Affect, Social Pressure and Prosocial Motivation: Field Experimental Evidence of the Mobilizing Effects of Pride, Shame, and Publicizing Voting Behavior

This is a review of Affect, Social Pressure and Prosocial Motivation: Field Experimental Evidence of the Mobilizing Effects of Pride, Shame, and Publicizing Voting Behavior (2010) by Costas Panagopoulos. Political Behavior 32 (September): 369-386. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

Most places give out “I voted” stickers to honor voters. Perhaps a scarlet letter on non-voters would work better.

Suppose a local newspaper planned to honor those who vote by listing their names in a post-election issue. Would you be more likely to vote?

Now, suppose a local newspaper planned to shame those who stayed home by listing their names instead. Would you be more likely to vote?

That’s the question Costas Panagopoulos asks in recent study in Political Behavior, part of a special issue (read some background) dealing with the effects of social pressure on voting. Voting is a norm. Pangopoulous divided a bunch of voters into a control group, an “honor” treatment, and a “shame” treatment. The two treatment groups received a postcard. The first received a card announcing that voters would have their names listed in the paper. The second received a card announcing that non-voters would have their names listed. All these postcards went out in November 2007, a low-turnout municipal election year. Read More »

Public Accountability and Political Participation: Effects of Face-to-Face Feedback Intervention on Voter Turnout of Public Housing Residents

This is a review of Public Accountability and Political Participation: Effects of Face-to-Face Feedback Intervention on Voter Turnout of Public Housing Residents (2010) by Tiffany C. Davenport. Political Behavior 32 (September): 337-368. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

You don’t have to use heavyhanded, intimidating factors to make social pressure work. You can raise turnout dramatically just by subtly reminding people that they’re being watched.

Here’s a few things we know about voter turnout:

  • The urban poor don’t vote.
  • Voter turnout experiments don’t typically focus on non-voting populations like the urban poor.
  • Turnout is lower in municipal elections than presidential elections.
  • Sending door-to-door canvassers with a mobilization message can boost turnout by 8-9 percentage points.1
  • Social pressure can boost turnout by 8-9 percentage points, although it’s only been tried through impersonal means like postcards.2

In the current special issue of Political Behavior (background), Tiffany Davenport reports a turnout experiment that considers all those things at once. For a treatment, she combines door-to-door canvassing with a social pressure tactic. For a target population, she attempts to mobilize the urban poor (Boston Public Housing) during a low-salience municipal election (Boston’s November 2007 municipal elections). Read More »

Introduction to Social Pressure and Voting: New Experimental Evidence

This is a review of Introduction to Social Pressure and Voting: New Experimental Evidence (2010) by Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber. Political Behavior 32 (September): 331-336. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

Voting is like pornography. Non-voting, like pornography, is frowned upon, so folks try to keep it private. But once you threaten to publicize that private behavior, it changes.

Two years ago, Gerber, Green, and Larimer (2008) shook up research on turnout with a stunning experimental result: You can raise turnout dramatically with a postcard. Not just any postcard, of course. If you received one of their postcards, you would have seen your own turnout record over the past few elections. You would also have seen the turnout record of all your neighbors. And you would have seen a warning that you would receive a new postcard after the election with updated data.

Threatening to expose non-voters to their neighbors in this manner had a large effect: Turnout jumped by 8.1 percentage points. That’s as big an effect as sending door-to-door canvassers, but at a fraction of the cost. (Read more about the 2008 study here.)

The most recent issue of Political Behavior is filled with follow-up experiments. Read More »

New Measures of Partisanship, Ideology, and Policy Mood in the American States

This is a review of New Measures of Partisanship, Ideology, and Policy Mood in the American States (2010) by Thomas M. Carsey and Jeffrey J. Harden. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 10 (summer): 136-156. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

Utah comes up as #1 most Republican in partisanship, #9 most conservative in ideology, and #17 most conservative in “mood.”

Over the years, political scientists have come up with lots of different ways to measure each state’s relative ideology. We all have a general sense that Utah, Idaho, and Mississippi lie to the right of Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California, but it’s helpful to put exact numbers on those differences.

Many folks have relied on Erikson, Wright, and McIver’s seminal contribution. They combined hundreds of national polls together, taken over many years, in order to get large enough state-level samples to produce state-level estimates of ideology and whatnot.

Recently, Carsey and Harden have come up with an even easier way. In 2000 and 2004, the National Annenberg Election Surveys asked a huge national sample (in daily rolling samples) questions about politics, providing plenty of respondents in every state. And in 2006, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study did the same (but with a different sampling approach, of course). Read More »

A Hundred Miles of Dry: Religion and the Persistence of Prohibition in the U.S. States

This is a review of A Hundred Miles of Dry: Religion and the Persistence of Prohibition in the U.S. States (2010) by John Frendreis and Raymond Tatalovich. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 10 (fall): 302-319. You can find the original in Google Scholar.
Prohibition

Lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours. Word.

America’s experiment with Prohibition was a failure. After 13 years of corruption, speakeasies, and an empowered mafia, the United States repealed Prohibition in 1933. With the federal ban on alcohol removed, authority over alcohol shifted to the states. Not a single state chose to continue to experiment. However, many counties did.

Today, there remain 262 “dry” counties that ban hard liquor. (We’ll ignore beer.) Another 374 “moist” counties ban liquor in all but a few designated towns.

Unsurprisingly, the same forces that motivated Progressives and temperance activists a century ago still motivate these county-level efforts at Prohibition. In their recent article in SPPQ, Frendreis and Tatalovich look at the historical literature and find that the original Prohibition movement was likely supported by Evangelical Christians over the objections of Catholics, with Mainline Protestants waffling in the middle. Other groups that supported nationwide Prohibition probably included the size of the Black Protestant population (blacks tend to be liberal on economic issues but conservative on moral ones), rural voters, middle-class voters, and so on.

So, what happens if we use those same variables to try to predict modern patterns of county-level Prohibition? Read More »

A Matter of Context: Christian Right Influence in U.S. State Republican Politics

This is a review of A Matter of Context: Christian Right Influence in U.S. State Republican Politics (2010) by Kimberly H. Conger. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 10 (fall): 248-269. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

The Christian Right’s political influence from one state to the next has little to do with the size of each state’s Evangelical population.

In a new article, Kimberly Conger tries to explain why the Christian Right is more influential in some states than in others. Most commentary about Christian conservatives focuses on the national context, but Conger points out that Christian conservatives are often most active at the state level. So what, then, explains their varying level of influence from state to state, specifically within the Republican party?

Of course, any reader would expect that the size of each state’s Evangelical population would matter crucially. Surprisingly (or not–see below), this variable doesn’t seem to go very far in predicting the Christian Right’s influence within a state. The Christian Right’s political influence from one state to the next has little to do with the size of each state’s Evangelical population. Read More »

Party Power or Preferences? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from American State Legislatures

This is a review of Party Power or Preferences? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from American State Legislatures (2010) by Gary W. Cox, Thad Kousser, and Mathew D. McCubbins. Journal of Politics 72 (July): 799-811. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

Cox, Kousser, and McCubbins want to show that agenda control matters. They did. But without meaning to, they also showed that persuasive leaders and party cohesion matter even more.

Consider why some bills can get through a legislature but others can’t. Perhaps (1) legislator preferences are all that matters; liberal legislators vote for liberal bills and against conservative ones. Perhaps (2) majority party cajoling also matters; if a strong majority leader can persuade his caucus to vote for a bill, it passes. Perhaps (3) the majority party’s agenda powers also matter; if the Speaker or the Rules Committee can kill bills without a vote, then bills that might split the majority on their way to victory will never see the light of day.

Proponents of these three views have engaged in a long and productive debate for years. Mayhew (1974) and Krehbiel (1998) have pushed the first view. “Conditional party government” is a variant of the second view. And Cox and McCubbins have pushed the third view over and over.

In their recent article in JOP, Gary Cox and Mat McCubbins team up with state politics guru Thad Kousser. By looking at state legislatures instead of at Congress, they can look at quasi-experiments where agenda powers changed without a big simultaneous change in legislative membership. Consider:

  • In 1988, Colorado voters pushed and approved GAVEL (Give a Vote to Every Legislator), an initiative that eliminated all agenda controls. Every bill must be voted on in committee; every bill approved in committee must come to the floor. But the legislature’s membership changed very little in that election. An experiment!
  • In California, there are no agenda controls (like GAVEL) in the Assembly–except for bills that will cost more than $150,000 to implement. Thus, the exact same group of legislators votes on one set of bills without agenda control, and another (the “suspense” file) with agenda control. An experiment!

Given how hard Cox and McCubbins have pushed the “agenda control” argument in previous work–what they call “cartel theory”–you might expect them to uncover MASSIVE effects in these two quasi-experiments. Well, not quite. But they do find effects. Here’s the key table: Read More »

Ready to Lead on Day One: Predicting Presidential Greatness from Political Experience

This is a review of Ready to Lead on Day One: Predicting Presidential Greatness from Political Experience (2010) by John Balz. PS, Political Science and Politics 43 (July): 487-492. You can find the original in Google Scholar.

Turns out that you can’t predict presidential greatness from political experience, at least not very well.

We all remember Hillary Clinton’s ad–”It’s 3:00am and your children are asleep.” She wanted voters to believe that her long political experience made her “ready to lead on day one,” unlike that untested other guy, Barack Obama. More generally, she wanted us to believe that more experienced presidents are better presidents.

Well, that’s a testable question. John Balz tests it in the current issue of PS. He used seven surveys of presidential “greatness,” flawed as those surveys may be, and tried to predict each president’s “greatness” ranking based on his previous political experience.

Turns out that you can’t predict presidential greatness from political experience, at least not very well. Balz reports some weak effects: Former mayors, Congressman, soldiers, and private sector folks have slightly lower ranks. Former generals, state judges, federal administrators, and governors have slightly higher ranks.

But by “slightly,” I mean slightly. The effect for governors, though in a favorable direction, rounds off to “0.0″ in the table. Same for the estimate for diplomats and state legislators.

This is a fun article. That’s why it’s in PS and not one of the big three journals. PS is the place for fun articles. There are, of course, some problems here that surely undermine Balz’s models, though. Read More »