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POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH ABSTRACTS - DECEMBER 2010

From The American Political Science Review


Dynamic Public Opinion: Communication Effects over Time

DENNIS CHONG and JAMES N. DRUCKMAN

December 2010

ABSTRACT
We develop an approach to studying public opinion that accounts for how people process competing messages received over the course of a political campaign or policy debate. Instead of focusing on the fixed impact of a message, we emphasize that a message can have variable effects depending on when it is received within a competitive context and how it is evaluated. We test hypotheses about the effect of information processing using data from two experiments that measure changes in public opinion in response to alternative sequences of information. As in past research, we find that competing messages received at the same time neutralize one another. However, when competing messages are separated by days or weeks, most individuals give disproportionate weight to the most recent communication because previous effects decay over time. There are exceptions, though, as people who engage in deliberate processing of information display attitude stability and give disproportionate weight to previous messages. These results show that people typically form significantly different opinions when they receive competing messages over time than when they receive the same messages simultaneously. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for understanding the power of communications in contemporary politics.


Party Affiliation, Partisanship, and Political Beliefs: A Field Experiment

ALAN S. GERBER, GREGORY A. HUBER and EBONYA WASHINGTON

December 2010

Abstract

Partisanship is strongly correlated with attitudes and behavior, but it is unclear from this pattern whether partisan identity has a causal effect on political behavior and attitudes. We report the results of a field experiment that investigates the causal effect of party identification. Prior to the February 2008 Connecticut presidential primary, researchers sent a mailing to a random sample of unaffiliated registered voters who, in a pretreatment survey, leaned toward a political party. The mailing informed the subjects that only voters registered with a party were able to participate in the upcoming presidential primary. Subjects were surveyed again in June 2008. Comparing posttreatment survey responses to subjects' baseline survey responses, we find that those reminded of the need to register with a party were more likely to identify with a party and showed stronger partisanship. Further, we find that the treatment group also demonstrated greater concordance than the control group between their pretreatment latent partisanship and their posttreatment reported voting behavior and intentions and evaluations of partisan figures. Thus, our treatment, which appears to have caused a strengthening of partisan identity, also appears to have caused a shift in subjects' candidate preferences and evaluations of salient political figures. This finding is consistent with the claim that partisanship is an active force changing how citizens behave in and perceive the political world.


Competition between Specialized Candidates

STEFAN KRASA and MATTIAS POLBORN

December 2010

Abstract

Opposing candidates for a political office often differ in their professional backgrounds and previous political experience, leading to both real and perceived differences in political capabilities. We analyze a formal model in which candidates with different productivities in two policy areas compete for voters by choosing how much money or effort they would allocate to each area if elected. The model has a unique equilibrium that differs substantially from the standard median voter model. Although candidates compete for the support of a moderate voter type, this cutoff voter differs from the expected median voter. Moreover, no voter type except the cutoff voter is indifferent between the candidates in equilibrium. The model also predicts that candidates respond to changes in the preferences of voters in a very rigid way. From a welfare perspective, candidates are "excessively moderate": almost certainly, a majority of voters would prefer that the winning candidate focus more on his or her strength.

Political Consequences of the Carceral State

VESLA M. WEAVER and AMY E. LERMAN

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Contact with the criminal justice system is greater today than at any time in our history. In this article, we argue that interactions with criminal justice are an important source of political socialization, in which the lessons that are imprinted are antagonistic to democratic participation and inspire negative orientations toward government. To test this argument, we conduct the first systematic empirical exploration of how criminal justice involvement shapes the citizenship and political voice of a growing swath of Americans. We find that custodial involvement carries with it a substantial civic penalty that is not explained by criminal propensity or socioeconomic differences alone. Given that the carceral state has become a routine site of interaction between government and citizens, institutions of criminal justice have emerged as an important force in defining citizen participation and understandings, with potentially dire consequences for democratic ideals.


From British Journal of Political Science


Informal Social Networks and Rational Voting

Samuel Abrams, Torben Iversen and David Soskice

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Classical rational choice explanations of voting participation are widely thought to have failed. This article argues that the currently dominant Group Mobilization and Ethical Agency approaches have serious shortcomings in explaining individually rational turnout. It develops an informal social network (ISN) model in which people rationally vote if their informal networks of family and friends attach enough importance to voting, because voting leads to social approval and vice versa. Using results from the social psychology literature, research on social groups in sociology and their own survey data, the authors argue that the ISN model can explain individually rational non-altruistic turnout. If group variables that affect whether voting is used as a marker of individual standing in groups are included, the likelihood of turnout rises dramatically.


From Electoral Studies


Measuring party positions and issue salience from media coverage: Discussing and cross-validating new indicators

Marc Helbling and Anke Tresch

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Recent studies have started to use media data to measure party positions and issue salience. The aim of this article is to compare and cross-validate this alternative approach with the more commonly used party manifestos, expert judgments and mass surveys. To this purpose, we present two methods to generate indicators of party positions and issue salience from media coverage: the core sentence approach and political claims analysis. Our cross-validation shows that with regard to party positions, indicators derived from the media converge with traditionally used measurements from party manifestos, mass surveys and expert judgments, but that salience indicators measure different underlying constructs. We conclude with a discussion of specific research questions for which media data offer potential advantages over more established methods.


Do voters affect or elect policies? A new perspective, with evidence from the U.S. Senate

David Albouy

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Using quasi-experimental evidence from close elections, Lee et al. (2004) - henceforth LMB - argue competition for voters in U.S. House elections does not affect policy positions, as incumbent Senate candidates do not vote more extremely if elected than non-incumbents. Despite stronger electoral competition and greater legislative independence, similar results, shown here, hold for the Senate. Yet, the hypothesis that voters do not affect policies conflicts with how Senators moderate their positions prior to their next election. LMB-style estimates appear to be biased downwards as junior members of Congress prefer to vote more extremely than senior members, independently of their electoral strength. Corrected estimates are more favorable to the hypothesis that candidates moderate their policy choices in response to electoral competition.


The dynamic political economy of support for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election campaign

Thomas J. Scotto, Harold D. Clarke, Allan Kornberg, Jason Reifler, David Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart, Paul Whiteley

December 2010

ABSTRACT

In recent years, students of voting behavior have become increasingly interested in valence politics models of electoral choice. These models share the core assumption that key issues in electoral politicds typically are ones upon which there is a widespread public consensus on the goals of public policy. The present paper uses latent curve modeling procedures and data from a six-wave national panel survey of the American electorate to investigate the dynamic effects of voters' concerns with the worsening economy--a valence issue par excellence--in the skein of causal forces at work in the 2008 presidential election campaign. As the campaign developed, the economy became the dominant issue. Although the massively negative public reaction to increasingly perilous economic conditions was not the only factor at work in 2008, dynamic multivariate analyses show that mounting worries about the economy played an important role in fueling Barack Obama's successful run for the presidency.


Policy attitudes, ideology and voting behavior in the 2008 Election

William G. Jacoby

December 2010

ABSTRACT

This article examines the impact of policy attitudes and ideology on voting behavior in the 2010 U.S. presidential election. The analysis uses data from the 2008 American National Election Study. The empirical results indicate that the 2008 election should not be regarded as a simple referendum on the George W. Bush presidency. At the same time, voting behavior was not particularly aligned along stark policy divisions; the direct effects of issue attitudes were confined largely to the most sophisticated stratum of the electorate. Finally, liberal-conservative orientations did affect citizens' political attitudes and candidate choices in ways that are fairly unique, compared to other recent elections.


The dynamics of candidate evaluations and vote choice in 2008: looking to the past or future?

Roy Elis, D. Sunshine Hillygus, Norman Nie

December 2010

ABSTRACT

In this paper, we leverage a 10-wave election panel to examine the relative and dynamic effects of voter evaluations of Bush, Palin, Biden, McCain, and Obama in the 2008 presidential election. We show that the effects of these political figures on vote choice evolves through the campaign, with the predictive effects of President Bush declining after the nominees are known, and the effects of the candidates (and Palin), increasing towards Election Day. In evaluating the relative effects of these political figures on individual-level changes in vote choice during the fall campaign, we also find that evaluations of the candidates and Sarah Palin dwarf that of President Bush. Our results suggest a Bayesian model of voter decision making in which retrospective evaluations of the previous administration might provide a starting point for assessing the candidates, but prospective evaluations based on information learned during the campaign helps voters to update their candidate preference. Finally, we estimate the "Palin effect," based on individual-level changes in favorability towards the vice-presidential nominee, and conclude that her campaign performance cost McCain just under 2% of the final vote share.


Transformation and polarization: The 2008 presidential election and the new American electorate

Alan I. Abramowitz

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Along with the unpopularity of President Bush and the dire condition of the U.S. economy, changes in the composition of the American electorate played a major role in Barack Obama's decisive victory in the 2008 presidential election. The doubling of the nonwhite share of the electorate between 1992 and 2008 was critical to Obama's election as African-American and other nonwhite voters provided him with a large enough margin to overcome a substantial deficit among white voters. In addition, voters under the age of 30 preferred Obama by a better than 2-1 margin, accounting for more than 80 percent of his popular vote margin. Despite the overall Democratic trend, the results revealed an increasingly polarized electorate. Over the past three decades the coalitions supporting the two major parties have become much more distinctive geographically, racially, and ideologically. The growth of the nonwhite electorate along with the increasing liberalism and Democratic identification of younger voters suggest that a successful Obama presidency could put the Democratic Party in a position to dominate American politics for many years. However, these trends appear to be provoking an intense reaction from some opponents of the President. The frustration and anger displayed at "tea party" demonstrations and town hall meetings may reflect not just discomfort with Barack Obama's race but the perceived threat that Obama and his supporters represent to the social status and power of those on the opposing side.

The personal vote and voter turnout

Joseph W. Robbins

December 2010

ABSTRACT

The level of electoral turnout is arguably the most widely monitored form of electoral participation. Consequently, electoral systems have often been cited as having a significant effect on turnout levels even though scholars do not agree on the effects of these complex institutions. Since most previous studies have relied on categorical or dichotomous electoral system indicators, this study utilizes Carey and Shugart's personal vote index to gain theoretical leverage on other electoral system components. In short, I find that where electoral competition is predicated on party, rather than candidates', reputations, turnout levels rise. The results of a time-series cross-sectional analysis reveal that the personal vote index significantly influences turnout levels even when controlling for a host of other factors.


From Political Research Quarterly

Beyond Supply and Demand: A Feminist-institutionalist Theory of Candidate Selection

Mona Lena Krook

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Dynamics of candidate selection are central to political representation. The dominant model used to study the case of women focuses on the supply of and demand for female aspirants. This article develops a critique of this approach, by drawing on two sets of theoretical tools: institutionalism and feminism. It subsequently elaborates an alternative perspective on candidate selection based on configurations of three kinds of gendered institutions: systemic, practical, and normative. The utility of this approach is then explored through three paired comparisons of cases in which quota policies have been introduced, disrupting some but not necessarily all aspects of gendered institutional configurations.


Campaign Effects on the Accessibility of Party Identification

J. Tobin Grant, Stephen T. Mockabee and J. Quin Monson

December 2010

ABSTRACT

This study uses response latency, the time required for a survey respondent to formulate an answer upon hearing a question, to examine the accessibility of partisan self identifications over the course of a political campaign season. Although the aggregate distribution of partisanship remains fairly stable during the campaign, party identifications become more accessible to individuals with weaker party identifications as the election approaches. Consistent with theoretical expectations, the authors find that partisan orientations are more useful in forming political judgments when those orientations are more accessible to the voter. The effect of partisanship on vote choice is a third greater for voters with highly accessible party identifications than for those with less accessible party identifications.


Candidate Gender and Voter Choice: Analysis from a Multimember Preferential Voting System

Gail McElroy and Michael Marsh

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Women are greatly underrepresented in elected office. A large literature on the subject has considerably advanced our understanding of this phenomenon, but many questions remain unanswered. Using original aggregate and individual-level data, the authors explore the interplay of candidate gender, partisanship, incumbency, and campaign spending in a multimember preferential voting system. This setting allows unparalleled exploration of the heterogeneous nature of voter decision making. The authors find little evidence for an independent effect of candidate gender on voter choice. Voters do not discriminate against women even in an electoral environment that affords them this opportunity without any cost to their partisan preferences.


Serving Two Masters: Redistricting and Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives

Michael H. Crespin

December 2010

Abstract

This article explores the consequences for representation after a redistricting by reexamining the finding that members of Congress will alter their voting behavior to fit their new district. Specifically, it applies partisan theories of congressional organization to test if members are changing their behavior on all or just some votes. The results indicate that representatives adjust their roll call behavior to fit their new districts on votes that are visible to their constituents. However, when it comes to votes that are important to the party for controlling the agenda (i.e., procedural votes), members do not respond to changes in the district.


Obama and the White Vote

Todd Donovan

December 2010

ABSTRACT

This article draws on the racial threat thesis to test if white voters who lived in areas with larger African American populations were less receptive to Barack Obama in 2008. Racial context is found to structure white voters' evaluations of Obama and, thus, affect where the Democrats gained presidential vote share over 2004. The overall Democratic swing was lower in states where a white Democrat (Hillary Clinton) had more appeal to white voters than Obama. Obama increased the Democrats' share of the white vote, but gains were associated with positive evaluations of Obama among white voters in places with smaller African American populations. The likelihood that a white voter supported Obama also decreased as the African American population of the respondent's congressional district increased. The results are relevant to discussions of the future of the Voting Rights Act and to conceptions of a "postracial" America.


Voters, Emotions, and Race in 2008: Obama as the First Black President

David P. Redlawsk, Caroline J. Tolbert and William Franko

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Social desirability effects make it difficult to learn voters' racial attitudes. List experiments can tap sensitive issues without directly asking respondents to express overt opinions. The authors report on such an experiment about Barack Obama as the first black president, finding that 30 percent of white Americans were "troubled" by the prospect of Obama as the first black president. The authors examine policy and emotional underpinnings of these responses, finding that expressed emotions of anxiety and enthusiasm condition latent racial attitudes and racial policy beliefs especially for those exhibiting a social desirability bias. The results suggest that Obama's victory despite this level of concern about race was at least in part a result of intense enthusiasm his campaign generated. This enthusiasm for Obama may have allowed some white voters to overcome latent concerns about his race. The research suggests emotions are critical in understanding racial attitudes.


Race and Turnout: Does Descriptive Representation in State Legislatures Increase Minority Voting?

Rene R. Rocha, Caroline J. Tolbert, Daniel C. Bowen and Christopher J. Clark

December 2010

ABSTRACT

The 2008 election marked an end to the longstanding gap in the level of black and white voter turnout, offering further evidence that minority empowerment affects voter turnout. In this article, the authors move beyond a dyadic conceptualization of empowerment and argue that the level of descriptive representation within the legislative body as a whole is crucial to understanding how context affects voter turnout. They find African Americans and Latinos are more likely to vote when residing in states with increased descriptive representation in the state legislature measured by the percentage of black or Latino lawmakers.


A New Measure of Group Influence in Presidential Elections: Assessing Latino Influence in 2008

Matt A. Barreto, Loren Collingwood, Sylvia Manzano

December 2010

ABSTRACT

The importance of the Latino electorate has been the subject of both academic inquiry and media discourses. The question of Latino influence is frequently limited by an approach that focuses on single variable considerations (e.g., voter turnout or ethnic-targeted campaign spending) that are often contest-specific idiosyncrasies. Relying on theoretically appropriate concepts, the authors measure Latino political influence as a function of three factors: in-group population traits, electoral volatility, and mobilization. Using the 2008 presidential election, the authors demonstrate the utility of incorporating a multifaceted measure that accounts for the contemporary complexity within the electoral environment. Because this framework is rooted in theoretical concepts, as opposed to discrete group or contest characteristics, it may be applied to any "influence group" in different electoral settings. Data are culled from several publicly available outlets, making it possible for scholars to replicate these measures and further investigate questions associated with group influence in American politics.


From Political Behavior

The Electoral Consequences of Skin Color: The "Hidden" Side of Race in Politics

Vesla M. Weaver

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Despite the significant role that skin color plays in material well-being and social perceptions, scholars know little if anything about whether skin color and afrocentric features influence political cognition and behavior and specifically, if intraracial variation in addition to categorical difference affects the choices of voters. Do more phenotypically black minorities suffer an electoral penalty as they do in most aspects of life? This study investigates the impact of color and phenotypically black facial features on candidate evaluation, using a nationally representative survey experiment of over 2000 whites. Subjects were randomly assigned to campaign literature of two opposing candidates, in which the race, skin color and features, and issue stance of candidates was varied. I find that afrocentric phenotype is an important, albeit hidden, form of bias in racial attitudes and that the importance of race on candidate evaluation depends largely on skin color and afrocentric features. However, like other racial cues, color and black phenotype don't influence voters' evaluations uniformly but vary in magnitude and direction across the gender and partisan makeup of the electorate in theoretically explicable ways. Ultimately, I argue, scholars of race politics, implicit racial bias, and minority candidates are missing an important aspect of racial bias.


From Political Psychology

The Minimal Cue Hypothesis: How Black Candidates Cue Race to Increase White Voting Participation

Gregory A. Petrow

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Racial group interests can compete in politics. One way competition may occur is when Black candidates cue racial thinking among Whites, leading to rivalry at the ballot box. I address this hypothesis with theories of identity, affect, and racial cognition. I argue that Black Congressional candidates cue these factors among Whites, leading the factors of White racial prejudice and White race liberalism to impact Whites' voting participation. I employ logistic regression analysis of data from the American National Election Study in 1988, 1992, and 2000. The effects of racial prejudice on the predicted probability of voting occur among all Whites, as well as White Republicans, White Democrats, and White conservatives. The effects of White race liberalism occur among all Whites, as well as White Democrats and White liberals. The effects are strongest when Whites are in elections with Black candidates that are either challengers or in open seats.


From Politics and Society

Xenophobia and Left Voting

Kåre Vernby and Henning Finseraas

December 2010

ABSTRACT

In this article, the authors set out to evaluate two competing mechanisms that may account for the negative relationship between xenophobia and left voting. Xenophobia may reduce left voting because parties of the right are more conservative on issues relating to immigration and ethnic relations (the policy-bundling effect), or it may reduce left voting because many potential left voters lack sympathy with the groups to whom redistribution is thought to be directed (the anti-solidarity effect). These two mechanisms imply radically different scenarios for political competition. Using a multilevel modeling approach, the authors analyze the data compiled in fifteen different surveys carried out in ten Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries between 1990 and 2000. This study is the first to draw out the implications of these mechanisms for left voting and to subject them to empirical scrutiny in a large-scale comparative study. The results are consistent with the existence of a relatively strong policy-bundling effect; by contrast, the anti-solidarity effect is trivial in most of the surveys analyzed.


From Public Opinion Quarterly


Explaining Politics, Not Polls: Reexamining Macropartisanship with Recalibrated NES Data

James E. Campbell

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Like all surveys, the American National Election Studies (NES) imperfectly reflects population characteristics. There are well-known differences between actual and NES-reported turnout rates and between actual and NES-reported presidential vote divisions. This research seeks to determine whether the aggregate misrepresentation of turnout and vote choice affects the aggregate measurement of party identification: macropartisanship. After NES data are reweighted to correct for turnout and vote choice errors, macropartisanship is found to be more stable, to be less sensitive to short-term political conditions, and to have shifted more in the Republican direction in the early 1980s. The strength of partisanship also declined a bit more in the 1970s and rebounded a bit less in recent years than the uncorrected NES data indicate.


Generational Conflict Or Methodological Artifact? Reconsidering the Relationship between Age and Policy Attitudes in the U.S., 1984-2008

Andrew S. Fullerton and Jeffrey C. Dixon

December 2010

ABSTRACT

In light of claims of a generational conflict over age-specific policies and the current fiscal troubles of related governmental programs, this article examines Americans' attitudes toward education, health, and Social Security spending through the use of a new methodology designed to uncover asymmetries in public opinion and disentangle age, period, and cohort effects. Based on generalized ordered logit models within a cross-classified fixed-effects framework using General Social Survey data between 1984 and 2008, we find little evidence consistent with gray peril and self-interest hypotheses suggesting that older people support spending for health care and Social Security but not education. The divide in attitudes toward education spending is the result of cohort--not age--effects. Yet these cohort effects extend to other attitudes and are asymmetrical: The so-called greatest generation (born around 1930 or earlier) is ambivalent about government spending and especially likely to say that we spend the "right amount" on health care. As people approach retirement age, they also become more likely to say that we spend the "right amount" on Social Security. The nuanced ways in which American public opinion is divided by age and cohort are uncovered only through the use of a new methodology that does not conceive of public support and opposition as symmetrical. Historical reasons for these divides, along with their contemporary implications, are discussed.


From The Forum

Advertising Trends in 2010

Erika Franklin Fowler and Travis N. Ridout

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Political advertising offers an important window on American campaigns and elections. We analyze a comprehensive database of political ads aired during the 2010 midterms to shed light on campaign strategies in this history-making election. We find that with the increase in competitive races in 2010, the volume of advertising rose too, as did its negativity. Moreover, we track the issues mentioned by each party, finding that while the parties agreed that employment was the top issue, there was also much divergence in issue priorities, with Republicans taking up some unlikely themes such as health care and "change." The high volume of advertising in 2010 suggests a greater potential for voter learning, but the high levels of ad negativity could have had both positive and negative consequences on the electorate.


The Citizens United Election? Or Same As It Ever Was?

Michael M. Franz

December 2010

ABSTRACT

In January 2010, the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC overturned long-standing regulations governing the role of unions and corporations in sponsoring pro-candidate advocacy. Many predicted a deleterious effect on the electoral process. In the aftermath of the midterm elections, a number of questions deserve consideration. Was the observed level of outside spending abnormally high in 2010? What can we say about the potential effect of outside spending on the outcomes of House and Senate races? Moreover, what has the decision done to the power of parties and, most especially, their ability to compete with special interests in backing federal candidates? This paper investigates these questions using data from the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracked political ads in 2010. The initial evidence suggests that while interest groups were aggressive players in the air war, their impact may not have been as negative or as large as initially predicted.


Voter Turnout in the 2010 Midterm Election

Michael P. McDonald

December 2010

ABSTRACT

I place national turnout rates in historical perspective and investigate what state turnout rates may tell us about what factors are related to higher levels of voter participation. In midterm elections compared to presidential election, voter turnout is lower among all groups, but more so for young people. I discuss the implications of younger citizens' disengagement in midterm elections in light of an increasing gap in support for the political parties' candidates among the young and the old.

The Dynamics of Voter Preferences in the 2010 Congressional Midterm Elections


Costas Panagopoulos

December 2010

ABSTRACT

This article examines campaign dynamics and the evolution of voter preferences for congressional candidates during the 2010 midterm election cycle. Using national pre-election polls of registered voters, I show that there was meaningful change in voter preferences over the course of the campaign and that support for Democratic contenders declined considerably between early March and Election Day. The evidence I present also reveals growing support for Republican contenders was linked to developments during the campaign period. Specifically, the erosion in Obama approval, deterioration in national economic conditions and the passage of the health reform legislation appeared to fuel the Democratic downturn.


The 2010 Elections: Party Pursuits, Voter Perceptions, and the Chancy Game of Politics

Jeffrey M. Stonecash

December 2010

ABSTRACT

Forming party strategy is never easy because of the uncertainty of how the electorate will react. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats sought to address two major problems - the economy and health insurance - and hoped they would get credit for responding effectively. Quite the opposite occurred. Forming party strategy remains an art.