Round Table Analyzes Salient Themes in the Upcoming 2018 Midterm Elections

On Thursday, November 1, 2018 the Center for Political Studies hosted a round table discussion on the 2018 midterm elections. A panel of three experts presented data and analysis of the most important trends in political attitudes and behavior that they see emerging in the weeks leading up to the elections. A recording of this event is available here.

Ashley Jardina, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University, spoke about the trends in race, gender, and racial attitudes that are emerging in her research. She shared images from political ads and news articles that illustrate the heightened emphasis on race in this election cycle, including displays of the Confederate flag, politicized messages about the caravan of migrants from Central America, and President’s Trump’s recent announcement of plans to end birthright citizenship.

Jardina shared polling data from Gallup and Pew that demonstrate the divide between Democrats and Republicans with regard to their attitudes about immigration. These data show that while 75% of registered Republicans think that illegal immigration is a big problem, only 19% of registered Democrats felt the same way. Data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) also shows partisan differences in support for birthright citizenship, as illustrated in the graphic below.

Graphic showing support for Eliminating birthright citizenship in the United States

Identity politics have become an increasingly notable theme in the current election cycle, one which Jardina’s forthcoming book, White Identity Politics, examines. She notes that President Trump appeals to a base of white voters who feel attached to their racial group and possess a sense of racial identity or racial consciousness. She finds that the 2018 midterms are significantly about issues of race and identity, and many Republican candidates are appealing to voters’ attitudes about race and immigration, following President Trump’s lead.

Next, Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy and Faculty Associate at the Center for Political Studies, discussed the challenges of forecasting the outcome of the elections, and the role of misinformation in campaigns.

Nyhan began his talk by noting that many Americans have difficulty interpreting polls, and may be surprised by the actual outcomes. Rather than dwelling on predictions, he turned instead to three broader questions:

  1. What is the state of U.S. democracy in 2018?
  2. To what extent is Trump changing the Republican Party?
  3. What role do conspiracy theories and misinformation now play in our democracy?

Experts see a downturn in quality of U.S. democracy, according to data presented by Nyhan (see graph below). He notes that this trend is consistent with what many observe in the news, and reflects concerns about interference in investigations and voting rights, and limitations on the power of government. This election is not a referendum on these issues, says Nyhan, but this is an important time to be aware of the potential erosion of democracy.

Graphic showing decline in expert ratings of democracy in the United States.

Nyhan notes that President Trump has increasingly fallen in line with the Republican party when it comes to accomplishing long-standing aspects of the party agenda, including passing tax cuts and appointing conservative judges. However, he also argues that President Trump appears to be pivoting the Republican party toward ethnonationalism in a way that may outlast his presidency. Policies like separating the children of asylum seekers from their parents are moving ideas that were once at the fringe to the center of the Republican party.

Whereas the Republican party has focused strongly on identity issues leading up to the midterm elections, the Democratic party has campaigned largely on the issue of health care. Nyhan notes that there has been a notable shift in the tone of racial language in the campaigns, with rhetoric about the campaign of migrants stoking racial fears. He concludes that voters should be shocked by the explicit fear mongering presented by campaigns in this election cycle.

Stuart Soroka, Professor of Communication Studies and Professor of Political Science and Faculty Associate at the Center for Political Studies, presented a content analysis from open-ended survey responses and from news coverage for the last two months.

He showed results of surveys conducted in collaboration with SurveyMonkey, the Washington Post, and researchers affiliated with the S3MC project. These nationally-representative surveys asked, “If the election for the US House of Representatives were held today, would you vote?” and then asked “Why?” The open-ended responses to “Why?” were analyzed to reveal differences behind the reasons that Democrats and Republicans are making their choices on election day. Distinguishing words, words that are most uniquely linked to Democrats or Republicans, are shown in the graphic below. Soroka notes that Democrats frequently mention Republicans in their response, and Republicans frequently mention Democrats, suggesting that voters from each party are strongly motivated to vote against the opposing party.

Survey results showing the words that distinguish respondents of each political party.

Soroka also presented an analysis of newspaper content, including all articles mentioning “election” or “campaign” from August through the end of October during midterm election years 2006-2018, in 17 major newspapers archived in Lexis-Nexis. This amounts to approximately 20,000 articles and between 35-70,000 individual sentences (that do not mention polls), coded for sentiment using the Lexicoder Sentiment Dictionary. In the 2018 data, he finds a strong relationship between the predicted advantage for Democrats and negative news sentiment. Soroka warns that he is not arguing that news is affecting attitudes, but that news moves along with political attitudes. Based on his analysis of these data from newspapers, Soroka concludes that the nature of media coverage is going through dramatic changes because of the way the press report on President Trump.

The Center for Political Studies will host another round table following the midterm elections to discuss the results. That event will be held on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 4 p.m., and will be livestreamed. More information about the event is available at https://events.umich.edu/event/56438.

Election 2018: What Happened. Event takes place Nov. 13, 2018.

Making Education Work for the Poor: The Potential of Children’s Savings Accounts

Post written by Katherine Pearson

Dr. William Elliott contends that we need a revolution in the way we finance college education. His new book Making Education Work for the Poor, written with Melinda Lewis, takes a hard look at the inequalities in access to education, and how these inequalities are threatening the American dream. Elliott and Lewis present data and analyses outlining problems plaguing the system of student loans, while also proposing children’s savings accounts as a robust solution to rising college costs, skyrocketing debt burdens, and growing wealth inequality. In a presentation at the University of Michigan on October 3, 2018, Elliott presented new research supporting the case for children’s savings accounts and rewards card programs.

This video of Elliott’s talk was recorded by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

There is a prevailing belief that education provides a path to success and greater income. However, Elliott points out that income provides a means to survive, whereas assets determine who will thrive. Our current educational financing system, which relies mainly on student loans, may help some students reach higher income levels, but it does not equalize the wealth gap. In fact, the high debt burden of student loans actually widens that gap.

Defining the Problem

College access is more than a matter of having enough money to pay for a college education. Elliott asks a different question: are you better off going to college than not going? And does college pay off equally whether or not you graduate with debt.

Student loans have become the dominant means to finance a college education. In 2000, student loans made up 38% of net tuition, fees, room, and board; by 2013 they made up 50% (Greenstone, Looney, Patashnik, and Yu, 2013). Programs such as income-based repayment seem popular because they decrease loan defaults, but they actually increase debt burden by extending the length of time it takes to pay off the loan.

Data shows that assets matter

Elliott uses data to show that students who have to pay for college with student loans do not achieve the same outcomes as students who do not have to take out loans. According to the Government Accounting Office, assuming a standard ten-year payback at 7% annual interest, average cumulative undergraduate educational debt exceeded $18,000 in 2000. This means that students who take out loans pay $6,000 more in interest than their peers who did not take loans. Elliott challenges us: does this sound like equal opportunity? Furthermore, data shows that low-income students and African Americans earn less from their college degrees as adults. If education is to equalize these disparities, the return on the investment in a college a degree must be higher for all children, particularly those with low incomes and students of color.

Wealth inequality contributes to having higher amounts of student debt. Racial disparities in income and wealth account for over 35% of the black-white student loan debt in young adulthood. (Huelsman, 2015) This debt contributes to education’s failure to deliver on the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Research finds that acquiring the relatively small amount of $10,000 in student loans is associated with an 18% decrease in the rate of achieving median net worth.

In short, growing up in a family with less wealth contributes to having more student debt, and having more student debt contributes to having less wealth as a young adult creating a cycle of inequality from one generation to the next.

Small Dollar CSAs Build Wealth

Elliott shows that children’s savings accounts (CSA) have a positive effect on a family’s ability to save for college. However, small dollar CSAs haven’t been able to fully overcome the fact that low-income and minority families often have little money after they pay for basic needs.

The graphic above shows contribution value and total CSA value for the Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC).

The graphic above shows contribution value and total CSA value for the Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC).

One answer to this dilemma may be rewards cards. Elliott presented data from programs set up by grocery stores that offer a percentage of their sales to CSA programs, on the expectation of increasing sales volume. This intervention transforms spending into saving. Not only are families able to save without tapping into already very limited financial resources, it shapes the children’s expectations that they will be able to go to college, and start planning for their future with a greater sense of control.

Looking forward, Elliott and fellow researchers are launching three randomized control trials of rewards card programs in Wabash County, Indiana; St. Louis, Missouri; and Lansing, Michigan. These trials will examine whether or not families will actively save for college using a rewards card, how much they are able to save, and whether or not families will make a contribution to the CSA in addition to saving with the rewards card. Already, early results show an increase in savings. The rewards cards tripled the number of households actively saving via rewards cards, and consequently increased the averaged dollars saved after only 3 months. Behavioral and financial literacy attempts have not been effective way to increase college savings among the poor because low-income people have little money to contribute regardless of their level of financial literacy. Rewards programs, on the other hand, appear to be a promising way to help low-income families participate in saving in CSAs.

Promise Indiana 3 month results

An Asset Building Agenda for the 21st Century

Elliott likens CSAs to the plumbing, the most basic infrastructure, of a new system of education financing for the 21st century. Rewards cards add a new layer to that system that allows poor families to access the system of saving for college.

Creating a system where more people can build assets is a direct way to start closing the wealth gap in America. However, students with fewer assets end up paying much more for education when they can access it. Elliott argues that the idea of a wealth transfer is completely consistent with American history and with our collective narrative of individual effort. It is about equipping all children with tools that complement their own contributions. There are historical precedents for this type of wealth transfer, too: the Homestead Act and the GI Bill. Both required considerable individual effort, yet offered real promise to change the distributional consequences of existing systems—property ownership, on the one hand, and higher education, on the other—in ways that helped to transform power and pathways to prosperity, for generations. In the 21th Century there has yet to be such a wealth transfer, although the need has never been more urgent.

 

Dog Whistles to Bullhorns: Racial Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns, 1984-2016

By Nicholas Valentino, James Newburg and Fabian Neuner

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Dog Whistles to Bullhorns: Racial Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns, 1984-2016” was a part of the session “Framing Politics: The Importance of Tone and Racial Rhetoric for Framing Effects” on Friday, August 31, 2018.

Political candidates’ use of coded language to express controversial attitudes on race is nothing new – but is it more common than in the past? Nicholas Valentino, James Newburg, and Fabian Neuner analyzed data from 1984 to the present that showed campaign rhetoric in 2016 included more racial rhetoric, negative racial group outreach, and negative mentions of racial groups than any other campaign they studied.

Beginning in 1968 through the late 1990s, the expression of explicitly racist attitudes seemed to be in decline, although racially charged imagery was still used in the news and media. While the rhetoric became subtler, prejudicial attitudes were still expressed through “racially coded” language. Over time, issues like crime, welfare, and immigration evoked negative racial stereotypes that could impact political choices without explicitly mentioning race.

The shift to less directly rhetoric is important because implicit references to race and racial stereotypes may have a greater impact on perceptions than explicit ones do. The authors of this study note that previous research shows that people may dismiss obvious appeals to racial bias, while actually being influenced by more subtle or coded language. They note that the strength of this effect is uncertain, and that recent studies show respondents more likely to accept explicit racial rhetoric.

After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, racially charged discourse became more explicit, shocking some Americans. It was impossible not to notice the change in the tone of racial language in the election of 2016. But when exactly did this shift occur? Did it happen gradually or all at once?

To answer these questions, the authors examine trends in racial rhetoric reported in the news between 1984 and 2016. They set out a hypothesis: If changes in rhetoric happened more gradually over time as a result of partisan realignment, they should see trends in the use of explicit racial rhetoric that predate the 2016 campaign, and perhaps even prior to 2008. If, on the other hand, the 2016 election and the candidacy of Donald Trump is the major cause of shifts in discussions of race and ethnicity in mainstream American politics, they would expect explicit group mentions, especially hostile ones, to spike in 2016.

The researchers conducted a rigorous analysis of thousands of articles published in the New York Times and Washington Post between September 1 and Election Day during every presidential election year from 1984 to 2016. They found that while mentions of race were high throughout the study period, racial rhetoric spiked in 2016, especially with regard to immigrants and immigration.

Significant moments of presidential campaigns track with the rise and fall of explicit mentions of race in the news. As Republicans made electoral gains among Southern Whites, racial language reached a peak; during the more moderate campaigns of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, racial language declined. Race became more prominent with the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008, but declined when Obama avoided discussions of race during his reelection campaign. The authors find that 2016 was unique in the high number of explicitly negative racial statements, but that partisan realignment had been causing this change had also been driving up the acceptability of these types of messages over several years.

They found that while the total amount of group coverage did not rise sharply until 2016, the coverage that was dedicated to groups got more negative gradually over time. Notably, an important factor in the secular increase of racial rhetoric was negative language describing Arab Americans, Latinos, and Immigrants in recent years. As American demographics continue to change and non-white groups grow in numbers and political strength, these trends in political language will grow even more significant.

When Does Online Censorship Move Toward Real-World Repression?

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “When Does Online Censorship Move Toward Real-World Repression?” was a part of the Chinese Politics Mini-Conference on Thursday, August 30, 2018.

The Chinese government asserts power and control through strict management of online information. Often, this comes in the form of censorship of online content, which is handled by private internet content producers, large companies like Sina Weibo and Tencent. However, in certain cases these companies report users and content back to the government rather than simply censoring it.

What content, and which users, are being targeted for handling by the state? Researchers Mary Gallagher and Blake Miller analyzed leaked documents from Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like social networking site, to find out why certain cases were moved back to government handling.

Control dynamics over time
Throughout the 1990s, the Chinese government became more tolerant of people protesting the socio-economic effects of market reforms. The government became more selective about its tactics, focusing on preempting major challenges, while allowing reasonable grievances to be aired, especially those aimed at lower-level local officials.

Gallagher and Miller point out that this apparent rise in tolerance does not mean that repression has disappeared. Rather, the state has moved into a period of “responsive authoritarianism” in which repression is harder to detect, more pre-emptive, and more sophisticated.

An evolving approach to censorship
The rise of social media has been a game-changer for both the state and social movements. As technology makes it easier to share information and express grievances, the government is able to track and repress public opinion and outcry in a more precise way. Discussions of topics such as environmental degradation, food safety, or lapses in public safety can be shared more widely, building support for reforms.

As online groups gain popularity, there has been a shift in government behavior to shutting down these groups, not necessarily because they are expressing subversive ideas, but because they may develop the power to persuade. The state uses a “scalpel, not a hammer” to censor, targeting groups that may become influential. This gives the perception that speech is more free, while quashing groups before they can influence public opinion, potentially disrupting order.

Managing influencers and controversies
By analyzing a leaked dataset of internal censorship logs from Sina Weibo, Gallagher and Miller were able to explore patterns in the types of content and users reported back to the security bureaus.

They found that the party is primarily concerned with limiting alternative voices and influence, and they do that by inhabiting and dominating social media platforms. The government is intolerant of topics once they go viral. To prevent sensitive topics from going viral in the first place, the party looks closely at influential opinion leaders. As Gallagher and Miller note, “the content of the post is less important than who is posting it.” The state seeks to head off the threat of the “butterfly effect” by containing a small incident quickly before it can grow in influence over time.

Online opinion leaders are seen as a threat to the government that must be handled carefully. because they stand between the mass media and the public. Most often, the state response to these influencers is not to censor them immediately, but to report them back to the government. This way, the party cultivates opinion leaders to identify with the party, so that they may be able to shape public opinion favorably in the event of a “public opinion emergency.”

Censors allow a great deal of online discussion to take place, while at the same time targeting users who are believed to have enough influence to cause real damage. By allowing more speech, the state gains a window into public opinion. However, when discussions pick up momentum, or begin to criticize the government, censors will work to guide discussions and report users and content back to the state.

ANES at APSA 2018

If you are attending the 2018 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Boston, you may be interested in one or more of the sessions listed below that make use of data from the American National Election Studies (ANES).

When you arrive at APSA, please verify the below room locations in the final conference program, as they are subject to change.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Panel: Item Response Theory

Noon to 1:30pm, Marriott, Provincetown

Presentation: Hierarchical Item Response Models for Analyzing Public Opinion
by Xiang Zhou, Harvard University
In this paper, the author presents a class of hierarchical item response theory (IRT) models that can be fruitfully applied to analyze public opinion data. In this approach, individual responses to multiple items result from a latent preference that follows a normal prior, in which both the mean and the variance may depend on observed covariates.

Panel: Health Status as a Predictor of Political Behavior and Attitudes

2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Tufts

Presentation: Partisanship and Political Participation Among People with Disabilities
by Sierra Powell, Mount San Antonio College and April A. Johnson, Kennesaw State University
Analyzing data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study and the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Studies, the authors conclude that having a disability is positively related to identifying as a Democrat, to identifying with liberal ideological orientations, and to Democratic vote choice.

Panel:  Collective Action and Deliberation in the Digital Era

4:00 to 5:30pm. Hynes, 104

Presentation: Duty to Vote– and to Do What Else?
by Jennifer Oser, Ben-Gurion University
In this study the author analyzes data from the American National Election Studies 2016 survey that includes new and comprehensive questions about civic duty, along with questions regarding a variety of political acts, including activities beyond the electoral. In addition to the expected positive relationship between duty and voting in the general election, it is plausible to expect that duty will also act as a determinant of additional electoral-oriented political acts, such as down-ballot voting and political campaign activity.

Panel:  The Psychology of Political Polarization in Comparative Perspective

4:00 to 5:30pm, Marriott, Simmons

Presentation: The Nature of Partisan Stereotypes and Mass Polarization, 2008-2016
by Ethan C. Busby, Northwestern University; Adam Howat, Northwestern University; Richard M. Shafranek, Northwestern University
The authors look to explore how the public’s relative tendency to think about partisans in these different ways varies with time and how this variation relates to over-time changes in mass polarization. To do so, they employ structural topic modeling to examine open-ended responses regarding both major political parties from the 2008, 2012, and 2016 American National Election Studies.

Friday, August 31, 2018


Panel: Gender and the Importance of Campaign Staff and Family

8:00 to 9:30am, Hynes, 103

Presentation: Billary: Did it Matter? Yes.
by Sara Angevine, Whittier College and Keelin Anne Bettridge, Whittier College
Though race, gender, and partisanship are frequent explanations, one unique factor to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is her spousal relationship to former US President Bill Clinton. In this paper, the authors apply multivariate regression analysis to 2016 American National Election Studies data to distill the impact of this marital relationship on perceptions of Hillary Clinton’s competence and likability as a presidential candidate.

Panel:  The Political Psychology of Race and Racial Attitudes

10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Salon B

Presentation: Spurring Latino Issue Activism: Mobilization Efforts Combining Fear and Hope
by Vanessa Cruz Nicholas, Indiana University
In this study, the author re-assesses the hypothesis that exposure to threatening political messages is a necessary and sufficient condition to encourage political activism among Latinos.

Panel:  This Panel Is About Democratic Values

noon to 1:30pm, Marriott, Provincetown

Presentation: Democracy and the Other: Outgroup Attitudes and Support for Anti-Democratic Norms
by Beyza Ekin Buyuker, University of Illinois at Chicago
This study examines if and under what conditions dominant groups within a democratic public come to support anti-democratic norms. Using data from the World Values Survey (2011) and the American National Election Studies (2016), the author tests both prejudice and realistic competition for material and political resources as drivers of dominant group’s support for anti-democratic norms.

Presentation: The Value Structures of Democratic Attitudes
by Jessica Defenderfer, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
The author examines the effect of value structures on trust in government, political efficacy, and political interest. She operationalizes values with the Schwartz Portrait Values Questionnaire, testing the relationship of these structures to democratic attitudes in World Values Survey 2006 and 2011, the ANES 2006 Pilot Study, and from an original survey of 2300 Americans hosted by Qualtrics in 2015.

Panel:  Trade, Polarization, and Elections

2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton, Gardner

Presentation: Why Does Import Competition Favor Republicans?
by Federico Maria Ferrara, University of Geneva; Francesco Ruggieri, University of Chicago; Andrea Cerrato
Using individual-level survey data from the 2008-2016 American National Election Studies, the authors provide evidence that exogenous shocks from Chinese import competition drive negative attitudes towards immigrants and minorities, among which Latinos, Asians, and Muslims are most targeted.

Panel:  Methods for Administrative Data and Record Linkage

2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Simmons

Presentation: Validating Turnout by Linking Public Opinion Surveys with Administrative Data
by Ted Enamorado, Princeton University and Kosuke Imai, Harvard University
The authors apply a canonical probabilistic record linkage model, implemented via the open-source software package fastLink, to merge two major election studies — the ANES and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) — with a national voter file of over 180 million records. For both ANES and CCES, fastLink successfully produces a validated turnout rate close to the official turnout rate. Using these merged data sets, they show that the bias of self-reported turnout originates primarily from misreporting rather than survey non-response or inadvertent mobilization.

Panel:  The Political Psychology of Gender

2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Suffolk

Presentation: The Political Psychology of Gender: Ambivalent Sexism and Public Opinion in 2016
by Nicholas Winter, University of Virginia
This paper explores the political psychology of gender stereotypes and prejudice. The author draws on Glick and Fiske’s (1996) argument that contemporary sexism encompasses two faces: one involving hostile, prejudicial attitudes and the second involving benevolent feelings toward women that are superficially positive but disempowering.

Panel:  Religion and the Vote

4:00 to 5:30pm, Marriott, Fairfield

Presentation: Religious Voting in the 2016 Presidential Election: Testing Alternative Theories
by James L. Guth, Furman University; Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College; Corwin E. Smidt, Calvin College
In this paper, the authors examine the voting patterns among America’s increasingly diverse ethnoreligious groups, and consider the role that theological differentiation has played in producing partisan alignments.

Presentation: Serving Two Masters: Status Anxiety and the 2016 White Evangelical Value Shift
by Wayde ZC Marsh, University of Notre Dame
Using data from the American National Election Studies presidential election surveys from 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016, the author develops and argues for a Dimensions of Anxiety model to explain a shift in white evangelical voting behavior in 2016 and the ways that status anxiety reflects dissatisfaction with American democracy.

Presentation: The Politics of Evangelicals: Race and the Value Voters
by Ryan L. Claassen, Kent State University
This paper will be devoted to developing a deeper empirical understanding of the political motivations of evangelical voters. Is Trump’s support among evangelicals similar to the support Wallace and Goldwater received (elections when issues of racial inequality were front and center)? Or have the culture wars overtaken the racial politics of the 1960s and created new political alliances?

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Panel: Courts and the Media

8:00 to 9:30am, Hynes, 303

Presentation: The Presidency, Partisan Cues, and Public Perception of the U.S. Supreme Court
by Ali Shiraz Masood, California State University
Ryan Strickler, University of South Carolina
The authors’ key expectation is that partisan public’s views of the Supreme Court and the individual justices change based on the changes in the White House. They test these expectations by analyzing panel and cross-sectional survey data from the American National Election Studies, Cooperative Congressional Election Studies, and other studies that span periods where the Presidency changed parties, but the makeup of the Court remained the same (such as 2008 to 2009).

Panel:  Religion and LGBTQI Issues

10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Exeter

Presentation: Gay Is the Opposite of Fundamentalist: Political Symbolism Among American Elites
by Darel E. Paul, Williams College
Through analysis of the 2008, 2012, and 2016 American National Election Studies, this paper finds that gay men and lesbians play that positive social and political role. Their symbolic status as the opposites to “fundamentalists” helps explain the remarkable transformation in social status and legal standing of LGBT persons since the early 1990s, a transformation effected by American elites.

Panel: This Panel Is About Quasi-Experiments

2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Wellesley

Presentation: Changing Countries, Changing Preferences.
by Julia Rubio, Columbia University and Oscar Pocasangre, Columbia University
This paper uses a natural experiment design to test the effect of moving to the United States on the political preferences of Latinos. Using external shocks such as changes in US immigration policy after natural disasters in Latin American countries, the authors test if the political preferences of those who stay are different from those who migrate.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Panel: Gender Gaps and Elections

10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Regis

Presentation: Gender Differences in Ideological Sorting
by Heather L. Ondercin, Wichita State University and Mary Kate Lizotte, Augusta University
This paper examines within and between sex variation in the dynamics of ideology through analysis of ideological sorting, polarization, and consistency between symbolic and operational ideology. The authors investigate if there is a gender gap in operational ideology and how that operational ideological gender gap has changed over time.

Panel: Gender Gaps and Elections

10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Regis

Presentation: Where to Focus that Reclaimed Time? Gender, Race, & Americans’ Issue Priorities
by Melody Crowder-Meyer, Davidson College
In this paper, the author evaluates whether Americans with various racial and gender identities differ in the issues they prioritize by using a unique research design: analyzing open-ended responses to survey questions about the most important problems facing our country and reasons for liking or disliking political parties and political figures. She does so using data from the 2008, 2012, and 2016 American National Election Studies.

Panel:  Parties, Partisanship, and Elections

10:00 to 11:30am, Sheraton, Beacon H

Presentation: Partisan Realignment in the United States. The Micro-Logic of Party Switching
by Herbert Kitschelt, Duke University and Philipp Rehm, Ohio State University
This paper explores the micro-logic that underpins this secular, incremental realignment process. Why did so many voters in these different groups shift their party allegiances? What are the policy motivations that make voters switch across political parties? Are these policy orientations distinctive to voters who abandon one of the two parties, compared to voters who abandon the other party? How do these motivations relate to the parties’ programmatic appeals?

Redrawing the Map: How Jowei Chen is Measuring Partisan Gerrymandering

post written by Solmaz Spence

“Gerrymandering”— when legislative maps are drawn to the advantage of one party over the other during redistricting—received its name in 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed off on a misshapen district that was said to resemble a salamander, which a newspaper dubbed a “gerrymander.”

But although the idea of gerrymandering has been around for a while, proving that a state’s legislature has deliberately skewed district lines to benefit one political party remains challenging.

The problem is that the mere presence of partisan bias in a district map tells us very little about the intentions of those drawing the districts. Factors such as racial segregation, housing and labor markets, and transportation infrastructure can lead to areas where one party’s supporters are more geographically clustered than those of the other party. When this happens, the party with a more concentrated support base achieves a smaller seat share because it racks up large numbers of “surplus” votes in the districts it wins, while falling just short of the winning threshold in many of the districts it loses.

Further, there are many benign reasons that legislatures may seek to redistrict voters—for example, to keep communities of interest together and facilitate the representation of minorities—that may have the unintended consequence of adding a partisan spin to the map.

The research of political scientists Jowei Chen and Jonathan Rodden is helping to differentiate cases of deliberate partisan gerrymandering from other redistricting efforts. Chen, Faculty Associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies, and Rodden, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, have devised a computer algorithm that ignores all partisan and racial considerations when drawing districts, and instead creates thousands of alternative district maps based on traditional districting goals, such as equalizing population, maximizing geographic compactness, and preserving county and municipal boundaries. These simulated maps are then compared against the district map that has been called into question to assess whether partisan goals motivated the legislature to deviate from traditional districting criteria.

We first wrote about Chen and Rodden’s work back in December 2016, detailing a 2015 paper in the Election Law Journal, which used the controversial 2012 Florida Congressional map to show how their approach can demonstrate and unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Now, this work is back in the spotlight: Chen’s latest research has been cited in several cases of alleged gerrymandering that are currently working through the courts in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maryland.

In January, Chen’s testimony as an expert witness was cited when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s U.S. House of Representatives district map. In its opinion, the court said the Pennsylvania map unconstitutionally put partisan interests above other line-drawing criteria, such as eliminating municipal and county divisions.

The Pennsylvania districts in question were drawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011. Immediately, the shape of the districts was an indicator that at least one traditional criterion of districting—compactness—had been overlooked.

Though few states define exactly what compactness means, it is generally taken to mean that all the voters within a district should live near one another, and that the boundaries of the district should be create a regular shape, rather than the sprawling polygon with donut holes or tentacles that characterized the Pennsylvania district map.

In particular, District 7—said to resemble Goofy kicking Donald Duck—had been called into question. “It is difficult to imagine how a district as roschachian and sprawling, which is contiguous in two locations only by virtue of a medical facility and a seafood/steakhouse, respectively, might plausibly be referred to as compact,” the court wrote.

Although there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania, Democrats hold only five of the state’s 18 congressional districts. In the 2016 election, Democrats won each of their five House seats with an average of 75 percent of the vote while Republicans’ margin of victory was an average of 62 percent across their 13 districts. This is an indicator of “packing,” a gerrymandering practice that concentrates like-minded voters into as few districts as possible to deny them representation across districts.

Chen’s expert report assessed the district map and carried out simulations to generate alternative districting plans that strictly followed non-partisan, traditional districting criteria, and then measured the extent to which the current district map deviates from these simulated plans.

To measure the partisanship of the computer-simulated plans, Chen overlaid actual Pennsylvania election results from the past ten years onto the simulated districts, and calculated the number of districts that would have been won by Democrats and Republicans under each plan (see Figure 1).

The districting simulation process used precisely the same Census geographies and population data that the General Assembly used in creating congressional districts. In this way, the simulations were able to account for any geographical clustering of voters; if the population patterns of Pennsylvania voters naturally favor one party over the other, the simulated plans would capture that inherent bias.

Generally, the simulations created seven to ten Republican districts; not one of the 500 simulated districting plans created 13 Republican districts, as exists under the Republican-drawn district map. Thus, the map represented an extreme statistical outlier, a strong indication that the enacted plan was drawn with an overriding partisan intent to favor that political party. This led Chen to conclude “with overwhelmingly high statistical certainty that the enacted plan created a pro-Republican partisan outcome that would never have been possible under a districting process adhering to non-partisan traditional criteria.”

A map showing redistricting simulation in Pennsylvania

This table compares the simulated plans to the 2011 Pennsylvania district map with respect to these various districting criteria.

Following its ruling, on February 20 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new congressional district map that has been described in a Washington Post analysis as “much more compact”. In response, the state’s Republican leadership announced plans to challenge the new map in court.

 

 

Understanding the Changing American Electorate

developed by Catherine Allen-West

The American National Election Studies (ANES) has surveyed American citizens before and after every presidential election since 1948.  The survey provides the public with a rigorous, non-partisan scientific basis for studying change over time in American politics.

The interactive graphs below illustrate the changing American electorate and some of the factors that may motivate voters’ choices at the ballot box. Mouse over the graphs for more detail.

Source: ANES Time Series Cumulative File and the 2016 ANES Time Series dataset. ANES offers 62 datasets, all free and available to the public, here.

 

Top 10 Most-Viewed CPS Blog Posts in 2017

post developed by Catherine Allen-West

Since its establishment in 2013, a total of 137 posts have appeared on the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. As we approach the new year, we look back at 2017’s most-viewed posts. Listed below are the posts that you, our dear readers, found most interesting on the blog this year. 


What makes a political issue a moral issue? by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan (2014)

There are political issues and then there are moral political issues. Often cited examples of the latter include abortion and same sex marriage. But what makes a political issue moral?An extensive literature already asserts a moral vs. not moral issue distinction. Yet, there is no consensus in how to distinguish between moral and non-moral political issues. Further, trying to sort issues into these categories proves challenging.

 


 

The Spread of Mass Surveillance, 1995 to Present by Nadiya Kostyuk and Muzammil M. Hussain (2017)

By closely investigating all known cases of state-backed cross-sector surveillance collaborations, our findings demonstrate that the deployment of mass surveillance systems by states has been globally increasing throughout the last twenty years. More importantly, from 2006-2010 to present, states have uniformly doubled their surveillance investments compared with the previous decade. 

 


 

Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat? by Vincent Hutchings, Hakeem Jefferson and Katie Brown (2014)

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?

 


 

Measuring Political Polarization by Katie Brown and Shanto Iyengar (2014)

Both parties moving toward ideological poles has resulted in policy gridlock (see: government shutdowndebt ceiling negotiations). But does this polarization extend to the public in general? To answer this question, Iyengar measured individual resentment with both explicit and implicit measures.

 


 

Is policy driven by the rich, or does government respond to all? by Catherine Allen-West (2016)

The enthusiasm for both Trump and Sanders’ messages about the influence of money in politics brings up an important question: Is policy driven by the rich, or does government respond to all? Political scientists have long been interested in identifying to what degree wealth drives policy, but not all agree on it’s impact.

 

 


 

Exploring the Tone of the 2016 Election by U-M undergraduate students Megan Bayagich, Laura Cohen, Lauren Farfel, Andrew Krowitz, Emily Kuchman, Sarah Lindenberg, Natalie Sochacki, and Hannah Suh, and their professor Stuart Soroka (2017)

Political economists often theorize about relationships between politics and macroeconomics in the developing world; specifically, which political or social structures promote economic growth, or wealth, or economic openness, and conversely, how those economic outcomes affect politics. Answering these questions often requires some reference to macroeconomic statistics. However, recent work has questioned these data’s accuracy and objectivity. An under-explored aspect of these data’s limitations is their instability over time.

 


 

Crime in Sweden: What the Data Tell Us by Christopher Fariss and Kristine Eck (2017)

In a recent piece in the Washington Post, we addressed some common misconceptions about what the Swedish crime data can and cannot tell us. However, questions about the data persist. These questions are varied but are related to two core issues: (1) what kind of data policy makers need to inform their decisions and (2) what claims can be supported by the existing data.

 


 

Moral conviction stymies political compromise by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan (2014)

Ryan’s overarching hypothesis boils non-compromise down to morals: a moral mindset orients citizens to oppose political compromises and punish compromising politicians. There are all kinds of issues for which some citizens seem resistant to compromises: tax reform, same-sex marriage, collective bargaining, etc. But who is resistant? Ryan shows that part of the answer has to do with who sees these issues through a moral lens.

 


 

Does the order of names on a ballot affect vote choice? by Katie Brown and Josh Pasek (2013)

Ballots list all candidates officially running for a given office so that voters can easily choose between them. But could the ordering of candidate names on a ballot change some voters’ choices? 

 

 

 


 

Inside the American Electorate: The 2016 ANES Time Series Study by Catherine Allen-West, Megan Bayagich and Ted Brader (2017)

Since 1948, the ANES- a collaborative project between the University of Michigan and Stanford University- has conducted benchmark election surveys on voting, public opinion, and political participation. This year’s polarizing election warranted especially interesting responses. 

 

Using Twitter to Observe Election Incidents in the United States

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West

Election forensics is the field devoted to using statistical methods to determine whether the results of an election accurately reflect the intentions of the electors. Problems in elections that are not due to fraud may stem from legal or administrative decisions. Some examples of concerns that may distort turnout or vote choice data are long wait times, crowded polling place conditions, bad ballot design and location of polling stations relative to population.

A key component of democratic elections is the actual, and perceived, legitimacy of the process. Individuals’ observations about how elections proceed can provide valuable, on-the-ground insight into any flaws in the administration of the election. In some countries there are robust systems for recording citizen complaints, but not in the United States. So, a team* of University of Michigan researchers led by Walter Mebane used Twitter to extract observations of election incidents by individuals across the United States throughout the 2016 election, including primaries, caucuses and the general election. Through their observations, the team shows how reported phenomena like waiting in long lines or having difficulties actually casting a vote are associated with state-level election procedures and demographic variables.

The information gathered is the beginnings of what Mebane is calling the “Twitter Election Observatory.”  The researchers collected tweets falling within a ten-day window around each primary/caucus election day and collected tweets continually during the October 1- November 9, 2016 lead up to the general election.

Mebane and his team then coded all of the tweets to extract the “incident observations” — tweets that mentioned an issue or complaint that an individual may have experienced when casting their vote. From the Twitter data, the researchers found that incidents occurred in every state during the general election period. Among the tweets that had recorded location information, the highest count of tweet observations occurred in California, Texas, Florida and New York and the smallest amount in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Additionally, the researchers calculated the rate of incidents relative to the population of the each state. On a per capita basis, the District of Columbia stands out with the highest rate of incident observation followed by Nevada and North Carolina with Wyoming as the lowest.

Every indication is that Twitter can be used to develop data about individuals’ observations of how American elections are conducted, data that cover the entire country with extensive and intensive local detail. Mebane notes that the frequency, and likely the diversity, of observations may vary depending on how many people care and want to participate in, observe and comment on an election. Ultimately, Mebane would like to dig further into the geolocation information of these tweets to try and pinpoint any incidents with exact polling locations.

*University of Michigan team includes: Walter R. Mebane, Jr., Alejandro Pineda, Logan Woods, Joseph Klaver, Patrick Wu and Blake Miller.

Link to full paper presented at 2017 meeting of the American Association for Political Science.

Donald Kinder Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Post by Theresa Frasca

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announced the election of the Institute for Social Research’s Donald Kinder, the only University of Michigan professor to be named in 2017 and the 28th professor to be named in U-M’s history. Established by Congress in 1863, the private, non-profit NAS promotes science through its consortium of more than 2,000 distinguished scholars, of which nearly 500 have won Nobel Prizes. NAS serves as  an independent advising entity to the government, and provides recommendations and guidance on matters of scientific or technological importance to the nation.

Photo of Donald Kinder

Donald Kinder

“It is a thrilling surprise to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences,” says Kinder. “I was very pleased when I received the call about my election, and I look forward to working with members on a variety of new projects.” As a member, Kinder will attend NAS membership meetings and help review papers for the multidisciplinary journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as provide his expertise on subject-related projects or efforts.

Kinder, a Research Professor at ISR’s Center for Political Studies, is notable for his research on prejudice and how it impacts contemporary American politics. “Most of my work over the last 20 years has focused on racial politics in the United States, as I’ve tried to understand the foundations of public opinion and the role that race plays in elections,” says Kinder. “This area of study has been a long-standing interest of mine that actually started in graduate school. I was in a specific time in a specific place at UCLA in the early 1970s and I became interested in how white suburban voters were affected by the racial identity of one of the mayoral candidates.”

More recently, Kinder’s work has revolved around ideology in the study of American politics and his newest book, Neither Liberal Nor Conservative, debuted in May. “This book is about American politics and how American elites seem highly ideological yet most American citizens are not,” says Kinder. “This is a condition that has been present over the past 50-60 years. In some ways, it’s a surprising argument to make because people who study politics and think about politics usually make the presumption that ordinary people think deeply about politics, too. But the reality is that regular citizens have better things to do with their lives and, as a consequence of that, their thinking is more casual and less organized and certainly less ideological.” The book, written with Louisiana State University professor, and U-M grad, Nathan Kalmoe has received several long-form journalism reviews including in VOX and Washington Monthly.

As Kinder reflects on both his current work and his new election to NAS, he says, “I’ve been at U-M for going on 40 years and what I love about the place is the endless parade of super smart graduate students who come through. I think of my election to the National Academy of Sciences as a reflection of this remarkable place, my great colleagues and wonderful students.”