Archive | Campaigns and elections

Valuable New Dataset of Constituency Level Election Results

Anyone who has ever tried to gather constituency level election-data cross-nationally should be very pleased by the following announcement I received earlier this week:

American University’s School of Public Affairs is pleased to announce the launch of Election Passport, a new online resource providing free access to a rich dataset of constituency election results from over 80 countries around the world.

The goal of Election Passport is to enable researchers and students to engage in high-level analysis of elections on countries for which data are not easily available. From Andorra to Zambia, this site provides unusually complete data sets that include votes won by very small parties, independents, and frequently, candidate names that are difficult to locate. As an ongoing project, additional elections will be regularly added.

Election Passport was developed by David Lublin, Professor of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University, with the support of AU’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

We hope that you will find this to be a valuable resource and encourage you to share this announcement with your colleagues. Please contact David Lublin at dlublin@american.edu or (202) 885-2913 should you have any questions.

If you have tried the dataset already, please feel free to leave any observations in the comments below. Should be valuable for scholars and policy makers alike!

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Top 5 Most Popular Articles from Electoral Studies Available for Free Download Through End of October!

What a great idea! Elsevier Press has decided to make the 5 most popular articles from Electoral Studies during the first half of the year available for free download through the end of October. (Caveat: I am on the Board of Editors of Electoral Studies, but had nothing to do with this decision.) Would love to see more political science journals adopting such a policy, and would be happy to give a similar shout out in The Monkey Cage if any publishers are interested.

Here are the five articles with links:

1) Explaining voter turnout: A review of aggregate-level research

2) Democratic electoral systems around the world, 1946-2000

3) Understanding unequal turnout: Education and voting in comparative perspective

4) The embarrassment of riches? A meta-analysis of individual-level research on voter turnout

5) Civic duty and turnout in the UK referendum on AV: What shapes the duty to vote?


Although I am mainly reporting this as a public service announcement, it is also pretty interesting to note that four of these five article are on turnout (and the fifth is an article accompanying an extremely popular dataset), and two are meta-analyses of previous studies.  Are we witnessing a renaissance of the study of turnout?  A growing popularity of meta-analyses in political science?

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A theory of the importance of Very Serious People in the Democratic Party

Ashok Rao writes:

Paul Krugman’s pet insult – “Very Serious Person” – is more important to understanding America’s policy failures than most people realize, and goes well beyond economic illiteracy. More than anything, without understanding VSPness (henceforth “vispy”) – one can never comprehend how the Democratic Party screwed up so much in the past five years. . . .

The Democrats are vertically infected with vispiness in a way the Republican party is not. While many often talk about the GOP as a more “hierarchal” party (considering the nature of their primary selection process) – Republicans are freer and more iconoclastic. . . . the only way to become a Republican champion is iconoclastic flair. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and even Sarah Palin are hardly “establishment” in the sense of representing prestigious ideas.

Rao argues that leadership in the Republican party is attained via pursuing “fresh and different ideas: ranging all the way from Chris Christie’s loud personality to Paul Ryan’s nutty-nutty budget.”

Why?

For the purposes of argument, I will accept Rao’s assessment of the structures of the two parties. The question then arises: Why? After all, basic stereotypes would suggest that Republicans, not Democrats, would be the stodgy ones. One story is that the Democrats are working on “maintaining the ’90s status-quo” (in Rao’s words). But I think it goes back earlier than that. After all, Reagan was an extremist for his time, whereas Clinton was always a moderate.

My theory (which maybe I’ve blogged before, I can’t remember) revolves around the role of the news media. The media are a liberal, Democratic-leaning institution. This can be seen, for example, from surveys of journalists (the last one I saw showed Democratic reporters outnumbering Republicans 2-1) or political endorsements or various other studies. It is my impression that the news media lean left but the public-relation industry leans right.

Anyway, my point here is that the Republican party has a lot of resources, including much of big business, military officers, and organized religion. They don’t need the news media in the way that the Democrats do. And, I suspect one reason why Very Serious People are important for Democrats is that they are respected by the media. The Republicans can put together a budget that is mocked by major newspapers and nobody cares. But if the Democrats lose the support of the New York Times, they’re in trouble. Hence the asymmetry in seriousness. One might say that the Republicans are hurt by a similar asymmetry with regard to social issues, in that they can’t ignore the support of the religious right or talk radio. Although this is a bit different: the so-called Very Serious People pull the Democrats toward the center, while social issue groups pull the Republicans to the right.

To put it another way, each party has a coalition of financial interests and political activists that are important in staffing the party and shaping its goals. The Democratic party’s balance has changed: in recent decades, with the decline of labor unions, various segments of industry such as high-tech have become important, also there are doctors and lawyers and newspapers. These are all groups that will tend to favor centrist, status-quo, what Krugman might call “very serious” policies.

I think this could/should be studied more systematically (ideally in some sort of comparative analysis with data from many countries).

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Midterm Elections in Argentina: Open, Compulsory and Simultaneous Primaries

argentina

In our continuing series of election reports, we welcome back political scientists Natalia C. Del Cogliano and Mariana L. Prats with the following post-election report on last week’s Argentinian elections

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On Sunday, August 11th, open, compulsory and simultaneous primary elections were held for the second time across the whole of Argentina since their enactment in 2009[1]. However, they were still far from being primaries stricto sensu. They were probably more like simple primaries. As we already said in our previous Monkey Cage election report, the actual system of primaries can mostly be defined as a virtual first round of an unofficial two-round legislative election. Our primaries function more like a de facto national poll that sets the stage for the general election.

Still, these primaries defined the nominations for the general elections that will be held on October 27th. More importantly, they provided us with real data on which candidates, alliances or parties, if any, have enough popular support so as to start building a political career oriented towards taking the presidency in 2015.

The big name in this regard emerged from within the Partido Justicialista[2] (PJ) in the biggest and more relevant district in the country: the province of Buenos Aires. Sergio Massa, the Major of the municipality of Tigre—and once National Chief of Cabinet during Cristina Kirchner’s former administration—had taken office as a candidate of the Frente para la Victoria (FpV), but in June 2013 he created his own Peronist electoral label (Frente Renovador). Although under the logic of Argentinean politics no national legislator could ever become president, Massa jumped from the municipal level to the national legislative level as a way of projecting himself towards 2015 and in order to test his popular support. Massa appeared as the “moderate” alternative (he tried not to be identified either for or against the national government) aimed at becoming the alternative to the ruling party (FpV).

The fact that the new main alternative to the national government emerged from within the provincial Peronist Party is not an unexpected outcome in a moment in which the remaining parties and alliances in the opposition[3] cannot offer novel candidates, deliver leading proposals, or even command the campaign towards October. This resulted in a campaign mostly concentrated in Buenos Aires and starring y peronist or philo-peronist candidates.

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No, You Can’t Predict US Congressional Election Outcomes with Tweet Shares: But That Doesn’t Mean You Shouldn’t Try

The following is a guest post from my colleague NYU political scientist Jonathan Nagler.  In the interest of full disclosure, he and I are both Co-Directors of NYU Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) laboratory.

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A group of sociologists at Indiana University recently claimed to have shown that “tweets predict elections”. The research looks at the proportion of tweets during the 3 months preceding the 2010 election mentioning either the democratic or republican candidate in a house race that mentioned the Republican candidate, and uses that ratio to predict the election outcome.  In an Op-Ed published in   The Washington Post claiming to describe the research, Fabio Rojas, one of the authors claimed that “In the 2010 data, our Twitter data predicted the winner in 404 out of 406 competitive races.” Really?

Below is Figure 1 from their paper (available on  SSRN).  I don’t know where Rojas was looking, but I see a lot of points on the right half of the graph—where Republican tweet share was higher than 50%—that are BELOW 0, meaning the Republican candidate LOST the election. Similarly, there are plenty of points in the left half of the graph—where the Republican tweet share was less than 50%—where the Republican candidate won the election.

tweets_figure1

The nice thing about the authors publishing this graph is that it gives a perfectly accurate description of the relationship between tweet-share and margin of victory. They are related, but the relationship seems to be fairly weak.  So if we wanted to predict election outcomes, would it make any sense to use the tweet-share? We could probably do a lot better looking at who the incumbent is, the share of the vote won in the district by the party’s last presidential candidate, or any of a host of other variables. So where does the 404 out of 406 number come from? I can only guess that Rojas was making a claim about the in-sample predictions of the full model reported in Table 1: a model that includes such important variables as whether or not there was a Republican incumbent, the proportion of votes John McCain got in the district, and the proportion of the district that is white.  But do we really think the tweet-share is accounting for many of those 404 correct predictions? And without having the data in hand, it’s hard to believe that even the full model they got 404 correct predictions.

tweets_table1

What we can see from the model they report in Table 1 is that the share of mentions in Tweets seems to have some predictive power for the Republican vote margin beyond the other variables in the model. That’s interesting. But it’s a lot different than saying that the tweets predict the outcome.

And more importantly, does the tweet share actually influence anything? It might come as no surprise that the tweet share is correlated with the winner of the election: that is pretty much what we would expect. The winner will generally have more name-recognition, spend more money and have a more active campaign. All those things should generate more twitter chatter. What we want to know is: does the chatter on twitter about a candidate affect what people think of the candidate? Does it make them more, or less, likely to vote for the candidate?

These are interesting questions that my colleagues at the  SMaPP lab at NYU and I are trying to answer.  The basic data and analysis presented in the Indiana paper is interesting and informative. But it doesn’t help inform anyone to then make overstated claims that are so obviously contradicted by the data.

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Gender Stereotypes, Candidate Evaluations, and Voting for Women Candidates: What Really Matters?

Continuing our new series of collaborations with political science journals, we are pleased to present the following guest post from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee political scientist Kathleen Dolan discussing her article “Gender Stereotypes, Candidate Evaluations, and Voting for Women Candidates: What Really Matters?” that appears in the current issue of Political Research Quarterly.  In conjunction with this post, SAGE will make the article freely available to all for the next 30 days; you can download it here.

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As the latest round of speculation about Hillary Clinton’s intentions regarding the 2016 presidential race begin to heat up, we are reminded by some critics that she is just too darned old to be president.[1]  Of course, attacking a candidate’s perceived vulnerabilities is a tried and true element of politics.  But negative attention to the age and appearance of a woman candidate has a certain resonance in our politics because it stirs concerns of sexism and condescension toward these women.

We can easily conjure up anecdotal examples of high-level women candidates who have been subjected to criticism and attacks because of their age (too young or too old), appearance (too beautiful or too plain), or family status (whether mothers or childless).  Ask Sarah Palin, Jari Askins[2], or Kelly Ayotte what is it like for women at times on the campaign trail.   For support, consult the extensive literature in political science that examines the gender stereotypes people hold about what women and men candidates are like and what they can successfully do in office. Research on female and male stereotypes often warns that these attitudes can work against women candidates if voters perceive them not to possess the “right” skills and abilities for office.

However, look closer and you will see that we have less evidence of the negative impact of gender stereotypes on women candidates than we thought.  Much of the existing data comes from experiments and hypotheticals, rather than from measures of attitudes connected with actions toward real candidates in real contests.  In 2010, in order to bring new data to bear on these issues, I conducted a survey of 3150 U.S. adults in 29 states, designed to gather information about abstract gender stereotypes, specific evaluations of candidates running for office, and vote choice. These data allow me to link the gender stereotypes people may (or may not) hold with their specific actions – candidate evaluations and vote choice – in these elections.

I find very little support for the concern that abstract gender stereotypes hurt, or help, women candidates when they run against men. For Republican women candidates, none of a range of policy and trait stereotypes is significantly related to any of the candidate evaluations voters make about their traits or abilities.  That is to say that stereotyped ideas about women’s superiority on education issues or men’s greater leadership abilities had no bearing on evaluating the policy abilities or traits of the specific Republican women candidates in these House races.  For Democratic women, the only negative impact of stereotypes is that respondents who see women as less able to handle “male” policies areas like the economy and military in the abstract evaluated the Democratic woman candidate in their House race as less well-suited to deal with these issues than her male opponent.

However, this limited impact for stereotypes on evaluations doesn’t translate into an impact on the thing that matters most to candidates – vote choice.   Examining the impact of abstract stereotypes on vote choice alongside traditional political influences such as political party, incumbency status, candidate spending clearly demonstrates that stereotypes have no direct impact on vote choice.  Stereotypes also have no indirect impact through candidate evaluations.  Instead, the factors that predict whether a voter will choose a woman candidate for the House are the same things that predict vote for a man.  Overwhelmingly, people vote for the candidate of their political party, regardless of the sex of the candidate.  In every analysis, a shared party identification between the respondent and woman candidate was the most important influence in determining vote for a woman and no stereotyped attitudes were significantly related to vote choice.

Figure 1
Dolan-graph 1

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Political Communication and Repression in Russia – Or What Do Alexei Navalny and Mitt Romney Have in Common?

Alexei Navalny getting arrested

The following is a guest post from political scientists Graeme Robertson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Samuel Greene of King’s College London.

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On Thursday  July 18, as anyone with more than a passing interest in Russia or the Monkey Cage already knows, Russian anti-corruption campaigner and Moscow Mayoral candidate, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment on charges of embezzling about $500 000 from a forestry firm for which he had never worked. The trial had been a long time in the works and the sentence was not surprising. Yet somehow, even if it was not surprising, it was still jarring – to us at least. That travesties of justice and political repression have become expected in Russia these days is no reason not to be horrified when they happen.

So much for the morality of the case, what about the politics? Repression, after all, is not just personal, but also political, and is intended not just to deal with a particular target, but also “pour encourager les autres”. Moreover, Navalny is no ordinary defendant, but a candidate right in the middle of a race to become mayor of Russia’s capital city – perhaps the third most high profile position in Russia after president and prime minister. The prosecutors themselves requested that the court release Navalny pending his appeal, giving him some time – maybe a month, maybe two – to campaign ahead of the September 8 ballot. So how did the political message of Navalny’s trial go down with ‘les autres’? As it happens, not much differently than a Mitt Romney ad in the U.S.—more about that in a minute.

There has been much debate about what the Navalny verdict and subsequent decision to release him pending appeal would mean for Russian politics. Fortunately, we have some data that allow informed (if clearly not definitive) analysis of these issues. The data come from two sources – daily telephone tracking polls looking at levels of support for the various candidates in the Moscow race (conducted by Synovate ComCon), and an Internet survey of educated, middle-class Muscovites that was in the field when the verdict was handed down (conducted by the authors with the generous financial support of the Smith Richardson Foundation).

The first thing to note is just how politically tuned in educated, middle class Muscovites are. In the 48 hours after the verdict (when the field work was completed), some 87 percent of respondents in our Internet sample reported being aware of the case against Navalny, and 70 percent said they knew the verdict. Interestingly, the high levels of awareness of the Navalny case do not seem exceptional – fully 89 percent of respondents said that they had head of the trials of the Bolotnoe protesters. Of these, only 15 percent thought the sentences handed down in these cases appropriate, while 53 percent saw the Bolotnoe cases as “political show trials”. In other words, the public message of repression in today’s Russia is “received and understood”.

So how is Russian repression like a Mitt Romney ad? Because the Navalny sentence produced more or less the same effect you get from launching a big television ad buy in a US presidential election – a short-lived bounce that dissipates in a week. For Navalny, being repressed by the Putin regime was worth about a 10-point bounce in the polls. In the internet survey, of the 492 respondents who answered either before the sentences were announced, or who were unaware of the verdict, 12 percent said they intended to vote for Navalny in the mayoral election. Among those who answered after and knew the verdict (151 people), Navalny’s support was 23 percent. Without a panel design, we can’t know who moved, but in aggregate all of that bounce seems to have come at the expense the incumbent and Putin-favored candidate Sergei Sobyanin, whose support fell from 34 percent to 24 percent.

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435 Separate Cuts; or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation

house recess 2013 coverThe House of Representatives’ Republican Conference has released instructions to its members on how to spend their summer vacations. It doesn’t involve much frivolity, unless one’s idea of holiday heaven involves writing (or at least cutting-and-pasting) op-eds, pumping gas, holding meetings with angry people and, most broadly, hating on Washington.

Kicking off the 31 colorful pages of  “Fighting Washington for All Americans”, GOP Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (of Washington, as it happens) writes that “We should be proud of the work we’ve accomplished together so far in the 113th Congress…. The work we have accomplished in Congress is invaluable to those back in our districts.”  (Alas, only 12% of the public seems to realize this.)

The bulk of Fighting Washington consists of a long and detailed to-do list for the summer “district work period.” It gives members a sample op-ed to place in local papers, provides details on how to hold town hall meetings (hint: you should “reserve a space that is large enough to accommodate the expected number of attendees…” and “take many photographs and videos”), and suggests a list of issues members might hammer home at home: the economy, the excesses of Obamacare, the IRS.  (All the while remembering that “Fighting Washington isn’t about creating more partisan gridlock, heated rhetoric, or Republicans versus Democrats.”  Also that: “While touring, help constituents pump gas and bag their groceries where possible.”)

Now, here’s the thing. None of this is necessarily bad advice. But the people receiving it are incumbents and their staffs. Are they in fact people who need to be told to reserve a hall when holding a meeting? Congress scholars, help out here – is this level of instructional specificity new to the current crop of proud amateurs in the GOP caucus, or did the 1970s waves of newcomers (mostly Democratic then) receive similar orientation?

In the end the document serves as true homage to Richard Fenno and his 1978 book Home Style, in which he famously concluded that “members run for Congress, by running against Congress…”  But I wonder if we – and the House leadership – might do well to remember where he takes the thought: “Yet the institution bleeds from 435 separate cuts…”

 

PS According to Roll Call, Democrats too plan to spend the summer bashing Washington. So it is indeed 435 cuts, not 234…

 

 

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More on “Missing White Voters”

Beyond the fact that the 2012 dropouts do not look like a group that Republicans can count on for help in future elections, a focus on “missing voters” completely ignores what is almost certain to remain the most important source of change in the racial composition and political orientations of the American electorate for the foreseeable future — generational replacement

More from Alan Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira here.  My related posts are here and here.

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