All in for 2020

Kevin Lewis

January 18, 2019

The Effectiveness of a Racialized Counterstrategy
Antoine Banks & Heather Hicks
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Our article examines whether a politician charging a political candidate's implicit racial campaign appeal as racist is an effective political strategy. According to the racial priming theory, this racialized counterstrategy should deactivate racism, thereby decreasing racially conservative whites’ support for the candidate engaged in race baiting. We propose an alternative theory in which racial liberals, and not racially conservative whites, are persuaded by this strategy. To test our theory, we focused on the 2016 presidential election. We ran an experiment varying the politician (by party and race) calling an implicit racial appeal by Donald Trump racist. We find that charging Trump's campaign appeal as racist does not persuade racially conservative whites to decrease support for Trump. Rather, it causes racially liberal whites to evaluate Trump more unfavorably. Our results hold up when attentiveness, old‐fashioned racism, and partisanship are taken into account. We also reproduce our findings in two replication studies.

Redistricting Out Representation: Democratic Harms in Splitting Zip Codes
John Curiel & Tyler Steelman
Election Law Journal, December 2018, Pages 328-353


Redistricting poses a potential harm to American voters in limiting choice and accountability at the polls. Although voters still technically retain their right to contact their congressional representatives in order to seek redress for their concerns, we argue that the confusion created when redistricting divides ZIP Codes confounds the constituent-representative link and leaves a substantive minority of voters in representational limbo. ZIP Codes perform a functional role by organizing groups of residents into easily accessible blocs for mail service. However, congressional districts split the ZIP Codes of over 100 million Americans. Splitting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts leads to constituents being confused about who their member is and greater inefficiencies for representatives to mail to their constituents. Additionally, several members of Congress actively ignore out-of-district mail. We posit that constituents from ZIP Codes split by multiple congressional districts will be less likely to recognize, contact, or ideologically identify with their representative. We conducted a population overlap analysis between ZIP Codes and congressional districts to determine the impact of splitting ZIP Codes on a battery of items on the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) from 2008-2016. Our analysis provides evidence that splitting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts impairs the constituent-representative link. Finally, we demonstrate the preservation of ZIP Codes in redistricting is feasible and produces a substantive reduction in partisan bias.

Disproportionately Overrepresented: Women in Local Elected Offices
Ethan Bernick & Brianne Heidbreder
State and Local Government Review, September 2018, Pages 165-176


This research examines the position of county clerk, where women are numerically disproportionately over-represented. Using data collected from the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Census Bureau, the models estimate the correlation between the county clerk’s sex and county-level demographic, social, and political factors with maximum likelihood logit estimates. This research suggests that while women are better represented in the office of county clerk across the United States, when compared to other elective offices, this representation may be because this office is not seen as attractive to men and its responsibilities fit within the construct of traditional gender norms.

Differences in Appearance-Based Trait Inferences for Male and Female Political Candidates
Tessa Ditonto & Kyle Mattes
Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, Fall 2018, Pages 430-450


Studies show that automatic trait inferences can predict outcomes of actual elections, but these studies generally include male candidates only. Substantial evidence also shows that female candidates are subject to gender-based stereotypes, which can lead to differences in how men and women candidates are evaluated. This article combines these two literatures to compare the effects of competence, threat, and attractiveness inferences in elections that include women. We use experimental data in which candidate pairs from state and local US elections were judged on these three traits and examine whether those ratings are predictive of election outcomes. We find that although competence matters most for elections involving only men, attractiveness predicts winners in women-only elections. In mixed-gender races, competence inferences predict success when the female candidate is perceived as more competent than the male candidate. Finally, unlike men, women benefit from being perceived as physically threatening in mixed-gender races.

Ballot Initiatives and Status Quo Bias
Joshua Dyck & Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming


Is there an opposition bias in ballot initiative campaigns? While some early research suggested that the “no” side was advantaged in ballot initiative campaigns, recent work has demonstrated that both opposition and support spending in ballot measure campaigns are effective. We offer a new way to conceptualize status quo orientation in ballot measure elections. Specifically, we argue that opposition arguments are more effective than support arguments because of the well-known framing negativity bias and not because the starting position for uninformed voters is to default to no. We present the results of two survey experiments to test the impact of support and opposition arguments in ballot initiative campaigns. We find consistent evidence that opposition arguments are effective in generating more “no” votes and that support arguments are ineffective in generating more “yes” votes.

Racial or Spatial Voting? The Effects of Candidate Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Endorsements in Local Elections
Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher Elmendorf & Scott MacKenzie
American Journal of Political Science, January 2019, Pages 5-20


With the growth of Latino and Asian American populations, candidates frequently must appeal to diverse electorates. Strategies for doing so include emphasizing candidates’ racial/ethnic identity and securing endorsements from racial/ethnic groups. While many scholars focus on candidates’ racial/ethnic attributes, ethnic group endorsements are understudied. Whether such endorsements induce voters to choose ideologically similar candidates (spatial voting), or choose based on race/ethnicity (racial voting) is unclear. We address this question by examining elections in multiethnic local settings. Using original surveys and exit polls, we create comparable measures of candidate and voter ideology, and examine how race/ethnicity and ideology affect voters’ choices. We also embed experiments that manipulate ethnic group endorsements. We find that ideology influences voters’ choices, but that ethnic group endorsements weaken spatial voting. The latter effect among whites is driven by racial/ethnic stereotypes. These reactions explain why some candidates seek such endorsements and why others might prefer to avoid them.

Distance traveled to polling locations: Are travel costs imposed equally on party members?
Nick Joslyn et al.
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

Methods: Using 2016 data obtained from a County Clerk’s Office (N = 81,323), and a scripted algorithm developed in Python to interact with Google Maps, we were able to identify the road distances between registered voters’ addresses and their polling locations. We then regressed this distance against several available measures to determine whether a relationship existed between voter’s political affiliation and distance to the polls.

Results: The multivariate analyses show that travel distances to polling locations were not equally distributed across partisan groups. Rather the dominant party traveled significantly less distance. Additionally, we used the same methodology to demonstrate the suitability of alternative polling locations. We introduced polling locations that significantly reduce the overall travel distances and shrink existing disparities between party members.

Should Campaigns Respond to Electability Arguments?
Joshua Darr & Robyn Stiles
Journal of Political Marketing, forthcoming


Should candidates respond when they are described as unelectable? Although strategic arguments about the viability and electability of candidates were commonplace in the 2016 election, we know little about whether campaigns can effectively rebut these arguments. Assessments of a candidate’s chances in a general election are often complicated by partisanship and candidate-specific factors, and it is difficult to disentangle viability from electability. Our studies are situated in an electoral context without partisan primaries, which complicates judgments by pitting partisan goals against ideological and electability objectives. In our experiments, a Democratic candidate is described as viable in the first round of voting but unelectable in the second round, and Democratic voters are encouraged to strategically vote for a more acceptable Republican to advance. Subjects were then randomly selected to see a press release from the Democratic candidate responding to that description by asserting their electability. We find that when respondents see a campaign respond to the strategic voting argument by asserting their electability, it significantly improves perceptions of that candidate’s electability but does not change voters’ preferences. Candidates should push back when their electability is challenged.

The voting experience and beliefs about ballot secrecy
Conor Dowling et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2019


New democracies go to great lengths to implement institutional protections of the electoral process. However, in this paper we present evidence that shows that even in the United States - where the secret ballot has been in place for generations - doubts about the secrecy of the voting process are surprisingly prevalent. Many say that their cast ballot can be matched to their name or that others could observe their vote choices while they were voting. We find that people who have not previously voted are particularly likely to harbor doubts about the secrecy of voters’ ballots. Those who vote by mail in the privacy of their own homes also feel that others are able to discover their vote choices. Taken together, these findings suggest an important divergence between public perceptions about and the institutional status of the secret ballot in the United States, a divergence that may affect patterns of voting behavior and political participation.

Should I Cast an Ill-Informed Ballot? Examining the Contours of the Normative Obligation to Vote
David Doherty et al.
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Proparticipatory norms play a central role in driving turnout. However, a broad norm that people are supposed to vote cannot explain why some people fail to participate or why rates of participation vary sharply across elections. We argue that the norm of voting extends beyond the mere act of voting. We present empirical evidence supporting the position that the social rewards for participating are conditional. The social rewards for casting an ill-informed vote are far smaller than those associated with casting an informed ballot. Moreover, some low-information voting strategies are viewed as less desirable than simply abstaining. Our findings illustrate an important constraint on the capacity of social norms to foster turnout. The effectiveness of efforts to translate norms into higher rates of turnout may depend on ensuring that voters are informed enough to cast a meaningful ballot.

You can leave your glasses on: Glasses can increase electoral success
Alexandra Fleischmann et al.
Social Psychology, forthcoming


Does wearing glasses hurt or help politicians in elections? Although some research shows that glasses signal unattractiveness, glasses also increase perceptions of competence. In eight studies, participants voted for politicians wearing (photoshopped) glasses or not. Wearing glasses increased politicians’ electoral success in the US (Study 1), independent of their political orientation (Studies 2a and 2b). This positive effect was especially strong when intelligence was important (Study 3), and even occurred if glasses were used strategically (Study 4). However, it did not extend to India (Study 5) due to different cultural associations with glasses (Study 6). Furthermore, while intelligence mediated the effect, warmth did not (Study 7). In summary, wearing glasses can robustly boost electoral success, at least in Western cultures.


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