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.
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.
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.
Virtually all previous studies of domestic economic redistribution find white Americans to be less enthusiastic about welfare for black recipients than for white recipients. When it comes to foreign aid and international redistribution across racial lines, I argue that prejudice manifests not in an uncharitable, resentful way but in a paternalistic way because intergroup contact is minimal and because of how the media portray black foreigners. Using two survey experiments, I show that white Americans are more favorable toward aid when cued to think of foreign poor of African descent than when cued to think of those of East European descent. This relationship is due not to the greater perceived need of black foreigners but to an underlying racial paternalism that sees them as lacking in human agency. The findings confirm accusations of aid skeptics and hold implications for understanding the roots of paternalistic practices in the foreign aid regime.
The responsiveness of individual legislators to their constituents creates an indirect electoral connection between the aggregate preferences of citizens and the behavior of legislative parties. In this research, I argue that legislators from moderate districts are the least likely to support their parties and most likely to vote moderately during roll call votes. I also argue that states with low ideological variance among citizens are the most likely to have moderate districts. Thus, states with ideologically heterogeneous populations are more likely to have homogeneous, extreme legislative parties. Using ideal point estimates and measures of party cohesion from state legislative parties, empirical evidence largely supports my expectations.
Current literature often suggests that more information and choices will enhance citizens’ general political knowledge. Notably, some studies indicate that a greater number of state ballot initiatives raise Americans’ knowledge through increases in motivation and supply of political information. By contrast, we contend that political psychology theory and findings indicate that, at best, more ballot measures will have no effect on knowledge. At worst greater use of direct democracy should make it more costly to learn about institutions of representative government and lessen motivation by overwhelming voters with choices. To test this proposition, we develop a new research design and draw upon data more appropriate to assessing the question at hand. We also make use of a propensity score matching algorithm to assess the balance in the data between initiative state and non-initiative state voters. Controlling for a wide variety of variables, we find that there is no empirical relationship between ballot initiatives and political knowledge. These results add to a growing list of findings which cast serious doubt on the educative potential of direct democracy.
Research on U.S. congressional elections has placed great emphasis on the role of competitiveness, which is associated with high levels of campaign spending, media coverage, and interest group and party involvement. Competitive campaigns have been found to increase citizens' participation, engagement and learning. However, little is known about whether the effects of competitive campaigns have enduring consequences for citizens' attitudes and behavior. Analyzing a survey of citizens conducted one year after the 2006 congressional elections that includes an oversample of respondents from competitive House races, we examine whether exposure to a competitive House campaign affects voters' political knowledge and political interest as well as their consumption of political news. We find that competitive elections have positive effects that endure for at least a year beyond the campaign season, reinforcing the idea that political competition plays a robust role in American representative democracy.
We propose the contact–cue interaction approach to studying political contact—that cues from trusted political elites can moderate the effect of contact on the formation of public policy opinions. Allport’s initial formulation of the contact effect noted that it relies on authority support. In a highly polarized political era, authoritative voices for individuals vary based on party identification. Social experiences may affect public policy, but they must also be considered in light of partisan filters. Using data from the 2006 CCES, we examine the manner in which straight respondents with gay family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances view same-sex marriage policy, finding a strong contact effect among Democrats, but no contact effect among the strongest Republican identifiers. Our data and analyses strongly support the perspective that social interactions (and their effect on policy) are understood through the lens of partisanship and elite cues.
When a public problem is perceived to be poorly addressed by current policy, it is often the case that credible alternative policies are proposed to both the status quo’s left and right. Specially designed national surveys show that in circumstances like these, many Americans’ preferences are not single-peaked on the standard left-right dimension. Rather, they simply want the government to “do something” about the problem and therefore prefer both liberal and conservative policies to the moderate status quo. This produces individual and collective preferences that are double-peaked with respect to the left-right dimension. Double-peakedness is less prevalent on issues where no consensus exists regarding policy goals, and it increases when exogenous events raise the public’s concern about the seriousness of a policy problem.