Category Archives: Elections

How the local environment shapes the way people vote in ethnically diverse new democracies

Post developed by Katie Brown and Nahomi Ichino.

In many new democracies in developing countries, political parties are identified with particular ethnic groups, and voters tend to vote for the parties identified the same ethnicity as themselves – but not always.

Assistant Professor of Political Science and faculty associate of the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Nahomi Ichino addresses this issue in a recent article with Noah Nathan published in American Political Science Review.

Voters tend to believe that politicians will reward their co-ethnic supporters by building schools and health facilities and providing other services that benefit a limited local area. For voters who live among mostly people of their own ethnic group, it makes sense to vote for the party of their own group.

But voters sometimes find themselves living in an area dominated by another group or in a mixed area, and the calculation is more difficult. Take for example the first visualization (a) offered by the authors. A voter (circle) is surrounded by others of a different ethnicity (triangles). That voter might do better if a party of the other group (triangles) won the election and directed more benefits like schools to this area than if the party of her own group (circles) won the area and directed benefits to a different area with many of her own group (circles). If that same voter were in (b), where she is surrounded by more members of her own group (circles), then she becomes more likely to vote for the party of her own group than if she were in (a).

Voter Ethnicity Illustration

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 12.53.04 PM

Ichino and Nathan tested these predictions Ghana. First, the authors mapped ethnic concentration and diversity with data from the 2000 Ghana Population and Housing Census. Then, they geocoded polling stations results to look at how elections results vary with local ethnic composition in rural areas.

Ichino and Nathan first focused on the 2008 presidential election results in Ghana’s Brong Ahafo, a region that is both rural and ethnically diverse and find support for their ideas. Polling stations in areas surrounded by more Akans had higher vote shares for the political party associated with the Akan. The authors also tested their hypothesis with survey results from the Afrobarometer. They similarly find that Ghanaians were more likely to intend to vote for a political party associated with an ethnic group when they were surrounded by more members of that group.

The authors believe their findings nuance the generally accepted idea that people in new democracies simply vote for candidates who share their ethnicity. Ichino and Nathan conclude that their study “demonstrates how local community and geographic contexts can modify the information conveyed by ethnicity and influence voter behavior.”

Measuring Political Polarization

Post developed by Katie Brown and Shanto Iyengar.

The inaugural Michigan Political Communication Workshop welcomed renowned political science and communication scholar Shanto Iyengar from Stanford University. Iyengar presented a talk entitled “Fear and Loathing across Party Lines.”

Iyengar began by considering the current polarized state of American politics. Both parties moving toward ideological poles has resulted in policy gridlock (see: government shutdown, debt 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.

Iyengar1

2008 ANES: Party vs Other Divisions

 

For an explicit measure, Iyengar turned to survey evidence. The American National Election Studies (ANES) indeed illustrates a significant decline in ratings of the other party based on feeling thermometer questions. Likewise, social distance between parties has increased over time, as measured by stereotypes of party supporters and marriage across party lines. In fact, this out-group animosity marks a deeper divide than other considerations, even race (see graph below).

But these surveys gauge animosity at the conscious level. Iyengar also believes mental operations concerning out-party evaluations occur outside of conscious awareness. So, along with Sean J. Westwood, Iyengar pioneered implicit measures of out-party animosity. Specifically, Iyengar and Westwood adapted the Implicit Association Test— originally used to capture racism – to political parties. Interestingly, the IAT also captured this animosity, although the polarization was more pronounced with the explicit survey measures. The chart on the left shows the starker divide between Democrats and Republicans using the feeling thermometer; the chart on the right shows the difference with the IAT.

Iyengar2

Comparing Implicit with Explicit Affect

Iyengar also adapted classic economic games to test implicit out-party animosity. Both games allow the participant to share a proportion of money provided by the researchers. Interestingly, participants gave less to out-party opponents. Iyengar cites this as evidence of implicit out-party bias.

Iyengar3

Economic Game Results by Party

Together, these results suggest marked party polarization. The hostility is so strong that politicians running on a bipartisan platform are likely to be out of step with public opinion.

Political Ads, Emotional Arousal, and Political Participation

Post developed by Katie Brown and Kristyn L. Karl.

It’s election time again. And elections bring advertising assaults by Internet, radio, and TV. In Michigan and Iowa, there is one political TV ad every two minutes. But what effect does this have on potential voters?

Center for Political Studies (CPS) affiliate and Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan Kristyn L. Karl investigated this question. Where previous research in this area uses self-reported measures of emotional response, Karl tackled the issue with a randomized experiment capturing a direct measure of physiological arousal – skin conductance. She was interested in the impact of emotional arousal from political ads on citizens’ intention to participate in politics.

Sample Skin Conductance Output

Sample Skin Conductance Output

For the study, Karl brought participants into the lab and measured their skin conductance while watching a political advertisement. The ad was fictitious and created in a way that gave Karl control over the message, images, music, and structure. Karl designed four ads: a positive Democratic or Republican ad, and attack ads on Democrats or Republicans. Participants randomly watched one of the four ads while their physiological arousal was captured; after the ad, they reported their current emotions and their willingness to participate with regard to 1) signing a petition, 2) initiating a conversation on a political topic, and 3) attending a meeting, rally, or demonstration.

Karl finds some key differences between political novices and more experienced participants. For political novices, both physiological arousal and self-reported negative emotion positively predicted participation in politics. Among political experts, however, the connection between arousal, self-reported emotion, and intended participation is more muted. Specifically, while the trend is still positive, the effect fails to reach statistical significance.

The Marginal Effect of Physiological Arousal on Political Participation by Political Sophistication

graph

Karl turns to theory to explain the limited effect of arousal on intention to participate among experts. Experts have a well-developed cognitive network about politics which, for better or worse, allows them to more easily interpret and condition their emotional responses to political stimuli. Political novices do not have this expansive network and so react in a more instinctual way. The model below captures this:

flowchart

This experiment highlights the importance of using alternative measures of emotional arousal as a complementary tool to self-reported measures. Moreover, it draws attention to the question of for whom political ads are motivating and how do they work.

And the best election predictor is…

Post developed by Katie Brown and Josh Pasek.

Photo credit: ThinkStock

Photo credit: ThinkStock

With each election cycle, the news media publicize day-to-day opinion polls, hoping to scoop election results. But surveys like these are blunt instruments. Or so says Center for Political Studies (CPS) Faculty Associate and Communication Studies Assistant Professor Josh Pasek.

Pasek pinpoints three main issues with current measures of vote choice. First, they do not account for day-to-day changes. Second, they capture the present moment as opposed to election day. Finally, they can be misleading due to sampling error or question wording.

Given these problems, Pasek searched for the most accurate way to combine surveys in order to predict elections. The results will be published in a forthcoming paper in Public Opinion Quarterly. Here, we highlight his main findings. Pasek breaks down three main strategies for pooling surveys: aggregation, prediction, and hybrid models.

Aggregation – what news companies call the “poll of polls” – combines the results of many polls. In this approach, there is choice in which surveys to include and how to combine results. While aggregating creates more stable results by spreading across surveys, an aggregation is a much better measure of what is happening at the moment than what will happen on election day.

Prediction  takes the results of previous elections, current polls, and other variables to extrapolate to election day. The upside of prediction is its focus on election day as opposed to the present and the ability to incorporate information beyond polls. But, because the models are designed to test political theories, they typically use only a few variables. This means that their predictive power may be limited and depends on the availability of good data from past elections.

Hybrid approaches utilize some combination of polls, historical performance, betting markets, and expert ratings to build complex models of elections. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight – which won accolades for accurately predicting the 2012 election – takes a hybrid approach. Because these approaches pull from so many sources of information, they tend to be more accurate. Yet the models are quite complex, making them difficult for most readers to understand.

So which pooling approaches should you look at? That depends on what you want to know. Pasek concludes, “If you want a picture of what’s happening, look at an aggregation; if you want to know what’s going to happen on election day, your best bet is a hybrid model; and if you want to know how well we understand elections, compare the prediction models with the actual results.”

The fifth module of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES)

Post developed by David Howell and André Blais.

The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project recently celebrated its 20th anniversary during a Plenary Session of collaborators in Berlin, Germany, with thanks to the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB) for their generous organizational and financial support of the event.

At the event, 31 election studies from around the world made presentations about their research designs, plans, challenges, and data availability, with most of their slide sets being available for viewing at the Plenary Session website.

It was especially appropriate to return to Berlin this year, the city having hosted the initial planning meeting for the project 20 years previously.  The original event was sponsored by the International Committee for Research into Elections and Representative Democracy (ICORE).  Originally anticipated as an outgrowth of ICORE, the CSES grew and eventually replaced it.

CSES Berlin 2014 Group Photo

A CSES module consists of a 10-15 minute questionnaire that is inserted into post-election surveys from around the world. The project includes collaborators from more than 60 countries, with 50 election studies from 41 countries having appeared in the CSES Module 3 dataset. The CSES design is such that each module has a different theme which is intended to address a new “big question” in science. The project combines all of these surveys for each module, along with macro data about each country’s electoral system and context, into a single dataset for comparative analysis.  There is no cost to download the data, and there is no embargo or preferential access.  Every citizen in the world is able to download the data from the project’s website at the very same time as any of the project’s collaborators.

The recent Berlin meeting involved the first public presentation and discussion of content proposals submitted for CSES Module 5, for which data collection will be conducted during 2016-2021.  After a public call, 20 proposals in total were received – a record number.  Interested persons can view a presentation about the proposals, on topics ranging from corruption to populism to personality traits to electoral integrity.  The theme for Module 5 will be selected, and the questionnaire developed and pretested, over the next one-and-a-half years.  Prior modules have had as their themes: the performance of democracy, accountability and representation, political choices, and distributional politics and social protection.

As of the Berlin meeting in 2014, André Blais and the CSES Module 4 Planning Committee have handed over their role to a new CSES Module 5 Planning Committee, with John Aldrich as chair. John is an outstanding scholar who, in addition to having held leadership positions in many professional associations, has a long association with both the American National Election Studies and CSES.

While at its core CSES is a data gathering and disseminating organization, it has produced many other benefits as well.  CSES considers an important part of its mission to be to create a community for electoral researchers, and to encourage election studies and local research capacity building around the world.  CSES enables scholarship not just in political science, but other related disciplines – over 700 entries now appear in the CSES Bibliography on the project website.

The majority of funds for the CSES project are provided by the many organizations that fund the participating post-election studies.  The central operations of the project are supported by the American National Science Foundation and the GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences.

We’d like to thank our many collaborators, funding organizations, and users for their support of the CSES, and we look forward to developing an engaging CSES Module 5!

What do Birthers have in common? (Besides believing Obama was born outside the U.S.)

Post developed by Katie Brown and Josh Pasek.

The Birther movement contends that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Even after releasing Obama’s short form and long form birth certificates to the public, which should have settled the matter, the rumors to the contrary continued. Some contend Obama was born in Kenya. Others argue he forfeited American citizenship while living in Indonesia as a child.

What drives these beliefs?

Obama's Short-form Birth Certificate, courtesy of whitehouse.gov

Obama’s short form birth certificate, courtesy of whitehouse.gov

Center for Political Studies (CPS) Faculty Associate and Communication Studies Assistant Professor of  Josh Pasek – along with Tobias Stark, Jon Krosnick, and Trevor Tompson – investigated the issue.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey conducted by the Associated Press, GfK, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan. The survey asked participants where they believed Obama was born. The survey also asked about political ideology, party identification, approval of the President’s job, and attitudes toward Blacks.

21.7% of White Americans did not think Obama was born in the U.S.; their answers included “not in the U.S.,” “Thailand,” “the bush,” and, most frequently, “Kenya.”

Further analyses revealed that Republicans and conservatives were more likely to believe Obama was born abroad. Likewise, negative attitudes toward blacks also correlated with Birther endorsement. Importantly, disapproval of Obama mediated the connection between both ideology and racism on the one hand and Birther beliefs on the other.

The authors conclude that, “Individuals most motivated to disapprove of the president – due to partisanship, liberal/conservative self-identification, and attitudes toward Blacks – were the most likely to hold beliefs that he was not born in the United States.” Put simply, the key feature of Birthers wasn’t that they were Republicans or that they held anti-Black attitudes, but that they disapproved of the president. It was this disapproval that was most closely associated with the willingness to believe that President Obama was ineligible for his office.

The full Electoral Studies article can be found here.

Cutting through the Clutter: How to Inform the Politically Ignorant (i.e., Everyone)

Post developed by Katie Brown and Arthur Lupia.

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Photo credit: ThinkStock

In a post last year, Center for Political Studies (CPS) Research Professor and Professor of Political Science Arthur Lupia declared there to be two types of people: those who are ignorant about politics and those who are delusional about how much they know. There is no third group.

If people lack information, it can lead to bad decision-making. As part of an effort to reduce bad decisions, Lupia examines how to inform voters more effectively in his forthcoming book, How to Educate Ignorant People about Politics: A Scientific Perspective.

Lupia focuses on improving the efforts of teachers, scientists, faith leaders, issue advocates, journalists, and political campaigners. How can they best educate others? To further this goal, Lupia focuses on the transmission of information. He clarifies how different kinds of information can improve important kinds of knowledge and competence. A key part of Lupia’s argument is that people are easily distracted and often evaluate information based on how it makes them feel. As a result, the way to improve knowledge and competence is to find factual information that is not only relevant to the decisions that people actually have to make but also consistent with their values and core beliefs. For if a person sees factual information that is inconsistent with their values and beliefs, they tend to ignore it; and if the information is not relevant to their actions, then it cannot improve their competence. In this examination, facts are not enough. The real task is to convey facts to which people want to pay attention.

Despite the pessimistic premise of broad ignorance, Lupia is ultimately optimistic. The central thesis of his book is that offering helpful information is possible. Or as he puts it, “Educators can convey valuable information more effectively and efficiently if they know a few more things about how people think and learn.”

How the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict Changed Palestinian Views 

Post developed by Katie Brown in coordination with Khalil Shikaki and Mark Tessler.

Photo credit: ThinkStock

Photo credit: ThinkStock

This summer witnessed intense fighting between Israel and Gaza. With tens of thousands of rockets fired, the conflict killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 80 Israelis, mostly soldiers. How has the most recent conflict affected Palestinian attitudes?

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Research (PCPSR) conducted a survey to gauge this impact. PCPSR is run by Khalil Shikaki. This year, Shikaki is a visiting scholar at the Center for Political Studies (CPS), working closely with CPS Research Professor and expert on the Middle East Mark Tessler. In this post, we offer results from PCPSR’s study along with insight from Tessler to understand the impact of the conflict on Palestinian public opinion.

PCPSR surveyed 1,270 adults in 127 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip between August 26 and August 30, 2014, coinciding with the first lasting ceasefire of the conflict. Results suggest that a significant majority (79%) of the Palestinian public views Hamas as the conflict’s winner. Just 3% believe Israel emerged victorious, while 17% believe both sides lost. Likewise, 79% blame Israel for starting this wave of fighting, while 86% support launching rockets at Israel from Gaza when under attack. As for the ceasefire agreement: 63% think it satisfies Palestinian interests.

Photo credit: ThinkStock

Photo credit: ThinkStock

In addition to these conflict-specific findings, the PCPSR study also finds increasing support for Hamas among Palestinians to levels not seen since 2006. If elections occurred today, current Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh would easily win a presidential race against current president Mahoud Abbas. This is a massive shift in public opinion. Tessler notes that before the most recent conflict, support for Hamas was fading. Shikaki attributes this gain to the conflict, while predicting the Hamas support may wane as time passes. Tessler likewise cautions, “If things do settle down for a reasonable period and there is a new and stable status quo, any spike in Hamas popularity will probably drift back toward its ‘normal’ level based on what people favor and perceive with respect to political Islam, compromise with Israel, corruption and other issues that drive Palestinian politics in normal times.” Thus, the lingering effects of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict will depend on whether or not the ceasefire continues.

Khalil Shikaki will give a talk at the CPS Interdisciplinary Workshop on Politics and Policy on September 17, 2014 in Room 6006 of the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

 

Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat?

Post developed by Vincent HutchingsHakeem Jefferson, and Katie Brown.

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

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andreadis seeks to bring ANES model to elections in Greece

Post developed by Katie Brown and Ioannis Andreadis.

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

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

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

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

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

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