Attending the Party

Kevin Lewis

September 23, 2022

Spilling the Beans on Political Consumerism: Do Social Media Boycotts and Buycotts Translate to Real Sales Impact?
Jūra Liaukonytė, Anna Tuchman & Xinrong Zhu
Marketing Science, forthcoming


Brands increasingly face pressure from consumers to take a stance on political issues, but there is limited empirical evidence on the effect of political consumerism on sales. In this paper, we quantify the consequences of a brand taking a political stance. In July 2020, the chief executive officer of Goya, a large Latin food brand, praised then president Donald Trump, triggering a boycott and a counter “buycott” movement supporting the brand. Using consumer-level purchase data, we measure the net effect of the boycott/buycott movements on sales. Boycott-related social media posts and media coverage dominated buycott ones, but the sales impact was the opposite: Goya sales temporarily increased by 22%. However, this net sales boost fully dissipated within three weeks. We then explore heterogeneity in the sales response with the goal of understanding which households are most likely to engage in political consumerism and what factors serve as frictions to participation. We document large sales increases (56.4%) in heavily Republican counties but do not find a strong countervailing boycott effect in heavily Democratic counties or among Goya’s core customer base — Latino consumers. Finally, we show that brand loyalty and switching costs are potential explanations for the limited evidence of boycotting among experienced Goya customers.

I hate you when I am anxious: Anxiety during the COVID-19 epidemic and ideological hostility
Meital Balmas, Tal Orian Harel & Eran Halperin
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming


Most previous studies that examined the effect of anxiety on hostility towards a distinct group have focused on cases in which we hate those we are afraid of. The current study, on the other hand, examines the relationship between anxiety in one domain and hostility towards a distinct group that is not the source of that anxiety. We focus here on symptoms of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have become increasingly frequent, and show that the implications of such mental difficulties are far-reaching, posing a threat to relationships between ideological groups. In two studies conducted in both Israel and the United States, we found that high levels of anxiety during the COVID-19 epidemic are associated with higher levels of hatred towards ordinary people from the respective political outgroups, lower levels of willingness to sustain interpersonal relations with these people (i.e., greater social distancing), and greater willingness to socially exclude them. This relationship was mediated by the perception of threat posed by the political outgroup. This study is the first to show that mental difficulty driven by an external threat can be a fundamental factor that explains levels of intergroup hostility.

Partisanship, Government Responsibility, and Charitable Donations
Bouke Klein Teeselink & Georgios Melios
Yale Working Paper, July 2022 


A large literature in public economics seeks to answer whether government activity crowds out charitable donations, but the empirical evidence is mixed. To resolve this inconsistency, we consider that people base their donation decisions not only on government spending per se, but also on their support of the government. Using US tax return data, we find that support for the incumbent president crowds out charitable donations. The reduction in donations cannot be explained by changes in government spending, beliefs about government spending, government grants to Republican or Democrat-leaning charities, or fundraising activity. Instead, it is consistent with the notion that partisans attribute greater problem-solving responsibilities to own-party governments.

Political Sentiment and Innovation: Evidence from Patenters
Joseph Engelberg et al.
University of California Working Paper, July 2022


We document political sentiment effects on inventors in the US. Democrat patenters are more likely to patent (relative to Republicans) after the election of Barack Obama but less likely to patent following the election of Donald Trump. These effects are 2-3 times as strong among active partisans (those that vote and donate), are present even within firms over time, and are detectable up to six years post election. We also find a large drop in patenting by immigrant inventors (relative to non-immigrants) following the election of Trump. Finally, we show partisan concentration by technology class and firm. For example, Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-to-1 in weapons patenting, but are outnumbered by Democrats 5-to-1 at Google.

The relationship between health and political ideology begins in childhood
Viji Diane Kannan et al.
SSM - Population Health, September 2022 


We investigate whether childhood health status influences adult political ideology and whether health at subsequent life-stages, adolescent personality traits, or adolescent academic aptitude mediate this relationship. Using a national longitudinal cohort sample, we found that better health among children under age 10 was positively related to conservative political ideology among adults over age 64. Children with excellent health compared to very poor health were 16 percentage points more likely to report having a conservative political ideology in adulthood. Children with excellent health compared to very poor health were 13 percentage points less likely to report having a liberal political ideology in adulthood. Adults who had excellent health as children were 30 percentage points more likely to report conservative ideology than liberal ideology. However, the difference in ideological position for adults who had very poor childhood health was negligible. That is, the health and ideology relationship is being driven by those who were healthier early in life, after controlling for family income and material wealth. No evidence was found for mediation by adolescent heath, adult heath, adolescent personality traits, or adolescent academic aptitude. The magnitude of the coefficient for childhood health was substantively and statistically equivalent across race and sex. We discuss the possibility that, instead of being mediated, childhood health may actually be a mediator bridging social, environmental, and policy contexts with political ideology. We also discuss the potential of social policy to influence health, which influences ideology (and voting participation), which eventually circles back to influence social policy. It is important to understand the nexus of political life and population health since disparities in voice and power can exacerbate health disparities.

School Shootings, Protest and the Gun Culture in the U.S.
Susan Olzak
Stanford Working Paper, July 2022


Scholars document that attitudes toward guns and gun policy reflect deeply entrenched cultures that overlap with ideological affiliations and party politics. Does exposure to dramatic events such as school shootings and protests regarding gun control affect these patterns? I first argue that school shootings are significant triggering events that will become associated with attitudes favoring gun restrictions. The second argument holds that rising protests by one’s opponent can be transformed into mobilizing opportunity by a focal group. To examine these ideas, I combine information from a national exit poll data on respondents’ attitudes on gun policy with state-level information on the counts of recent school shootings, gun-policy protest, existing laws restricting gun use, and membership in the National Rifle Association. To minimize bias, the analysis of public opinion applies Coarsened Exact Matching techniques followed by analysis using mixed-level logit. The second analysis uses data on gun control protests, school shootings, and NRA memberships in states over time. Results show that conservatives (but not liberals) exposed to more school shootings favor more restrictive gun policies. The second, longitudinal analysis found that there is a significant interaction effect between increases in school shootings and gun control protests that diminishes NRA memberships significantly.

Belief in the Utility of Cross-Partisan Empathy Reduces Partisan Animosity and Facilitates Political Persuasion
Luiza Santos  et al.
Psychological Science, September 2022, Pages 1557–1573


In polarized political environments, partisans tend to deploy empathy parochially, furthering division. We propose that belief in the usefulness of cross-partisan empathy — striving to understand other people with whom one disagrees politically — promotes out-group empathy and has powerful ramifications for both intra- and interpersonal processes. Across four studies (total N = 4,748), we examined these predictions in online and college samples using surveys, social-network analysis, preregistered experiments, and natural-language processing. Believing that cross-partisan empathy is useful is associated with less partisan division and politically diverse friendship networks (Studies 1 and 2). When prompted to believe that empathy is a political resource—versus a political weakness—people become less affectively polarized (Study 3) and communicate in ways that decrease out-partisans’ animosity and attitudinal polarization (Study 4). These findings demonstrate that belief in cross-partisan empathy impacts not only individuals’ own attitudes and behaviors but also the attitudes of those they communicate with.

Network Amplification of Politicized Information and Misinformation about COVID-19 by Conservative Media and Partisan Influencers on Twitter
Yini Zhang, Fan Chen & Josephine Lukito
Political Communication, forthcoming


Social media amplification is both a mechanism to attract public attention and a process of information diffusion shaped by the online social network structure. This study focuses on amplification by elites on social media and examines the extent to which traditional media and emerging partisan influencers engage in “network amplification.” Defined as like-minded elites sharing similar or/and mutual messages, network amplification highlights the interrelation and interaction between elite messages in the network communication environment of social media. This is a phenomenon worth investigating because network amplification’s resulting message repetition and reinforcement can multiply the overall effectiveness of elite messaging. Using network sampling and spectral clustering, we collected 358,707 accounts that followed 2,069,311 accounts on Twitter and detected nine distinct networks of traditional media and emerging partisan influencers. We then examined their 3,540,629 tweets related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Results show that 1) conservative media and influencers engaged in network amplification of politicized information and misinformation significantly more than liberal media and influencers did; 2) conservative influencers exhibited a stronger tendency to retweet and align their messages with conservative media than liberal influencers did regarding liberal media; and 3) traditional media partially drove partisan influencers’ amplification. The implications of network amplification for partisan asymmetry, misinformation, and public opinion are discussed.

Science beliefs, political ideology, and cognitive sophistication
Gordon Pennycook, Bence Bago & Jonathon McPhetres
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


Some theoretical models assume that a primary source of contention surrounding science belief is political and that partisan disagreement drives beliefs; other models focus on basic science knowledge and cognitive sophistication, arguing that they facilitate proscientific beliefs. To test these competing models, we identified a range of controversial issues subject to potential ideological disagreement and examined the roles of political ideology, science knowledge, and cognitive sophistication on science beliefs. Our results indicate that there was surprisingly little partisan disagreement on a wide range of contentious scientific issues. We also found weak evidence for identity-protective cognition (where cognitive sophistication exacerbates partisan disagreement); instead, cognitive sophistication (i.e., reasoning ability) was generally associated with proscience beliefs. In two studies focusing on anthropogenic climate change, we found that increased political motivations did not increase polarization among individuals who are higher in cognitive sophistication, which indicates that increased political motivations might not have as straightforward an impact on science beliefs as has been assumed in the literature. Finally, our findings indicate that basic science knowledge is the most consistent predictor of people’s beliefs about science across a wide range of issues. These results suggest that educators and policymakers should focus on increasing basic science literacy and critical thinking rather than on the ideologies that purportedly divide people.

Functional connectivity signatures of political ideology
Seo Eun Yang et al.
PNAS Nexus, July 2022 


Emerging research has begun investigating the neural underpinnings of the biological and psychological differences that drive political ideology, attitudes, and actions. Here, we explore the neurological roots of politics through conducting a large sample, whole-brain analysis of functional connectivity (FC) across common fMRI tasks. Using convolutional neural networks, we develop predictive models of ideology using FC from fMRI scans for nine standard task-based settings in a novel cohort of healthy adults (n = 174, age range: 18 to 40, mean = 21.43) from the Ohio State University Wellbeing Project. Our analyses suggest that liberals and conservatives have noticeable and discriminative differences in FC that can be identified with high accuracy using contemporary artificial intelligence methods and that such analyses complement contemporary models relying on socio-economic and survey-based responses. FC signatures from retrieval, empathy, and monetary reward tasks are identified as important and powerful predictors of conservatism, and activations of the amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus, and hippocampus are most strongly associated with political affiliation. Although the direction of causality is unclear, this study suggests that the biological and neurological roots of political behavior run much deeper than previously thought.

Caught in a Dangerous World: Problematic News Consumption and Its Relationship to Mental and Physical Ill-Being
Bryan McLaughlin, Melissa Gotlieb & Devin Mills
Health Communication, forthcoming


This study adds to the growing body of literature on problematic media behavior by introducing and explicating the concept of problematic news consumption, which we define as involving transportation, preoccupation, misregulation, underregulation, and interference. Using survey data from a national sample of U.S. adults, we examine the factor structure of a problematic news consumption measure, the existence of latent classes derived from the expected factors, and differences in mental and physical health across the emerging classes. Results show support for the proposed factor structure as well as the existence of four latent classes, which appear to be stratified according to severity of problematic news consumption. Results also show greater mental and physical ill-being among those with higher levels of problematic news consumption compared to those with lower levels, even after controlling for demographics, personality traits, and overall news use. Implications for designing effective media literacy campaigns to raise awareness of the potential for news consumption to develop into a problematic behavior as well as the development of intervention strategies are discussed.

Populist Conservatism on the Air: The Dies Committee and Network Radio
Joy Elizabeth Hayes
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Summer 2022, Pages 484-503


This study traces the history of conservative media to the late 1930s and the radio broadcasting activities of Representative Martin Dies Jr., who chaired the House Special Committee on Un-American Activities 1938–1944. Using archival research and critical discourse analysis, this inquiry shows how Dies wielded his congressional position to build an anti-New Deal media apparatus. It analyzes how his national network radio speeches engaged audiences and associated New Deal liberalism with communism and “un-American” activities. Dies positioned himself as a mainstream mediator for populist conservative beliefs and established an enduring model of how to shape and drive media coverage.



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