Category Archives: Elections

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?

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.”

The Politics of Latinidad

Post developed by Mara Ostfeld and Catherine Allen-West

The effectiveness of America’s system of democratic representation, in practice, turns on broad participation. Yet only about 60 percent of voting eligible Americans cast their vote in presidential elections. This number is nearly cut in half in off-year elections (about 36 percent), and participation in local elections is even lower. This lack of electoral engagement does not fall equally across racial and ethnic subgroups. Latinos, for one, are particularly underrepresented at polling booths across the country. In 2016, eligible Latino voters were about 20 percentage points less likely to vote than their White counterparts, and about 13 percentage points less likely to vote than their Black counterparts.

This fall, a group of 24 University of Michigan undergraduate students sought to explore this disparity and pinpoint what, if anything, works to increase Latino political participation. In the class, entitled The Politics of Latinidad, CPS Faculty Associate and U-M Political Science Professor Mara Ostfeld taught her students how to measure public opinion and challenged them to analyze the factors that affect Latino political participation.

Today, more than 50,000 Latinos live in Detroit and a majority of them reside in City Council District 6 in Southwest Detroit which is precisely where this course focused. The students began by studying the history of Latinos in Southeast Michigan and exploring how Latinos played critical roles in the city’s development dating back to before World War I. They analyzed broad trends in Latino public opinion, and considered how and why these patterns might be similar or different in Detroit. Students then designed their own pre-election polls to take into the field.

In order to understand what affects voter turnout, students surveyed over 300 residents of Southwest Detroit to measure the issues that were most important to them.

Photo of U-M students \

Students pictured here: Storm Boehlke, Mohamad Zawahra, Alex Tabet , Hannel So, Sion Lee.

The results illustrate some powerful patterns. Among the issues that the residents found most important, immigration and crime stood out. Forty-nine and 45 percent of Latinos listed immigration and crime, respectively, as issues of particular concern, with only 31 percent of residents saying that they felt safe in their own home.

Latinos in Southwest Detroit feel extremely high levels of discrimination.  Seventy percent of Latinos surveyed said they felt Latinos face “a great deal” of discrimination. This significantly exceeds the roughly half of Latinos nationwide who say they have experienced discrimination.

Student Alex Garcia visits residents in Detroit.

Local issues were also at the forefront of residents’ minds. Latinos had mixed views on the city’s use of blight tickets to combat housing code violations, with one third of respondents supporting them and one third opposing them.

As local organizations, like Michigan United, continue trying to get a paid sick leave initiative on the ballot in 2018, they can expect strong support among Latinos in Southwest Detroit. About two out of every three Latinos in the area indicated they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports the paid sick leave requirement.

The students then followed up with the residents a month later to see if they planned to vote in the upcoming city council election. At this point, the students implemented some interventions that have been used to increase political participation like, evoking emotions that have been shown to have a mobilizing effect, framing voting as an important social norm, and speaking with voters immediately before an election. With the election now over, students are back in the classroom analyzing the effectiveness of these interventions and will use their first-hand experience to better understand public opinion and political participation.

 

 

Inside the American Electorate: The 2016 ANES Time Series Study

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West, Megan Bayagich and Ted Brader

The initial release of the 2016 American National Election Studies (ANES) Time Series dataset is approaching. 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. Shanto Iyengar, one of the project’s principal investigators and Stanford professor of political science, noted, “The data will tell us the extent to which Trump and Clinton voters inhabit distinct psychological worlds.”


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 this year’s anticipated release.

When was the data collected?

The study interviewed respondents in a pre-election survey between September 7 and November 7, 2016. Election day was November 8. The study re-interviewed as many as possible of the same respondents in a post-election survey between November 9 and January 8, 2017.

The ANES conducted face-to-face and internet interviews again for 2016. How are these samples different from 2012? What are the sample sizes and the response rates?

The study has two independently drawn probability samples that describe approximately the same population. The target population for the face-to-face mode was 222.6 million U.S. citizens age 18 or older living in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, and the target population for the Internet mode was 224.1 million U.S. citizens age 18 or older living in the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia. In both modes, the sampling frame was lists of residential addresses where mail is delivered, and to be eligible to participate, a respondent had to reside at the sampled address and be a U.S. citizen age 18 or older at the time of recruitment.

The response rate, using the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) formula for the minimum response rate on the pre-election interview, was 50 percent for the face-to-face component and 44 percent for the Internet component. The response rate for the face-to-face component is weighted to account for subsampling during data collection; due to subsampling for the face-to-face mode, the unweighted response rate would not be meaningful.

Photo Credit: Mark Newman (University of Michigan)

The re-interview rate on the post-election survey was 90 percent for the face-to-face component and 84 percent for the Internet component.

Are there any other aspects of the design that you think are particularly important?

I’d emphasize the effort to collect high quality samples via both in-person and online interviews for the whole survey as obviously the most important design aspect of the 2016 study, helping us to learn more about the trade-offs between survey mode and potential benefits of mixed mode data collection.

Are there any new questions that you think users will be particularly interested in?

Along with many previous questions that allow researchers to look at short and long term trends, we have lots of new items related to trade, outsourcing, immigration, policing, political correctness, LGBT issues, gender issues, social mobility, economic inequality, campaign finance, and international affairs.

What do you think some of the biggest challenges were for the 2016 data collection?

With increasing levels of polarization and a highly negative campaign, some Americans were much more resistant to participating in the survey. Many seemed to feel alienated, distrustful, and sick of the election. Under these circumstances, we worked hard with our partners at Westat to overcome this reluctance and are pleased to have recruited such a high quality sample by Election Day.

What are you most excited about when you think of the 2016 ANES?

The 2016 contest was in many ways a particularly fascinating election, even for those of us who usually find elections interesting! The election ultimately centered on two highly polarizing candidates, and people of many different backgrounds felt a lot was at stake in the outcome. Thus, not surprisingly, there was energetic speculation throughout the year about what voters were thinking and why they supported Clinton or Trump. The 2016 ANES survey provides an incredibly rich and unparalleled set of data for examining and testing among these speculations. I expect it will take some time to arrive at definitive answers, but I’m excited to release this wealth of evidence so the search for the truth can begin in earnest.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would note that future releases will include redacted open-ended comments by respondents, numerical codings of some of the open-ended answers, and administrative data (e.g., interviewer observations, timing, etc.).

For more information about ANES please visit electionstudies.org and follow ANES on Twitter @electionstudies

 

Exploring 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.


The 2016 election campaign seems to many to have been one of the most negative campaigns in recent history. Our exploration of negativity in the campaign – focused on debate transcripts and Facebook-distributed news content – begins with the following observations.

Since the advent of the first radio-broadcasted debate in 1948, debates have become a staple in the presidential campaign process.  They are an opportunity for voters to see candidates’ debate policies and reply to attacks in real-time. Just as importantly, candidates use their time to establish a public persona to which viewers can feel attracted and connected.

Research has accordingly explored the effects of debates on voter preferences and behavior. Issue knowledge has been found to increase with debate viewership, as well as knowledge of candidates’ policy preferences. Debates also have an agenda-setting effect, as the issues discussed in debates then tend to be considered more important by viewers. Additionally, there is tentative support for debate influence on voter preferences, particularly for independent and nonpartisan viewers. While debate content might not alter the preferences of strong partisans, it may affect a significant percentage of the population who is unsure in its voting decision. (For a review of the literature on debates effects, see Benoit, Hansen, & Verser, 2003).

Of course, the impact of debates comes not just from watching them but also from the news that follows. The media’s power to determine the content that is seen and how it is presented can have significant consequences. The literatures on agenda setting, priming, and framing make clear the way in which media shape our political reality. And studies have found that media’s coverage of debates can alter the public’s perception of debate content and their attitudes toward candidates. (See, for instance, Hwang, Gotlieb, Nah & McLeod 2006, Fridkin, Kenney, Gershon & Woodall 2008.)

This is true not just for traditional media, but for social media as well. As noted by the Pew Research Center, “…44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers.” Social media has become a valuable tool for the public to gather news throughout election cycles, with 61% of millennials getting political news from Facebook in a given week versus 37% who receive it from local TV. The significance of news disseminated through Facebook continues to increase.

It is in this context that we explore the nature of the content and coverage of the presidential debates of 2016.  Over the course of a term-long seminar exploring media coverage surrounding the 2016 presidential election, we became interested in measuring fluctuations in negativity across the last 40 years of presidential debates, with a specific emphasis on the 2016 debates. We simultaneously were interested in the tone of media coverage over the election cycle, examined through media outlets’ Facebook posts.

To test these hypotheses, we compiled and coded debate transcripts from presidential debates between 1976 and 2016. We estimated “tone” using computer-automated analyses. Using the Lexicoder Sentiment Dictionary (LSD) we counted the number of positive and negative words across all debates. We then ran the same test over news articles posted on Facebook during the election cycle, taken news feeds of main media outlets including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and FOX. (Facebook data are drawn from Martinchek 2016.)

We begin with a simple measure of the volume of tone, or “sentiment,” in debates.  Figure 1 shows the total amount of sentiment – the total number of positive and negative words combined, as a percentage of all words – in all statements made by each in candidate across all debates.  In contrast with what some may expect, the 2016 debates were not particularly emotion-laden when compared to past cycles. From 1976 through to 2016, roughy 6.9% of the words said during debates are included in our sentiment dictionary. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s speeches were essentially on par with this average; neither reached the peak of 8% (like 2004) or the low of 6% (like 2012).

Figure 1: Total Sentiment in Debates, 1976-2016

Figure 2 shows the percent of all sentiment words that were negative (to be clear: negative words as a percent of all sentiment words), and here we see some interesting differences.  Negativity from Democratic candidates has not fluctuated very much over time. The average percent of negative sentiment words for Democrats is 33.6%.  Even so, Hillary Clinton’s debate speeches showed relatively high levels of negativity, at 40.2%. Indeed, Clinton was the only Democratic candidate other than Mondale to express sentiment that is more than 40% negative.

Figure 2: Negativity in Debate Speeches, By Political Party, 1976-2016

Clinton’s negativity pales in comparison with Trump’s, however.  Figure 2 makes clear the large jump in negativity for Donald Trump in comparison with past candidates. For the first time in 32 years, sentiment-laden words used by Trump are nearly 50% negative – a level similar to Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Indeed, when we look at negative words as a proportion of all words, not just words in the sentiment dictionary, it seems that nearly every one in ten words uttered by Trump during the debates was negative.

The 2016 debates thus appear to be markedly more negative than most past debates. To what extent is the tone of debate content reflected in news coverage? Does negative speech in debates produce news coverage reflecting similar degrees of negativity?  Figure 3 explores this question, illustrating negativity (again, negative words as a proportion of all sentiment words) in the text of all Facebook posts concerning either Trump or Clinton, as distributed by five major news networks.

What stands out most in Figure 3 are the differences across networks: ABC, CNN, and NBC show higher negativity for Trump-related posts, while Fox shows higher negativity for Clinton-related posts.  CBS posts reflect a more neutral position.

Figure 3: Negativity in Facebook News Postings by Major Broadcasters, By Candidate, 2016

Clearly, political news content varies greatly across news sources. Trump’s expressed negativity in debates (and perhaps in campaign communications more generally) does not necessarily translate to more negative news content, at least by these measures. For instance: even as Trump is expressing more negative sentiment than Clinton, coverage in Fox is more positive towards Trump.  Of course, news coverage isn’t (and shouldn’t be) just a reflection of what candidates say. But these make clear that the tone of coverage for candidates needn’t be in line with the sentiment expressed by those candidates.  Expressing negative sentiment can produce negative coverage, or positive coverage, or (as Figure 3 suggests), both.

This much is clear: in line with our expectations, the 2016 presidential debates were among the most negative of all US presidential debates.  The same seems true of the campaigns, or at least the candidates’ stump speeches, more generally.  Although there was a good deal of negativity during debates, however, the tone of news coverage varied across sources.  Depending on citizens’ news source, even as candidates seem to have focused on negative themes, this may or may not have been a fundamentally negative campaign cycle. For those interested in the “tone” of political debate, our results highlight the importance of considering both politicians’ rhetoric, and the mass-mediated political debate that reaches citizens.

 


This article was co-authored by U-M capstone Communication Studies 463 class of 2016, which took place during the fall election campaign. Class readings and discussion focused on the campaign, and the class found themselves asking questions about the “tone” of the 2016 debates, and the campaign more generally. Using their professor Stuart Soroka as a data manager/research assistant, students looked for answers to some of their questions about the degree of negativity in the 2016 campaign.