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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


from American Political Science Review
The Structure of Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution
Noam Lupu and Joans Pontusson
Against the current consensus among comparative political economists, we argue that inequality matters for redistributive politics in advanced capitalist societies, but it is the structure of inequality, not the level of inequality, that matters. Our theory posits that middle-income voters will be inclined to ally with low-income voters and support redistributive policies when the distance between the middle and the poor is small relative to the distance between the middle and the rich. We test this proposition with data from 15 to 18 advanced democracies and find that both redistribution and nonelderly social spending increase as the dispersion of earnings in the upper half of the distribution increases relative to the dispersion of earnings in the lower half of the distribution. In addition, we present survey evidence on preferences for redistribution among middle-income voters that is consistent with our theory and regression results indicating that left parties are more likely to participate in government when the structure of inequality is characterized by skew.
from British Journal of Political Science
Language and Ideology in Congress
Daniel Diermeier, Jean-François Godbout, Bei Yu and Stefan Kaufmann
Legislative speech records from the 101st to 108th Congresses of the US Senate are analysed to study political ideologies. A widely-used text classification algorithm – Support Vector Machines (SVM) – allows the extraction of terms that are most indicative of conservative and liberal positions in legislative speeches and the prediction of senators’ ideological positions, with a 92 per cent level of accuracy. Feature analysis identifies the terms associated with conservative and liberal ideologies. The results demonstrate that cultural references appear more important than economic references in distinguishing conservative from liberal congressional speeches, calling into question the common economic interpretation of ideological differences in the US Congress.
Casualties and Incumbents: Do the Casualties from Interstate Conflicts Affect Incumbent Party Vote Share?
Michael T. Koch
Research suggests that the costs of international conflict (e.g. casualties) alter public opinion, executive approval and policy positions of elected officials. However, do casualties affect voting in terms of aggregate outcomes and individual vote choices? This article examines how casualties from interstate conflicts affect voter behaviour, specifically incumbent vote share. Using the investment model of commitment to model individual vote choice, it is argued that increases in the costs of conflict (i.e., more casualties) can increase the probability that voters will support the incumbent, increasing incumbent vote share. This model is tested with both cross-national aggregate data from twenty-three countries and individual-level British survey data. The results support the argument.
Ideological Hedging in Uncertain Times: Inconsistent Legislative Representation and Voter Enfranchisement
Antoine Yoshinaka and Christian R. Grose
Can ideological inconsistency in legislators’ voting records be explained by uncertainty about constituent preferences? Do legislators ‘hedge their bets’ ideologically when faced with constituency uncertainty? This article presents an uncertainty-based theory of ideological hedging. Legislators faced with uncertainty about their constituent preferences have an incentive to present ideologically inconsistent roll-call records. Legislators experiment with a variety of roll-call positions in order to learn the preferences of their constituents. An examination of US senators during 1961-2004 shows that uncertainty due to black enfranchisement and mobilization led to higher ideological inconsistency in legislative voting records. Ideologically inconsistent behaviour by elected officials can be characterized as best responses to a changing and uncertain environment. These results have implications for representation and the stability of democracy.
from The Journal of Politics
A Jamming Theory of Politics
William Minozzi
Competitive political elites frequently offer conflicting, irreconcilable accounts of policy-relevant information. This presents a problem for members of the public who lack the skill, time, and attention to become experts on every complicated policy question that might arise. To analyze problems like these, this article presents a formal theory of political communication with competitive senders who have privately known preferences. In equilibrium, senders can jam messages from their opponents; that is, they can send messages designed to leave receivers uncertain about who has sent a truthful message. The article identifies differences between jamming and existing theories, reports empirical predictions, and discusses substantive implications for the politics of representation, the judiciary, and expertise.
Is the Government to Blame? An Experimental Test of How Partisanship Shapes Perceptions of Performance and Responsibility
James Tilleya and Sara B. Hobolt
The idea that voters use elections to hold governments to account for their performance lies at the heart of democratic theory, and countless studies have shown that economic performance can predict support for incumbents. Nonetheless recent work has challenged this simple link between policy performance and party choice by arguing that any relationship is conditioned by prior political beliefs, notably partisanship. Some have argued that economic perceptions are shaped by party choice rather than vice versa. Others have claimed that voters tend to attribute responsibility for perceived successes to their favored party, but absolve them of responsibility if performance is poor. This study examines the effect of partisanship on both performance evaluations and responsibility attributions using survey experiments to disentangle the complex causal relationships. Our findings show that partisan loyalties have pervasive effects on responsibility attributions, but somewhat weaker effects on evaluations of performance.
Election Timing and the Electoral Influence of Interest Groups
Sarah F. Anzia
It is an established fact that off-cycle elections attract lower voter turnout than on-cycle elections. I argue that the decrease in turnout that accompanies off-cycle election timing creates a strategic opportunity for organized interest groups. Members of interest groups with a large stake in an election outcome turn out at high rates regardless of election timing, and their efforts to mobilize and persuade voters have a greater impact when turnout is low. Consequently, policy made by officials elected in off-cycle elections should be more favorable to the dominant interest group in a polity than policy made by officials elected in on-cycle elections. I test this theory using data on school district elections in the United States, in which teacher unions are the dominant interest group. I find that districts with off-cycle elections pay experienced teachers over 3% more than districts that hold on-cycle elections.
Does Knowledge of Constitutional Principles Increase Support for Civil Liberties? Results from a Randomized Field Experiment

Donald P. Green, Peter M. Aronow, Daniel E. Bergan, Pamela Greene, Celia Paris and Beth I. Weinberger
For decades, scholars have argued that education causes greater support for civil liberties by increasing students’ exposure to political knowledge and constitutional norms, such as due process and freedom of expression. Support for this claim comes exclusively from observational evidence, principally from cross-sectional surveys. This paper presents the first large-scale experimental test of this proposition. More than 1000 students in 59 high school classrooms were randomly assigned to an enhanced civics curriculum designed to promote awareness and understanding of constitutional rights and civil liberties. The results show that students in the enhanced curriculum classes displayed significantly more knowledge in this domain than students in conventional civics classes. However, we find no corresponding change in the treatment group’s support for civil liberties, a finding that calls into question the hypothesis that knowledge and attitudes are causally connected.
Drafting Support for War: Conscription and Mass Support for Warfare

Michael C. Horowitz and Matthew S. Levendusky
How does a military’s recruitment policy–whether a country has a draft or conscript army–influence mass support for war? We investigate how military recruitment affects the way the American public evaluates whether a war is worth fighting. While some argue that conscription decreases support for war by making its costs more salient, others argue that it increases support by signaling the importance of the conflict. Existing evidence is inconclusive, with data limited to one particular conflict. Using an original survey experiment, we find strong support for the argument that conscription decreases mass support for war, a finding that replicates in several different settings. We also show that these findings are driven by concerns about self-interest, consistent with our theory. We conclude by discussing the relevance of these findings for debates about how domestic political conditions influence when states go to war.
“Don’t Know” Means “Don’t Know”: DK Responses and the Public’s Level of Political Knowledge
Robert C. Luskin and John G. Bullock
Does the public know much more about politics than conventionally thought? A number of studies have recently argued, on various grounds, that the “don’t know” (DK) and incorrect responses to traditionally designed and scored survey knowledge items conceal a good deal of knowledge. This paper examines these claims, focusing on the prominent and influential argument that discouraging DKs would reveal a substantially more knowledgeable public. Using two experimental surveys with national random samples, we show that discouraging DKs does little to affect our picture of how much the public knows about politics. For closed-ended items, the increase in correct responses is large but mainly illusory. For open-ended items, it is genuine but minor. We close by examining the other recent evidence for a substantially more knowledgeable public, showing that it too holds little water.
The Effects of Identities, Incentives, and Information on Voting

Anna Bassi, Rebecca B. Morton and Kenneth C. Williams
We report on majority voting experiments where subjects are randomly assigned identities in common with a candidate. However, subjects sometimes receive a financial incentive from voting contrary to their identity. We vary the size of the incentive as well as information voters have about the advantage of the incentive. We find that subjects are influenced by their assigned identities, and the effect is stronger when voters have less information. Nevertheless, financial incentives reduce this influence when voters have full information. Our results suggest that identity may have an important affect on voter choices in elections where incentives or information are low.
Testing the Double Standard for Candidate Emotionality: Voter Reactions to the Tears and Anger of Male and Female Politicians
Deborah Jordan Brooks
Many have speculated that voters hold double standards for male and female political candidates that disadvantage women. One common assumption is that female candidates are penalized disproportionately for displays of crying and anger; however, the field lacks a theoretical or empirical foundation for examining this matter. The first half of this article establishes the theoretical basis for how emotional displays are likely to influence evaluations of female versus male candidates. Using a large-N, representative sample of U.S. adults, the second half tests these dynamics experimentally. The main finding is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, no double standard exists for emotionality overall: male and female candidates are similarly penalized for both anger and crying. There are, however, different responses to the tears of male and female candidates depending on whether the respondent is a man or woman.
from Political Behavior
The Ideological Effects of Framing Threat on Immigration and Civil Liberties
Assuming that migration threat is multi-dimensional, this article seeks to investigate how various types of threats associated with immigration affect attitudes towards immigration and civil liberties. Through experimentation, the study unpacks the ‘securitization of migration’ discourse by disaggregating the nature of immigration threat, and its impact on policy positions and ideological patterns at the individual level. Based on framing and attitudinal analysis, we argue that physical security in distinction from cultural insecurity is enough to generate important ideological variations stemming from strategic input (such as framing and issue-linkage). We expect then that as immigration shifts from a cultural to a physical threat, immigration issues may become more politically salient but less politicized and subject to consensus. Interestingly, however, the findings reveal that the effects of threat framing are not ubiquitous, and may be conditional upon ideology. Liberals were much more susceptible to the frames than were conservatives. Potential explanations for the ideological effects of framing, as well as their implications, are explored.
The Consequences of Political Cynicism: How Cynicism Shapes Citizens’ Reactions to Political Scandals
Logan Dancey
This paper argues cynicism toward elected officials colors how individuals in the mass public interpret information about political scandals. Specifically, citizens rely on prior levels of cynicism toward elected officials when assessing new information about potential political malfeasance. Drawing on panel data surrounding two prominent political scandals, this paper demonstrates prior levels of cynicism shape individuals’ interpretations of information about scandals, but cynicism does not affect the amount of attention individuals pay to scandals. Ultimately, the results shed light on individual-level variation in response to scandals, and suggest expressed cynicism toward politicians is a politically consequential individual-level attitude that affects whether or not political leaders can survive ethical transgressions.
Personality and Political Participation: The Mediation Hypothesis

Aina Gallego and Daniel Oberski
Recent analyses have demonstrated that personality affects political behavior. According to the mediation hypothesis, the effect of personality on political participation is mediated by classical predictors, such as political interest, internal efficacy, political discussion, or the sense that voting is a civic duty. This paper outlines various paths that link personality traits to two participatory activities: voter turnout in European Parliament elections and participation in protest actions. The hypotheses are tested with data from a large, nationally representative, face-to-face survey of the Spanish population conducted before and after the 2009 European Parliament elections using log-linear path models that are well suited to study indirect relationships. The results clearly confirm that the effects of personality traits on voter turnout and protest participation are sizeable but indirect. They are mediated by attitudinal predictors.
Justifying Party Identification: A Case of Identifying with the “Lesser of Two Evils”

Eric Groenendyk
Despite the centrality of party identification to our understanding of political behavior, there remains remarkable disagreement regarding its nature and measurement. Most scholars agree that party identities are quite stable relative to attitudes. But do partisans defend their identities, or does this stability result from Bayesian learning? I hypothesize that partisans defend their identities by generating “lesser of two evils” justifications. In other words, partisan identity justification occurs in multidimensional attitude space. This also helps to explain the weak relationship between attitudes toward the two parties observed by proponents of multidimensional partisanship. I test this hypothesis in an experiment designed to evoke inconsistency between one’s party identity and political attitudes. To establish generalizability, I then replicate these results through aggregate level analysis of data from the ANES.

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