September 3, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
I evaluate whether racial gerrymandering under the Voting Rights Act enhances the election of Democrats or Republicans to Congress. I argue that the partisan effect of creating majority-black VRA districts depends on the political geography of black voters; thus, the effect of racial gerrymandering varies, even within a single state. When blacks reside in politically liberal or moderate regions (e.g., Atlanta, Georgia), the creation of a majority-black district has the "perverse effect" of helping to elect more Republican legislators. But when blacks reside in more conservative regions (e.g., Southern Georgia), racial gerrymandering harms Republicans by creating a black, safe Democratic seat in areas that would normally be drawn into uniformly Republican districts. Hence, depending on the political geography of African-Americans, the VRA can either restrict Republican partisan gerrymandering, or it can empower more extreme Republican gerrymandering. The latter outcome arises because the VRA allows partisan redistricters to choose from a new set of redistricting configurations that are normally geographically impermissible in the absence of the VRA.
September 10, 2014
People appear to know very little about politics and government. When asked any of a wide range of questions on these topics, millions give incorrect answers or no answer at all. People respond to this data in different ways. Some castigate the masses and discourage their political participation. Others seek a more constructive response.
Thousands of individuals and organizations work to improve politically-relevant knowledge and competence. Experts, advocates, teachers, journalists, spiritual leaders, and scientists are amongst those who seek to offer information that helps others make better decisions. I am included in this group of educators. This presentation is for, and about, us. Its purpose is to help us achieve more of our educational aspirations.
A challenge in attempts to improve knowledge and competence is that we often misunderstand how others learn. Some educators are mistaken about what kinds of information are relevant to prospective learners’ decisions. Others are mistaken about the kinds of information to which prospective learners will pay attention. These errors lead many educators to provide information does not improve relevant kinds of knowledge and is of little value to others.
Many of these errors are correctable. A book manuscript that I have recently completed shows how to do so. My method is to clarify the relationship between information that we can give to other people, the kinds of knowledge that prospective learners can acquire from this information, and how such knowledge affects competence at politically-relevant tasks. In each chapter, I use lessons from research and practice to identify more effective ways to convey information that matters.
If you accept the idea that citizens sometimes lack the knowledge that they need to make competent political choices, that greater knowledge can improve decision making, and that experts, advocates, and other educators are sometimes mistaken about how people think and learn, then a prescription for improving political knowledge and civic competence emerges: we need to educate the educators. That is what the presentation is about. It seeks to help educators of all kinds convey information that is of more value to more people.
September 17, 2014
A description of the Arab Democracy Index (ADI) project sponsored by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) since 2008 with a special focus on methods and findings. The project is led by the speaker with the support of a dozen teams in Arab universities and research centers. The latest round, covering the period between 2011 and 2013, will be made public next month. The report, which provides quantitative data on political developments, relies on empirical data and covers developments in nine Arab countries. They include three of those who witnessed major upheavals during the Arab Spring (Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain), two that witnessed limited change ( Jordan and Morocco), and four that witnessed only minor political change (Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Kuwait). Important countries, such as Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia could not be covered in this fourth ADI report. Overall findings show that the Arab Spring has left a positive, but limited, impact on transition to democracy in the Arab World. It opened the door to greater liberties and political participation. This however did not apply to all countries or to all indicators of transition. The country with the greatest progress has been Tunisia, gaining more than 15% increase in its overall score compared to the pre-Arab Spring period. The indicator that witnessed the greatest positive change has been the one that measured practices associated with the status of political rights and liberties, increasing by 20% compared to the third ADI, the last one issued before the eruption of the Arab Spring.
September 24, 2014
Anne Pitcher and Manny Teodoro (Texas A&M)
This study examines the policy effects of formal agency independence in developing countries by analyzing the privatization of state-owned enterprises in Africa. Research on the political impact of independent technocratic agencies has evolved mostly in advanced democracies. These conventional theoretical accounts predict that greater formal independence for technocratic agencies facilitates more rapid privatization. Based on research in developing countries, we argue that the effects of agency independence depend on the political context in which the agency operates. Specifically, we predict that greater independence leads to more thorough privatization under authoritarian regimes, but that the effect of independence declines as a country becomes more democratic. Using an original dataset, we examine the impact of technocratic agencies on privatization of state-owned enterprises in Africa from 1990-2007. Our results modify the conventional wisdom on bureaucratic independence in developing countries and culminate in a more nuanced theory of “contingent technocracy."
October 1, 2014
With numerous scholars expressing interest, and in some cases concern, over the impact of televised campaign ads on participation, it is vital that our understanding of the effects of political advertising be based on sound assumptions. Yet to date, research regarding emotion and politics relies almost exclusively upon self-reported measures. Using a randomized experiment with carefully manipulated campaign advertisements, I find evidence that an alternative measure of emotional response, physiological arousal, is a powerful predictor of participation among a particular segment of the population, political novices. Importantly, the findings suggest that arousal is not simply a proxy for self-reported emotion, but rather, a different and complementary measure of the emotional experience.
October 8, 2014
This study throws new light on whether public opinion polls, namely, preference falsification of electoral preferences can affect the level of election frauds by employing the revised T. Kuran's model of preference falsification. The model’s theoretical implications are tested on the data collected during the most recent presidential campaign in Russia (2012), as well as the cross-national dataset. My research findings reveal the presence of statistically significant effect of preference falsification on election frauds, thus enabling me to conclude that preference falsification is, indeed, conducive to election frauds in autocracies. The results of this research are generalizable to a broad set of authoritarian regimes, enabling scholars to get a better understanding of the mechanism by which the survey polls can incentivize officials to commit election fraud.
November 5, 2014
What should we make of the 2014 elections? As we begin to construct our narratives, journalists and political scientists will use a combination of news and polling to disentangle the various forces at play. But despite more than 80 years of modern survey research, we still do not have a good sense of what surveys tell us about an election cycle. Gelman and King famously questioned why surveys were so variable when elections, at least at the presidential level, were highly predictable. Many scholars have given a partial answer to this question, noting that surveys respond to events like party conventions and presidential debates as well as large media campaigns. But the extent to which these trends are meaningful remains unclear. In this talk, I examine data across recent election cycles to compare polling across campaigns at the presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial levels and explore the extent to which polling trends tell similar stories across different types of campaigns in different states in different years. The results reveal frequent correspondence between trends for different elections, suggesting that a small number of narratives may explain the variations we see.
November 12, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Francisco Pedraza (Texas A&M University)
I conceptualize an understudied motivation underpinning immigration policy preferences and attitudes towards immigrants. A key argument advanced in support of restrictionist immigration measures is based on the principle of rule of law. In general, the central concern is that law and order is threatened by the entry of unauthorized persons into a country and by their continued presence in the country. One particular feature of this principle is the belief in the `spirals of noncompliance' --- that transgression of law in one domain (or by one person) increases the likelihood that laws in other domains will be violated (or other people will flaunt the law). Using original survey questions I assess the extent to which this belief is held with respect to professional athletes, taxpayers, employers, and immigrants. I also evaluate the social and political correlates of consistency in this belief, as well as the relationship between consistency in this belief and support for specific restrictive immigration enforcement policy. Contrary to what principled adherents of `rule of law' in immigration policy debates espouse, the data suggest that individuals who express the greatest consistently in their `spirals of noncompliance' beliefs are less supportive of restrictive immigration policy.
November 19, 2014
No Talk Scheduled (Political Science Department Professional Development Day)
December 3, 2014 * Lunch will be provided
Economists, sociologists, and public health scholars have established for some time that darker-skinned African Americans have lower incomes, encounter more discrimination in the workplace, and have poorer health outcomes than lighter-skinned Blacks. In spite of these findings, which persist into the 21st century, public opinion scholars have found few attitudinal differences among Blacks that reflect these disparate outcomes. That is, previous work has generally failed to uncover consistent correlations between skin tone and racial group identification or policy preferences. We revisit this question by relying on the discipline’s most comprehensive political survey; the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES). The 2012 ANES includes interviewer assessed skin-tone measurements along with an oversample of Black respondents (N=511). We replicate results regarding the influence of skin tone on socioeconomic and health related outcomes. Also, we find significant skin tone differences among Blacks on race-targeted policies and efforts to address economic inequality. Lastly, in a supplemental experimental design we investigate whether the association between skin color and racial attitudes can be primed.
January 14, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
The Provost of the University of Michigan invested $15 million in a two-year project to foster interdisciplinary collaboration at the University. The MCubed project supported three-person teams to participate in innovative research activities with an eye toward breakthrough pilot studies to support applications for additional funding and high visibility publications, patents, or other products. The Provost also supported an evaluation of the effort, a three-year project following progress and beyond. This presentation will look at the range of data collection activities associated with the evaluation and the limited initial results as analysis gets underway.
February 4, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
We evaluate the effect of the age of politicians on political governance, reelection rates and policies using data on Italian local governments. First, we find that younger politicians are more likely to appoint younger executive committee members and are more likely to be supported by younger city councilors. Second, we find that younger politicians are more likely to be re-elected and more likely to run for re-election. Third, we show that younger politicians, despite choosing similar policies to older ones during the political term, are more likely to strategically increase capital expenditures and attract more transfers before the elections. Our results suggest that young politicians, even if they choose similar levels of revenues and expenditures, are more likely to be re-elected because of strategic reasons. The results are robust to adopting three different identification strategies based on fixed-effects, standard regression discontinuity, and an augmented regression discontinuity to control for residual heterogeneity.
February 11, 2015
Barbara Anderson and John Romani
February 18, 2015
This presentation will describe the political beliefs and attitudes of a national sample of American adults in mid-life who have been followed for the last 26 years (since 1987). It will discuss the political socialization of Generation X, with some comparisons to the previous generation studied by Jennings and Niemi in their longitudinal study of 1965 seniors (also a CPS study). The analysis will look at the development of ideological partisanship and the parallel acquisition of increased attitude constraint. It will conclude with an analysis of engagement and participation, including some data on presidential voting from 1996 through 2012.
February 25, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
My analysis of two separate national datasets demonstrates that skin color is bound up with partisan preferences within two (pan-)ethnic groups: Latinos and Asian Americans. While previous research has shown that both groups lean Democratic on average, I find that lighter-skinned Latinos and Asian Americans are less likely than their darker-skinned counterparts to identify as Democrats and to vote for Democratic candidates. In this CPS presentation, I explore reasons for this pattern and the implications of these findings for our understanding of race and the partisan landscape of American politics.
March 11, 2015
Since 2002, 28 states have passed 35 new voter identification laws that enhance restrictions on voters who intend to register and vote. Most have been sponsored by Republican legislators and passed by states with large Republican majorities. Proponents of such identification requirements argue they are necessary to ensure the integrity of the electoral system by reducing voter fraud. Opponents, mostly Democratic legislators and activists, have cried foul, arguing these laws are bald faced partisan attempts to disenfranchise poorer and more transient voters, especially minorities. Surprisingly, empirical evidence for significant demobilization, either in the aggregate or among Democrats specifically, has thus far failed to materialize. We suspect strong emotional reactions to disenfranchisement frames may have mobilized new voters sufficient to counterbalanced the direct demobilizing effect of the laws. The political debate about these laws appears to have triggered substantial anger on both sides of the aisle, but the anger is mobilizing especially among Democrats. We find support for our hypotheses in a nationally representative survey and an experiment where news frames about these laws are carefully manipulated.
March 18, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
Civil lawsuits, and particularly civil rights lawsuits, often seek injunctive relief—court enforceable orders telling defendant institutions to adjust their operations to remedy the past violations of plaintiffs’ rights and avoid similar violations going forward. Like most court orders, most of these are negotiated by the parties, rather than being imposed on an entirely unwilling defendant by a court. Quantitative analysis of such orders has been scarce, for a variety of reasons. The orders themselves are often difficult to get copies of, and term-by-term analysis is complicated by their heterogeneity. And of course there are many cases where such orders are sought but not obtained. In a recent paper with Pauline Kim, we obtained and coded one small sliver of injunctions, in fair employment cases brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and were able to provide some basic descriptive statistics about subject matter, type of employment practice, source of resolution, intensity of litigation, and types of remedies. But broader work on more varied injunctions poses both collection and methodological challenges. I have started to address those challenges with the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, a web based resource; in this talk, I will talk about progress made and analytic hurdles that remain.
March 25, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
Adam Berinsky (MIT)
Ask a person a question about a political rumor and the response you get will depend in large part on their political affiliation. But do they truly believe what they say? The stark difference in the patterns of rumor acceptance between Democrats and Republicans begs a simple question: when people tell pollsters they believe a given rumor to be true, are they being honest about the facts they believe? After all, people may endorse a rumor because they really believe it, or they may do so because they do not believe it, but understand that by saying they accept a rumor, they send a signal about their support for political figures and policies. Put another way, people may be answering these questions honestly (and incorrectly), or they could instead use surveys instrumentally as a vehicle to express more basic political judgments about politicians and policies they oppose. I designed a series of four experiments that used different methods to reduce expressive responding on the question of whether Obama is a Muslim. Many of these methods work by altering the calculus on both the cost and benefit sides of the equation for those respondents most motivated to cast aspersions on the president. Together these different studies lead to a common conclusion; there is little evidence of expressive responding on the question of whether Obama is a Muslim.
April 1, 2015
Individuals' attitudes towards trade typically reflect their beliefs about whether more trade will help or hurt their economic position. We theorize that local FDI trends will influence those beliefs: individuals living in areas that receive a lot of FDI should be more likely to believe that they will be among globalization's winners, and will be more likely to support free trade as a result. Our analysis of ANES survey data and local FDI trends produces results that are consistent with our expectations.
April 8, 2015
Using new micro-level data on violence in Eastern Ukraine, this paper evaluates the relative merits of 'identity-based' and 'economic' explanations of civil conflict. The first view expects rebel violence to be greatest in areas home to the geographic concentration of ethnolinguistic minorities. The second expects violence to be greatest where the opportunity costs of rebellion are low. Evidence from the armed conflict in Ukraine supports the second view more than the first. A municipality's prewar employment mix is a stronger and more robust predictor of rebel activity than local ethnic and linguistic composition. Municipalities more exposed to economic shocks from trade barriers with Russia experienced a higher intensity of rebel violence, weekly and overall. Such localities also experienced violence sooner in the conflict, and were likely to fall under rebel control earlier than otherwise similar municipalities where the labor force was less dependent on exports to Russia.
April 22, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
Adam Levine (Cornell University) and Yanna Krupnikow (Northwestern University)
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The gap between the rich and poor in the United States has widened tremendously over the past generation. It now stands at the largest it has ever been over the past century. In response, academics and pundits have spent considerable attention investigating public opinion on this topic. A common finding is that there is a high level of concern about the gap and a sizable number of Americans who wish that income was less concentrated than it is. At the same time, despite extensive media coverage, the issue hardly appears to motivate any sort of sustained, heightened political involvement among Americans. What might explain this divergence between people’s concern in the abstract and their willingness to take action? We investigate this puzzle by examining how Americans conceptualize income inequality and how changes in information affect these conceptualizations. We find that while statistical evidence about inequality generally increases people’s belief that inequality is an important problem, statistics do little to increase people’s willingness to take political action. In contrast, information that presents evidence of inequality through anecdotes significantly encourages action. We draw our evidence from a multi-method approach that includes a content analysis, field experiments and a survey experiment.
April 29, 2015
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A growing body of work identifies negativity biases in both individual- and aggregate-level political behavior. Indeed, it appears as though (across a wide range of political, economic and social situations) humans are regularly more attentive to (affectively or evaluatively) negative information than to positive information. At the same time, there is a small but growing body of evidence that people weigh the importance of negative versus positive information differently. If individuals differ in the tendency to seek negative information, these predispositions may moderate individuals’ reactions to election campaigns, advertising, and other sources of political information. To explore this possibility, this presentation introduces a novel survey-based measure of negative information-seeking. Using this new measure, predispositions toward negativity are compared with demographics, partisanship, and other political attitudes. Results point towards the possibility that negativity biases may be a fundamental source of heterogeneity in political attitudes and behavior.
May 6, 2015
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This paper analyses the mechanisms establishing time consistency of constitutions. It explains why shorter and more locked constitutions are more likely to be time consistent (change less). However, empirical evidence from all democratic countries in the world indicates that length and locking of constitutions are not independent criteria, and that their combination leads to less time consistency. Data on democratic countries across the world indicate that long constitutions are more time inconsistent (have higher combination of locking and amendment rate) than shorter ones. Replicating Tsebelis and Nardi (2014) I show that longer constitutions are associated with higher corruption and lower per capita income. But unlike the T-N analysis of OECD countries where the association remains even if one introduces all the relevant control variables from Economics now the inclusion of education and corruption eliminates the impact of constitutional length on GDP/capita when one includes third world countries which have systematically lower education and higher corruption.
May 20, 2015 * Lunch will be provided
Mara Cecilia Ostfeld
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Quality research on racial and ethnic minorities is impeded by the high cost of recruiting and retaining representative samples of these populations. To minimize these costs, many surveys diverge from the traditional practice of including demographic questions at the end of surveys, and begin the survey by asking participants about their race and/or ethnicity. These “ethnic filters,” as we refer to them, are a valuable way to focus limited resources on reaching and gathering data on the targeted population. Yet by asking about one’s ethnic identity at the beginning of a survey, researchers also risk priming an identity laden with social, economic and political associations. We develop and test a theory about how the use of ethnic filter questions at the beginning of surveys of Latino public opinion - intended to increase the representativeness of data – may also shape it. Our data from a population-based survey experiment suggests that ethnic filter questions affect responses across a range of political issues, and suggest new interpretations of Latino public opinion. More broadly, our findings offer important considerations for the production and analysis of data on racial, ethnic and other population sub-groups.