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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


From Political Behavior


Does Economic
Inequality Depress Electoral Participation? Testing the Schattschneider

Frederick Solt

June 2010


Nearly a half-century ago, E.E. Schattschneider wrote that
the high abstention and large differences between the rates of electoral
participation of richer and poorer citizens found in the United States
were caused by high levels of economic inequality. Despite increasing
inequality and stagnant or declining voting rates since then, Schattschneider’s
hypothesis remains largely untested. This article takes advantage of the
variation in inequality across states and over time to remedy this oversight.
Using a multilevel analysis that combines aspects of state context with
individual survey responses in 144 gubernatorial elections, it finds that
citizens of states with greater income inequality are less likely to vote and
that income inequality increases income bias in the electorate, lending
empirical support to Schattschneider’s argument.

Taking Threat Seriously: Prejudice, Principle, and
Attitudes Toward Racial Policies

 Christina Suthammanont , David A.
M. Peterson , Chris T. Owens  and Jan E.

 June 2010


Drawing from group theories of
race-related attitudes and electoral politics, we develop and test how anxiety
influences the relative weight of prejudice as a determinant of individuals’
support for racial policies. We hypothesize that prejudice will more strongly
influence the racial policy preferences of people who are feeling anxious than
it will for people who are not. Using an experimental design we manipulate
subjects’ levels of threat and find significant treatment effects, as hypothesized.
We find that individuals’ racial policy attitudes are partially conditional on
their affective states: individuals who feel anxious report less support for
racial policies than those individuals who do not feel anxious, even when this
threat is stimulated by non-racial content. More broadly, we conclude that
affect is central to a better understanding of individuals’ political attitudes
and behaviors.



From Political Research Quarterly


Gender and the
Perception of Knowledge in Political Discussion

Jeanette Morehouse Mendez  and Tracy Osborn

June 2010


Differences in knowledge about politics between men and
women have the potential to affect political discussion. We examine
differences in the perception of political knowledge between men
and women and the effects these differences have on how often men
and women talk about politics. We find both men and women perceive
women to be less knowledgeable about politics and men to be more
knowledgeable, regardless of the actual level of knowledge each
discussion partner holds. This perceptual knowledge gap could have
ramifications for discussion as political participation, since
people turn to those they perceive to be experts to gather political

The Impact of
Descriptive Representation on Women’s Political Engagement: Does Party Matter?

Beth Reingold and Jessica Harrell

June 2010


Recent research raises doubts about whether the presence of women
contesting or occupying prominent public office enhances women’s political
engagement. Taking into account both gender and party congruence
between politicians and constituents, the authors find that it is
primarily female candidates of the same party who enhance women’s
interest in politics. The stronger impact of party-congruent (over
party-incongruent) female candidates can be attributed to either
greater visibility or agreement on substantive issues. Party
matters, but rather than obscuring the role of gender in electoral
politics, it enhances our understanding of how, or under what
conditions, it works.

Reducing the Costs of Participation: Are
States Getting a Return on Early Voting?

Joseph D. Giammo and Brian J. Brox

June 2010


The authors address the puzzle of why governments have implemented methods
of early voting when those methods appear not to have an effect on
turnout. Using an aggregate analysis, the authors find that early
voting seems to produce a short-lived increase in turnout that
disappears by the second presidential election in which it is
available. They also address whether the additional costs to
government are worth the negligible increase in participation. They
conclude that these reforms merely offer additional convenience for
those already likely to vote.

Balance or
Dominance? Party Competition in Congressional Politics

Suzanne M. Robbins and Helmut Norpoth

June 2010


With a pioneering application of probability models in political science,
Stokes and Iversen established “the existence of forces restoring
party competition.” Whatever the margin of victory in a given
election, the partisan vote subsequently tends to return to the
point of equal division. The authors introduce an expanded test of
electoral equilibrium that allows for effects of major realignments
and regional differences, using congressional elections since 1828.
They find that the vote division gravitates to the mean but that the
mean vote, in most periods of American history and in several
regions, departs significantly from the point of equal division and
in some instances is prone to a pronounced drift. Hence, during much
of their lifetime, many Americans do not experience, in
congressional elections, party competition that gives the opposition
much of a chance to win.

The Electoral
Benefits of Distributive Spending

Jeffrey Lazarus and Shauna Reilly


Prior studies search for evidence that distributive spending influences
Congress members’ vote shares but find limited evidence. The authors
argue that Democratic and Republican members each benefit from
different types of distributive projects. Democrats benefit from
delivering spending projects (what most people think of as
“pork”) to their constituents, while many Republican
members benefit from delivering contingent liabilities (in which the
federal treasury underwrites a private entity’s financial risk).
Empirical tests using data from U.S. House elections between 1984
and 2002 generally confirm these hypotheses, with one exception:
only Republicans in relatively conservative districts gain from contingent
liabilities. This result is further explored in the text.

Carving Voters Out: Redistricting’s
Influence on Political Information, Turnout, and Voting Behavior

Jonathan Winburn and Michael Wagner

June 2010


This article examines how the splitting of counties into multiple congressional
districts affects citizens’ abilities to recall House candidates,
turnout, roll off their congressional vote, and cast straight-ticket
ballots. We demonstrate that while voters living in the “short
end of the split” are less likely to recall their House
candidates, they do behave similarly at the ballot box to voters
drawn into districts containing their natural community of interest.
Our results suggest the Supreme Court’s traditional focus on
population equality across congressional districts might be more
appropriately administered in concert with respect for natural
communities of interest such as counties.


 From Politics & Society


Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of
Top Incomes in the United

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

June 2010


The dramatic rise in inequality in the United States
over the past generation has occasioned considerable attention from
economists, but strikingly little from students of American
politics. This has started to change: in recent years, a small but
growing body of political science research on rising inequality has
challenged standard economic accounts that emphasize apolitical processes
of economic change. For all the sophistication of this new
scholarship, however, it too fails to provide a compelling account
of the political sources and effects of rising inequality. In
particular, these studies share with dominant economic accounts three
weaknesses: (1) they downplay the distinctive feature of American
inequality –namely, the extreme concentration of income gains at the
top of the economic ladder; (2) they miss the profound role of
government policy in creating this “winner-take-all”
pattern; and (3) they give little attention or weight to the
dramatic long-term transformation of the organizational landscape of
American politics that lies behind these changes in policy. These
weaknesses are interrelated, stemming ultimately from a conception
of politics that emphasizes the sway (or lack thereof) of the
“median voter” in electoral politics, rather than the
influence of organized interests in the process of policy making. A
perspective centered on organizational and policy change –one that
identifies the major policy shifts that have bolstered the economic
standing of those at the top and then links those shifts to concrete
organizational efforts by resourceful private interests –fares much
better at explaining why the American political economy has become
distinctively winner-take-all.

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