3 Questions for MPSA Member Emil Ordukhanyan

mpsamemberprofile-ordukhanyan

Emil Ordukhanyan is Senior Lecturer at UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy and European Studies at Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences-Armenia. Ordukhanyan is also the founder of the Armenian Political Science website. Here we ask him a few questions about his experiences:

  • What projects are you currently working on? 
    Currently I work with my research group on the following project: Consociational Democracy: Political Morphology and Potential of Realization in Post-Soviet South Caucasus Countries. In our research we found out consociational democracy is one of the most actual theories of democratization for post-soviet societies, especially for those in South Caucasus region. My research group is convinced the model of consociational democracy is a real tool to face the challenges to democracy in post-soviet South Caucasus societies. I really believe our research will be the rebirth of this concept for post-soviet South Caucasus changing societies, because otherwise the variations of democracy which are built in these countries are a direct way to pseudo democracy or even ethnocracy.
  • What is the one thing that you wish everyone knew about your research?
    I am convinced the concept of Consociational Democracy, being always actual for political science, is especially vital for South Caucasus plural societies which are aiming democratic values as priority. This is the only way to build democracy, rule of law and peace in this region.
  • Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
    In my very first research I was deeply influenced by the following work of Samuel Phillips Huntington “Political Order in Changing Societies” because this work helped me to understand and to analyze political order with its peculiarities in post-soviet Armenia as changing society. I’m sure this work of the eminent professor is always actual and irreplaceable for the world political science.For my current research the works of the honorable professor Arend Lijphart on democracy and democratization are very useful. His concept of Consociational Democracy is the keystone for my research.As for my career, I’m very grateful to my PhD supervisor, Academician Dr. Gevorg A. Poghosyan and I’m also thankful to Dr. Levon Gh. Shirinyan to help me in my current research.

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

In the Shadow of Tragedies: Our Responsibility to Protect

MPSA Blog - In the Shadow of Tragedies: Our Responsibility to Protect

“State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined-not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa.”
     – Kofi Annan (1999), Former Secretary General of the United Nations

In the shadow of the tragedies in Cambodia, Rwanda, Somalia and Kosovo, the world is witnessing the horror of the ongoing and complicated intrastate war in Syria and the smoldering conflicts in Burundi and Ukraine (to name only a few). Calls for intervention to stop flagrant human rights violations have not yielded real results. It begs the question of the responsibilities of the state for the welfare of its citizens and what responsibilities other states have to those impacted by intrastate wars.

The modern state is generally recognized as having emerged in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Year War (1618-1648). The state is a pillar of the international community where the sovereign state as the primary and most powerful actor in international relations (Mearsheimer 2001). Keck and Sikkink (1998) argue, however, that the state has lost some of its potency as a political variable and have elevated the role of non-state actors. Further, the authority of the state “is, increasingly, being either shared with, sustained by, or constrained by these proliferating authorities” (Strange 1995, 67). The growth and thickening of international law, therefore, is an important issue as the role the state plays in global politics evolves.

The effects of these changes indicates a reappraisal of the concept of sovereignty and internationalizes the protection of human rights. This may be opening the door for more internationally sanctioned humanitarian intervention particularly when the state is experiencing intrastate conflict. Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the threat or use of force by a state, group of states, or international organization to protect people in the target state (Murphy 1996). Humanitarian intervention also includes those state interventions whose declared goal is to stop or prevent human suffering though the intervening state(s) may have unrelated and/or underlying motives for intervening (Voon 2002). The debate around the issue of protecting of human rights, therefore, juxtaposes the support of universal human rights against the premium of national sovereignty (Booth, 2001). Further, the idea of international human rights law departs from the concept of state sovereignty and the state-centric approach to international law (Brown 1999). Finnemore’s (2003) assertion that post-cold war intervention in states are legitimized when based on humanitarian grounds, not only changes the purpose for which interventions are used but possibly rearranges the concept of sovereignty (see also Ling 2013; Hopwood 2013).

This issue of a third party state(s) intervention can be examined through the prism of two questions. First, what is the status of ‘sovereignty’ if a government exercises authority or acquiesces to actions detrimental to the citizens? Second, can a new paradigm of legitimatized humanitarian interventions be reconciled with the asymmetry of power between states? An examination of the U.S. policy developing out of the Kosovo intervention in 1999 may be helpful in understanding the state’s criteria for supporting humanitarian intervention. Following President Clinton’s speech on U.S. involvement, National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, offered three criteria underpinning the policy: (a) there must be genocide or ethnic cleansing; (b) the U.S. must have the capacity to act; and (c) a U.S. national interest must be at stake (Brown 1999). It should be noted, however, that the commitment to act does not reflect any international commitment but primarily reflects U.S. interests.

This combination of state foreign policy doctrine and use of force for humanitarian interventions, concerns some states. Smaller and weaker states are concerned that this trend makes them possible targets under the ruse of a ‘humanitarian intervention’ by stronger states (Hall 2013). This dampens clamors for intervention in other troubled states as leaders wonder if they could be next. Even more powerful states have reservation as was seen with Russian opposition the intervention in Kosovo although that did not preclude their intervention on the Crimean Peninsula. In reality, condemnation of or action in support of human rights are not distributed equitably to suspected and known violators (Schachter 1995).

The literature is not short on suggested ways forward. Despite discussions about prevention and enforcement of international law (Wang 2004; Telhami 1995; Damrosch 1993), the focus continues to be on armed interventions (jus ad bellum) and the nexus between protection and international criminal tribunals (jus post bellum). Former U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan (Annan 2012), calls for the international community to “devote our energies to strengthening and using those measures short of the use of force. These must include more effective and enforced use of targeted financial, travel, and economic sanctions on the leadership” (para 28). I suggest, therefore, that the primary goals should be twofold. First, preventing the crisis in the first place thereby retaining the integrity of the individual, the state, the U.N. and international law system. Second, building the political will to respond to crisis thereby upholding the world community’s commitment to human rights and international law with force as a last resort. Meanwhile, wars rage and smolder in the hotspots around the world as a seemingly paralyzed international community struggles with sporadic attempts at cease fires and humanitarian aid to victims.

About the author: Harold Young is an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. His research area is Public Law and examines an American and comparative perspective on judicial institutional changes and decision making. In his previous life he was a health communications project manager, a social worker and an attorney-at-law. He can be reached via email at youngh@apsu.edu.

(Un)Natural Disasters: Distributive Politics in Northeast Brazil

The following is part of a series of posts written by 2016 MPSA award recipients highlighting outstanding research presented at previous MPSA annual conferences.

(Un)Natural Disasters: Distributive Politics in Northeast Brazil
Photos from Cooperman’s fieldwork in Ceará, Brazil. Top left: A fleet of water trucks owned by a wealthy local family are parked outside their home. Bottom left: Local water sources, including this former pond, and even state reservoirs are dry after five years of drought. Right: A donkey carries water jugs from the neighborhood well to nearby homes.

Most international attention on Brazilian politics focuses on the president’s recent impeachment and high-level corruption scandals. However, my fieldwork has shown me that “all politics is local” is more apt. Many Brazilian citizens are especially concerned about the politics of two issues salient for their day-to-day lives: Water and drought.

I argue that natural disasters, especially those that are cyclical and occur over longer periods – such as droughts – can provide electoral and economic opportunities for local politicians. Since disasters are seen as ‘exogenous’ and ‘natural,’ it is much easier for politicians to justify emergency and targeted funding to certain populations over others.

Campaigns for the upcoming municipal elections (to be held October 2, 2016) have begun, and in Northeast Brazil, the country’s poorest region suffers through its fifth year of devastating drought. The phenomena of “water for votes” and “the drought industry” are likely to be in full swing this election season. The overlap of electoral budget cycles and natural disasters can have drastic consequences for the distribution of critical and scarce public resources.

My research evaluates the politicization of disaster relief, focusing on drought and access to water resources. Even within the drought-prone region of Northeast Brazil, I find puzzling variation in the distribution of drought relief across states and municipalities. Some appear to follow programmatic policy based on need, while others receive drought relief even during high rainfall periods. Interviews that I conducted with rural farmers in Northeast Brazil highlight the incredible dependence that poor, subsistence farmers have on local leaders and politicians for sending water trucks and distributing drought-related cash transfers.

This study asks: where and when is politically-targeted (vs. need-based) distribution of basic services most likely, and how do politicians benefit from providing targeted relief?

Research Design

I utilize two sources of exogeneity to isolate the effect of non-climatic factors on declarations of drought: the exogenous timing of rainfall and the fixed electoral cycle. Since rainfall shocks are orthogonal to election year timing or other political factors, I am able to identify the relationship between political drivers and drought relief. By controlling for climate and local agricultural conditions, I test political hypotheses using the remaining variation.

I use a generalized difference-in-difference model with municipal and year fixed effects to tease apart political and temporal factors through administrative data, which provide the opportunity to explore systematic patterns and variation across 991 municipalities from 1999-2012. I explore the mechanisms through interviews of rural farmers, community leaders, and local politicians in the drought-prone Brazilian state of Ceará.

Main Findings and Discussion

I find that relief is more likely during mayoral election years, in both drought and high rainfall conditions. Incumbent mayors who provide drought relief in an election year are more likely to be re-elected, and mayors from the PT party are more likely to receive drought relief. These results are robust to the inclusion of controls for precipitation, agriculture and cattle, and municipal and year fixed effects.

Interviews that I conducted during fieldwork in Northeast Brazil in 2014 and 2016 suggest that drought relief is a political tool, especially water trucks and crop insurance cash transfers that can be targeted by neighborhood and household. Farmers sometimes even “pray for drought,” since the drought relief funds actually increase household stability for the vulnerable population relative to non-drought years.

Many local citizens and researchers also describe the pervasive “drought industry” (indústria da seca). Local elites, who sell water from private sources on their land and also own the water trucks contracted by the government, can profit immensely during periods of drought.

Local politicians have perverse incentives to provide drought relief – with its electoral and economic rewards – instead of maintaining existing water resources and reducing local vulnerability to chronic climate shocks.

Further Research

My broader dissertation further explores the local political economy of water resources and drought.

I study the sub-municipal relationships that affect who gets water access, drought relief, and other essential services:

  • What explains variation in access to water and other public services?
  • What are the electoral and economic incentives to receive and distribute disaster relief vs. to create sustainable, resilient water systems?
  • What is the role of local collective action and community associations in improving citizens’ access to basic services?

I am currently conducting a pre-election household survey in rural Northeast Brazil of 500+ households across 9 municipalities to study micro-relationships between water access, drought relief, participation in civil society and community associations, and electoral politics. I will continue my fieldwork throughout 2017.

About the Author: Alicia Cooperman is a 4th year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. Her paper “(Un)Natural Disasters: Distributive Politics in Northeast Brazil” was awarded the Westview Press Award at the 2016 MPSA Conference for best paper delivered by a graduate student.

 

MPSA Member Profile: Eric Raile

Eric Raile is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and serves as the Director of the Human Ecology Learning & Problem Solving (HELPS) Lab at Montana State University, Bozeman. Notably, Raile has recently made an investment in the association and his career by recently becoming one of MPSA’s Lifetime members. We asked him a few questions about his involvement with MPSA and his research habits.  MPSA Lifetime member Eric Raile

What do you value most about being a member of MPSA?
The conference organizers make real efforts to improve the experience for everyone and are not afraid to experiment. A conference attendee can readily find high-quality panels that feature cutting-edge research. The organization also clearly cares about improving outcomes for graduate students and early-career faculty, including the provision of information about events and opportunities. In addition, the American Journal of Political Science is an excellent academic publication.

What projects are you currently working on?
The analytical framework for political will and public will that I have developed with collaborators is the focal point of one research line. This research stems in part from my previous work on corruption and public ethics for the US government. Currently, we are investigating political will and public will for climate-smart agriculture in Uganda and Senegal. Another line of research considers coalition management in multiparty presidencies. A recently published piece looks at how presidential decisions influence subsequent costs of governing in Brazil. Additionally, a survey of residents in three states has provided the data for multiple studies examining public views of the loss of whitebark pine trees due to climate change and of corresponding management strategies in the greater Yellowstone area. We presented a piece on public perceptions of the problem of losing whitebark pine at the MPSA conference in April. A similar project beginning soon will try to use carefully constructed narratives to influence preparedness for flooding events along the Yellowstone River in Montana. Nearly all these projects are collaborative in nature. I am fortunate to work with many first-rate researchers.

Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated?
I am trying hard to carve out blocks of time to write on a daily basis. Nothing here is revolutionary, but I find that I am much more efficient if I can set aside chunks of time in a quiet place and can work on a single project (rather than multiple research projects at once) over days or weeks. Consistent contact with a project keeps me more engaged and allows my brain to keep working on the project during other times of the day. This is all easier said than done, however.

What would you tell undergraduate students considering a career in political science? You need not become a politician or a political campaign staffer when you earn your degree in political science. You can certainly do these things if you wish, but political science is a terrific discipline for developing transferable skills that will serve you well as you change jobs throughout your career. Political science prepares you for a variety of ways to make a difference – from working for government agencies to think tanks to nonprofit organizations. Many of our students end up being successful entrepreneurs or private-sector employees, as well.

What is your typical day like during the academic year? During the summer?
During the school year, a typical week involves a mix of teaching, research, administrative, and service activities. The distribution changes from day to day. On the teaching side, a day might include some class preparation, time in the classroom, a bit of grading, and advising of undergraduate and graduate students. I also have multiple research projects at different stages of the research process (i.e., planning and design, data collection, analysis, writing). Further, I am the director of a social science research laboratory and the faculty advisor for the Model United Nations program and devote some time every week to managing these activities. Of course, keeping up with email traffic requires a daily commitment, as well. The summer looks similar, though without the time in classrooms and with the work less tied to specific times and places. In all, the schedule suits me as repetitiveness and boredom are never problems!

Bias and Women’s Under-Representation in Politics

Even if Hillary Clinton shatters the “highest” glass ceiling this November, for many years to come women are likely to remain under-represented in elected offices in the United States and throughout most of the world’s democracies. If bias on the part of party leaders or voters explains some of this variation, we can imagine three ways that such bias might operate.

The first type of bias against women would crop up if voters or party officials preferred male candidates to female candidates, even when the candidates are otherwise identical. (Or worse, if less-qualified men were preferred to more-qualified women.)

The second type of bias would arise when voters or party officials “read” a candidate’s characteristics in different ways depending on the candidate’s gender. For example, if voters were confronted an otherwise identical male and female candidates, each of whom had two children and reasoned: “well, he has good experience and, given his family commitments, he is likely to be a responsible leader” while at the same time thinking “she has good experience but, given her family commitments, she is likely to be over-taxed if she is elected”, then they display bias (perhaps unbeknownst to themselves) against women.

The third way that bias might operate is if traits that are historically and statistically more likely to be associated with male candidates are valued by party leaders or voters, while traits that are more likely to be associated with female candidates are de-valued. For example, if female office-seekers are more likely to have backgrounds in education, while male office-seekers are more likely to have backgrounds in business, and party leaders preferred candidates with business backgrounds, then their preferences were biased against female office-seekers from the get-go.

The third type of bias is the most subtle, and therefore the most difficult to observe and confront with public policy and hiring best practices. But our study shows that in some contexts, it may be the most pervasive form of bias that female candidates face. In order to understand how each of these types of bias work, we embedded conjoint experiments into surveys of three groups of people: public officials from the United States; national-level legislators from around the globe; and American voters.

Video: Experience, Discrimination, or Skill-sets?: Using Elite and Voter Conjoint Experiments to Understand Women’s Access to Political Power – Presented by Dawn Langan Teele at the annual MPSA conference in Chicago, April 2016.

Conjoint experiments ask survey respondents to determine the winner of an imaginary competition between hypothetical candidates using nothing but simplified resumes to guide their choice. In our study, each candidate’s resume contained information including gender, political experience, marital status, number of children, and previous occupation.

In order to determine which characteristics were worthy of examination, we looked at the background traits that are commonly associated with female politicians and those that are commonly associated with male politicians. For example, the work of Susan Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu shows that since 1980, teaching has been the single largest feeder career for women in state legislatures in the U.S., while careers in law were the most common for men. Women who enter politics are also likely to be older, have fewer children, and more likely to be unmarried than men who enter politics. These different patterns are what Carroll and Sanbonmatsu term the “gendered” pathways to political office.

PrimarySeat-Resumes

To examine the role of each type of bias, we conducted three tests. First, we looked at whether, all else equal, male candidates were preferred to women. Remarkably, we do not find much evidence that women are discriminated against as women in this way. In nearly all of the surveys (and most sub-groups) women actually get a boost over men. This female preference is strongest for respondents who are themselves women, and it does not exist among Republican leaders and voters in the U.S., or independent voters, though neither group shows a type 1 male bias.

Second, by looking at interaction effects, we can see whether certain attributes become more important depending on the gender of the candidate. We find that men and women are evaluated similarly if they have high versus low levels of political experience, if they are unmarried, and they have particular previous occupations, however some respondents seem to penalize women more harshly for having children than men.

Finally, we examined whether gendered traits, like having fewer children, being un-married, or older, affect the evaluation of a candidate. Overall, we find that candidates fared worse when they have characteristics that are associated with women’s gendered pathways to political office. Older candidates and single candidates are less favored. Candidates with more children fare better than those with fewer—a pattern that damns disproportionately childless female candidates. In some surveys, respondents, and especially male respondents, passed over hypothetical candidates with backgrounds in teaching, choosing candidates with backgrounds in business or law.

In sum we don’t find much evidence of explicit bias against women, as women, and it seems that given the same characteristics, male and female candidates are evaluated similarly for most traits. However, the typical profile of female candidates—their age, marital status, family characteristics, and career backgrounds—are de-valued by leaders and voters, and thus may hinder their careers.

Hillary Clinton exhibits some although not all of the female pathway to politics. If she wins, in spite of having only one child and getting a relatively late start on her elective career, we can only hope that it might change the way voters evaluate candidates, erasing gender bias in the years to come. Until then, there is more work to be done understanding how gendered pathways influence political selection.

About the Authors: Dawn Teele is an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at University of Pennsylvania,  Joshua Kalla is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and Frances Rosenbluth is a Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

Making Sure the Light at the end of the Tunnel is not a Train: Securing a Faculty Position

After more than six years as a graduate student, and having survived the rigors of academic life including assignment deadlines, student teaching, qualifying exams, proposal defense and drafting my dissertation, the end was in sight. What followed in quick succession was the realization that I needed a job! Of course, not just any job but a faculty position where I could engage young minds and pursue my other academic interests.  This is a time consuming process and one requiring your attention while in the final throes of completing your dissertation. Neither can be neglected. During a five-month period, I submitted 67 applications. I received four invitations to interview which ultimately led to two job offers. Here are some salient points that will make your job search less stressful and help you land a faculty position.

  1. Start early as possible. Consult your Chair before entering the job market.
  1. Consider the following to determine the scope of your initial search:
  • Research or teaching?
  • Instructor, lecturer, adjunct, non-tenure or tenure track?
  • Size of school, department, classes?
  • Region of country?
  1. Time is precious: Based on #2, do not apply for positions you do not plan to seriously consider if contacted or to an institution in a location where you are not prepared to live. Respect your time, your committee and that of the institution.MPSA-Blog_SearchCriteria
  1. Register for job sites: com is good start and your may want to join APSA for access to ejobs. (Editor’s Note: A list of open positions is also available on the MPSA homepage.) While job alerts can be useful, I found it rewarding to personally review postings as they appeared. I, therefore, checked the job sites daily which brought to my attention other positions within my preferred framework.
  1. Prepare your resume: research an appropriate format. You need a format tailored for a new graduate on the job market. Remember that this is the first “view” the search committee has of you. A well presented resume increases the odds that your application packet is immediately put in the “consider box”.
  1. Cover letter: One crisp and clear page is preferable. Certain applications may ask you to address something specific in the cover letter so an extra half page may be appropriate. Review carefully to avoid unnecessary verbiage.
  1. Letters of References:
  • Identify at least 5 references (sometimes called referees) as early as possible. Discuss with them what your goal is and share your resume.
  • Get accurate names, address, e-mail, phone number, and work titles of each person and create a List of References.
  • Pay close attention to applications that require Letters of References along with application. Some institutions only ask for letters if you are selected for an interview. Do not send documents not requested unless the application has accommodation for “other documents”. Note, however, that some applications will specify what can be submitted in that category.
  • Check with your Chair about whether the Department has a staff member who coordinates those letters that must be sent directly to the institution.
    • Some institutions ask that you submit the letters yourself. If that is the case, then identify the portal and ensure the referees are prepared to give their respective letter to you for submission.
    • Be sure to provide your referees with the appropriate portal when necessary.
  1. Transcripts: Have all transcripts on hand. Be prepared to provide any of the following in specified format:
  • PHD coursework.
  • One version with all other tertiary transcripts.
  • One version containing all transcripts in a single document.
  1. Statement of Teaching Philosophy: Identify specific goal(s) and objectives.
  1. Statement of Research Interest: Identify your current work and topics of future interest.
  1. Teaching Evaluations: teaching evaluations by students are testaments to your skill and knowledge. Nevertheless, do not ‘edit’ out unfavorable comments.  Search Committees keep such evaluations in perspective.
  1. Create a spreadsheet to track applications:
  • Name and address of school
  • Specific point(s) of contact
  • Application due date; date when review process starts as you want to get application in by that date (even if job announcement says reviews continue until filled).
  • Minimum requirements
  • Description of position
  • Prescribed path for delivery of Letters of Reference, if required.
  1. Before submitting every application, carefully review to ensure you have followed all instructions. Many institutions do not allow you to edit the application once submitted. In those cases, if you delete the application, you cannot resubmit for the position.
  1. Keep your cell phone charged. The last thing you want is for a Research Committee Chair (or a representative) to call offering you the opportunity to interview and your cell phone battery dies during the call. Also, be prepared for teleconferenced interviews (Skype or similar platform).
  1. When you get “the call”, prepare for the interview:
  • Review institution’s website and the department’s pages.
  • Prepare to respond to questions based on your application. You should have an “elevator blurb” prepared about your dissertation topic.
  • Prepare questions you want to ask the committee. Don’t ask about money at this point.
  • Do not “wing-it”!
  1. Be patient and flexible.  Try to work with the schedule and constraints of the research committee.

Success in landing an interview that will lead to an offer ultimately may depend on five factors: your resume, application package, presentation, attitude, and, of course, luck. Work as closely as possible with your Chair, put your best foot forward in each application and prepare to shine in interviews!

 About the author: Harold Young is an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. His research area is Public Law and examines an American and comparative perspective on judicial institutional changes and decision making. In his previous life he was a health communications project manager, a social worker and an attorney-at-law. He can be reached via email at youngh@apsu.edu.

Informed Preferences: the Impact of Unions on Worker’s Policy Views

The following is part of a series of posts written by 2016 MPSA award recipients highlighting outstanding research presented at previous MPSA annual conferences.

What is the impact of labor unions in shaping the political preferences of workers? More specifically, to what extent can we trace the anti-trade sentiment we are now seeing among many U.S. workers to the influence of their unions? Due to their shrinking memberships, unions are often dismissed as a spent force in contemporary politics. Yet such a view overlooks an important point: Even after years of membership decline, unions still represent a sizable share of many electorates: a quarter of all workers in Britain, a third in Italy, and over half the workforce in countries such as Norway or Belgium. Even in the U.S., union members still account for about 11 percent of the workforce—a conservative figure that excludes non-members working under union agreements and family members whose livelihoods often depend on a unionized wage earner. A key question is whether and how unions’ access to a large swath of the electorate translates into political influence.

To understand the role that unions play in shaping the political views of their members is, however, a challenging empirical task.  Even in instances where union members are found to hold systematically distinct views from non-members, the cause is not an obvious one: Is it the result of a union’s direct influence on workers’ policy views, or is it that workers who choose to join a union differ from non-members to begin with?

Our article seeks to provide answers to these questions by utilizing an original survey of more than 4,000 American workers that was administered across 12 industries selected to provide the full range of exposure to various aspects of globalization. The dataset provides sizable samples of both union members and non-members within each industry, allowing for comparisons with a meaningful control group. Another key advantage is the availability of detailed information on pertinent aspects that are often missing from standard surveys: the exact union to which the worker belongs, the intensity of communication initiated by their unions on a range of policy issues, and the degree to which a worker is aware of her union’s policy positions. To assess how accurately workers know their union’s position, we devise a new measure of a union’s position on trade policy (what we call the “protectionism score”). This measure is based on a union’s ‘revealed preference’, namely through their lobbying activity and official statements given on a wide range of trade bills.

Using this data, we begin to explore whether unions indeed serve as information providers for their members. The evidence decidedly shows that they are. (See Figure 1;  unions are sorted along the vertical axis by their protectionism score.) As the left-panel indicates, unions indeed discuss the issue of trade with their members, and, not surprisingly, the more protectionist the union, the more likely it is to impart such information to their members. We can also see that the intensity of the communication is associated with how familiar members are with their union’s position (center panel). Members of protectionist unions not only tend to express greater familiarity with their union’s stance on trade, but also to correctly describe their union as protectionist (right panel).

 

Figure1
Figure 1

 

In short, unions clearly operate as information providers. Moreover, workers also seem to ‘get’ their union’s message. Yet to what extent do members tend to be influenced by this message and adopt their union’s position? As an initial step, we examine the association between members’ own attitudes on trade and the protectionism score of their unions. We find a clear alignment between the two. Notably, such positive association is not found among non-unionized workers who are employed in the same industry (see Figure 2). Still, the key empirical task here is to assess the possibility of a self-selection process: If workers decide to join a union because of the union’s policy position, the findings could simply be an outcome of a reverse causal process. We address this possibility by exploiting two sources of variation, as detailed below.

Figure2
Figure 2

 

First, we leverage the fact that there are state-level differences in laws with respect to union membership, or so-called the “Right-to-Work” (RTW) laws. In states that adopt the RTW provision, labor unions cannot legally require workers to pay union dues as a condition for employment. Union membership in RTW states therefore depends much more on individual workers’ own discretion, and is less a function of an institutional requirement to become members. This difference allows us to test the self-selection question: If self-selection accounts for members’ preferences, we should expect to see unions have much more of an influence on members in states in which membership is entirely voluntary.

Our analysis provides very little support for the self-selection account. We find that union membership itself is associated with a clear effect on the trade policy views of workers, and that this effect is conditional on how strong the union’s position is with respect to trade. Significantly, we find no systematic difference between members in RTW and non-RTW states. This is clearly inconsistent with the selection mechanism being the prominent factor.

Second, we wanted to assess what happens to the views of members when their union takes a different stance on a given policy: do workers follow suit? If so, that would be a strong indication of the unions’ influence. To do so, we exploit the case of a sudden and dramatic shift in the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) position toward a major trade liberalization deal. For many years, the UAW had been strongly opposed to the signing of a trade agreement with Korea, which, according to its statement, would be “worsening our lopsided auto trade deficit and threatening jobs of tens of thousands of American workers.” Yet after a set of changes had been incorporated into the agreement, the UAW announced a reversal of its position. “We believe an agreement was achieved that will protect current American auto jobs, [and] that will grow more American auto jobs,” its statement now read.

How did this shift in the UAW’s position influence the views of the autoworkers on trade? Figure 3 below provides a striking answer: While union members working in the auto industry had been significantly more protectionist than non-members before the shift, the level of support for trade restrictions significantly decreased after the UAW endorsed the free trade agreement. Notably, this change in attitudes toward trade liberalization had not been observed among non-members working in the same auto industry. This finding remains intact even when we control for potential confounding factors.

 

Figure3
Figure 3

Taken together, our findings provide compelling evidence that unions exert influence on their members in a clear and systematic manner. The analysis points to the important role of unions as information providers. While previous studies have highlighted the role of unions as the “voice of workers,” via campaign contributions or lobbying, we have demonstrated an underexplored yet important source of union influence: communication with, and dissemination of information to members. This influence can be significant, given unions’ breadth and reach. In other words, unions should be thought of not only as institutions that channel the political preferences of their members. Instead, they should also be understood as institutions that shape and influence the views of many workers.

 

MPSA_Awards_RecognizingOutstandingResearchAbout the Authors: Sung Eun Kim is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore.  Prof. Yotam Margalit is an Associate Professor at the Political Science Department in Tel-Aviv University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. Their paper “Informed Preferences: the Impact of Unions on Worker’s Policy Views” was awarded the Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar at the 2016 MPSA Conference.

 

[Im]Polite Conversation: Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interactions

This post is one of a series of by MPSA members about their Federally-funded research.  Here, Jaime Settle and Taylor Carlson summarize their NSF-funded research “Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interaction.” 

A family friend relayed to me a recent incident at her children’s elementary school. According to her daughter, in the days preceding the state’s primary election, the entire fifth grade was abuzz talking about which candidates they (or, perhaps more accurately, their parents) preferred. The exchanges between the students supporting different candidates became so mean-spirited that the school administration sent a letter to all fifth grade parents asking their children to refrain from provoking or engaging in contentious political conversations on the playground or in the lunchroom.

On first pass, this anecdote may induce a chuckle, but on deeper evaluation, it reflects a disturbing trend in American political culture. Not only are our politicians more polarized, but we are, too. We think our political opponents are physically unattractive, we don’t want to live near them, and we discriminate against them when given the chance.

Much like the school administrators, many Americans consider stopping the conversation to be their preferred solution to avoid engaging in potentially uncomfortable conversations with people with whom they disagree. Since September 2014, our research seeking to understand the dynamics of these interactions has been funded by the NSF in a grant titled “Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interaction.” In it, we proposed to use survey and laboratory experiments to study which facets of social interaction about politics are most stress inducing, for which kinds of people, and in which contexts. Our multi-method approach bridges the methodological gap between political science and psychology by relying heavily on a social psychological explanation for political behavior.

What have we learned so far? The topline results from a vignette experiment conducted on a nationally representative sample suggest that fewer than half of respondents expected a hypothetical character to express his or her true political opinions when given the opportunity to do so in an informal conversation among friends and acquaintances who supported a political candidate the character opposes. A sizeable proportion—approximately 10%–expected that the character would publically conform to the opinions of the majority without actually changing his or her true beliefs. This is a behavior we have observed within our experiments, as well. In a study forthcoming in Political Behavior, we find that individuals both expect a hypothetical character to conform to a group’s political opinion and actually do so themselves when given the opportunity. Furthermore, our participants thought that hypothetical characters who discussed politics only with coworkers who disagreed with them were significantly more likely to look for a new job than hypothetical characters who discussed politics with coworkers with a variety of political views.

MPSAblog_Contention and Political Disengagment
Figure 1 from “Political Chameleons: An Exploration of Conformity in Political Discussions,” forthcoming in Political Behavior

We have conducted a series of survey experiments to further explore the conditions under which people are most susceptible to pressures to silence themselves or conform to the opinions of others, and our results suggest that people are sensitive to the knowledge level of the people in the conversation, in addition to the composition of the preferences in the group. It appears that a variety of factors motivate these behaviors, including both concern about being judged negatively by others but also concern about damaging social relationships and making others uncomfortable.

One of the goals of our grant was to deeply understand the mechanisms of engagement and disengagement in political discussion, which we theorized were likely to be self-reinforcing. We are in the middle of analyzing the results from a series of psychophysiological studies in which we measured participants’ heart rates and electrodermal activity when they expected to have, or actually engaged in, political discussions. Our results suggest that some people actually have a stronger physiological response—their heart rate increases and their hands sweat more—at the mere thought of having a political conversation. For these people, political interactions are physically–not just psychologically–uncomfortable, perhaps contributing to their decision to try to avoid them at all costs.

Beyond the gains in our substantive understanding, the most important outcome of the NSF funding has been the training provided to more than two dozen students. NSF funding provided the opportunity to bring together a group of graduate student lab directors from political psychophysiology labs across the country for training workshops in 2015 and 2016. Because the Government Department at the College of William & Mary does not have a graduate program, undergraduates have been involved at every step of the project. In addition to the opportunity to attend the psychophysiological workshops, students in my research lab have been integral to the design and execution of the psychophysiological studies. And running lab experiments would be impossible without the time and energy of the proctors involved in administering the Omnibus Project.

Democratic theory hinges on the idea that all citizens have equal opportunity to voice their opinions. We should not overlook subtle and complex barriers to engagement based on people’s orientation toward conflict and disagreement, as people who prefer consensus and compromise may be discouraged from engaging meaningfully with politics in a polarized environment.

About the Authors: Jaime Settle is an assistant professor of government at the College of William & Mary. Her research explores how innate differences between people (genetic, physiological, and psychological) moderate the effects of contextual and interpersonal political interactions.

Taylor Carlson is a graduate student at UC San Diego. Her research explores how political information diffusion (and distortion) through social networks influences political learning and vote choice.

Controlling Agency Choke Points: Presidents and Regulatory Personnel Turnover

The following is part of a series of posts written by 2016 MPSA award recipients highlighting outstanding research presented at previous MPSA annual conferences.

Presidents desire to see their priority policy goals implemented. To see these policies put into place presidents need control over career executives that occupy critical decision-making positions (i.e., agency choke points) in agencies. This paper considers the extent to which federal executives occupying one type of “choke point” position—i.e., lead regulatory positions—depart with new presidential administrations, either because new presidents purposefully marginalize them or because they depart voluntarily in anticipation of a new administration.

Data
To evaluate presidential control over key regulatory positions we use creative new data on the careers of 866 persons managing major rulemakings. Existing regulations require agencies to provide information regarding all rules with more than a $100 million impact to the Office of Management and Budget. This information is published in the Unified Agenda every six months. Agency submissions must include contact information for individuals “knowledgeable about the rulemaking action.” By tracking all rules listed from 1995 to 2013 we are able to observe key regulatory personnel exiting rules prior to their completion.

Findings
Using hazard models we find evidence of both presidential influence and careerist anticipation on decisions to depart major rulemakings. Career executives are estimated to have higher probabilities of departure after a party change in the White House and during an election year if the incumbent president’s party is likely to lose. While we find no evidence that the partisanship of the regulator influences departures, we do find that regulators that donated to the out-party are more likely to depart a major rulemaking. Career executives are also more likely to depart when outside wages increase.

The evidence in the paper suggests that while new presidents do not overwhelmingly remove senior career executives from positions of authority, they still exert considerable authority over the individuals in key positions. The scope of control increases as presidents’ time in office progresses. For example, in the year before President Obama assumed office 10% of the career executives serving as the primary contact on a major rule departed before the rule was complete and another 7% departed during the first year of his administration. Throughout the tenure of a president, presidents or their appointees are able to promote career executives of their choice to a substantial number of the positions on rulemaking teams as bureaucrats either exit their positions voluntarily or are sufficiently marginalized within the agency.

Implications
Overall, the results provide important evidence that new presidents may influence the composition of the career service and its policymakers, particularly those in positions central to agency policymaking. To effectively control the machinery of public policy, presidents need to control the rulemaking process inside agencies. For presidents, one of the most direct means of securing control is embedding personnel in key positions who are sympathetic to their agenda. This happens at the top levels when presidents name new appointees to agency positions. This also happens at lower levels when appointees make decisions about which civil servants they can work with and who might be better suited for another position. Presidents can reassign career executives from key positions in order to marginalize them. In addition, career executives may exit their position in anticipation of a new administration that may be hostile to them. Thus, presidential control over key rulemaking positions is the product of both the decisions of presidents to marginalize career executives and the decisions of career executives.

MPSA_Awards_RecognizingOutstandingResearchAbout the Authors: Kathleen Doherty is an Assistant Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.  David E. Lewis is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. Scott Limbocker is a Graduate Student in the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. Their paper “Politics or Performance in Regulatory Personnel Turnover” was recognized at the 2016 MPSA Conference with the inaugural Kenneth J. Meier Award for the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy.