Category Archives: Elections

Who Runs for Office? The Effects of Primary Election Reform in Ghana

This post was created by Catherine Allen-West, Nahomi Ichino and Noah Nathan.

Political parties across the developed and developing world increasingly rely on some form of primary to select nominees for legislative elections. The candidate selection process within political parties is crucial for shaping the extent to which voters can control elected representatives, as parties are important intermediaries between citizens and government.

The scientific literature has only scratched the surface in examining how primary elections operate in new democracies and what the implications of the system may be, both for the quality of candidates presented to the electorate and for general election outcomes. The process for selecting a candidate varies on several dimensions, including the restrictiveness of the rules for who may seek a nomination and who selects nominees.

In a new paper entitled, Democratizing the Party: The Effects of Primary Election Reforms in GhanaNahomi Ichino and Noah Nathan, collaborators in the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan, investigated the impact of recent reforms within one of the two major parties in Ghana that significantly expanded the size of the primary electorate.

Ghana has held regular, concurrent elections for president and a unicameral parliament since its transition to democracy in 1992. The two parties that dominate elections in Ghana’s parliament are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the current ruling party, and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the current opposition. The two parties pursue similar policy, but they differ in their ethnic bases of support. Voting is not exclusively along ethnic lines, but, in Ghana, ethnicity remains a strong determinant of vote choice overall.

One reason that Ichino and Nathan looked at primaries in a new democracy is that patronage is prevalent in these settings.  The primaries are a contest over who becomes the more important local patron in a given constituency rather than a contest over policy issues and ideology. In these scenarios, voting in primaries can involve extensive vote buying through the distribution of private goods.  In Ghana, aspirants (politicians seeking their party’s nomination) woo voters with gifts of flat screen TVs, new motorbikes, payment of school fees for their children and more. This system inherently benefits aspirants with immense personal wealth and the political connections to distribute these goods to the right people.  It also disadvantages aspirants who are outsiders who may better represent the interests of the party membership, like women or people from different ethnic groups.

So, given Ghana’s recent reforms that expanded the size of the electorate, Ichino and Nathan argue that this expansion will have positive effects on democratic representation through two changes:

  1. Vote buying becomes more difficult both logistically and financially due to the sheer size of new electorate.
  2. The expanded primary electorate will include new voters from groups that have been underrepresented in local party leadership positions.

These changes in turn will affect what types of politicians choose to compete in primary elections and the types of politicians who win nominations. In particular, the researchers hypothesize that more female politicians and politicians from groups that are usually excluded from power will compete for nominations and that nominees will be more likely to come from these marginalized groups. Ultimately, a larger pool of people- representing a more diverse distribution of preferences and interests- has a viable path to a nomination, and thus to elected office.

Their results show just that: With the new reforms, the total number of aspirants increased (including women and other ethnic groups) and more of these aspirants went on to become the party nominee. Also interesting to note: the number of aspirants with a private sector background (which indicates more personal wealth to put towards vote buying) decreased significantly.

This figure shows the effects on the number of aspirants (total, women aspirants only, and then aspirants from different sets of ethnic groups).

This figure shows the effects of reforms on the number of aspirants (total, women aspirants only, and then aspirants from different sets of ethnic groups).

Overall, the reforms increased the probability that the nominee will be from a non-plurality (local minority) ethnic group by 18 percentage points on average and reduced the probability that the nominee will be from the party’s core ethnic coalition by 12 percentage points on average.

This figure shows the effects on the characteristics of the selected nominee (whether that was the incumbent, someone who was a government official, etc.)

This figure shows the effects of reforms on the characteristics of the selected nominee (whether that was the incumbent, someone who was a government official, etc.)

The results suggest that, in Ghana, the reforms opened up important positions in the party to previously under-represented groups. This work is important because it advances our understanding of the nature and effects of primary elections in new democracies, contributes to research on institutional reforms that can improve the political incorporation of women, and also shows how internal political dynamics within parties shape the connections between parties and ethnic groups in setting where ethnic competition is prevalent.

What We Know About Race and the Gender Gap in the 2016 US Election

This post was created by Catherine Allen-West.

As of October, the latest national polls, predicted that the 2016 Election results will reflect the largest gender gap in vote choice in modern U.S. history. Today, according to NPR, “An average of three recent national polls shows that women prefer Clinton by roughly 13 points, while men prefer Trump by 12, totaling a 25-point gap.” If these polls prove true, the 2016 results would indicate a much larger gender gap than what was observed in 2012, where women overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.

2012 vote by gender based on exit polls.

2012 vote by gender based on national exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research.

University of Texas at Austin Professor Tasha Philpot argues that what really may be driving this gap to even greater depths, is race. For instance, here’s the same data from the 2012 Election, broken down by gender and race.

2012 vote by gender and race based on exit polls

2012 vote by gender and race based on national exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research.

Often overlooked in the discussion of the gender gap, race figures prominently into many American’s political identities.

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification.

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification.

Philpot recently participated in the panel “What We Know So Far About the 2016 Elections” at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies. In her talk, “Race and the Gender Gap in the 2016 Election,” Philpot outlined the potential sources for the gender gap and emphasized the role that race is playing in widening the gap.

Using data from the ANES 2016 Pilot Study, Philpot compared opinions from white and black men and women on several issues such as government spending, inequality and discrimination, and evaluations of the economy. While there were noticeable differences strictly between men and women, the real story became clear when Philpot sorted the results by gender and race. Small gender gaps exist among both whites and blacks, but the most remarkable difference of opinions on all issues is between black women and white men.

SPENDING ON HEALTH CARE AND DEFENSE

2016 Gender Gap in Spending on Healthcare and Defense.

2016 Gender Gap in Spending on Healthcare and Defense.

Perceived Gender Discrimination

Gender Gap in Perceived Discrimination Based on Gender.

2016 Gender Gap in Perceived Discrimination Based on Gender

Evaluations of the Economy

2016 Gender Gap in Economic Evaluations.

2016 Gender Gap in Economic Evaluations.

On most issues, black women and white men fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Philpot concludes that it’s an oversimplification to consider the gender gap as merely a gap between men and women, when, in reality, the observed gender gap is largest between white men and black women.

Watch Tasha Philpot’s full presentation here: 

 


Related Links:

Tasha Philpot on NPR:  Reports of Lower Early Voting Turnout Among African-Americans, NPR, The Diane Rehm Show (November 4, 2016)

What We Know So Far About the 2016 Elections, was held on October 5, 2016 at the Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan. The panel also included the following talks:

Stuart Soroka: Read, Seen or Heard: A Text-Analytic Approach to Campaign Dynamics
Nicholas Valentino: The Underappreciated Role of Sexism in the 2016 Presidential Race
Michael Traugott: Pre-Election Polls in the 2016 Campaign

All videos from the event can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAvEYYDf9x8XFzBWadaPcV6kFjZkBFuHP

 

 

Identifying the Sources of Scientific Illiteracy

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West in coordination with Josh Pasek

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Motivated Reasoning and the Sources of Scientific Illiteracy” was a part of the session “Knowledge and Ideology in Environmental Politics” on Friday, September 2, 2016.

At APSA 2016, Josh Pasek, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Faculty Associate at the Center For Political Studies presented work that delves into the reasons that people do not believe in prevailing scientific consensus.

He argues that widespread scientific illiteracy in the general population is not simply a function of ignorance. In fact, there are several reasons why an individual may answer a question about science or a scientific topic incorrectly.

  1. They are ignorant of the correct answer
  2. They have misperceptions about the science
  3. They know what scientists say and disagree (rejectionism)
  4. They are trying to express some identity that they hold in their response

The typical approach to measuring knowledge involves asking individuals multiple-choice questions where they are presumed to know something when they answer the questions correctly and to lack information when they either answer the questions incorrectly or say that they don’t know.

Pasek Slide 2

Pasek suggests that this current model for measuring scientific knowledge is flawed, because individuals who have misperceptions can appear less knowledgeable than those who are ignorant. So he and his co-author Sedona Chinn, also from the University of Michigan, set out with a new approach to disentangle these cognitive states (knowledge, misperception, rejectionism and ignorance) and then determine which sorts of individuals fall into each of the camps.

Instead of posing multiple-choice questions, the researchers asked the participants what most scientists would say about a certain scientific topic (like, climate change or evolution) and then examined how those answers compared to the respondent’s personal beliefs.

Pasek Slide 4

Across two waves of data collection, respondent answers about scientific consensus could fall into four patterns. They could be consistently correct, change from correct to incorrect, change from incorrect to correct or be consistently correct.

Pasek Slide 5

This set of cognitive states lends itself to a set of equations producing each pattern of responses:

Consistently Correct = Knowledge + .5 x Learning + .25 x Ignorance
Correct then Incorrect = .25 x Ignorance
Incorrect -> Correct =.5 x Learning + .25 x Ignorance
Consistently Incorrect = Misperception + .25 x Ignorance

The researchers then reverse-engineered this estimation strategy for a survey aimed at measuring knowledge on various scientific topics. This yielded the following sort of translations:

Pasek Slide 6

In addition to classifying respondents as knowledgeable, ignorant, or misinformed, Pasek was especially interested in identifying a fourth category: rejectionist. These are individuals who assert that they know the scientific consensus but fail to hold corresponding personal beliefs. Significant rejectionism was apparent for most of the scientific knowledge items, but was particularly prevalent for questions about the big bang, whether humans evolved, and climate change.

Pasek Slide 3

Rejectionism surrounding these controversial scientific topics is closely linked to religious and political motivations. Pasek’s novel strategy of parsing out rejectionism from ignorance and knowledge provides evidence that religious individuals are not simply ignorant about the scientific consensus on evolution or that partisans are unaware of climate change research. Instead, respondents appear to have either systematically wrong beliefs about the state of the science or seem liberated to diverge in their views from a known scientific consensus.

Pasek’s results show a much more nuanced, yet at times predictable, relationship between scientific knowledge and belief in scientific consensus.

 

Motivated Reasoning in the Perceived Credibility of Public Opinion Polls

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West and Ozan Kuru.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The presentation, titled “Motivated Reasoning in the Perceived Credibility of Public Opinion Polls,” was part of the session “Surprises: A Magical Mystery Tour of Public Opinion and Political Psychology” on Saturday, September 3, 2016.

Polls have been an integral part of American democracy, political rhetoric, and news coverage since the 1930s. Today, there are new polls reported constantly, showing public opinion on a range of issues from the President’s approval rating to the direction of the country. Polls remain relevant because numbers and statistical evidence have always been regarded as sound evidence to support one’s beliefs or affirm their affiliations; similarly, polls are supposed to provide relatively objective information in politics.

However, despite their importance and ever-increasing prevalence, polls are often heavily criticized, both by the public and politicians, especially when they fail to predict election outcomes. Such criticisms and discounting of poll credibility is important, because people’s perceptions of polls matter. In such an environment, the perceived credibility of polls becomes an important issue for the public’s reception of poll findings, which then determines the likelihood of any meaningful impact of their results.

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New research contest announced to study the 2016 election

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West and Arthur Lupia

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) this post details the Election Research Preacceptance Competition, organized by Arthur Lupia and Brendan Nyhan. Lupia discussed this initiative at the “Roundtable on the CPS Special Issue on Transparency in the Social Sciences” at APSA 2016 on Friday, September 2, 2016.

ERPCHow can scholars study politics most effectively? The Election Research Preacceptance Competition (http://www.erpc2016.com) is an innovative initiative that will test a new approach to conducting and publishing political science research during the 2016 election.

Entrants in the competition will preregister a research design intended to study an important aspect of the 2016 general election using data collected by the American National Election Studies (ANES). A condition of entering the competition is that entrants must complete and register a design before the ANES data are released. Many leading academic journals have agreed to review scholarly articles that include these research plans and to review them before the data are available or results are known.  

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Election Frauds, Postelection Legal Challenges and Geography in Mexico

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Walter Mebane.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Election Frauds, Postelection Legal Challenges and Geography in Mexico,” was a part of the session “Detecting and Concealing Patterns in Data” on Saturday September 5th, 2015.

Political Science and Statistics Professor and Center for Political Studies faculty member Walter Mebane previously examined electoral fraud in Russia. Professor Mebane, in collaboration with Research Assistant Jonathan Wall, now turns his focus to Mexico and the Presidential elections of 2006 and 2012.

This new research by Mebane and Wall investigates if the numbers of casillas (i.e. ballot boxes) and votes challenged and nullified in Mexico reflect political strategies or genuine election irregularities. In the 2006 elections in Mexico, nullification petitions by runners up were filed against 21% of ballot boxes (27,109/130,788), even though only .56% of votes (237,736/41,791,322) were actually nullified. Similarly, in the 2012 elections, 22% of ballot boxes (32,151/143,132) were challenged and .38% of votes nullified (184,725/49,087,466).

Mebane and Wall examine how the types of nullification claims relate to ballot-box level measures of election fraud and whether the reasons cited for the challenges are uniform across the two elections and/or geography. That is, are complaints geographically clustered or does a complaint depend on geographically clustered frauds?

Ballot-box level measures of election fraud are estimated using casilla vote count data. Hotspot analysis is used to show how nullification petition challenges to casillas are distributed across geography. This technique identifies which locations have local means that are higher than the overall average values and which have local means that are lower than the overall average. A redder color indicates a cluster of locations with higher than average values, and a bluer color indicates a cluster of locations with lower than average values. Grey indicates a cluster of locations that does not differ significantly from the overall mean.

Figure 1 represents nullification complaints of type corresponding to willful misconduct or error in the vote count in the two Presidential elections, and Figure 2 represents incremental fraud probabilities for nullification complaints. Comparing Figure 2 to Figure 1 indicates that the pattern of geographic clustering for the incremental fraud probabilities does not correspond well with the pattern for nullification complaints.

Figure 1: Nullification complaints of type corresponding to willful misconduct or error in the vote count, Mexico, 2006 and 2012 Presidential election Casillas.
Seccion (precint) geographic cluster hotspots

Figure 1aFigure 1b

Figure 2: Incremental fraud, Mexico, 2006 and 2012 Presidential election casillas.
Seccion (precint) geographic cluster hotspots

Figure 2aFigure 2b

In 2006 there are more widespread regions with clusters of casillas having above average frequencies of complaints than there are regions in which there are clusters of casillas with above average incremental fraud probability values. Some of the above average type clusters overlap with above average incremental fraud clusters, but more than half do not. In 2012 on the other hand, we observe the opposite. Clusters of casillas with above average incremental fraud probabilities are much more prevalent than are clusters of casillas with above average frequencies of complaints.

Such patterns indicate that it is unlikely that the relationship between incremental fraud probabilities and the incidence of complaints are positively related. This therefore suggests that the occurrence of nullification petitions is related to the strategic and tactical incentives of political parties.

To read the full paper please visit: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0By8J0EDg6IC3MDgxOWlUVGdfakE

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.”