Research

Figure 1: research assistants Toast, Monty (aka MUGGO) and Waffle

Publications

Searles, Kathleen and Kevin K. Banda. Forthcoming. "But Her Emails! How Journalistic Preferences Shaped Election Coverage in 2016." Journalism.

  • While existing work explains how journalists use news values to select some stories over others, we know little about how stories that meet newsworthiness criteria are prioritized. Once stories are deemed newsworthy, how do journalists calculate their relative utility? Such an ordering of preferences is important as higher-ranked stories receive more media attention. To better understand this aspect of gatekeeping, we propose a model for rational journalistic preferences which describes how journalists rank-order stories. When faced with competing newsworthy stories, such as in an election context, the model can be used to generate expectations regarding aggregate news coverage patterns. By way of illustration, we draw on a unique case – the U.S. 2016 presidential election – in which we can explain how reporters order news stories by observing changes in the volume of newsworthy stories (e.g. scandal and the horse race). Our content data includes sentence-level measures of coverage featuring Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on Fox News, NBC, CBS, CNN, and ABC over 31 weeks. We find that the rational journalistic preference model explains the imbalance of scandal coverage between the two candidates, and the dominance of horse race coverage. In 2016, such preferences may have inadvertently contributed to a balance of news stories that favored Trump.


Justin H. Kirkland and Kevin K. Banda. Forthcoming. “Perceived Ideological Distance and Trust in Congress.” Social Science Quarterly.

  • We offer a theory connecting a citizen’s trust in Congress with the perceived ideological distance between that citizen and her representative. We argue that citizens perceive of their representatives as agents acting on their behalf and, much like other principal-agent dynamics, trust Congress at higher levels the more their agents behave as citizens wish them to. Further, we argue that this relationship is conditional. Citizens of the controlling party in Congress have less need for faithful agents before Congress, owing to the fact that their policy wishes are likely to be implemented regardless of the behavior of their own personal agent. Citizens of the out-party in Congress only have the chance to have their policy preference enacted so long as their agents are faithful representatives. We test this conception of trust in Congress using survey data from the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study and find robust support for our theory. Out-party respondents’ trust in Congress is strongly affected by their perception of the ideological distance between themselves and their representatives, while in-party respondents’ trust in Congress was unaffected by the behavior of their own representative. We further find no evidence suggesting that legislators’ roll call voting – behavioral congruence with respondents – affects citizens’ trust in Congress.


Jonathan Kropko and Kevin K. Banda. 2018. "Issue Scales, Information Cues, and the Proximity and Directional Models of Voter Choice." Appendix. Replication materials. Political Research Quarterly. Vol 71(4): 772-787.

  • One of the most important questions in the study of democratic politics centers on how citizens consider issues and candidate positions when choosing whom to support in an election. The proximity and directional theories make fundamentally different predictions about voter behavior and imply different optimal strategies for candidates, but a longstanding literature to empirically adjudicate between the theories has yielded mixed results. We use a survey experiment to show that how candidates' positions are communicated contain unacknowledged cuing effects that can encourage citizens to choose a candidate that is preferred under the expectations of either the proximity or the directional theory. We find that directional voting is more likely when the issue scale is understood to represent degrees of intensity with which either the liberal or the conservative side of the issue is expressed and that proximity voting is more likely when an issue scale is understood to be a range of policies.


Kevin K. Banda and John Cluverius. 2018. "Elite Polarization, Party Extremity, and Affective Polarization." Appendix. Replication materials. Electoral Studies. Vol 56(1): 90-101.

  • Elites in the U.S. have become increasingly polarized over the past several decades. More recently, the degree to which partisans view the opposing party more negatively than their own - a phenomenon called affective, or social, polarization - has increased. How does elite polarization inform affective polarization? We argue that partisans respond to increasing levels of elite polarization by expressing higher levels of affective polarization, i.e. more negative evaluations of the opposing party relative to their own. Motivated reasoning further encourages partisans to blame the opposing party more than their own. Results from surveys collected from 1978 through 2016 provide strong support for our theory. We further find that increasing levels of political interest magnify the relationship between elite and affective polarization. These results produce important implications for the health of democratic systems experiencing high levels of elite polarization.


John Cluverius and Kevin K. Banda. 2018. "How Trust Attitudes Promote Grassroots Lobbying in the American States." Social Science Quarterly. Vol 99(3): 1,006-1,020.

  • Objectives: Despite declining trust in government institutions, political scientists have ob- served increasing political participation across activities, including grassroots lobbying. We argue that higher levels of trust in the state political system as a whole — diffuse political trust — and in state legislatures — specific political trust — should increase the likelihood that citizens contact their state legislators about policy matters because higher levels of trust tend to correlate with believing that the policymaking process produces equitable political outcomes. Methods: We use observational data from a a nationally representative survey sample taken in 2015. Results: We find mixed results: whereas diffuse political trust predicts participation in grass- roots lobbying at the state level, specific political trust does not. Conclusion: This finding implies that more general feelings of political trust exert greater influence on grassroots lobbying behavior than do more institution-specific indicators of trust.


Kevin K. Banda and Justin H. Kirkland. 2018. "Legislative Party Polarization and Trust in State Legislatures." Appendix. American Politics Research. Vol 46(4): 596-628.

  • We argue that citizens' trust attitudes are inversely related to party polarization because polarization tends to encourage political conflict, which most people dislike. We further posit that partisans’ trust attitudes are driven by the ideological extremity of the opposing and their own parties for similar reasons. Using roll-call based estimates of state legislative party polarization and public opinion data collected in 2008, we show strong evidence in favor of our theory: higher levels of party polarization within legislative chambers depresses citizens' trust in their legislatures. Among partisans, we also find that trust attitudes respond to the ideological extremity of the opposing party, but not to a citizen's own party's extremity. We further find that as citizens' interest in politics increases, they react more strongly to polarization when forming their trust attitudes. Finally, partisans become less responsive to the ideological extremity of the opposing party as they become more politically interested.


Kevin K. Banda. 2016. “Issue Ownership, Issue Positions, and Candidate Assessment.Appendix. Replication materials. Political Communication. Vol 33(4): 651-666.

  • I argue that citizens alter their views of candidates' ideological and issue positions in response to two kinds of information cues: issue ownership and issue position cues. Issue ownership cues associate a candidate with the party that owns the issue discussed by a candidate. Issue position cues associate a candidate with the party that is linked to the position that the candidate discusses. These cues can either lead citizens to view the candidate as more or less extreme - both in terms of ideological and issue position assessments - than that candidate's party. When both types of cues are present, citizens should ignore the issue ownership cues in favor of the easier to process issue position cues. Evidence from a survey experiment embedded in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study provides strong support for this theory and suggests that issue ownership can convey positional information.


Kevin K. Banda and Jason H. Windett. 2016. "Negative Advertising and the Dynamics of Candidate Support." Appendix. Replication materials. Political Behavior. Vol 38(3): 747-766.

  • Campaigns are inherently dynamic events that unfold over the course of many weeks, but comparatively little work has examined these dynamics. Additionally, much of the research on negative campaigning has focused on the effects of negativity strictly on citizens. We argue that candidates’ negative campaign strategies are informed by the strategies employed by their opponents and their standing in the polls. Candidates, then, should respond to their opponents in order to rebut criticisms and retaliate against their opponents’ attacks. We further argue that the levels of support enjoyed by the candidates is also influenced by their negative campaigning strategies. Public opinion should be responsive to the strategies employed by candidates because citizens should update their assessments of candidates in response to the information to which they are exposed. We test our theories using data drawn from 80 statewide elections — 37 gubernatorial and 43 U.S. Senate contests — from three election years and public opinion polling collected during the last 12 weeks of each campaign. We find that candidates respond to increases in the number of negative advertisements aired by their opponents by airing more negative spots of their own and that the support enjoyed by a candidate decreases as the number of negative ads run by that candidate increases. We further find that candidates’ negative advertising strategies are not informed by their level of support in the polls.


Kevin K. Banda and Thomas M. Carsey. 2015. “Two Stage Elections, Strategic Candidates, and Agenda Convergence.” Appendix. Replication materials. Electoral Studies 40(1): 221-230.

  • Candidates employ strategies in two stage elections that depend on the electoral circumstances they face. In competitive primaries, candidates must satisfy their party’s electorate before they shift their focus to the electorate as a whole. Candidates who do not face competitive primaries, on the other hand, are free to run a single campaign designed to appeal to the entire electorate across both stages of the election. Our analysis of U.S. Senate campaigns shows that candidates respond to the television advertising behavior of the candidates they are running against in their own primary by converging and to the behavior of candidates running in the opposing party’s primary by diverging.


Kevin K. Banda. 2015. “Competition and the Dynamics of Issue Convergence.” American Politics Research. Vol 43 (5): 821-845.

  • Issue convergence theory suggests that candidates should respond to their opponents by discussing the same issues while issue divergence theory posits that candidates should instead ignore each other and discuss different issues. Recent studies tend to find evidence in favor of issue convergence, but these results may be inaccurate because the analyses that generated them tested dynamic campaign behavior using cross-sectional methods. Using a dynamic modeling strategy along with television advertising data drawn from 93 U.S. Senate campaigns in 44 states, five election years, and on 51 issues, I show that candidates increase the attention they devote to issues as their opponents' emphasis of these same issues increases and that candidates do so to a greater extent in competitive than in noncompetitive elections. This analysis is the first to account for the dynamic nature of issue emphasis and provides support for issue convergence theory.


Kevin K. Banda. 2014. “Negativity and Candidate Assessment.” Public Opinion Quarterly. Vol 78 (3): 707-720.

  • Citizens are exposed to a great deal of information during election campaigns, much of which takes the form of cues about candidates' positions on issues. This research examines how citizens respond to information cues embedded in negative messages made by candidates about their opponents. Specifically, I look at how such cues influence how citizens view both the target and the sponsor of the attack. Citizens use these cues in two ways: (1) they assess the target of the message as holding more extreme ideological and issue positions in line with the attack while (2) their assessments of the negative message's sponsor shift in the opposite direction. Using data drawn from a survey experiment, I show that participants respond to the informational cues embedded in negative messages by shifting their assessments of both the attacker and the target. I find little evidence that shared partisanship between citizens and candidates conditions the way that citizens respond to these cues.


Kevin K. Banda. 2013. “The Dynamics of Campaign Issue Agendas.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Vol 13 (4): 446-470.

  • I argue that candidates shape their issue agendas — the sets of issues on which they focus — in part in response to the issue agendas of their opponents. I further argue that competitive campaigns stimulate candidates to respond to one another at higher rates. I test my theory of candidate interaction using weekly advertising data at the media market level from 146 state-wide elections — 54 gubernatorial and 92 U.S. Senate contests — from six election years and across all 50 states. I find that candidates systematically respond to one another’s agendas and do so to a greater extent in competitive elections than they do in noncompetitive elections.


Jason H. Windett, Kevin K. Banda, and Thomas M. Carsey. 2013. “Racial Stereotypes, Racial Context, and the 2008 Presidential Election.” Politics, Groups, and Identities. Vol 1 (3): 349-369.

  • As the first African-American nominee for President of a major political party, Barack Obama’s campaign and ultimate victory reminded voters, scholars, pundits, and the press of the centrality of race in American political life. Speculation by observers of all types centered around the potential impact of race as an individual psychological prejudice and/or as a geographic/contextual factor. These two themes parallel different leading scholarly treatments of race and racism in the U.S. Rather than choose one theme or the other, in this paper we bring both traditions together in a unified analysis of white voter response to Obama. We find strong evidence that the level of prejudice toward African-Americans held by whites affected their evaluations of Obama as well as their probability of voting for him. In contrast, we find little evidence that whites responded to the racial context of their immediate geographic environment.


Current Research

Kevin K. Banda, Thomas M. Carsey, and John Curiel. "Incumbency Status and Candidate Responsiveness to Voters in Two-Stage Elections." Invited to be revised and resubmitted to the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties.

  • Theories of representation suggest that candidates should respond ideologically to their constituency. Two-stage elections like those in the U.S. force candidates to decide which parts of their constituency to which they should respond: citizens who are active enough to participate in primaries or those who only participate in general elections. We posit that non-incumbent candidates should mostly focus on the preferences of primary voters while incumbents should be largely unmoved by voters' preferences. We test these expectations using data from U.S. House and Senate contests and find support for our theory. Our results suggest that scholars should pay closer attention to the two-stage nature of U.S. elections when evaluating electoral responsiveness.


Kevin K. Banda. "Issue Ownership Cues and Candidate Support." Under review.

  • Issue ownership theory suggests that candidates should focus on the issues that are owned - or associated with - their parties and mostly avoid issues that are owned by the opposing party. Doing so allows them to focus on their own party's strengths rather than on their weaknesses. Despite this expectation, contemporary research finds that candidates discuss both their own party's issues and trespass by talking about issues owned by the opposing parties. I argue that issue ownership cues - subtle information cues linking candidates to parties through the discussion of party-owned issues - should have heterogeneous effects across partisan groups. Using a survey experiment, I show that copartisans prefer candidates who focus on issues owned by their parties while opposing partisans prefer candidates who trespass; nonpartisans' preferences do not appear to shift in response to these cues. It thus appears as if cuing people to connect candidates to one party or the other can inform citizens' levels of support for those candidates. Depending on the composition of the electorate, trespassing can be an advantageous strategy for candidates.


Kevin K. Banda, Thomas M. Carsey, and Serge Severenchuk. "Partisan Conflict Extension and Attitudes in Non-Political Settings." Under review.

  • How does partisanship affect people's interactions in the social sphere? We argue that the effects of conflict extension should be observable in social settings that are normally not politicized. Conflict extension posits that citizens respond to partisan cues because for many people party identification is a deeply held social identity. We argue that due to the affectively-charged nature of party identities, partisans' evaluations of objects in non-political settings should be more favorable when those objects are linked to their own party and less favorable when they are linked to the opposing party relative to when no partisan cue is present. Results from four survey experiments provide strong evidence that partisans evaluate objects linked to the opposing party less favorably and some evidence that they evaluate objects linked to their own parties more favorably. These results are consistent with prior research on policy-based conflict extension, suggesting that conflict extension can explain the growing partisan differences in both political and non-political settings. Furthermore, while previous research has shown that partisanship affects people's interactions in non-political settings, we show that partisanship biases evaluations of even inanimate objects merely linked to one of the two parties.


Banda, Kevin K. and Joshua N. Zingher. "How Elite Polarization Shapes Interest in Politics." Under review.

  • The American party system has seen an unprecedented increase in polarization over the past several decades. A large literature shows that this increase has had consequences for elite behavior within the formal confines of government, but less research has examined how elite polarization might affect mass attitudes. We argue that increasingly polarized elites drive down citizens’ levels of interest in politics by exposing them to greater information about partisan conflict and by cuing them to think about the policy and social identity-based threats posed to them by one or both parties. Furthermore, independents – who lack a partisan filter to motivate them to process information about their own and the opposing partisan group strategically and who are likely to find both rather than just one party threatening – should be more responsive to elite polarization relative to partisans. We test our theory using survey data and measures of polarization in the U.S. Congress from 1952 – 2016 and find evidence supporting our theory. These findings have important implications about the potential fragility of representative democracy and candidate behavior.


John Cluverius and Kevin K. Banda. "How the Alt-Right Label Informs Political Assessments." Under review.

  • By the end of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the alt-right label came to newfound political prominence. To what extent does labeling someone as a member of the alt-right inform people's assessments of that person? Given that the alt-right is largely a far-right movement, we argue that people should assess alt-right candidates as holding more conservative ideological and issue positions. We use a survey experiment that tasks participants with assessing the ideological and issue positions of a candidate. Our results suggest that the alt-right label leads people to assess candidates as holding more conservative ideological and issue positions relative to no label and often relative to a more explicit conservative label. These results help us to grasp how citizens understand this relatively new far-right group's preferences.


Kevin K. Banda and Jason H. Windett. "Partisan Asymmetry in Attack Advertising Strategies."

  • Democratic theory and much of the empirical literature on representation suggest that candidates must be responsive to the preferences of their constituents if they wish to hold and keep political offices. A growing body of research also shows that candidates' advertising strategies are informed by the strategies employed by their opponents, but it is silent on how these two tendencies might collectively drive campaign behavior. We argue that the degree to which candidates respond to their opponents' attacks is conditioned by the size of the population of moderates in their constituencies. Democrats should become less responsive while Republicans should become more responsive as their electorates are made up of more moderates. We find strong evidence favoring our theory using advertising data on candidate-sponsored television spots in 221 U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections. This research builds on several literatures and adds to our understanding of how parties, opponents' strategies, and citizens' preferences influences candidates' campaign strategies.


Jason H. Windett and Kevin K. Banda. " Reconsidering Measures of Campaign Tone and the Importance of Accounting for Campaign Dynamics."

  • We examine the consequences of using different measures of campaign advertising negativity and estimation strategies. The literature on how negativity affects public opinion and political behavior is mixed, and we argue that this is likely driven in part by inconsistent coding decisions about how to treat attack and contrast advertisements. We further argue that the two types of messages provide citizens with fundamentally different kinds of information, which they respond to in different ways. We report a series of dynamic tests of how various measures of negativity affect candidate support across 80 state level contests. We find that researchers' coding decisions are powerful determinants of the kinds of relationships that scholars observe between negativity and candidate support. Substantively, we show that citizens sometimes punish and sometimes reward candidates who air more attack or contrast advertisements than their opponents depending on the office being contested. We also find that the decision to study these dynamic relationships cross-sectionally can lead scholars to draw very different inferences. This research has important implications for scholars' measurement decisions, methodological choices, and future research on campaign tone.


Kevin K. Banda, John Cluverius, Lilliana Mason, and Hans Noel. "How the Progressive Label Affects Citizens' Views of Others."

  • Despite increasing levels of ideological polarization among party elites, activists, and partisans, only Republican Party elites consistently and explicitly identify their ideological dispositions as conservatives. Democrats tend to shy away from calling themselves liberals and instead identify as progressives. What effect does this label have on how candidates and citizens are viewed? We argue that the progressive label communicates ideological information suggesting that the person associated with the label holds a more liberal ideological position, but less so than an explicit liberal label would suggest. We find strong support for our expectations using data drawn from two survey experiments. Our findings suggest that the progressive label offers candidates a strategic means by which to communicate their left-leaning ideological preferences while avoiding the unpopular reputation of the word liberal.


Kevin K. Banda and Justin H. Kirkland. "The Effects of Shared Partisanship on Political Trust in Subnational Government and Institutions."

  • What leads citizens to feel different levels of trust in state institutions and state government? We argue that shared partisanship is an important determinant of citizens' trust attitudes. Citizens should express higher levels of trust in the legislature and the governor when the party with which they identify control those institutions in large part because of (1) the positive feelings associated with being represented by members of citizens' own partisan "teams" and (2) the expected congruence between the policies produced by the institutions and preferred by citizens relative to when the institutions are not controlled by their parties. Citizens should furthermore express higher levels of trust in state government more generally when state legislatures and governorships are controlled by their parties relative to when they are not. The results of our analyses using survey data drawn from the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study strongly support our theoretical argument.


Justin H. Kirkland and Kevin K. Banda. "Institutions and Trust in Legislatures."

  • Conservatives and liberals disagree with each other about the speed at which “good” government should operate with the former favoring slower government activity than the latter. The way in which institutions are designed can affect government's ability to act quickly. How does institutional design influence trust in government institutions like state legislatures? Our argument is that these attitudes are shaped by citizens' ideologies, their interest in politics, and three types of legislative institutions: legislative supermajority institutions, legislative professionalism, and legislative term limits. We find empirical support for our theory using data drawn from a team content module on the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study; trust attitudes are influenced by the collective effects of respondents' ideologies and interest in politics along with supermajority institutions and legislative professionalism, but not by legislative term limits. Our results highlight the potentially key role played by institutional design in shaping public opinion.