What winning looks like

Kevin Lewis

April 13, 2018

Republican Voters Prefer Candidates Who Have Conservative‐Looking Faces: New Evidence From Exit Polls
Christopher Olivola, Dustin Tingley & Alexander Todorov
Political Psychology, forthcoming


Research shows people share common political facial stereotypes: They associate faces with political ideologies. Moreover, given that many voters rely on party affiliation, political ideology, and appearances to select political candidates, we might expect that political facial stereotypes would sway voting preferences and, by extension, the share of votes going to each candidate in an election. And yet few studies have examined whether having a stereotypically conservative‐looking (or liberal‐looking) face predicts a candidate's vote shares. Using data from U.S. election exit polls, we show that the Republican voters within each state are more likely to vote for a candidate (even a Democrat) the more that person has a stereotypically Republican‐looking face. By contrast, the voting choices of the Democratic voters within each state are unrelated to political facial stereotypes. Moreover, we show that the relationship between political facial stereotypes and voting does not depend on state‐level ideology: Republican voters in both right‐leaning (“red”) and left‐leaning (“blue”) states are more likely to vote for candidates with conservative‐looking faces. These results have several important practical and theoretical implications concerning the nature and impact of political facial stereotypes, which we discuss.

Fear, Populism, and the Geopolitical Landscape: The “Sleeper Effect” of Neurotic Personality Traits on Regional Voting Behavior in the 2016 Brexit and Trump Elections
Martin Obschonka et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Two recent electoral results — Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president and the UK’s Brexit vote — have reignited debate on the psychological factors underlying voting behavior. Both campaigns promoted themes of fear, lost pride, and loss aversion, which are relevant to the personality dimension of neuroticism, a construct previously not associated with voting behavior. To that end, we investigate whether regional prevalence of neurotic personality traits (neuroticism, anxiety, and depression) predicted voting behavior in the United States (N = 3,167,041) and the United Kingdom (N = 417,217), comparing these effects with previous models, which have emphasized the roles of openness and conscientiousness. Neurotic traits positively predicted share of Brexit and Trump votes, and Trump gains from Romney. Many of these effects persisted in additional robustness tests controlling for regional industrial heritage, political attitude, and socioeconomic features, particularly in the United States. The “sleeper effect” of neurotic traits may profoundly impact the geopolitical landscape.

Primary Distrust: Political Distrust and Support for the Insurgent Candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Primary
Joshua Dyck, Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz & Michael Coates
PS: Political Science & Politics, April 2018, Pages 351-357


Donald Trump dominated the 2016 Republican primary despite the fact that he was not, in any meaningful sense, a Republican. Bernie Sanders came just shy of winning the Democratic nomination despite the fact that he switched his party affiliation from Independent to Democrat only three months before the election. Why did two candidates with no formal ties to the political parties fare so well? One possibility is that primary voters are more ideologically extreme and that ideology drives support for these candidates. However, another possibility is that concerns about government process drives support for insurgent candidates. We test the proposition that distrust was the primary motivator of primary voting for these two insurgent candidates using two datasets: a poll of New Hampshire voters fielded a week before their primary and a national poll taken in June 2016. Results confirm the hypothesis that distrust drove intraparty vote choice in the 2016 presidential primaries.

Prominent Role Models: High-Profile Female Politicians and the Emergence of Women as Candidates for Public Office
Christina Ladam, Jeffrey Harden & Jason Windett
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Can prominent female politicians inspire other women to enter politics? A woman occupying a high-profile office directly impacts women's substantive representation through her policy actions. Here, we consider whether these female leaders also facilitate a mobilization effect by motivating other women to run for office. We posit that prominent women in politics serve as role models for other women interested in political careers, causing an increase in female candidates. We test this theory with data from the American states, which exhibit considerable variation in the sex of state legislative candidates and the high-profile offices of governor and U.S. senator. Using a weighting method and data spanning 1978–2012, we demonstrate that high-profile women exert substantively large positive effects on female candidates. We conclude that women in major offices are crucial for women's representation. Beyond their direct policy impact, they amplify women's political voice by motivating more women to enter politics.

Mortgage Market Credit Conditions and U.S. Presidential Elections
Alexis Antoniades & Charles Calomiris
NBER Working Paper, March 2018


Voters punish incumbent Presidential candidates for contractions in the local (county-level) supply of mortgage credit during market-wide contractions of credit, but they do not reward them for expansions in mortgage credit supply in boom times. Our primary focus is the Presidential election of 2008, which followed an unprecedented swing from very generous mortgage underwriting standards to a severe contraction of mortgage credit. Voters responded to the credit crunch by shifting their support away from the Republican Presidential candidate in 2008. That shift was particularly pronounced in states that typically vote Republican, and in swing states. The magnitude of the effect is large. If the supply of mortgage credit had not contracted from 2004 to 2008, McCain would have received half the votes needed in nine crucial swing states to reverse the outcome of the election. The effect on voting in these swing states from local contractions in mortgage credit supply was five times as important as the increase in the unemployment rate; if unemployment had not increased from 2004 to 2008, that improvement in local labor markets would only have given McCain only 9% of the votes needed to win the nine crucial swing states. We extend our analysis to the Presidential elections from 1996 to 2012 and find that voters’ reactions are similar for Democratic and Republican incumbent parties, but different during booms and busts of mortgage credit. These asymmetric results indicate that voters react strongly and negatively to credit supply contraction; however, organized political bargaining (the “smoke-filled room channel”) rather than voting was the primary vehicle for rewarding politicians for supporting government subsidies for mortgage risk during booms.

Fear of Gender Favoritism and Vote Choice during the 2008 Presidential Primaries
Seth Goldman
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


It has long been suggested that gender stereotyping undercuts support for female candidates, yet a growing number of studies — including several analyses of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign — find limited evidence of such effects. By contrast, I find consistent evidence of voter gender bias using an alternative approach based on perceptions of group favoritism. Using new survey measures included on a nationally representative panel survey fielded during the 2008 US presidential primaries, I find that many citizens perceive female elected officials as likely to steer government resources toward women, a behavior that most evaluate negatively. Moreover, fear of gender favoritism predicts opposition to Clinton throughout the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, as well as in a hypothetical general election matchup with the Republican nominee.

The Trump Draw: Voter Personality and Support for Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican Nomination Campaign
David Fortunato, Matthew V. Hibbing & Jeffery Mondak
American Politics Research, forthcoming


This study explores how variation in voters’ personality traits, as represented by the Big Five framework, corresponded with variation in judgments regarding the leading presidential candidates during the 2016 nomination campaign. We argue that the context of a crowded field and an atypical candidate in the Republican nomination campaign activated personalistic criteria for candidate evaluation — voters’ own personality traits plausibly gave direction to their candidate assessments, and personality was a useful basis on which to differentiate between eventual winner Donald Trump and the other leading Republican competitors early in the primary process. Analyses make use of data from a large national survey fielded at the time of the Iowa caucuses. Results show that voters with a particular constellation of personality traits — high conscientiousness and extraversion, and low openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism — favored Donald Trump as compared with Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and the remainder of the Republican field.

“Like They’ve Never, Ever Seen in This Country”?: Political Interest and Voter Engagement in 2016
Markus Prior & Lori Bougher
Public Opinion Quarterly, April 2018, Pages 236–256


Journalists and political pundits have characterized the 2016 presidential campaign as one featuring unusually high levels of political involvement among the mass public. This article subjects such claims to more systematic assessment, by comparing levels of political involvement in the 2016 presidential election campaign to those of previous election cycles. Through analyses of turnout statistics, survey questions by the Pew Research Center and the American National Election Studies measuring political interest, and Nielsen audience estimates of television viewing, the article finds that the public’s interest and engagement in the fall of 2016 were actually quite similar to those of other recent elections. (It was during the primaries that political involvement in 2016 stood out more.) Acknowledging that aggregate analyses may obscure countervailing subgroup changes, the article examines subgroups that figured prominently in accounts of the 2016 campaign or were thought to have been particularly energized by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012: men without a college education, African Americans, and young people. Those analyses turn up limited evidence for differential political interest trends. African Americans’ campaign interest and turnout did drop compared to 2008 and 2012. But in the opposite direction of the prevailing narrative, young people showed relatively high political involvement.

Population well-being and electoral shifts
Jeph Herrin et al.
PLoS ONE, March 2018


Population wellbeing, an aggregate measure of positive mental, physical, and emotional health, has previously been used as a marker of community thriving. We examined whether several community measures of wellbeing, and their change since 2012, could be used to understand electoral changes that led to the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential election. We found that areas of the US which had the largest shifts away from the incumbent party had both lower wellbeing and greater drops in wellbeing when compared with areas that did not shift. In comparison, changes in income were not related to voting shifts. Well-being may be more useful in predicting and understanding electoral outcomes than some more conventional voting determinants.

Why Did Women Vote for Donald Trump?
Mark Setzler & Alixandra Yanus
PS: Political Science & Politics, forthcoming


Popular accounts of the 2016 presidential election attribute Donald Trump’s victory to the mobilization of angry white men seeking to restore traditional values and social roles. Whereas a majority of Trump voters were male, more than 40% of women who went to the polls on Election Day also supported him. This analysis explores the motivations of these women, asking how partisanship, demographics, and beliefs motivated their vote choice. We found that, although party affiliation was an important predictor of both women’s and men’s vote choice, sexism and racial resentment had a greater influence on voters of both genders. Moreover, the influence of these biases was similar for women and men.

Young Adults’ Psychological and Physiological Reactions to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Lindsay Hoyt et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming


Elections present unique opportunities to study how sociopolitical events influence individual processes. The current study examined 286 young adults’ mood and diurnal cortisol responses to the 2016 U.S. presidential election in real-time: two days before the election, election night, and two days after the election of Donald Trump, with the goal of understanding whether (and the extent to which) the election influenced young adults’ affective and biological states. Utilizing piecewise trajectory analyses, we observed high, and increasing, negative affect leading up to the election across all participants. Young adults who had negative perceptions of Trump’s ability to fulfill the role of president and/or were part of a non-dominant social group (i.e., women, ethnic/racial minority young adults) reported increased signs of stress before the election and on election night. After the election, we observed a general “recovery” in self-reported mood; however, diurnal cortisol indicators suggested that there was an increase in biological stress among some groups. Overall, findings underscore the role of macro-level factors in individuals’ health and well-being via more proximal attitudes and physiological functioning.

A Bayesian explanation for the effect of incumbency
Anthony Fowler
Electoral Studies, forthcoming


Incumbents appear to perform better in elections because they are incumbents, yet the most commonly proposed explanations for this phenomenon are unsatisfying. I introduce a new explanation that is simple, parsimonious, and largely consistent with empirical evidence. If voters lack perfect information about electoral candidates, incumbency is an informative signal of quality, and voters will update their beliefs accordingly. I formalize these claims with a decision-theoretic model where voters receive noisy signals of candidate quality, and I discuss several empirical phenomena consistent with this explanation. For example, when voters learn that their incumbent barely won office, they are less likely to support reelection and the effect of incumbency largely disappears.

Gender, Political Knowledge, and Descriptive Representation: The Impact of Long-Term Socialization
Ruth Dassonneville & Ian McAllister
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Successive studies have found a persistent gender gap in political knowledge. Despite much international research, this gap has remained largely impervious to explanation. A promising line of recent inquiry has been the low levels of women's elected representation in many democracies. We test the hypothesis that higher levels of women's elected representation will increase women's political knowledge. Using two large, comparative data sets, we find that the proportion of women elected representatives at the time of the survey has no significant effect on the gender gap. By contrast, there is a strong and significant long-term impact for descriptive representation when respondents were aged 18 to 21. The results are in line with political socialization, which posits that the impact of political context is greatest during adolescence and early adulthood. These findings have important implications not only for explaining the gender knowledge gap, but also for the impact of descriptive representation on political engagement generally.

A Swing-State Theorem, with Evidence
Xiangjun Ma & John McLaren
NBER Working Paper, March 2018


We study the effects of local partisanship in a model of electoral competition. Voters care about policy, but they also care about the identity of the party in power. These party preferences vary from person to person, but they are also correlated within each state. As a result, most states are biased toward one party or the other (in popular parlance, most states are either ‘red’ or ‘blue’). We show that, under a large portion of the parameter space, electoral competition leads to maximization of welfare with an extra weight on citizens of the ‘swing state:’ the one that is not biased toward either party. The theory applies to all areas of policy, but since import tariffs are well-measured they allow a clean test. We show empirically that the US tariff structure is systematically biased toward industries located in swing states, after controlling for other factors. Our best estimate is that the US political process treats a voter living in a non-swing state as being worth 77% as much as a voter in a swing state. This represents a policy bias orders of magnitude greater than the bias found in studies of protection for sale.

Electoral Competition and Legislator Effectiveness
Michael Barber & Soren Schmidt
American Politics Research, forthcoming


How do legislators respond to electoral competition? We consider this question by looking at the relationship between legislative productivity and the competitiveness of legislators’ primary and general elections. Building on Volden and Wiseman’s preliminary investigation of the electoral connection to legislative productivity, we introduce to that analysis the critical and often-overlooked distinction between primary and general election competitiveness. Employing panel data of U.S. House members spanning three decades (1979-2009), we find significant evidence of a positive relationship between primary vote share and legislative effectiveness, much of which is explained by having primary opposition at all. These results have substantial implications for our understanding of both the electoral connection and legislative behavior.

From Apprentice to President: The Role of Parasocial Connection in the Election of Donald Trump
Shira Gabriel et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Data suggest that the outcome of the 2016 American presidential election was a surprise to most people. We conducted a study to examine the role parasocial bonds formed with Trump due to his appearances on reality television played in his surprising victory. Results suggested that exposure to Trump though The Apprentice and through other media predicted the formation of parasocial bonds with Trump. These parasocial bonds with Trump predicted believing Trump’s promises, disregarding his unpopular statements, and having generally more positive evaluations of him. Parasocial bonds with Trump were also a significant predictor of self-reported voting behavior, even when examined concurrently with other likely predictors. This research suggests that parasocial bonds played an important role in the election of Donald Trump to President of the United States.

Quantifying Gerrymandering Using the Vote Distribution
Gregory Warrington
Election Law Journal, March 2018, Pages 39-57


One way to assess the presence of gerrymandering is to analyze the distribution of votes. The efficiency gap, which does this, plays a central role in a 2016 federal court case on the constitutionality of Wisconsin's state legislative district plan. Unfortunately, however, the efficiency gap reduces to proportional representation, an expectation that is not a constitutional right. We present a new measure of partisan asymmetry that does not rely on the shapes of districts, is simple to compute, is provably related to the “packing and cracking” integral to gerrymandering, and that avoids the constitutionality issue presented by the efficiency gap. In addition, we introduce a generalization of the efficiency gap that also avoids the equivalency to proportional representation. We apply the first function to U.S. congressional and state legislative plans from recent decades to identify candidate gerrymanders.

Election polling errors across time and space
Will Jennings & Christopher Wlezien
Nature Human Behaviour, April 2018, Pages 276–283


Are election polling misses becoming more prevalent? Are they more likely in some contexts than others? Here we undertake an over-time and cross-national assessment of prediction errors in pre-election polls. Our analysis draws on more than 30,000 national polls from 351 general elections in 45 countries between 1942 and 2017. We proceed in the following way. First, building on previous studies, we show how errors in national polls evolve in a structured way over the election timeline. Second, we examine errors in polls in the final week of the election campaign to assess performance across election years. Third, we undertake a pooled analysis of polling errors — controlling for a number of institutional and party features — that enables us to test whether poll errors have increased or decreased over time. We find that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the recent performance of polls has not been outside the ordinary. However, the performance of polls does vary across political contexts and in understandable ways.

Personal values and support for Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential primary
Ryne Sherman
Personality and Individual Differences, 1 July 2018, Pages 33-38


Donald Trump's ascension to the Republican Party nomination and election as President of the United States in 2016 was a surprise to many political analysts. This article examines the notion that personal values played an important role in support for Trump. Using data from the Trump Similarity Values Test (N = 1825), a web based personality test that provides users with feedback on their similarity to Donald Trump, this article shows that personal values played a role in support for Donald Trump. First, people who supported Trump were more likely have a value profile characterized by low Altruism and high Power, Commerce, and Tradition. Second, people with a values profile similar to Trump's (presumed) values profile were more likely to support Trump. These results held even after controlling for party affiliation and political ideology, indicating that personal values were an even stronger predictor of support for Trump than traditional political attitudes.

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