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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


From Political


Predicting Election Outcomes from Positive and Negative
Trait Assessments of Candidate Images


Kyle Mattes, Michael Spezio,
Hackjin Kim, Alexander Todorov, Ralph Adolphs and
R. Michael Alvarez


February 2010


Conventional wisdom, and a growing body
of behavioral research, suggests that the nonverbal image of a candidate
influences voter decision making. We presented subjects with images of
political candidates and asked them to make four trait judgments based solely
on viewing the photographs. Subjects were asked which of the two faces
exhibited more competence, attractiveness, deceitfulness, and threat, which are
arguably four of the most salient attributes that can be conveyed by faces.
When we compared our subjects’ choices to the actual election outcomes, we
found that the candidates chosen as more likely to physically threaten the
subjects actually lost 65% of the real elections. As expected, our findings
support the conclusions of
Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, and Hall (2005) by showing a positive correlation between the competence judgments
and the real election outcomes. Surprisingly, attractiveness was correlated
with losing elections, with the effect being driven by faces of candidates who
looked politically incompetent yet personally attractive. Our findings have
implications for future research on negative political communication, as they
suggest that both threatening first impressions and fleeting impressions of
attractiveness can harm a candidate’s electoral chances


From The American Political Science


Personality and
Political Attitudes: Relationships Across Issue Domains and Political Contexts

Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling and
Shang E. Ha

February 2010


Previous research on personality traits and political attitudes has largely
focused on the direct relationships between traits and ideological
self-placement. There are theoretical reasons, however, to suspect that the
relationships between personality traits and political attitudes (1) vary
across issue domains and (2) depend on contextual factors that affect the
meaning of political stimuli. In this study, we provide an explicit theoretical
framework for formulating hypotheses about these differential effects. We then
leverage the power of an unusually large national survey of registered voters
to examine how the relationships between Big Five personality traits and
political attitudes differ across issue domains and social contexts (as defined
by racial groups). We confirm some important previous findings regarding
personality and political ideology, find clear evidence that Big Five traits
affect economic and social attitudes differently, show that the effect of Big
Five traits is often as large as that of education or income in predicting
ideology, and demonstrate that the relationships between Big Five traits and
ideology vary substantially between white and black respondents.


From Public
Opinion Quarterly


Perceptions about
the Amount of Interracial Prejudice Depend on Racial Group Membership and Question Order

David C. Wilson

February 2010  

Few studies have attempted to examine how racial
group membership may interact with survey context to influence
responses to questions about race. Analyzing over 9,000 respondents
from split-ballot experiments embedded in national polls, this
research examines the extent to which question order interacts with
one’s self-reported racial group to influence beliefs about the
amount of interracial prejudice that exists between Blacks and
Whites. The results show that in-group members (e.g., Blacks) tend
to view out-group members (e.g., Whites) as having more dislike
toward their in-group (e.g., Whites dislike Blacks) only when the
in-group is asked about first–a contrast. When in-group members
(e.g., Blacks) are evaluated after out-groups (e.g., Whites), they
will view their in-group’s dislike as similar to that of the
out-groups–an assimilation. The results serve to remind survey
researchers and practitioners of the careful attention that must be
paid to context and response biases.


From The British Journal of
Political Science


The Political
Conditionality of Mass Media Influence: When Do Parties Follow Mass Media

Christoffer Green-Pedersen and
Rune Stubager

February 2010


Claims regarding the power of the mass media in contemporary politics are
much more frequent than research actually analysing the influence of mass media
on politics. Building upon the notion of issue ownership, this article argues
that the capacity of the mass media to influence the respective agendas of
political parties is conditioned upon the interests of the political parties.
Media attention to an issue generates attention from political parties when the
issue is one that political parties have an interest in politicizing in the
first place. The argument of the article is supported in a time-series study of
mass media influence on the opposition parties’ agenda in Denmark over a
twenty-year period.


From Political Behavior


How Explicit
Racial Prejudice Hurt Obama in the 2008 Election

Spencer Piston

February 2010


Some commentators claim that white Americans put prejudice behind them when
evaluating presidential candidates in 2008. Previous research examining whether
white racism hurts black candidates has yielded mixed results. Fortunately, the
presidential candidacy of Barack Obama provides an opportunity to examine more
rigorously whether prejudice disadvantages black candidates. I also make use of
an innovation in the measurement of racial stereotypes in the 2008 American
National Election Studies survey, which yields higher levels of reporting of
racial stereotypes among white respondents. I find that negative stereotypes
about blacks significantly eroded white support for Barack Obama. Further, racial
stereotypes do not predict support for previous Democratic presidential
candidates or current prominent Democrats, indicating that white voters
punished Obama for his race rather than his party affiliation. Finally,
prejudice had a particularly large impact on the voting decisions of
Independents and a substantial impact on Democrats but very little influence on


From Politics
& Policy


The Anti-Immigrant Fervor in Georgia: Return of the
Nativist or Just Politics as Usual?


Debra Sabia


February 2010


This paper provides a review of various
literatures on immigration, immigration policy formation, and immigrant
reception with a particular focus on the state of Georgia. Existing scholarship
has largely failed to explain why immigration policy outcomes have varied from
state to state or how underlying factors might influence immigrant assimilation
or exclusion. In the case of Georgia, the legislative response to newcomers has
become increasingly inhospitable. What factors may account for this culture of
exclusion? What variables have influenced Georgia officials to take up the
anti-immigrant cause? What has been the impact on the Hispanic community, and,
finally, how may policy consequences influence future immigrant legislation in

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