Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy



Below are the abstracts of all papers that will be presented at CSED’s Spring Workshop this year, organized by the order in which they will be presented at the conference.


Thursday – Session 1

Eleanor Powell: “Ideology and Party Pressure In Congress: A (New) Data-Based Approach”
Discussants: Adam Brown, Hans Noel

The role of parties and influence of party pressure on congressional voting is one of the questions central to the study of congress.  How best to measure this influence has been hotly debated.  In this paper, I propose a new approach to estimating the effect of party pressure by using two new previously unexplored sources of data: personal explanation data and leave of absence data.  By combining personal explanation data (that include claims from members about how they would have voted on missing votes) with leave of absence data (that allow us to disentangle strategic from non-strategic abstention), we can calculate a pure position-taking metric that allows us to isolate the effect of party pressure on congressional voting in a variety of temporal, legislative, and electoral contexts.  Preliminary results suggest that misaligned members (Democrats who represent Republican districts and vice versa) are 4 percentage points less likely to vote with their party and against their district’s preferences when party pressure is removed.  I conclude by exploring how incorporating this new information changes our estimates of congressional ideology and which members (districts) experience the greatest change.

Jay Goodliffe & David Magleby: “The Timing of Donations in Presidential Campaigns”
Discussants: Damon Cann, Jim Curry

This paper is part of a book-length project in which we examine donors to presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012 with particular attention to the major party nominees, in part because we have a random sample of their small donors as well as a sample of their disclosed donors. In the book we demonstrate that Obama donors in 2008 and 2012 are different from donors in prior studies in terms of gender, race, and age. Obama also had a relatively large number of new donors in 2012 as well as in 2008, again a departure from conventional wisdom. The structure of the 2008 and 2012 elections were different because of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) which raised individual contribution limits and because by 2008 public funding of primaries was not as common a practice and because starting with Obama in 2008, candidates also declined public funding. BCRA and the demise of public funding increased the incentive for candidates to pursue large donors. Court and administrative decisions between 2008 and 2012 also elevated the role of large donors to Super PACs and Section 501(c)(4) groups.

Adam Brown: “When do states amend (and why does it matter)?”
Discussants: Kelly Patterson, Adam Dynes

Democratic constitutions must balance constitutional stability against democratic responsiveness. In other words, they must be amendable, but not too amendable. The 50 American states vary widely in how they pursue this balance; some amend their constitutions heavily and frequently, others less so. This article explores the circumstances that make amendments more or less frequent. It presents evidence that amendment rates reflect both demand-side and supply-side factors, with demand-side factors predominant. Demand for amendments is highest for constitutions that are both young and lengthy; supply reflects both the legislature’s ability and its willingness to propose amendments. This article then explores the effects that high or low amendment rates have on state supreme courts. States that fail to keep their constitutions current wind up provoking their supreme courts into striking down legislation more frequently.


Thursday – Session 2

Hans Noel: “Creative Synthesis: A Model of Peer Review, Reflective Equilibrium and Ideology Formation”
Discussants: David Magleby, Jessica Preece, James Martherus

The formation of ideology can be modeled as a communication game that combines actors’ psychological predispositions and their rational self-interest. I argue that we can explain ideological development by modeling the way in which political thinkers reason from first principles, and how they fail to ignore their own psychological and interest-based biases. I begin with a distributive model to provide a structure for people’s interests and their psychological traits, and add in a model of reason (Rawls, 2001) to explain how those interests and traits will shape the development of ideology. The model develops the framework, based on the practice of peer review. This framework creates a tournament of potential ideologies and traces whether such a mechanism can explain the development of multiple competing ideologies.

Michael Barber and Jeremy Pope: “Imitative Ideology: Voters are Parrots”
Discussants: Hans Noel, Jay Goodliffe

Are citizens ideological?  There are three competing explanations for how citizens answer questions and whether or not ideology is involved.  First, that citizens don’t know enough about conservative/liberal positions to offer an opinion.  Second, that citizens know (at least something), but their strongly held opinions don’t fit within the existing framework of ideology.  Or, third, they mostly have non-opinions.  This paper offers experiments that attempt to test these claims.  Preliminary results suggest that citizens, and especially voters, may care deeply about a few issues and adopt the positions of their preferred party when they know the party’s position. But they don’t know the party’s position on most issues and giving them the party’s position makes little difference.

Adam Dynes & Andrew Reeves: “Who is Invested in the Party? Evidence from Republican House Members’ Attendance at Caucus Meetings”
Discussants: Eleanor Powell, Adam Brown

How do party leaders exert influence over their rank-and-file members? The answers to this question tend to focus on determinants of roll call voting, public acts produced from a legislative agenda that members themselves help shape. We consider another type of behavior by members, which is private except to other legislative party members — attendance in the weekly caucus meetings held by leadership. To better understand the role of these meetings in the contemporary House, we interview several House members, chiefs of staff, and party leadership staffers. We then use a new data set to consider the determinants of attendance at the Republican House Conference Meetings from 2007 to 2013. Finally, we expand upon the analysis of previous research by considering the influence of attendance on voting behavior.


Friday – Session 1

Gabe Lenz: “The Importance of Knowing ‘What Goes With What’: Reinterpreting the Evidence on Attitude Stability”
Discussants: Jeremy Pope, Jay Goodlife, Alejandra Gimenez

Do citizens have meaningful views about public policy? Despite enormous scholarly attention to this question over five decades, researchers have not reached consensus on this question. While scholars such as Converse (1964) have argued that meaningful opinions are held only by a limited number of citizens, other scholars find that, after correcting for measurement error, meaningful attitudes are pervasive in the mass public, even among those with low education and low political knowledge. In this paper, we revisit this debate with a concept at the center of Converse’s theorizing but neglected by subsequent scholarship: knowledge of which issue positions go with which candidate and party—of “what goes with what.” We find that much of the public lacks this knowledge and, consequently, much of the public has unstable views, even after correcting for measurement error. We conclude that less than half of US citizens hold meaningful views about any given public policy issue.

Damon Cann: “The Structure of Ideology in Local Government”
Discussants: Chris Karpowitz, Michael Barber

Ideology is a central concept in understanding government at the national level.  While the structure of ideological beliefs is well-studied at the national level, there is a diversity of opinions on whether there is any structure to local political preferences at all, as well as what form such structure might take.  We find evidence of a multidimensional structure of local political ideology that includes both a traditional left-right spectrum but also a distinct set of preferences for land use.

Chris Karpowitz, Quin Monson, Tyson King & Jeremy Pope: “Racial Resentment, Individualism, and Support for Black Candidates: How Racially Resentful Voters Respond to Campaign Context ”
Discussants: Richard Davis, Gabe Lenz

The concept of racial resentment in the study of voting behavior has consistently produced results where increased levels of racial resentment lead to decreased support for black candidates. In this paper we bring together a collection of observational data and survey experiments to show how, in the right context, exactly the opposite happens: racially resentful voters prefer to vote for a black candidate. Higher levels of racial resentment do not imply an unyielding opposition to black candidates. On the contrary, because the traditional measure captures more than just racial animus, some black candidates—most notably, Republicans with an individualist message—may actually benefit from higher levels of racial resentment in the electorate. These results highlight the importance of campaign context in shaping how voters respond to racial, partisan, and ideological cues.


Friday – Session 2

Hans Noel: “Separating Ideology from Party in Roll Call Data”
Discussants: Michael Barber, Eleanor Powell

One of the most revolutionary tools for understanding the United States Congress are Poole and Rosenthal’s nominate scores. These scores, and similar applications of item-response theory to roll call votes, summarize a member’s voting record. The scores are generally treated as measures of ”ideology” among members of Congress. This paper challenges that interpretation, proposing an alternative. By careful analysis of the content of the votes, as well as leveraging outside information about the ideologies of members, I argue that Congressional voting can be understood as driven by both ideology and by party, an interpretation Poole and Rosenthal themselves have endorsed. This interpretation reshapes the traditional understanding of political conflict in the middle of the 20th century and of polarization at the turn of the 21st. This paper claims that we should understand a partisan dimension that was disrupted by an ideological dimension, which differed from the partisan dimension on for example race, but also on many other issues, including social issues and even many economic issues. This paper focuses on the content of votes, as well as outside information about the ideologies of members of Congress. Votes that we have good reason to believe are ideological help nail down the ideological dimension, while votes that are clearly partisan (easier to identify) nail down a partisan dimension.

Alejandra Gimenez, Chris Karpowitz, Jessica Preece, Quin Monson: “Gendered Self-Presentation and Electoral Success in Republican Neighborhood Caucuses”
Discussants: Damon Cann, David Magleby