Pick Your Party Poison

Kevin Lewis

July 05, 2024

Endorsing both sides, pleasing neither: Ambivalent individuals face unexpected social costs in political conflicts
Joseph Siev et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. September 2024

Reducing political polarization requires finding common ground among people with diverse opinions. The current research shows that people generally expect that expressing ambivalence about political issues -- endorsing some considerations on both sides, for instance -- can help them establish positive relations with others holding a wide variety of political views. However, across several policy topics -- COVID-19 mask mandates, immigration, and the death penalty -- we found that targets expressing a given position with more (vs. less) ambivalence were not liked more, whether perceivers agreed or disagreed with their overall position. In fact, when perceivers agreed with targets' overall positions, they judged those with more (vs. less) ambivalent attitudes as less likeable, warm, and competent. Although views of ambivalent targets varied across perceivers, the negative effect when targets and perceivers shared overall positions was larger and more consistent than any positive effects among opposing perceivers. This exposes a mismatch between expectation and social reality: Whereas expressing ambivalence might make intuitive sense toward bridging political divides, we found it was ironically more likely to reduce liking among allies while maintaining disliking among adversaries. These findings speak to the interpersonal dynamics of political polarization, highlighting a potential social disincentive against publicly taking nuanced positions on political issues.

All Eyes on Kansas: Voter Turnout and the 2022 Abortion Referendum
Brian Amos & Alexandra Middlewood
American Politics Research, forthcoming

On August 2nd, 2022, Kansas held a vote to lift state constitutional protections for abortion access. The vote gained national attention, as it was the first statewide plebiscite on the subject since the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which had overturned the remaining U.S. Constitutional blocks on restricting abortion that had been in place since Roe v. Wade. The turnout for the election was unprecedented for a primary in the state, and to the surprise of many, the amendment failed by a large margin in deep red Kansas. In this paper, we use both precinct-level election results and individual-level voter registration and history data to explore who was mobilized to vote in the August 2022 primary and their behavior in the November 2022 general election. We find that the primary mobilized an electorate that had more women and young people, fewer Republicans, and more first-time voters than a normal primary, but that these demographics were also more likely to then abstain in the general election. Thus, the engagement of young people, especially young women, on the abortion issue remains, but preliminary findings suggest the future of this groups’ electoral participation separate from abortion activism is unclear.

Does Interaction With Out-Party Elites in a Classroom Setting Diminish Negative Partisanship?
Samuel Frederick, Michael Miller & Donald Green
American Politics Research, forthcoming

The American electorate is increasingly affectively polarized. Partisans dislike members of the opposing party, even going so far as to discriminate against opposing partisans in nonpolitical domains. Given the potentially pernicious consequences of affective polarization, especially in nonpolitical settings, scholars have suggested facilitating contact between members of opposing parties as a means of reducing affective polarization. We test this approach in the context of a large introductory American government class comprised almost entirely of Democrats. Our pre-registered experiment randomly assigned recitation sections to treatment or control conditions, where the treatment was an hour-long discussion with a county chair from the Republican Party, and the control was an hour-long discussion with an attorney with no party connection. Partisan attitudes and evaluations were measured extensively at baseline, within a few days of the intervention, and two months later. We find no evidence that the treatment changed students’ partisan evaluations. We conclude by considering theoretical avenues for future experiments that change the nature and extent of cross-party social interaction.

Political Influencers and Their Social Media Audiences during the 2021 Arizona Audit
Kyle Rose & Deana Rohlinger
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, June 2024

In this study, the authors explore the role of echo chambers in political polarization through a network and content analysis of 183 political influencer accounts and 3,000 audience accounts on Twitter (now X) around the Arizona audit of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, sampled between July 17 and August 5, 2021. The authors identify five distinct groups of influencers who shared followers, noting differences in the information they post and the followers they attract. The most ideologically diverse audiences belong to popular media organizations and reporters with localized expertise to Arizona, but partisan influencer groups and their audiences are not uniformly like-minded. Interestingly, conservative audiences are spread across multiple influencer groups varying in ideology, from liberal influencers and mainstream news outlets to conservative conspiracy theorists. The findings highlight the need to understand users’ motivations for seeking political information and suggest that the echo chamber issue may be overstated.

Examining affective partisan polarization through a novel behavioral experiment: The equality equivalency test in the United States (2019–2022)
Jonathan Hall & Sam Whitt
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, October 2024

Existing behavioral studies of affective partisan polarization only capture a subset of decision-making preferences and strategies. We apply an innovative experimental design, the Equality Equivalency Test (EET), to investigate a broader range of affective behavior toward partisan others. Based on data from yearly nationwide surveys between 2019 and 2022 with over 6000 observations, we find that affective polarization is expressed through strong malevolent, and to a lesser degree, benevolent deviations from rational expected-utility maximization. The rising preponderance of spitefulness towards political opponents supports negative partisanship as the dominant mechanism governing affective polarization. In addition, we find evidence of growing negative partisanship among independents, who are turning increasingly spiteful toward members of both parties. We argue that the EET should be utilized by scholars as a next-generation design innovation to deepen our understanding of affective polarization.

The Bright Side of Political Uncertainty: The Case of R&D
Julian Atanassov, Brandon Julio & Tiecheng Leng
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

We use close gubernatorial elections as a quasi-natural experiment to document a positive effect of political uncertainty on firm-level R&D. This finding is in contrast to the existing literature documenting a negative impact of political uncertainty on capital investment. We examine potential mechanisms and find that our results are consistent with the growth option view of R&D investment. The effect is stronger for politically sensitive and high-tech industries. The results are robust to different proxies for political uncertainty shocks. As predicted by models of investment under uncertainty, the real effects of political uncertainty critically depend on the type of the investment.

Party Line or Bottom Line? Decision-Making in Local Contexts
Richard James Burke
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Does partisanship reduce the importance of self-interest in local political decision-making? I examined the case of homeowners and their preferences for lower property taxes, as well as their evaluations of zoning and development policy, to answer this question. Relying on data from a conjoint survey experiment (n = 2036), I found that homeowners were more likely to select a candidate who supported lower property taxes than non-homeowners, on average. However, homeowners did not express stronger preferences for lower property taxes when evaluating candidates from the opposing party, or making decisions in elections that featured two-party competition. I supplemented my experimental data with survey data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), which asked respondents to evaluate zoning and development in their area, as well as their mayor. I found that homeowners were more likely than non-homeowners to credit their mayor for favorable evaluations of zoning and development regardless of their mayor’s partisanship.

January 6 arrests and media coverage do not remobilize conservatives on social media
Ross Dahlke & Jennifer Pan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 4 June 2024

Social media’s pivotal role in catalyzing social movements is widely acknowledged across scientific disciplines. Past research has predominantly explored social media’s ability to instigate initial mobilization while leaving the question of its capacity to sustain these movements relatively uncharted. This study investigates the persistence of movement activity on Twitter and Gab following a substantial on-the-ground mobilization event catalyzed by social media -- the StoptheSteal movement culminating in the January 6th Capitol attack. Our findings indicate that the online communities active in the January 6 mobilization did not display substantial remobilization in the subsequent year. These results highlight the fact that further exploration is needed to understand the factors shaping how and when movements are sustained by social media. In this regard, our study provides valuable insights for scientists across diverse disciplines, on how certain social media platforms may contribute to the evolving dynamics of collective action.

Latinx Blue Wave or Religious Red Shift? The Relationship between Evangelicalism, Church Attendance, and President Trump among Latinx Americans
Brandon Martinez & Gerardo Martí
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, June 2024

Contrary to expectations of a leftward “blue wave,” there is now a largely unanticipated “red shift” of Latinx-identifying people toward Republican Party candidates. To examine this shift, data from the 2020 Cooperative Election Study, which features a robust sample of Latinx (Hispanic) Americans, are analyzed to study how religion contributes to the discussion of Latinx politics. Multivariate analyses reveal that Latinx Evangelical Protestants voted for President Trump and opposed his removal from office on the grounds of both articles of his first impeachment more so than other religious orientations. A positive correlation between Trump support and church attendance was also found. Both patterns indicate a religious right push for Latinxs. Scholars building on these findings are urged to more consistently distinguish Latinx voters by religious orientation and embeddedness, as they likely will have a significant impact on future political outcomes.

Social Group Appeals in Party Rhetoric: Effects on Policy Support and Polarization
Lena Maria Huber, Thomas Meyer & Markus Wagner
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Can parties and politicians increase support for their policy positions by adding appeals to social groups? Social groups provide simple cues that heuristically help voters to decide whether they support a policy. We argue that the effect of group appeals crucially depends on respondents’ group affect and the valence of the group appeal. Among those with a positive attitude toward a group, adding a positive group appeal to a policy statement should increase support for the policy statement, while adding a negative appeal (i.e., against the group) should decrease support. Among those with negative attitudes toward a group, the opposite effects should occur. We test our expectations with two survey experiments. Our results indicate that the addition of group appeals substantially influences the evaluations of voters and leads to higher polarization. Social group appeals are useful to political parties, but these rhetorical tools may reinforce attitude polarization and group stereotypes.

The partisanship of American inventors
Daniel Fehder et al.
Research Policy, September 2024

Using panel data on 251,511 patent inventors matched with voter registration records containing partisan affiliation, we provide the first large-scale look into the partisanship of American inventors. We document that the modal inventor is Republican and that the partisan composition of inventors has changed in ways that are not reflective of partisan affiliation trends amongst the broader population. We then show that the partisan affiliation of inventors is associated with technological invention related to guns and climate change, two issue areas associated with partisan divide. These findings suggest that inventor partisanship may have implications for the direction of inventive activity.


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