(please contact me for copies)

  • Partisanship, political awareness, and retrospective evaluations, 1956-2016. (2018). [2018 MPSA paper]
    • Abstract
      Partisans frequently evaluate objective conditions through a perceptual screen, perceiving a stronger economy and more peaceful world when their party is in power. While we might expect political engagement to mitigate these perceptual biases, evidence from the 2016 ANES shows it often exacerbates them: the most politically-aware voters were also the most likely to report retrospective evaluations that benefited their party. I explore how these relationships have changed between 1956 and 2012, and show that (1) partisans have become increasingly polarized on assessments of their own pocketbook finances and, in a less straightforwardly linear fashion, sociotropic evaluations of the state of the country; and (2) that these changes are concentrated almost entirely among the most politically aware. Among the least-aware voters, partisanship does not influence retrospective evaluations. Only the most aware — those most likely to receive and comprehend cues from their party’s elites, and most likely to engage in motivated reasoning to defend their political identities — have become more polarized in their perceptions of the world over time.
  • Racial resentment, partisan identity, and public opinion about voter fraud. (2017). [2017 MPSA paper]
    • Abstract
      Despite a lack of evidence, the belief that voting fraud is common is widespread and support for requiring voters to show identification (ID) at the polls is high. Observers point to Americans’ racial and partisan predispositions as explanations, viewing support as reflective of Whites’ resentment toward minorities and/or Republicans’ desire to prevent likely Democrats from voting. In this study, I attempt to disentangle these two effects with a survey experiment that primes racial and partisan considerations. Non-Hispanic White respondents were exposed to an image of campaign activists that varied by both race (White vs. non-White) and party (Democrats vs. Republicans) before answering questions about voter fraud. Neither belief in the prevalence of fraud nor support for voter ID laws varied significantly by the image respondents were exposed to. There is some evidence that racial resentment moderates the effect, such that racially resentful Whites see fraud as more common when exposed to images of non-White Democrats. However, for the most part, there are few differences across conditions. I conclude by considering some potential explanations for these null results.

 

  • Challenger Quality and Democratic Accountability. (2016). [2015 APSA paper]
    • Abstract
      Scholars frequently suggest that high-quality challengers foster greater accountability in congressional elections: more experienced candidates should better educate the public about the incumbent’s record and encourage them to punish her for any “out of step” votes. To test these assumptions, I match survey data from the 2006–2010 U.S. Senate elections with multiple measures of challenger quality. The results show no effect of challenger quality on what constituents know about the incumbent’s record or how well they hold her accountable for it. The presence of high-quality candidates thus appears less critical for democratic accountability than many assume.