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POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH - AUGUST 2010

From Perspectives on Politics

How ACORN Was Framed: Political Controversy and Media Agenda Setting

Peter Dreir and Christopher R. Martin

August 2010

ABSTRACT

Using the news controversy over the community group ACORN, we illustrate the way that the media help set the agenda for public debate and frame the way that debate is shaped. Opinion entrepreneurs (primarily business and conservative groups and individuals, often working through web sites) set the story in motion as early as 2006, the conservative echo chamber orchestrated an anti-ACORN campaign in 2008, the Republican presidential campaign repeated the allegations with a more prominent platform, and the mainstream media reported the allegations without investigating their veracity. As a result, the little-known community organization became the subject of great controversy in the 2008 US presidential campaign, and was recognizable by 82 percent of respondents in a national survey. We analyze 2007-2008 coverage of ACORN by 15 major news media organizations and the narrative frames of their 647 stories during that period. Voter fraud was the dominant story frame, with 55 percent of the stories analyzed using it. We demonstrate that the national news media agenda is easily permeated by a persistent media campaign by opinion entrepreneurs alleging controversy, even when there is little or no truth to the story. Conversely, local news media, working outside of elite national news media sources to verify the most essential facts of the story, were the least likely to latch onto the "voter fraud" bandwagon.


From Political Psychology

Ethnic Minority-Majority Asymmetry in National Attitudes around the World: A Multilevel Analysis

Christian Staerkle, Jim Sidanius, Eva G. T. Green and Ludwig E. Molina

August 2010

ABSTRACT

Using data from the International Social Survey Programme, this research investigated asymmetric attitudes of ethnic minorities and majorities towards their country and explored the impact of human development, ethnic diversity, and social inequality as country-level moderators of national attitudes. In line with the general hypothesis of ethnic asymmetry, we found that ethnic, linguistic, and religious majorities were more identified with the nation and more strongly endorsed nationalist ideology than minorities (H1, 33 countries). Multilevel analyses revealed that this pattern of asymmetry was moderated by country-level characteristics: the difference between minorities and majorities was greatest in ethnically diverse countries and in egalitarian, low inequality contexts. We also observed a larger positive correlation between ethnic subgroup identification and both national identification and nationalism for majorities than for minorities (H2, 20 countries). A stronger overall relationship between ethnic and national identification was observed in countries with a low level of human development. The greatest minority-majority differences in the relationship between ethnic identification and national attitudes were found in egalitarian countries with a strong welfare state tradition.

 

"I'm Not Prejudiced, but . . .": Compensatory Egalitarianism in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary

Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan and Laurie Rudman

August 2010

ABSTRACT

The historic 2008 Democratic presidential primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton posed a difficult choice for egalitarian White voters, and many commentators speculated that the election outcome would reflect pitting the effects of racism against sexism (Steinem, 2008). Because self-reported prejudices may be untrustworthy, we used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to assess White adults' (1) condemnation of prejudices, and (2) attitudes toward the candidates in relation to voting decisions, as part of an online survey. Results supported the proposed compensatory egalitarianism process, such that Whites' voting choice was consistent with their implicit candidate preference, but in an effort to remain egalitarian, participants compensated for this preference by automatically condemning prejudice toward the other candidate's group. Additional findings showed that this process was moderated by participants' ethnicity and level of prejudice, as expected. Specifically, compensatory egalitarianism occurred primarily among Whites and individuals low in explicit prejudice. Implications for candidate support, aversive racism theory, and implicit compensation processes are discussed.

 

The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever "Get It"?

David P. Redlawsk, Andrew J. W. Civettini and Karen M. Emmerson

August 2010

ABSTRACT

In order to update candidate evaluations voters must acquire information and determine whether that new information supports or opposes their candidate expectations. Normatively, new negative information about a preferred candidate should result in a downward adjustment of an existing evaluation. However, recent studies show exactly the opposite; voters become more supportive of a preferred candidate in the face of negatively valenced information. Motivated reasoning is advanced as the explanation, arguing that people are psychologically motivated to maintain and support existing evaluations. Yet it seems unlikely that voters do this ad infinitum. To do so would suggest continued motivated reasoning even in the face of extensive disconfirming information. In this study we consider whether motivated reasoning processes can be overcome simply by continuing to encounter information incongruent with expectations. If so, voters must reach a tipping point after which they begin more accurately updating their evaluations. We show experimental evidence that such an affective tipping point does in fact exist. We also show that as this tipping point is reached, anxiety increases, suggesting that the mechanism that generates the tipping point and leads to more accurate updating may be related to the theory of affective intelligence. The existence of a tipping point suggests that voters are not immune to disconfirming information after all, even when initially acting as motivated reasoners.

 

The Implicit and Explicit Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: Is the Source Really Blamed?

Luciana Carraro and Luigi Castelli

August 2010

ABSTRACT

Despite the widespread use of negative campaigns, research has not yet provided unambiguous conclusions about their effects. So far studies, however, have mainly focused on very explicit measures. The main goal of the present work was to explore the effects of different types of negative campaigns on both implicit and explicit attitudes, as well as in relation to two basic dimensions of social perception, namely competence and warmth. Across a series of three studies, we basically showed that not all negative campaigns lead to the same consequences. Specifically, especially personal attacks toward the opposing candidate may backfire at the explicit level. More interestingly, at an implicit level, the reliance on negative messages was associated with more negative spontaneous affective responses toward the source, but also with a spontaneous conformity to such a source. Overall, it appeared that negative messages decreased the perceived warmth of the source while simultaneously increasing the perceived competence. Results are discussed by focusing on the importance of implicit measures in political psychology and on the crucial role of perceived competence.

 

From Political Behavior

Sex and Race: Are Black Candidates More Likely to be Disadvantaged by Sex Scandals?

Adam J. Berinsky, Vincent L. Hutchings, Tali Mendelberg, Lee Shaker and Nicholas A. Valentino

August 2010

ABSTRACT

A growing body of work suggests that exposure to subtle racial cues prompts white voters to penalize black candidates, and that the effects of these cues may influence outcomes indirectly via perceptions of candidate ideology. We test hypotheses related to these ideas using two experiments based on national samples. In one experiment, we manipulated the race of a candidate (Barack Obama vs. John Edwards) accused of sexual impropriety. We found that while both candidates suffered from the accusation, the scandal led respondents to view Obama as more liberal than Edwards, especially among resentful and engaged whites. Second, overall evaluations of Obama declined more sharply than for Edwards. In the other experiment, we manipulated the explicitness of the scandal, and found that implicit cues were more damaging for Obama than explicit ones.


In the Eye of the Beholder? Motivated Reasoning in Disputed Elections Kyle C. Kopko,

Sarah McKinnon Bryner, Jeffrey Budziak, Christopher J. Devine and Steven P. Nawara

August 2010

ABSTRACT

This study uses an experimental design to simulate the ballot counting process during a hand-recount after a disputed election. Applying psychological theories of motivated reasoning to the political process, we find that ballot counters' party identification conditionally influences their ballot counting decisions. Party identification's effect on motivated reasoning is greater when ballot counters are given ambiguous, versus specific, instructions for determining voter intent. This study's findings have major implications for ballot counting procedures throughout the United States and for the use of motivated reasoning in the political science literature.


Masculine Republicans and Feminine Democrats: Gender and Americans' Explicit and Implicit Images of the Political Parties

Nicholas J. G. Winter

August 2010

ABSTRACT

During the past three decades Americans have come to view the parties increasingly in gendered terms of masculinity and femininity. Utilizing three decades of American National Election Studies data and the results of a cognitive reaction-time experiment, this paper demonstrates empirically that these connections between party images and gender stereotypes have been forged at the explicit level of the traits that Americans associate with each party, and also at the implicit level of unconscious cognitive connections between gender and party stereotypes. These connections between the parties and masculinity and femininity have important implications for citizens' political cognition and for the study of American political behavior.