September 4, 2013 * Lunch will be provided
Note: This presentation begins at 11:30 a.m.
Many scholars and journalists use responses to short lists of "political knowledge" (PK) questions on surveys to make general claims about what the public knows. A common claim of this type is that citizens are generally ignorant or incompetent. When making this claim, scholars and other writers assume that citizens’ inabilities to answer a few PK questions on a given survey accurately represent greater inadequacies.
This presentation will examine the validity of such claims. We will explore the extent to which common claims about political ignorance and incompetence are based on accurate assumptions about the quality of commonly used PK measures and their relationship to broader kinds of knowledge and competence about many writers are concerned. We will discover that many claims about political ignorance and civic incompetence are based on a misunderstanding of what PK questions actually measure. So, when I ask us to evaluate the proposition that "Political knowledge is less than we thought it was," I am asking us to be honest about whether widely-used PK measures truly have commonly-assumed properties. In each case where we discover such errors, I will show how to draw more accurate claims about knowledge and competence from the same data. In most cases, we will discover that the most accurate inferences we can draw from existing PK data about ignorance and competence more generally considered are very different than the claims that most writers currently make.
September 11, 2013
In the midst of a large and widening gap between the poor and the rich in the United States, many scholars and political observers argue that Americans are tolerant of economic inequality. I challenge this contention. First I show that the evidence base for this conventional understanding of American reactions to economic inequality is weak; for example, some scholars rely on complicated survey questions about abstract concepts that Americans rarely use. Next, I show that on balance, Americans believe the poor to have too little, and accordingly view them with sympathy; the rich, meanwhile, are viewed to have too much, and are therefore targets of resentment. Finally, I find that Americans seek to reward candidates who help the poor, and punish candidates who help the rich, in the voting booth. Taken together, these results show that contrary to many accounts, Americans are opposed to increasing economic inequality, and they attempt to mitigate economic inequality when selecting candidates for public office.
September 18, 2013
Over the last twenty years experimentation has become an increasingly common method of answering questions in political science. Many experimental researchers utilize deception on a regular basis. Others never use it. It is viewed as a routine and necessary part of research in psychology; but, it is discouraged and at times expressly forbidden in economics. While political science has seen an explosion of experimental research, its strong ties to both economics and psychology leave many political scientists ambivalent about the use of deception. Disciplinary differences stem primarily from instrumental concerns about the necessity of deception and its implications for subject trust and reaching valid research conclusions. Is deception deleterious? Despite the starkly divergent norms, little work has systematically examined whether being deceived in an experiment affects subsequent behavior. The few studies undertaken have led to conflicting conclusions.
We theorize about and investigate the conditions under which revelations of deception in one study affect future subject behavior in experimental settings. We present results from two experimental studies designed to test how a subject’s awareness that she was deceived in one experiment affects her behavior in subsequent experiments. Deception can alter the behavior of subjects, but its likelihood of doing so is highly conditional. This research provides a stronger empirical foundation for understanding the consequences of deception in experimental research, developing strategies for mitigating any negative effects, and informing best practices and norms within and across multiple disciplines.
September 25, 2013
Individual’s political beliefs can be knowledge-based, or they can be the result of attributes such as partisanship, ideology, or specific media use patterns. In this project, we look at a set of beliefs associated with the candidates and an event in the 2012 presidential election that could be viewed as linked to political knowledge, attention to specific media or media-related behavior patterns, and group identification. The relationships are different for different beliefs, and they are sometimes tempered by attitudes toward Barack Obama as seen through a racial and political lens in theoretically appropriate ways. The analysis is conducted among major racial and ethnic groups in the population.
October 2, 2013
How accurately do election polls report individual voting preferences? Can election polls help us detect and possibly deter election fraud in authoritarian regimes? This talk will focus on theoretical aspects and effects of social desirability bias on election fraud in authoritarian regimes. Using data from survey experiments conducted before and after Russia’s 2012 presidential election and the results of alternative techniques used by a national pollster, I will demonstrate the presence of significant social desirability effects in Russian public opinion polls that inflated both electoral ratings of Vladimir Putin and voter turnout. In turn, these findings raise issues about the quality of survey research in authoritarian regimes and the possible interconnection of social desirability effects and election fraud.
October 9, 2013
Timothy Ryan Paper
Evolutionary, neuroscientific, and cognitive perspectives in psychology have converged on the idea that some attitudes are moralized—a distinctive characteristic. Moralized attitudes reorient behavior from maximizing gains to adhering to rules. Here, I examine a political consequence of this tendency. In four studies drawing data from a variety of sources, I measure attitude moralization and examine how it relates to approval of political compromise. I find that moralized attitudes lead citizens to oppose compromises, punish compromising politicians, and even pay a monetary cost to obstruct political opponents’ gain. These patterns emerge on social and economic issues alike and have implications for understanding political polarization.
November 6, 2013
What determines the content of international norms? Domestic politics shapes how national leaders view international politics, and so influences what norms can be sustained over time. Norms whose content matches leaders' incentives from domestic politics are easier to sustain because they help leaders retain power. National leaders can also benefit by adopting norms that reflect their domestic politics, enhancing their stability in power. International norms rest on foundations from the domestic politics of states.
Change concerning two norms—non-intervention and territorial stability—exemplify this process. The growth of the size of the winning coalition through the spread of constitutional government and mass democracy induces leaders to shift their war aims away from territorial expansion and towards other policy aims. The latter create a commitment problem, which can be solved by overthrowing the regime of the losing side. These changes in domestic politics have led to the shift away from the norm of non-intervention and its replacement by territorial integrity. Additionally, this change in norms has helped stabilize international politics, where international norms reinforce those domestic incentives.
I test this argument by examining the war aims of states in militarized interstate disputes. Whether states pursue territorial aims or seek to overthrow enemy regimes depends on both the selection institutions of the state and major international treaties seek to create a norm of non-intervention or territorial integrity. Using both the UN Charter and the Covenant of the League of Nations as dates for the change in norms, non-intervention is honored by states with small winning coalitions before the break point, while territorial integrity is honored by those with large winning coalitions afterwards.
November 20, 2013
This analysis examines the factors that influence student acceptance of parent partisanship, utilizing Jennings and Niemi’s 1965 political socialization panel study and Miller’s 1987 Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY). The last several decades of literature on the transmission of partisanship from parent to child has focused primarily on family and psychological variables, which have demonstrated significant effects in numerous analyses. This analysis utilizes the same family and psychological variables, but examines whether the political climate of a young person’s community influences the rate at which high school students adopt the partisanship of their parents. The results from these two longitudinal studies – one generation apart – demonstrate the community political climate does provide an additional amount of explanation of student acceptance of parent partisanship. A set of structural equation models are used to test this proposition.
January 8, 2014
January 29, 2014 * pizza lunch will be provided
Pauline Jones Luong
How can an Islamic popular revival arise without greater Islamic piety? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of mosques multiplied, religious artifacts became more visible, and conservative dress proliferated among Muslims in Central Asia. A considerable debate then arose as whether this revival led to higher levels of religiosity among Central Asian Muslims, and whether higher levels of religiosity are linked to support for radical Islamist movements. I argue that central to resolving this debate is proper conceptualization and measurement of religiosity. Current approaches fail to capture the diversity of religious beliefs and practices associated with being a pious Muslim both within and across communities. In contrast, new evidence based on over 150 cognitive interviews conducted in two Central Asia states – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – suggests that the core reason for these conflicting views is measurement error. The pluralism of piety not only complicates our ability to accurately assess levels of religiosity but also to draw causal inferences about political attitudes and behavior based on levels of religiosity. These suggest the need to develop measures that can capture the degree of religious pluralism within Islam and to reconsider how religiosity and political engagement are linked.
February 5, 2014
Public opinion scholars have generally found that racially explicit political appeals are ineffective in contemporary American society. As a result, elites who wish to activate Whites’ anti-minority sentiments and make them relevant for political judgments must do so by using implicit cues that do not utilize racial nouns such as African American or Hispanic. In this paper, we offer three reasons why researchers may have been too quick to dismiss the power of explicit racial appeals. First, we argue that political elites can fashion explicit appeals without overtly violating the norm of equality. Second, we maintain that the norm of equality – which ostensibly prohibits racially offensive political appeals – is not as widely embraced as some scholars have indicated. For example, support among Whites for this norm likely varies considerably across region, gender, ideology and party. Third, even assuming a near-universal adherence to the norm of equality, the psychological literature on scapegoating suggests that there may be circumstances when the incentives to maintain this norm are overridden by more compelling motives. Specifically, episodes of widespread misfortune for the in-group may render individuals susceptible to elite appeals blaming out-groups on the basis of widespread cultural stereotypes. We therefore hypothesize that exposure to explicit appeals, both racial and racist, will effectively prime or active racial attitudes among a significant fraction of Whites and thereby influence their political views. We rely on a nationally representative survey experiment (N=514) from 2011 to test this hypothesis. In this experiment, we randomly assign respondents to read one of three versions of a news story on a local political protest that attributes the Great Recession to the actions of a particular out-group. We manipulate whether the racial content in the story is implicit, explicit but not overtly stereotypic, and explicit and unambiguously stereotypic. Consistent with our expectations, we find that explicit, and even inflammatory, racial appeals can prime White racial attitudes when coupled with an effort to blame minorities for widespread economic misfortune. In our conclusion we discuss the implications of our findings for the racial attitudes literature and the theory of racial group priming.
February 12, 2014
We offer some ideas and empirical results to suggest a method of understanding coevolution of political parties and voters. Political parties and voters react to each other. Voters evaluate party leaders and politicians, and often develop loyalties in the form of partisanship. Partisanship can stay stable for a long time, but voters do change their partisanship, and political parties do adapt their issue positions and ideologies to voters’ changing attitudes and preferences, and of course parties adapt to changing electorates. Rich theories exist of parties and partisanship, theories typically based on holding one constant (either parties’ positions on issues or voters partisanship or ideology) and understanding change in the other. In reality, they are both changing and reacting to each other over time, and thus existing theories are limited. With data from the U.S. and Australia, we propose a way to understand transitions from one party system equilibrium to another. This is joint work with John Jackson.
February 19, 2014
Presently, many scholars have recognized cross-district aggregation as theoretically crucial to make the effects of Duvergerian propositions emerge from the local to the national level. Surprisingly, however, this impact of cross-district homogeneity of partisan support (aka nationalization) has never been included directly as a covariate in an empirical model of the effective number of parties. Probably, one of the reasons for this is the fair concern about the simultaneity-type of endogeneity that may exist between these phenomena. In this research, I propose a solution to this gap, by explicitly modelling such possible reciprocal causation through nonrecursive Simultaneous Equations Models. I seek to disentangle party system nationalization and national number of parties by specifying one equation for each and by including each as an explanatory variable of the other. Once we find instrumental variables for these two endogenous variables, both equations can be jointly estimated and the conceivable reciprocity can be both tested and somewhat controlled for. By doing so, I will show that the effect of nationalization on the number of parties is clear and strong, while the other way around is doubtful and weak. Then, I also show how this inclusion of party system nationalization in the model of number of parties, through a system of equations, changes the role played by usual variables in the literature about this subject – mainly, the canonical social diversity. In order to achieve that, I break down the direct and indirect effects caused by all explanatory variables to show how much of their impacts on the number of parties is direct or comes only through first affecting parties’ nationalization. As a result, I find, for instance, that no matter which measure of social diversity one chooses from the literature, it becomes a variable with no direct effect on the national effective number of parties. Its impact runs only through changing parties' nationalization.
February 26, 2014
When and why do countries engage with the international economy? Many prominent forms of international economic cooperation concern international capital flows. Some do so directly, as in bilateral investment treaties and others, such as those governing trade, do so indirectly. Enthusiasm for these policies and institutions varies across time. We argue that much of this variation over the past 40 years can be explained by changes in real US interest rates. When US interest rates are high, other countries must compete harder for and do more to maintain flows of foreign capital. When US interests rates are low it is relatively easier for those countries to attract and maintain capital and their enthusiasm for policies and institutions meant to catalyze inward capital flows wanes. We show empirically that higher US interest rates are empirically linked to a constellation of behaviors - signing bilateral investment treaties, restricting capital outflows, pursuing more cases at the WTO (for WTO members), higher tariffs (for non-WTO members) and a greater rhetorical commitment to free-market ideology in party platforms - that are broadly linked by their potential to help countries attract and maintain capital stocks.
March 12, 2014
To explain group differences in reactions to political threats, we develop Group Empathy Theory. The theory posits empathy felt by members of one group can boost support for another even when the groups are in direct competition for rights, security, and resources. We conduct three national survey experiments with a total of 2,420 participants in which we manipulate only racial/ethnic cues in ambiguous vignettes depicting potential terrorism and immigration threats. Compared to Anglos, African Americans and Latinos exhibit substantially higher levels of group empathy and support for minority groups other than their own. In the experiments, Anglo respondents were far less likely to side with potentially threatening non-white targets compared to a white target. African Americans, on the other hand, were most likely to side with minority targets, support civil rights policies, and commit to political action on behalf of stigmatized groups. Surprisingly, perhaps, Latino reactions to variation in the racial/ethnic target of our experimental vignettes were somewhat muted. However, across all our tests, group empathy but not perceptions of threat or political trust mediated African American-Anglo and Latino-Anglo differences on policy preferences and political behavior.
March 19, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Karen Jusko (Stanford University)
This paper is about how the electoral geography of income affects the political representation of the poor. For election-motivated legislators and parties, the bias in the way low-income citizens’ votes map into seats shapes legislators’ and parties’ incentives to be responsive to low-income citizens. When electoral geography favors low-income citizens, parties will stand for a low-income or working class constituency and craft social policy that is more generous and effective. Alternatively, when the support of low-income voters rarely matters for electoral success, neither legislators nor parties have incentives to represent the interests of low-income citizens, and the effectiveness of antipoverty policy will be limited. This paper focuses on the partisan representation of low-income citizens, and ties the entry of low-income peoples’ parties – both agrarian and labor parties – to new electoral opportunities created by shifts in the geographic distribution of poverty. Focusing on the US and the UK as crucial test cases, this paper draws on historical individual census data, matched to electoral district boundaries and supplemented with wage data, to provide evidence of endogenous party formation and strategic entry. To the extent that new low-income peoples' parties are successful, early electoral geography -- especially whether poverty is predominantly urban or rural -- has long-term and cumulative effects on social policy.
March 26, 2014
Over the last decade, African countries have witnessed rapid urbanization with the consequent expansion of urban slums. In response, many governments have adopted ambitious policies to provide decent and affordable housing to urban residents and contracted domestic and international firms to build it. These initiatives appear to have yielded positive results in many cases. Cities have popped up overnight; residential development has rapidly taken place; and real estate markets have boomed. Using a dataset and GIS mapping of 100 residential projects in Luanda, the capital city of Angola, this paper investigates two puzzles associated with the pattern of urban residential development across Africa: first, most new housing projects have targeted the wealthy and the middle class, not the poor; second, in municipalities of Luanda where housing starts were the highest, the share of the vote by the ruling party dropped. The findings offer intriguing insights into both the patterns and outcomes of distributive politics in Africa.
April 9, 2014
We study the incumbency advantage of political parties in Brazil’s municipal mayor elections using a regression discontinuity design. Comparing municipalities where a party barely lost the mayor elections to municipalities where it barely won, we find evidence of a strong negative effect on the probability of winning in the following election. We propose an explanation for these findings that focuses on the interaction of Brazil’s weak political parties, the personalistic nature of political networks, and the institutional constraints on electoral horizons. Our explanation yields predictions that we are able to corroborate empirically in an analysis that conditions on whether the previously elected incumbent is running for reelection.
April 16, 2014
Victor Ottati (Loyola University)
Previous research regarding the affective correlates of moral judgment has emphasized the role of discrete emotions, suggesting that specific emotions (e.g., disgust) increase moral condemnations for specific categories of moral violation (e.g. purity violations). In three experiments, we find that arousal increases the severity of moral condemnations, while emotion specificity effects remain absent. Results are compatible with excitation transfer theory, constructivist approaches to emotion, and the feelings as information account of social judgment.
April 23, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Adam Levine (Cornell University) and Yanna Krupnikow (Northwestern University)
By various measures, income inequality has increased tremendously over the past few decades. The gap between the rich and poor is now at its largest level over the past century. In response, academics and pundits have spent considerable attention investigating public opinion on this topic. A common finding is that there is a high level of concern about the gap and a sizable number of Americans who wish that the gap were smaller than it is. Yet, what is less known is how Americans conceptualize income inequality. Do they conceptualize it abstractly, in terms of statistics and graphs, or do they conceptualize it in terms of the concrete experiences of actual individuals or groups of individuals? In this paper, we rely on new experimental approaches that measure such conceptualizations and, as a point of comparison, allows us to compare this issue with other economic issues such as jobs and poverty. We find that there are important differences, and in particular that people are far less likely to conceptualize income inequality in terms of ordinary individuals. This finding has important implications for public opinion and political behavior on this issue.
April 30, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Tali Mendelberg (Princeton University)
Critical mass theory argues that women's numbers are a major cause of women's status and authority in a group. Applications of the theory to political settings have yielded mixed support for the theory. We unpack one mechanism that can explain when, why and how numbers aid women. That mechanism is the norm of communication during group discussion. Our focus is on how women build or lose authority while they interact with men. We argue that numbers - and group procedures - shape norms that advance or hinder women's authority. Women's authority in turn affects the group's decision about economic redistribution - the higher women's authority, the higher the group's generosity to the poor. We suggest that future work further explore how rules and norms affect women's status in a group by equalizing their participation and influence, with the ultimate goal being equal gender authority.
May 7, 2014
Political information is a core concept in the study of political communication. However, traditional knowledge scales that sum correct answers to political information questions conflate two independent constructs: whether an individual has information and whether the information they hold is correct. Yet both correct and incorrect beliefs would be expected to influence attitudes and behaviors. To date, most research has focused on extent of correct information. In this study we propose and evaluate a new measurement strategy disentangles the amount of confidently held correct information (knowledge), confidently held incorrect information (misinformation), and uncertainly held information for each respondent. In a nationally representative survey about the Affordable Care Act, certainty-indexed knowledge items are produced by combining forced-choice factual questions with measures of how certain people are about the correctness of their answers. These certainty-indexed measures are then compared with more traditionally generated measures in terms of inter-item reliability, criterion validity, and evidence for theoretically predicted relations. In all of these respects, the certainty-indexed measures outperform the traditional knowledge metric while avoiding a variety of potential artifacts.
May 14, 2014
This investigation examines the aftermath of the Arab Spring protests of 2011-2012 and their consequences for impacting contemporary discussions and efforts to promote “internet freedom” by Western democratic states. This study focuses on the key stakeholder communities that have emerged to compete, define, and consolidate the norms and frameworks surrounding internet freedom promotion: state-based, private sector, and civil society actors. This study also describes the rise and failed attempt of civil society stakeholders to infuse democratically-oriented frames for approaching digital infrastructure management with the primary interests of protecting citizen rights and political activists in autocratic states. The political economy of global digital infrastructure regulation is also examined, and the positions of state-based and private sector influences within it are articulated. In doing so, this examination identifies a key tech-savvy community of practice that has generated the most innovative tactics for using digital media tools for democracy promotion, and is currently engaged in consolidating these practices and norms into policy frameworks. However, these efforts are cast against the competing interests of the technology providers in colluding with repressive and democratic states to provide functionally equivalent anti-democratic technocratic capabilities. Thus, this story is part network analysis, part policy analysis, and part event analysis. Throughout, the proto-regime formation approach to technology policy is emphasized in contrast to existing telecommunications regulatory bodies.
May 21, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Voters often punish incumbent parties for poor economic performance; whether they treat left and right governments differently is less clear. Research on the electoral effects of government partisanship has claimed evidence for varied effects in support of multiple, often contradictory, theories of partisan voter behavior. Systematic patterns of voting for parties of the left or right during economic downturns could emerge from clientelistic self-interest, partisan competence signals, issue-ownership or luxury goods models of voting. We leverage both observational and survey experiment data to establish an empirical regularity: that voters, on average, punish left-of-center incumbents more severely for economic downturns than their counterparts on the right. A luxury-goods logic of voting best explains this regularity. Voters initially turn against the left during downturns as they value personal economic security more and social welfare less. Left parties that espouse socially desirable but unnecessary luxury-good policies are punished more severely than moderate left parties. Incumbent parties of the left face double jeopardy: voters punish all incumbents for economic downturns; they punish left incumbents additionally for their policies.