POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH - OCTOBER 2010
From PS: Political Science and Politics
Symposium: Forecasts of the 2010 Midterm Elections
Editor's Introduction by James E. Campbell
There is a broad consensus among
the models that the Republicans will make substantial gains in the House in the
2010 midterms. There is not a consensus, however, over how large those gains
will be. There is a 30-seat spread between the low and high end of the seat
change forecast range, with two forecasts giving an edge to Democrats in
controlling the House and three placing the odds in the Republicans' favor.
Lewis-Beck and Tien forecast a 22-seat gain for the Republicans. Their 200
seats would leave Republicans 18 seats short of a majority. Cuzán forecasts
Republican gains of 27 to 30 seats, leaving Republicans with 205 to 208 seats
and Democrats with continued control of the House. Abramowitz predicts a
43-seat gain for the Republicans. Since he uses a 179 pre-election seat base,
this outcome would install a new Republican majority in place by five seats.
Bafumi, Erikson, and Wlezien predict that Republicans are likely to gain 51
seats, which would give Republicans 229 seats and a 12-seat majority. Finally,
my forecast is for Republicans to gain 51 or 52 seats, giving them a 12 or 13
seat majority. Whether Democrats or Republicans control the House in 2011,
their majority is likely to be much narrower than the current Democratic
majority. This may well present a roadblock to the Obama administration's
legislative agenda and will quite probably make control of the House a real
question again in 2012.
What Health Reform Teaches Us about American Politics
Lawrence R. Jacobs
The tumultuous journey of health reform from President Barack Obama's opening push in February 2009 to his bill signing in March 2010 may be inexplicable from afar. Swept into power on promises of change, Democrats controlled the White House and enjoyed the largest Congressional majorities in decades, and they agreed that the existing health care system cost too much and delivered too little--stranding over 30 million with no health insurance and leaving millions more with only inadequate coverage or dependent on emergency rooms for urgent care. Unified party control and programmatic agreement would seem like a veritable checklist of what was needed to pass health reform legislation.
The Seats in Trouble Forecast of the 2010 Elections to the U.S. House
James E. Campbella
All indications are that 2010 will be a very good year for Republicans. After two election setbacks, they are poised for a comeback. Partisanship, ideology, the midterm decline from the prior presidential surge, the partisanship of districts being defended, and even President Obama's approval ratings have set the stage for significant seat gains by Republicans in the House.
How Large a Wave? Using the Generic Ballot to Forecast the 2010 Midterm Elections
Alan I. Abramowitz
As Election Day approaches, many political commentators are asking whether the 2010 midterm elections could be a reprise of 1994, when Republicans picked up eight seats in the Senate and 52 seats in the House of Representatives to take control of both chambers for the first time in 40 years. There is almost universal agreement that Republicans are poised to make major gains in both the House and the Senate. And while the GOP's chances of gaining the 10 seats needed to take control of the upper chamber appear remote, results from the generic ballot forecasting model indicate that the 39 seats required to take back the House of Representatives are well within reach.
Forecasting House Seats from Generic Congressional Polls: The 2010 Midterm Election
Joseph Bafumia, Robert S. Eriksona and Christopher Wleziena
In this article, we present a forecast of the 2010 midterm House election based on information available in early July 2010. We combine this forecast with a note of caution, explaining why electoral circumstances might lead our forecast to err. Finally, we present guidance regarding how to update the electoral forecast for 2010 based on new information that will become available leading up to Election Day.
The Referendum Model: A 2010 Congressional Forecast
Michael S. Lewis-Beck and Charles Tien
Congressional election forecasting has experienced steady growth. Currently fashionable models stress prediction over explanation. The independent variables do not offer a substantive account of the election outcome. Instead, these variables are tracking variables--that is, indicators that may trace the result but fail to explain it. The outstanding example is the generic ballot measure, which asks respondents for whom they plan to vote in the upcoming congressional race. While this variable correlates highly with presidential party House seat share, it is bereft of substance. The generic ballot measure is the archetypical tracking variable, and it holds pride of place in the Abramowitz (2010) model. Other examples of such tracking variables are exposed seats or lagged seats, features of the Campbell (2010) model. The difficulty with such tracking models is twofold. First, they are not based on a theory of the congressional vote. Second, because they are predictive models, they offer a suboptimal forecasting instrument when compared to models specified according to strong theory.
Will the Republicans Retake the House in 2010?
Alfred G. Cuzána
Historically, statistical models for forecasting the outcome of midterm elections to the United States House of Representatives have not been particularly successful (Jones and Cuzán 2006). However, in what may have been a breakthrough, most models correctly predicted that the Democrats would re-emerge as the majority party in 2006 (Cuzán 2007). One successful model was estimated using 46 elections, beginning with 1914 (only the second time that 435 representatives, the present number, were elected). The model was relatively simple, making use of national-level variables only (Cuzán and Bundrick 2006). Using a similar model, I generated a forecast for the 2010 midterm election. Forecasting the 2010 State Legislative Elections
Forecasting the 2010 State Legislative Elections
This article offers forecasts made on July 22, 2010, for the 2010 state legislative elections. Most work in the election forecasting field has been done on presidential and U.S. House elections. Less has been done for U.S. Senate elections, and almost none for gubernatorial or state legislative elections. This year will see much attention directed at the 43 state legislatures holding elections, because many will have the responsibility for drawing new district lines based on the 2010 census. Furthermore, of those chambers with elections scheduled in 2010, seven currently contain one party with less than a 5% margin of control. With so much at stake, these will clearly be contests to watch.
From Political Psychology
A Tripartite Approach to Right-Wing Authoritarianism: The Authoritarianism-Conservatism-Traditionalism Model
John Duckitt, Boris Bizumic, Stephen W. Krauss and Edna Heled
Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) has been conceptualized and measured as a unidimensional personality construct comprising the covariation of the three traits of authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and conventionalism. However, new approaches have criticized this conceptualization and instead viewed these three "traits" as three distinct, though related, social attitude dimensions. Here we extend this approach providing clear definitions of these three dimensions as ideological attitude constructs of Authoritarianism, Conservatism, and Traditionalism. These dimensions are seen as attitudinal expressions of basic social values or motivational goals that represent different, though related, strategies for attaining collective security at the expense of individual autonomy. We report data from five samples and three different countries showing that these three dimensions could be reliably measured and were factorially distinct. The three dimensions also differentially predicted interpersonal behaviour, social policy support, and political party support. It is argued that conceptualizing and measuring RWA as a set of three related ideological attitude dimensions may better explain complex sociopolitical phenomena than the currently dominant unidimensional personality based model.
Communication, Influence, and Informational Asymmetries among Voters
T. K. Ahn, Robert Huckfeldt and John Barry Ryan
The costs of political information vary dramatically across individuals, and these costs help explain why some individuals become politically expert while others demonstrate low levels of political knowledge and awareness. An attractive alternative, particularly for those with high information costs, is to rely on information and advice taken from others who are politically expert. This paper focuses on the complications that arise when the informant and the recipient do not share preferences. A series of small group experiments show that subjects tend to weight expertise more heavily than shared preferences in selecting informants, thereby exposing themselves to diverse views and biased information. Experimental subjects employ several heuristic devices in evaluating the reliability of this information, but depending on their own levels of information, these heuristics often lead subjects either to dismiss advice that conflicts with their own prior judgments or to dismiss advice that comes from an informant with divergent preferences. Hence these heuristics produce important consequences for patterns of political influence, as well as reducing the potential for political change.
From American Journal of Political Science
Valuing Diversity in Political Organizations: Gender and Token Minorities in the U.S. House of Representatives
Kirstin Kanthak and George A. Krause
Political scientists are keenly interested in how diversity influences politics, yet we know little about how diverse groups of political actors interact. We advance a unified theory of colleague valuation to address this puzzle. The theory explains how minority group size affects how members of a political organization differentially value majority and minority group colleagues, predicting that the effect of preference divergence on individual-level colleague valuation is greatest when the minority group is smallest. We test this prediction using member-to-member leadership political action committee (PAC) contributions in the U.S. House of Representatives. The results obtain strong, albeit not uniform, support for the theory, demonstrating that the gender gap in colleague valuations declines as preference divergence increases in all but one instance. In contrast to conventional wisdom, the theory and evidence indicate that women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives receive less support from men colleagues as their ranks increase.
Inequality and the Dynamics of Public Opinion: The Self-Reinforcing Link Between Economic Inequality and Mass Preferences
Nathan J. Kelly and Peter K. Enns
This article assesses the influence of income inequality on the public's policy mood. Recent work has produced divergent perspectives on the relationship between inequality, public opinion, and government redistribution. One group of scholars suggests that unequal representation of different income groups reproduces inequality as politicians respond to the preferences of the rich. Another group of scholars pays relatively little attention to distributional outcomes but shows that government is generally just as responsive to the poor as to the rich. Utilizing theoretical insights from comparative political economy and time-series data from 1952 to 2006, supplemented with cross-sectional analysis where appropriate, we show that economic inequality is, in fact, self-reinforcing, but that this is fully consistent with the idea that government tends to respond equally to rich and poor in its policy enactments.
From The Journal of Politics
"An Appeal to the People": Public Opinion and Congressional Support for the Supreme Court
Joseph Daniel Ura and Patrick C. Wohlfarth
Scholars often assert that public support for judicial authority induces Congress to grant resources and discretion to the Supreme Court. However, the theory of competing public agency embraced by the Constitution suggests that public support for courts cannot, by itself, explain congressional support for judicial authority. Instead, the logic of the separation of powers system indicates that legislative support for the institutional capacity of courts will be a function of public confidence in the legislature as well as evaluations of the judiciary. We test this theory, finding that public confidence in both Congress and the Court significantly affect congressional support for the Supreme Court, controlling for the ideological distance between the Court and Congress as well as the Court's workload. The results offer a more refined and complex view of the role of public sentiment in balancing institutional power in American politics.
Engaging Citizens: The Role of Power-Sharing Institutions
Miki Caul Kittilson and Leslie Schwindt-Bayer
Drawing on established theories of comparative political institutions, we argue that democratic institutions carry important messages that influence mass attitudes and behaviors. Power-sharing political institutions signal to citizens that inclusiveness is an important principle of a country's democracy and can encourage citizens to participate in politics. Applying multilevel modeling to data from the World Values Survey, we test whether democratic institutions influence political engagement in 34 countries. Further, we examine whether underrepresented groups, specifically women, are differentially affected by the use of power-sharing institutions such that they are more engaged in politics than women in countries with power-concentrating institutions. We find that disproportional electoral rules dampen engagement overall and that gender gaps in political engagement tend to be smaller in more proportional electoral systems, even after controlling for a host of other factors. Power-sharing institutions can be critical for explaining gender differences in political engagement.
Representation and Policy Responsiveness: The Median Voter, Election Rules, and Redistributive Welfare Spending
Shin-Goo Kang and G. Bingham Powell Jr.
Many economic and social conditions shape public welfare spending. We are able to show, however, that after taking account of these conditions, the expressed left-right preferences of the median voters significantly affect comparative welfare spending. These new findings support the representational claims of liberal democracy and the theoretical expectations of the literature on ideological congruence. However, we also show that insofar as the preferences of citizens and the promises of governing parties (which are highly correlated,) can be disentangled, it is the former that affect the long-term redistributive welfare spending equilibrium, while the latter have small, but significant short-term effects. Surprisingly, despite greater representational correspondence between positions of voters and governments under PR than SMD, the impact of the median voter preferences is quite similar under the two systems.
Foreign Policy at the Ballot Box: How Citizens Use Foreign Policy to Judge and Choose Candidates
Shana Kushner Gadariana
This paper uses the elections of 1980 to 2004 to illustrate that political candidates from opposing parties face different incentives in mentioning foreign policy during campaigns and in taking foreign policy positions. The paper demonstrates that citizens connect their own foreign policy views clearly to their evaluations of Republican candidates, but these same foreign policy opinions are much less likely to affect evaluations of the Democratic party and Democratic candidates. In addition, this paper reveals another significant asymmetry--in a threatening environment, Americans reward candidates and parties perceived to hold hawkish positions but even more severely punish candidates perceived to be dovish. Using two datasets, I find that Americans' opinions on defense spending and diplomacy mattered significantly for the type of political leadership the public preferred at election time.
The Theory of Conditional Retrospective Voting: Does the Presidential Record Matter Less in Open-Seat Elections?
James E. Campbell, Bryan J. Dettrey and Hongxing Yin
This research tests the idea that retrospective voting in presidential elections is conditional, that retrospective evaluations are applied more strictly to incumbents seeking election than to in-party candidates (successor candidates) who are not incumbents. Voters may assign only partial credit or blame for national conditions to successor candidates because, unlike incumbents, these candidates did not personally have power over the policies that might have affected the national conditions leading up to the election. This theory of conditional retrospective voting is examined at both the aggregate level on elections since 1948 and with individual-level survey data since 1972. The analysis consistently finds, as the theory of conditional retrospective voting contends, that the electorate's retrospective evaluations matter significantly more to the vote for an incumbent than to the vote for a successor candidate of the in-party.
The Impact of Explicit Racial Cues on Gender Differences in Support for Confederate Symbols and Partisanship
Vincent L. Hutchings, Hanes Walton Jr. and Andrea Benjamin
Researchers have argued that explicit racial appeals are rejected in contemporary American politics because they are perceived as violating the norm of racial equality. We test this claim with an experimental design, embedded in a representative survey of Georgia where, until recently, the state flag featured the Confederate battle emblem. In our experiment, we manipulate the salience of racial cues in news accounts of the state flag controversy in Georgia. We hypothesize that women are more likely than men to reject explicit racial appeals. We focus on the effects of explicit messages in two areas: support for Confederate symbols and identification with the Democratic Party. As hypothesized, when the racial significance of this debate is made explicit support for the Confederate flag declines, but only among women. Similarly, explicit appeals lead to lower levels of Democratic identification among men, but among women the effects are weaker and less consistent.
A Latino on the Ballot: Explaining Coethnic Voting Among Latinos and the Response of White Americans
Corrine M. McConnaughy, Ismail K. White, David L. Leal and Jason P. Casellas
In recent campaigns, candidates have sought to attract votes from the growing Latino electorate through ethnic cues. Yet, we know very little about the impact of appeals to ethnicity. This article examines the role that ethnic cues play in shaping the political opinions and choices of Latinos, as well as the response of non-Hispanic White Americans (Anglos). We take up the simplest of group cues, the ethnicity of the candidate. We argue that candidate ethnicity is an explicit ethnic cue that alters the political choices of Latinos through priming of their ethnic linked fate, but only affects Anglos through spreading activation of primed ethnic attitudes to national identity considerations. Evidence from an experiment that manipulated exposure to candidate ethnicity information provides evidence for these claims. Our results help to explain coethnic voting among Latinos and resistance to Latino candidates among Anglos.
Reversing the Causal Arrow: The Political Conditioning of Economic Perceptions in the 2000-2004 U.S. Presidential Election Cycle
Geoffrey Evans and Mark Pickup
Many economic voting models assume that individual voters' reactions to incumbents are strongly conditioned by their perceptions of the performance of the macroeconomy. However, the direction of causality between economic perceptions and political preferences is unclear: economic perceptions can be a consequence of incumbent support rather than an influence on it. We develop the latter thesis by examining the dynamic relationship between retrospective economic perceptions and several measures of political preferences--approval, partisanship, and vote--in the 2000-2004 U.S. presidential election cycle using the ANES 2000-2002-2004 panel study to estimate structural equation model extensions of the Anderson and Hsiao estimator for panel data. Our findings confirm that the conventional wisdom misrepresents the relationship between retrospective economic perceptions and incumbent partisanship: economic perceptions are consistently and robustly conditioned by political preferences. Individuals' economic perceptions are influenced by their political preferences rather than vice versa.
From Electoral Studies
How do candidates spend their money? Objects of campaign spending and the effectiveness of diversification
Maria Laura Sudulich and Matthew Walla
We present a novel approach to the study of campaign effectiveness using disaggregated spending returns from the 2007 Irish general election. While previous studies have focused on overall levels of expenditure as a predictor of electoral success, we consider the types of activities on which candidates spent money and the overall diversification of candidates' campaign expenditure as predictors of electoral success. We offer a replicable framework for the measurement of campaign diversification as well as for the evaluation of its effects on electoral performance. We examine how factors such as campaign expenditure and candidates' incumbency status condition the effects of campaign diversification. It is shown that diversification is only related to electoral success when campaigns are well-financed.
Optimists and Skeptics: Why Do People Believe in the Value of their Single Vote?
Andre Blais and Ludovic Rheault
We investigate the origins of voters' beliefs about the value of their single vote. We construe such beliefs as a function of psychological predispositions and exposure to information about the competitiveness of the electoral race. We test this theoretical model using data from the 2008 Canadian federal election and a new survey question tapping voters' beliefs about whether their vote can make a difference. Our results show that sense of efficacy has a strong effect, efficacious voters being more prone to optimism. Competitiveness of the race also matters, but only among attentive voters.
Electoral Losers Revisited- How Citizens React to Defeat at the Ballot Box
The paper seeks to reconcile insights from winner-loser gap research with mainstream understanding of election legitimacy. The paper acknowledges that winning and losing elections creates differential incentives for citizens to remain supportive of their political system, but it argues that losers nevertheless have enough reasons to remain supportive in absolute terms. Drawing on democratic theory, the paper develops a rationale for why citizens are willing to accept electoral defeat voluntarily, and suggest a new way to conceptualize citizen reactions to election outcomes. It presents findings from a sample of election studies in established democracies to show that winners typically become more supportive whereas losers at minimum retain their level of support from before the election. It concludes that elections, when reasonably well executed, as they most often are in established democracies, build system support rather than undermine it.
From Political Behavior
The Political Ecology of Opinion in Big-Donor Neighborhoods
Major campaign donors are highly concentrated geographically. A relative handful of neighborhoods accounts for the bulk of all money contributed to political campaigns. Public opinion in these elite neighborhoods is very different from that in the country as a whole and in low-donor areas. On a number of prominent political issues, the prevailing viewpoint in high-donor neighborhoods can be characterized as cosmopolitan and libertarian, rather than populist or moralistic. Merging Federal Election Commission contribution data with three recent large-scale national surveys, we find that these opinion differences are not solely the result of big-donor areas' high concentration of wealthy and educated individuals. Instead, these neighborhoods have a distinctive political ecology that likely reinforces and intensifies biases in opinion. Given that these locales are the origin for the lion's share of campaign donations, they may steer the national political agenda in unrepresentative directions.
Partisan Differences in Opinionated News Perceptions: A Test of the Hostile Media Effect
The proliferation of opinion and overt partisanship in cable news raises questions about how audiences perceive this content. Of particular interest is whether audiences effectively perceive bias in opinionated news programs, and the extent to which there are partisan differences in these perceptions. Results from a series of three online experiments produce evidence for a relative hostile media phenomenon in the context of opinionated news. Although, overall, audiences perceive more story and host bias in opinionated news than in non-opinionated news, these perceptions--particularly perceptions of the host--vary as a function of partisan agreement with the news content. Specifically, issue partisans appear to have a "bias against bias," whereby they perceive less bias in opinionated news with which they are predisposed to agree than non-partisans and especially partisans on the other side of the issue.
An Elite Theory of Political Consulting and Its Implications for U.S. House Election Competition
Does the hiring of political consultants make election races more competitive? If so, why? Most scholars of political consulting argue their expertise enhances competition; I argue that consultant reputation also boosts competition. Many political consultants are part of the Washington establishment, which notices their association with candidates. In particular, congressional candidates of the out party, especially challengers, have an incentive to hire the most reputable consultants to signal to political elites their viability. I demonstrate a positive empirical relationship between out-party candidates hiring top consultants (compared to less reputable ones) and how competitive their race is perceived by elites. These findings and theoretical insight provide a basis for understanding the high costs of political consultants and their impact on election outcomes.
Polarization and Issue Consistency Over Time
The polarization of the political and social environment over the past four decades has provided citizens with clearer cues about how their core political predispositions (e.g., group interests, core values, and party identification) relate to their issue opinions. A robust and ongoing scholarly debate has involved the different ways in which the more polarized environment affects mass opinion. Using heteroskedastic regression, this paper examines the effect of the increasingly polarized environment on the variability of citizens' policy opinions. We find that citizens today base their policy preferences more closely upon their core political predispositions than in the past. In addition, the predicted error variances also allow us to directly compare two types of mass polarization--issue distance versus issue consistency--to determine the independent effects each has on changes in the distribution of mass opinion.
Education and Political Participation: Exploring the Causal Link
One of the most consistently documented relationships in the field of political behavior is the close association between educational attainment and political participation. Although most research assumes that this association arises because education causes participation, it could also arise because education proxies for the factors that lead to political engagement: the kinds of people who participate in politics may be the kinds of people who tend to stay in school. To test for a causal effect of education, we exploit the rise in education levels among males induced by the Vietnam draft. We find little reliable evidence that education induced by the draft significantly increases participation rates.
From The Forum
Forecasting Control of State Governments and Redistricting Authority After the 2010 Elections
This article makes forecasts for the 2010 state legislative and gubernatorial elections. These forecasts indicate the Republicans will add control of 15 legislative chambers and nine governor's offices, leaving them with 51 chambers and 32 governorships. Forecasts about the extent of redistricting authority by the Democratic and Republican parties indicate the Republicans will have authority over 125 U.S. House seats, while the Democrats will have authority over 62. In a chamber level analysis of 2,141 legislative and a state level analysis of 758 gubernatorial elections, four national forces are used in predicting election outcomes from 1950 to present: presidential approval, change in per capita income, midterm loss, and the percentage of respondents who say they will vote for a Democrat for the U.S. House. The differential effect of these forces in states with the straight-ticket option is also taken into account. Monte Carlo simulation that takes into account states' different rules regarding redistricting authority is then utilized to assess how many U.S. House seats the Democratic and Republican parties will control.
Building a Political Science Public Sphere with Blogs
We argue that political science blogs can link conversations among political scientists with broader public debates about contemporary issues. Political science blogs do this by identifying relevant research, explaining its findings, and articulating its applicability. We identify strategies besides blogging that individual scholars and the discipline could undertake to enhance its public profile.
Political Science and Practical Politics: A Journalist's Journey
Political journalism can serve as a useful bridge between practical politics and political science. This article recounts the author's personal journey from a childhood interest in maps, numbers and elections to a lifetime career as a political journalist. It also illustrates the partnership that can flourish between journalism and academe in making sense of our nation's political scene.
The Politics Missed by Political Science
This essay offers some experience-based observations about electoral phenomena that academic political science misses because of a focus on conceptual and theoretical debates that often take pride of place over the empirical phenomena that gave rise to the ideas and concepts that we highly value. We suggest that academic political science is increasingly committed to models and methods that serve a theory or an idea more than they account for observable empirical regularities. Practitioner methods and innovations for persuading voters and winning elections under varying electoral conditions are largely unknown to scholars, with consequences for our collective factual knowledge and ability to test current hypotheses and theories about elections in an appropriate wide range of circumstances.