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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.