Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy

2015-2016 Series

September October November December January
February March April May June


Perceptions of Inequality: Preliminary Results from the Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study

September 9, 2015   * Lunch will be provided
​Elisabeth Gerber and Jeffrey Morenoff

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Metropolitan Detroit stands as one of the most economically distressed and segregated metro areas in the U.S. In the wake of Detroit's historic bankruptcy, however, dramatic changes are taking place in the city and across the region, with hundreds of millions of dollars in new public and private investment reshaping the physical, economic and social landscape. How do residents of the region perceive these changes? Which groups are they benefiting, and which are being left behind? Is this new investment increasing or decreasing inequality? To study these questions, Gerber and Morenoff are in the process of launching DMACS, the Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study. During this talk, we will describe DMACS and present some preliminary results about Detroit area residents' perceptions of economic and racial inequality.

Motives in Pork Distribution: Partisan Bias or Patronage?

September 16, 2015
Nico Ravanilla

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This paper examines whether and why legislators favor co-partisans in the provision of fiscal legislative particularism or pork. Legislators can either distribute in favor of mayoral allies in unsafe seats to help them win reelections or pander to powerful allies who can deliver electoral support in exchange of pork largess. Using regression discontinuities (RD) in House and mayoral elections decided by narrow margins, I identify the effect of the partisan alignment between legislators and mayors on the supply of pork in the Philippines. I find that aligned mayors receive twice as much funds obtained by their unaligned counterparts. Focusing on razor-close House elections and estimating heterogeneous local average treatment effects (HLATE) in mayors' vote-share margin of victory, I then show that legislators favor aligned mayors in safe seats the most, and unaligned mayors in safe seats the least. Consistent with theory on patronage, narrowly winning legislators favor powerful aligned mayors that deliver the vote and penalize powerful but unaligned ones.

The Advantage of Disadvantage: Legislative Responsiveness to Collective Action by the Politically Marginalized

September 23, 2015
LaGina Gause

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Reelection minded legislators look to participation to discern how potential voters might react to a legislative vote. They rely on voting behavior, campaign contributions, public opinion polls, and other forms of participation to inform their legislative voting. They are also influenced by collective action – participation involving multiple participants publicly expressing a desire for change. Despite the want for valuable information, participation is costly, particularly for racial and ethnic minorities, the poor and other resource-constrained groups. Using a formal model and data on collective action events reported in the New York Times, 1991-1995, I argue that collective action conveys to representatives the salience, or importance, of an issue to constituents and that participants’ resource levels moderate this relationship. Contrary to extant literature on legislative bias, which finds a bias towards white and affluent constituents, I find that legislative behavior favors collective action by participants with fewer resources who face greater barriers to participation.

Racial Sympathy in American Politics

September 30, 2015
Jennifer Chudy

This project examines the understudied, but prevalent, phenomenon of white racial sympathy for blacks in American politics. Reversing course from a long tradition of studying racial antipathy, I introduce and validate an original measure of racial sympathy and demonstrate its consequences for public opinion using data from convenience and national surveys. Furthermore, I undertake a variety of statistical analyses to distinguish this measure from existing measures of attitudes and values. I find that racial sympathy is not the mere absence of contemporary manifestations of prejudice, but instead, a separate and powerful racial attitude that shapes public opinion among a surprisingly large share of white Americans. A final component of my project explores the activation of racial sympathy through a series of survey experiments. Although I situate the study in contemporary American politics, I also discuss the relevance of racial sympathy to other periods in American political history, such as the Abolitionist movement and the 1960s. The project is a companion to the rich literature in political science on racial prejudice; it demonstrates the multifaceted influence of racial attitudes on American politics and public opinion.


Breaking Up is Hard to Measure (and Other Challenges to Calculating Volatility and Change in Political Party Systems)

October 7, 2015   * Lunch will be provided
Kevin Deegan-Krause (Wayne State University)

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Competition among political parties has entered a period of intense (perhaps unprecedented) change, but political scientists lack tools that can capture the type and degree of change. Mogens N. Pedersen’s (1979) simple and elegant Index of Electoral Volatility became part of the political science toolbox 35 years ago and has remained in constant use, but careless usage of this measure and the appearance of unprecedented numbers of new parties demand several refinements and innovations. In this presentation I will discuss efforts I have undertaken, along with my co-authors Tim Haughton and Fernando Casal Bértoa, to identify why we need a measure of change, to offer a more accurate and sophisticated measure of change that includes organizational change (i.e. splits, mergers etc.) as well as voter change, and to build the databases that we need to make this method work. Although the benefits of applying this model are perhaps most evident in the fluid party politics of Central and Eastern Europe, our calibrated model can also serve to account for the degree and type of changes in the countries of Western Europe where stability has given way to the same ‘hurricane season’ (Haughton and Deegan-Krause 2015) that affects the eastern half of the continent.

Switching Sides: How Campaigns and Media Change Public Opinion about Politicians

October 14, 2015
Michael Tesler (University of California – Irvine)

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Prior research provides conflicting insights into when political communications change public opinions about politicians. While previous studies show that media attention to partisanship and incumbent performance often leads citizens to switch sides in election years, it appears that campaigns’ focus on specific issues rarely changes public opinion about presidential candidates. This book project helps resolve the conflict by putting forth a new account of priming and opinion change. I argue that crystallized attitudes can often be primed by new information. An influx of attention to less crystallized issues, however, should lead individuals to alter their underlying opinions in accordance with prior support for politicians. Since predispositions acquired early in the lifecycle like partisanship, religious beliefs and activities, patriotism, attitudes about gender roles, and group-based affect/antagonisms are more crystallized than mass opinion about public policy, media and campaign content will tend to prime citizens’ predispositions and change their policy positions. The results across dozens of cases in the book strongly support that crystallization-based account, repeatedly showing that media and campaign attention to these core predispositions causes many Americans to switch sides in their support for politicians.

Disgust and Public Opinion Toward LGBT Issues

October 21, 2015
Logan Casey

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Many polls suggest substantial changes in how Americans have come to view lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and issues. Legal and legislative victories allowing same-sex marriage reinforce notions of an increasingly tolerant nation. Yet, these changes in polls and policy do not tell the whole story of contemporary anti-LGBT prejudice and its effects on politics and law. I argue that disgust, a powerful emotion, is an influential and overlooked element of attitudes toward LGBT people and issues. Most notably, disgust is associated with harsher moral judgments, aversive and avoidant behavior, and “resistance to rational argument” (Olatunji 2008). Using an original experiment (n=1,005), I demonstrate that - across party lines - many people still experience disgust in reaction to LGBT people and issues. I also show that this disgust leads to significantly less support for LGBT policies. These effects persist even when controlling for partisanship, gender, religion, and contact with LGBT people. These effects are particularly strong among Republicans, and are especially strong for all parties in response to transgender people and policies. The implications suggest that those who feel disgust may be much more difficult to persuade, in sharp distinction to the conventional wisdom that public opinion toward LGBT people will continue its rapid progress. In short, the influence of disgust means that, even following national events like the legalization of gay marriage, the political questions surrounding social acceptance and political rights for LGBT people are far from settled.

The Canadian Party System: Toward an Analytic History ​​(With ​Reflections on the 2015 ​Election)

October 28, 2015   * Lunch will be provided
Richard Johnston (University of British Columbia)

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The Canadian system mystifies Canadian observers as much as it does international ones. I present it as a deviant case whose discharge is essential to a full understanding of more conventionally situated ones even as comparison is essential to fully understanding the case itself. Special emphasis will be placed on the system's fragmentation, volatility, and federal-provincial discontinuities. I argue that the thread that ties these features together is the system's historic domination by a party of the centre, a pattern that, contra Downs, is empirically unusual, and so I supply an account of that feature as well. The Canadian case illustrates how the politics of deep division with an entrenched national minority ramifies country-wide through a simple, strongly majoritarian parliamentary framework. A further implication is that we need to rethink the level of aggregation for strategic--or seemingly strategic--voting. In this respect, provincial elections are counterfactuals to federal ones. The 2015 election repeats some of the patterns in the history but upsets others and may help define the scope of my claims.


Female Legislators and Economic Growth: Evidence from State Elections in India

November 11, 2015   * Lunch will be provided
Yogesh Uppal

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Abstract (with Brian Min)  
There is growing evidence that women politicians are relatively effective in protecting the interests of women and children. But is this at the cost of economic growth? We investigate this using close elections between men and women in a regression discontinuity design. Using night luminosity as a measure of economic activity, we find significantly higher economic growth rates in constituencies from which women rather than men are elected to state legislative assemblies in India. Amongst mechanisms, we find evidence consistent with women being less corrupt, more effective at attracting state-level resources and more likely to improve access to roads.

A Broader Approach to Identity Politics – Socio-Partisan Sorting and the Deepening Partisan Divide

November 18, 2015   * Lunch will be provided
Lilliana Mason (University of Maryland)

Professor Mason's research paper

The classic definition of identity politics implies that individuals participate in politics on behalf of their specific social groups. Racial, religious, gender, and sexual orientation are all forms of identity that fall under the general rubric of identity politics, which conveys that individual, non-political group identities can motivate group members’ political behavior. But what happens when these social group identities converge with partisan ones? Research from social identity theory and the cross-pressures literatures hint that as these identities converge, their combined strength should have greater impact on out-group tolerance, political evaluations, and behavior. This paper examines the effect this “socio-partisan sorting” from a social identity perspective. We expect that that as the parties have grown increasingly racially and religiously distinct, partisans have received more powerful cues about the "correct" ideological identity. Using ANES Time-Series surveys and a purpose-driven national study conducted by YouGov Polimetrix, we find that as racial and religious identities converge with partisan identities, partisans not only grow better ideologically sorted, but become more biased against their partisan opponents. This increased ideological consistency corresponds to an increase in partisan bias and intolerance across the electorate, particularly over time.



Uninformed: Why People Know So Little About Politics and What We Can Do About It

January 13, 2016
Arthur Lupia


January 20, 2016
Ryan Enos (Harvard University)


January 27, 2016
Yuen Yuen Ang



February 3, 2016
Nicholas Valentino and Fabian Neuner


February 10, 2016
Michael Traugott




April 20, 2016
Dan Magleby (Binghamton Univ.–SUNY) & Pamela Clouser McCann (Univ. of Southern California)




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