Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat?

Post developed by Vincent HutchingsHakeem Jefferson, and Katie Brown.

The following post elaborates on a presentation titled “Out of Options? Blacks and Support for the Democratic Party” that was delivered at the 2014 World Congress of the International Political Science Association (IPSA).

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

In 2012, Barack Obama received 93% of the African American vote but just 39% of the White vote. This 55% disparity is bigger than vote gaps by education level (4%), gender (10%), age (16%), income (16%), and religion (28%). And this wasn’t about just the 2012 or 2008 elections, notable for the first appearance of a major ticket African American candidate, Barack Obama. Democratic candidates typically receive 85-95% of the Black vote in the United States. Why the near unanimity among Black voters?

Vincent Hutchings, Professor of Political Science and Research Professor in the Center for Political Studies (CPS), and Hakeem Jefferson, Ph.D. candidate in the department of Political Science and CPS affiliate, set out to answer this question.

Hutchings and Jefferson especially sought to shed light on the “Black Utility Heuristic.” First proposed by Michael Dawson, the Black Utility Heuristic holds that Blacks tend to assess what is in the best interests of their racial group as a proxy for judging what are the best political decisions for them individually. So, given the widespread perception that the Democratic Party is best for African Americans, many Blacks support this party even if – in the case of the middle-class and social conservatives – it might not be in their individual interests to do so. But despite the reliance on this theory by numerous scholars, there exists little empirical support that it can account for Blacks’ lopsided support for the Democratic Party.

Using American National Election Studies (ANES) data, Hutchings and Jefferson tested the Black Utility Heuristic against other potential explanations for the near-unanimous support among Blacks for the Democratic Party.

The 2012 ANES pre-election survey includes 511 Black respondents. Using this survey, the authors report that 90% of African Americans identify as Democrats and 55% strongly so, compared to 39% and 11% of Whites. Yet, when the authors looked at a 7-point measure of ideology, only 47% of Blacks identify as liberal while 45% identify as conservative in the United States.

Given the mismatch between political ideology (measured using the liberal-conservative continuum) and partisanship, the authors turned to other ways to measure political ideology: egalitarianism, moral traditionalism, and ideal role of government. On egalitarianism and size of government, Blacks were indeed considerably more liberal than Whites; there was not significant difference between the groups on morality.

Despite the ideological underpinnings of these questions, they only weakly correlate with the standard measure of political ideology. The strongest correlation was between egalitarianism and political ideology – at just 0.18 Among Blacks, this correlation jumps to 0.42 for Whites. (Correlation coefficients give a measure of fit between two variables. If the two variables move up and down in concert, this is a perfect correlation of 1; if there is no connection the correlation is 0.) Further, support for bigger government was the only ideological measure that was a statistically significant predictor of partisanship, which may suggest a need to rethink how we conceptualize and measure ideology as it pertains to African Americans.

So could the Black Utility Heuristic offer the best explanation of the overwhelming support for Democratic candidates among Black voters? To test this, the authors looked at the connection between believing that what happens to other African Americans affects the survey respondent’s own life and Democratic affiliation. This connection was not significant, directly countering Dawson’s Black Utility Heuristic. On the other hand, an alternative measure assessing the importance of in-group racial identity predicted identifying as a Democrat among Blacks.

Hutchings and Jefferson thus conclude that African Americans do not vote Democrat because of their ideological identity as liberals, or because of notions of linked fate. Instead, strong support for activist government and the importance of in-group racial identity seems to drive this trend.

A fisher people’s association in the Philippines

Post by Rosemary Sarri.

This post was written by Center for Political StudiesSchool of Social Work and Women’s Studies Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri, after her visit to the Philippines in the spring of 2014.

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A fishing project in the Philippines

As covered in an earlier post, the population of the Philippines has skyrocketed from just 26,272,000 people in 1960 to 98,734,000 people in 2014, a growth rate of 254%. The limited size and resources of the Philippines limits employment opportunities for the adult population. Even professionals educated as teachers, nurses, physicians, and other health workers struggle to find work. Today, nearly 50% of the adult population is employed overseas in the Middle East, several Asian countries, and the United States. Young parents often leave their children with extended family and work overseas for many years.

Fishing is an important occupation in the Philippines for men and women. I visited a cooperative fishing community in Rizal Province and was impressed by the active participation of local community people in developing the fishing industry in Laguna Lake, home to fishing ponds for developing and testing fish for a variety of purposes. Several in this community were active in advancing legislation to promote the industry in a variety of ways.

The response to the weed menace of water lilies showcases the creativity and ingenuity of this community. They now cut the water lilies, dry them, and make them into a variety of projects such as mats for sleeping, slippers, and bags. They also have promoted the planting of mangroves along the ocean coasts of the Philippines to control water damage from typhoons.

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A mat woven with dried water lilies

The fisher people’s association shows one avenue for securing better employment for the Philippines’ growing population. Another activity of the fisher people is the promotion of the planting mangroves in many the shoreline communities. These mangroves have been shown to be effective in reducing the water damage that these communities suffer because of typhoons.

Andreadis seeks to bring ANES model to elections in Greece

Post developed by Katie Brown and Ioannis Andreadis.

Ioannis Andreadis, a member of the Political Science faculty at Aristotle University of Thessalonikistudies elections in Europe. With a grant from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Andreadis was recently in residence at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies (CPS) to learn more about the American National Elections Studies (ANES).

andreadisAndreadis started his academic career in 2007, after working as a computer scientist in his hometown’s municipality. His research focuses on elections, but the lack of a centralized database of election history in Greece presents obstacles to his work. With this in mind, Andreadis is interested to create a Greek version of the ANES – not only for the benefit of his own work, but for the benefit of other political scientists. Andreadis also plans to develop a centralized repository so that the data themselves can be easily disseminated to researchers.

A Greek version of the ANES faces some special challenges. Funding is limited in light of the country’s recent financial crisis. But this challenge has led to methodological innovation. Instead of relying on traditional data collection methods such as phone surveys, Andreadis has been developing web-based questionnaires. In 2007, 2009, and 2012, Andreadis ran such a web-based survey for the Hellenic (Greek) Candidate Study, and in 2012 he used his web survey infrastructure to collect data for a voter study which was organized as a mixed mode survey.

Andreadis’ efforts are also part of the True European Voter project, a COST Action to track election data across time and across Europe. Participating countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to his interests in adapting ANES to the Greek political realm, Andreadis also combines his computer programming skills and interest in elections. Anreadis both designs and studies Voting Advice Applications (web-based platforms that aim to inform citizens about the electoral process, with emphasis on the positions of candidates and parties on issues related to electoral competition). In particular, Andreadis created and oversees the Voting Advice Application HelpMeVote, which was used by more than 480,000 voters during the May 2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections. HelpMeVote has also been used in Albania, Iceland, and during the 2014 elections for the European Parliament.

CPS and ANES are thrilled to have have had Andreadis visit, and look forward to the progress of his initiatives in support of election studies and political science research in Greece and beyond.

Can racial prejudice demobilize white voters?

Post developed by Katie Brown and Spencer Piston.

The 2008 election in the United States featured the first black major party presidential candidate in U.S. history – Barack Obama. Obama won in a historic election. But was his victory margin narrower than it could have been? In particular, did racial prejudice erode Obama’s vote share among those whites expected to vote for him: strong Democrats?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

Center for Political Studies (CPS) affiliate and Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan Spencer Piston explored this question with co-author Yanna Krupnikov (Northwestern University) in a recent article published in Political Behavior.

The researchers identify a gap in the field. Where previous work focuses on the connection between prejudice and vote choice, few studies have considered the relationship between prejudice and turnout on Election Day.

The researchers evaluate the relationship between racial prejudice, strength of party identification, and turnout. They are especially interested in a situation in which a white voter, high in racial prejudice, is faced with a black candidate from her party. How will the voter vote? In this scenario, racial prejudice is pitted against party identification.

Examining 2008 data from the American National Election Studies and replicating their analyses with survey data from a wave of a 2007-2008 Associated Press-Yahoo! News-Stanford University study, the authors find that highly partisan and prejudiced voters often address the tension embodied in a black candidate from their party by not turning out to vote. Interestingly, the authors also test if this group would instead vote for the white Republican presidential candidate John McCain. They would not. This is because they cannot compromise on race or partisanship. Unable to compromise, they instead choose not to vote.

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These findings have significant implications for American elections. The authors conclude, “Racial prejudice undermines black candidates’ efforts to mobilize strong partisans.”

Spencer Piston will join Syracuse University in the fall as an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Local to Global: Capacity-Building Workshops in Qatar

Post developed by Katie Brown and Michael Traugott, with input from Ghaydaa Yehia Fahim Ali. 

In 2008, Qatar University formed a partnership with the University of Michigan‘s Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Center for Political Studies (CPS) to develop a world-class public opinion research organization at Qatar University, the Social And Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI).  The partnership includes, among other activities, collaboration on organizational structure, recruitment and hiring, design of technical facilities, research, and analysis. As part of the cooperation, University of Michigan researchers also run training workshops in Qatar several times per year. Participants for the workshops come not only from Qatar University, but other private and public organizations from Qatar and throughout the Gulf region. Topics for the workshops have included research design, questionnaire design, cognitive interviewing, data analysis, and sampling.  The workshops are structured as lectures, with group exercises integrated into the flow. Between days, participants complete thought exercises to spur discussion the next day.

Photograph from first training workshop of 2014

This year, SESRI hosted three workshops.  In the first workshop, which was delivered by ISR researchers Nancy BurnsTed BraderKenneth ColemanAllen Hicken, and Ashley Jardina, trainees were introduced to key SPSS concepts and notions of hypothesis design and formulation. Causal inferences and random sampling were key areas of discussion. 

Traugott and Lepkowski shake hands with a workshop participant at “commencement”

Michael Traugott of CPS and James Lepkowski of ISR’s Survey Research Center (SRC) traveled to Qatar to administer the second workshop, a course on sampling and weighting methods and techniques. Arriving Friday, the team took the weekend to adjust to the eight-hour time change and set up for the training. Monday through Thursday, sessions ran from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with a break in the middle for lunch and prayers.

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Lepkowski interacts with workshop participants

Materials from sampling courses previously taught by Lepkowski were adapted with consideration of language and culture. Courses are taught in English with an Arabic translator on hand, while all materials are available in both languages. Technical terms associated with social science concepts and principles were provided in a glossary, in which some terms were accompanied by animations created by Rafael Nishimura to illustrate the ideas with video. Furthermore, all exercises were designed to be completed in Excel for reasons of accessibility. At the end of the course, Excel spreadsheets with key formulas were provided to all participants.

Traugott returned in May, along with Elizabeth GerberAnn Lin, and Monica Bhatt to facilitate a workshop on policy evaluation and spur debate on the purpose of evaluation in public policy, the primary components of policy and program evaluation, and methods of designing preliminary, defensible program evaluations. Workshop materials were tailored to ensure local relevance, including the identification of public policy issues in the cases of Qatar’s traffic woes and evaluations of changes to the education system in Qatar.

The workshop series has caught the attention of the Qatari press. The Qatar Tribune wrote that “The trainees who came from backgrounds in statistics and other diverse fields found the workshops to be useful in introducing them to concepts outside their direct frame of work.”

More than 100 beginner and intermediate-level researchers benefited from the workshops this year, which continue to grow in popularity. More information about the workshops can be found here.

 

Gawad Kalinga: a Partial Hope for Overpopulation in the Philippines

Post by Rosemary Sarri.

This post was written by Center for Political StudiesSchool of Social Work and Women’s Studies Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri, after her visit to the Philippines in the spring of 2014.

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Manila slum from a car window

The island country of the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world with a growth rate of 1.89% per year. The population skyrocketed from just 26,272,000 people in 1960 to 98,734,000 people in 2014, a growth rate of 254%. Tremendous cost has accompanied this explosive growth. Most of the population live below the poverty line and reside in urban or metropolitan areas which are extremely crowded. The slums of Manila have become almost inhuman places in which to reside. Because the land prevents the creation of a subway system, the country primarily relies on motor vehicles for transportation, creating terrible pollution that tripled in recent years.

Recently, some local non-profit organizations have organized efforts to foster community development. One of these organizations is Gawad Kalinga, established by a small group of benefactors to work with the people of the slums to provide them with land, food, and housing.

I visited one of their projects in Cavite Province, located a short distance from Manila. They emphasize the restoration of community empowerment and training for gainful employment and active citizenship. Gawad Kalinga gives priority to dismantling the pattern of despair and abandonment that overwhelms the lives of the very impoverished.

Gawad Kalinga believes moving people out of the slums is essential to eradicating poverty. The project that I visited in Cavite provides brightly painted single or duplex housing for about 45 families with a community center, health center, an informal education center and a grocery store. The residents learn to care for their own facilities. Overall the community survey indicated that they received good health care and education for their children. Employment of the men in nearby communities is strongly encouraged, but many, especially women, wanted more assistance in obtaining employment.

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Buildings of Gawad Kalinga

While Gawad Kalinga is making strides in the right direction, birth control and family planning are issues that probably deserve more attention. Families in the community have a median of three children. And over-population is a country-wide problem. The strong influence of the Catholic Church since its colonization by Spain resulted in strong opposition to most methods of contraception or birth control. In 2012, this influence started to wane as the government began to address over-population with the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. Yet, a recent community survey by the Philippine School of Social Work at The Philippine Women’s University indicates that 69% of Filipinos rely on “natural methods” of family planning or abstinence. Despite a national campaign for vasectomy, few Filipinos opted for the procedure.

Gawad Kalinga embodies the Philippines’ overpopulation problems, both as a solution to the inhuman living conditions of Manila’s slums, a partial answer to unemployment woes, and an underscoring of the country’s population problem.

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Sarri with some of the women residents of Gawad Kalinga

 

How ANES impacts the university classroom

Post developed by Katie Brown and Deborah Schildkraut.

ANES65thThis post is part of a series celebrating the 65th anniversary of the American National Election Studies (ANES). The posts will seek to highlight some of the many ways in which the ANES has benefited scholarship, the public, and the advancement of science. Do you have ideas for additional posts? Please contact us by email (cps-center@umich.edu) or Twitter (@umisrcps).

In this post, we consider the impact of ANES on teaching.

First, we hear from Tufts University Professor of Political Science Deborah Schildkraut, who shares her experience using ANES in the classroom. From Schildkraut:

ANES impacts my teaching in two key ways. First, I use raw ANES data in my lectures.Second, the research I rely on as I teach and that I think is really meaningful for my students includes:

All take advantage of the time series to help demonstrate both the importance of fundamentals and the role of particular events in shaping attitudes, behaviors, and election outcomes. And all are written at a level that combines sophisticated methods but approachability such that undergrads can engage with them.

Second, in a 1977 grant proposal to the American National Science Foundation (NSF), ANES founder Warren Miller outlined the current and potential use of ANES in teaching. This excerpt from the proposal encapsulates his analysis and vision:

The election data are even more widely used in activities related to teaching. Reports from the same roster of political scientists who were questioned about research use of the data indicate that the data were being used for teaching purposes in some 480 courses taken by more than 18,000 students… Given the reasonably short history of the systematic use of quantitative data by political science students in meeting course requirements, we were surprised to discover that three-quarters of the students using the data were actually undergraduates.

The hand typed table below from the 1977 proposal details the use of ANES (then called the Michigan Election Study) in the university classroom.

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Miller then concluded, “The election studies promise to play an increasingly significant role in undergraduate teaching.” Professor Deborah Schildkraut’s use of ANES nearly forty years after the 1977 proposal demonstrates the continued reach of ANES in the classroom.

 

Talking to decision makers: an ineffective way to measure conservation?

Post developed by Arun Agrawal and Katie Brown.

Are our efforts to measure changes in conservation by talking to decision makers effective?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

This question motivated recent research by Arun Agrawal, Center for Political Studies (CPS) faculty associate and Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan.

An article by Christoph Nolte, Agrawal, and Paulo Barreto that appears in Environmental Research Letters considers the effectiveness of a globally used assessment strategy that is referred to as Rapid Assessment and Prioritization of Protected Area Management (RAPPAM).

Utilized in over 50 countries, RAPPAM is the most popular tool to determine environmental protection. RAPPAM aims to measure whether a protected area is achieving its conservation goals. This ,in turn, influences the allocation of resources (financial, personnel, equipment, and otherwise). Despite its popularity, its empirical effectiveness had yet to be demonstrated. So Nolte, Agrawal, and Barreto conducted their study to see if RAPPAM’s measurements are indeed effective. The research team analyzed data on 66 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon.

The results? RAPPAM appears ineffective.

Specifically, there is no correlation between RAPPAM’s indicators and avoided deforestation. These null results highlight the need to invest in new, better, and more valid measurements. Such measurements should not be based just on subjective assessments by those who are paid to manage protected areas.

Sound simple? It still hasn’t happened! Good decision tools may not be enough to make conservation work. Nolte, Agrawal, and Barreto argue that without such tools, it is even less likely to work.

Americans are more sympathetic to the poor and more resentful of the rich than previous research indicates

Post developed by Katie Brown and Spencer Piston.

The gap between the rich and poor in the United States is growing. Occupy Wall Street, fast food worker strikes, and other manifestations of this gap make headlines often. And just a few weeks ago, President Obama visited the University of Michigan to champion raising the minimum wage.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

Despite these movements, previous academic work suggests Americans look down on the poor. The news media perpetuate this message. The Economist claims, “Americans want to join the rich, not soak them,” while The New York Times published an article with the headline, “New Resentment of the Poor.”

But what if previous research and the mainstream media are wrong? What if anti-rich movements better capture the American ethos? Center for Political Studies (CPS) affiliate and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan Spencer Piston investigated this issue.

Piston addresses this question with an innovative approach. Previous scholarship measures attitudes with questions about “economic inequality” and “government-led redistribution.” But these are terms that survey respondents rarely use without prompting, and Piston finds reason to believe that many Americans don’t understand what these terms mean.

Piston therefore begins with a straightforward but rarely-used survey technique: he asks people how they feel about the poor and the rich. Piston examines answers to these questions using an original survey, and supplemented with American National Election Studies (ANES) data. The graphs below depict feelings of (a) deservingness, (b) sympathy, and (c) resentment toward and the rich and the poor. As we can see, people tend to see the rich as deserving less and the poor deserving more.  They also see the poor as more sympathetic than the rich, and the rich as objects of more resentment than the poor.

Feelings toward the Rich and Poor

a. Do the (rich, poor) have more or less money than they deserve?

b. How often have you felt sympathy for (rich, poor) people?

c. How often have you felt resentment toward (rich, poor) people?

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What effect might these Robin Hood attitudes have on elections? Piston tested this with several survey experiments. He finds that that a candidate who supports the poor garners more support among voters than an otherwise identical candidate who hurts the poor, regardless of the candidate’s party.

Effects of Candidate’s Record on Mean Support for the Candidate

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Taken together, these results suggest that previous research has overestimated public support for economic inequality and public opposition to downward redistribution. When survey questions are worded using terms that survey respondents more commonly use, it appears that many Americans want government to give more to the poor – and to take from the rich.

Spencer Piston will join Syracuse University in the fall as an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Voting Advice Applications

Post developed by Katie Brown and Ioannis Andreadis.

Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are web platforms that help voters determine the candidate or the political party that best matches their own political ideology. Visitors answer a series of questions to gauge their political positions. The VAA platform then estimates the similarity or dissimilarity of these positions to those of candidates or parties.

There are various ways to present these estimates. One option is to display a list of the candidates or parties along with a number indicating the similarity or dissimilarity of each. Another option is a graph like the one below from Greece, where issues from the election are represented on each axis, and users can visualize their ideological position relative to that of the parties.

Example of diagram used by the Greek VAA www.votematch.gr which is used for the elections for the European Parliament. Left/Right is the horizontal axis and Pro-Europeanism/Euroscepticism is the vertical axis. The logos of the political parties indicate their ideological position and the center of the concentric circles indicate the position of the user.

Example of diagram from the Greek VAA www.votematch.gr from the elections for the European Parliament. Left/Right is represented by the horizontal axis and Pro-Europeanism/Euroscepticism is represented by the vertical axis. The political party logos indicate their ideological position and the center of the concentric circles indicates the position of the user.

Another example of VAAs in action is Vote Match Europe, an international network of VAAs for the 2014 European Parliament elections across fourteen EU countries.  The Vote Match Europe website allows users to see the parties closest to them across all of the countries in the network, and to learn more about the parties and their policies. A goal of the Vote Match Europe website is to promote European citizenship and better inform citizens about the elections for the European Parliament at large.

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Ioannis Andreadis is Assistant Professor of Quantitative Methods in the Department of Political Sciences at Aristotle University Thessaloniki.  This semester, he is a scholar in residence at the Center for Political Studies (CPS), seeking to learn more about the American National Elections Studies (ANES) and the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) under a grant from the Fulbright Program.

In his capacity as a researcher, Andreadis has studied and written about VAAs, and he also both designs and studies VAAs. In particular, he created and oversees the Voting Advice Application HelpMeVote. HelpMeVote was used by more than 480,000 voters during the May 2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections. The application was also used in Iceland and Albania, and is currently being used for the 2014 European Parliament election.

In a recent paper, Andreadis tackles the question of utility of VAAs.  He suggest that VAAs must be built to high academic standards, and realize the following benefits:

  1. VAAs help voters should become more knowledgeable about party positions, allowing the voters to make better choices.
  2. VAAs help political parties not covered in traditional media to connect with voters who agree with their values.
  3. VAAs generate data that researchers can use to better understand voting behavior.

VAAs are growing in popularity in places with multi-party systems and high Internet availability – for example, in Western Europe.

In electoral systems with only two parties, VAAs may be less useful given the limited choice set. If a VAA had been used for the 2009 Greek elections or earlier – when two major Greek political parties dominated national politics – it probably would not have been as popularly used.  But in the 2012 elections, the Greek parliament featured seven parties, making way for a new VAA market.

With this in mind, adaptation to America’s two party system poses challenges. VAAs could be used in American primaries, where many candidates from the same party compete against each other, but only if candidates running in the same primary have very different positions on enough issues.