Participation Trophies

Kevin Lewis

June 11, 2021

Strict ID Laws Don’t Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008–2018
Enrico Cantoni & Vincent Pons
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming


U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote -- an ostensive attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a 1.6-billion-observations panel dataset, 2008–2018, we find that the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation. These results hold through a large number of specifications. Our most demanding specification controls for state, year, and voter fixed effects, along with state and voter time-varying controls. Based on this specification, we obtain point estimates of -0.1 percentage points for effects both on overall registration and turnout (with 95 percent confidence intervals of [-2.3; 2.1 pp] and [-3.0; 2.8 pp], respectively), and +1.4 pp for the effect on the turnout of nonwhite voters relative to whites (with a 95 percent confidence interval of [-0.5; 3.2 pp]). The lack of negative impact on voter turnout cannot be attributed to voters’ reaction against the laws, measured by campaign contributions and self-reported political engagement. However, the likelihood that nonwhite voters were contacted by a campaign increases by 4.7 percentage points, suggesting that parties’ mobilization might have offset modest effects of the laws on the participation of ethnic minorities. Finally, strict ID requirements have no effect on fraud -- actual or perceived. Overall, our findings suggest that efforts to improve elections may be better directed at other reforms.

Condorcet Loser in 2016: Apparently Trump; Condorcet Winner: Not Clinton?
Richard Potthoff & Michael Munger
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Using thermometer score data from the ANES, we show that while there may have been no clear-cut Condorcet winner among the 2016 US presidential candidates, there appears to have been a Condorcet loser: Donald Trump. Thus the surprise is that the electorate preferred not only Hillary Clinton, but also the two “minor” candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, to Trump. Another surprise is that Johnson may have been the Condorcet winner. A minimal normative standard for evaluating voting systems is advanced, privileging those systems that select Condorcet winners if one exists, and critiquing systems that allow the selection of Condorcet losers. A variety of voting mechanisms are evaluated using the 2016 thermometer scores: Condorcet voting, plurality, Borda, (single winner) Hare, Coombs, range voting, and approval voting. We conclude that the essential problem with the existing voting procedure -- Electoral College runoff of primary winners of two major parties -- is that it (demonstrably) allows the selection of a Condorcet loser.

Out‐of‐District Donors and Representation in the US House
Brandice Canes‐Wrone & Kenneth Miller
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


US House members have become increasingly reliant on out‐of‐district individuals for fundraising. Yet we have little evidence on how such donations might affect representatives' policy decisions. Given the high partisanship known to dominate House roll calls, do the preferences of individual donors influence policymaking at all? And are members who rely on out‐of‐district contributions more responsive to the preferences of the national donor base? This article examines these and related questions, producing three main findings. First, even accounting for well‐established partisanship in House voting, representatives are responsive to the policy preferences of the national donor base. Second, this donor responsiveness is positively associated with electoral safety, including when redistricting exogenously induces the safety. Third, the higher a member's reliance on out‐of‐district donations, the greater is their responsiveness to the preferences of the national donor base. Together, these findings suggest that current fundraising dynamics skew representation in significant ways.

Push polls increase false memories for fake news stories
Gillian Murphy et al.
Memory, forthcoming


Push polls are an insidious means of disseminating information under the guise of a legitimate information-gathering poll (e.g., “Would you be more or less likely to vote for X if you heard they were being investigated for tax fraud?”). While previous research has shown that push polls can affect attitudes, the current study assessed whether exposure to push polls can increase false memories for corresponding fake news stories. Across four studies, we found that participants (N = 1,290) were significantly more likely to report a false memory for a corresponding fabricated news story after push poll exposure. This was true for positive and negative stories, concerning both fictitious characters and well-known public figures. Furthermore, this effect was stronger after a delay of one week between the push poll and the news story. Our findings suggest that push polls are a potent applied example of the misinformation effect and can significantly increase susceptibility to fake news stories.

Why Women Earn High Marks: Examining the Role of Partisanship and Gender in Political Evaluations
Lindsey Cormack & Kristyn Karl
Politics & Gender, forthcoming


We present the results of a randomized survey experiment demonstrating that the public evaluates women politicians more highly than men across multiple characteristic assessments. This finding is consistent with a recent wave of research indicating greater preferences for women politicians. Which respondents rate women politicians more highly, and why? We find that women and younger voters do not account for the greater marks given to women politicians. Instead, respondent partisanship and the presumed partisanship of the politician account for a great deal of our findings, with gender playing a complicating role. Democratic and Republican respondents are apt to project their own partisanship onto politicians, and across both parties, we find higher assessments for co-partisan politicians and for women politicians. On the whole, women politicians are evaluated on par with or significantly higher than men politicians across six characteristics, scoring especially well relative to men when politicians are presumed to be members of the opposing party and when traditionally feminine characteristics are assessed.

A swing vote from the ethnic backstage: The role of German American isolationist tradition for Trump's 2016 victory
Klara Dentler, Thomas Gschwend & David Hünlich
Electoral Studies, June 2021


We question the growing consensus in the literature that European Americans behave as a homogenous pan-ethnic coalition of voters. Seemingly below the radar of scholarship on voting groups in American politics, we identify a group of white voters that behaves differently from others: German Americans, the largest ethnic group, regionally concentrated in the ‘Swinging Midwest’. Using county level voting returns, ancestry group information from the American Community Survey (ACS), current survey data and historical census data going back as early as 1910, we provide evidence for a partisan and a non-partisan pathway that motivated German Americans to vote for Trump in 2016: a historically grown association with the Republican Party and an acquired taste for isolationist attitudes that mobilizes non-partisan German Americans to support isolationist candidates. Our findings indicate that European American experiences of migration and integration still echo into the political arena of today.

Eye Movements Predict Large-Scale Voting Decisions
Jason Coronel et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


More than 100 countries allow people to vote directly on policies in direct democracy elections (e.g., 2016 Brexit referendum). Politicians are often responsible for writing ballot language, and voters frequently encounter ballot measures that are difficult to understand. We examined whether eye movements from a small group of individuals can predict the consequences of ballot language on large-scale voting decisions. Across two preregistered studies (Study 1: N = 120 registered voters, Study 2: N = 120 registered voters), we monitored laboratory participants’ eye movements as they read real ballot measures. We found that eye-movement responses associated with difficulties in language comprehension predicted aggregate voting decisions to abstain from voting and vote against ballot measures in U.S. elections (total number of votes cast = 137,661,232). Eye movements predicted voting decisions beyond what was accounted for by widely used measures of language difficulty. This finding demonstrates a new way of linking eye movements to out-of-sample aggregate-level behaviors.

How Campaign Ads Stimulate Political Interest
Nathan Canen & Gregory Martin
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


We empirically investigate key dynamic features of advertising competition in elections using a new dataset of very high-frequency, household-level television viewing matched to campaign advertising exposures. First, we show that exposure to campaign advertising increases households’ consumption of news programming by 3-4 minutes on average over the next 24 hours. The identification compares households viewing a program when a political ad appeared to viewers in the same market who barely missed it. Second, we show that these effects decline over the campaign. Together, these dynamic forces help rationalize why candidates deploy much of their advertising budgets well before election day.

Would You Sell Your Vote?
Jordan Gans-Morse & Simeon Nichter
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Prominent scholars in recent years have expressed alarm about political polarization, weakened civil liberties, and growing support for authoritarianism in the United States. But discussions of democratic backsliding pay short shrift to the value citizens place on one of the most fundamental democratic institutions: the act of voting. Drawing on nationally representative survey data, we show that despite traditional portrayals of the U.S. as the embodiment of a democratic “civic culture,” a substantial share of Americans express readiness to sell their votes for cash: 12% of respondents would do so for just $25, as would nearly 20% for $100. Citizens who place low importance on living in a democracy are significantly more willing to sell their votes. We argue that heightened attention to US voters’ attitudes toward clientelism would provide an additional barometer of democratic skepticism, help to integrate the study of American and comparative politics, and stimulate novel research agendas about the historic decline of vote buying in the United States.

How Candidates’ Age and Gender Predict Voter Preference in a Hypothetical Election
Yiqin Alicia Shen & Yuichi Shoda
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Are preferences for political candidates influenced by how old they appear to be? Amazon Mechanical Turk workers and undergraduate students were shown photos of 93 state legislators as candidates in hypothetical elections. Other information about the candidates (e.g., party affiliation) was held constant, randomized, or not presented. For very young candidates (< 35 years old), participants favored women over men. However, participants’ intention to vote for male candidates increased with age until candidates were about 45 years old and then slightly decreased. In contrast, participants’ intention to vote for female candidates consistently decreased with candidates’ age. Perceived attractiveness and warmth accounted for some of the gender differences in the effect of candidates’ perceived age.

The Effects of Dehumanizing Attitudes about Black People on Whites’ Voting Decisions
Ashley Jardina & Spencer Piston
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Political scientists have long noted the key role racial attitudes can play in electoral politics. However, the 2016 election of Donald Trump raises questions about prevailing theories of racial attitudes and their political effects. While existing research focuses on ‘cultural’ or ‘modern’ forms of racial prejudice, this article argues that a sizeable portion of White Americans, disturbingly, dehumanize Black people: that is, they view Black people as less than fully human. Unsurprisingly, given the blatant racism of Donald Trump's campaign, this study also demonstrates that dehumanizing attitudes toward Black people are more strongly associated with support for Trump than with support for other candidates in the 2016 Republican primary. The authors also find evidence that dehumanizing attitudes toward Black people bolstered Donald Trump's vote share among Whites in the 2016 presidential election. Finally, dehumanizing attitudes are negatively associated with Whites' evaluations of Barack Obama, even after holding standard measures of racial prejudice constant. These findings suggest that a fundamental form of racism – dehumanizing attitudes toward Black people – can powerfully shape candidate evaluations and voting decisions in the twenty-first century.

The Effectiveness of a Neighbor-to-Neighbor Get-Out-the-Vote Program: Evidence from the 2017 Virginia State Elections
Cassandra Handan-Nader et al.
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming


We analyze the results of a neighbor-to-neighbor, grassroots get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drive in Virginia, in which unpaid volunteers were encouraged to contact at least three nearby registered voters who were likely co-partisans yet relatively unlikely to vote in the 2017 state election. To measure the campaign’s effectiveness, we used a pairwise randomization design whereby each volunteer was assigned to one randomly selected member of the most geographically proximate pair of voters. Because some volunteers unexpectedly signed up to participate outside their home districts, we analyze the volunteers who adhered to the original hyper-local program design separately from those who did not. We find that the volunteers in the original program design drove a statistically significant 2.3% increase in turnout, which was concentrated in the first voter pair assigned to each volunteer. We discuss implications for the study and design of future GOTV efforts.

It’s Okay to Change Your Mind: You Do Not Need to Vote the Same Way Twice
Kenneth Levine
American Behavioral Scientist, forthcoming


Voters make their decisions based on several factors; however, cognitive dissonance and ego-involvement are two forces that work to keep voters’ choices consistent over time. Despite these internal pressures, there are times when a particular candidate has disappointed a voter to such an extent that the voter considers voting for a different candidate in the next election. 170 young voters were asked about their feelings of regret and their need for permission to change their minds and vote differently in a future election. Findings suggest that women and Democrats are more likely to need permission to change their votes than men and Republicans. Furthermore, there is a significant relationship between regret and desire to change one’s vote with the need for permission to do so on election day. Lastly, the importance of having that permission will affect a voter’s feelings of obligation to cast a ballot for the same party. Open ended responses explore the idea of obligation versus making a change in more detail. Findings suggest that correct messaging about the ability one has to change one’s mind and also being granted permission to vote differently may be an effective campaign messaging strategy.

How often do people vote while incarcerated? Evidence from Maine and Vermont
Ariel White & Avery Nguyen
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


Recent debates about enfranchising incarcerated people raise the question of how many additional votes such policies would generate. Existing research finds very low voter participation among previously-incarcerated people, but it remains unclear how often people might vote from prison if given the opportunity. We use data from states that allow people to vote while incarcerated for felony crimes to address this question. We merge prison records with the voter file to estimate how many currently incarcerated people are registered and voted in recent elections. Estimates suggest very few (under one in ten) eligible incarcerated voters in Vermont and Maine voted in the 2018 election. Given the winning margins in other states’ recent elections, these estimates suggest that enfranchising currently-incarcerated people would likely not have changed these statewide election outcomes. We conclude that debates about enfranchisement should focus less on anticipated electoral effects and more on normative issues.

Online Incidental Exposure to News Can Minimize Interest-Based Political Knowledge Gaps: Evidence from Two U.S. Elections
Brian Weeks, Daniel Lane & Lauren Hahn
International Journal of Press/Politics, forthcoming


Concerns persist over the potential for the fragmented media environment to promote motivation-based political knowledge gaps between those who are interested in politics and those who are not. Yet, there is also evidence that the Internet can provide opportunities for individuals to incidentally encounter and learn from news, which may decrease these knowledge gaps. The current study tests this possibility using two, two-wave panel surveys of adults in the United States conducted during the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. Across two distinct electoral contexts, we find evidence that incidental exposure to online news and political information promotes learning about presidential candidates’ policy positions over the course of the campaign. In addition, the data suggest the least politically interested benefit the most from this incidental exposure, as they see the largest gains in political knowledge. These findings indicate that opportunities to learn via incidental exposure have the potential to reduce motivation-based knowledge gaps.


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