each legislator's party unity--the tendency of a member to vote with his or her party on salient issues that divide the two major parties--on vote margin when running for reelection. Our results suggest that party loyalty on divisive votes can indeed be a liability for incumbent House members. In fact, we find that voters are not punishing elected representatives for being too ideological; they are punishing them for being too partisan.


Party Identification, Issue Attitudes, and the Dynamics of Political Debate

Logan Dancey  and Paul Goren

July 2010

ABSTRACT

This article investigates whether media coverage of elite debate surrounding an issue moderates the relationship between individual-level partisan identities and issue preferences. We posit that when the news media cover debate among partisan elites on a given issue, citizens update their party identities and issue attitudes. We test this proposition for a quartet of prominent issues debated during the first Clinton term: health care reform, welfare reform, gay rights, and affirmative action. Drawing on data from the Vanderbilt Television News Archives and the 1992-93-94-96 NES panel, we demonstrate that when partisan debate on an important issue receives extensive media coverage, partisanship systematically affects--and is affected by--issue attitudes. When the issue is not being contested, dynamic updating between party ties and issue attitudes ceases.

 

Public Opinion Polls, Voter Turnout, and Welfare: An Experimental Study

Jens Gro├čer  and Arthur Schram

July 2010

ABSTRACT

We experimentally study the impact of public opinion poll releases on voter turnout and welfare in a participation game. We find higher overall turnout rates when polls inform the electorate about the levels of support for the candidates than when polls are prohibited. Distinguishing between allied and floating voters, our data show that this increase in turnout is entirely due to floating voters. When polls indicate equal levels of support for the candidates, turnout is high and welfare is low (compared to the situation without polls). In contrast, when polls reveal more unequal levels of support, turnout is lower with than without this information, while the effect of polls on welfare is nonnegative. Finally, many of our results are well predicted by quantal response (logit) equilibrium.

 

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

July 2010

ABSTRACT

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 The Journal of Politics

Are Governors Responsible for the State Economy? Partisanship, Blame, and Divided Federalism

Adam R. Brown

July 2010

ABSTRACT

In the United States, voters directly elect dozens of politicians: presidents, governors, legislators, mayors, and so on. How do voters decide which politician to blame for which policy outcomes? Previous research on gubernatorial approval has suggested that voters divide policy blame between governors and the president based on each office's "functional responsibilities"--requiring that responsibilities are clear cut, which is seldom true. Using data from four surveys, I show that voters actually divide responsibility for economic conditions in a partisan manner, preferring to blame officials from the opposing party when problems arise.

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Partisanship, Approval, and the Duration of Major Power Democratic Military Interventions

Michael T. Koch and Patricia Sullivan

July 2010

ABSTRACT

How does the domestic political climate within democratic states affect the duration of their foreign military engagements? To answer this question we combine a rationalist model of war termination with a theory about how partisan politics affects the policy preferences of national leaders to predict the duration of democratic military interventions. Specifically, we examine how changes in a chief executive's public approval ratings interact with partisanship to affect decisions about the timing of conflict termination. We test our expectations on a set of 47 British, French, and American cases from a new dataset of military interventions by powerful states. Our results suggest that partisanship mediates the effect of public approval on the duration of military operations initiated by powerful democratic countries. As executive approval declines, governments on the right of the political spectrum are inclined to continue to fight, while left-leaning executives become more likely to bring the troops home.


Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Issue Framing Effects

Rune Slothuus and Claes H. de Vreese

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Issue framing is one of the most important means of elite influence on public opinion. However, we know almost nothing about how citizens respond to frames in what is possibly the most common situation in politics: when frames are sponsored by political parties. Linking theory on motivated reasoning with framing research, we argue not only that citizens should be more likely to follow a frame if it is promoted by "their" party; we expect such biases to be more pronounced on issues at the center of party conflicts and among the more politically aware. Two experiments embedded in a nationally representative survey support these arguments. Our findings revise current knowledge on framing, parties, and public opinion.

Balancing, Generic Polls and Midterm Congressional Elections

Joseph Bafumi, Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien

July 2010

ABSTRACT

One mystery of U.S. politics is why the president's party regularly loses congressional seats at midterm. Although presidential coattails and their withdrawal provide a partial explanation, coattails cannot account for the fact that the presidential party typically performs worse than normal at midterm. This paper addresses the midterm vote separate from the presidential year vote, with evidence from generic congressional polls conducted during midterm election years. Polls early in the midterm year project a normal vote result in November. But as the campaign progresses, vote preferences almost always move toward the out party. This shift is not a negative referendum on the president, as midterms do not show a pattern of declining presidential popularity or increasing salience of presidential performance. The shift accords with "balance" theory, where the midterm campaign motivates some to vote against the party of the president in order to achieve policy moderation.

 

You've Either Got It or You Don't? The Stability of Political Interest over the Life Cycle

Markus Prior

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Some people are more politically interested than others, but political scientists do not know how stable these differences are and why they occur. This paper examines stability in political interest. Eleven different panel surveys taken in four different countries over 40 years are used to measure stability. Several studies include a much larger number of interview waves--up to 23--than commonly used panels. The analysis empirically characterizes the stability of interest over time using a model that accounts for measurement error and a dynamic panel model. The large number of panel waves makes it possible to relax many restrictive assumptions to ensure robustness. With one exception (Germany reunification), political interest is exceptionally stable in the short run and over long periods of time. Hence, this study provides strong justification for efforts to understand how political interest forms among young people.

 

Public Opinion and Senate Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominees

Jonathan P. Kastelleca1, Jeffrey R. Laxa2 and Justin H. Phillip

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Does public opinion influence Supreme Court confirmation politics? We present the first direct evidence that state-level public opinion on whether a particular Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed affects the roll-call votes of senators. Using national polls and applying recent advances in opinion estimation, we produce state-of-the-art estimates of public support for the confirmation of 10 recent Supreme Court nominees in all 50 states. We find that greater home-state public support does significantly and strikingly increase the probability that a senator will vote to approve a nominee, even controlling for other predictors of roll-call voting. These results establish a systematic and powerful link between constituency opinion and voting on Supreme Court nominees. We connect this finding to larger debates on the role of majoritarianism and representation.

 

Short-Term Communication Effects or Longstanding Dispositions? The Public's Response to the Financial Crisis of 2008

Neil Malhotra and Yotam Margalit

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Economic interests and party identification are two key, long-standing factors that shape people's attitudes on government policy. Recent research has increasingly focused on how short-term communication effects (e.g., issue framing, media priming) also influence public opinion. Rather than posit that political attitudes reflect one source of considerations more than another, we argue that the two interact in a significant and theoretically predictable manner. To explore this claim, we examine the American public's attitudes towards the government's response to the financial crisis of 2008. We designed three survey experiments conducted on a large national sample, in which we examine the influence of (1) group-serving biases, (2) goal framing, and (3) threshold sensitivity. We find that economic standing and partisanship moderate the impact of communication effects as a function of their content. Our results demonstrate how people's sensitivity to peripheral presentational features interacts with more fundamental dispositions in shaping attitudes on complex policy issues.

 

From Political Science and Politics

U.S. Public Opinion on Torture, 2001-2009

Paul Gronke, Darius Rejali, Dustin Drenguis, James Hicks, Peter Miller and Bryan Nakayama

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Many journalists and politicians believe that during the Bush administration, a majority of Americans supported torture if they were assured that it would prevent a terrorist attack. As Mark Danner wrote in the April 2009 New York Review of Books, "Polls tend to show that a majority of Americans are willing to support torture only when they are assured that it will 'thwart a terrorist attack.'" This view was repeated frequently in both left- and right-leaning articles and blogs, as well as in European papers (Sharrock 2008; Judd 2008; Koppelman 2009; Liberation 2008). There was a consensus, in other words, that throughout the years of the Bush administration, public opinion surveys tended to show a pro-torture American majority.

 

Does an EMILY's List Endorsement Predict Electoral Success, or Does EMILY Pick the Winners?

Rebecca J. Hannagan, Jamie P. Pimlott and Levente Littvay

July 2010

ABSTRACT

Women's political action committees (PACs)--those committees founded by women to raise money for women candidates--have been and will likely continue to be an important part of American electoral politics. In this article, we investigate the impact of EMILY's List, because it is the standard bearer of women's PACs and is commonly cited as crucial to women's electoral success. Empirical studies of EMILY's List impact to date have largely assumed causal inference by using traditional linear models. We use a propensity score-matching model to leverage on causality and find that an EMILY endorsement helps some candidates and hurts others. Our findings set the stage for further and more nuanced investigations of when, where, and how EMILY's List can enhance the likelihood of electoral success for women.