Election irregularities

Kevin Lewis

September 22, 2017

Understanding White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism
Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams & Tatishe Nteta
Political Science Quarterly, forthcoming


The difference in the presidential vote choices of whites with and without college degrees in 2016 was larger than in any election over the past several decades. What caused whites without college degrees to provide substantially more support to Donald Trump than whites with college degrees? In this paper, we examine whether this polarization in white vote choice is associated with the economic concerns of less educated white voters, or from attitudes related to racism and sexism. We find that racism and sexism attitudes were strongly associated with vote choice in 2016, even after accounting for partisanship, ideology, and other standard factors. These factors were more important in 2016 than in 2012, suggesting that the explicitly racial and gendered rhetoric of the 2016 campaign served to activate these attitudes in the minds of many voters. Indeed, attitudes toward racism and sexism account for about two-thirds of the education gap in vote choices in 2016.

Understanding the 2016 US Presidential Polls: The Importance of Hidden Trump Supporters
Peter Enns, Julius Lagodny & Jonathon Schuldt
Statistics, Politics and Policy, forthcoming


Following Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 US presidential election, the American Association for Public Opinion Research announced that “the polls clearly got it wrong” and noted that talk of a “crisis in polling” was already emerging. Although the national polls ended up being accurate, surveys just weeks before the election substantially over-stated Clinton’s lead and state polls showed systematic bias in favor of Clinton. Different explanations have been offered for these results, including non-response bias and late deciders. We argue, however, that these explanations cannot fully account for Trump’s underperformance in October surveys. Utilizing data from two national polls that we conducted in October of 2016 (n>2100 total) as well as 14 state-level polls from October, we find consistent evidence for the existence of “hidden” Trump supporters who were included in the surveys but did not openly express their intention to vote for Trump. Most notably, when we account for these hidden Trump supporters in our October survey data, both national and state-level analyses foreshadow Trump’s Election Day support. These results suggest that late-breaking campaign events may have had less influence than previously thought and the findings hold important implications for how scholars, media, and campaigns analyze future election surveys.

Diverging Life Expectancies and Voting Patterns in the 2016 US Presidential Election
Jacob Bor
American Journal of Public Health, October 2017, Pages 1560-1562

Methods: I examined county-level voting data from the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections and assessed Donald Trump’s share of the 2016 vote, change in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016, and changes in absolute numbers of Democratic and Republican votes. County-level estimates of life expectancy at birth were obtained for 1980 and 2014 from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Results: Changes in county life expectancy from 1980 to 2014 were strongly negatively associated with Trump’s vote share, with less support for Trump in counties experiencing greater survival gains. Counties in which life expectancy stagnated or declined saw a 10-percentage-point increase in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016.

Social Class and Party Identification During the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Presidencies
Stephen Morgan & Jiwon Lee
Sociological Science, August 2017


Through an analysis of the 1994 through 2016 General Social Surveys, this article demonstrates that a substantial proportion of eligible voters within the working class turned away from solid identification with either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party during the Obama presidency. Even before the 2016 election cycle commenced, conditions were uncharacteristically propitious for a Republican candidate who could appeal to prospective voters in the working class, especially those who had not voted in recent presidential elections but could be mobilized to vote. These findings support the contested position that variation in party identification is a genuine leading indicator of electoral outcomes and perhaps also, in this case, of party realignment.

Political experience and the intersection between race and gender
Tony Carey & Mary-Kate Lizotte
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming


Prior research has treated political experience as if it had similar effects for every candidate. However, recent studies suggest that the effects of political experience on trait judgments and candidate evaluations may vary depending on a candidate’s demographic characteristics. Accordingly, this study investigates whether the influence of prior experience varies depending on the racial and gender background of political candidates. To explore this topic, we employ an experiment with a 2 (Race: White and Black) × 2 (Sex: Male and Female) × 2 (Experience: Experienced and Inexperienced) factorial design. The expectation is that political experience will have the greatest impact for white male candidates when compared to female and African American candidates. Furthermore, the study explores the differential effects of political experience by examining whether the influence of experience on competence ratings varies depending on the negative racial and gender attitudes of participants. The findings suggest that citizens are more inclined to distinguish between white male candidates across different levels of political experience, while they evaluate black and/or female candidates similarly, regardless of experience. Moreover, the evidence suggests that gender bias may explain why we observe the disparity between male and female candidates.

Youthful hours: Shifting poll-opening times manipulates voter demographics
Robert Urbatsch
Research & Politics, July 2017


People vary in their preferred times of day for activity. Notably, as individuals age, their daily energy and attention typically peaks earlier in the day. When voting is permitted may then affect voters’ age distribution, even when holding constant the number of hours polls are open. Data from along the time-zone border in Kentucky, where poll-availability hours vary, supports this hypothesis: places where voting hours are later see higher turnout rates among younger voters and lower turnout rates among older voters. The one-hour delay in voting hours reduces older registrants’ turnout, and boosts younger registrants’, by roughly three percentage points.

Tough Enough for the Job? How Masculinity Predicts Recruitment of City Council Members
Sarah Oliver & Meredith Conroy
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Does an individual’s gender help to explain if he or she is more or less likely to be recruited to run for political office? While the effects of sex differences on the candidate emergence process have been studied extensively, the influence of masculinity and femininity is less understood. To uncover if gender influences whether an individual is recruited to run for political office, this article relies on data from an original survey of a nationally representative sample of city council members, with the primary independent variable, individuals’ self-identified masculinity, measured by the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). Results show that those who identify as more masculine, whether male or female, are more likely to be recruited to run for elected office. This effect holds for a variety of types of recruitment, such as political elites and women’s organizations. The findings add an important dimension to the supply-side explanations for women’s underrepresentation.

Using Wikipedia to Predict Election Outcomes: Online Behavior as a Predictor of Voting
Benjamin Smith & Abel Gustafson
Public Opinion Quarterly, Fall 2017, Pages 714–735


This study seeks to improve election forecasting by supplementing polling data with online information-seeking behavior trends as an indicator of public opinion. Aggregate trends of demonstrations of interest or engagement have been shown to accurately predict behavior trends and reflect public opinion. Further, because traditional poll-based predictions are inherently undermined by self-reporting biases and the intention-behavior disconnect, we can expect that information-seeking trends on widely used social media—as an autonomous and unobtrusive indicator of relative levels of public opinion—can help correct for some of this error and explain unique, additional variance in election results. We advance the literature by using data from Wikipedia pageviews along with polling data in a synthesized model based on the results of the 2008, 2010, and 2012 US Senate general elections. Results show that Wikipedia pageviews data significantly add to the ability of poll- and fundamentals-based projections to predict election results up to 28 weeks prior to Election Day, and benefit predictions most at those early points, when poll-based predictions are weakest.

Brain indices of disagreement with one’s social values predict EU referendum voting behavior
Giulia Galli et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


Pre-electoral surveys typically attempt, and sometimes fail, to predict voting behavior on the basis of explicit measures of agreement or disagreement with a candidate or political position. Here, we assessed whether a specific brain signature of disagreement with one’s social values, the event-related potential component N400, could be predictive of voting behavior. We examined this possibility in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. In the five weeks preceding the referendum, we recorded the N400 while participants with different vote intentions expressed their agreement or disagreement with pro- and against-EU statements. We showed that the N400 responded to statements incongruent with one’s view regarding the EU. Crucially, this effect predicted actual voting behavior in decided as well as undecided voters. The N400 was a better predictor of voting choice than an explicit index of preference based on the behavioral responses. Our findings demonstrate that well-defined patterns of brain activity can forecast future voting behavior.

Presidential Voting and the Local Economy: Evidence from Two Population-Based Data Sets
Andrew Healy & Gabriel Lenz
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


We show that standard economic measures based on samples and richer newly available ones based on populations lead to different conclusions about democratic accountability. Previous research, which has primarily relied on sample-based measures, has mostly missed an important determinant of presidential election outcomes: the local economy. We detect the local economy’s impact with two unique data sets, one of which includes data on all consumer loans made in California and the other a census of businesses. In contrast to measures subject to sampling error, these population-based measures indicate that economic conditions at the ZIP code and county level have an impact on presidential election outcomes. Presidents therefore face incentives to focus on electorally important geographic regions.

The Effect of Mandatory Mail Ballot Elections in California
Gabrielle Elul, Sean Freeder & Jacob Grumbach
Election Law Journal, September 2017, Pages 397-415


Proponents argue that universal vote-by-mail (VBM) reforms increase voter turnout and decrease compositional disparities in the electorate, but studies have found negative effects of VBM on turnout in California. We exploit a natural experiment in which small precincts in California may be assigned to conduct elections solely by mail. Using the largest California VBM dataset to date, we find that turnout among registered voters in VBM precincts is discernibly lower than traditional precincts in general elections, though we are unable to detect an effect in primary elections. The negative effect is generally consistent across ethnic groups, but we find a positive effect for young voters. We argue that differences in the implementation of VBM in California may have led to effects unlike those in Oregon and Washington. We conclude with a call for states to increase investment in voter outreach when pursuing VBM policies.

Campaigning and election outcomes in a presidential primary election
Steven Bednar
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming


This article presents new evidence from the US presidential primary setting on the role campaigning plays in determining election outcomes. Using candidate visits as a measure of campaign intensity, I estimate a discrete choice model of voting using a differentiated products framework where I allow for abstention and create instruments for campaigning based on Democratic Party rules for delegate allocation. On average, a visit by a candidate increases the vote share of this candidate by about 2.4 percentage points and decreases the abstaining share by 0.7 percentage points.

What Inverted U Can Do for Your Country: A Curvilinear Relationship Between Confidence in the Social System and Political Engagement
Aleksandra Cichocka et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


We examined the link between political engagement and the tendency to justify the sociopolitical system. On one hand, confidence in the system should be negatively related to political engagement, insofar as it entails reduced desire for social change; on the other hand, system confidence should also be positively related to political engagement to the extent that it carries an assumption that the system is responsive to citizens’ political efforts. Because of the combination of these 2 opposing forces, the motivation for political engagement should be highest at intermediate levels of system confidence. Five studies revealed a negative quadratic relationship between system confidence and normative political engagement. In 2 representative surveys, Polish participants with moderate levels of system confidence were more likely to vote in political elections (Study 1) and to participate in solidarity-based collective action (Study 2). Two field studies demonstrated a negative quadratic relationship between system confidence and actual participation in political demonstrations (gender equality and teachers’ protests in Poland; Studies 3 and 4). This pattern of results was further corroborated by analyses of data from 50 countries drawn from the World Value Survey: we observed negative quadratic relationships between system confidence and collective action as well as voting. These relationships were stronger in democratic (vs. nondemocratic) regimes (Study 5). Our results suggest that some degree of system confidence might be useful to stimulate political engagement within the norms of the system.

How Encouraging Niceness Can Incentivize Nastiness: An Unintended Consequence of Advertising Reform
Minah Jung & Clayton Critcher
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming


Enacted in an effort to discourage negative political advertising, American regulations mandate that candidates endorse their ads (“My name is _____, and I approve this message…”). Four studies suggest mandatory endorsements enhance the perceived credibility of some ads these regulations were designed to discourage. We test for what types of messages and why (by evaluating seven hypotheses) mandatory endorsements have this effect. Mandatory endorsements boosted evaluations of policy-focused attack ads — those typically plagued by overcomeable skepticism — but had no consistent effect on positive or character-focused ads. We found that mandatory endorsements boost ad believability — largely outside of participants' awareness — for two reasons: 1) the tagline offers a legitimizing association with regulation, and 2) the candidates' own personally-delivered endorsement language (“I approve this message”) offers an implicit promise of the ads' truth value. We discuss how these findings bring order to and go beyond previous work on mandatory endorsements and ironic effects of communications requirements. Finally, we consider how regulations could be reformed to promote the public good by informing (without misleading) the electorate.

Does Voter Preregistration Increase Youth Participation?
Anthony Fowler
Election Law Journal, forthcoming


Young people are systematically underrepresented in the electoral process. Reformers have attempted to design policies and campaign strategies that reduce this inequality, but most of these efforts have proven ineffective. One relatively new and increasingly popular reform allows young people to preregister at the age of 16 or 17, making them automatically registered on their 18th birthday. I estimate the effect of preregistration by combining individual-level administrative data with a differences-in-differences design that accounts for cohort effects as well as idiosyncratic differences across each state election. On average, preregistration appears to increase youth turnout by about two percentage points — a modest effect notably below previous estimates in the literature.

Ranked Choice Voting and Attitudes toward Democracy in the United States: Results from a Survey Experiment
Lindsay Nielson
Politics & Policy, August 2017, Pages 535–570


Ranked choice voting (RCV) is a voting system used commonly around the world, but only rarely in the United States. I present here a study that investigates how American voters act in an RCV election. Using a survey experiment design, I compare the election outcome and the behaviors and attitudes of voters in a plurality election to an RCV election. I find evidence suggesting RCV may not significantly change election outcomes and have no positive impact on voters’ confidence in elections and the democratic process. Study participants who voted in the RCV treatment were not any more likely to prefer RCV elections to plurality or majoritarian elections, and, overall, most voters do not prefer to vote in RCV elections and do not think that they result in fair election outcomes.

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