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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


from Electoral Studies
Estimating the Potential Impact of Nonvoters on Outcomes of Parliamentary Elections in Proportional Systems with an Application to German National Elections from 1949 to 2009
Ulrich Kohler
February 2011
“If turnout was 100%, would it affect the election result?” is a frequently asked research question. So far, the question has been primarily answered regarding the changes in the distribution of votes. This article extends the analysis to changes in the distribution of seats and government formation. It therefore proposes a method that fact ors in apportionment methods, barring clauses, sizes of parliaments, leverage of nonvoters, closeness of election results, and individual characteristics of nonvoters. The method is then applied to German national elections from 1949 to 2009. The application shows that Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) would have gained from the counterfactual participation of nonvoters, although usually not enough to result in a government change. However, the elections of 1994 and 2005 show evidence that such a change could have happened.
from Political Behavior
The Poverty of Participation: Self Interest, Student Loans and Student Activism
Joshua Ozymy
February 2011
Political scientists maintain that self-interest should motivate political participation; however, empirical verification of the self-interest motive for participating is rare. Self-interested activism among the less-affluent is shown to be even more uncommon. Results of the present study suggest that when lower-income college students have resources and increased self-interest motives to act, not only do they choose to participate, they do so at higher levels than their more affluent peers. Utilizing policy-motivated activism (defined as voting, contributing, and contacting officials) with respect to student loans, the analysis suggests that the probability of contacting increases among student borrowers as their income decreases. Results suggest that lower-income borrowers are more likely to participate out of concern for the program than their higher-income counterparts, and self-interest explains the behavior.
Did Disfranchisement Laws Help Elect President Bush? New Evidence on the Turnout Rates and Candidate Preferences of Florida’s Ex-Felons
Traci Burch
February 2011
This paper re-examines the impact of Florida’s disfranchisement law on the 2000 Presidential election. The analysis simulates outcomes in Florida under scenarios consistent with the turnout rates of Georgia and North Carolina ex-felons in 2000 and Florida ex-felons in 2008. Survey evidence on candidate preferences as well as data on ex-felon party registration in Florida and North Carolina are used to produce estimates of support for Bush and Gore among ex-felons. Based on the simulations, the ex-felon population in Florida would have favored Bush in 2000. Assuming that ex-felons supported Gore at rates similar to GSS respondents with at most a high school diploma, Bush would have defeated Gore by 4,925 and 7,048 votes, assuming turnout of 10 and 15%, respectively.
Updating Political Evaluations: Policy Attitudes, Partisanship, and Presidential Assessments
Benjamin Highton
The pervasive influence of partisanship on political evaluations is well known and understood. Whether citizens rely on their policy attitudes has received less attention, especially in the context of how people update and revise their evaluations. This paper focuses on presidential assessments and uses panel data covering three presidencies to model the determinants of opinion change. The results indicate that policy preferences (like partisanship) exert a regular and substantial influence on how citizens update their presidential evaluations.
from Political PsychologyExploring the Valence-Framing Effect: Negative Framing Enhances Attitude Strength
George Y. Bizer, Jeff T. Larsen and Richard E. Petty
February 2011
In his now-classic research on inoculation theory, McGuire (1964) demonstrated that exposing people to an initial weak counterattitudinal message could lead to enhanced resistance to a subsequent stronger counterattitudinal message. More recently, research on the valence-framing effect (Bizer & Petty, 2005) demonstrated an alternative way to make attitudes more resistant. Simply framing a person’s attitude negatively (i.e., in terms of a rejected position such as anti-Democrat) led to more resistance to an attack on that attitude than did framing the same attitude positively (i.e., in terms of a preferred position such as pro-Republican). Using an election context, the current research tested whether valence framing influences attitude resistance specifically or attitude strength more generally, providing insight into the effect’s mechanism and generalizability. In two experiments, attitude valence was manipulated by framing a position either negatively or positively. Experiment 1 showed that negatively framed attitudes were held with more certainty than were positively framed attitudes. In Experiment 2, conducted among a representative sample of residents of two U.S. states during political campaigns, negatively framed attitudes demonstrated higher levels of attitude certainty and attitude-consistent behavioral intentions than did attitudes that were framed positively. Furthermore, the effect of valence framing on behavioral intentions was mediated by attitude certainty. Valence framing thus appears to be a relatively low-effort way to impact multiple features associated with strong attitudes.
The End of the Solidly Democratic South: The Impressionable-Years Hypothesis
Danny Osborne, David O. Sears and Nicholas A. Valentino
February 2011
The partisan realignment of the White South, which transformed this region from being solidly Democratic to being the base of the Republican Party, has been the focus of much scholarship. Exactly how it occurred is unclear. Widespread individual-level attitude changes would be contrary to the well-known within-person stability of party identification. However, according to the impressionable-years hypothesis, events that occur during adolescence and early adulthood may have a lasting impact on later political attitudes. This would suggest that cohort replacement may be driving partisan realignment. We test this possibility using data from the American National Election Studies from 1960 to 2008. Consistent with the impressionable-years hypothesis, Southern Whites from the pre-Civil Rights cohort (born before 1936) maintained their Democratic Party identification longer than their younger counterparts. However, all cohorts in the South have changed their partisan attitudes at comparable rates over time, contrary to the impressionable-years hypothesis. These data suggest that the partisan realignment of the South was driven by both cohort replacement and within-cohort attitude change. More targeted case studies of older cohorts living through the civil rights era, and of younger cohorts in the post-Reagan era, yield results generally consistent with the impressionable-years hypothesis. More generally, our findings suggest that very large scale events are required to disrupt the normal continuity of party identification across the life span.
Religious Appeals and Implicit Attitudes
Bethany L. Albertson
February 2011
This article explores the effects of religious appeals by politicians on attitudes and behavior. Although politicians frequently make religious appeals, the effectiveness of these appeals and the mechanisms of persuasion are unknown. This article explores the possibility that religious language can affect political attitudes through implicit processes. Because religious attachments are formed early in the lives of many Americans, religious language may influence citizens without their awareness. Implicit and explicit attitudes are related but distinct constructs, and implicit attitudes may have behavioral implications in the political realm. I test these hypotheses experimentally, relying on a widely used implicit measure, the Implicit Association Test. I find that a Christian religious appeal affects implicit attitudes and political behavior among people who currently or previously identify as Christian. Furthermore, an explicit preference for less religion in politics does not moderate implicit effects.
How Exposure to the Confederate Flag Affects Willingness to Vote for Barack Obama
Joyce Ehrlinger, E. Ashby Plant, Richard P. Eibach, Corey J. Columb, Joanna L. Goplen, Jonathan W. Kunstman and David A. Butz
February 2011
Leading up to the 2008 U.S. election, pundits wondered whether Whites, particularly in Southern states, were ready to vote for a Black president. The present paper explores how a common Southern symbol–the Confederate flag–impacted willingness to vote for Barack Obama. We predicted that exposure to the Confederate flag would activate negativity toward Blacks and result in lowered willingness to vote for Obama. As predicted, participants primed with the Confederate flag reported less willingness to vote for Obama than those primed with a neutral symbol. The flag did not affect willingness to vote for White candidates. In a second study, participants primed with the Confederate flag evaluated a hypothetical Black target more negatively than controls. These results suggest that exposure to the Confederate flag results in more negative judgments of Black targets. As such, the prevalence of this flag in the South may have contributed to a reticence for some to vote for Obama because of his race.

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