Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy

2017-2018 Series

September October November December January
February March April May June


A Russian Hegemony in the Russki Mir? A War of Position on Ukrainian Social Media

September 13, 2017
Jesse Driscoll (University of California - San Diego)

The Russian state is regularly assumed to have a competitive advantage in the production of hegemonic knowledge in the Russki mir — but does it? Analysis of a large sample of social media behaviors by Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Spring of 2014 reveals competitive attempts to interpret ongoing high-stakes events: a classic Gramscian war of position. Twitter behaviors demonstrate that the Russian government’s effort to advance a counter-hegemonic narrative was more likely to succeed among Russian-speakers living in Ukrainian oblasts historically associated with the Russian empire. Even in these areas, however, a pro-West pro-maiden narrative was dominant among Russian-speaking Ukrainians on Twitter. We argue that the absence of irregular warfare in Ukraine, despite very weak central state capacity during the time of the study, is attributable to Russia’s failure to recruit local allies in this war of position.

Terrorism, Gender, and the 2016 Presidential Election

September 20, 2017
Jennifer Merolla (University of California - Riverside)

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was unusual in many ways, including the fact that it featured Hillary Clinton as the first woman major party nominee and Donald Trump as the first modern day major party candidate without extensive political experience. It was also an election in which terrorism was more salient than it has been in recent. U.S. presidential contests. These factors combing to offer the opportunity to evaluate the degree to which gender, experience, and a heightened context of terrorism shape candidate evaluations. Of particular interest are evaluations of the candidates’ leadership capacities given objective differences in their foreign policy experiences. We use ANES data and two experimental studies to examine how conditions of terrorist threat affected evaluations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We first document via survey and experimental data that potential voters in the 2016 election who were worried about terrorism were less likely to support Clinton and more likely to support Trump. We then ask whether highlighting Clinton’s national security experience mitigates this disadvantage when terrorism is salient. We explore this question using data from a national experiment, conducted online in October 2016; in which we randomly assigned participants to read (or not) media coverage of Clinton’s national security experience, Trump’s rhetoric around terrorism, or some combination of the two. We find that reading about national security experience improves evaluations of Clinton, and these effects are more pronounced among males, and particularly those most resistant to her candidacy. (With Mirya Holman, Tulane University; Elizabeth Zechmeister, Vanderbilt University and Ding Wang, University of California-Riverside)

E Pluribus Unum? Clarifying How Elites Discourage (Non-)Immigrants from a Political Ideal

September 27, 2017
Efren Perez (Vanderbilt University)

Preserving national unity in light of ethnic diversity—e pluribus unum—is a challenge in immigrant-receiving countries. We claim that elite rhetoric about the proper balance between ethnic and national identity motivates individual relations to this idea. Study 1 centers on U.S. Latino adults and shows that rhetoric posting Latino and American identity as incompatible prompts them to voice weaker patriotism, fainter support for a common English language, and stronger pro-Latino preferences, with ethnic identity mediating each effect. Study 2 examines Latino and White reactions to elite rhetoric about ethnic and national identity, without targeting Latinos. We find that rhetoric posing ethnic and national identity as compatible also leads Latinos to express less patriotism, dimmer support for a common language, and stronger co-ethnic preferences, with ethnic identity mediating each effect. In sharp contrast, however, the same rhetoric motivates Whites to insist on e pluribus unum based on their American identity.


Hanes Walton Memorial Lecture

Thursday, October 12, 2017
Hanes Walton Lecture - Cathy Cohen (University of Chicago) and Michael Dawson (University of Chicago)

The Connection (?) Between Turnout And Partisan Vote Choice

October 18, 2017
Daron Shaw (University of Texas—Austin)

One of the enduring conventional wisdoms of American electoral politics is the belief that higher levels of turnout benefit the Democratic Party because Democrats have lower turnout rates than their Republican counterparts. Indeed, the “bias” of turnout is the most common explanation for the wild oscillations in Democratic fortunes from 2008 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2014. Based on an analysis of presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial election data from the 1940s through today, we suggest that changes in turnout from one election to another fail to predict changes in the party vote. We believe this occurs because the irregular voters whose participation drives turnout rates tend to be weaker partisans or independents who are inattentive to politics and strongly influenced by the political environment of the election. The short-term forms that define the political environment are as likely to benefit Republicans as Democrats, and this fact mitigates any systematic relationship between turnout and party preference.


October 25, 2017
Jamila Michener (Cornell University) *ROOM 1430 ISR


Norms and Women’s Political Participation: A Field Experiment in Ghana

November 1, 2017
Nahomi Ichino and Noah Nathan (University of Michigan)


Gender gaps in participation and representation are common in new democracies, both at the elite level and at the grassroots. We investigate the grassroots gender gap in parties in rural Ghana, a patronage-based new democracy in which a dense network of local party branches provides the main avenue for local participation. We show that patriarchal social norms are associate with lower women’s participation in party branches and report results from a randomized field experiment aimed at addressing these norms and encouraging women’s participation ahead of Ghana’s December 2016 elections. The treatment is a large community meeting presided over by the traditional chief (known locally as a durbar), held by Ghana’s National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). We find null results, hampered in part by selective non-compliance with the treatment by local party leaders. Party leaders appear to have prevented full implementation because they did not value the recruitment of new female members and because being associated with a controversial social message may have been too electorally risky in competitive communities. We will also present our plans for follow-up work in Ghana on further understanding how social norms influence women’s political participation.

The Silent Revolution in Reverse: The Rise of Trump and the Xenophobic Authoritarian Parties

November 8, 2017
Ronald Inglehart (University of Michigan)


Being able to take survival for granted makes people more open to new ideas and more tolerant of outgroups. Insecurity has the opposite effect, encouraging an Authoritarian Reflex in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rigid conformity to group norms and rejection of outsiders. The three decades of exceptional security experienced by developed democracies after World War II brought pervasive cultural changes, including the rise of Green parties and the spread of democracy. Economic growth has continued since 1975, but in high-income countries virtually all of the gains have gone to those at the top. Most of the population, especially the less-educated, have experienced sharply declining existential security, fueling support for xenophobic populist authoritarian movements such as British Exit from the European Union, France’s National Front and Donald Trump’s election. This raises two questions: (1) “What motivates people to support xenophobic authoritarian movements in high-income countries?” And (2) “Why is the xenophobic vote in these countries much higher now than it was several decades ago?” The two questions have different answers.

Support for xenophobic populist authoritarian movements is motivated by a backlash against cultural change. From the start, the younger Postmaterialist birth cohorts disproportionately supported environmentalist parties, while older, less secure people supported xenophobic authoritarian parties, in an enduring intergenerational value clash. But during the past three decades, strong period effects have been working to increase support for xenophobic parties: a large share of the population has experienced declining real income and job security, along with a massive influx of immigrants and refugees. Cultural backlash explains why given individuals support xenophobic populist authoritarian movements-- but declining existential security explains why support for these movements is greater now than it was thirty years ago.

Pocketbook Populists?: Class and the Sociotropic Foundations of Populist Attitudes in the United States

November 15, 2017
Brian Rathbun (University of Southern California)


[With Evgeniia Iakhnis (USC) and Kathleen Powers (Dartmouth)]

Conventional wisdom has a ready explanation for populism’s success: the declining economic fortunes of the working class. As the story goes, the “losers of globalization: take out their frustrations on the political establishment. Populism is the cry of the financially forgotten. However, this argument has not been systematically tested and also neglects a more likely alternative: that populism— the goodness of ordinary people, hostility to self-serving elites, and support for direct democracy — is strongly predicted by a belief that the rich are doing very well financially compared to the past, while the working class and middle class are in decline. Personal economic circumstances matter little in explaining populism per se, measured separate from other substantive concerns like immigration with which it is often conflated.

No Talk Scheduled

November 29, 2017



December 6 2017
John Zaller (UCLA)


"Mejorando La Raza": Latinos, Skin Color & Political Preferences

January 10, 2018
Mara Ostfeld and Nicole Yadon (University of Michigan)

Is there a relationship between Latinos’ political preferences and skin color? And if so, is one’s skin color driving one’s political preferences? Or could one’s political preferences be driving how they report their skin color? To answer these questions, we draw on 495 surveys administered to Latino respondents via face-to-face recruitment and computer-assisted self-interviewing (CASI) throughout the Detroit and Chicago metropolitan regions. In these surveys, we collected both objective measures of skin color using a non-invasive narrowband light reflectance spectrophotometer, as well as subjective measures of skin color, using the Yadon-Ostfed Skin Color Scale. We then examined how differences between self-reported and objective skin color measurements relate to a range of political preferences. Our findings illustrate an important, but surprising, relationship between Latino political attitudes and skin color. In doing so, we highlight the nuanced interplay between political preferences and skin color identities in American politics.

Crowdsourcing Accurately and Robustly Predicts Supreme Court Decisions

January 17, 2018
Daniel Martin Katz (Illinois Tech- Chicago Kent Law)

Scholars have increasingly investigated “crowdsourcing” as an alternative to expert-based judgment or purely data-driven approaches to predicting the future. Under certain conditions, scholars have found that crowd-sourcing can outperform these other approaches. However, despite interest in the topic and a series of successful use cases, relatively few studies have applied empirical model thinking to evaluate the accuracy and robustness of crowdsourcing in real-world contexts. In this paper, we offer three novel contributions. First, we explore a dataset of over 600,000 predictions from over 7,000 participants in a multi-year tournament to predict the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. Second, we develop a comprehensive crowd construction framework that allows for the formal description and application of crowdsourcing to real-world data. Third, we apply this framework to our data to construct more than 275,000 crowd models. We find the in out-of-sample historical simulations, crowdsourcing robustly outperforms the commonly-accepted null model, yielding the highest-known performance for this context at 80.8% case level accuracy. To our knowledge, this dataset and analysis represent one of the largest explorations of recurring human prediction to date, and our results provide additional empirical support for the use of crowdsourcing as a prediction method.


Nice Girls? Sex, Collegiality and Bipartisan Cooperation in the U.S. Congress

February 7, 2018
Jennifer Lawless (American University)

TWhen women in Congress solve a high-profile problem, their colleagues and the media praise their ability to get Washington’s business done by collaborating and compromising in a way that men do not. The problem with this popularly held view is that it is entirely anecdotal. In assembling several new data sets to test this proposition systematically, we find that women are more likely than men to participate in the kids of activities that foster collegiality. But we uncover almost no evidence that women’s legislative behavior on fact-finding abroad, cosponsoring legislation, or engaging the legislative process differs from men’s. The partisan divide that now characterizes the legislative process creates strong disincentives for women (and men) to engage in bipartisan problem solving. To be sure, women’s presence in Congress promotes democratic legitimacy, but it does little to reduce gridlock and stalemate on Capitol Hill.


February 14, 2018
Blake Miller (University of Michigan)


February 21, 2018
Carly Wayne (University of Michigan)


Psychological Perspectives on Political Misbelief

March 7, 2018
David Dunning (Univesity of Michigan)

Increasingly, voters tend not to be uninformed but misinformed— expressing beliefs about political, social, economic, and historical conditions that vary from ground truth. Once more, these misbeliefs have taken on a hyper-partisan nature that at times seems outlandish (e.g., Obama was born in Kenya). In this talk, I explore whether these misbeliefs are “authentic” or mere verbal performance (i.e., expressive responding), as well as who is more likely to possess them.

Race and Attitudes toward First Ladies from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama

March 14, 2018
Andra Gillespie (Emory University)

First ladies are understudied political actors in American politics. Though their role is informal, citizens develop trong attitudes toward them. In the case of Michelle Obama, the first black First Lady, there is strong evidence to suggest that racial attitudes informed citizen perceptions of Mrs. Obama in ways that would not have been applicable to other first ladies. This presentation will explore this question using an original dataset which asked detailed approval questions of first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama (as well as prospective questions about Melania Trump).

The Religious Foundations of Arab Conspiracy Theories

Friday, March 16, 2018
Tarek Masoud (Harvard University) *ISR Room 6050*


March 21, 2018
Ali Carkoglu (Koc University)


March 28, 2018
Ted Brader (University of Michigan)


Henry Brady (University of California, Berkeley)

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Miller Converse Lecture

What are the dimensions of political contestation in American politics today?  How has party- sorting and party activism contributed to political polarization and populism?   During the 1950’s and 1960’s, American politics reflected the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties on economic issues (the “New Deal” cleavage) with an overlay, mostly within the Democratic Party, of differences on race (the “North-South” cleavage). A mini-realignment among African American voters started in the 1930s in the northern cities, and it was accelerated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which extended the realignment to the countryside and the South so that African Americans switched to the Democrats from the Party of Lincoln and Southern whites switched to the Republican Party. The between-party New Deal economic policy cleavage was highly correlated with income, occupation, and union membership. Religion did not play a major role in American politics as white evangelicals had few overtly political interests, and they identified with both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Starting in the 1970s with the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade (1973) decision and with the playing out of the consequences of the Civil Rights Acts of the mid 1960s, a two-dimensional cleavage structure arose comprising the traditional New Deal economic cleavage based upon income and occupation and a new social issues cleavage between the parties based upon religious attendance and moral conservatism. Although African Americans voted reliably for Democrats and many whites in the south began to vote for Republicans, the racial cleavage seemed largely submerged beneath the economic and social issues dimensions.   Unlike economic policy where budgetary compromises were possible, concerns with social issues such as abortion, prayer in the schools, and gay rights presented problems where compromise was very difficult if not impossible. In addition, conservatives sorted into the Republican Party and liberals into the Democratic Party. The result was an increasingly polarized politics.  Has this structure changed once again?   Are we now witnessing the emergence of a new dimension in American politics based upon xenophobia, racism, and nationalist sentiments? Was this dimension always there but obscured by other issues such as economics and moral conservatism? How does this dimension relate to the New Deal dimension and to social issues? How does it relate to America’s long-term struggle with its legacy of slavery?   Using American National Election Studies and other data from the 1970s and earlier, this talk examines spatial diagrams over time to map out the changing coalitional structure of the parties, to investigate the possible emergence of a new xenophobic dimension, and to better understand populism and polarization in American politics.


April 18, 2018
Karen Jusko (Stanford University)


April 25, 2018
Evan Lieberman (MIT)



May 2, 2018
Brian Weeks (University of Michigan)


May 9, 2018



All workshops take place on Wednesdays from noon-1:30pm in 6080* ISR

Unless otherwise noted all presentations are brown bag lunch.

*please note room change from previous years.

Past Series