washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH – MARCH 2010

From Public Opinion Quarterly

 

Social
desirability bias in voter turnout reports

Allyson L.
Holbrook and Jon A. Krosnick

March 2010

Surveys usually yield rates of voting in elections that are higher
than official turnout figures, a phenomenon often attributed to
intentional misrepresentation by respondents who did not vote and
would be embarrassed to admit that. The experiments reported here tested
the social desirability response bias hypothesis directly by
implementing a technique that allowed respondents to report secretly
whether they voted: the “item count technique.” The item
count technique significantly reduced turnout reports in a national
telephone survey relative to direct self-reports, suggesting that
social desirability response bias influenced direct self-reports in
that survey. But in eight national surveys of American adults
conducted via the Internet, the item count technique did not
significantly reduce turnout reports. This mode difference is
consistent with other evidence that the Internet survey mode may be
less susceptible to social desirability response bias because of
self-administration.

Direct
Democracy, Public Opinion, and Candidate Choice

Daniel A. Smith and Caroline J.
Tolbert

 

March 2010

 

Abstract  

We argue that the rich information environment created by ballot measures
makes some policy issues more salient, shaping voters’ positions on
broad topics such as the importance of the economy. This in turn may
affect candidate choice for national and statewide elected office.
We theorize that the creation of state-specific issue publics may be
the causal mechanism underlying this process. Using large-sample
national survey data with robust samples from the 50 U.S. states, we
test whether mass support for a specific policy–raising the minimum
wage–is higher in states where the issue is on the ballot, whether
being directly exposed to initiative campaigns elevates the importance
of broad issues like the economy, and whether the economic-related
ballot measures prime support for Democratic candidates. We find
that exposure to minimum-wage ballot measure campaigns in 2006
modified support for the policy among partisan subsamples (with
Democrats becoming more likely and Republicans less likely to
support the measure), increased the saliency of the economy in
general among these targeted populations, and primed support for
Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

U.S. Public
Support for the United Nations

 

Gregory G. Holyk

 

March 2010

 

Abstract

In the aftermath of the failure to come to a diplomatic resolution regarding
Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent military strike by the United States
and its allies without United Nations (UN) approval, the usefulness
and role of international diplomatic institutions such as the UN are
undergoing a reexamination. The U.S. public has shown a high degree
of general support for the UN since its inception. Although
judgments of UN performance rose and fell over the years, support
for strengthening the UN and for continued U.S. participation and
cooperation with the UN remained strong and stable. Most notably,
approval of UN performance dropped to an all-time low between 2003
and 2007, after the contentious debate over the use of force against
Iraq. Nonetheless, support for the UN has remained strong because
the U.S. public differentiates between criticism of UN performance and
support for the general purpose and aims of the UN.

 

From Political Science Quarterly

 

Perception,
Memory, and Partisan Polarization on the Iraq War

Gary C. Jacobson

March 2010

ABSTRACT 

GARY C. JACOBSON analyzes four surveys designed to
investigate partisan polarization on the Iraq war. He finds that modes of
motivated reasoning, including motivated skepticism and selective perception,
selective memory, and selective exposure, contributed strongly to the emergence
of the unusually wide differences of opinion on the war.

 

The Third Agenda in U.S.
Presidential Debates: Debate Watch and

Viewer Reactions, 19962004 by Diana B. Carlin, Kelly M.
McDonald,

Tammy Vigil, and Susan Buehler.
Westport, CT, Praeger Publishers,

2008. 283 pp. $64.95.

 

Review by William L. Benoit

 

March 2010

 

The bookʼs title pays homage to the important
concept advanced by Jackson-Beeck and Meadow that there are three agendas
involved in debates: those of candidates, those of the media, and those of the
public. This book is devoted to an appreciation of voters
ʼ perspectives on debates. It offers
new data and a perspective (qualitative) on presidential debates that differs
from most work in this area. Although some data in the book are from survey
research, the heart of this enterprise consists of analysis of quotations from
focus groups. Different kinds of data offer different advantages; the strengths
of this form of data are seeing things from the participants
ʼ (that is, votersʼ) perspective and greater depth of understanding
(the corresponding limitation, of course, is that qualitative data are not
optimal for supporting generalizations about populations). It is important that
we have a variety of forms of data for informing our understanding of
presidential debates. The book reports data from an impressive number of focus
groups

concerning
the presidential debates held in 1996, 2000, and 2004 (for example, 8,376
participants in 824 groups in 1996). Transcripts of the focus groups
ʼ discussions were examined by the
researchers and deployed to address a variety of topics: debate format,
character, issues, vice presidents, third-party candidates, as well as the
views of younger citizens and non-voters. The intent of the quotations used to
explore each of these topics is to
represent a theme or findingthat
reflects
ideas expressed by many others(p. 6), although occasionally the
book diverges from this approach to discuss
unique perspectives(p. 52) or
a
minority
viewpoint
(p. 93). The emphasis on data from focus groups is noticeably
less in the chapter on third-party candidates, because no specific questions in
the DebateWatch protocols addressed this topic,

although
some participants in focus groups volunteered opinions on it. These are
important topics, and the book illuminates all of them with data representing the
opinions of citizens.

Two
limitations deserve mention. First, the utterances offered in focus groups (and
on the limited survey data reported here) are self-report data. Self-report data
can be very illuminating, particularly if one is seeking to understand the perspectives
of voters. However, the fact that participants believe they learned from
debates may not be the best evidence for the claim that viewers in fact do learn
from debates (are
better informed[p. 109]). As it turns out, I
believe

that
political debates do inform (many) viewers; my point is that readers must be
aware of the limitations of self-report data. Second, I believe that the
concept of the Debate Watch program

encouraging
voters to watch debates in groups and then discuss the debates without (or
before) being exposed to comments from pundits
is worthwhile and healthy for
democracy as well as for the citizens who participate in this activity.
However, most voters do not experience debates in this fashion: too many do not
watch debates; too many are exposed to instant commentary from pundits; too few
discuss the debates with other citizens. This means we cannot automatically
assume that reactions of those who participate in Debate Watch activities are
like the reactions of those who are not part of a Debate Watch. Debate Watch is
intentionally
designed
to be a different (and hopefully better) experience. Perhaps the book would
best be considered an exploration of the potential of presidential debates when
voters experience them through the mechanism of Debate Watch and as an extended
(and persuasive) argument

for the
utility of Debate Watches. There is no question that this book offers a unique
and important contribution to the literature. It merits a place in libraries
and on scholars
ʼ bookshelves.

 

Can Welfare States Be
Sustained in a Global Economy? Lessons from Scandinavia

 

Eric S. Einhorn and John Logue

 

March 2010

 

ABSTRACT

ERIC S. EINHORN and JOHN LOGUE argue that the European social model can be
reformed without sacrificing its gains and that the Scandinavian states have
already adapted their welfare state models to meet demographic, social, and
economic challenges. They sketch the characteristics of the Scandinavian model,
including its underpinnings in encompassing organizations of the less well off,
the role of democratic corporatism in policymaking, and the importance of
empiricism, social trust, and solidarity in the development of public policy.

 

From Public Opinion Quarterly

 

Wars, Presidents, and Popularity: The
Political Cost(s) of War Re-Examined

Benny Geys

 

March 2010  

Extensive research demonstrates that war casualties depress incumbent
popularity. The present study argues that one should also account
for financial costs of wars, since a) such costs are substantial; b)
such costs are publicly observed and understood; and c) fiscal
policy affects incumbents’ approval ratings. Empirical evidence
using U.S. data for the period between 1948 and 2008 supports this theoretical
claim: pecuniary costs of warfare either directly affect presidential popularity (e.g., in
the Korean War) or their
inclusion affects the predicted political cost of war casualties
(e.g., in the Korean and Iraq/Afghanistan wars). Interestingly, the
adverse effect of war spending is strongest under favorable economic
conditions (i.e., low unemployment).

American
Public Opinion on Immigrants and Immigration Policy

 

Francine Segovia and Renatta Defever

 

March 2010

Since the issue of immigration and its effects on the United States
persists and discussions on the topic continue to intensify, this
article reviews public opinion trends on immigrants and immigration.
We review Americans’ overall assessment of immigrants and
immigration-related issues such as immigrant impact on the U.S.
economy, perceptions of elected officials’ performance on handling
immigration issues, and preferred approaches to immigration policy.
We draw our framework from Lapinski et al.’s 1997 Public Opinion Quarterly review of
public attitudes and beliefs regarding immigrants and immigration.
This study updates the trends presented in 1997, beginning in many
cases with the final time point presented in that earlier article
and including current national public opinion trends of questions not
previously documented but which have become relevant to the current
immigration debate. The current review reveals mixed attitudes,
dualities in Americans’ thinking, and splits on immigration issues.
In the current review, public opinion is at times ambivalent,
espousing certain attitudes that challenge others. In addition, less
extreme attitudes are revealed in the public’s view of certain
policies as compared with Lapinski et al.’s piece. Spanning what
will now be over a decade, public opinion indicates an increasing
concern over immigration issues in addition to a lack of confidence
in the ability of the country’s leaders to address them. More than
half of today’s immigrants came to the United States in the 1990s,
and their share of the population is at historically peak levels.
Estimates indicate that between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. foreign-born
population grew by more than 11 million. As the rise in the
immigrant population has increased, so have debates over how best to
handle immigration issues. Although policymakers have suggested a
variety of possible solutions, public opinion seems deeply divided
on how best to handle immigration.

Direct Democracy, Public Opinion, and
Candidate Choice

Daniel A. Smith and
Caroline J. Tolbert

 

March 2010

 

ABSTRACT

We argue that the rich information environment created by ballot measures
makes some policy issues more salient, shaping voters’ positions on
broad topics such as the importance of the economy. This in turn may
affect candidate choice for national and statewide elected office.
We theorize that the creation of state-specific issue publics may be
the causal mechanism underlying this process. Using large-sample
national survey data with robust samples from the 50 U.S. states, we
test whether mass support for a specific policy–raising the minimum
wage–is higher in states where the issue is on the ballot, whether
being directly exposed to initiative campaigns elevates the
importance of broad issues like the economy, and whether the
economic-related ballot measures prime support for Democratic
candidates. We find that exposure to minimum-wage ballot measure
campaigns in 2006 modified support for the policy among partisan
subsamples (with Democrats becoming more likely and Republicans less
likely to support the measure), increased the saliency of the
economy in general among these targeted populations, and primed
support for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

 

From Perspectives on Politics

 

It Takes a
State: A Policy Feedback Model of Women’s Political Representation

Eileen McDonagh

March 2010

Abstract

American
women attain more professional success in medicine, business, and higher
education than do most of their counterparts around the world. An enduring
puzzle is, therefore, why the US lags so far behind other countries when it
comes to women’s political representation. In 2008, women held only 16.8
percent of seats in the House of Representatives, a proportion that ranks
America lower than 83 other countries. This article addresses this conundrum.
It establishes that equal rights alone are insufficient to ensure equal access
to political office. Also necessary are public policies representing maternal
traits that voters associate with women. Such policies have feedback effects
that teach voters that the maternal traits attributed to women represent
strengths not only in the private sphere of the home but also in the public
sphere of the state. Most other democracies now have such policies in place,
but the United States lacks such policies, which accounts for its laggard
status with regard to the political representation of women.

What do Women
Really Know? A Gendered Analysis of Varieties of Political Knowledge

Dietlind Stolle and Elisabeth Gidengil

March 2010

Abstract

While
studies typically find that women know less about politics than do men,
feminist scholars have argued that these findings reflect gender-biased
measures that underestimate women’s political knowledge. This article evaluates
the feminist critique by taking a more expansive view of what constitutes
political knowledge. Using data from a large Canadian urban sample, we show
that gender gaps close or even reverse when people are queried about more
practical aspects of political knowledge, such as government benefits and
services. Our results also demonstrate that this type of knowledge is more
equally distributed than its conventional counterpart, though the women who are
the most likely to need government services and benefits are often the least
likely to know about them. Finally, we show that knowledge of government
services and benefits has a significant effect on women’s intended vote choice.
This article thus shows that more practical types of political knowledge might
serve as meaningful additions to existing definitions and measures of political
knowledge.

Staying the
Course: Presidential Leadership, Military Stalemate, and Strategic Inertia

Andrew J. Polsky

March 2010

Abstract

Military
stalemate in Iraq and Vietnam presents a puzzle: why do presidents persist in a
strategic course that has failed to secure the goals they defined when they
chose to embark upon war? In the face of a quagmire, presidents might choose
among three broad strategic options–disengagement, escalation, or continuity. I
argue that the first alternative, to withdraw, is made impossible by the
inflated rhetoric presidents invoke to sell a skeptical public on the necessity
for a limited war and by their own conviction (reinforced by core supporters)
that the price of defeat is too great. At the opposite pole lies the
possibility of full-scale mobilization. But because presidents during the
Vietnam and Iraq wars believed they could also pursue expensive domestic
agendas, they did not reserve the resources needed for large-scale escalation.
In the both cases, too, civilian leaders were deeply skeptical about their
military counterparts and discounted their caution that a greater military
commitment would be needed. Finally, as wars drag on, public disenchantment
prevents presidents from mustering the political support escalation would
require. Their early decisions thus leave them with no alternative to their
current strategic commitment.

Self-Segregation
or Deliberation? Blog Readership, Participation, and Polarization in American
Politics

Eric Lawrence, John Sides and Henry Farrell

March 2010

ABSTRACT

Political
scientists and political theorists debate the relationship between
participation and deliberation among citizens with different political
viewpoints. Blogs provide an important testing ground for their claims. We
examine deliberation, polarization, and political participation among blog
readers. We find that blog readers gravitate toward blogs that accord with
their political beliefs. Few read blogs on both the left and right of the
ideological spectrum. Furthermore, those who read left-wing blogs and those who
read right-wing blogs are ideologically far apart. Blog readers are more
polarized than either non-blog-readers or consumers of various television news
programs, and roughly as polarized as US senators. Blog readers also
participate more in politics than non-blog readers. Readers of blogs of
different ideological dispositions do not participate less than those who read
only blogs of one ideological disposition. Instead, readers of both left- and
right-wing blogs and readers of exclusively leftwing blogs participate at
similar levels, and both participate more than readers of exclusively
right-wing blogs. This may reflect social movement-building efforts by
left-wing bloggers.

 

From The Quarterly Journal of Political Science

 

Democratic
Accountability in Open Economies

Thomas Sattler, Patrick T. Brandt and John
R. Freeman

 

March, 2010

 

ABSTRACT

We analyze democratic accountability in open economies based on different
hypotheses about political evaluations and government responsiveness.
Specifically, we assess whether citizens primarily rely on government policies
or if they focus on economic outcomes resulting from these policies to evaluate
governments. Our empirical analysis relies on Bayesian structural vector
autoregression models for the British economy, aggregate monthly measures of
public opinion, and economic evaluations from 1984 to 2006. We find that voters
continuously monitor and strongly respond contemporaneously to changes in
monetary and fiscal policies, but less to changes in macroeconomic outcomes.
Voters also respond to policies differently when institutions change. When the
Bank of England became politically independent, citizens shifted their
attention toward fiscal policy, and the role of monetary policy in their
evaluations decreased significantly. Finally, politicians respond to voting
behavior by adjusting their policies in a sensible way. When vote intentions
and approval decrease, the government reacts to the public by adjusting fiscal
policy and, before the Bank of England became independent, also monetary
policy.

 

From Political Research Quarterly

 

Changing Mass Attitudes and Democratic Deepening

Matthew D. Fails and Heather Nicole Pierce

 

March 2010

ABSTRACT

A
large literature evaluates the correlates of mass attitudes toward
democracy because such attitudes are regarded as critical for the
stability and depth of democratic regimes. This article uses
cross-national public opinion surveys to conduct the first comprehensive
test of this conventional wisdom. The authors examine whether
aggregate levels of democratic legitimacy are related to the level,
stability, and deepening of democracy and find no empirical support
for these theoretical expectations. Rather, the authors find
evidence that legitimacy attitudes are significantly shaped by the
prior institutionalization of democracy, suggesting that the
existing literature may have reversed the direction of the causal
arrow.

“Pretty Prudent” or Rhetorically Responsive? The
American Public’s Support for Military Action

A. Cooper Drury, L. Marvin Overby, Adrian Ang, and
Yitan Li

ABSTRACT

In the United States, public support can play a crucial role in
the decisions to initiate and terminate military action. Some scholars
argue that the public holds “prudent” opinions regarding
the use of the military–supporting efforts to stop aggression but
not to engage in nation building. We argue that what seems like a
“prudent” opinion may be driven more by the White House’s
rhetoric. Experimental tests show that the rhetorical complexity has
a more powerful impact on the respondent’s support for military
action than the actual policy goal, although this result is
substantially tempered by political awareness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.