Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy

2016-2017 Series

September October November December January
February March April May June


Latinos Rising to the Challenge: Political Responses to Threat and Opportunity Messages

September 14, 2016   *Lunch will be provided
Vanessa Cruz Nichols


My research aims to re-assess the common belief that threat mobilizes people to participate in the American political system. A frequently used tactic of political activists is to frame the policy issues that they wish to challenge as potential threats or attacks to people’s personal interests. The underlying theory suggests that the use of threat tactics shake people out of their political apathy.

While it might seem intuitive that people would be more mobilized if they are alerted to a crisis that would jeopardize their interests, it may be counter-productive to only emphasize the crisis at hand. For instance, in the field of persuasive communication, fear appeals were found to be unsuccessful unless an effective remedy was offered as an alternative. Instead of using the alarm-only approach as seen in previous threat appraisal studies, it is important to couple one’s sense of urgency with alternative messages pointing to opportunities or policy initiatives individuals or groups can aspire to accomplish. By using this two-pronged approach of threat and opportunity cues, people are more likely to believe their contribution makes a difference. To test the causal inference of my hypotheses, I rely on an original online survey experiment with 1,001 Latino adults in the U.S. and their exposure to single-cue and simultaneous threat and opportunity immigration policy messages. I find that those jointly exposed to threat and opportunity frames yield greater levels of intended and observed political participation. Combining threat messages with more opportunity-based policy alternatives may be the most ideal strategy to mobilize a group to rise, and not succumb, to the challenge before them.

"Wealth Rules, Average Citizens are Thwarted" and "Not so Fast! Public Opinion and Policy Representation"

September 21, 2016   *This talk is in 6050 ISR   *lunch will be provided
Live Stream
Christopher Wlezien (University of Texas – Austin) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern University)

Sectarian Framing in the Syrian Civil War

September 28, 2016 *Lunch will be provided
Dan Corstange (Columbia University)

How do civilians respond to civil war narratives? Do they react to ethnic frames more strongly than to alternatives? Governments and rebels battle for hearts and minds as well as strategic terrain, and winning the narrative war can shift legitimacy, popular support, and material resources to the sympathetically framed side. We examine the effect of one-sided and competing war discourses on ordinary people's understandings of the Syrian civil war --- a conflict with multiple narratives, but which has become more communal over time. We conduct a framing experiment with a representative sample of Syrian refugees in Lebanon in which we vary the narrative that describes the reasons for the conflict. We find that sectarian explanations, framed in isolation, have a strong mobilizing effect that increases the importance people place on fighting, but only among government supporters. When counterframed against competing narratives, however, the mobilizing effect of sectarianism drops and vanishes.


What We Know So Far About the 2016 Elections

October 5, 2016   *This talk is in 1430 ISR
Ken Kollman, Tasha Philpot, Univ. of Texas-Austin, Stuart Soroka, Mike Traugott, Nicholas Valentino

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When Common Identities Decrease Trust: An Experimental Study of Democratic and Republican Women

October 12, 2016 *Lunch will be provided
Samara Klar (University of Arizona)

American partisans hold strong preferences for members of their own party and even express personal distrust towards members of the opposing party. Nevertheless, other group memberships exist simultaneously – such as race, ethnicity, or gender – and these identities cut across partisanship. When Democrats and Republicans share a common social identity does this engender trust between them, or does it fuel further distrust? Relying on economic theories of identity loss and literature on the origins of inter-group rivalry, I theorize and demonstrate that when policies are framed in terms of gender, sharing a common gender identity in fact exacerbates distrust between female Democrats and Republicans. This study includes three experiments conducted on a sample of 2,100 American women. The findings hold direct implications for the influence of women in political positions and it provides new advances into our understanding of how rivals with cross-cutting identities interact in political settings.

Do Voters Prefer Gender Stereotypic Candidates? Evidence from a Conjoint Survey Experiment In Japan

October 19, 2016 *Lunch will be provided
Yoshikuni Ono (Tohoku University)
This event is co-sponsored with the Center for Japanese Studies

There is a huge gender disparity in representation among elected officials in Japan. Although women compose a majority of the population, the percentage of women holding seats in the parliament is below 20 percent, partly because voters are biased against female candidates. To survive electoral competition, therefore, female candidates may need to avoid conforming to their gender stereotypic image. Yet, we know little about whether and to what extent female candidates are rewarded or punished when they deviate from their gender stereotypic image. Using a conjoint survey experiment, we demonstrate that not only female candidates are disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts, but also they could suffer around a five percentage point penalty when they diverge from gender stereotypes. This suggests that female candidates face a difficult dilemma because avoiding such negative sanctions by playing their gender role may result in producing a potential for further gender-based prejudice against themselves.


Saving Science from Itself: How to Respond to the Changing Value and Politics of Information

November 2, 2016
Arthur Lupia


At its core, science is a set of methods and procedures for evaluating logic and evidence. When performed in accordance with widely recognized best practices, scientific research produces findings with a distinctive and often valuable quality – the findings should be true regardless of who conducted the research. For this reason, science is a powerful engine for creating a special kind of knowledge – special because the validity of the knowledge does not depend on a person’s age, sex, race, religion, or income.

Inquiry conducted through scientific methods allows individuals and organizations to evaluate the plausibility of competing propositions. By so doing, science can help us achieve important goals more effectively and efficiently by clarifying cause-and-effect. It can help us more effectively navigate dangerous environments and help us other environments less dangerous. It can show us when something we want to believe, or have believed in the past, is inconsistent with measurable components of our physical reality. In many cases, science is our last, best defense against wishful thinking.

Social science as a type of inquiry has changed how millions of people live. Its findings make factories, offices, and farms more efficient. Social science aids in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a wide range of business, campaign, diplomatic and military strategies. Social science has transformed how social and health-related services are delivered around the world. Today, more social scientists are using more advanced methods and instruments to study more topics than ever before – and more individuals and public and private sector entities are using social science’s information and insights to improve quality of life for many diverse populations.

Given recent trends, and the current status of social science, one would think that its future as a practice of inquiry and as a generator of significant social value is very bright. However, dark clouds loom. In the last twenty years, changes in technology and society have affected the kinds of information that people value. Some of these forces have altered the kinds of content for which individuals and organizations in the private and public sectors are willing to pay. Other forces have led people to raise new questions the veracity of scientific claims. These forces are altering relationships between social science and society.

These changes have the potential to destabilize many existing scientific institutions and practices. In the United States, for example, prominent members of Congress have questioned whether the National Science Foundation should fund certain types of social scientific research – with a few proposing that the NSF substantially cut or eliminate funding to its social, behavioral, and economic science division. Others ask why the government should support a high-priced bundle of basic and applied social science research when there are increasing numbers of alternative sources of seemingly comparable information – that is, people and organizations who, through interest-group websites, blogs, various social media venues, and the comments attached to the bottom of social science-related newspaper articles, claim to have valid and useful knowledge about the topics that social scientists study.

If scientists and scientific organizations do not react to these changes in effective ways, they will limit the ways in which social science can improve quality of life for present and future generations. I argue that these negative consequences are serious -- but they are not inevitable. This presentation lays out our challenges and then describes a plan for how to respond.

2016 Election: Implications

November 30, 2016 *This talk is in 1430 ISR
Yanna Krupnikov (State University of New York – Stony Brook), Andrew Martin (Dean- UM LSA), James Morrow and Mara Ostfeld

Live Stream

More Information



December 7, 2016
speaker to be announced


Inglehart Event

January 11, 2017   *This talk is in 1430 ISR
Ron Inglehart

MLK Day Event: An Afternoon with Junot Díaz

January 18, 2017
Junot Diaz

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Nice Girls? Sex, Collegiality, and Cooperation in the U.S. Congress

Jennifer Lawless (American University)

When women in Congress solve a problem, their colleagues and the media compliment the relationships they’ve build with each other and their ability to compromise to get Washington’s business done. The problem with this popularly held view is that it just isn’t true. We find substantial evidence that women are, in fact, systematically more likely than men to participate in the kinds of activities that foster a collegial work environment. But when it comes to their actual legislative behavior- such as fact-finding abroad, cosponsoring legislation, and engaging the legislative process- women and men’s records look strikingly similar. The role the sex of a legislator plays in moving the legislative process along is substantially constrained by the party in which she or he serves. Women’s presence in Congress undoubtedly promotes democratic legitimacy and simple justice, but it does little to reduce the hyper-partisanship, gridlock, and stalemate rampant on Capitol Hill.


Pivotal Identity: How Competitive Elections Politicize Ethnicity

February 1, 2017
Ali Valenzuela (Princeton University)

The current study advances a new theory of Latino identity politicization as a function of exposure to competitive electoral activity. using nationally representative survey data and a novel online survey experiment, the results show that Latinos exposed to a greater volume and distinct type of campaign activity in competitive elections manifest greater interest in politics, more attention to immigration reform, and more strongly politicized identity attachments than Latinos in safe elections. The experiment leverages pre-treatment exposure to competitive elections to test whether reminders of competitiveness interact with actual exposure in predictable ways, finding support for a mixed socialization and strategic identification mechanism of ethnic politicization in which competitive campaigns teach Latinos the value of their ethnic identity in politics, while perceptions of electoral influence empower them to make strategic political choices. Findings extend prior work on electoral closeness and pivotally, highlighting the importance of political geography and electoral campaigns for understanding contemporary patterns of Latino voting and identity politics in America.

Where Do the Rich Rule? Specifying Unequal Public Influence on American Policy Adoption

February 8, 2017
Matthew Grossmann (IPPSR – Michigan State University)

In adopting new policy, do policymakers respond only to the opinions of the richest American citizens, ignoring the rest? High-profile political science research suggests that the likelihood of U.S. national policy adoption is strongly related to the share of the richest citizens who support the policy, but—after taking the richest citizens’ opinions into account—is unrelated to the opinions of the middle class. We revisit these findings arguing that the disproportionate influence of affluent citizens is not uniform across policy proposals but is concentrated in foreign policy and in the largest proposed shifts from the status quo. Instead of archetypal inequality-increasing proposals like high-income tax cuts and deregulation, the disproportionate influence of the affluent comes primarily in extra support for consensus foreign proposals like international agreements. Instead of slowly influencing small policy changes behind the scenes, affluent preferences primarily block high-profile large policy changes. The rich do have stronger influence than the middle class on policy adoption, but they succeed mostly in supporting global engagement and avoiding large-scale shift in policy. Our data enlarge Martin Gilens’ dataset from his book Affluence and Influence, reviewing more than 1,800 policy proposals before the national government since 1981, but adding original information on the policy subtopics and ideological direction of each proposal.

Not Fully Human: The Dehumanization of Blacks & White Support for Punitive Criminal Justice Policy

February 15, 2017
Ashley Jardina (Duke University) Spencer Piston (Boston University)

Decades of research on race in political science has maintained the position that most white Americans no longer, by and large, believe that blacks are biologically or innately inferior. We argue that this conclusion has been too optimistic. While whites in the mass public have certainly grown reluctant to overtly express on opinion surveys the belief that blacks are innately inferior, we suggest that there is another process at play, and one in which whites fundamentally still subscribe to the notion that blacks are somehow “less than” whites. Specifically, we posit that a large percentage of whites dehumanize blacks, and they do so automatically and routinely. We develop measures of dehumanization, and with multiple original national surveys, we show that dehumanizing attitudes toward blacks are widespread among white Americans. Furthermore, we show that dehumanizing attitudes are significantly associated with support for more punitive criminal justice policies, especially when whites are told that these policies disproportionately penalize blacks.

The Image in Our Heads: Race, Partisanship and Affective Polarization

February 22, 2017
Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov

Affective polarization between supporters of the two major U.S. parties has been well documented. At the same time, evidence of issue based, ideological polarization in the American electorate is, at best, contradictory. What explains growing antagonism between ordinary Democrats and Republicans? Mason argues that socio-political sorting on several dimensions including religion, class, ideology and race all combine to produce affective polarization. In essence that theory argues that the more consistent and overlapping identities, the greater the affective polarization between Democrats and Republicans. We suspect the mechanism may be more narrow: Affective polarization is driven primarily by people’s standing schemas about the racial make-up of the two parties, and their attitudes about these groups. We predict other identities, like religion, class and ideology, are either less important or are downstream consequences of this schematic overlap between race and party. To test this theory, we combine two sources of empirical evidence. First, we use time series data from the ANES to demonstrate that the effect of racially explicit attitudes---racial resentment and support for government aid to blacks---on partisan affect has grown significantly during the last few decades. Second, we develop an original measure of implicit cognitive linkages between social groups and parties based on the IAT. Using this measure in an online M-Turk survey, we find that white respondents with racialized images of the Democratic party scored significantly higher on affective polarization. Contrary to our initial expectations, however, linking religious fundamentalists to the Republican party is also a powerful independent driver of affective polarization. Our findings have important implications for the understanding the phenomenon of affective polarization and, more generally, for the study of human cognition in politics.



March 8, 2017
Dan Hopkins (University of Pennsylvania)


March 15, 2017
Shana Gadarian (Maxwell School of Syracuse University)


March 22, 2017
Michael Heaney


March 29, 2017
Tana Johnson (Duke University)



April 12, 2017
speaker to be announced


April 19, 2017
Melissa R. Michelson (Menlo College)


April 26, 2017
Ben Highton (University of California – Davis)



May 3, 2017
Elizabeth Suhay (American University)


May 10, 2017
Eric Groenendyk (University of Memphis) and Yanna Krupnikov (State Univ. of New York – Stony Brook)



All workshops take place on Wednesdays from noon-1:30pm in 6006 ISR (unless otherwise noted).

Unless otherwise noted all presentations are brown bag lunch.

Past Series