Hill, Seth J. and Gregory A. Huber. 2017. "On The Meaning of Survey Reports of Roll Call Votes Not Cast in a Legislature."
Abstract: Contemporary efforts to evaluate the quality of representation often use survey measures of how citizens say they would vote on legislation to compare citizen preferences to what elected officials do in office. These comparisons often suggest poor representation. We argue here that this common design is unlikely to effectively evaluate representation because responses to survey questions, even on roll call votes, differ in important aspects from voting in legislatures. This leads to systematic measurement error that undermines the key assumption that survey responses measure preferences in the same policy space as legislative behavior. Results from two survey experiments show that providing information readily available to legislators though not readily available to survey respondents materially changes respondents' expressed preferences on roll call votes. Expressed policy positions in this "informed" survey condition indicate survey respondents are both more extreme than commonly estimated and more closely matched to legislator behavior in their preferred party. Information increases party splits among respondents by 40 and 60 percent. We also show that respondents appear aware of their own lack of knowledge in evaluating roll call policy votes and that the size of the treatment effect of information decreases in the confidence judging policy in that area.
Keywords: Representation, Roll call votes, Survey response, Congress, Bayesian methods
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, and Andrew Gooch. 2017. "Non-Governmental Campaign Communication Providing Ballot Secrecy Assurances Increases Turnout: Results from Two Large Scale Experiments."
Abstract: Doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy persist and depress political participation among the American public. Prior experiments have shown that official communications directly addressing these doubts increase turnout among registered voters who had not previously voted, but evaluations of similar messages sent by non-governmental campaigns have yielded only suggestive effects. We build on past research and analyze two large-scale field experiments where a private non-partisan non-profit group sought to increase turnout by providing ballot secrecy assurances during the 2014 midterm election. Our main finding is that a private group's mailing increases turnout by about 1 percentage point among registered nonvoters in the 2014 midterm election. This effect is precisely estimated and substantively large: it is over five times as large as the effect of similar non-partisan, non-advocacy mobilization efforts that have been experimentally studied. We also leverage the large, multi-state design to assess the robustness of our main result across electoral contexts and population subgroups. We find that the effects of nongovernmental ballot secrecy communications are effective at increasing turnout among younger nonvoting registrants across states with varying election institutions and campaign intensities. We also find that ballot secrecy communications lead to marginal increases in turnout among demographic subgroups, which suggests that targeted ballot secrecy messaging has the potential to reduce turnout inequality in the United States. Together, these results provide new and robust evidence validating the effectiveness of ballot secrecy communications to mobilize registered non-voters regardless of the message's source, the campaign context, and the registrant's demographic characteristics.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, and Catlan E. Reardon. 2016. "The Comparative Effectiveness of Communicating Positive versus Negative Descriptive Norms on Turnout."
Abstract: A growing area of interest in the study of voter mobilization is whether Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) campaigns communicating descriptive norms about voting have different effects on turnout depending on how the norm is framed. Applying insights from social psychology, the conventional wisdom in political science is that positive descriptive norms (others vote) are more effective at increasing turnout than negative descriptive norms (others do not vote). But few published studies have experimentally assessed this question and results are mixed across existing studies. We address the need for additional replication by designing and analyzing data from two field experiments conducted across four states in the 2014 primary and general elections. We find no difference between the effectiveness of GOTV campaigns communicating positive versus negative norms on turnout. The results are not sensitive to election context, the mode of treatment delivery, or whether the norms concern individual- or group-level norms.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, and Catlan E. Reardon. 2016. "The Effect on Turnout of Mobilization Campaign Communications Addressing Ballot Secrecy Concerns: A Replication Experiment."
Abstract: Given the persistence of public doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy, which depress turnout, two prior experiments have shown precise evidence that both official governmental and unofficial mobilization campaigns providing assurances about ballot secrecy increases turnout among recently registered nonvoters. To assess whether these findings replicate in other political settings, we describe a replication experiment where a non-governmental, non-partisan mobilization campaign sent similar treatment mailings to recently registered nonvoters during the 2014 general election in Mississippi. We find that sending mobilization mailings containing assurances about ballot secrecy protections has no effect on turnout rates in this setting, which is characterized by an unusually low baseline turnout rate. These results are consistent with past research concluding that nonpartisan GOTV mail has very weak effects among very low turnout propensity registrants, and suggest that there are heterogeneous effects of ballot secrecy treatments associated with subjects' characteristics and the electoral context.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, and Catlan E. Reardon. 2016. "When Does Increasing Mobilization Effort Increase Turnout? New Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment on Reminder Calls."
Abstract: When does increasing mobilization effort increase turnout? Recent experiments find second calls containing a reminder to vote increase turnout beyond an initial contact. We argue existing studies cannot explain why reminder calls are effective because they test bundled treatments including a late mobilization attempt, a late mobilization attempt given earlier contact, and potentially activating reciprocity established in earlier contact. Moreover, existing work undertheorizes the causal role of reciprocity. We develop a reciprocity-based theory and design and analyze a two-round voter mobilization field experiment to test reciprocity as a mechanism explaining reminder call effects. Reminder calls increase turnout by 1.2 percentage points among subjects contacted in an earlier attempt. Enhancing reciprocity, operationalized as providing a reminder call offer during an early call, does not increase turnout beyond a second call. Lastly we fail to find heterogeneous effects of reminder calls by stated preference for a reminder or by stated vote intention.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Seth Hill. 2012. "The Voting Experience and Beliefs about Ballot Secrecy."
Abstract: The legitimacy of democratic election results rests on the perceived fairness of the rules and procedures for voting. New democracies go to great length to foster electoral institutions, while one of the hallmarks of long-standing democracies is strong institutions protecting the electoral process. We argue that beliefs about these democratic institutions, and not just their existence, are of central importance to legitimate elections. We show that even in the United States doubts about democratic institutions are surprisingly prevalent: 36 percent of respondents to a nationally representative survey hold doubts that the choices they make on their ballots remain anonymous. We also present evidence that polling place voters experience a variety of situations that might violate the privacy of their voting process. Concerns about the anonymity of the ballot are greater among those who have not previously voted and for those voting with electronic machines and by mail. These findings suggest an important divergence between public perceptions about the secret ballot and the institutional status of the secret ballot in the United States. More broadly, this evidence suggests that individual beliefs should not be ignored when considering the effects and operation of political institutions.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Nicole Schwartzberg. 2009. "Using Battleground States as a Natural Experiment to Test Theories of Voting."
Abstract: We use variation produced by the Electoral College--the creation of battleground and non battleground states--to examine explanations for why people vote. We employ a longer time series (1980-2008) than previous research to gauge the effect of battleground status on state-level turnout. Our model includes (1) midterm elections, allowing us to directly compare the effect of battleground status with the broader increase in turnout associated with presidential elections, and (2) state fixed effects, which capture persistent state-level factors related to turnout. We find that the turnout boost from a presidential election is eight times the effect of being a battleground state. This suggests turnout is primarily linked to factors affecting the entire electorate, such as the social importance of presidential elections, rather than factors that influence just a portion of the country, such as intensive campaigning and mobilization efforts or a greater chance of casting a decisive vote.
Doherty, David, Conor M. Dowling, Alan S. Gerber, and Gregory A. Huber. Forthcoming. "Are Voting Norms Conditional? How Electoral Context and Peer Behavior Shape the Social Returns to Voting." Journal of Politics.
Abstract: Research on turnout in presidential elections has shown that "battleground" state status has modest effects on turnout, raising the question of why individuals vote even in non-competitive states. We present experimental evidence showing that the typically small effect of battleground status on turnout may be tied to the fact that voting norms are insensitive to whether a given individual's vote is likely to affect the outcome of an election. Instead, variability in the social rewards to voting are more closely tied to the behaviors of others.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, and Andrew Gooch. Forthcoming. "The Generalizability of Social Pressure Effects on Turnout Across High-Salience Electoral Contexts: Field Experimental Evidence from 1.96 Million Citizens in 17 States." American Politics Research.
Abstract: Prior experiments show that campaign communications revealing subjects' past turnout and applying social pressure to vote (the "Self" treatment) increase turnout. However, nearly all existing studies are conducted in low salience elections, raising concerns that published findings are not generalizable and are an artifact of sample selection and publication bias. Addressing the need for further replication in high salience elections, we analyze a field experiment involving 1.96 million subjects where a nonpartisan campaign randomly sent Self treatment mailers, containing a subject's vote history and a comparison of each subject's history to their state median registrant's turnout behavior, in high salience elections across 17 states in 2014. Sending the Self mailer increases turnout by 0.7 points, or 2.2%. This effect is largely consistent across states, with somewhat larger effects observed in states with lower ex ante election salience. Our study provides precise evidence that social pressure effects on turnout are generalizable.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Marc Meredith, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. Forthcoming. "Does Incarceration Reduce Voting? Evidence about the Political Consequences of Spending Time in Prison." Journal of Politics.
Abstract: The rise in mass incarceration provides a growing impetus to understand the effect that interactions with the criminal justice system have on political participation. While a substantial body of prior research studies the political consequences of criminal disenfranchisement, less work examines why eligible ex-felons vote at very low rates. We use administrative data on voting and interactions with the criminal justice system from Pennsylvania to assess whether the association between incarceration and reduced voting is causal. Using administrative records that reduce the possibility of measurement error, we employ several different research designs to investigate the possibility that the observed negative correlation between incarceration and voting might result from differences across individuals that both lead to incarceration and low participation. As this selection bias issue is addressed, we find that the estimated effect of serving time in prison on voting falls dramatically and for some research designs vanishes entirely.
Note: Portions of this paper previously circulated with the title "Felony status, Participation, and Political Reintegration."
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2017. "Can Political Participation Prevent Crime? Results from a Field Experiment about Citizenship, Participation, and Criminality." Political Behavior.
Abstract: Democratic theory and prior empirical work support the view that political participation, by promoting social integration and pro-social attitudes, reduces one's propensity for anti-social behavior, such as committing crimes. Previous investigations examine observational data, which are vulnerable to bias if omitted factors affect both propensity to participate and risk of criminality or their reports. A field experiment encouraging 552,525 subjects aged 18-20 to register and vote confirms previous observational findings of the negative association between participation and subsequent criminality. However, comparing randomly formed treatment and control groups reveals that the intervention increased participation but did not reduce subsequent criminality. Our results suggest that while participation is correlated with criminality, it exerts no causal effect on subsequent criminal behavior.
Hill, Seth J. and Gregory A. Huber. 2017. "Representativeness and Motivations of the Contemporary Donorate: Results from Merged Survey and Administrative Records." Political Behavior Vol 39: 3-29.
Abstract: Only a small portion of Americans make campaign donations, yet because ambitious politicians need these resources, this group may be particularly important for shaping political outcomes. We investigate the characteristics and motivations of the donorate using a novel dataset that combines administrative records of two types of political participation, contributing and voting, with a rich set of survey variables. These merged observations allow us to examine differences in demographics, validated voting, and ideology across subgroups of the population and to evaluate the motivations of those who donate. We find that in both parties donors are consistently and notably divergent from non-donors to a larger degree than voters are divergent from non-voters. Of great interest, in both parties donors are more ideologically extreme than other partisans, including primary voters. With respect to why individuals contribute, we show that donors appear responsive to their perception of the stakes in the election. We also present evidence that inferences about donor ideology derived from the candidates donors give to may not closely reflect the within-party policy ideology of those donors. Overall, our results suggest that donations are a way for citizens motivated by the perceived stakes of elections to increase their participation beyond solely turning out.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2017. "Why don't people vote in U.S. primary elections? Assessing theoretical explanations for reduced participation." Electoral Studies, Vol 45 (Feb.): 119-29.
Abstract: Primary election participation in the United States is consistently lower than general election turnout. Despite this well-documented voting gap, our knowledge is limited as to the individual-level factors that explain why some general election voters do not show up for primary contests. We provide important insights into this question, using a novel new survey to examine three theoretical perspectives on participation never before empirically applied to primary races. Compared to general elections, we find that for U.S. House primary elections sizable segments of the electorate consider the stakes lower and the costs of voting greater, feel less social pressure to turn out and hold exclusionary beliefs about who should participate, and are more willing to defer to those who know and care more about the contests. Multivariate analysis reveals that these attitudes explain validated primary election participation. These findings point to new directions for future research.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. Forthcoming. "Self-Interest, Beliefs, and Policy Opinions: Understanding How Economic Beliefs Affect Immigration Policy Preferences." Political Research Quarterly.
Abstract: Research on how economic factors affect attitudes toward immigration often focuses on labor market effects, concluding that, because workers' skill levels do not predict opposition to low- versus highly skilled immigration, economic self-interest does not shape policy attitudes. We conduct a new survey to measure beliefs about a range of economic, political, and cultural consequences of immigration. When economic self-interest is broadened to include concerns about the fiscal burdens created by immigration, beliefs about these economic effects strongly correlate with immigration attitudes and explain a significant share of the difference in support for highly versus low-skilled immigration. Our results suggest that previous work underestimates the importance of economic self-interest as a source of immigration policy preferences and attitudes more generally.
Note: This paper previously circulated with the title "Self Interest, Beliefs, and Policy Opinions: Understanding the Economic Source of Immigration Policy Preferences."
Huber, Gregory A. and Neil Malhotra. Forthcoming. "Political Homophily in Social Relationships: Evidence from Online Dating Behavior." The Journal of Politics
Abstract: Do people form relationships based upon political similarity? Past work has shown that social relationships are more politically similar than expected by chance, but the reason for this concordance is unclear. Is it because people prefer politically similar others or is it attributable to confounding factors such as convergence, social structures, and sorting on non-political characteristics? Addressing this question is challenging because we typically do not observe partners prior to relationship formation. Consequently, we leverage the domain of online dating. We first conducted a nationwide experiment in which we randomized political characteristics in dating profiles. Second, we analyzed behavioral data from a national online dating community. We find that people evaluate potential dating partners more favorably and are more likely to reach out to them when they have similar political characteristics. The magnitude of the effect is comparable to that of educational homophily and half as large as racial homophily.
Note: This paper previously circulated with the titles "Political Sorting in Social Relationships" and "Dimensions of Political Homophily."
Keywords: Homophily, Assortative mating, Sorting, Partisanship, Ideology
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2016. "A field experiment shows that subtle linguistic cues might not affect voter behavior." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 113 (26): 7112-7117.
Abstract: One of the most important recent developments in social psychology is the discovery of minor interventions that have large and enduring effects on behavior. A leading example of this class of results is in the work by Bryan et al. (2011), which shows that administering a set of survey items worded so that subjects think of themselves as voters (noun treatment) rather than as voting (verb treatment) substantially increases political participation (voter turnout) among subjects. We revisit these experiments by replicating and extending their research design in a large-scale field experiment. In contrast to the 11 to 14 percentage point greater turnout among those exposed to the noun rather than the verb treatment reported in the work by Bryan et al., we find no statistically significant difference in turnout between the noun and verb treatments (the point estimate of the difference is approximately zero). Furthermore, when we benchmark these treatments against a standard get out the vote message, we estimate that both are less effective at increasing turnout than a much shorter basic mobilization message. In our conclusion, we detail how our study differs from the work by Bryan et al. and discuss how our results might be interpreted.
Keywords: Psychology, Political science, Intervention, Field experiment, Voter turnout
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2016. "Why People Vote: Estimating the Social Returns to Voting." British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 46 (2 April): 241-64.
Abstract: This article measures the social rewards and sanctions associated with voting. A series of survey experiments shows that information about whether a person votes directly affects how favorably that person is viewed. Importantly, the study also compares the rewards and sanctions associated with voting to other activities, including the decisions to recycle, volunteer and return one's library books on time. It presents a behavioral test of the consequences of non-voting and finds that individuals are willing to take costly action in a dictator game to reward political participation. Finally, it shows that survey measures of social norms about voting are correlated with county-level voter turnout. The study adds to the growing literature documenting the important influence of social concerns on turnout and other political choices.
Note: This paper previously circulated with the titles "Social Judgments and Political Participation: Estimating the Consequences of Social Rewards and Sanctions for Voting" and "The Social Benefits of Voting and Co-partisanship: Evidence from Survey Experiments."
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Marc Meredith, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2015. "Can Incarcerated Felons Be (Re)integrated into the Political System? Results from a Field Experiment." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 59 (4 Oct.): 912-926.
Abstract: How does America's high rate of incarceration shape political participation? Few studies have examined the direct effects of incarceration on patterns of political engagement. Answering this question is particularly relevant for the 93 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote. Drawing on new administrative data from Connecticut, we present evidence from a field experiment showing that a simple informational outreach campaign to released felons can recover a large proportion of the reduction in participation observed following incarceration. The treatment effect estimates imply that efforts to reintegrate released felons into the political process can substantially reduce the participatory consequences of incarceration.
Note: This paper previously circulated with the title "Felony status, Participation, and Political Reintegration: Results from a field experiment." Awarded the 2014 Best Paper on Public Policy Award by the APSA Public Policy Section.
Dynes, Adam and Gregory A. Huber. 2015. "Partisanship and the allocation of federal spending: Do same-party legislators or voters benefit from shared party affiliation?" American Political Science Review, Vol 109 (1 February): 172-186.
Abstract: Previous research finds that House majority members and members in the president's party garner additional federal spending in their districts. Using federal spending data in individual districts, we implement two research designs to distinguish elected officials enacting policies that benefit like-minded voters-the party in the electorate-from those that benefit same-party elected officials-the party in government. We find robust evidence that presidential partisanship is associated with large differences in spending correlated with voter preferences, but little evidence that presidents favor areas represented by their party in the House. By contrast, control of the House is associated with differences in spending by voter preferences and with modest increases in spending in districts held by members of the majority. These findings have important implications for understanding presidential influence, as well as the role of parties in the House and in coordinating between elected branches.
Note: Replication file is for final analysis dataset only. Complete replication archive, include raw FAADS data/etc. is available upon request due to large file sizes.
Bullock, John G., Alan S. Gerber, Seth J. Hill and Gregory A. Huber. 2015. "Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics." Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 10 (No. 4): 519-78.
Abstract: Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to praise one party or criticize another. To shed light on this question, we present a model of survey response in the presence of partisan cheerleading and payments for correct and "don't know" responses. We design two experiments based on the model's implications. The experiments show that small payments for correct and "don't know" answers sharply diminish the gap between Democrats and Republicans in responses to "partisan" factual questions. Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real. The experiments also bolster and extend a major finding about political knowledge in America: we show (as others have) that Americans know little about politics, but we also show that they often recognize their own lack of knowledge.
Keywords: Elections, Electoral behavior, Voting behavior, Formal modelling, Political parties, Political psychology
Dickson, Eric S., Sanford C. Gordon, and Gregory A. Huber. 2015. "Institutional Sources of Legitimate Authority: An Experimental Investigation." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 59 (1 Jan.): 109-27.
Abstract: Unelected officials with coercive powers (e.g., police, prosecutors, bureaucrats) vary markedly in the extent to which citizens view their actions as legitimate. We explore the institutional determinants of legitimate authority in the context of a public goods laboratory experiment. In the experiment, an "authority" can target one "citizen" for punishment following citizen contribution choices. Untargeted citizens can then choose to help or hinder the authority. This latter choice may be interpreted as a behavioral measure of the authority's legitimacy. We find that legitimacy is affected by how authorities are compensated, the transparency with which their decisions are observed, and an interaction between these. When transparency is high, citizens are more willing to assist authorities who receive fixed salaries than those who personally benefit from collected penalties, even when citizens' material incentives are controlled for. Lower transparency reduces support, but only for salaried enforcers.
Anderson, Ashton, Sharad Goel, Gregory Huber, Neil Malhotra, and Duncan J. Watts. 2014. "Political Ideology and Racial Preferences in Online Dating." Sociological Science, Vol. 1 (Feb.): 28-40.
Abstract: What explains the relative persistence of racial homogamy in romantic relationships? One possibility is structural--these patterns reflect the fact that social interactions are already stratified along racial lines--while another attributes these patterns to individual-level preferences. We present novel evidence from an online dating community involving more than 250,000 people in the United States about the frequency with which individuals both express a preference for same-race romantic partners and act to choose same-race partners. Prior work suggests that political ideology is an important correlate of conservative attitudes about race in the United States, and we find that conservatives, including both men and women and Blacks and Whites, are much more likely than liberals to state a preference for same-race partners. Further, conservatives are not simply more selective in general; they are specifically selective with regard to race. Do these stated preferences predict real behaviors? In general, we find that stated preferences are a strong predictor of a behavioral preference for same-race partners, and that this pattern persists across ideological groups. At the same time, both men and women of all political persuasions act as if they prefer same-race relationships even when they claim not to. As a result, the gap between conservatives and liberals in revealed same-race preferences, while still substantial, is not as pronounced as their stated attitudes would suggest. We conclude by discussing some implications of our findings for the broader issues of racial homogamy and segregation.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2014. "Ballot Secrecy Concerns and Voter Mobilization: New Experimental Evidence About Message Source, Context, and the Duration of Mobilization Effects." American Politics Research, Vol 42(5): 896-923.
Abstract: Recent research finds that doubts about the integrity of the secret ballot as an institution persist among the American public. We build on this finding by providing novel field experimental evidence about how information about ballot secrecy protections can increase turnout among registered voters who had not previously voted. First, we show that a private group's mailing designed to address secrecy concerns modestly increased turnout in the highly contested 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. Second, we exploit this and an earlier field experiment conducted in Connecticut during the 2010 congressional midterm election season to identify the persistent effects of such messages from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Together, these results provide new evidence about how message source and campaign context affect efforts to mobilize previous non-voters by addressing secrecy concerns, as well as show that attempting to address these beliefs increases long-term participation.
Keywords: Secret ballot, Voter mobilization, Field experiment, Message source, Participation
Hacker, Jacob S., Gregory A. Huber, Austin Nichols, Philipp Rehm, Mark Schlesinger, Rob Valletta, and Stuart Craig. 2014. "The Economic Security Index: A New Measure for Research and Policy Analysis." Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 60 (May): S5-S32.
Abstract: This article presents the Economic Security Index (ESI), a new measure of economic insecurity. The ESI assesses the individual-level occurrence of substantial year-to-year declines in available household resources, accounting for fluctuations not only in income but also in out-of-pocket medical expenses. It also assesses whether those experiencing such declines have sufficient liquid financial wealth to buffer against these shocks. We find that insecurity--the share of individuals experiencing substantial resource declines without adequate financial buffers--has risen steadily since the mid-1980s for virtually all subgroups of Americans, albeit with cyclical fluctuation. At the same time, we find that there is substantial disparity in the degree to which different subgroups are exposed to economic risk. As the ESI derives from a data-independent conceptual foundation, it can be measured using different panel datasets. We find that the degree and disparity by which insecurity has risen is robust across the best available sources.
Keywords: Household income, Household risk, Medical spending, Volatility, Wealth
Huber, Gregory A. and Celia Paris. 2013. "Assessing the Programmatic Equivalence Assumption In Question Wording Experiments: Understanding Why Americans like Assistance to the Poor more than Welfare." Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol 77 (1): 385-397.
Abstract: In trying to understand why Americans display relatively high levels of opposition to welfare, scholars have frequently turned to the analysis of a canonical experiment reported in this journal (Smith 1987; Rasinski 1989) in which subjects were asked about their support for either "welfare" or "assistance to the poor." This experiment consistently shows that Americans are substantially less supportive of welfare than of assistance to the poor. This difference has been interpreted as evidence that simply describing the same core programs as welfare rather than assistance to the poor depresses support. The key assumption in these analyses is one of programmatic equivalence: relative to the words "assistance to the poor," the word "welfare" describes the same programs, but differs in which considerations it brings to mind. This research note examines the validity of this key assumption. Analyses of novel experimental data show that there appear to be basic differences in which programs Americans consider to be welfare and which they consider to be assistance to the poor. We discuss the implications of our research for interpreting prior studies that rely upon this experiment to test theories of framing, and we suggest broader implications for survey experimental designs.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Seth Hill. 2013. "Who Wants to Discuss Vote Choices with Others? Polarization in Preferences for Deliberation." Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 77 (2): 474-496.
Abstract: Should people discuss their vote choices with others? On one hand, many people argue that openly deliberating with others can lead to better decision-making. On the other hand, institutions like the secret ballot imply that keeping these choices secret has value, perhaps as a means of insulating people from unwanted social pressures. This paper examines public attitudes about whether it is best to discuss one's choices with others or to treat them as personal matters. We find that the American public is evenly divided on this issue. We also find that those who are least confident in their political capabilities-those who arguably could benefit most from deliberating about their vote choices-are most likely to say that choices should be treated as personal matters. Our findings have implications for understanding the role of political deliberation in the United States.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2013. "Assessing the Stability of Psychological and Political Survey Measures." American Politics Research, Vol 41: 54-75.
Abstract: Recent research demonstrates growing scholarly interest in the relationship between personality characteristics and political attitudes and behaviors. In this article we present analysis using data from a national panel survey conducted in two waves-the first prior to the 2010 U.S. midterm election, the second after it. We assess the stability of a variety of personality measures and find high correlations between the pre- and postelection measures. We also leverage the fact that Republicans made substantial gains in Congress in the 2010 election to determine whether various personality measures are affected by the intersection of partisan attachments and political events and find little evidence that they are. The findings provide encouraging evidence for those interested in examining the relationship between personality and political attitudes using survey data.
Keywords: personality, political psychology, measurement, stability
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Seth J. Hill. 2013. "Do Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy Influence Turnout? Results from a Field Experiment." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 57 (3 July): 537-51.
Abstract: Although the secret ballot has been secured as a legal matter in the United States, formal secrecy protections are not equivalent to convincing citizens that they may vote privately and without fear of reprisal. We present survey evidence that those who have not previously voted are particularly likely to voice doubts about the secrecy of the voting process. We then report results from a field experiment where we mailed information about protections of ballot secrecy to registered voters prior to the 2010 general election. Consistent with our survey data, we find that these letters increased turnout for registered citizens without records of previous turnout, but they did not appear to influence the behavior of citizens who had previously voted. The increase in turnout of more than three percentage points (20%) for those without previous records of voting is notably larger than the effect of a standard get-out-the-vote mailing for this group. Overall, these results suggest that although the secret ballot is a long-standing institution in the United States, beliefs about this institution may not match the legal reality.
Note: This paper previously circulated as NBER Working paper #17673.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Costas Panagopoulos. 2013. "Big Five Personality Traits and Responses to Persuasive Appeals: Results from Voter Turnout Experiments." Political Behavior, Vol. 35 (4 Dec.): 687-728.
Abstract: We examine whether Big Five personality traits are associated with heterogeneous responses to commonly used Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) appeals in both a survey and a field experiment. The results suggest that Big Five personality traits affect how people respond to the costs and benefits of voting highlighted in GOTV appeals. Our evidence also suggests that one trait--Openness--is associated with broad persuasibility, while others shape responses to particular types of messages. In some cases the conditioning effects of Big Five traits are substantial. For example, in the one-voter households (HHs) included in our field experiment, we find that a mailer that raised the specter of social sanctions increased the likelihood of voting by a statistically greater amount among those scoring high on Openness. The findings constitute an important step forward in understanding how core personality traits shape responses to various aspects of the act of voting.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, and Seth J. Hill. 2013. "Identifying the Effect of All-Mail Elections on Turnout: Staggered Reform in the Evergreen State." Political Science Research and Methods, Vol. 1 (1 June): 91-116.
Abstract: Election officials across the United States continue to implement convenience voting reforms that increase the times when, and modes by which, citizens may cast ballots. These reforms are thought to increase participation. Some argue that convenience voting increases inequality in political participation because the reforms alleviate barriers to participation for busy higher status citizens while lowering mobilization activity. In this article, we offer an improved design and new estimates of the effects of convenience voting on turnout. Exploiting cross-sectional and temporal variation in county-level implementation of all-mail elections in Washington State, we find a modest two to four point effect of the reform on turnout and some evidence that the effect begins to decay as time passes. Using individual observations from the state voter file, we also find that the reform increases voting by lower-participating registrants and young registrants, suggesting that this convenience reform does improve participation for the less-engaged.
Note: Earlier versions of this paper circulated with the title "Identifying the Effects of Elections Held All-Mail on Turnout: Staggered Reform in the Evergreen State."
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2013. "Is There a Secret Ballot? Ballot Secrecy Perceptions and Their Implications for Voting Behaviour." British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 43 (1 Jan.): 77-102.
Abstract: Do people believe the votes they cast are truly secret? Novel items added to a nationally representative survey show that 25 per cent of respondents report not believing their ballot choices are kept secret and over 70 per cent report sharing their vote choices with others. These findings suggest that standard models of candidate choice should account for the potential effects of doubts about ballot secrecy. Consistent with this view, regression analysis shows that social forces appear to have a greater effect on vote choices among people who doubt the formal secrecy of the ballot. This analysis supports the broader claim that the intended benefits of institutional rules may not be realized if people's perceptions of these rules differ from their formal characteristics.
Note: Earlier versions of this paper circulated with the word "Behaviour" in the title spelled "Behavior."
Gregory A. Huber, Seth J. Hill, and Gabriel S. Lenz. 2012. "Sources of Bias in Retrospective Decision-Making: Experimental Evidence on Voters’ Limitations in Controlling Incumbents." American Political Science Review, Vol. 106 (4 November): 720-41.
Abstract: Are citizens competent to assess the performance of incumbent politicians? Observational studies cast doubt on voter competence by documenting several biases in retrospective assessments of performance. However, these studies are open to alternative interpretations because of the complexity of the real world. In this article, we show that these biases in retrospective evaluations occur even in the simplified setting of experimental games. In three experiments, our participants ( 1) overweighted recent relative to overall incumbent performance when made aware of an election closer rather than more distant from that event, ( 2) allowed an unrelated lottery that affected their welfare to influence their choices, and ( 3) were influenced by rhetoric to give more weight to recent rather than overall incumbent performance. These biases were apparent even though we informed and incentivized respondents to weight all performance equally. Our findings point to key limitations in voters' ability to use a retrospective decision rule.
Berinsky, Adam J. Gregory A. Huber, and Gabriel S. Lenz. 2012. "Evaluating Online Labor Markets for Experimental Research: Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk." Political Analysis, Vol. 20, (3 Summer): 351-368.
Abstract: We examine the trade-offs associated with using Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) interface for subject recruitment. We first describe MTurk and its promise as a vehicle for performing low-cost and easy-to-field experiments. We then assess the internal and external validity of experiments performed using MTurk, employing a framework that can be used to evaluate other subject pools. We first investigate the characteristics of samples drawn from the MTurk population. We show that respondents recruited in this manner are often more representative of the U.S. population than in-person convenience samples-the modal sample in published experimental political science-but less representative than subjects in Internet-based panels or national probability samples. Finally, we replicate important published experimental work using MTurk samples.
Note: Earlier versions of this paper circulated with the title "Using Mechanical Turk as a Subject Recruitment Tool for Experimental Research"
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2012. "Disagreement and the Avoidance of Political Discussion: Aggregate Relationships and Differences across Personality Traits." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 56 (4 Oct.): 849-74.
Abstract: Social networks play a prominent role in the explanation of many political phenomena. Using data from a nationally representative survey of registered voters conducted around the 2008 U.S. presidential election, we document three findings. First, we show that during this period, people discussed politics as frequently as (or more frequently than) other topics such as family, work, sports, and entertainment with frequent discussion partners. Second, the frequency with which a topic is discussed is strongly and positively associated with reported agreement on that topic among these same discussion partners. Supplementary experimental evidence suggests this correlation arises because people avoid discussing politics when they anticipate disagreement. Third, we show that Big Five personality traits affect how frequently people discuss a variety of topics, including politics. Some of these traits also alter the relationship between agreement and frequency of discussion in theoretically expected ways. This suggests that certain personality types are more likely to be exposed to divergent political information, and that not everyone is equally likely to experience cross-cutting discourse, even in heterogeneous networks.
Note: Earlier versions of this paper circulated with the title "Personality Traits, Disagreement, and the Avoidance of Political Discussion: Putting Political Discussion Networks in Context"
Keywords: Social networks, Public opinion, Participation, Communication, Attitudes, Behavior, Deliberation
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2012. "Personality and the Strength and Direction of Partisan Identification." Political Behavior, 34 (4 November): 653-688.
Abstract: We examine the associations between personality traits and the strength and direction of partisan identification using a large national sample. We theorize that the relationships between Big Five personality traits and which party a person affiliates with should mirror those between the Big Five and ideology, which we find to be the case. This suggests that the associations between the Big Five and the direction of partisan identification are largely mediated by ideology. Our more novel finding is that personality traits substantially affect whether individuals affiliate with any party as well as the strength of those affiliations, effects that we theorize stem from affective and cognitive benefits of affiliation. In particular, we find that three personality traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness) predict strength of partisan identification (p < 0.05). This result holds even after controlling for ideology and a variety of issue positions. These findings contribute to our understanding of the psychological antecedents of partisan identification.
Keywords: Personality, Party identification, Partisan strength, Big Five
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2011. "Citizens' Policy Confidence and Electoral Punishment: A Neglected Dimension of Electoral Accountability." The Journal of Politics, 73 (4 Oct.): 1206-1224.
Abstract: If voters punish elected officials who adopt incongruent policy positions, then representatives should take popular positions to avoid electoral sanction. Yet, scholars have noted gaps between citizen preferences and the behavior of elected officials. We argue that one important source of this gap is that individual citizens believe they are sometimes not well qualified to evaluate policy. Our analysis of a series of experiments shows that citizens' stated confidence in their own ability to evaluate a policy proposal substantially affects their willingness to reward or punish a representative for their votes on that policy. Our results hold both across individuals (within policy areas) and within individuals (across policy areas) and suggest that, rather than a failure of representation, gaps between citizen preferences and policy may reflect citizen deference to "expert" legislators. We also show that understanding differences in policy confidence has important implications for understanding the contours of public opinion.
Keywords: Internal political efficacy, Attitude strength, Candidate evaluations, Voting behavior, Uncertainty, Ambivalence, Electoral punishment
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, Connor Raso, and Shang E. Ha. 2011. "Personality Traits and Participation in Political Processes." The Journal of Politics, 74 (3 July): 692-706.
Abstract: Using data from two recent surveys, we analyze the relationship between Big Five personality traits and political participation. We examine forms of participation that differ in domain (local politics vs. national campaigns) as well as in the amount of conflict involved, whether they are likely to yield instrumental benefits, and whether they are likely to be viewed as a duty--characteristics that may affect the relationships between dispositional personality traits and political activity. We find relationships between personality traits and: (1) both self-reported and actual turnout (measured using administrative records), (2) overreporting of turnout, and (3) a variety of other modes of participation. The effect of personality on political participation is often comparable to the effects of factors that are central in earlier models of turnout, such as education and income. Consistent with our theoretical expectations, these relationships vary depending on personality-relevant characteristics of each participatory act.
Keywords: Voter turnout, Political behavior, Public opinion, Big 5, Political psychology
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2011. "Personality Traits and the Consumption of Political Information." American Politics Research, 39 (1 January): 32-84.
Abstract: In this article, we examine the relationship between dispositional personality traits (the Big Five) and the consumption of political information. We present detailed hypotheses about the characteristics of the political environment that are likely to affect the appeal of politics and political information in general for individuals with different personalities as well as hypotheses about how personality affects the attractiveness of particular sources of political information. We find that the Big Five traits are significant predictors of political interest and knowledge as well as consumption of different types of political media. Openness (the degree to which a person needs intellectual stimulation and variety) and Emotional Stability (characterized by low levels of anxiety) are associated with a broad range of engagement with political information and political knowledge. The other three Big Five traits, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Extraversion, are associated only with consumption of specific types of political information.
Keywords: Personality traits, Big Five, Political interest, Political knowledge, News consumption, Social psychology
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Ebonya Washington. 2010. "Party Affiliation, Partisanship, and Political Beliefs: A Field Experiment." American Political Science Review, 104 (4 November): 720-744.
Abstract: Partisanship is strongly correlated with attitudes and behavior, but it is unclear from this pattern whether partisan identity has a causal effect on political behavior and attitudes. We report the results of a field experiment that investigates the causal effect of party identification. Prior to the February 2008 Connecticut presidential primary, researchers sent a mailing to a random sample of unaffiliated registered voters who, in a pretreatment survey, leaned toward a political party. The mailing informed the subjects that only voters registered with a party were able to participate in the upcoming presidential primary. Subjects were surveyed again in June 2008. Comparing posttreatment survey responses to subjects' baseline survey responses, we find that those reminded of the need to register with a party were more likely to identify with a party and showed stronger partisanship. Further, we find that the treatment group also demonstrated greater concordance than the control group between their pretreatment latent partisanship and their posttreatment reported voting behavior and intentions and evaluations of partisan figures. Thus, our treatment, which appears to have caused a strengthening of partisan identity, also appears to have caused a shift in subjects' candidate preferences and evaluations of salient political figures. This finding is consistent with the claim that partisanship is an active force changing how citizens behave in and perceive the political world.
Note: This paper previously circulated as NBER Working paper #15365.
Keywords: Partisanship, Ingroup bias, Field experiment, Public opinion
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Shang E. Ha. 2010. "Personality and Political Attitudes: Relationships Across Issue Domains and Political Contexts." American Political Science Review, 104 (1 February): 111-133.
Abstract: Previous research on personality traits and political attitudes has largely focused on the direct relationships between traits and ideological self-placement. There are theoretical reasons, however, to suspect that the relationships between personality traits and political attitudes (1) vary across issue domains and (2) depend on contextual factors that affect the meaning of political stimuli. In this study, we provide an explicit theoretical framework for formulating hypotheses about these differential effects. We then leverage the power of an unusually large national survey of registered voters to examine how the relationships between Big Five personality traits and political attitudes differ across issue domains and social contexts (as defined by racial groups). We confirm some important previous findings regarding personality and political ideology, find clear evidence that Big Five traits affect economic and social attitudes differently, show that the effect of Big Five traits is often as large as that of education or income in predicting ideology, and demonstrate that the relationships between Big Five traits and ideology vary substantially between white and black respondents.
Note: This paper includes results that were originally presented in two separate papers: Personality Traits and the Dimensions of Political Ideology and Reassessing the Effects of Personality on Political Attitudes and Behaviors: Aggregate Relationships and Subgroup Differences.
Keywords: Big 5, Public Opinion, Economic attitudes, Social attitudes
Gerber, Alan S. and Gregory A. Huber. 2010. "Partisanship, Political Control, and Economic Assessments." American Journal of Political Science, 54 (1 January): 153-73.
Abstract: Previous research shows that partisans rate the economy more favorably when their party holds power. There are several explanations for this association, including use of different evaluative criteria, selective perception, selective exposure to information, correlations between economic experiences and partisanship, and partisan bias in survey responses. We use a panel survey around the November 2006 election to measure changes in economic expectations and behavioral intentions after an unanticipated shift in political power. Using this design, we can observe whether the association between partisanship and economic assessments holds when some leading mechanisms thought to bring it about are excluded. We find that there are large and statistically significant partisan differences in how economic assessments and behavioral intentions are revised immediately following the Democratic takeover of Congress. We conclude that this pattern of partisan response suggests partisan differences in perceptions of the economic competence of the parties, rather than alternative mechanisms.
Note: Earlier versions of this paper circulated with the subtitle "Results from a natural experiment."
Keywords: Partisanship, Economic assessments, Economic behavior, Bias, Perceptions
Dickson, Eric S., Sanford C. Gordon, and Gregory A. Huber. 2009. "Enforcement and Compliance in an Uncertain World: An Experimental Investigation." The Journal of Politics, 71 (4 October): 1357-1378.
Abstract: Governments are charged with monitoring citizens' compliance with prescribed behavioral standards and punishing noncompliance. Flaws in information available to enforcing agents, however, may lead to subsequent enforcement errors, eroding government authority and undermining incentives for compliance. We explore these concepts in a laboratory experiment. A "monitor" player makes punishment decisions after receiving noisy signals about other players' choices to contribute to a public good. We find that the possibility of wrongly accusatory signals has a more deleterious effect on contribution levels than the possibility of wrongly exculpatory signals. We trace this across-treatment difference to a "false positives trap": when members of a largely compliant population are sometimes incorrectly accused, some will be unjustly punished if enforcement power is employed, but non-compliant individuals will escape punishment if that power is abdicated. Either kind of error discourages compliance. An additional treatment demonstrates that the functioning of a given enforcement institution may vary, depending on its origins. We consider implications of our findings for theories of deterrence, fairness, and institutional legitimacy.
Keywords: Compliance, Punishment, Fairness, Type I error, Type II error, Behavioral Game
Gerber, Alan S. and Gregory A. Huber. 2009. "Partisanship and Economic Behavior: Do Partisan Differences in Economic Forecasts Predict Real Economic Behavior?" American Political Science Review, 103 (3 August): 407-26.
Abstract: Survey data regularly show that assessments of current and expected future economic performance are more positive when a respondent's partisanship matches that of the president. To determine if this is a survey artifact or something deeper, we investigate whether partisanship is associated with behavioral differences in economic decisions. We construct a new data set of county-level quarterly taxable sales to examine the effect of partisanship on consumption. Consumption change following a presidential election is correlated with a county's partisan complexion, a result consistent with partisans acting outside the domain of politics in accordance with the opinions they express in surveys. These results support an expansive view of the role of partisanship in mass politics and help validate surveys as a method for studying political behavior.
Keywords: Partisanship, Voting, Assessment of economic performance, Economic decisions, Economic behavior
Gordon, Sanford Clark, Gregory Alain Huber, and Dimitri Landa. 2009. "Voter responses to Challenger Opportunity Costs." Electoral Studies, 28 (1 March): 79-93.
Abstract: How do voters evaluate candidates in competitive elections? Gordon et al. [Gordon, S.C., Huber, G.A., Landa, D., 2007. Challenger entry and voter learning. American Political Science Review 101 (May), pp. 303-320.] present a model in which the fact of a serious electoral challenge conveys information about the relative competence of the candidates, over and above that conveyed by observable measures of candidate quality. The model predicts differences in voters' responses to candidates depending on challenger opportunity costs. Taken together, these predictions diverge from those associated with an alternative theoretical account. We take advantage of the variation in challenger opportunity costs afforded by state legislative term limits to evaluate the model's predictions. State legislators frequently challenge sitting members of the U.S. House. Those who are term-limited have less to lose from running, whereas those who are not must often risk their current position in pursuit of higher office. Using data on voter attitudes and knowledge about House elections involving state legislators, we find compelling evidence that voters respond to variation in challenger opportunity costs in a manner consistent with the model's predictions.
Note: This paper previously circulated as "Do Costly Challenges Make Voters Believe?"
Keywords: Strategic Challenger Entry, Term Limits, Candidate Quality, Candidate Opportunity Costs, Voter Information Acquisition, Formal Theory, Empirical Tests of Formal Models, Candidate Entry
Huber, Gregory A. and John S. Lapinski. 2008. "Testing the Implicit-Explicit Model of Racialized Political Communication." Perspectives on Politics, 6 (1 March): 125-134.
Abstract: The Implicit-Explicit (IE) model of racial priming posits that implicitly racial messages will be more effective than explicitly racial ones in priming racial predispositions in opinion formation. Is the Implicit-Explicit model supported by existing data? In "Racial Priming Revived," Mendelberg responds to our analysis of a pair of experiments in which we found that "that implicit appeals are no more effective than explicit ones in priming racial resentment in opinion formation." In this note we demonstrate that the concerns raised about our experiments are unfounded. Further, we show that the existing work supporting the IE model suffers from serious limitations of experimental design and implementation. Cumulatively, we find that the evidence questioning the IE model is far stronger than the evidence that supports it.
Keywords: Field experiments, Randomization, Racial priming, Opinion formation
Huber, Gregory A. and Kevin Arceneaux. 2007. "Identifying the Persuasive Effects of Presidential Advertising." American Journal of Political Science, 51 (4 October): 957-977.
Abstract: Do presidential campaign advertisements mobilize, inform, or persuade citizens? To answer this question we exploit a natural experiment, the accidental treatment of some individuals living in nonbattleground states during the 2000 presidential election to either high levels or one-sided barrages of campaign advertisements simply because they resided in a media market adjoining a competitive state. We isolate the effects of advertising by matching records of locally broadcast presidential advertising with the opinions of National Annenberg Election Survey respondents living in these uncontested states. This approach remedies the observed correlation between advertising and both other campaign activities and previous election outcomes. In contrast to previous research, we find little evidence that citizens are mobilized by or learn from presidential advertisements, but strong evidence that they are persuaded by them. We also consider the causal mechanisms that facilitate persuasion and investigate whether some individuals are more susceptible to persuasion than others.
Note: This paper previously circulated as "Uncovering the Persuasive Effects of Presidential Advertising."
Keywords: Natural Experiment, Randomization, Campaign Advertising, Elections, Persuasion
Huber, Gregory A. and Sanford C. Gordon. 2007. "Directing Retribution: On the Political Control of Lower Court Judges." Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 23 (2 June): 386-420.
Abstract: The sentencing decisions of trial judges are constrained by statutory limits imposed by legislatures. At the same time, judges in many states face periodic review, often by the electorate. We develop a model in which the effects of these features of a judge's political landscape on judicial behavior interact. The model yields several intriguing results: First, if legislators care about the proportionality of punishment, judicial discretion increases with their punitiveness. Second, voters are limited by two factors in their ability to make inferences about judicial preferences based on observed sentences: the extent to which judges are willing to pander to retain office and the range of judicial discretion mandated by the legislature. Finally, legislators can sometimes manipulate judicial discretion to aid sufficiently like-minded voters in their efforts to replace ideologically dissimilar judges.
Gordon, Sanford C., Gregory A. Huber, and Dimitri Landa. 2007. "Challenger Entry and Voter Learning." American Political Science Review, 101 (2 May): 303-320.
Abstract: We develop a model of strategic interaction between voters and potential electoral challengers to sitting incumbents, in which the very fact of a costly challenge conveys relevant information to voters. Given incumbent failure in office, challenger entry is more likely, but the threat of entry by inferior challengers creates an incentive for citizens to become more politically informed. At the same time, challenges to incumbents who perform well can neutralize a voter's positive assessment of incumbent qualifications. How a voter becomes politically informed can in turn deter challengers of different levels of competence from running, depending on the electoral environment. The model permits us to sharpen our understanding of retrospective voting, the incumbency advantage, and the relationship between electoral competition and voter welfare, while pointing to new interpretations of, and future avenues for, empirical research on elections.
Note: This paper previously circulated as "The Informational Value of Challengers."
Keywords: Elections, Strategic politicians, Challengers, Candidates, Incumbency advantage, Political competition
Gordon, Sanford C. and Gregory A. Huber. 2007. "The Effect of Electoral Competitiveness on Incumbent Behavior." Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2 (2 May): 107-138.
Abstract: What is the marginal effect of competitiveness on the power of electoral incentives? Addressing this question empirically is difficult because challenges to incumbents are endogenous to their behavior in office. To overcome this obstacle, we exploit a unique feature of Kansas courts: 14 districts employ partisan elections to select judges, while 17 employ noncompetitive retention elections. In the latter, therefore, challengers are ruled out. We find judges in partisan systems sentence more severely than those in retention systems. Additional tests attribute this to the incentive effects of potential competition, rather than the selection of more punitive judges in partisan districts.
Keywords: Natural experiments, Competitiveness, Incumbents, Elections, Judicial Behavior
Arceneaux, Kevin and Gregory A. Huber. 2007. "What to Do (and Not Do) with Multicollinearity in State Politics Research." State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 7 (1 Spring): 81-101.
Abstract: State politics scholars often confront data situations where the explanatory variables in a model are highly related to each other. Such multicollinearity ("MC") makes it difficult to identify the independent effect that each of these variables has on the outcome of interest. In an effort to circumvent MC, researchers sometimes drop collinear variables from the regression model. Using simulated data, we demonstrate the implications that MC has for statistical estimation and the potential for introducing bias that the omitting-variables approach generates. We also discuss MC in the context of multiplicative interaction models, using research on the influence of the initiative on policy responsiveness as an applied example. We conclude with advice for researchers faced with MC in their datasets.
Huber, Gregory A. and John S. Lapinski. 2006. "The 'Race Card' Revisited: Assessing Racial Priming in Policy Contests." American Journal of Political Science, 50 (2 April): 421-440.
Abstract: In The Race Card (2001), Mendelberg finds support for her theory that implicit racial appeals, but not explicit ones, prime racial resentment in opinion formation. She argues that citizens reject explicit appeals, rendering them ineffective, because they violate widespread egalitarian norms. Mendelberg's innovative research, however, suffers from several limitations. We remedy these deficiencies using two randomized experiments with over 6,300 respondents. We confirm that individuals do tend to reject explicit appeals outright, but find that implicit appeals are no more effective than explicit ones in priming racial resentment in opinion formation. In accounting for the differences between previous research and our own, we show that education moderates both the accessibility of racial predispositions and message acceptance. This suggests that the necessary assumptions of Mendelberg's theory hold only for different and exclusive subsets of the general population.
Keywords: Field Experiments, Randomization, Priming, Opinion Formation, Racial Appeals
Huber, Gregory A. and Sanford C. Gordon. 2004. "Accountability and Coercion: Is Justice Blind when It Runs for Office?" American Journal of Political Science, 48 (2 April): 247-263.
Abstract: Through their power to sentence, trial judges exercise enormous authority in the criminal justice system. In 39 American states, these judges stand periodically for reelection. Do elections degrade their impartiality? We develop a dynamic theory of sentencing and electoral control. Judges discount the future value of retaining office relative to implementing preferred sentences. Voters are largely uninformed about judicial behavior, so even the outcome of a single publicized case can be decisive in their evaluations. Further, voters are more likely to perceive instances of underpunishment than overpunishment. Our theory predicts that elected judges will consequently become more punitive as standing for reelection approaches. Using sentencing data from 22,095 Pennsylvania criminal cases in the 1990s, we find strong evidence for this effect. Additional tests confirm the validity of our theory over alternatives. For the cases we examine, we attribute at least 1,818 to 2,705 years of incarceration to the electoral dynamic.
Reprinted in The Economics of Judicial Behavior. 2013. Ed. Lee Epstein. Edward Elgar: Northampton, MA.
Keywords: Judicial retention elections, Sentencing guidelines, Voting behavior, American states, Judges, Sentencing
Gordon, Sanford C. and Gregory A. Huber. 2002. "Citizen Oversight and the Electoral Incentives of Criminal Prosecutors." American Journal of Political Science, 46 (2 April): 334-351.
Abstract: Popular wisdom suggests that only by securing convictions can elected prosecutors cultivate the perception that they are tough on crime. This article considers why voters might use conviction rates to evaluate prosecutors and whether justice is subverted as a consequence. Citizens lack information about individual cases and prosecutor behavior. We model voter oversight of prosecutors in light of these difficulties. Voters use the promise of reelection given observed outputs to induce prosecutors to reduce uncertainty through investigation and subsequently to punish the guilty and free the innocent. The model demonstrates that an optimal voter strategy is always to reelect prosecutors who obtain convictions. Most importantly, even voters who most fear wrongful convictions should reward success at trial. Voter attitudes and beliefs instead influence rewards for cases concluded out of court, including plea bargains. Finally, we derive sanctions necessary to prevent prosecutors from suppressing evidence when doing so is politically tempting.
Keywords: Prosecutors, Judicial retention elections, Trial court elections, Renegotiation, Enforcement, Discretion
Huber, Gregory A. and Thomas J. Espenshade. 1997. "Neo-Isolationism, Balanced-Budget Conservatism, and the Fiscal Impacts of Immigrants." International Migration Review, 31 (4 Winter): 1031-1054.
Abstract: A rise in neo-isolationism in the United States has given encouragement to a new fiscal politics of immigration. Growing anti-immigrant sentiment has coalesced with forces of fiscal conservatism to make immigrants an easy target of budget cuts. Limits on legal alien access to social welfare programs that are contained in the 1996 welfare and immigration reform acts seem motivated not so much by a guiding philosophy of what it means to be a member of American society as by a desire to shrink the size of the federal government and to produce a balanced budget. Even more than in the past, the consequence of a shrinking welfare state is to metamorphose legal immigrants from public charges to windfall gains for the federal treasury.
Keywords: United States, Undocumented immigration, Public opinion
Espenshade, Thomas J. , Jessica L. Baraka, and Gregory A. Huber. 1997. "Implications of the 1996 Welfare and Immigration Reform Acts for US Immigration." Population and Development Review, Vol. 23 (4 Dec.): 769-801.
Abstract: Major changes in noncitizen eligibility for welfare and in US immigration policy are contained in two pieces of federal legislation signed into law in 1996. The first, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, reforms the entitlement policy for poor families and imposes new limits on alien access to welfare benefits and other social services. The second, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, strengthens efforts to combat illegal immigration and creates higher standards of financial self-sufficiency for the admission of sponsored legal immigrants. The authors suggest that these reforms will produce unintended, and possibly undesirable, consequences. They argue in particular that the 1996 reform measures, instead of preserving legal immigration and discouraging illegal immigration, are more likely to reduce the former and expand incentives for the latter. In addition the Personal Responsibility Act creates added pressures for eligible legal immigrants to apply for US citizenship. To the extent that higher rates of naturalization were unanticipated by reformers of welfare policy, the actual cost savings attributable to reduced benefits for noncitizens will be smaller than expected.
Keywords: United States, Apprehension, Border, Migrants
Huber, Gregory A. 2007. The Craft of Bureaucratic Neutrality: Interests and Influence in Governmental Regulation of Occupational Safety. Cambridge University Press.
Abstract: Are political understandings of bureaucracy incompatible with Weberian features of administrative neutrality? In examining the question of whether interest groups and elected officials are able to influence how government agencies implement the law, this book identifies the political origins of bureaucratic neutrality. In bridging the traditional gap between questions of internal management (public administration) and external politics (political science), Huber argues that 'strategic neutrality' allows bureaucratic leaders to both manage their subordinates and sustain political support. By analyzing the OSH Act of 1970, Huber demonstrates the political origins and benefits of administrative neutrality, and contrasts it with apolitical and unconstrained administrative implementation. Historical analysis, interviews with field-level bureaucrats and their supervisors, and quantitative analysis provide a rich understanding of the twin difficulties agency leaders face as political actors and personnel managers.
Keywords: Workers compensation, Discretion, OSHA enforcement, Administrative procedures, Economic regulation, Regulatory Capture, Political economy
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry. 2016. "Reply to Bryan et al.: Variation in context unlikely explanation of nonrobustness of noun versus verb results." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 113 (43): E6549-E6550.
Abstract: Whether labeled a replication effort or an attempt to gauge robustness [a distinction discussed in our paper (1)], our study finds that swapping nouns for verbs in a treatment script does not produce the enormous 11-14 percentage-point turnout increase reported by Bryan et al. (2), but instead produces a precisely estimated zero-treatment effect. Because the effects in Bryan et al. are many times larger than the 0-2 percentage-point effects common in general election voter mobilization experiments, their article (2) has attracted attention as a powerful demonstration of an important broader claim: Extremely minor psychologically inspired interventions can have outsized behavioral effects.
Anderson, Ashton, Sharad Goel, Gregory Huber, Neil Malhotra, and Duncan J. Watts. 2015. "Rejoinder to Lewis." Sociological Science, Vol. 2 (Jan.): 32-35.
Abstract: In a response to our article "Political Ideology and Racial Preferences in Online Dating," Kevin Lewis (2015) has raised concerns about various aspects of our analysis of user behavior on a national online dating site. The core of Lewis' critique is that we do not report specifics of the sample, the website, and the analysis. Lewis also details numerous smaller points with respect to details of the analysis. The goal of this response is not to reply to every point that Lewis makes. As with any research project, our design decisions require tradeoffs, and readers should evaluate the evidence on their own. Rather, we use this space to make broader points about the general value for sociology of research using online data and how such research should be practiced.
Note: This is a response to Lewis's comment, available here.
Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, David Doherty, and Conor M. Dowling. 2011. "The Big Five Personality Traits in the Political Arena." Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 14: 265-287.
Abstract: Recent political science research on the effects of core personality traits--the Big Five--contributes to our understanding of how people interact with their political environments. This research examines how individual-level variations in broad, stable psychological characteristics affect individual-level political outcomes. In this article, we review recent work that uses the Big Five to predict political attitudes and behavior. We also replicate some of these analyses using new data to examine the possibility that prior findings stem from sampling error or unique political contexts. Finally, we discuss several of the challenges faced by scholars who are currently pursuing or are interested in pursuing this line of inquiry. These challenges include refining theoretical explanations of how the Big Five shape political outcomes, addressing important measurement concerns, and resolving inconsistencies across studies.
Keywords: Dispositional traits, Big 5, Political behavior, Participation, Public opinion, Political psychology
Gordon, Sanford C. and Gregory A. Huber. 2009. "The Political Economy of Prosecution." Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 5: 135-156.
Abstract: Contemporary advances in the field of political economy, particularly those concerning the subject of delegated authority, can provide a unifying framework for analyzing the behavior and political context of criminal prosecutors in the United States. This perspective, which focuses on the extent of conflict between an official's motives and those of other actors, and the degree to which information is unevenly distributed among those actors, is well suited for studying prosecutors--the vast majority of whom are elected but whose accountability is frequently called into question. We apply this perspective to three areas in the existing literature on prosecutors: plea bargaining, courtroom communities, and public corruption prosecution.
Keywords: Moral hazard, Adverse selection, Plea bargain, Discretion, Criminal justice, Accountability
Huber, Gregory A. 2007. Contingency, Politics, and the Nature of Inquiry: Why Non-events Matter. In Political Contingency: Studying the Unexpected, the Accidental, and the Unforeseen, eds. Ian Shapiro and Sonu Bedi. New York: NYU Press
Abstract: Contingent events are probabilistic. Acknowledging that realized contingencies alter observed political outcomes, however, does little to advance the systematic study of politics. This paper suggests that political science should focus on understanding how foreseeable contingencies, rather than truly "exogenous" unforeseeable events, alter political behavior. The most useful tool for understanding the effects of these foreseeable contingencies on political interactions is the formal and informal analysis of strategic behavior in the face of uncertainty through the use of game theory. This paper identifies the limitations of using observed contingent events to understand the role of contingencies in politics. More broadly, it suggests that the proper analysis of anticipatory strategic behavior has implications for the allocation of research resources across many topics of interest to political science.