In my dissertation, I look at survey data from the American National Election Studies:
Theories of party identification
say that it is driven by some form of social identity. This has been conceived
as a positive affect towards groups one identifies with (Green, Palmquist and
Schickler 2002). Yet partisans can also have negative feelings about social
groups, and that dislike may play an equal role in partisanship. NES data
provides a wealth of information about what voters report they like and dislike
about the parties. I recode the "full" (detailed coding) answers to find evidence that
voters both like and dislike parties because of their social makeup.
Additionally, I theorize that the evidence will be stronger in cases where
partisans are talking to a fellow partisan.
I also conducted an experiment to see if a causal relationship can be inferred:
Political partisanship is a form of social identity (Green, Palmquist and Schickler 2002), and party supporters look to their party as an in-group and the opposition party as an out-group. Prevailing theory about social identity and partisanship argues that voters are attracted to a party based on the social identity of the party members and elites. However, parties can generate in-group and out-group biases related to attitudes, with stronger biases generated by out-party cues (Nicholson 2011). Using an experiment with a hypothetical candidate, I examine the effect of references to out-group social identities on the strength of partisanship.
A working copy of this paper was presented at the meeting of the Southern Political Science Association in January 2011.
Abstract: A major question left unanswered is why party identification remains stable at the individual level. This paper posits that the act of voting may play a role in maintaining stability. The voting booth acts as a sort of political “Skinner Box”. Each act of voting is a learning opportunity that teaches voters about their own party preferences. I have examined this relationship at the macro level using NES data from 1958-1980, with a question that asked voters how often they have voted over their lifetime and how consistently they have voted for the same party. Results show a positive nonlinear relationship that is quite strong for the first 10 or so elections of an individual’s life, and thereafter voting returns minimal gains in the strength of party identification.
Abstract: Theories of issue voting and candidate positioning are predicated on assumptions that voters are able to perceive candidates with at least some degree of accuracy, assumptions generally at odds with the findings of public opinion research. While the accuracy of perceptions may vary due to respondents' characteristics (e.g. their attentiveness to politics), it is unclear how elected officials themselves affect the clarity of how their constituents perceive them. We use NES data to test the impact of ideological extremism on respondents' evaluations of elected officials, on the theory that the most liberal and conservative legislators acquire both records and reputations that are less ambiguous than those of more moderate legislators. Controlling for respondent characteristics and political circumstances, we find limited support for our hypothesis, and we discuss the ramifications of our findings for theories of politicians' behavior.
Co-authored with Jennifer Jensen, published in the Journal of Policy History, April 2011.
A copy of the paper is posted here (bottom of page).
Abstract: World War II brought establishment of the first state lobbying
offices in Washington, D.C. Though over time nearly every state would
establish such an office—today there are 31 offices in existence—the
governors of New York and Connecticut were decades ahead of most of
their counterparts when they set up shop in Washington in the early
1940s. This paper uses theories of cooperative federalism and interest
group formation to explain the establishment of these first offices.
Using archival records as well as economic and political data, we
investigate why these two states established these offices. We find that
the fiscal changes that came with cooperative federalism set the
backdrop for states to turn their attention to lobbying in Washington.
The states’ political and economic characteristics provided the
opportunities for niche benefits from Washington offices, and the
previous experiences and orientations of their governors led them to
pursue these opportunities through formalized federal relations