Archive | Experimental Analysis

Journal of Experimental Political Science (JEPS) Now Open For Submissions


As of today, The Journal of Experimental Political Science (JEPS), which I am co-editing with NYU political scientist Rebecca Morton, is open for submissions!  JEPS is a double-blind peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press, and is the official journal of the Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association.

We will be using the Editorial Manager system for accepting submissions, so those interested in submitting a paper should login here; you can also register to serve as a reviewer.  Before doing so, please go through the instruction for contributors (available here, and also posted below the break).  Please also note that if you are currently a reviewer for the AJPS, JOP, or a member of the Experimental Political Science section, you should be receiving an email within the next 24 hours with a login and password for the JEPS Editorial Manager website.  If you wait until you have received that email, you won’t have to go through the process of registering for the JEPS site (although you will receive a new password).

If you have research that fits the journal, please do not hesitate to submit it for consideration for publication!

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

New *Winter* Experimental Social Sciences Institute

My colleague Rebecca Morton sends along the following announcement:

The Division of Social Sciences and the Social Sciences Experimental Laboratory (SSEL) at New York University Abu Dhabi and the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute are pleased to sponsor the Inaugural Winter Experimental Social Sciences Institute (WESSI) at NYU Abu Dhabi January 7-23, 2014.  (Click here for more information.)

The Institute is designed to provide training for social science graduate students and junior faculty in experimental methods, broadly defined. The institute will provide training in lab, field, lab-in-the-field, and survey experimental methodology and cover a broad range of substantive topics in the social sciences drawn from economics, political science, and sociology. Practical training for lab-in-the-field experimentation will be provided. The Inaugural Institute will also include a special module on the issues and concerns of conducting experiments in the Middle East and surrounding region.  Visiting instructors at the institute include Abigail Barr, Nottingham; Fotini Christia, MIT; Daniel Corstange, Columbia; Jacob Goeree, Zurich; Amaney Jamal, Princeton; Dorothea Kuebler, WZB Berlin; and Andreas Lange, Hamburg.

Applications for the program can be submitted online here. Applications are due by August 1, 2013 and decisions will be announced by September 1, 2013. Prospective applicants should submit their cv/resume, a writing/research sample, and if a current graduate student, a letter of support from their principal adviser. Enrollment is limited to 14 students; thus students will receive significant individual guidance and instruction.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Institute has graciously offered to provide full tuition scholarships for all participants attending the Inaugural workshop (in future years the Institute will charge a tuition of $1,200). Participants will also be provided with housing as well as a number of social activities. Participants will only be responsible for transportation to Abu Dhabi, most of their meals, and incidental expenses.

Please contact Rebecca Morton at if you have any questions!

Continue Reading

How Political Science can Inform Policy Making: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Liberia of the Importance of Civic Education in Democracy Promotion


There’s been a lot of discussion recently both on this blog and elsewhere both about the value of political science research for informing the decisions made by policy makers and about our continuing need to do a better job highlighting that value.  With that in mind, I want to highlight the following new paper by my NYU colleague Cyrus Samii and his co-author Eric Mvukiyehe, a PhD candidate at Columbia University.

Samii and Myukiyehe used a field experiment in Liberia to compare the relative effectiveness of two different democracy promotion strategies in a fragile, post-conflict state, in this case the West African nation of Liberia. Working with a coalition of NGOs, they administered a treatment of monthly meetings in the community over a nine month period leading up to an election. In some regions, these meetings focused in security conditions during the election, whereas in others they focused on civic education.  Some village had both the security and civic education meetings.  Using an experimental framework, 142 villages were randomly assigned to either receive the security treatment, the civic education treatment, both, or neither.  The results are striking.  From the paper’s abstract:

Based on official polling-place level vote returns, survey data, and structured behavioral measures, we found that the civic education program had a profound impact in increasing enthusiasm for participation, reducing the parochialism in voter expression, and increasing voter vigilance and effectiveness, while, in an unexpected manner, also increasing people’s perceptions of the degree of violence and intimidation involved in the electoral process. The security committee intervention had no substantial impact, and there were no apparent benefits arising from the interaction of the two programs.

This is practical advise that any policy maker – whether in the government or outside of it – interested in democracy promotion and efficiently allocating resources can use. It is worth noting, though, that this type of research is not cheap – and indeed, replicating the study in other contexts would of course improve the confidence we can have in its findings – and is probably unlikely to be carried out by the private sector.

The full paper is available here.

[Photo Credit: Joanna Devane]

Continue Reading

West Coast Experiments Conference at Stanford University on Friday, May 10th

Kevin Esterling and Mike Tomz send along the following announcement:

The sixth annual meeting of the West Coast Experiments Conference will be held at Stanford University on Friday, May 10.

We encourage anyone with an interest in experiments to attend; graduate students are especially welcome, as well as those who are new to experimental research. The WCE conference is organized more as a methods “workshop” than as a venue to engage in subfield debates. Presenters focus on one or two methodological take away points of their experimental work. The goal is to give the audience applied, practical advice on methods and design in a way that will help them improve their own experimental research.

The WCE conference is a single day meeting, starting at 9 and ending after dinner. Although we do not have the money to cover travel or lodging expenses, we will provide all meals on that day and we promise a good conversation.

Presentations include (in no particular order):

Alvin Roth (Stanford Economics): Market design experiments concerning deceased organ allocation (joint work with Judd Kessler)

Scott Desposato (UCSD Political Science): Ethics in comparative politics experiments

Guido Imbens (Stanford Graduate School of Business): Some comments on stratification and re-randomization in randomized experiments

Luke Keele (Penn State Political Science): Conditioning on post-treatment quantities with structural mean models; experimental design in political psychology applications:

Jennifer Merolla (CGU Political Science): Methodological issues surrounding the use of the Dynamic Process Tracing Environment (DPTE)

Eric Dickson (NYU Political Science): “Legitimacy and Enforcement: An Experimental Investigation” (using experimental games to measure psychological quantities and parse psychological mechanisms, joint work with Sandy Gordon and Greg Huber)

Gabriel Lenz (Berkeley Political Science): Identifying the effect of candidate appearance on vote choice (without assigning candidates to plastic surgery….)

Ted Miguel (Berkeley Economics) also will give an update on the Berkeley Initiative on Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) at lunchtime.

The conference will be held in the Koret Taube Conference Center at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), located at 366 Galvez Street.

Registration is free. For details on registration, local arrangements, and for updates, please visit

Continue Reading

Journal of Experimental Political Science Launch Reception at MPSA


For those of you attending the Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting next week, I wanted to let you know about a reception that Cambridge University Press will be holding to celebrate the launch of the new Journal of Experimental Political Science (JEPS), the official journal of the Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association. Rebecca Morton and I will be the inaugural co-editors of the journal, and I’ll have more information about it here in The Monkey Cage as soon as we are ready to begin accepting submissions.  For now, though, please join us for cocktails and appetizers Thursday at 6:30 PM in the Adams Room of the Palmer House Hilton.

Continue Reading

Vote for Pope!

University of Montreal political scientist André Blais sends along the following:

A team of scientists has launched the website The website has two objectives: inform the public about the various electoral systems that exist in the world to elect state leaders, and collect data on voters’ behaviour under these systems.  We provide information about four electoral systems: one round plurality, two round runoff, alternative vote, and approval vote. The electoral system that is used for the election of the Pope is also described. The visitor is invited to imagine how he/she would vote if the pope was elected under each of these four electoral systems. The study is part of a larger international project designed to better understand the functioning of electoral democracy (Making Electoral Democracy Work). For an example of how such data can help us understand how electoral rules affect vote choice, see Blais et al. 2012. « Assessing the psychological and mechanical impact of electoral rules : A quasi-experiment. » Electoral Studies 31 :829-837.

Try it out here!

Continue Reading

(Free!) Registration Now Open for 6th Annual NYU-CESS Conference on Experimental Political Science

Registration is now open for the 6th Annual NYU-CESS Experimental Political Science Conference March 1st and 2nd 2013 at

We have an excellent set of papers and a poster session for graduate students.   Registration will close on February 17th.  Breakfasts, lunches, and Friday dinner will be provided for all registered attendees.

We look forward to seeing you in New York in early March!  If you have any questions, please email the CESS Administrator, Caroline Madden, at

Eric Dickson, Rebecca Morton, and Joshua Tucker

Continue Reading

Vote and population density

Aleks sends along this graph:

The axis labels are at horrible positions—-the y-labels are at 0, 22.5, 45, 67.5, and 90??? instead of the obvious 0, 25, 50, 75, 100, and the x-axis is on some bizarre hybrid of linear and log scales—-also it’s not clear what the data are. Counties, I’d guess, but in that case you might as well plot the data along with everything else. Also I’d prefer one line rather than two: no big deal here but if you do want to augment the graph with raw data it would be best to have only one line.

The second line conveys no useful additional information but gives the graph an appealing Rorschach-like pattern that might be just what it takes to go viral. . . .

Anyway, I was reminded of this old graph of Democratic vote share vs. population density from Jonathan Rodden, who wrote, “I would like to see when this relationship developed, in which states, etc. My hunch is that suburbanization, especially after the race riots, significantly reduced the heterogeneity of cities. The era of Democrats winning 80 percent of the presidential vote in big cities seems fairly recent”:


As Jonathan noted, the pattern of high-density areas voting strongly Democratic is relatively new. (But I don’t buy the way his lines curve up on the left; I suspect that’s an unfortunate artifact of using quadratic fits rather than something like lowess or spline.) Also there seems to be some weird discretization going on in the population densities for the early years in his data. But the main trends in the graphs are clear.

Jonathan added the following comment: “The relatively high values on the left side of graphs in early years is due to Southern Democrats and some mining districts. Graphs of the UK, Australia, and Canada look very similar during the same period, with left voting concentrated in urban and mining districts.”

More details (and further graphs) here, also here.

Continue Reading

Incentivizing Participation Would Increase Voter Turnout *and* Political Information

The following is a guest post from Princeton University political scientist Victoria Shineman.


As the 2012 US elections come to a close, there will inevitably be much discussion of varying voter turnout. Low voter turnout introduces concerns because voters are not always a representative sample of the population. The number of non-voters is often greater than the margin of victory between the top candidates, suggesting that increasing mobilization could change electoral outcomes.

There are a number of electoral policies that could increase voter turnout. In addition to reducing the cost of voting (e.g. adding early voting or same-day voter registration), another alternative would be to offset the cost of voting by adding incentives for participation. For example, a 2006 ballot referendum proposed to enter every Arizona voter into a state-wide voter turnout lottery, with one random winner selected to receive $1 million after each general election. The proposal created quite a stir in the media, but ultimately received only 33.4% approval, and did not pass.

Participation incentives could also consist of direct handouts given only to voters. In recent elections, these types of promotions have been proposed more often than one might think. Many private companies have initiated promotions to reward voters with free or discounted items or services, including free Starbucks coffee, free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, free red, white, and blue donuts from Krispy Kreme, free chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, a 15% discount from the French Connection, free tacos and hamburgers, free beer, and many others (see here and here). Alternative promotions have even offered voters free body piercings, free tattoo removal services, free sex toys, free medical marijuana, and the chance to win a free rifle or pistol. However, in most cases, companies have been required to alter these promotions in order to comply with state and federal election laws.

When is it Legal to Incentivize Participation?

Simeon Nichter clarifies an important distinction between vote buying (compensation for the content of one’s vote choice) and turnout buying (compensation for the act of participation alone). Vote buying is strictly illegal in the United States, although it does occur on occasion. Turnout buying is illegal in all federal elections, and is also forbidden in 48 states. However, it is legal to offer valuable incentives in exchange for participation in local and state-level contests in California and Alaska, as long as there is no federal contest on the ballot.

There is an ongoing debate as to what constitutes payments for voting. Are campaigns allowed to offer voters a ride to the polling station? Can a candidate offer to pay the postage on absentee ballots? Accusations of illegally using free food to promote voter turnout have recently been made against Harry Reid, Mitt Romney, and Obama supporters.

In the subset of elections where participation incentives are legal, candidates have seized upon the opportunity. A notorious example occurred when Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris offered free chicken dinners to citizens who could produce their ballot receipt. Harris was accused of running a racist promotion because his flyers were allegedly only sent to predominantly African-American communities. He lost the election to Audie Bock, and Bock became the first Green Party candidate to serve in the California Legislature. Another example occurred when Mike Gipson initiated a raffle for $250 Target gift cards, and offered raffle tickets to any citizens who brought their ballot receipt to his campaign office.

Should this be legal? California’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said “it appears that it is not illegal under California law, though it probably should be.”

What are the Effects of Incentivized Participation?

Despite the growing interest in such promotions, there have been few comparative studies estimating the effects of incentivized participation (see previous exceptions here and here). What types of incentives would be required to substantially increase voter turnout? And what other effects would incentivized participation have on individuals, the mass population, and electoral outcomes?

I recently conducted a field experiment to try to answer these questions. I surveyed 349 people before and after the 2011 San Francisco Municipal Election. Half the people in the survey were randomly chosen to receive a financial incentive to vote, in the form of a prepaid $25 Visa card that would only be activated if the subject cast a ballot. The mobilization treatment increased voter turnout from 45% to over 80%.

Continue after the break to see a summary of additional findings.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading