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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH – APRIL 2010

From The British
Journal of Political Science

 

Divided
We Fall: Opposition Fragmentation and the Electoral Fortunes of Governing
Parties

Ko
Maeda

April
2010

ABSTRACT

This article introduces the concept of opposition
fragmentation into the study of the determinants of election results. Empirical
studies have demonstrated that anti-government economic voting is likely to
take place where the clarity of responsibility (the degree to which voters can
attribute policy responsibility to the government) is high. This argument is
extended by focusing on the effects of the degree of opposition fragmentation
in influencing the extent to which poor economic performance decreases the
government’s vote share. With data from seventeen parliamentary democracies, it
is shown that when there are fewer opposition parties, the relationship between
economic performance and governing parties’ electoral fortune is stronger.
Opposition fragmentation appears to be as strong a factor as the clarity of
responsibility.

 

From Political Psychology

 

Political
Conservatism, Need for Cognitive Closure, and Intergroup Hostility

 

Agnieszka Golec De Zavala, Aleksandra Cislak and
Elzbieta Wesolowska

April 2010

ABSTRACT

Two studies examined the interaction of political conservatism
and the need for cognitive closure in predicting aggressiveness in intergroup
conflict and hostility toward outgroups. In the first study, Polish
participants indicated their preference for coercive conflict strategies in the
context of a real-life intergroup conflict. Only among participants who
identify themselves as conservative, need for cognitive closure was positively
and significantly related to preference for aggressive actions against the
outgroup. In the second study, the predicted interaction was investigated in
the context of the terrorist threat in Poland. The findings indicated that high
in need for closure conservatives showed greater hostility against Arabs and
Muslims only when they believed that Poland was under threat of terrorist
attacks inspired by Islamist fundamentalism.

Ethnic
Minority-Majority Asymmetry in National Attitudes around the World: A
Multilevel Analysis

 

Christian Staerklé, Jim Sidanius, Eva
G. T.
Green and Ludwin E. Molina

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

Using data from the International Social Survey Programme,
this research investigated asymmetric attitudes of ethnic minorities and
majorities towards their country and explored the impact of human development,
ethnic diversity, and social inequality as country-level moderators of national
attitudes. In line with the general hypothesis of ethnic asymmetry, we found
that ethnic, linguistic, and religious majorities were more identified with the
nation and more strongly endorsed nationalist ideology than minorities (H1, 33
countries). Multilevel analyses revealed that this pattern of asymmetry was
moderated by country-level characteristics: the difference between minorities
and majorities was greatest in ethnically diverse countries and in egalitarian,
low inequality contexts. We also observed a larger positive correlation between
ethnic subgroup identification and both national identification and nationalism
for majorities than for minorities (H2, 20 countries). A stronger overall
relationship between ethnic and national identification was observed in
countries with a low level of human development. The greatest minority-majority
differences in the relationship between ethnic identification and national
attitudes were found in egalitarian countries with a strong welfare state
tradition.

 

From Public Opinion Quarterly

 

Residential
Mobility, Family Structure, and The Cell-Only Population

Stephen Ansolabehere and Brian F. Schaffner


April 2010  

The cell-phone-only (CPO) population has grown rapidly over the
past several years, causing concern for researchers who rely mostly
on random digit dialing (RDD) of landlines to conduct their
research. While early research on CPOs has focused largely on age
differences, CPOs may differ from those with landlines in many other
ways even after controlling for age. In this article, we use the
Cooperative Congressional Election Study–an Internet survey based on
matched random sampling–and the American National Election Study–an
in-person survey based on stratified residential sampling–to examine
the potential effects of the cell-only population for survey
research. These surveys are ideal for studying the causes and
consequences of cell-only lifestyles for survey research because
they reach cell-only and landline respondents through a single
sampling frame. We reach two main conclusions: (1) CPO households
are not simply a function of age, but of other factors as well,
especially residential mobility and family structure; and (2) there
are notable differentials in vote preferences and turnout between
CPOs and others.

Race And Turnout
In U.S. Elections Exposing Hidden Effects

Benjamin J. Deufel and Orit Kedar

 

April 2010

We demonstrate that the use of self-reported turnout data
often results in misleading inferences about racial differences in
turnout. We theorize about the mechanism driving report of turnout and,
utilizing ANES turnout data in presidential elections from 1976 to
1988 (all years for which comparable validated data are available),
we empirically model report of turnout as well as the relationship
between reported and actual turnout. We apply the model to the two
subsequent presidential elections in which validated data are not
available, 1992 and 1996. Our findings suggest that African
Americans turned out almost 20 percentage points less than did
Whites in the 1992 and 1996 U.S. presidential elections–almost
double the gap that the self-reported data indicates. In contrast
with previous research, we show that racial differences in factors
predicting turnout make African Americans less likely to vote
compared to Whites and thus increase their probability of
overreporting. At the same time, when controlling for this effect,
other things equal, African Americans overreport electoral
participation more than Whites.

 

From The
Forum

 

The Scenic Road
to Nowhere: Reflections on the History of National Health Insurance in the
United States

Edward D. Berkowitz

April, 2010

Abstract

This historical essay looks at the changing meaning of
health insurance over time and explains how broad economic and political forces
have created that meaning at any one time but that these forces interact with
the contingencies of the moment to produce a particular outcome. That outcome
in turn influences the subsequent development of health insurance.

Harry Reid and Health Care Reform in the
Senate: Transactional Leadership in a Transformational Moment?

Vincent G. Moscardelli

April 2010

Abstract

On December 24, 2009, the United States Senate passed H.R.
3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by a vote of 60-39. Final
passage was the culmination of over a month of behind-the-scenes negotiations
and strategy sessions coordinated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
In this paper, I trace and evaluate Harry Reid’s coalition-building efforts
on health care reform in the months leading up to the Christmas Eve vote using
concepts drawn from the political science literature on legislative leadership.
I conclude that Reid adopted precisely the transactional,
“keep-the-chains-moving” leadership posture that matched both the
institution he leads and his limited personal investment in the issue of health
care prior to 2009. Efforts to paint Reid’s performance on this issue as a
failure of leadership ignore the extent to which contextual factors in the
Senate were stacked against reform.

Simulating Representation: Elite
Mobilization and Political Power in Health Care Reform

Robert Y. Shapiro and Lawrence Jacobs

April 2010

Abstract

The debate and the outcome in the Obama Administration’s drive to enact
national health care reform illustrate the conditional nature of democratic
governance in the United States, a blend of partisan policy maximization and
elite mobilization strategies that exploit core public policy preferences. The
public’s core policy preferences have, for some time, favored expanding access
to health insurance, regulating private insurers to ensure reliable coverage,
and increasing certain taxes to pay for these programs. Yet the intensely
divisive debate over reform generated several notable gaps between proposed
policies and public opinion for two reasons.

First, Democratic policymakers and their supporters pushed for certain
specific means for pursuing these broad policy goals—namely, mandates on
individuals to obtain health insurance coverage and the imposition of an excise
tax on high-end health insurance plans—that the public opposed. Second, core
public support for reform flipped into majority opposition in reaction to
carefully crafted messages aimed at frightening Americans and especially by
partisan polarization that cued Republican voters into opposition while they
unnerved independents. The result suggests a critical change in American
democracy, originating in transformations at the elite level and involving,
specifically, increased incentives to attempt to move the public in the
direction of policy goals favored by elites policies and to rally their
partisan base, rather than to respond to public wishes.

Why the “Death Panel” Myth
Wouldn’t Die: Misinformation in the Health Care Reform Debate

Brendan Nyhan

April 2010

Abstract

Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama struggled to overcome
widespread and persistent myths about their proposals to reform the American
health care system. Their difficulties highlight the influence of factual
misinformation in national politics and the extent to which it correlates with
citizens’ political views. In this essay, I explain how greater elite
polarization and the growth in media choice have reinforced the partisan divide
in factual beliefs. To illustrate these points, I analyze debates over health
care reform in 1993—1994 and 2009—2010, tracing the spread of false claims
about reform proposals from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and analyzing the
prevalence of misinformation in public opinion. Since false beliefs are
extremely difficult to correct, I conclude by arguing that increasing the
reputational costs for dishonest elites might be a more effective approach to
improving democratic discourse.

Loss Aversion and the Framing of the Health
Care Reform Debate

David L. Eckles and Brian F. Schaffner

April 2010

Abstract

The high-stakes debate over health care reform captured the
public’s attention for nearly a year. Options ranging from fully nationalized
insurance to maintaining the status quo were considered, though little
consensus as to the appropriate solution emerged. Most surveys indicated an
agreement that a problem existed with the current health care system and a
clear and consistent majority favored taking some action on health care reform.
However, clear public support for any specific reform proposal was difficult to
muster since most individuals also indicated satisfaction with their own health
care. This paper explores this disconnect in public opinion within the context
of loss aversion. We note that even as elites actively attempted to frame the
issue to counteract the public’s loss averse tendencies, these strategies met
with little success in generating support for Obama’s reform plan. However, we
also argue that these loss averse tendencies will now work against any
Republican efforts to repeal the health reform legislation.

Public Opinion on Health Care Reform

Andrew Gelman, Daniel Lee and Yair Ghitza

April, 2010

Abstract

We use multilevel modeling to estimate support for health-care reform by
age, income, and state. Opposition to reform is concentrated among
higher-income voters and those over 65. Attitudes do not vary much by state.
Unfortunately, our poll data only go to 2004, but we suspect that much can be
learned from the relative positions of different demographic groups
and different states, despite swings in national opinion. We speculate on the
political implications of these findings.

Review of Presidential Party Building:
Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush

Jesse H. Rhodes

April, 2010

Abstract

This article reviews Daniel Galvin’s Presidential Party Building
(Princeton University Press, 2010).

 

From Perspectives on Politics

 

After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy, by Christopher J. Coyne

Graciana del Castillo

April 2010

ABSTRACT

This is a highly readable book that provides
strong and rigorous arguments to prove a thesis that is intuitive to many but
still denied by some–that the United States foreign policy of using military
intervention, occupation, and reconstruction to establish liberal democracies
across the world is more likely to fail than to succeed.

 

From the American
Journal of Political Science

 

Partisan Polarization
and Congressional Accountability in House Elections

David R. Jones

April 2010

ABSTRACT

Early research led scholars to believe that
institutional accountability in Congress is lacking because public evaluations
of its collective performance do not affect the reelection of its members.
However, a changed partisan environment along with new empirical evidence
raises unanswered questions about the effect of congressional performance on
incumbents’ electoral outcomes over time. Analysis of House reelection races
across the last several decades produces important findings: (1) low
congressional approval ratings generally reduce the electoral margins of
majority party incumbents and increase margins for minority party incumbents;
(2) partisan polarization in the House increases the magnitude of this partisan
differential, mainly through increased electoral accountability among majority
party incumbents; (3) these electoral effects of congressional performance
ratings hold largely irrespective of a member’s individual party loyalty or
seat safety. These findings carry significant implications for partisan
theories of legislative organization and help explain salient features of
recent Congresses.

Party Strength, the
Personal Vote, and Government Spending

 

David M. Primo James
M.
Snyder, Jr.

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

“Strong” political parties within
legislatures are one possible solution to the problem of inefficient
universalism, a norm under which all legislators seek large projects for their
districts that are paid for out of a common pool. We demonstrate that even if
parties have no role in the legislature, their role in elections can be
sufficient to reduce spending. If parties in the electorate are strong, then
legislators will demand less distributive spending because of a decreased
incentive to secure a “personal vote” via local projects. We estimate
that spending in states with strong party organizations is at least 4% smaller
than in states where parties are weak. We also find evidence that strong party
states receive less federal aid than states with weak organizations, and we
theorize that this is because members of Congress from strong party states feel
less compelled to secure aid than members from weak party states.

Candidate Valence and
Ideological Positions in U.S. House Elections

 

Walter J. Stone 
and
Elizabeth N. Simas

 

April 2010

ABSTRACT

We examine the relationship between the valence
qualities of candidates and the ideological positions they take in U.S. House
elections based on a study of the 2006 midterm elections. Our design enables us
to distinguish between campaign and character dimensions of candidate valence
and to place candidates and districts on the same ideological scale. Incumbents
with a personal-character advantage are closer ideologically to their district
preferences, while disadvantaged challengers take more extreme policy
positions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, challengers can reap electoral
rewards by taking more extreme positions relative to their districts. We
explore a possible mechanism for this extremism effect by demonstrating that
challengers closer to the extreme received greater financial contributions,
which enhanced their chances of victory. Our results bear on theories of
representation that include policy and valence, although the interactions
between these two dimensions may be complex and counterintuitive.

The World Wide Web
and the U.S. Political News Market

 

Norman H. Nie, 
Darwin W. Miller III, Saar Golde, Daniel
M.
Butler and  Kenneth Winneg

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

We propose a framework for understanding how the
Internet has affected the U.S. political news market. The framework is driven
by the lower cost of production for online news and consumers’ tendency to seek
out media that conform to their own beliefs. The framework predicts that
consumers of Internet news sources should hold more extreme political views and
be interested in more diverse political issues than those who solely consume
mainstream television news. We test these predictions using two large datasets
with questions about news exposure and political views. Generally speaking, we
find that consumers of generally left-of-center (right-of-center) cable news
sources who combine their cable news viewing with online sources are more
liberal (conservative) than those who do not. We also find that those who use
online news content are more likely than those who consume only television news
content to be interested in niche political issues.

 

From The Journal of Politics

 

The Blind
Leading the Blind: Who Gets Polling Information and Does it Improve Decisions?

Cheryl Boudreau and Matthew D. McCubbins

April 2010

Abstract

We analyze whether and when polls help
citizens to improve their decisions. Specifically, we use experiments to
investigate (1) whether and when citizens are willing to obtain polls and (2)
whether and when polls help citizens to make better choices than they would
have made on their own. We find that citizens are more likely to obtain polls
when the decisions they must make are difficult and when they are
unsophisticated. Ironically, when the decisions are difficult, the pollees are
also uninformed and, therefore, do not provide useful information. We also find
that when polls indicate the welfare-improving choice, citizens are able to
improve their decisions. However, when polls indicate a choice that will make
citizens worse off, citizens make worse decisions than they would have made on
their own. These results hold regardless of whether the majority in favor of
one option over the other is small or large.

Policy by
Contract: electoral cycles, parties and social pacts, 1974-2000

John S. Ahlquist

April 2010

ABSTRACT

Formal policy agreements between governments
and major peak associations–social pacts–are a useful way to explore issues of
election-induced variation in economic policymaking. I argue that pacts are
part of an electoral strategy for political parties. They are one way a party
can convince voters that economic outcomes under its rule will be better than
those under a challenger. I show that pacts can emerge as part of equilibrium
behavior in a repeated game but only if the policymaker is sufficiently willing
to work with unions. There is no reason for a pact to exist in the absence of
electoral incentives. I hypothesize that pacts are more likely to be struck
nearer to elections and with greater Left participation in government. Using an
original dataset on social pacts in the OECD, 1974-2000, I find evidence that the
onset of pacts is related to elections, partisanship, and EMU convergence
pressures.

 

From Electoral Studies

 

Transformation and
Polarization: The 2008 Presidential Election and the New American Electorate

References and further reading may be available for this article. To view
references and further reading you must purchase this article.

Alan I. Abramowitz

April 2010

Abstract

Along with the unpopularity of President Bush and the dire condition of the
U.S. economy, changes in the composition of the American electorate played a
major role in Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2008 presidential
election. The doubling of the nonwhite share of the electorate between 1992 and
2008 was critical to Obama’s election as African-American and other nonwhite
voters provided him with a large enough margin to overcome a substantial
deficit among white voters. In addition, voters under the age of 30 preferred
Obama by a better than 2-1 margin, accounting for more than 80 percent of his popular
vote margin. Despite the overall Democratic trend, the results revealed an
increasingly polarized electorate. Over the past three decades the coalitions
supporting the two major parties have become much more distinctive
geographically, racially, and ideologically. The growth of the nonwhite
electorate along with the increasing liberalism and Democratic identification
of younger voters suggest that a successful Obama presidency could put the
Democratic Party in a position to dominate American politics for many years.
However, these trends appear to be provoking an intense reaction from some
opponents of the President. The frustration and anger displayed at “tea party”
demonstrations and town hall meetings may reflect not just discomfort with
Barack Obama’s race but the perceived threat that Obama and his supporters
represent to the social status and power of those on the opposing side.

The Dynamic
Political Economy of Support for Barack Obama During the 2008 Presidential
Election Campaign

Thomas J. Scotto, Harold D. Clarke, Allan Kornberg, Jason Reifler, David
Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart, Paul Whiteley

April 2010

Abstract

In recent years, students of voting behavior have become increasingly
interested in valence politics models of electoral choice. These models share
the core assumption that key issues in electoral politics typically are ones
upon which there is a widespread public consensus on the goals of public
policy. The present paper uses latent curve modeling procedures and data from a
six-wave national panel survey of the American electorate to investigate the
dynamic effects of voters’ concerns with the worsening economy–a valence issue par excellence–in the skein of causal
forces at work in the 2008 presidential election campaign. As the campaign
developed, the economy became the dominant issue. Although the massively
negative public reaction to increasingly perilous economic conditions was not
the only factor at work in 2008, dynamic multivariate analyses show that
mounting worries about the economy played an important role in fueling Barack
Obama’s successful run for the presidency.

 

From Social Science Research

 

Political
Partisanship, Race, and Union Strength from 1970 to 2000: A Pooled Time-Series
Analysis

References and further reading may be available for this article. To view
references and further reading you must purchase this article.

David Jacobsa and Marc Dixon

April 2010

Abstract

This paper reports findings that assess the relationship between the
resurgence in conservative political strength and union density in the United
States. The conservative Republican return to political power after 1968 is
likely to have produced added declines in union membership. Yet despite close
political regulation of labor-management disputes, sociologists have paid
little attention to the influential political determinants of success in these
contests. Using fixed-effects estimation, this analysis assesses the
relationship between the political strength of the political party most hostile
to labor and union density. With multiple factors held constant, the results
suggest that increased Republican presence in the state legislatures along with
Republican control of the presidency and the governor’s office after 1989
helped to reduce union memberships. The results also indicate that increases in
the percentage of African Americans produces greater union strength but not in
the ex-Confederate states. Added findings suggest two policies controlled by
the states have influential effects on this outcome.

 

From PS: Political Science & Politics

 

What Might Bring
Regular Order Back to the House?

 

Matthew Green and Daniel Burns

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

It is not hard to find critics of how the U.S. Congress
operates today. Two of the most prominent, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein,
have bemoaned in particular Congress’s failure to follow “regular order,” which
in their 2006 book The
Broken Branch
they describe as a legislative process that
incorporates “discussion, debate, negotiation, and compromise” (Mann and
Ornstein 2006, 170).

Demographic Change and
the Future of Congress

Kathryn Pearson

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

The United States population is changing in significant ways:
it is growing larger, older, and more racially and ethnically diverse, and
these changes are regionally concentrated. How will these changes affect the
future of Congress? In this article, I show that demographic change has
significant implications for the quality of representation, the legislative
agenda, party coalitions, and the diversity of congressional membership in the
future, even as change inside Congress will proceed more slowly than change
outside it.

Did Bush Voters
Cause Obama’s Victory?

Arthur Lupia

 

April 2010

ABSTRACT

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama’s campaign brought many new
voters to the polls. Were these new voters necessary for Obama’s victory? In
this study, I find that they were not. The basis of this finding is an
examination of decisions made by people who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. I
show that Bush voters’ decisions not to vote or to support Obama were a
sufficient condition for Obama’s victory.

When Ballot Issues
Matter: Social Issue Ballot Measures and Their Impact on Turnout

Daniel R. Biggers

April 2010

ABSTRACT

Evidence for whether direct democracy positively affects turnout is mixed,
which can be attributed to a theoretical ambiguity about the proper way to
measure the institution. The most common measure, a count of the number of
initiatives on the ballot, is incomplete, because it unrealistically assumes
that all propositions have an equal impact on turnout and focuses exclusively
on initiatives. These deficiencies are addressed by looking at the issue
content of all ballot measures. I find that the number of social issues on the
ballot, because they are highly salient, tap into existing social cleavages,
help to overcome barriers to voting, and fit within a framework of expressive
choice, had a positive impact on turnout for all midterm and some presidential
elections since 1992. In contrast to previous findings, however, the total
number of propositions on the ballot was rarely associated with an increase in
turnout. I discuss the implications of these findings in the conclusion.

 

From Political Research Quarterly

 

The Paradox of
Redistricting: How Partisan Mapmakers Foster Competition but Disrupt
Representation

Antoine Yoshinaka,
Ph.D. and Chad Murphy

 

April 2010

 

ABSTRACT

 

The authors examine constituency changes induced by
redistricting and ask three questions: What explains the amount of
instability and uncertainty induced by redistricting? Does
uncertainty affect legislators’ career choices? How do these changes
affect election outcomes? The authors show that partisan
redistricting plans are able to produce significant instability
between elections, especially for opposing-party incumbents. Their
findings have important implications for representation: through
redistricting, strategic actors can disrupt the stability that many
theorists would consider paramount for the operation of a democratic
republic. The authors show that the effects of redistricting go
beyond the simple examination of changes in each district’s
underlying partisanship.

 

From Quarterly Journal of Political Science

 

Political Information
Acquisition for Social Exchange

Gani Aldashev

April 2010

ABSTRACT

Why do citizens get politically informed in a democracy? On one hand, being
informed allows a citizen to participate in political discussions within her
social network. On the other hand, having an informed opinion can help her to
extend her social network. This paper builds a simple model on these insights
and finds that effort in political information acquisition has inverted-U shape
in the size of social network. The data from the 2000 American National
Election Study and the 2002-2006 European Social Surveys confirm this theory:
political information acquisition, political knowledge, and interest in
politics increase with the size of social network, at a decreasing rate. The
effect of social network is much weaker for the political efficacy measures for
the United States, but not for Europe.

 

From Political
Behavior

 

How Sophistication
Affected The 2000 Presidential Vote: Traditional Sophistication Measures Versus
Conceptualization

Herbert F. Weisberg and
Steven P. Nawara

April 2010

ABSTRACT  

The 2000 Presidential vote is modeled using voter
sophistication as a source of heterogeneity. Three measures of sophistication
are employed: education, knowledge, and the levels of conceptualization.
Interacting them with vote predictors shows little meaningful variation.
However, removing the assumption of ordinality from the levels of
conceptualization uncovers considerable heterogeneity in the importance of the
vote predictors in explaining the vote. Thus, different sophistication measures
should not be treated as equivalent, nor combined as if they are equivalent.
Few of the issue and candidate components are relevant to those with a less
sophisticated understanding of politics. The opposite partisan attachments of
the two most sophisticated groups suggest that sophistication’s impact on the
vote can be confounded by partisanship.

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