Publications

2019
Moskowitz DJ, Schneer B. Reevaluating Competition and Turnout in U.S. House Elections. Quarterly Journal of Political Science. 2019;14 (2) :191-223.Abstract
Does electoral competitiveness boost turnout in U.S. House elections? Using an individual panel of turnout records compiled from the voter files of all 50 states, we exploit variation in district competitiveness induced by the 2012 redistricting cycle to provide credible estimates of the effect of competitiveness on turnout. When tracking the same voters across time under differing levels of competitiveness, we precisely estimate the effect on turnout to be near zero. Although past cross-sectional research reports a link between competitiveness and turnout in House elections, we demonstrate that residents in competitive districts differ markedly from those in uncompetitive districts along a number of observable characteristics correlated with turnout, and we argue that this induces bias in most cross-sectional estimates. Secondary evidence tracking voter perceptions of competitiveness and campaign behavior provides support for our finding. Voters have scant awareness of competitiveness in House elections, and, while campaign spending is strongly related to competitiveness, it is directed into avenues that do not appreciably increase turnout. Our findings have important implications for the competitiveness--turnout relationship in other electoral settings with geographically compact, single-member districts.
2018
Hertel-Fernandez A, Mildenberger M, Stokes LC. Legislative Staff and Representation in Congress . American Political Science Review. 2018;113 (1) :1-18.Abstract

Legislative staff link Members of Congress and their constituents, theoretically facilitating democratic representation. Yet, little research has examined whether Congressional staff actually recognize the preferences of their Members’ constituents. Using an original survey of senior US Congressional staffers, we show that staff systematically mis-estimate constituent opinions. We then evaluate the sources of these misperceptions, using observational analyses and two survey experiments. Staffers who rely more heavily on conservative and business interest groups for policy information have more skewed perceptions of constituent opinion. Egocentric biases also shape staff perceptions. Our findings complicate assumptions that Congress represents constituent opinion, and help to explain why Congress often appears so unresponsive to ordinary citizens. We conclude that scholars should focus more closely on legislative aides as key actors in the policymaking process, both in the United States and across other advanced democracies.

Dancey L, Sheagley G. Partisanship and Perceptions of Party-Line Voting in Congress. Political Research Quarterly. 2018;71 (1) :32-45.Abstract
This paper explores public perceptions of congressional partisanship in an era of polarized parties. We use data from a module on the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) that asks respondents about the voting behavior of their legislators. Our results show that individuals underestimate the extent to which legislators from their own party vote the party line—even when primed with information about high levels of party-line voting in Congress—while fairly accurately perceiving levels of unity in the opposing party. We also find evidence that this perceptual gap endures, and at times widens, at higher levels of political knowledge and in the presence of elections. Finally, in a separate experiment, we explore how voters respond to differential levels of party-line voting by a hypothetical legislator. The combined results from the experiment and CCES module suggest voters’ perceptions often align with what allows them to have the most favorable impression of their party’s senators or unfavorable impression of the other party’s senators. The results suggest that biases in how voters process information about levels of partisanship in Congress may limit accountability in meaningful ways.
Tausanovitch C, Warshaw C. Does the Ideological Proximity Between Candidates and Voters Affect Voting in U. S. House Elections?. Political Behavior. 2018;40 (1) :223-245.
Sievert J, McKee SC. Nationalization in U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial Elections. American Politics Research. 2018 :1–26.
Ahler DJ, Broockman DE. The Delegate Paradox: Why Polarized Politicians Can Represent Citizens Best. The Journal of Politics. 2018;80 (4) :1117–1133.
Hall AB, Thompson DM. Who Punishes Extremist Nominees? Candidate Ideology and Turning Out the Base in US Elections. American Political Science Review. 2018;112 (3) :509–524.
Meng X-L. Statistical Paradises and Paradoxes in Big Data (I): Law of Large Populations, Big Data Paradox, and the 2016 US Presidential Election. Annals of Applied Statistics [Internet]. 2018;12 (2) :685-726. Ungated VersionAbstract
Statisticians are increasingly posed with thought-provoking and even paradoxical questions, challenging our qualifications for entering the statistical paradises created by Big Data. By developing measures for data quality, this article suggests a framework to address such a question: “Which one should I trust more: a 1% survey with 60% response rate or a self-reported administrative dataset covering 80% of the population?” A 5-element Eulerformula-like identity shows that for any dataset of size n, probabilistic or not, the difference between the sample average Xn and the population average XN is the product of three terms: (1) a data quality measure, ρ_{R,X}, the correlation between Xj and the response/recording indicator Rj ; (2) a data quantity measure, √(N − n)/n, where N is the population size; and (3) a problem difficulty measure, σ_{X}, the standard deviation of X. This decomposition provides multiple insights: (I) Probabilistic sampling ensures high data quality by controlling ρ_{R,X} at the level of N−1/2; (II) When we lose this control, the impact of N is no longer canceled by ρ_{R,X}, leading to a Law of Large Populations (LLP), that is, our estimation error, relative to the benchmarking rate 1/ √n, increases with √N; and (III) the “bigness” of such Big Data (for population inferences) should be measured by the relative size f = n/N, not the absolute size n; (IV) When combining data sources for population inferences, those relatively tiny but higher quality ones should be given far more weights than suggested by their sizes. Estimates obtained from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) of the 2016 US presidential election suggest a ρ_{R,X} ≈ −0.005 for self-reporting to vote for Donald Trump. Because of LLP, this seemingly minuscule data defect correlation implies that the simple sample proportion of the self-reported voting preference for Trump from 1% of the US eligible voters, that is, n ≈ 2,300,000, has the same mean squared error as the corresponding sample proportion from a genuine simple random sample of size n ≈ 400, a 99.98% reduction of sample size (and hence our confidence). The CCES data demonstrate LLP vividly: on average, the larger the state’s voter populations, the further away the actual Trump vote shares from the usual 95% confidence intervals based on the sample proportions. This should remind us that, without taking data quality into account, population inferences with Big Data are subject to a Big Data Paradox: the more the data, the surer we fool ourselves.
2017
Banda KK, Kirland JH. Legislative Party Polarization and Trust in State Legislatures. American Politics Research [Internet]. 2017;46 (4) :596-628. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We argue that citizens’ trust attitudes are inversely related to party polarization because polarization tends to encourage political conflict, which most people dislike. We further posit that partisans trust attitudes are driven by the ideological extremity of the opposing and their own parties for similar reasons. Using roll-call-based estimates of state legislative party polarization and public opinion data collected in 2008, we show strong evidence in favor of our theory: higher levels of party polarization within legislative chambers depresses citizens’ trust in their legislatures. Among partisans, we also find that trust attitudes respond to the ideological extremity of the opposing party but not to a citizen’s own party’s extremity. We further find that as citizens’ interest in politics increases, they react more strongly to polarization when forming their trust attitudes. Finally, partisans become less responsive to the ideological extremity of the opposing party as they become more politically interested.
Hayes D, Lawless J. The Decline of Local News and Its Effects: New Evidence from Longitudinal Data. Journal of Politics [Internet]. 2017;80 (1) :332-336. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We present the first longitudinal evidence that declining local political news coverage is reducing citizen engagement. Drawing on a content analysis of more than 10,000 stories about US House campaigns in 2010 and 2014, we show that local newspapers over this period published less, and less substantive, political news. We then use panel data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to investigate how the news environment influences citizen engagement. Track- ing the same individuals over time and simultaneously measuring changes in media content in their communities reveals that reductions in citizens’ political knowledge and participation follow declines in coverage about congressional elec- tions. To the extent that the local news environment continues to deteriorate—a likely scenario as the industry contin- ues to struggle—observers’ concerns about political engagement in localities across the United States appear very much justified.

Hill SJ, Huber G. Representativeness and Motivations of the Contemporary Donorate: Results from Merged Survey and Administrative Records. Political Behavior. 2017;39 (1) :3-29.Abstract
Only a small portion of Americans make campaign donations, yet because ambitious politicians need these resources, this group may be particularly important for shaping political outcomes. We investigate the characteristics and motivations of the donorate using a novel dataset that combines administrative records of two types of political participation, contributing and voting, with a rich set of survey variables. These merged observations allow us to examine differences in demographics, validated voting, and ideology across subgroups of the population and to evaluate the motivations of those who donate. We find that in both parties donors are consistently and notably divergent from non-donors to a larger degree than voters are divergent from non-voters. Of great interest, in both parties donors are more ideologically extreme than other partisans, including primary voters. With respect to why individuals contribute, we show that donors appear responsive to their perception of the stakes in the election. We also present evidence that inferences about donor ideology derived from the candidates donors give to may not closely reflect the within-party policy ideology of those donors. Overall, our results suggest that donations are a way for citizens motivated by the perceived stakes of elections to increase their participation beyond solely turning out.
Leighly JE, Oser J. Representation in an Era of Political and Economic Inequality: How and When Citizen Engagement Matters. Perspectives on Politics. 2017;16 (2) :328-344.Abstract

Does political participation make a difference for policy responsiveness, or is affluence what matters most? To examine whether participation beyond voting matters for policy representation, we analyze congruence between citizens’ policy preferences and their representatives’ roll call votes using data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. For the main policy issue for which citizens’ political engagement beyond voting enhances congruence—namely, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010—we then investigate whether this effect holds when taking citizens’ income into account. The findings show that for the ACA, constituents’ participation beyond voting is associated with increased congruence with their representatives at all levels of income, and that those with less income who are politically active beyond voting experience the largest increase in congruence. However, our findings also show that the potential of political participation and income to enhance congruence is restricted to co-partisans, and to highly partisan and salient issues.

2016
Banda KK. Issue Ownership, Issue Positions, and Candidate Assessment. Political Communication. 2016;33 (4) :651-666.Abstract
I argue that citizens alter their views of candidates’ ideological and issue positions in response to two kinds of information cues: issue ownership and issue position cues. Issue ownership cues associate a candidate with the party that owns the issue discussed by a candidate. Issue position cues associate a candidate with the party that is linked to the position that the candidate discusses. These cues can either lead citizens to view the candidate as more or less extreme—both in terms of ideological and issue position assessments—than that candidate’s party. When both types of cues are present, citizens should ignore the issue ownership cues in favor of the easier-to-process issue position cues. Evidence from a survey experiment embedded in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study provides strong support for this theory and suggests that issue ownership can convey positional information.
Cann DM, Yates J. These Estimable Courts: Understanding Public Perceptions of State Judicial Institutions and Legal PolicyMaking. Oxford University Press; 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This book investigates and analyzes how citizens feel about the government institutions at the front lines of jurisprudential policymaking in the United States: the nation's state and local courts. The book’s central focus concerns a primary question of governance: Why do people support and find legitimate the institutions that govern their lives? Specifically, the authors are interested in what drives citizens’ support for their state and local courts, and what influences public opinion regarding the proper role of these courts in American society and how judicial policymaking should be approached. A viable democracy depends upon citizen belief in the legitimacy of government institutions. Nowhere is this more evident than in judicial institutions. Indeed, courts are unusually vulnerable democratic institutions that lack appreciable influence over "either the sword or the purse." Accordingly, courts depend heavily on a reservoir of public goodwill and institutional legitimacy to get their decrees obeyed by the public and implemented by other policy actors. It enables courts to weather the storm of counter-majoritarian decisions and to remain effective governing bodies whose edicts are respected and followed. In addition to assessing citizens’ belief in the legitimacy of state courts, this work examines a number of related, and important, concerns. These include people’s views concerning how judges decide cases, the role of judges and courts in policymaking, the manner in which judges are selected, and, finally, the dynamics of citizens’ views regarding compliance with the law and legal institutions.
Acharya A, Blackwell M, Sen M. The Political Legacy of American Slavery. Journal of Politics [Internet]. 2016;783 (3) :621-641. Publisher's Version
Jessee S. (How) Can We Estimate the Ideology of Citizens and Political Elites on the Same Scale?. American Journal of Political Science. 2016;00 :1–17.Abstract
The estimation of the ideology of political elites such as candidates and elected officials on the same scale as that of ordinary citizens has been shown to have great potential to provide new understand- ings of voting behavior, representation and other political phenomena. There has been limited attention, however, to the fundamental practical and conceptual issues involved in these scalings or to the sensitivity of these estimates to modeling assumptions and data choices. I show that the standard strategy of estimating ideal point models for preference data on citizens and elites can suffer from potentially problematic patholo- gies. This paper addresses these issues and presents a modeling approach that can be used to investigate the effects of modeling assumptions on resulting estimates and also to impose restrictions on the ideological dimension being estimated in a straightforward way.
Brewer PR, Wilson DC. Wedding Imagery and Public Support for Gay Marriage. Journal of homosexuality [Internet]. 2016;63 (8) :1041-1051. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study uses an experiment embedded in a large, nationally representative survey to test whether exposure to imagery of a gay or lesbian couple’s wedding influences support for gay marriage. It also tests whether any such effects depend on the nature of the image (gay or lesbian couple, kissing or not) and viewer characteristics (sex, age, race, education, religion, and ideology). Results show that exposure to imagery of a gay couple kissing reduced support for gay marriage relative to the baseline. Other image treatments (gay couple not kissing, lesbian couple kissing, lesbian couple not kissing) did not significantly influence opinion.
2015
Bullock JG, Gerber AS, Hill SJ, Huber GA. Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics. Quarterly Journal of Political Science. 2015;(March) :1–73.Abstract
Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to praise one party or criticize another. To shed light on this question, we develop a model of partisan survey response and report two experiments that are based on the model. The experiments show that small payments for correct and “don't know” responses sharply diminish the gap between Democrats and Republicans in responses to “partisan” factual questions. Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real.
Ansolabehere S, Schaffner B. Beyond the Core and Periphery: A New Look at Voter Participation Across Elections. 2015. ansolabehere_schaffner_core_periphery.pdf
Fraga BL. Candidates or Districts? Reevaluating the Role of Race in Voter Turnout. American Journal of Political Science [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's Version

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