Kevin Lewis

March 17, 2023

Lying for Trump? Elite Cue-Taking and Expressive Responding on Vote Method
Enrijeta Shino, Daniel Smith & Laura Uribe
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2022, Pages 837-861 


Might elite cues affect how we vote? Extant literature focuses on effects of elite cues on candidate evaluation or policy preference, but we know little about how they might affect vote method preferences. Drawing on a large survey of validated Florida voters, including those who regularly vote by mail, we find that retrospective and prospective misreporting of vote method prior to the 2020 General Election was driven primarily by support for Trump. The president’s supporters who were most politically aware were most likely to disavow their own voting by mail and misreport their anticipated vote method in the November election. Understanding the effects -- and limits -- of elite cues on the politicization of self-reported political behavior has important implications for pollsters and campaigns, election administrators, voters, and the broader democratic electoral process.

Updating amidst Disagreement: New Experimental Evidence on Partisan Cues
Anthony Fowler & William Howell
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming 


In this era of hyper-polarization and partisan animosity, do people incorporate the viewpoints of their political opponents? Perhaps not. An important body of research, in fact, finds that the provision of information about opponents’ policy views leads survey respondents to reflexively adopt the opposite position. In this paper, we demonstrate that such findings arise from incomplete experimental designs and a particular measurement strategy. In a series of experiments that vary information about both parties’ positions simultaneously and that solicit continuous, rather than discrete, policy positions, we find that partisans update their beliefs in accordance with the positions of Republican and Democratic leaders alike. Partisans are not perennially determined to disagree. Rather, they are often willing to incorporate opposing viewpoints about a wide range of policy issues.

Measuring Candidate Ideology from Congressional Tweets and Websites
Michael Bailey
Georgetown University Working Paper, February 2023 


This paper presents a method to estimate political ideology based on the words and phrases candidates use on their websites and Twitter. The method enables estimation for both incumbents and challengers and, unlike methods based on campaign contributions or follower counts, the method is built on behavior under the control of candidates that directly relates to how they are perceived by voters. In contrast to existing approaches, the approach can accommodate important heterogeneity across parties in the ideological implications of many terms (i.e., liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans both use terms such as "black lives matter" or "President Trump" more than moderates). The process produces term parameter and ideal point estimates that have high face, convergent and construct validity. To demonstrate the utility of these estimates, this paper presents evidence that ideological moderation was electorally beneficial in the 2020 congressional general election.

The political polarization of COVID-19 treatments among physicians and laypeople in the United States
Joel Levin et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 February 2023 


In the United States, liberals and conservatives disagree about facts. To what extent does expertise attenuate these disagreements? To study this question, we compare the polarization of beliefs about COVID-19 treatments among laypeople and critical care physicians. We find that political ideology predicts both groups’ beliefs about a range of COVID-19 treatments. These associations persist after controlling for a rich set of covariates, including local politics. We study two potential explanations: a) that partisans are exposed to different information and b) that they interpret the same information in different ways, finding evidence for both. Polarization is driven by preferences for partisan cable news but not by exposure to scientific research. Using a set of embedded experiments, we demonstrate that partisans perceive scientific evidence differently when it pertains to a politicized treatment (ivermectin), relative to when the treatment is not identified. These results highlight the extent to which

 The fluid voter: Exploring independent voting patterns over time
Thom Reilly & Dan Hunting
Politics & Policy, February 2023, Pages 59-80 


Independents remain hard to categorize because they are, by their choice of self-identification, resisting the standard categories of political classification. Despite the growth in independent voter identity, many political strategists still view independents as partisans. In this article, we contribute to the academic literature on independent voting behavior by exploring whether those who identify as politically independent function as true independents by accounting for their voting patterns over time. We do this by analyzing data produced by the American National Election Studies (ANES) on political identification and voting choices from 1972 to 2020 on each of the three ANES measures of party affiliation. Our findings show when tracking independent voting behavior over more than one election, there is a significant volatility in voting loyalty and independents as a group are distinct from partisans. This volatility was observed in all three measures of party affiliation used by the ANES survey data. The research also finds evidence that a sizeable number of independents move in and out of independent status from one election to another.

Digital Traces of Offline Mobilization
Laura Smith et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 


Since 2009, there has been an increase in global protests and related online activity. Yet, it is unclear how and why online activity is related to the mobilization of offline collective action. One proposition is that online polarization (or a relative change in intensity of posting mobilizing content around a salient grievance) can mobilize people offline. The identity-norm nexus and normative alignment models of collective action further argue that to be mobilizing, these posts need to be socially validated. To test these propositions, across two analyses, we used digital traces of online behavior and data science techniques to model people’s online and offline behavior around a mass protest. In Study 1a, we used Twitter behavior posted on the day of the protest by attendees or nonattendees (759 users; 7,592 tweets) to train and test a classifier that predicted, with 80% accuracy, who participated in offline collective action. Attendees used their mobile devices to plan logistics and broadcast their presence at the protest. In Study 1b, using the longitudinal Twitter data and metadata of a subset of users from Study 1a (209 users; 277,556 tweets), we found that participation in the protest was not associated with an individual’s online polarization over the year prior to the protest, but it was positively associated with the validation (“likes”) they received on their relevant posts. These two studies demonstrate that rather than being low cost or trivial, socially validated online interactions about a grievance are actually key to the mobilization and enactment of collective action.

For whom do boundaries become restrictions? The role of political orientation
Jianna Jin, Selin Malkoc & Russell Fazio
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 


While the global pandemic highlighted the importance of adhering to boundaries (e.g., social distancing rules), compliance with these boundary-imposing measures has been politically divided. This research proposes one reason that may underlie the observed ideological asymmetries toward COVID-19 prevention measures and boundaries in general: Conservatives and liberals may fundamentally differ in how they construe boundaries. Supporting this prediction, Studies 1a–1d and two follow-up studies (n = 3,231; Studies 1a–1c and follow-up studies: Amazon Mechanical Turk and Prolific users, Study 1d: U.S. students) demonstrate that identifying with political conservatism (vs. liberalism) increases the likelihood to construe boundaries as restrictions. We further show that, due to conservatives' greater preference for order, structure-related words carry a more positive connotation among conservatives versus liberals (Study 2: n = 744; MTurk users). Capitalizing on this finding, we demonstrate that linguistic framing that highlights the structure-providing function of a boundary (e.g., a social distancing sign can “structure” customer flow in a restaurant) can reduce the salience of its usual restrictive aspect and hence effectively improve conservatives’ attitudes toward the boundaries (Study 3: n = 740; MTurk users).

Greed communication predicts the approval and reach of US senators’ tweets
Eric Mercadante, Jessica Tracy & Friedrich Götz
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 March 2023 


Social media are at the forefront of modern political campaigning. They allow politicians to communicate directly with constituents and constituents to endorse politicians’ messages and share them with their networks. Analyzing every tweet of all US senators holding office from 2013 to 2021 (861,104 tweets from 140 senators), we identify a psycholinguistic factor, greed communication, that robustly predicts increased approval (favorites) and reach (retweets). These effects persist when tested against diverse established psycholinguistic predictors of political content dissemination on social media and various other psycholinguistic variables. We further find that greed communication in the tweets of Democratic senators is associated with greater approval and retweeting compared to greed communication in the tweets of Republican senators, especially when those tweets also mention political outgroups.

Terrorist Attacks, Cultural Incidents, and the Vote for Radical Parties: Analyzing Text from Twitter
Francesco Giavazzi et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 


We study the role of perceived threats from other cultures induced by terrorist attacks and criminal events on public discourse and support for radical-right parties. We develop a rule which allocates Twitter users to electoral districts in Germany and use a machine-learning method to compute measures of textual similarity between the tweets they produce and tweets by accounts of the main German parties. Using the exogenous timing of attacks, we find that, after an event, Twitter language becomes on average more similar to that of the main radical-right party, AfD. The result is driven by a larger share of tweets discussing immigrants and Muslims, common AfD topics, and by a more negative sentiment of these tweets. Shifts in language similarity are correlated with changes in vote shares between federal elections. These results point to the role of perceived threats from minorities on the success of nationalist parties.

Can People Use Party Cues to Assess Policymaker Positions? Ecological Rationality and Political Heuristics
Daniel Bergan et al.
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming 


Scholars disagree about the ability of people to use heuristics to make political judgments, with some arguing that heuristics are easy-to-use pieces of information and others arguing that applying heuristics may require some degree of political expertise. We argue that these debates have been somewhat intractable because most prior work has not considered the ecological rationality of political judgments -- that is, the potential for cues to yield accurate judgments about a clearly defined reference class. In this paper, we present the results of two studies exploring whether people use party labels to make judgments about a random sample of U.S. Representatives’ voting behaviors. We find that respondents consistently performed worse in guessing U.S. Representatives’ votes than if they had correctly used a simple partisan heuristic. There is also some evidence that people performed worse with the presence of more nonparty cues. Attention to politics had a positive relationship with accuracy in both studies, although the relationship was modest. The results suggest that party cues may be more difficult to apply than some research has suggested.

Before the Party Hijacks: The Limited Role of Party Cues in Appraisal of Low-Salience Policies -- Experimental Evidence
Clareta Treger
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2022, Pages 955–967 


What shapes Americans’ policy preferences: partisanship or policy content? While previous studies have addressed this question, many of them focused on high-salience policies. This raises an identification challenge because the content of such policies contains party cues. The current study employs a diverse set of low-salience policies to discern the unique effects of party cues and policy content, before the issues are “hijacked” by the parties. These policies are embedded in an original conjoint experiment administered among a national US sample. The design enables me to assess the effects of policy content and partisan sponsorship orthogonally. Contrary to previous studies, I find that respondents are attentive to policy content on low-salience issues, and it influences their policy preferences similarly or even more than party cues, across policy domains. Moreover, the support patterns and levels of Democrats and Republicans for many low-salience policies are similar. Party cues, by contrast, polarize partisans’ preferences across domains.

Estimating the Between-Issue Variation in Party Elite Cue Effects
Ben Tappin
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2022, Pages 862–885 


Party elite cues are among the most well-established influences on citizens’ political opinions. Yet, there is substantial variation in effect sizes across studies, constraining the generalizability and theoretical development of party elite cues research. Understanding the causes of variation in party elite cue effects is thus a priority for advancing the field. In this paper, I estimate the variation in party elite cue effects that is caused simply by heterogeneity in the policy issues being examined, through a reanalysis of data from existing research combined with an original survey experiment comprising 34 contemporary American policy issues. My estimate of the between-issue variation in effects is substantively large, plausibly equal to somewhere between one-third and two-thirds the size of the between-study variation observed in the existing literature. This result has important implications for our understanding of party elite influence on public opinion and for the methodological practices of party elite cues research.


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