American Politics Research

Sage Publications, Inc.
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Latest documents

  • The Relationship Between Institutional and Organizational Party Power: Evidence from the Minnesota House’s Experimental Setting

    How parties manage capitols and constituencies in the American context is the subject of much political inquiry. This research examines whether majority parties’ institutional capability depends on their ability to organize beyond the legislative chamber. An opportunity to examine such a question presents itself in a curious historical occurrence, the Minnesota Legislature’s abrupt de jure ban on political parties. Using data compiled from the Minnesota House of Representatives, I compare partisan characteristics in roll call voting in the context of an experimental setting. The results suggest legislative leadership powers lose efficacy when party’s organizational capacity beyond the chamber diminishes.

  • Whose Party is It?: Lame Ducks, Presidential Candidates, and Evaluations of the Party

    Presidents and presidential candidates serve as an important source cue for the mass public’s attitudes toward and evaluations of the political parties. Our study evaluates these dynamics during the transition from a lame duck president, Barack Obama, to a new party standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton. Our analysis takes advantage of the fact that the 2014 and 2016 Cooperative Election Study (CES) and the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) surveys asked respondents to evaluate both Obama, Clinton, and the Democratic Party. These data allow us to examine whether the transition from Obama to Clinton changed the primary referent for public attitudes toward the Democratic Party. Our results provide mixed evidence about a change in the relative importance of attitudes toward Clinton and Obama when the former became the nominee, and the latter was a lame duck. While the public’s view of the connection between Obama and Democratic Party’s ideological profile remained constant across time, respondents did update their affective assessments of the party in the face of a new party leader once Clinton was the nominee.

  • Be Careful what You Count: Updating Legislative Turnover in the 50 States

    Legislative turnover is indicative of political careerism, district competitiveness, and the strength of the incumbency advantage. Although there are many examinations of legislative turnover in U.S. state legislatures, there has not been an update in nearly 2 decades. One limitation of the existing turnover measures is the inability to distinguish between naturally occurring turnover and the artificial turnover caused by term limits. In this research note, I present an update to legislative turnover from 2002 to 2018 and discuss the importance of using updated data, as well as avenues for future research.

  • Divisions in the Big Tent: Group Sentiments and Candidate Preferences within the Democratic Party

    Work in political psychology has found that the two major political parties are sorted based on individual’s group attachments. This sorting has resulted in the Democratic Party’s electorate and elites being made up of members from various racial, religious, and social groups. Given this heterogeneity, how do social group identities impact voter preferences in the Democratic primary? Based on social identity theory, I hypothesize that an individual’s feelings toward racial or gender groups should be associated with their candidate preference in the primary election, but only when a candidate’s group identities are known. Using the 2018 American National Elections Studies (ANES) pilot and a nationally diverse survey of 2020 Democratic primary voters, I find that the strength of sentiments toward racial or gender identities is associated with candidate preference and this association is conditioned by the ability to link the candidates to racial or gender groups. This paper shows that the effects of group identity extend beyond simply sorting individuals into one of the two major parties and have the potential to create group-based divisions within the “big tent” of the Democratic Party.

  • No Balance, No Problem: Evidence of Partisan Voting in the 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate Runoffs

    Recent work on American presidential elections suggests that voters engage in anticipatory balancing, which occurs when voters split their ticket in order to moderate collective policy outcomes by forcing agreement among institutions controlled by opposing parties. We use the 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, which determined whether Democrats would have unified control of the federal government given preceding November victories by President-elect Biden and House Democrats, to evaluate support for anticipatory balancing. Leveraging an original survey of Georgia voters, we find no evidence of balancing within the general electorate and among partisans across differing model specifications. We use qualitative content analysis of voter electoral runoff intentions to support our findings and contextualize the lack of evidence for balancing withan original analysis showing the unprecedented partisan nature of contemporary Senate elections since direct-election began in 1914.

  • Do Lawmakers Respond to Crisis Ideologically or Pragmatically?

    How do members of Congress respond to economic shocks in their districts? This study uses constituency-level unemployment data from 2006–2011 and data on the policy instruments included in individual bills to estimate the district-level effects of the Great Recession on the kinds of policies individual lawmakers introduce. Few previous studies have examined lawmaker responsiveness to rapid changes in district conditions and fewer still examine policy instruments instead of issue priorities. Measuring instruments matters because they capture what the policy actually does (as opposed to what it is about) which is both consequential and ideologically loaded. The results show that Democrats and Republicans respond differently. Republicans are more responsive, particularly with policy instruments that conform to their ideology, while Democrats are as likely (in the case of tax cuts), or more likely (in the case of spending) to support economic stimulus without an economic crisis. Differences in the macropolitical situation cannot be ruled out as an explanation of the differences between parties.

  • Legislature Size and Interest Mobilization: The Effects of Institutional Change

    Little is known about how legislature size affects the political mobilization of societal interests. I propose that legislative downsizing events increase the cost of campaigns, and thereby spur additional lobbying by organized interests that corral monetary resources efficiently. I examine how numbers of organizations with registered lobbyists changed in response to legislative downsizing events in three states. Using synthetic control analyses, I find that downsizing did not affect organization totals in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, but that Illinois’ Cutback Amendment precipitated a 25-percent increase in organized interests. Further tests disconfirm that monetary-based interests were most likely to mobilize anew after the Amendment’s implementation. In general, these mixed findings imply that changes in legislature size alone are insufficient for affecting interest mobilization but that other kinds of legislative reforms, such as the transition from cumulative to plurality voting that accompanied Illinois’ downsizing, may affect mobilization rates.

  • White Constituents and Congressional Voting

    Why do some members of Congress vote more on the extremes of their party than others? I argue that lawmakers representing more homogeneously white districts have greater electoral incentive to moderate their voting records, since the two parties compete more for support of white voters than for the support of minority voters. I provide evidence using roll-call votes from the U.S. House and Senate. I find members representing more homogeneously white districts have more moderate voting records, a finding that holds for Democrats and Republicans. I explore two potential mechanisms: legislator responsiveness and electoral punishment. While legislators do not seem to adjust their voting behavior in response to short-term changes in district racial composition, more homogeneously white districts are found to assess larger vote share penalties on more extreme candidates in general elections. The findings have implications for our understanding of race, representation, and electoral accountability.

  • Conditional Presidential Priorities: Audience-Driven Agenda Setting

    The president’s agenda-setting ability has a rich research history, with studies most often derived from the State of the Union Address. While a president communicates many of his policy priorities via the public address, the presidential agenda is more complex and variable than can be understood in one speech. Presidents have a number of tools to articulate their priorities, and how we understand presidential agenda-setting is linked to the tool and its intended audience. This research note illustrates the important variation in presidential agendas across venues by comparing the publicized agenda from the State of the Union with the policymaker-focused priorities conveyed in the annual Budget Message. Using the coding scheme of the U.S. Policy Agendas Project to assess presidential agenda setting over more than 35 years, we illustrate the audience-driven variability in presidents’ agendas and highlight how the intended audience reveals presidents’ strategic choices.

  • Critical Mass Claims and Ideological Divides Among Women in the U.S. House of Representatives

    Critical mass theories predict that women in government will sponsor and vote for more women and feminist bills as their numbers increase. Using data of roll-call votes measuring left–right ideology from 1977 to 2019 this paper shows that ideological divides among women in the U.S. House of Representatives have deepened rather than veered in a liberal direction. Republican women have moved rightward over time and more conservative ones are winning elections. Belonging to a politicized generation, older Silent Generation and Boomer women are more ideologically extreme than younger women. Parties are also elevating their more ideological female members. As their numbers increase, female House members are expected to remain ideologically diverse in a polarized legislative environment. Critical mass theories are deficient in failing to place female political actors in a dynamic workplace.

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...

  • A Rigged Game? How Candidate, Partisan, and Electoral Factors Shape Elite Support for the Party Nomination Process

    The 2016 presidential nominations revealed deep, yet distinct, divisions within each major party. These divisions persisted and permeated the general election campaign and were reflected in voters’ dissatisfaction with the candidates. Movements such as the “Bernie or Bust” supporters and the “Never-...

  • Be Careful what You Count: Updating Legislative Turnover in the 50 States

    Legislative turnover is indicative of political careerism, district competitiveness, and the strength of the incumbency advantage. Although there are many examinations of legislative turnover in U.S. state legislatures, there has not been an update in nearly 2 decades. One limitation of the...

  • Conditional Presidential Priorities: Audience-Driven Agenda Setting

    The president’s agenda-setting ability has a rich research history, with studies most often derived from the State of the Union Address. While a president communicates many of his policy priorities via the public address, the presidential agenda is more complex and variable than can be understood...

  • 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’...

  • From the FEC to the Ballot Box: Voter Accountability for Campaign Finance Law Violations

    Scholarship suggests the Federal Election Commission lacks adequate enforcement tools to deter those who would violate campaign finance laws. But can and do voters hold political candidates accountable for violating these laws? In this article, we employ two studies to empirically evaluate these...

  • Individual Scrutiny or Politics as Usual? Senatorial Assessment of U.S. District Court Nominees

    Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings offer senators a public opportunity to exercise their “advice and consent” privilege and scrutinize presidential nominees. In this article, we examine the purpose and functioning of confirmation hearings for federal district court nominees, which...

  • Rethinking the Decline in Social Capital

    This study investigates trends in social capital in the United States since the 1970s. The literature suggests that variations in social capital are associated with both individual attributes and macro-level economic conditions. Yet, others argue that after controlling for these features, large-scal...

  • Boundaries, Redistricting Criteria, and Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives

    Many U.S. states require redistricting authorities to follow traditional districting principles (TDPs) like the creation of compact districts and respecting the integrity of county and town boundaries. Reformers, academics, and other redistricting experts have long suggested that following such...

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