American Politics Research

Sage Publications, Inc.
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Latest documents

  • Gasoline in the Voter’s Pocketbook: Driving Times to Work and the Electoral Implications of Gasoline Price Fluctuations

    Gasoline prices are often a heated topic during presidential election campaigns in the United States. Yet, presidents have limited control over gasoline prices. Do voters reward or punish the president for changes in gasoline prices? Why might voters blame the president for an outcome beyond direct presidential control? This study addresses these questions by testing the effects of gasoline prices on pocketbook retrospection by voters. To capture the personal economic burden of gasoline prices, we rely on average driving times to work, given the inelastic nature of gasoline consumption for commuting. The results provide evidence for pocketbook voting: constituencies with longer average driving times to work are more likely to hold the president accountable for gasoline price increases. These findings have broader implications regarding electoral accountability and rationality in voting.

  • The Mixed Effects of Candidate Visits on Campaign Donations in the 2020 Presidential Election

    Recent scholarship on the effect of candidate visits in presidential elections has found that appearances by candidates appear to mobilize both supporters and opponents. Specifically, in the 2016 presidential election, donations to campaigns of the visiting presidential candidates increased, but—in the case of Republican nominee Donald Trump—so did donations to his opponent, Hillary Clinton. In this paper, we extend this research by assessing the effect of visits on campaign donations by presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2020 election. We find evidence that visits by Donald Trump and Kamala Harris had strong mobilizing and counter-mobilizing effects, increasing donations to both campaigns. We find weak evidence that visits by Joe Biden increased contributions to his campaign, but we do not find evidence that his visits had a counter-mobilizing effect, and we find no evidence that visits by Mike Pence affected donations in either direction.

  • Political Attacks in 280 Characters or Less: A New Tool for the Automated Classification of Campaign Negativity on Social Media

    Negativity in election campaign matters. To what extent can the content of social media posts provide a reliable indicator of candidates' campaign negativity? We introduce and critically assess an automated classification procedure that we trained to annotate more than 16,000 tweets of candidates competing in the 2018 Senate Midterms. The algorithm is able to identify the presence of political attacks (both in general, and specifically for character and policy attacks) and incivility. Due to the novel nature of the instrument, the article discusses the external and convergent validity of these measures. Results suggest that automated classifications are able to provide reliable measurements of campaign negativity. Triangulations with independent data show that our automatic classification is strongly associated with the experts’ perceptions of the candidates’ campaign. Furthermore, variations in our measures of negativity can be explained by theoretically relevant factors at the candidate and context levels (e.g., incumbency status and candidate gender); theoretically meaningful trends are also found when replicating the analysis using tweets for the 2020 Senate election, coded using the automated classifier developed for 2018. The implications of such results for the automated coding of campaign negativity in social media are discussed.

  • The Electoral Consequences of Affective Polarization? Negative Voting in the 2020 US Presidential Election

    About one third of American voters cast a vote more “against” than “for” a candidate in the 2020 Presidential election. This pattern, designated by negative voting, has been initially understood by rational choice scholarship as a product of cognitive dissonance and/or retrospective evaluations. This article revisits this concept through the affective polarization framework in the light of the rise of political sectarianism in American society. Based on an original CAWI survey fielded after the 2020 election, our regression analysis demonstrates that the predicted probability of casting a negative vote significantly increases among individuals for whom out-candidate hate outweighs in-candidate love. Negative voting is less prevalent among partisans as their higher levels of in-group affection can offset out-group contempt. By asserting the enduring relevance of negative voting in American presidential elections, we aim at stimulating further research and discussion of its implications for democratic representation.

  • Why Do People Engage in Unlawful Political Protest? Examining the Role of Authoritarianism in Illegal Protest Behavior

    Prior research on individual-level drivers of protest has primarily focused on legal protest. However, less is known about what makes people engage in unlawful protest activities. Building upon previous literature on the collective action dilemma, socialization on violent and high-risk social movements, and political psychology, we expect that illegal protest frequency varies at different levels of authoritarianism. We explore the relationship between authoritarian values and illegal protest by analyzing a two-wave panel survey data gathered in the US. The results of cross-sectional, lagged, and autoregressive ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models show that when controlling for legal protest and other relevant variables in protest behavior, authoritarianism predicts illegal protest following an inverted U-shaped relationship. In other words, average levels of authoritarianism predict more frequent engagement in illegal protest, while this frequency decreases as approaching the poles of the authoritarianism scale.

  • Are Tax Cuts Supporters Self-Interested and/or Partisan? The Case of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

    In late 2017, the first unified Republican government in 15 years enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Why did so many citizens support a policy that primarily benefited people richer than them? The self-interest hypothesis holds that individuals act upon the position they occupy in the income distribution: richer (poorer) taxpayers should favor (oppose) regressive policy. Associations between income and policy preferences are often inconsistent, however, suggesting that many citizens fail to connect their self-interest to taxation. Indeed, political psychologists have shown compellingly that citizens can be guided by partisan considerations not necessarily aligned with their own interests. This article assesses public support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Using data from the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study as well as contemporaneous ANES and VOTER surveys to replicate our analyses, we show that self-interest and partisanship both come into play, but that partisanship matters more. Personal financial considerations, while less influential than party identification, are relevant for two groups of individuals: Republicans and the politically unsophisticated.

  • Finding DORI: Using Item Response Theory to Measure Difficulty of Registration in the U.S. and Its Impact on Voters

    How do states differ in how difficult they make voter registration, and what effect does this have on voters? We propose and validate a new Difficulty of Registration Index (DORI) calculated via an item response theory (IRT) model of five key dimensions of registration (automaticity, portability, deadline, mode, and preregistration) for each state from 2004 to 2020. Since 2004, most states eased registration processes, with Democratic statehouses in racially diverse and young states leading the way. Using CCES data, we find that DORI is associated with increased probability that voters experience problems registering and failing to turnout (in both self-reported and validated turnout data). These effects are pronounced for young voters. This study holds lessons for how restrictive registration procedures can change the shape of the electorate and make it harder to achieve political equality.

  • DCPS or Sidwell Friends? How Politician Schooling Choices Affect Voter Evaluations

    Voters often rely on informational shortcuts, such as the background traits of politicians, to decide which candidates to support at the ballot box. One such background trait is family composition, particularly parental status. Research, however, has mostly overlooked whether the value-laden choices that politicians make regarding their families—like what neighborhoods they live in, where they worship, and what schools they send their children to—affect how constituents view them. We conduct a survey experiment in the U.S. that presents respondents with hypothetical biographies of politicians that randomly vary one of the most important decisions that politicians make regarding their families: whether to send them to public or private school. We find that: (1) voters are more inclined to vote for politicians with children in public school; and (2) this preference may be due to voters perceiving these politicians as both warmer and more committed to public services.

  • Do Redistricting Commissions Avoid Partisan Gerrymanders?

    As attempts to combat partisan gerrymandering transition from proposals to the Supreme Court to state-based districting commissions, it is time to ask two questions. First, how well did commissions in the 2010 round of redistricting perform as neutral decision makers? We answer that question with applications to each of the three independent commissions (AZ, CA, and WA) and four other commission forms (IA, NJ, NY, and VA) in place for post-2010. We take as the neutrality criterion the idea that a commission would produce a district plan that comports with a partisan outcome that could be expected from a set of approximately 10,000 computer generated plans adhering to minimalist constraints of contiguity, compactness, and equal populations. Our results indicate three of seven commissions produced suspect results that redounded to the benefit of one party or the other: pro- Democrat in Arizona; pro-Republican in New Jersey and Virginia.

  • Whistling Through the COVID-19 Pandemic: Optimism Bias and Political Beliefs in the United States

    Utilizing a nationally representative survey of Americans from December 2020, we consider the degree to which COVID-19 risk perceptions are related to political factors. We examine the likelihood that one believes they will be infected with COVID-19, the likelihood that a peer will be infected, and the difference between the individual and peer perceived risks, known as optimism bias, and compare these perceptions across partisan characteristics. Results show that Trump voting category is the most important contributor to perceived COVID-19 risks. We find similar partisan differences as prior research, note that these differences persisted through the end of 2020, despite the post-Thanksgiving surge with high and growing rates of COVID in all regions of the United States. Contrary to prior expectations, partisanship does not strongly predict the level of optimism bias, as both assessed personal and general health risks track closely with one another by both political party and ideology.

Featured documents

  • Companion Bills and Cross-Chamber Collaboration in the U.S. Congress

    The U.S. House and Senate were designed to have an adversarial relationship. Yet, House members and senators often collaborate on the introduction of “companion” bills. We develop a theory of these cross-chamber collaborations, which asserts that companion bill introductions are driven by...

  • Etch-a-Sketching: Evaluating the Post-Primary Rhetorical Moderation Hypothesis

    Candidates have incentives to present themselves as strong partisans in primary elections, and then move “toward the center” upon advancing to the general election. Yet, candidates also face incentives not to flip-flop on their policy positions. These competing incentives suggest that candidates...

  • How Messages About Gender Bias Can Both Help and Hurt Women’s Representation

    Gender bias in elections is both a source of debate in the political science literature and a prominent topic in U.S. political discourse. As a result, Americans are exposed to differing messages about the extent to which women face disadvantages in their campaigns for office. We argue that such...

  • Perceptions of Deservingness and the Politicization of Social Insurance: Evidence From Disability Insurance in the United States

    Concerns about the deservingness of policy beneficiaries appear to explain skepticism about redistributive social assistance programs. Many social insurance programs, despite requiring beneficiaries to pay in ahead of time, require discretionary evaluations of the merits of claims for benefits. Do...

  • Primary Systems and Candidate Ideology

    The nomination of ideologically extreme candidates in party primaries has led many scholars and observers to speculate about the role played by different kinds of primary systems. Models of candidate competition that account for the two-stage nature of the electoral process suggest that more...

  • Perceptions of Program Abuse and Support for Social Insurance

    Do perceptions of abuse in social insurance programs undercut program support? Answering this causal question is difficult because perceptions of program abuse can arise from multiple potential causes. Examining the case of disability insurance, we circumvent this challenges using laboratory...

  • Public Mood, Previous Electoral Experience, and Responsiveness Among Federal Circuit Court Judges

    Whether public opinion influences federal judges is a question that has long motivated—but often eluded—scholars. In this article, we examine two related questions: First, whether federal circuit court judges respond to circuit-level public opinion and, second, whether judges with extensive past...

  • White Media Attitudes in the Trump Era

    Scholars and political commentators point to Trump’s war on the media since the 2016 election as an unprecedented attack on a vital check to Presidential power. However, little attention has been paid to the role that White audiences play in this critical debate. In this article, I examine the...

  • Advocacy for the Poor

    While a large body of research examines cross-state variation in social policy, few studies systematically examine the policy influence of organizations that advocate on behalf of people living in poverty. This article examines relationships between state advocacy communities and policy choices...

  • Assessing the Mechanisms of Senatorial Responsiveness to Constituency Preferences

    This article analyzes the relationship between U.S. senators and their constituencies over the entire period of time that senators have been selected by direct election. Focusing on preference change within states, we identify three mechanisms that might produce responsiveness in senators’...

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