Mean Voter

Kevin Lewis

November 02, 2010

Random Events, Economic Losses, and Retrospective Voting: Implications for Democratic Competence

Andrew Healy & Neil Malhotra
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, August 2010, Pages 193-208

We leverage the natural experiment afforded by tornado incidence to estimate the effect of exogenous economic loss on electoral outcomes. We find that voters punish the incumbent party in presidential elections for economic damage resulting from tornadoes. Although this behavior could suggest that retrospective voting in this domain reflects voters irrationally blaming incumbent politicians for circumstances beyond their control, we instead find evidence suggesting that voting behavior reflects democratic competence. First, voters do not punish the incumbent party for tornado-caused deaths, which governments likely do not have the power to address with effective policy. Second, the incumbent party only appears to lose votes when no disaster declaration takes place in response to the tornado. Thus, voters appear to be rewarding and punishing government with respect to its performance in handling the disaster, as opposed to blaming the government for these natural events.


The Dog that Didn't Bark: The Role of Canines in the 2008 Campaign

Diana Mutz
PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2010, Pages 707-712

Using the most extensive dataset available on the 2008 election, I examine the impact of dog ownership on presidential vote preference. Canines were elevated to the status of a campaign issue when, during the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama publicly promised his daughters a dog after the election was over, a campaign promise that has since been fulfilled. However, this announcement appears to have unintentionally highlighted the absence of a key point of potential identification between this candidate and voters, and thus to have significantly undermined the likelihood that dog-owning voters would support Obama. I elaborate upon the implications of this finding for future presidential candidates.


States and the Making of the "Service" Party: The Case of the Postwar Ohio Republican Party

Brian Conley
Journal of American Studies, forthcoming

During the second half of the twentieth century, at a time when most observers thought they were in decline, parties were in fact transformed in the US. At the center of this change, scholars argue, was the development, at the national level, of a more centralized and professionally oriented "service" model of party organization within the Republican Party. What the emphasis on the national level obscures, however, is the important role that state parties played in the development of a service style of party organization prior to the 1960s. Nowhere was this more evident than in Ohio, where the postwar Republican Party, led by Ray Bliss, had a significant impact on the development of this new, more centralized "service" approach to party organization. The Bliss model represented one of the most fully developed examples to date, at any level, of the service party, as demonstrated by its organizational continuity over time, and its influence on the subsequent institutionalization of a similar structure within the Republican Party nationally in the 1960s and 1970s.


Explaining Politics, Not Polls: Reexamining Macropartisanship with Recalibrated NES Data

James Campbell
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2010, Pages 616-642

Like all surveys, the American National Election Studies (NES) imperfectly reflects population characteristics. There are well-known differences between actual and NES-reported turnout rates and between actual and NES-reported presidential vote divisions. This research seeks to determine whether the aggregate misrepresentation of turnout and vote choice affects the aggregate measurement of party identification: macropartisanship. After NES data are reweighted to correct for turnout and vote choice errors, macropartisanship is found to be more stable, to be less sensitive to short-term political conditions, and to have shifted more in the Republican direction in the early 1980s. The strength of partisanship also declined a bit more in the 1970s and rebounded a bit less in recent years than the uncorrected NES data indicate.


Risk Inequality and the Polarized American Electorate

Philipp Rehm
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Why has the American political landscape grown more partisan since the 1970s? This article provides a novel account of the determinants of partisanship. The author argues that partisanship is not only shaped by the traditionally suggested socio-economic factors, but also by the uncertainty of future income (risk exposure): rich individuals facing a high degree of risk exposure (or poor people facing low risk exposure) are 'cross-pressured'; while their income suggests that they should identify with the Republicans, their income prospects make them sympathize with the Democrats. These two traits have overlapped increasingly since the 1970s. Those with lower incomes tend to be also those with higher risk exposure (risk inequality increased). This has led to a sorting of the American electorate: more citizens have become 'natural' partisans.


The Dynasty Advantage: Family Ties in Congressional Elections

Brian Feinstein
Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2010, Pages 571-598

Political dynasties, families in which multiple members have held elected office, commonly feature in the U.S. Congress. I explored the electoral origins of this phenomenon and determined that members of political dynasties have a significant advantage over first-generation politicians in open-seat House elections. Using an original dataset containing candidate- and district-level covariates for all candidates in open-seat House contests between 1994 and 2006, I found that dynastic politicians enjoy "brand name advantages," giving them a significant edge over comparable nondynastic opponents. In contrast, hypotheses concerning potential advantages stemming from past political experience and fundraising ability yield null results.


The Endorsement Effect: An Examination of Statewide Political Endorsements in the 2008 Democratic Caucus and Primary Season

Bryce Summary
American Behavioral Scientist, November 2010, Pages 284-297

Presidential candidates often pursue the endorsements of elected officials hoping to boost the candidate's chances of electoral success. But do these endorsements really enhance electoral outcomes? This study pays special attention to endorsements by sitting U.S. senators, U.S. House members, and governors in the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating season. Evidence is found of a statistically significant relationship between endorsements and the state-level vote share. Other significant variables include momentum, a state's racial and elderly composition, the type of selection process, and the number of campaign events each candidate held in the state.


Who Says "It's the Economy"? Cross-National and Cross-Individual Variation in the Salience of Economic Performance

Matthew Singer
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Theories of government approval usually assume that voters care about economic outcomes. This assumption frequently does not hold. Data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems demonstrate that although the economy is often the most important issue in an election, its place on the issue agenda varies across individuals and electoral contexts. The economy is more likely to dominate other issue concerns under conditions of economic recession, volatility, and economic underdevelopment. Moreover, at the individual level the salience of economic performance rises with unemployment and economic vulnerability. Governance crises related to corruption and human rights reduce attention to the economy, as do large-scale terrorist attacks. If the economy is not perceived as important, its effect on government approval is strongly mitigated. Thus, variations in the economy's salience need to be further incorporated into studies linking economic and political outcomes.


Income Inequality and Partisan Voting in the United States

Andrew Gelman, Lane Kenworthy & Yu-Sung Su
Social Science Quarterly, December 2010, Pages 1203-1219

Objectives: Income inequality in the United States has risen during the past several decades. Has this produced an increase in partisan voting differences between rich and poor?

Methods: We examine trends from the 1940s through the 2000s in the country as a whole and in the states.

Results: We find no clear relation between income inequality and class-based voting.

Conclusions: Factors such as religion and education result in a less clear pattern of class-based voting than we might expect based on income inequality alone.


Second-Order Effects Plus Pan-European Political Swings: An Analysis of European Parliament Elections Across Time

Simon Hix & Michael Marsh
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

After seven waves of European Parliament elections and European Union enlargement to 27 states, the time is ripe to analyse the temporal robustness of the second-order model. We pool all the elections in a single evaluation and also look at election-by-election variations. We analyse changes in party performance over time in all EU states as well as in the 'original 10', to see whether any cross-time changes are driven by the changing composition of the EU. We also look for pan-European trends in each election, as a way identifying 'European effects' distinct from second-order effects. There are few consistent winners and losers, although socialist parties performed worse in the last three elections than their size and government status would predict.


Measuring the Indirect Effect: Voter Initiatives and Legislative Production in the American States

Gregory Randolph
Public Finance Review, November 2010, Pages 762-786

Recent research has identified important policy differences between voter initiative states and pure representative states despite a lack of enough observable voter initiative campaigns to explain the policy differences. This article investigates the indirect effects of the voter initiative process on legislative production by estimating the number of bills enacted in the American states. The results indicate that legislators in voter initiative states enact more legislation as the difficulty in qualifying a voter initiative for the ballot decreases, as the legislature is less able to alter the effects of successful voter initiatives, and as the average number of voter initiatives that appear on the ballot increases. These results provide some statistical evidence of the indirect effect of the voter initiative and are consistent with the theory that policy differences in voter initiative states are the result of the indirect effect of the voter initiative process.


The Impact of Unified Party Government on Campaign Contributions

Erik Engstrom & William Ewell
Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2010, Pages 543-569

This article examines the connection between unified party government and campaign contributions. our central argument is that unified party government confers a substantial, but previously overlooked, fundraising advantage to intra-chamber majority parties. We examined data on corporate campaign contributions to U.S. House incumbents and state legislators in 17 different legislative chambers. We found a strong fundraising benefit accruing to intra-chamber majority status across all of these legislatures, but the benefit is heavily conditioned by the presence of unified or divided government. The results offer important implications for our understanding of the financial balance of power in American politics and for the vast scholarly literature on unified party government.


The Legacy of Lethargy: How Elections to the European Parliament Depress Turnout

Mark Franklin & Sara Hobolt
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Why has turnout in European Parliament (EP) elections remained so low, despite attempts to expand the Parliament's powers? One possible answer is that because little is at stake in these second-order elections only those with an established habit of voting, acquired in previous national elections, can be counted on to vote. Others argue that low turnout is an indication of apathy or even scepticism towards Europe. This article conducts a critical test of the "little at stake" hypothesis by focusing on a testable implication: that turnout at these elections will be particularly low on the part of voters not yet socialized into habitual voting. This proposition is examined using both time-series cross-section analyses and a regression discontinuity design. Our findings show that EP elections depress turnout as they inculcate habits of non-voting, with long-term implications for political participation in EU member states.


Still Cruising and Believing? An Analysis of Online Credibility Across Three Presidential Campaigns

Thomas Johnson & Barbara Kaye
American Behavioral Scientist, September 2010, Pages 57-77

This study relies on online surveys of politically interested web users during the 1996, 2000, and 2004 presidential elections to examine the degree to which people judge online information as credible and to compare how credibility has shifted in the past decade. Whereas credibility scores jumped in 2000, they declined in 2004. Online issue sources were judged the most credible and online broadcast TV news sources the least credible. Whereas respondents perceived few differences between online and traditionally delivered sources in the 2000 campaign, greater differences emerged in the 2004 campaign.


Southern Political Exceptionalism? Presidential Voting in the South and Non-South

Joseph Aistrup
Social Science Quarterly, December 2010, Pages 906-927

Objective: This study develops and tests a model of political regionalism that posits that if regions are politically exceptional, then individuals sharing the same profile but living in these different regions will have divergent presidential voting patterns (King, 1996).

Methods: Analyzing presidential voting behavior from 1952 to 2004, I use logistic regression techniques to test a regional model of homogeneity (southern exceptionalism) versus a unit model of homogeneity (South and Non-South are statistically similar).

Results: The findings show that the South's presidential voting patterns are exceptional in the 1950s and during the civil rights era but, starting in the Reagan era, southern exceptionalism waned. These findings also show that the South is converging with the non-South (northernization) relative to the influences of race, family income, union membership, in-migrants, and gender, and the non-South is converging with the South (southernization) relative to the influences of education, blue-collar workers, and age.

Conclusions: Both economic class and race variables contribute to the demise of regional exceptionalism; however, race plays a more persistent role. Given the process of "southernization" and the instability of the predictors of presidential voting for the South over time, I conclude that the study of the South as a region should continue until the process of change subsides and a new equilibrium is found.


Electoral Losers Revisited - How Citizens React to Defeat at the Ballot Box

Peter Esaiasson
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

The paper seeks to reconcile insights from winner-loser gap research with mainstream understanding of election legitimacy. The paper acknowledges that winning and losing elections creates differential incentives for citizens to remain supportive of their political system, but it argues that losers nevertheless have enough reasons to remain supportive in absolute terms. Drawing on democratic theory, the paper develops a rationale for why citizens are willing to accept electoral defeat voluntarily, and suggest a new way to conceptualize citizen reactions to election outcomes. It presents findings from a sample of election studies in established democracies to show that winners typically become more supportive whereas losers at minimum retain their level of support from before the election. It concludes that elections, when reasonably well executed, as they most often are in established democracies, build system support rather than undermine it.


Who Tube? How YouTube's News and Politics Space Is Going Mainstream

Albert May
International Journal of Press/Politics, October 2010, Pages 499-511

In its drive to make a profit and avoid copyright challenges, YouTube, the largest online video platform, is becoming a more hospitable place for news organizations that are targeting the medium's young audience with an attractive fare of raw video and light content. But this changing YouTube environment appears to be less welcoming to the politically motivated online operations that found a voice there in the 2008 presidential election. This article explores the developments and tracks the audience changes to the largest YouTube news and politics sites from just before the election through early 2010. Corporate media were found to be more successful in building large sustained audiences, while online-only operations with a political bent have lost audience share since the election and appear to be confined to a niche.


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