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   * Lunch will be provided
Arthur Lupia

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Thousands of individuals and organizations work to educate others. They seek to improve political knowledge and civic competence. Teachers, professors, social scientists, journalists, civic leaders and many others are among those who seek to serve others in this way. This new book is for, and about, them.

A common challenge associated with educating others is a misunderstanding about how people learn. Some educators are mistaken about what kinds of information are relevant to others’ decisions. Others are mistaken about the kinds of information to which prospective learners will pay attention. These errors lead many educators to provide information that is of little value to others.

This new book shows that many of these errors are correctable. It does so by clarifying the relationship between information that we can give to other people, the kinds of knowledge that they can acquire from this information, and how such knowledge affects competence at politically-relevant tasks. In each chapter, I use 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 decisions, that greater knowledge can improve decision making, and that well-meaning information providers 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 this new book is about. It seeks to help educators of all kinds convey information that is of more value to more people.

Harnessing ​'Corruption​'​ for Early Development: The Case of Prebendal Bureaucratic Compensation in China

January 27, 2016
Yuen Yuen Ang

How can developing economies escape the vicious cycle of poverty and underpaid, corrupt bureaucracies? The conventional approach is to raise formal wages and eradicate corruption at once. In practice, however, such efforts have proved disappointing and even backfired. My study reveals a radically different approach evolved in reform-era China: bureaucrats are incentivized to finance their own pay and perks both by enlarging tax bases for their locales and by extracting fees and fines for their offices. In effect, this arrangement harnessed the premodern practice of prebendalism—often equated with corruption—to tackle the distinct goals and constraints of early development. It also provided an intermediate step between purely prebendal and fully salaried, Weberian public administrations. To test if the structure of monetary incentives within the bureaucracy operates as my qualitative research finds, I examine the association between compensation and income, using an original dataset that estimates the actual level of bureaucratic compensation (formal and informal combined).


The Changing Norms of Racial Political Rhetoric and the End of Racial Priming

February 3, 2016
Nicholas Valentino and Fabian Neuner

Several prominent studies in the 1990’s demonstrated that the way politicians talk about race affects the power of racial attitudes in candidate evaluations and policy opinions. Racial priming theory predicted that explicit racial rhetoric, messages that overtly highlighted the differences between blacks and whites and which reinforce negative stereotypes, would be soundly rejected by most citizens. Only when race is cued quite subtly, then, using coded and indirect language, would the power of racial attitudes be maximized. More recent replication attempts have failed, however, calling into question the earlier findings. Here we attempt to replicate the classic racial priming studies. In several experimental tests across four separate studies with nationally representative samples, we find no support for the original hypothesis: Regardless of the way arguments about race were presented in political advertisements or news accounts, the power of racial attitudes is large and stable. These findings cannot be explained by the fact that Obama’s rise to power has made race more salient in many issue domains. Even in such a context, the theory would predict that racial attitudes should be rendered less powerful when it is discussed explicitly. Instead, our conjecture is that the norms of racial rhetoric in American have fundamentally changed over the last several years, rendering more acceptable the invocation of negative racial stereotypes. We find several patterns of opinion in our studies consistent with this interpretation.

Exploring Attitudes toward Government

February 10, 2016
Michael Traugott

This presentation is based on a preliminary analysis that explores the effects of partisanship, media use and political knowledge on measures of the public’s evaluations of Congress and state and local government. Political knowledge is an important explanatory factor that is negatively related to such evaluations while partisanship has a differential effect, depending on the level of government being considered. Evaluations of state and local government are more positive than for Congress, and analysis focuses on those who have negative evaluations of all three levels compared to those who have negative evaluations of Congress but more positive evaluations of the other two levels.

Making his World Safe for Autocracy,​ ​2012-2015

February 24, 2016
Bill Zimmerman

Putin's efforts to bring the society to heel since his re-election in spring 2012 would have to be termed a success. He has seized on the opportunity offered by the war in (with?) Ukraine to muffle the voices of the opposition. The themes he emphasized before his reelection in 2012--stability, restoration of military strength, use of Russia's natural resources for political purposes--have served him well. He has used the two years (2014-2015) after the publication of the hard cover version of Ruling Russia to further deter public expression of opposition whether in the street, via the media, or on the Internet. Writing in the winter 2015-2016, it seems even more likely than it did when I finished the hard cover version of Ruling Russia that the 2018 presidential election will be an "election-type event"(Grigory Golosov) and that the prospects for a flourishing civil society are even gloomier than they were in December 2013.


Why Does Segregation Cause Prejudice?

March 9, 2016
Ryan Enos (Harvard University)
* Lunch will be provided

Inter-ethnic residential segregation is correlated with intergroup bias and conflict, poorly functioning states and civil societies, weak economic development, and ethnocentric political behavior. Because of these correlations, segregation has been a subject of long-standing interest. However, segregation has not been assigned in randomized controlled trials, so the observed correlations between segregation and these outcomes may be spurious and the mechanism behind these correlations is poorly understood. In a series of experiments we randomly assign segregation in a laboratory and demonstrate that segregation facilitates social categorization and causes intergroup bias in costly decision-making. These experiments include the randomized assignment of in-person subjects to the experience of a spatially segregated environment. Moving beyond segregation merely inhibiting intergroup contact, we demonstrate that segregation directly affects human cognition and thus can affect intergroup relations even when holding contact constant.

Modernization and Inequality: Why Equality is Likely to Stage a Comeback

March 16, 2016
Ron Inglehart


After declining for most of the 20th Century, since the 1970s economic inequality has been rising to dangerous levels in developed societies. Contrary to Pikkety's claims, the decline of inequality did not simply reflect random shocks and its current resurgence is not a return to normal conditions. These changes are linked with modernization, which shifts the balance of power between elites and masses and thereby, a society's leve1 of economic inequality.

In early industrial society, labor unions were illegal and workers were exploited harshly, driving wages down toward the subsistence level. But urbanization and mass education made it possible for labor unions and labor-oriented potitical parties to mobilize the working class for effective action. High levels of social class voting made workers a significant political factor, electing governments with redistributive policies that brought diminishing economic inequality throuthout most of the 20th century.

The emergence of post-industrial society eroded this alignment. Cultural changes made non-economic issues increasingly prominent, diluting attention to redistribution; social class voting declined, organized industrial workers became a diminishing minority of the electorate, and the global knowledge economy weakened their bargaining power. Since the 1970s, economic inequality has risen steeply in much of the world. Real incomes-- even of the highly-educated-- have not increased since 1990. Large economic gains are being made but they have gone almost entirely to the top one percent, and market forces are not offsetting this trend. Doing so will require a new political alignment including the highly-educated. Such a political realignment is likely to emerge in developed democracies, where present trends are undermining the well-being of an overwhelming majority of voters. Accordingly, during the past 25 years, the publics of most countries have been placing increasingly strong emphasis on the need for greater income equality.

In Search for Normalization: the Islamist Party in Morocco

March 23, 2016
Driss Maghraoui (Al-Akhawayn University)
* Lunch will be provided


While a number of countries in the Middle East have been going through major revolutions and social upheavals, the Moroccan regime, thanks to well-orchestrated constitutional reforms, has effectively managed to avoid some of the violent outcomes that have recently characterized politics in other authoritarian regimes in the region. An important component of this outcome was the role that the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) played during this transitional phase. Indeed, by virtue of its predisposition to further normalize its presence in Moroccan politics, the PJD took full advantage of the “Arab Spring” to achieve electoral success and to lead the government. The Moroccan case presents a situation in which an Islamist party has become a strategic political actor not by seeking to establish a new political order as in Tunisia or Egypt, but by helping to perpetuate the existence of a structurally undemocratic political system.

This paper articulates the processes that the PJD went through to ultimately play a governing role and to normalize as a mainstream political party. It will first highlight the dynamic interaction between the Moroccan monarchical regime and the PJD as it has evolved politically. It will then assess the nature of Islamist electoral participation in Morocco by looking at the 1997 and 2011 legislative elections. Finally, paper argues that the PJD will remain entangled in the institutional constraints of an undemocratic regime that still has full control over the decision making process. The process of political normalization of the PJD in Morocco can provide insights into the experiences of other Islamist parties in North Africa and the Middle East.

Social Mobilization and Regime Resilience: Is Morocco the Exception?

March 30, 2016
Saloua Zerhouni (Mohamed V University of Rabat)


April 13, 2016
*no workshop scheduled

April 20, 2016
*no workshop scheduled

The (Conditional) Effects of Media Cues on Public Opinion: The Case of Immigration

April 27, 2016
Amber Boydstun (University of California – Davis)
* Lunch will be provided

Past work shows that media cues about policy issues—both in the form of “tone” cues (pro/anti/neutral) and in the form of “emphasis frame” cues (emphasizing one aspect of an issue over alternatives)—can affect how policy debates unfold and how citizens respond. Most studies examine the influence of media cues on an issue-by-issue basis, showing repeatedly how media cues can shape public opinion. Yet studies also show that these media cues do not always “work;” sometimes citizens’ attitudes are not swayed by how an issue is discussed in the news. Thus, although past studies are invaluable for examining media effects (and null effects) for individual issues, relatively little is known about the conditions under which media cues do—and do not—affect opinion across issues. When does framing tend to “work” and when does it not? We focus on the issue of immigration and ask: Does the tone of media coverage influence public opinion on immigration and, if so, under what conditions in particular? We hypothesize that the effects of media tone on public opinion towards immigration will be stronger during periods of high media salience but weaker the more news coverage includes a diversity of emphasis frame cues appealing to different issue publics. This paper is the first to use data from a large-scale study of U.S. media framing across multiple issues, 1980–2012, using a coding system that organizes frames into general categories that cross cut issues. We use manual coding linked with computational modeling to examine the case of immigration, tracking both tone (pro/anti/neutral) and emphasis frames (e.g., morality, economic). Using time series analysis, we test whether media framing shapes public opinion (using Stimson’s policy mood measure). And of key interest here, we test whether this effect is conditioned by the overall level of media coverage and the diversity of frames currently at play in that coverage.



May 4, 2016
Hutchings and Jefferson


May 11, 2016
Dan Magleby (Binghamton Univ.–SUNY) & Pamela Clouser McCann (Univ. of Southern California)


May 18, 2016
Despoina Alexiadou



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