Publications

2019
Lax J, Phillips J, Zelizer A. The Party or the Purse? Unequal Representation in the US Senate. American Political Science Review [Internet]. 2019;113 (4) :917-940. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Recent work on US policymaking argues that responsiveness to public opinion is distorted bymoney, in that the preferences of the rich matter much more than those of lower-income Americans. A second distortion—partisan biases in responsiveness—has been less well studied and is often
ignored or downplayed in the literature on affluent influence. We are the first to evaluate, in tandem, these two potential distortions in representation. We do so using 49 Senate roll-call votes from 2001 to 2015. We find that affluent influence is overstated and itselfcontingenton partisanship—party trumps the purse when senators have to take sides. The poor getwhatthey wantmore often fromDemocrats. The rich getwhatthey wantmoreoftenfromRepublicans, butonly ifRepublican constituents side with the rich. Thus,partisanship induces, shapes, and constrains affluent influenc
Green J, McElwee S. The Differential Effects of Economic Conditions and Racial Attitudes in the Election of Donald Trump. Perspectives on Politics [Internet]. 2019;17 (2) :358-379. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Debates over the extent to which racial attitudes and economic distress explain voting behavior in the 2016 election have tended to be limited in scope, focusing on the extent to which each factor explains white voters’ two-party vote choice. This limited scope obscures important ways in which these factors could have been related to voting behavior among other racial sub-groups of the electorate, as well as participation in the two-party contest in the first place. Using the vote-validated 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, merged with economic data at the ZIP code and county levels, we find that racial attitudes strongly explain two-party vote choice among white voters—in line with a growing body of literature. However, we also find that local economic distress was strongly associated with non-voting among people of color, complicating direct comparisons between racial and economic explanations of the 2016 election and cautioning against generalizations regarding causal emphasis.
Hopkins DJ, Sides J, Citrin J. The Muted Consequences of Correct Information about Immigration. The Journal of Politics [Internet]. 2019;81 (1) :315-320. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Previous research shows that people commonly exaggerate the size of minority populations. Theories of intergroup threat predict that the larger people perceive minority groups to be, the less favorably they feel toward them. We investigate whether correcting Americans’ misperceptions about one such population—immigrants—affects related attitudes. We confirm that non-Hispanic Americans overestimate the percentage of the population that is foreign-born or in the United States without authorization. However, in seven separate survey experiments over 11 years, we find that providing accurate information does little to affect attitudes toward immigration, even though it does reduce the perceived size of the foreign-born population. This is true even when people’s misperceptions are explicitly corrected. These results call into question a potential cognitive mechanism that could underpin intergroup threat theory. Misperceptions about the size of minority groups may be a consequence, rather than a cause, of attitudes toward those groups.
Donnelly CP. Yea or Nay: Do Legislators Benefit by Voting Against Their Party?. Legislative Studies Quarterly [Internet]. 2019;44 (3) :421-453. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article asks whether legislators are able to reap electoral benefits from opposing their party on one or more high‐profile issues. Using data from a national survey in which citizens are asked their own positions on seven high‐profile issues voted on by the U.S. Senate, as well as how they believe their state's two senators have voted on these issues, I find that senators generally do not benefit from voting against their party. Specifically, when a senator deviates from her party, the vast majority of out‐partisans nonetheless persist in believing that the senator voted with her party anyhow; and while the small minority of out‐partisans who are aware of her deviation are indeed more likely to approve of and vote for such a senator, there are simply too few of these correctly informed citizens for it to make a meaningful difference for the senator's overall support.
Enamorado T, Imai K. Validating Self-reported Turnout by Linking Public Opinion Surveys with Administrative Records. Public Opinion Quarterly. 2019;83 (4) :723-748.Abstract
Although it is widely known that the self-reported turnout rates obtained from public opinion surveys tend to substantially overestimate the actual turnout rates, scholars sharply disagree on what causes this bias. Some blame overreporting due to social desirability, whereas others attribute it to non-response bias and the accuracy of turnout validation. While we can validate self-reported turnout by directly linking surveys with administrative records, most existing studies rely on proprietary merging algorithms with little scientific transparency and report conflicting results. To shed a light on this debate, we apply a probabilistic record linkage model, implemented via the open-source software package fastLink, to merge two major election studies – the American National Election Studies and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey – with a national voter file of over 180 million records. For both studies, fastLink successfully produces validated turnout rates close to the actual turnout rates, leading to public-use validated turnout data for the two studies. Using these merged data sets, we find that the bias of self-reported turnout originates primarily from overreporting rather than non-response. Our findings suggest that those who are educated and interested in politics are more likely to overreport turnout. Finally, we show that fastLink performs as well as a proprietary algorithm.
Peterson E. Not Dead Yet: Political Learning from Newspapers in a Changing Media Landscape. Political Behavior. 2019.Abstract

Shrinking audiences and political coverage cutbacks threaten newspapers’ ability to inform the public about politics. Despite substantial theorizing and widespread concern, it remains unclear how much the public can learn from these struggling news sources. I link measures of the newspaper-produced information environment with large-scale surveys that capture the public’s awareness of their member of Con- gress. This shows the contemporary effects of newspapers on representative-specific awareness are one-half to one-third estimates from earlier eras. Despite this decline newspapers remain an important contributor to political awareness in a changing media landscape, even for those with limited political interest. These results estab- lish broader scope conditions under which the public can learn from the media environment.

Bonica A. Are Donation-Based Measures of Ideology Valid Predictors of Individual-Level Policy Preferences?. The Journal of Politics. 2019;81 (1) :327–333.Abstract
This article validates donation-based measures of ideology against a rich battery of policy items from the Congressional Campaign Election Study. Donation-based measures are powerful predictors of policy preferences for a wide range of issues and successfully discriminate between donors from the same party. The overall predictive accuracy and relative improvement over party are comparable to what is achieved by scaling roll call votes in legislatures. The results add to an existing body of evidence on the internal validity and reliability of donation-based measures. They also resolve a standing debate in the literature over whether political donations are a valid indicator of donors’ policy preferences.
 
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
Curiel JA, Steelman T. Redistricting Out Representation: Democratic Harms in Splitting Zip Codes . Election Law Journal [Internet]. 2018;17 (4) :328-353. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Redistricting poses a potential harm to American voters in limiting choice and accountability at the polls. Although voters still technically retain their right to contact their congressional representatives in order to seek redress for their concerns, we argue that the confusion created when redistricting divides ZIP Codes confounds the constituent-representative link and leaves a substantive minority of voters in representational limbo. ZIP Codes perform a functional role by organizing groups of residents into easily accessible blocs for mail service. However, congressional districts split the ZIP Codes of over 100 million Americans. Split- ting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts leads to constituents being confused about who their member is and greater inefficiencies for representatives to mail to their constituents. Additionally, several members of Congress actively ignore out-of-district mail. We posit that constituents from ZIP Codes split by multiple congressional districts will be less likely to recognize, contact, or ideologically identify with their representative. We conducted a population overlap analysis between ZIP Codes and congressional dis- tricts to determine the impact of splitting ZIP Codes on a battery of items on the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) from 2008–2016. Our analysis provides evidence that splitting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts impairs the constituent-representative link. Finally, we demonstrate the preservation of ZIP Codes in redistricting is feasible and produces a substantive reduction in partisan bias.

Santucci J. Maine ranked-choice voting as a case of electoral-system change. Representation: Journal of Representative Democracy [Internet]. 2018;54 (3) :297-311. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) manufactures an electoral majority in a fragmented candidate field. For RCV to pass at referendum, part of a reform coalition must be willing to lose election to the other part of that coalition, typically an out-of-power major party. A common enemy enables this sort of coalition by assuring (a) the out-of-power party of sufficient transfer votes to win and (b) a winner that junior reform partners prefer to the incumbent. I test this logic against the November 2016 adoption of RCV in Maine. First, I show that the most recent, runner-up party overwhelmingly supplied votes to the ‘yes’ side. I also show elite endorsements tending to come from this party, albeit not exclusively. Then I show a drift in the mass of public opinion, such that reform partners could coordinate. RCV is likely to find favour where voter preferences are polarised and lopsided, and where multiple candidates split the larger ideological bloc.

Grimmer J, Hersh E, Meredith M, Mummolo J, Nall C. Obstacles to Estimating Voter ID Laws’ Effect on Turnout. The Journal of Politics [Internet]. 2018;80 (3). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Widespread concern that voter identification laws suppress turnout among racial and ethnic minorities has made empirical evaluations of these laws crucial. But problems with administrative records and survey data impede such evaluations. We replicate and extend Hajnal, Lajevardi, and Nielson’s 2017 article, which concludes that voter ID laws decrease turnout among minorities, using validated turnout data from five national surveys conducted between 2006 and 2014. We show that the results of their article are a product of data inaccuracies, the presented evidence does not support the stated conclusion, and alternative model specifications produce highly variable results. When errors are corrected, one can recover positive, negative, or null estimates of the effect of voter ID laws on turnout, precluding firm conclusions. We highlight more general problems with available data for research on election administration, and we identify more appropriate data sources for research on state voting laws’ effects.

 

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
Rogers S. National Forces in State Legislative Elections. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 2017;667 (1) :207-225.Abstract

The race for the White House is at the top of the ticket, but voters will also choose more than 5,000 state legislators in November 2016. While voters elect and hold the president responsible for one job and state legislators for another, the outcomes of their elections are remarkably related. In analyses of elite and voter behavior in state legislative elections, I show that legislators affiliated with the president’s party—especially during unpopular presidencies—are the most likely to be challenged, and compared with individual assessments of the state legislature, changes in presidential approval have at least three times the impact on voters’ decision-making in state legislative elections. Thus, while state legislatures wield considerable policymaking power, legislators’ electoral fates appear to be largely out of their control.

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.

Pages