Political Branches

Kevin Lewis

January 14, 2022

Do constituents know (or care) about the lawmaking effectiveness of their representatives?
Daniel Butler et al.
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming

Substantial evidence exists that members of the US Congress vary in their lawmaking effectiveness. Less known, however, is whether constituents are sufficiently informed and inclined to hold their representatives accountable, based on their effectiveness. We conduct two separate survey experiments, informing some constituents about lawmakers' effectiveness and comparing their responses to those with the baseline level of information. We find that voters demonstrate little knowledge of their elected officials' lawmaking effectiveness. When presented with objective and credible information about lawmaking effectiveness, however, respondents express greater approval of more effective lawmakers. Effects are strongest among ideological moderates, but are even pronounced among partisans, who approve of effective representatives of the opposing party, and disapprove of ineffective representatives from their own party. 

Emotion and Reason in Political Language
Gloria Gennaro & Elliott Ash
Economic Journal, forthcoming

This paper studies the use of emotion and reason in political discourse. Adopting computational-linguistics techniques to construct a validated text-based scale, we measure emotionality in 6 million speeches given in U.S. Congress over the years 1858-2014. Intuitively, emotionality spikes during times of war and is highest in speeches about patriotism. In the time series, emotionality was relatively low and stable in earlier years but increased significantly starting in the late 1970s. Across Congress Members, emotionality is higher for Democrats, for women, for ethnic/religious minorities, for the opposition party, and for members with ideologically extreme roll-call voting records. 

Media Attention and Strategic Timing in Politics: Evidence from U.S. Presidential Executive Orders
Milena Djourelova & Ruben Durante
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Do politicians tend to adopt unpopular policies when the media and the public are distracted by other events? We examine this question by analyzing the timing of executive orders signed by U.S. presidents over the past four decades. We find robust evidence that executive orders are more likely to be signed on the eve of days when the news is dominated by other important stories that can crowd out coverage of executive orders. This relationship only holds in periods of divided government when unilateral presidential actions are more likely to be criticized by Congress. The effect is driven by executive orders that are more likely to make the news and to attract negative publicity, particularly those on topics on which president and Congress disagree. Finally, the timing of executive orders appears to be related to predictable news but not unpredictable ones, which suggests it results from a deliberate and forward-looking PR strategy. 

Stressed Out: The Missing Influence of Stress Arousal in Emotion's Role in Political Decision-Making
Elizabeth Stanley & Kelsey Larsen
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Over the last two decades, there has been increased interest in the role of emotions in decision-making, with new theorizing to highlight how leader decisions often differ from rational choice and purely cognitive models. To date, however, existing theories have not adequately explained why emotions drive decisions in some situations and not others. This article posits that the variation in emotion's role in leader decision-making likely results from currently undertheorized connections between leaders' stress arousal levels, stress loads, and emotions. It explores how leaders' neurobiological windows of tolerance to affect arousal influence their capacity to regulate their emotions and make decisions. It introduces the mediating role of leaders' self-regulatory capacity - their capacity to regulate stress and emotions so that these phenomena do not drive resulting decisions - as an explanation for variation in emotion's influence on decision-making. Finally, it formally illustrates the argument put forth by comparing two decisions made by U.S. President Bill Clinton as his window of tolerance varied over time. 

A Personal Model of Trumpery: Linguistic Deception Detection in a Real-World High-Stakes Setting
Sophie Van Der Zee et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Language use differs between truthful and deceptive statements, but not all differences are consistent across people and contexts, complicating the identification of deceit in individuals. By relying on fact-checked tweets, we showed in three studies (Study 1: 469 tweets; Study 2: 484 tweets; Study 3: 24 models) how well personalized linguistic deception detection performs by developing the first deception model tailored to an individual: the 45th U.S. president. First, we found substantial linguistic differences between factually correct and factually incorrect tweets. We developed a quantitative model and achieved 73% overall accuracy. Second, we tested out-of-sample prediction and achieved 74% overall accuracy. Third, we compared our personalized model with linguistic models previously reported in the literature. Our model outperformed existing models by 5 percentage points, demonstrating the added value of personalized linguistic analysis in real-world settings. Our results indicate that factually incorrect tweets by the U.S. president are not random mistakes of the sender. 

Strategic Lobbying and the Pressure to Compromise Member Interests
Thomas Holyoke
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Do lobbyists always advocate for the interests of the members or clients employing them, or, under competing pressures, do they sometimes take positions on bills reflecting the interests of lawmakers or other lobbyists? Do they, in fact, lobby strategically by making choices that balance competing pressures in pursuit of goals like furthering their careers? Most lobbying research assumes that interest groups and lobbyists are the same, but I argue that the interests of lobbyists may be different from those they represent, which I test with a model of strategic lobbying using data on positions lobbyists took on bills in Congress from 2006 to 2017 made available by MapLight. I find that lobbyists sometimes do take positions at odds with member interests under pressure from legislators, other lobbyists, and the president, though some groups can constrain their lobbyists. I conclude by speculating on what this means for lobbying as a form of representation. 

Political corruption, Dodd-Frank whistleblowing, and corporate investment
Qingjie Du & Yuna Heo
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

We examine how political corruption affects corporate investment. We find firms in more corrupt states invest less than firms in less corrupt states. Our results are robust to using alternative investment measures, alternative corruption measures, and different regression specifications. Further, we find that the negative effect of corruption became insignificant after the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provision. The impact of the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provision is stronger in states with higher corruption. Our findings suggest that political corruption hinders investment, but the changes in legal environments can help firms reduce the decline in investments in highly corrupt states. 

Oil, politics, and "Corrupt Bastards"
Alexander James & Nathaly Rivera
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, January 2022

Does oil corrupt? We test this theory using forty years of U.S. state-level data measuring corruption as both convictions of corruption and the frequency that words like "corrupt", "fraud", and "bribe" -  and their iterations - appear in newspapers. We find that oil-rich U.S. states experience more corruption than their oil-poor counterparts, but only during periods of high oil prices, suggesting a causal relationship. Results are robust to a variety of modeling assumptions and specifications. Implications and mechanisms are discussed. 

The Politicized Enforcement of Laws Criminalizing Executive Branch Conflicts of Interest
Jordan Carr Peterson
Presidential Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

There exist a host of separate federal statutes governing conflicts of interest for employees in the federal executive branch. These are supplemented by additional administrative rules promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics. Most provisions regulate financial self-dealing via the imposition of criminal sanctions. In this article, I analyze the enforcement of public ethics law in the executive branch in three ways: first, by examining the textual substance of the statutory and administrative provisions regulating financial conflicts; second, through the presentation of descriptive statistics on enforcement of federal prohibitions on self-dealing; and third, through exploratory analyses to investigate whether enforcement of federal public ethics law is driven by partisan dynamics or ideological preferences. My results indicate that the Department of Justice is at least somewhat more likely to successfully prosecute employees of agencies whose ideological preferences are misaligned with the incumbent President. 

Fighting for Majorities? Explaining the Development of Caucus Fund-Raising in American Legislatures
Michael Kistner
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

In modern American politics, legislators fund-raise extensively on behalf of their parties. Under what conditions do parties develop systems to incentivize this fund-raising? Previous research has focused primarily on Congress, making it difficult to explain how systems of caucus fund-raising develop and change. This article takes advantage of a new source of evidence: the state legislatures. Using original data linking state legislators to leadership political action committees and campaign committees over a 12 year period, I show that competition for majority status leads legislators to contribute more to party organizations and candidates. This effect is driven partly by parties in competitive chambers selecting committee chairs on the basis of members' contributions. Parties are only able to institute these systems when leadership is granted control over resources such as chair appointments, however. These findings clarify when and how money plays an influential role in legislative politics. 

Decomposing the source of the gender gap in legislative committee service: Evidence from US states
Julia Payson, Alexander Fouirnaies & Andrew Hall
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming

Extensive research on gender and politics indicates that women legislators are more likely to serve on committees and sponsor bills related to so-called "women's issues." However, it remains unclear whether this empirical regularity is driven by district preferences, differences in legislator backgrounds, or because gendered political processes shape and constrain the choices available to women once they are elected. We introduce expansive new data on over 25,000 US state legislators and an empirical strategy to causally isolate the different channels that might explain these gendered differences in legislator behavior. After accounting for district preferences with a difference-in-differences design and for candidate backgrounds via campaign fundraising data, we find that women are still more likely to serve on women's issues committees, although the gender gap in bill sponsorship decreases. These results shed new light on the mechanisms that lead men and women to focus on different policy areas as legislators. 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the Politics of Tragedy
Yoav Fromer
Review of Politics, forthcoming

How does tragedy, primarily a dramatic-literary experience, shape politics? While scholars have mostly looked to classical tragedy and expressions of public mourning to answer this, I employ a policy-oriented case study to do so: the politics of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Widely known for his data-driven social science, I want to suggest the counterintuitive claim that the popular senator from New York was ironically also influenced deeply by literary tragedy. This article demonstrates how Moynihan cultivated a set of tragic sensibilities that informed his realist political calculations and implanted in his policies a tragic awareness that limited the goals of what government could achieve, while helping define what it should and how. Rather than evaluate the validity of his controversial proposals from the 1960s, I offer a critical reexamination that highlights the tragic impulses coloring them. In the process, I conceptualize a politics of tragedy as a "tamed" form of postwar liberalism. 

Power in Text: Implementing Networks and Institutional Complexity in American Law
Robert Shaffer
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 

How should social scientists measure institutional complexity? Formal (textually defined) institutional design - and particularly the complexity of formal institutions - is an important object of study across political science, law, and public administration. However, because of measurement constraints, existing work on formal institutional design focuses either on single policy areas or "important" legislation, creating clear selection problems. In this article, I propose and validate a novel natural language processing approach designed to extract networks of institutional relationships from legal texts scalably. These "implementing networks" offer a straightforward way to represent the institutional content of law and naturally suggest measures for quantities like institutional complexity. I then apply this method to measure institutional complexity in all American laws enacted from 1993 to 2014. This approach reveals a surprising disconnect between partisan disagreement and institutional complexity among lower-profile legislation, which would have been difficult to detect without this approach.


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