Category Archives: Elections

Racial Dynamics in the American Context
: A Second Century of Civil Rights and Protest?

Post developed by Katherine Pearson and Dianne Pinderhughes 

Drawing from published work that will be compiled as a new book, Black Politics After the Civil Rights Revolution, Dianne Pinderhughes explored the arc of 20th-century civil rights reform and the growing political incorporation of African Americans into electoral politics when she delivered the 2019 Hanes Walton, Jr. lecture. A recording of the lecture is available below. 

Understanding the history of collective action is essential to tracing the development of 20th-century racial politics in the United States. Pinderhughes began by describing racial injustice in the U.S. starting with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896, which some consider the nadir of race relations in the U.S. Following this era, Pinderhughes described a period of innovation and institution building beginning in the early and mid 20th century, which saw the development of legal defense funds and an increase of racial diversity in academia.

Social and political scientists recognize the gradual increase in African American political participation and the increasing numbers of elected officials of color. As the political dynamics of the eras changed, Pinderhughes described how African Americans have pushed to enter, to change, and to reframe their status.

Pinderhughes posits that the election of Donald Trump in 2016 posed a direct challenge to that framing of the evolution of successful racial reform. In doing so, she asks whether the U.S. is entering a new nadir. “My own work around these issues of democracy, political participation and efforts to integrate on a stable basis, and to begin to address the economic and political dimensions of citizenship, was challenged by how they might be framed,” Pinderhughes said. “But most of that work began from and was conceptualized within a relatively stable set of policy values and expectations, and that racial and ethnic exclusion was no longer possible, or acceptable.”

In the end, Pinderhughes concludes that the state of politics in the 21st century is far more hopeful than the nadir of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Institutional reforms have substantially recreated the American electoral and political process. Race is central to American life, and it will continue to be a dynamic force in electoral politics.

The Hanes Walton, Jr. lecture series was launched in 2015, in honor of Hanes Walton, Jr. One of the most influential and productive political scientists to emerge from the civil rights era, Walton published numerous journal articles, several book chapters, and authored more than twenty books. Walton is remembered for his in-depth subject knowledge, sense of humor, and ability to connect with his students. He was a caring and supportive mentor to his countless graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in academia and industry. 

Computer simulations reveal partisan gerrymandering 

Post developed by Katherine Pearson 

How much does partisanship explain how legislative districts are drawn? Legislators commonly agree on neutral criteria for drawing district lines, but the extent to which partisan considerations overshadow these neutral criteria is often the subject of intense controversy.

Jowei Chen developed a new way to analyze legislative districts and determine whether they have been unfairly gerrymandered for partisan reasons. Chen, an Associate Professor of Political Science and a Research Associate at the Center for Political Studies, used computer simulations to produce thousands of non-partisan districting plans that follow traditional districting criteria. 

Simulated NC map

These simulated district maps formed the basis of Chen’s recent expert court testimony in Common Cause v. Lewis, a case in which plaintiffs argued that North Carolina state legislative district maps drawn in 2017 were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. By comparing the non-partisan simulated maps to the existing districts, Chen was able to show that the 2017 districts “cannot be explained by North Carolina’s political geography.” 

The simulated maps ignored all partisan and racial considerations. North Carolina’s General Assembly adopted several traditional districting criteria for drawing districts, and Chen’s simulations followed only these neutral criteria, including: equalizing population, maximizing geographic compactness, and preserving political subdivisions such as county, municipal, and precinct boundaries. By holding constant all of these traditional redistricting criteria, Chen determined that the 2017 district maps could not be explained by factors other than the intentional pursuit of partisan advantage. 

Specifically, when compared to the simulated maps, Chen found that the 2017 districts split far more precincts and municipalities than was reasonably necessary, and were significantly less geographically compact than the simulations. 

By disregarding these traditional standards, the 2017 House Plan was able to create 78 Republican-leaning districts out of 120 total; the Senate Plan created 32 Republican-leaning districts out of 50. 

Using data from 10 recent elections in North Carolina, Chen compared the partisan leanings of the simulated districts to the actual ones. Every one of the simulated maps based on traditional criteria created fewer Republican-leaning districts. In fact, the 2017 House and Senate plans were extreme statistical outliers, demonstrating that partisanship predominated over the traditional criteria in those plans. 

The judges agreed with Chen’s analysis that the 2017 maps displayed Republican bias, compared to the maps he generated by computer that left out partisan and racial considerations. On September 3, 2019, the state court struck down the maps as unconstitutional and enjoined their use in future elections. 

The North Carolina General Assembly rushed to adopt new district maps by the court’s deadline of September 19, 2019. To simplify the process, legislators agreed to use Chen’s computer-simulated maps as a starting point for the new districts. The legislature even selected randomly from among Chen’s simulated maps in an effort to avoid possible accusations of political bias in its new redistricting process.

Determining whether legislative maps are fair will be an ongoing process involving courts and voters across different states. But in recent years, the simulation techniques developed by Chen have been repeatedly cited and relied upon by state and federal courts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and elsewhere as a more scientific method for measuring how much districting maps are gerrymandered for partisan gain. 

Using Text and Images to Examine 2016 Election Tweets

Post developed by Dory Knight-Ingram 

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Using Neural Networks to Classify Based on Combined  Text and Image Content: An Application to Election Incident Observation” was a part of the session “Deep Learning in Political Science” on Friday, August 30, 2019.

A new election forensics process developed by Walter Mebane and Alejandro Pineda uses machine-learning to examine not just text, but images, too, for Twitter posts that are considered reports of “incidents” from the 2016 US Presidential Election. 

Mebane and Pineda show how to combine text and images into a single supervised learner for prediction in US politics using a multi-layer perceptron. The paper notes that in election forensics, polls are useful, but social media data may offer more extensive and granular coverage. 

The research team gathered individual observation data from Twitter in the months leading up to the 2016 US Presidential Election. Between Oct. 1-Nov. 8, 2016, the team used Twitter APIs to collect millions of tweets, arriving at more than 315,180 tweets that apparently reported one or more election “incidents” – an individual’s report of their personal experience with some aspect of the election process. 

At first, the research team used only text associated with tweets. But the researchers note that sometimes, images in a tweet are informative, while the text is not. It’s possible for the text alone to not make a tweet a report of an election incident, while the image may indeed show an incident. 

To solve this problem, the research team implemented some “deep neural network classifier methods that use both text and images associated with tweets. The network is constructed such that its text-focused parts learn from the image inputs, and its image-focused parts learn from the text inputs. Using such a dual-mode classifier ought to improve performance. In principle our architecture should improve performance classifying tweets that do not include images as well as tweets that do,” they wrote.

“Automating analysis for digital content proves difficult because the form of data takes so many different shapes. This paper offers a solution: a method for the automated classification of multi-modal content.” The research team’s model “takes image and text as input and outputs a single classification decision for each tweet – two inputs, one output.” 

The paper describes in detail how the research team processed and analyzed tweet-images, which included loading image files in batches, restricting image types to .jpeg or .png., and using small image sizes for better data processing results. 

The results were mixed.

The researchers trained two models using a sample of 1,278 tweets. One model combined text and images, the other focused only on text. In the text-only model, accuracy steadily increases until it achieves top accuracy at 99%. “Such high performance is testimony to the power of transfer learning,” the authors wrote. 

However, the team was surprised that including the images substantially worsened performance. “Our proof-of-concept combined classifier works. But the model structure and hyperparameter details need to be adjusted to enhance performance. And it’s time to mobilize hardware superior to what we’ve used for this paper. New issues will arise as we do that.” 

Presidents and/or Prime Ministers  

Post developed by Allen Hicken and Katherine Pearson 

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Presidents and/or Prime Ministers: A Historical Dataset” was a part of the session “Legislatures and Leaders: New Perspectives on Political Institutions” on Thursday, August 29, 2019. 

Classifying systems of government is a challenge for political scientists comparing regimes over time and across countries. A new historical dataset developed by Fabricio Vasselai, Samuel Baltz, and Allen Hicken addresses this challenge with a simplified classification scheme that presents data on four broad variables: whether there is an elected prime minister, whether there is an elected president, whether there is a non-elected prime minister, and whether there is a non-elected president. The dataset includes a yearly assessment for almost all sovereign countries since 1789, which amounts to 16,910 country-years. 

The simplicity of this classification system allows researchers to examine other characteristics separately, including the level of democracy or the powers of elected leaders. While the majority of country-years fit a neat definition, this dataset allows a clearer analysis of complex cases. 

The authors present France as an interesting test case. In the years included in this dataset, France had (1) only an unelected prime minister, (2) no elected or unelected prime minister or president, (3) only an elected prime minister, (4) an elected prime minister and an elected president, or (5) an elected prime minister and unelected president, with several of these states repeating multiple times throughout France’s history. The dataset presents this complicated historical narrative in the simplified manner below. 

This classification system also allows researchers to explore the evolution of different systems of government over longer periods of time. The authors show that an explosion of elections took place in the 19th century. Beginning in the 20th century, the share of countries electing only a prime minister takes a slight lead; by 1945 almost twice as many countries elected only a prime minister compared to those electing only a president. The share of countries electing either leader climbs through the second half of the 20th century, with only about 10 percent of country-years lacking an elected leader by 2017. 

Evolution of types of system

By developing a simple, comprehensive dataset, Vasselai, Baltz, and Hicken have given researchers a resource that allows them to analyze regimes consistently and layer on additional information as needed. 

New Book Examines Ghana’s Political Trap

Post developed by Katherine Pearson

As a country grows and develops economically, most experts expect political behavior to develop as well, becoming more policy-oriented and programmatic and moving away from clientelism that characterizes less developed countries. However, this has not been the case in Ghana. In his new book, Electoral Politics and Africa’s Urban Transition, Noah Nathan traces the unexpected political patterns that are emerging in urban Ghana. Despite a growing middle class and increasing ethnic diversity, clientelism and ethnic voting persist in many urban neighborhoods.

Nathan focuses his research on Accra, Ghana, a diverse and growing metropolis of four million people. Not only is the population of the city growing, but it is becoming wealthier and better educated: data show that the middle class in Accra has tripled in size since Ghana democratized in 1992. The trend toward urbanization has also led to more diversity and contact between members of different ethnic groups in the city. Experts usually expect that higher incomes and levels of education will shift voter preferences away from politicians offering patronage and toward more policy-oriented candidates.

Political practices in Ghana have not transitioned as rapidly as the demographics have. Instead, Nathan shows, Ghanaian politics have become stuck in a trap. The trap is a cycle wherein voters expect goods and favors, which politicians deliver in the form of patronage. As a result,  the government performs poorly and elected officials are seen as less credible. Policy-oriented citizens are left without programmatic candidates, and become more likely to decide to opt out of voting entirely. With those voters increasingly out of play, politicians face strong incentives to continue engaging in clientelism, sometimes creating ethnic competition.

political trap

Nathan, Noah L. Electoral Politics and Africa’s Urban Transition: Class and Ethnicity in Ghana. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

The key to understanding the political trap of clientelism is the neighborhood-level variations within cities. Voters with similar levels of wealth and education do not all vote alike across the city; voting behaviors differ greatly by neighborhood. Voters in poorer neighborhoods still expect favors from politicians, who respond accordingly. Taking this into account, many middle-class voters, those who are most likely to support a programmatic transition, opt out of voting because they view politicians engaging in patronage as lacking credibility.

Certain features of developing cities give further context to explain politicians’ and voters’ incentives. Developing countries have lower capacity to provide services and infrastructure to their citizens as a whole. The rapid pace of growth creates a scarcity of resources to go around. Without the credibility to promise broad improvements, politicians rely instead on promises to select groups. Cities tend to be comprised of neighborhoods that differ widely in their wealth and diversity, often within the same electoral district. Understanding these realities help explain why clientelism prevails, even as the electorate becomes wealthier, better-educated, and more diverse.

Nathan concludes his analysis of the political patterns in Ghana by drawing parallels with political systems seen in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as in Latin American cities. In these cases the shift to more programmatic politics occurred politicians could no longer distribute government resources selectively. The rise of civil service reforms and broad social welfare programs supported the shift to policy-oriented systems. These parallels to similar transitions over time and in other developing countries may point the way to more policy-oriented political systems in the future. 

Most Popular CPS Blog Posts in 2018

Post developed by Katherine Pearson

Since its establishment in 2013, a total of 146 posts have appeared on the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. As we approach the new year, we look back at 2018’s most-viewed recent posts. Listed below are the recent posts that you found most interesting on the blog this year.


Farris and Eck

Crime in Sweden: What the Data Tell Us 

By Christopher Fariss and Kristine Eck (2017)

Debate persists inside and outside of Sweden regarding the relationship between immigrants and crime in Sweden. But what can the data actually tell us? Shouldn’t it be able to identify the pattern between the number of crimes committed in Sweden and the proportion of those crimes committed by immigrants? The answer is complicated by the manner in which the information about crime is collected and catalogued. This is not just an issue for Sweden but any country interested in providing security to its citizens. Ultimately though, there is no information that supports the claim that Sweden is experiencing an “epidemic.”

Read the full post here.


Negativity in Debate Speeches, By Political Party, 1976-2016Exploring the Tone of the 2016 Campaign

By undergraduate students Megan Bayagich, Laura Cohen, Lauren Farfel, Andrew Krowitz, Emily Kuchman, Sarah Lindenberg, Natalie Sochacki, and Hannah Suh, and their professor Stuart Soroka, all from the University of Michigan. (2017)

The 2016 election campaign seems to many to have been one of the most negative campaigns in recent history. The authors explore negativity in the campaign – focused on debate transcripts and Facebook-distributed news content – and share their observations.

Read the full post here.


Parental LeaveAttitudes Toward Gender Roles Shape Support for Family Leave Policies

By Solmaz Spence (2017)

In almost half of two-parent households in the United States, both parents work full-time. Yet when a baby is born, it is still new moms who take the most time off work. On average, new mothers take 11 weeks off work while new dads take just one week, according to a 2016 survey carried out by the Pew Research Center. In part, that is because many new fathers in the U.S. don’t have access to paid paternity leave. Paid maternity leave is rare, too: in fact, the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not provide a national paid family leave program to new parents.

Read the full post here.


The Spread of Mass SurveillanceThe 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, the authors’ 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.

Read the full post here.


gerrymanderingRedrawing the Map: How Jowei Chen is Measuring Partisan Gerrymandering 

By Solmaz Spence (2018)

“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.

Read the full post here.


American ElectorateInside 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. To learn more about the study, we asked Ted Brader (University of Michigan professor of political science and one of the project’s principal investigators) a few questions about the anticipated release.

Read the full post here.


Party IDUnderstanding the Changing American Electorate 

By Catherine Allen-West (2018)

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 in this post illustrate the changing American electorate and some of the factors that may motivate voters’ choices at the ballot box.

Read the full post here.


TwitterUsing Twitter to Observe Election Incidents in the United States 

By Catherine Allen-West (2017)

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.

Read the full post here.


InequalityInequality is Always in the Room: Language and Power in Deliberative Democracy 

By Catherine Allen-West (2017)

In a paper presented at the 2017 APSA meeting, Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, and Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania, explore the effectiveness of deliberative democracy by examining the  foundational communicative acts that take place during deliberation.

Read the full post here.


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

By Katherine Pearson (2018)

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.

Read the full post here.

What happened in the 2018 Midterm Elections?

Post written by Katherine Pearson

Elections experts Ken Goldstein, Walter Mebane, and Vincent Hutchings analyzed the results and key lessons of the 2018 Midterm Elections at a round table discussion hosted by the Center for Political Studies on November 13, 2018. A recording of the event is available below.

Ken Goldstein, Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco

Ken Goldstein began his presentation by noting that there are still races that do not have a clear winner a week after the election, including the Senate and Governor’s races in Florida and the Governor’s race in Georgia.

Leading up to the Midterm Elections, some observers anticipated big wins for the Democratic Party. Goldstein observed that while there was a general lack of exuberance on the part of Democrats on election night, further reflection reveals that there were meaningful shifts in this election. Although the “blue wave” of Democratic wins didn’t materialize, the number of congressional seats changing away from the President’s party was of similar magnitude to past midterm elections.

Goldstein drew attention to the behavior of independent voters. Exit poll data show that independents favored Republican candidates for the House of Representatives in the past two midterm elections, as well as the 2016 General Election. In contrast, independent voters were more likely to vote for Democratic House candidates in 2018 by a margin of 12 percentage points.

US party ID by Vote for House in 2018

Were the polls leading up to the election predictive of the actual outcome? Goldstein said they were fairly accurate, but reminded the audience that many congressional seats were not in play in this election. There are few high-quality state-level polls, which makes forecasting less accurate. More probability-based surveys that weight responses for education and race of the respondent would improve the accuracy of predictions.

Looking at the big picture trends, Goldstein observed that there was a substantial increase in the number of women running for office and winning, as well as large increases in non-white voters. He shared a map showing what the results of the presidential election would look if votes followed the same partisan break-down as the 2018 midterms. However, Goldstein cautioned that presidential campaigns are very different from congressional campaigns, and that a presidential candidate running a nation-wide campaign will face challenges in changing districts, especially in the Midwest.

Electoral College Map

Walter Mebane, Professor of Political Science and Statistics at the University of Michigan

Next, Walter Mebane presented analyses he has conducted using election forensics. Mebane coined the term “election forensics” to describe a set of statistical methods he developed to determine whether the results of an election accurately reflect the intentions of the electors.

Using Twitter data from the 2016 General Election Mebane analyzed reports of election incidents, including wait times and problems with voting. During the 2016 General Election people used Twitter to report different kinds of election incidents depending on their partisan affiliation. These incidents tended to be reported in replies to people with similar partisan affiliations.

Table showing types of elections incidents

Mebane discovered that there are partisan differences in the types of incidents that Twitter users shared during the 2016 General Election. For example, Republicans were less likely to report a long line to vote, but more likely to report registration problems. A significant conclusion from this finding is that such observational biases and communication silos suggest partisans tended to form different impressions of how the 2016 election went, supported by the divergent reported experiences. These patterns will probably continue in 2018, according to Mebane.

Vincent Hutchings, Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan

Vincent Hutchings analyzed the shifting demographics of the American electorate. Hutchings presented data showing that Democratic voters have become more racially diverse in the past 20 years, while Republican voters have remained predominately white. Similarly, the Congress elected in 2018 is the most diverse in the history of the United States, but the increase in diversity has been primarily among Democrats elected to Congress.

The most diverse Congress in US history

Reviewing voting data by race, gender, age, marital status, and education, Hutchings notes that each demographic group voted for Democrats at a higher rate than they did in the 2014 Midterm Elections. However, the magnitude of change was different for each group.

Some elections experts wondered whether women would vote for Democrats at higher rates in 2018 in response to the #MeToo movement, the contentious confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, and controversial remarks about women made by President Trump. Hutchings showed that, among white voters, men and women both shifted toward Democratic candidates, but the gender gap didn’t change. Married men and married women both moved toward the Democratic Party House candidates at roughly equal rates in 2018 compared to 2014. No matter how Hutchings examined gender, he found no evidence that white women behaved differently than comparable men, relative to their preferences four years ago.

Votes by gender and marital status

Similarly, Hutchings observed meaningful trends related to generation and education. Voters under 30 years old voted for Democrats at a higher rate than voters under 30 in 2014. Democrats also increased gains among college-educated white voters compared to the 2014 Midterm Elections. Hutchings concluded that, while media may focus on gender differences between Democratic and Republican voters, more important differences are emerging along generational and educational lines, and these are trends to watch

Democratic House support by age of voterDemocratic House support by education of voter

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.

 

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.

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?