Unpopularity contest

Kevin Lewis

October 04, 2019

The Other Point of Departure: Tocqueville, the South, Equality, and the Lessons of Democracy
Bartholomew Sparrow
Studies in American Political Development, forthcoming

Democracy in America has greatly influenced not only how political scientists think of democratic government, political equality, and liberalism in general, but also how we think of the United States as a whole. This article questions Tocqueville's interpretations of Americans’ habits and beliefs, given how little time Tocqueville actually spent in the South and the near West and given that he all but ignored the founding of Virginia and the other colonies not settled by the Puritans and for religious reasons. Contrary to Tocqueville's emphasis on the Puritan “point of departure,” I use historical evidence from the U.S. Census, state constitutions, and historical scholarship on slave ownership, tenant farming, political participation, and the American colonies and the early United States to show the existence of hierarchy among white Americans, rather than the ubiquitous social and political equality among European Americans described by Tocqueville. His writings actually indicate an awareness of another American culture in the South and near West — one that disregards education, condones coarse manners, tolerates aggressive behavior, and exhibits unrestrained greed — but Tocqueville does not integrate these observations into his larger conclusions about Americans’ mœurs and institutions. Because of the existence of these important, non-Puritan habits, the political institutions Tocqueville sees as facilitating democracy in America and hopes to apply to France and Europe may not have the effects he believes they will have.

Nationally poor, locally rich: Income and local context in the 2016 presidential election
Thomas Ogorzalek, Spencer Piston & Luisa Godinez Puig
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

When social scientists examine relationships between income and voting decisions, their measures implicitly compare people to others in the national economic distribution. Yet an absolute income level (e.g., $57,617 per year, the 2016 national median) does not have the same meaning in Clay County, Georgia, where the 2016 median income was $22,100, as it does in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, where the median income was $224,000. We address this limitation by incorporating a measure of one's place in her ZIP code's income distribution. We apply this approach to the question of the relationship between income and whites' voting decisions in the 2016 presidential election, and test for generalizability in elections since 2000. The results show that Trump's support was concentrated among nationally poor whites but also among locally affluent whites, complicating claims about the role of income in that election. This pattern suggests that social scientists would do well to conceive of income in relative terms: relative to one's neighbors.

Moral Foundations, System Justification, and Support for Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election
Aaron Weinschenk & Christopher Dawes
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, July 2019, Pages 195–208

We examine the role of moral foundations and system justification in explaining support for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election using data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey. A number of important findings emerge. First, we find that there are important partisan and ideological differences when it comes to moral foundations and system justification. Second, we find that moral foundations predict support for Trump above and beyond traditional determinants of vote choice such as ideology, partisanship, religiosity, and demographic characteristics. Third, we find that a measure of political system justification is not related to vote choice in our sample. This casts doubt on the idea that support for Trump was mostly about protesting the political system. This paper adds to the growing body of research showing that psychological concepts and theories are important in understanding voter decision-making in the 2016 presidential election and in elections more generally.

The Blue Wave: Assessing Political Advertising Trends and Democratic Advantages in 2018
Erika Franklin Fowler, Michael Franz & Travis Ridout
PS: Political Science & Politics, forthcoming

This research offers a post-mortem on political advertising in 2018, providing important context for 2018’s “blue wave.” In a majority of US House of Representatives races, there were more pro-Democratic than pro-Republican ads, including in the most competitive contests. The one theme that united pro-Democratic advertising was health care, which was mentioned in nearly three of every five Democratic ads in the fall campaign. Contrary to the narrative that television is declining, a record number of television ads aired in the 2018 midterms, whereas digital spending still constituted a small percentage of overall advertising spending for most candidate campaigns. Finally, there was a healthy volume of outside-group spending in 2018, with “dark-money” groups increasing their involvement — especially in support of Democratic candidates.

An Empirical Test of the Comey Effect on the 2016 Presidential Election
Dennis Halcoussis, Anton Lowenberg & Michael Phillips
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Method: The present article uses a popular vote prediction market to test the impact of these factors on the probability of Trump winning the election.

Results: Results indicate that the debates and videotape release were not statistically significant, but that a letter to Congress released by FBI Director James B. Comey on October 28, 2016, substantially decreased Clinton's probability of winning the popular vote and simultaneously increased Trump's probability. Financial market uncertainty is found to have some marginal positive effect on Trump's probability of winning.

Dumping Trump and Electoral Bumps: The Causes and Consequences of Republican Officeholders’ Endorsement Decisions
Nicole Asmussen Mathew
The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, July 2019, Pages 231–255

Endorsement of the party’s nominee by the vast majority of that party’s top elected officials is a foregone conclusion in most presidential campaigns. But in 2016, Republican lawmakers were slow to endorse Donald Trump, lackluster in their enthusiasm, and a substantial number never endorsed or withdrew their endorsements by the campaign’s end. What explains lawmakers’ decisions to endorse, and the timing and strength of their endorsements? I find that primary endorsements were most likely to come from anti-immigration moderates, but as the campaign wore on, conservatives and members from more Republican districts became more supportive in their endorsements. Women were highly influenced by the release of the Access Hollywood tape, while Ted Cruz’s endorsers were stingy in their support until Cruz himself issued a late September endorsement. To see if these endorsement decisions made a difference in the election, I compare the performance of endorsers and non-endorsers in the 2016 congressional elections, and I compare Trump’s performance in districts in which he was endorsed to those in which he wasn’t. Rather than the traditional presidential coattails, I find evidence of negative coattails and reverse coattails. Endorsers did about 1.7 percentage points worse than non-endorsers, while Trump did 1.4 percentage points better in districts where the incumbent Republican endorsed him.

Don’t Republicans Tweet Too? Using Twitter to Assess the Consequences of Political Endorsements by Celebrities
Jan Zilinsky et al.
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming

Michael Jordan supposedly justified his decision to stay out of politics by noting that Republicans buy sneakers too. In the social media era, the name of the game for celebrities is engagement with fans. So why then do celebrities risk talking about politics on social media, which is likely to antagonize a portion of their fan base? With this question in mind, we analyze approximately 220,000 tweets from 83 celebrities who chose to endorse a presidential candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign to assess whether there is a cost — defined in terms of engagement on Twitter — for celebrities who discuss presidential candidates. We also examine whether celebrities behave similarly to other campaign surrogates in being more likely to take on the “attack dog” role by going negative more often than going positive. More specifically, we document how often celebrities of distinct political preferences tweet about Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and we show that followers of opinionated celebrities do not withhold engagement when entertainers become politically mobilized and do indeed often go negative. Interestingly, in some cases political content from celebrities actually turns out to be more popular than typical lifestyle tweets.

Personality and Gendered Selection Processes in the Political Pipeline
Adam Dynes et al.
Politics & Gender, forthcoming

Most research on the causes of women's underrepresentation examines one of two stages of the political pipeline: the development of nascent political ambition or specific aspects of the campaign and election process. In this article, we make a different kind of contribution. We build on the growing literature on gender, psychology, and representation to provide an analysis of what kinds of men and women make it through the political pipeline at each stage. This allows us to draw some conclusions about the ways in which the overall process is similar and different for women and men. Using surveys of the general U.S. population (N = 1,939) and elected municipal officials such as mayors and city councilors (N = 2,354) that measure the distribution of Big Five personality traits, we find that roughly the same types of men and women have nascent political ambition; there is just an intercept shift for sex. In contrast, male and female elected officials have different personality profiles. These differences do not reflect underlying distributions in the general population or the population of political aspirants. In short, our data suggest that socialization into political ambition is similar for men and women, but campaign and election processes are not.

Gender Differences in Political Career Progression: Evidence from U.S. Elections
Ryan Brown et al.
University of Colorado Working Paper, August 2019

This paper establishes the presence of a substantial gender gap in the relationship between state legislature service and the subsequent pursuit of a Congressional career. The empirical approach uses a sample of mixed-gender elections to compare the differential political career progression of women who closely win versus closely lose a state legislature election relative to an analogous impact for men who closely win or lose a state legislature election. We find that the effect of serving a state legislative term on the likelihood of running for a Congressional seat is twice as large for men as women, and its effect on winning a Congressional race is five times larger for men than women. These gaps emerge early in legislators' careers, widen over time, and are seen alongside a higher propensity for female state legislators to recontest state legislature seats. This gender gap in advancing to Congress among state legislators is not generated by gender differences in previously accumulated political experience, political party affiliation, or constituency characteristics. After investigating several explanations, we conclude that the gender gap in political career progression is consistent with the existence of a glass ceiling in politics.

Confronting the 'Electability Trap': Effects of Campaign Messages, Information, and Perceived Competence on Voter Evaluations of Underrepresented Candidates
Jennifer Cryer
Stanford Working Paper, August 2019

While voters may form negative impressions of candidates that do not immediately fit traditional expectations, equal electoral success rates demonstrate that voters are not biased against women and racial minority candidates. I argue that candidates address voter perceptions through their campaign strategy and messages. Thus, a key dimension of campaign strategy is the extent to which perceptions of candidate gender and racial identity may encourage, or even necessitate, the use of differing campaign message strategies. This paper seeks to determine whether candidate profile characteristics might account for the seeming discrepancy between voter bias and electoral outcomes. I use large-scale observational and experimental messages to show how candidate identity, communication -- particularly image-managing messages that express individualistic work-ethic and perseverance -- and signals of competency affect voter perceptions. In a preliminary forced-choice paired-conjoint and a menu-based choice experiment (n=500), I find that constituents make judgments regarding vote choice, candidate issue competencies, and character using identity. Nevertheless, respondents positively respond to other dimensions of candidate profiles, specifically messages of work-ethic and previous political experience. In particular, Image-Management is consistently shown to be associated with a significant positive increase in these evaluations. In the menu-based survey experiment, I find that when respondents craft the candidates they would consider ideal and worthy of their vote, women and racial minorities are often recommended to pursue messages of Image-Management and higher educational attainment. Taken together, these findings suggest that candidate messaging may provide an account for why women and racial minority candidates are able to obtain electoral success despite evidence of voter biases. This work provides cutting-edge analysis of strategic campaign messaging and puts to the test its effectiveness in attenuating voter biases.

Too Large, Too Small, or Just Right? Assessing the Growth of Voter Registration Rates Since the NVRA
Charles Stewart
MIT Working Paper, September 2019

The number of people registered to vote in the United States since the passage of the NVRA in 1993 has risen by 58% in a period in which the voting-age population has risen 28%. As of 2018, only eight percent of the eligible electorate appears unregistered. What accounts for this dramatic rise in the registration rate and the apparent near-disappearance of unregistered voters? As an initial foray at this question, I pursue two methods to help us understand whether official registration statistics are “too large” and by how much efforts to remove deadwood are successful in removing voters who have moved or died. One method is a simple comparison of official voter registration reports with self-reports to the Current Population Survey. The other method compares list maintenance statistics with demographic patterns that should be driving those statistics. Using the first method, it appears that official statistics over-report actual registration rates by about five percentage points. Using the second method, it is clear that shortcomings in removing deadwood from the rolls comes primarily from removing people who move out of jurisdiction, not dead voters. The conclusion touches on the role that the analysis in this paper can play to contribute to the public discourse about voter registration patterns, and the continuing data challenges in gaining a generalized knowledge about those patterns.

Diversifying the Donor Pool: How Did Seattle's Democracy Voucher Program Reshape Participation in Municipal Campaign Finance?
Brian McCabe & Jennifer Heerwig
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

In this article, we evaluate whether an innovative new campaign finance program in Seattle, Washington, shifted the composition of campaign donors in local elections. In 2015, voters in Seattle approved the creation of the Democracy Voucher program with the intent of broadening representation in the campaign finance system and expanding participation from marginalized communities. Every registered voter in Seattle was provided with four 25-dollar vouchers that they could, in turn, assign to the local candidate(s) of their choice. Through an analysis of the inaugural implementation of the program in 2017, we investigate whether this innovative public financing system increased participation, broadened involvement from underrepresented groups, and led to a donor pool that was more representative of the electorate. Compared to cash donors in the municipal election, we report that voucher users are less likely to be high-income and more likely to come from poor neighborhoods. While older residents are overrepresented among voucher users, there is little difference in the racial composition of cash donors and voucher users. Our analysis confirms that the Democracy Voucher program successfully moved the donor pool in a more egalitarian direction, although it remains demographically unrepresentative of the electorate. The lessons from Seattle's inaugural implementation offer key insights for other municipalities considering public financing policies, and these lessons have the potential to reshape the national policy debate about the influence of political money.

A Catwalk to Congress? Appearance-Based Effects in the Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives 2016
Sebastian Jäckle et al.
American Politics Research, forthcoming

This article addresses the question of appearance-based effects by looking at the U.S. House of Representatives election 2016. We broaden the focus beyond existing studies by offering a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the three traits attractiveness, competence, and likability while simultaneously taking into account confounding third variables and possible interactions. Corresponding to the comparative character of electoral competition in the districts, we developed a relative measure of the three traits which we apply in an online survey. This measure also takes into account the raters’ latency times, that is, their clicking speed, as a weighting factor for their ambiguity in the ratings. With these data we test whether appearance matters for the electoral outcome. We find that attractiveness positively affects the vote share, whereas perceived likability and competence play no role. The study also tests to what extent the found appearance effects are conditioned by incumbency status, age, and gender of the contestants. Furthermore, it gives hints which aspects of their appearance candidates could change to perform better at the ballot box.

Segregated Ballots for Voters with Disabilities? An Analysis of Policies and Use of the Express Vote Ballot Marking Device
Jonathan Lazar
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

When the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted in 2002, it meant that, for the first time, people with disabilities were given the right to vote privately and independently. Post-HAVA, most states switched to direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which allowed for people with disabilities to use the same machines, with alternate input/output modalities (e.g., blind voters could use the audio option and a set of headphones to ensure privacy). However, in the light of potential hacking threats (or even just the fear of hacking threats), many states are now moving back to hand-marked paper ballots such as optical scan ballots. Voters with print-related disabilities, unable to use an optical scan ballot by hand, are now forced to use a separate system, called a ballot marking device (BMD), to mark up paper ballots. Some BMDs, such as the ExpressVote®, produce a ballot that is different in size and content from the hand-marked ballot used in the jurisdiction. If only a small number of people with disabilities are using this BMD in each polling place, this allows for the possibility of determining which votes were cast by people with disabilities, and if only one ballot was cast using the BMD in a precinct, it might eliminate the secrecy of the ballot for that voter. This article presents a case study of Maryland, describing how ballot secrecy may have been violated in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The article also presents empirical data from the 19 other states (and Washington DC) where the ExpressVote BMD is used, on their policies related to the use of the BMD.

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